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See this week's Pigskin
2000 pigskin season begins Friday
Football teams from Jefferson and Jackson County will see their
first official outings of the 2000 season Friday night, both
on their opponents' turf. Jackson County heads to Homer to battle
Banks County in a 7:30 p.m. rematch of last year's overtime game,
which the Leopards won on penetration. Jefferson is set to bang
helmets with the Eagles of Athens Christian School. The game
clock in Athens will start at 8 p.m.
Lady Panthers 8-4 after finishing third in tournament
Jackson County's slow-pitch softball team
took its fourth loss of the season Tuesday at home against West
Hall, 3-0. Erin Strickland and Megan Elliott put a pair of hits
together to mount a threat in the third inning, and April Cantrell
combined with Shana Gibbs and Laura Stephens for a double play
in the fourth, but the Jackson County bats were quiet for most
of the game.
Commerce To Visit Franklin County Friday
The Commerce Tigers will get the first of
seven non-region tests this Friday in Carnesville against Franklin
County at 8 p.m.
With three region games at the end of the schedule, the Tigers
will turn to a recent foe for game one.
Moore's departure surprises county
Madison County school superintendent Dennis
Moore retired from his post on the fourth day of the 2000-2001
school year. His resignation takes effect Sept. 1. Moore informed
the county school board of his decision Tuesday night in a closed
meeting, following a heated meeting with parents over busing
Money, building approved for counseling program
Madison County commissioners promised $25,000 and the use of
the old registrar's office for a drug and alcohol counseling
center in the county Monday.
Impact fee advisory committee named by Baldwin City
An impact fee advisory committee of five
people has been nominated by the Baldwin City Council. The committee
is required under the town's impact fee ordinance.
Banks County top in state in agriculture production
Banks County officials got some good news
last week when it was announced that the county leads the state
in agriculture production. Banks County farmers added $264 million
to the Georgia economy in 1999, according to county extension
agent John Mitchell.
The Jackson Herald
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Tuesday Accident Proves
A driver for Con Agra, Roy Nathan Casey, 56,
of Comer, died Tuesday morning when the truck with which he was
transporting live chickens overturned in a curve near New Harmony
Church on Georgia 334.A witness said the truck, which was traveling
south, did not
appear to be speeding when it went out of control and left the
road. The identity of the driver has not been confirmed.
Photo by Mark Beardsley
Ready For State Assistance
Jackson County has completed the rough grading
for Progress Road, an access road to Interstate 85 between U.S.
441 and Ridgeway Road. Road Superintendent Sam McClure says the
county is waiting for the utility companies to install water
and gas lines and for the state to provide assistance with base
and paving. "Hopefully, some time next year we'll be open
for business if someone wants to come in and set up shop,"
Bell presses Water
Wise issue; says Tolbert skipped legislative committee meetings
The atmosphere was tense Tuesday night
as the two candidates vying for state representative for District
25 met for the second time in a public question and answer session.
In a forum sponsored by the Hoschton Womens' Civic Club, Democratic
challenger Pat Bell continued her attacks on incumbent Republican
Scott Tolbert about his role in the Water Wise matter and other
issues. For his part, Tolbert blasted a "certain group"
that he said had spread lies about himself and his family.
"I supported and helped this young man in his first race,"
said Bell. "I believed in him, but I feel like the late
and honorable Sen. Paul Coverdell - when running against an incumbent
he stated, 'You sir, have not represented the people of this
state nor have you done it honorably.' That is how I feel about
In his opening statement, Tolbert said he has become "disgusted"
with politics because he has been subject to "many, many
lies" in the past several months, including that he is under
investigation by the FBI and that his wife had given money to
former Fulton County commissioner Mitch Skandalakis.
"Basically, they have said I'm not an honorable man,"
he said. "...This is the state of politics in present-day
Jackson County. I cannot for the life of me explain what happened
to debates, speeches, platforms. I cannot understand why a candidate
or political party has put people to spreading lies rather than
spreading ideals. As tempting as it is to lash out and strike
against those who have acted immaturely, I will not."
The first question from the audience Tuesday night dealt with
Water Wise and how Tolbert would have benefited from the project.
He replied that his involvement was strictly as the closing attorney
for the company's purchase of the former Texfi plant in Jefferson.
Tolbert said the deal with Water Wise would have benefited Jackson
County and included $50,000 for a computer system and 10 percent
of proceeds from sewage service. He said Jackson County would
have had control over where sewer lines would be located and
would eventually be given ownership of the plant at no cost.
"Jackson County taxpayers have paid approximately $2 million
for a sewage plant they could have had for free," he said.
"It's going to cost another $500,000 on an engineering study...They
went out and hired a private company without the process of a
bid. There is an individual over there getting a 10 percent gratuity
for doing nothing."
But Bell said the Water Wise offer to the county wasn't a good
deal and that Tolbert was misrepresentating the true nature of
"The more you talked to these people (Water Wise), the more
questions we had," Bell said. "The bottom line is this:
(The person) who owns the permit from EPD controls the show...
I have contracts that would prove (Tolbert) untrue. You would
not believe the hoops the county would have had to jump through
if we had hired Water Wise."
Bell said that three different local governments decided to pass
on the Water Wise deal.
"The decision was made (to turn down Water Wise) and it
was a good decision," she said. Don't believe me - the water
authority, the City of Jefferson and the board of commissioners
Bell also blasted Tolbert's effort to gut Sen. Eddie Madden's
bill to limit condemnation powers of private companies such as
Water Wise. During the last legislative session, Tolbert unsuccessfully
offered an amendment on the floor of the House to strike key
language in Sen. Madden's bill, a move that Bell said was a conflict-of-interest
since Tolbert's motion was an obvious effort to benefit Water
"We should demand that our elected officials conduct themselves
with high ethics and standards," she said. "...I will
work to strengthen ethics in government...to enact rules for
these representatives from voting on legislation where they have
personal financial interests."
Bell also launched new allegations against Tolbert, saying he
had poor attendance at his legislative committee meetings other
than those that deal with insurance. Tolbert is a member of the
House Judiciary Committee, Education Committee and Insurance
Committee. Bell said Tolbert didn't attend any Judiciary Committee
meetings and only five Education committee meetings.
"(But) he didn't miss any of those insurance meetings,"
she said. "Insurance companies donate heavily to his campaign."
Other issues addressed by the candidates included eliminating
school taxes for senior citizens and education reform.
On eliminating school taxes, Tolbert said he has already prepared
legislation that over a five-year period would exempt taxes on
homes for senior citizens. He said a referendum would first be
held in the county with voters deciding the issue. Tolbert said
the money the county would lose in these senior citizen taxes
could be replaced with taxes from the new Georgia Power plant
in Jackson County.
"What is not made up, to be honest with you, will come from
people like myself," he said. "It will not be a great
deal of money - probably a few dollars a person."
Bell said she would have to study the issue and what it would
do to the county and school systems before taking any action.
"I do think that somebody who is 70 years old has paid their
share of taxes, but I would have to really do a lot of work (before
doing this)," she said.
On education reform, the two candidates agreed that paraprofessionals
should be kept in the lower elementary grades. Bell said they
are especially important in first through third grades.
"Paraprofessionals are cost effective," she said. "That
third grade child has got to read...It is a lot cheaper to educate
Tolbert said: "I was disappointed to see the governor do
away with paraprofessionals...They perform a service at a considerable
Tolbert also pointed out that he voted against the governor's
education reform bill because of the cost it would bring to Jackson
County's school systems.
"What we have to do is demand accountability in our schools,"
he said. "We also have to give aid to our teachers. In order
for us to have real education reform, schools first have to have
clear goals...True reform is going to empower the teachers and
the parents. We must maintain local control."
Loses $1.5 Million
If the current fiscal year is like the
one just completed, BJC Medical Center will be broke.
The facility, which includes a hospital, nursing home, wellness
center and a clinic, lost $1.5 million last year, according to
an audit of the year's operations.
The major contributor to the shortfall, according to administrator
David Lawrence and finance director Jim Mertz, is the Balanced
Budget Act of 1997, which cut federal payments for Medicare patients.
According to the audit, the facility provided care that should
have resulted in $25,856,323 in payments, but it received only
$14,058,011 for those services. That's because the federal government
paid only 42 cents on the dollar for inpatient services and 24
cents on the dollar for outpatient services. With 54 percent
of its patients covered by Medicare, the facility took a $6.4
million hit right there.
Medicaid costs were similarly discounted to 34 cents on the dollar
for inpatient services and 29 cents per dollar for outpatient
services, which cost the facility another $2.34 million.
The facility also had $1.25 million in bad debts and provided
$738,588 worth of charity care. Its contracts with PPOs and HMOs
resulted in deductions of just over $1 million.
The medical center had total net revenue of $14.4 million, compared
to expenses of $15.9 million.
"We had some money in the bank from past years to absorb
the loss, but it's challenging to survive in rural health care
right now," Lawrence stated in a press release prepared
for the occasion. "On the one hand, salary costs across
the industry are increasing dramatically, while on the other
hand, payments from the government are actually decreasing, rather
than keeping pace with these costs."
The facility started the fiscal year with almost $1.5 million
in reserves. It has about $400,000 now.
"We had a $950,000 cash drain last year," said Lawrence.
The audit was accepted by the nine-member hospital authority
Lawrence put on the best face possible for the report.
"We've been doing things to offset some of these changes,"
he said in the press release. "We're increasing medical
staff to meet the needs of the area's growing population, which
... will increase admissions and revenue further. There are more
people moving into this area every day, so in the next few years
with our technology, it'll be hard to think of us as a rural
hospital. There is word from Washington that we are going to
get some relief from the BBA cuts, and I'm cautiously optimistic.
"BJC Medical Center actually has a lot of things going for
it. We just have to tighten our belts and hold on until the politicians
figure out what they are doing to health care in America. What
we won't do in the meantime is compromise the quality of our
The medical center also had other problems. A highly critical
state report about its nursing home hurt staff morale and affected
hiring. At the same time, it hurt occupancy at the nursing home.
In addition, an industrywide shortage of nursing personnel forced
the hospital and nursing home to hire more expensive agency help
to keep both the hospital and nursing home sufficiently staffed.
While Lawrence says the medical center is making headway, he
predicted that the facility would lose money this fiscal year
"We won't end next fiscal year in the black, but you won't
see that kind of drain again," he said.
accuracy of teen pregnancy stats
A leading voice in the Jackson County
medical community last week questioned the accuracy of teen pregnancy
numbers from 1998 in the 10-county Northeast Georgia Health District.
After hearing numbers form the health district at a meeting of
the Jackson County Human Resources Council Thursday, Henry Slocum
of BJC Medical Center pointed out that the figures included 19-year-olds
who are already out of high school.
"I'm not so sure the numbers are correct," Slocum said.
"The numbers are really down in the school system. I feel
the school nurse program has made an impact and the (teen pregnancy)
numbers have been going down."
Health district officials said Jackson County had the highest
number of teens ages 15 to 19 giving birth of any county in the
10-county Northeast Georgia Health District in 1998, according
to that district's statistics from that year. Those figures show
that in 1998, 97 females per 1,000 births in Jackson County were
to teens between the ages of 15 and 19. That compared to the
next highest figures of 86 in Elbert and 79 in Madison and Greene
Abigail Gunter of the Northeast Georgia Health District told
the HRC group that some of the health data about the community
"is pretty alarming. You can see the teen pregnancy rate
is pretty high. Groups like you have an impact, but this is a
message we need to keep working on."
To Slocum's question, Gunter responded: "Even if it is lower
than this, it is still too high."
Slocum also pointed out that the black community has worked harder
than the white community on reducing teen pregnancy numbers in
Joe Geoffrey of the health district said that while abstinence
is promoted by health departments, he believes some parents are
simply in denial.
"Some parents know their children are having sex, feel there's
nothing they can do to stop it and want to know how to keep them
safe," he said. "Then in some communities there is
denial - 'My kid won't have sex,'" Geoffrey said. "They
think we are promoting sex. To me, it's a safety measure (to
talk about preventive issues). They are putting their kid at
Gunter pointed out again that it is important to teach abstinence
along with pregnancy prevention, and said there seems to be a
lot of pressure for teens - and even younger children - to have
"You hear of fifth and sixth graders being pressured to
have sex, and that's so sad," she said.
HIV, CLOGGED ARTERIES
According to district statistics, the county has also seen an
increase in the number of HIV infections, from one in 1983 to
eight in 1992 to 37 in 1997. The county also has more than 5,000
people suffering from high cholesterol, more than 4,500 inflicted
with high blood pressure and over 2,500 with elevated blood sugar,
also according to statistics from the health district. Three-fourths
of the people with diabetes or high blood pressure don't know
it or don't have it under control, the health district report
Gunter and Geoffrey also added that episodes of clogged arteries
and diabetes is happening at a younger age, with a 70 percent
increase of diabetes seen for those ages 30 to 35 in the 10-county
POSITIVE FORCE IN COMMUNITY
Suzanne Cummings of the Jackson County Health Department emphasized
that the health department is not just about birth control and
that its services are not limited to any social, age or economic
"We want families to realize that public health is not just
there for birth control or after (someone has) contracted an
STD, it's about all aspects of life," she said. "It's
also about what's going on at home and whether they are in school.
We want (youth) to get their education and have positive self-esteem...and
to help build them into good decision-makers."
Cummings said public health services are available for ages ranging
from infancy to senior citizen years and includes blood pressure
and diabetes screening and treatment; school age and adult immunization;
women's health; hepatitis and HIV screening and counseling; and
flu shots, just to name a few.
"We're there for everyone; we're not limited to any group,"
she said. "And we've got a great new facility on Darnell
Geoffrey said the health department is in the process of planning
a number of community health fairs, including health screenings,
for the health department in Jefferson and for several churches
in the area, and hopes to contact local industries about in-house
Go to Jackson
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City Making Little
A committee working to convince people
to have their property annexed into Commerce appears to be making
little headway toward its first target.
Chaired by Commerce city councilman Bob Sosebee, the committee
has met but once, in January, while trying to annex Montgomery
The problem is that nowhere does the subdivision touch land inside
the city limits, and the easiest method of reaching the subdivision
would be to get Dr. Joe Griffeth, who is a member of the committee,
to have his Jefferson Road property annexed.
Griffeth's sons, who are handling the matter for the retired
physician, told committee members in January that they might
consider the annexation offer if the city will guarantee them
the right to continue using the land for firearms hunting for
It is against the law to discharge a firearm inside the city
"We haven't done much lately. We've got to get back to work
on that," commented Sosebee. "We are going to look
at other options that would enable us to reach the folks at Montgomery
Shores and would provide (the Griffeths) with whatever comfort
level they would like."
Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. said city attorney John Stell is researching
the possibility that a portion of the Griffeth property could
be annexed to reach Montgomery Shores, leaving the majority of
it outside the city.
According to Sosebee, a large majority of the property owners
in the subdivision, which is located just off the Jefferson Road,
have expressed interest in annexation.
"We'd love to have it. I've been actively pursuing it as
long as I've been mayor," Hardy said.
Sosebee said the committee has not seriously looked at other
"We'd like to get this finished up this calendar year and
get the folks in Montgomery Shores in," he said.
Commerce Struggles To Halt Sprawl With Subdivision
What exactly should the city of Commerce
dictate to subdivision developers to best control sprawl as the
That's a question The Georgia Group, a land use consulting company,
is trying to determine as it prepares to draft new subdivision
regulations for Commerce.
The city has declared a six-month moratorium on the approval
of new subdivision plats so it can get a handle on development
through a new ordinance.
Lynne Hair, of The Georgia Group, got input Monday night from
the Commerce Planning Commission. She'll meet Tuesday, Sept.
5, at 7:00 p.m., with the mayor and city council to get their
ideas and will come up with a draft ordinance by mid-October.
She got an earful from the planning commission, particularly
from vice chairman Greg Perry, who told her, "I'm interested
in stopping sprawl."
Perry and other members were impressed by a 1983 video showing
how areas of Massachusetts and other New England states have
used "cluster development" to preserve open areas.
Perry in particular pushed to see that kind of "creative
design" utilized in developments.
"My inclination is that a developer ought to put in a neighborhood,
not a subdivision," he said.
Under the concept, a developer would be allowed the same overall
housing density as under the existing ordinance, but would be
asked to cluster all of the houses in half of the acreage, leaving
the other acreage open for recreation and to preserve the rural
quality. Perry also repeatedly insisted that developments should
Hair said that such an approach would best come under the zoning
ordinance, but that much of the same thing could be achieved
by limiting street length and width and by preserving trees.
Among the provisions the planning commission members told Hair
they wanted in a subdivision ordinance were:
·required homeowners associations and protective or restrictive
·shortening of street lengths to 500 feet or less.
·tougher paving standards so that roads will not be torn
up by heavy equipment used in construction.
·divided entrances to subdivisions.
·sidewalks on both sides of streets.
·narrower streets and rights of way and shorter setbacks.
·landscaping plans designed to preserve trees.
·a checklist developers must meet with their plats before
coming before the planning commission.
·more time for the planning commission to study a proposal
before accepting or rejecting it.
Judge orders Water
Wise to release loan info
Superior Court Judge Penn McWhorter ordered
officials from Water Wise Inc. to release some key financial
information to the Jackson County government in a hearing Tuesday.
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 date.
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 ruled the plant was worth $1.3 million, but Water
Wise claims it is worth more than that amount.
Tuesday's action 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
Lawyers for Jackson County say that information is critical since
Wickliffe claims the Texfi facility is worth more than the $1.3
million. But Water Wise lawyer Chris Elrod said in court Tuesday
that what happened to the remaining funds isn't important for
the condemnation case. "They want to know if any of the
money went anywhere else," said Elrod. "And that's
not relevant or discoverable. It's not likely to lead to admissible
evidence. I mean, it's not any problem if Jerry Wickliffe took
that money and bought his wife a new diamond ring with it. If
it didn't go into the (Texfi) property, it's not relevant. That
is our entire argument about it."
But lawyers for the county said the whereabouts of the $2.32
million may be important at trial since Water Wise had borrowed
the funds for the Texfi deal.
"It's a loan to buy the property, secured by the property,
and I think we're entitled to look at where it went," said
Abbott Hayes, attorney for the county.