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 August 30, 2000


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OPINIONS

Frank Gillispie
Shoplifters are absurd
It never ceases to fascinate me the absurd things people will do.
Shoplifters are among the most absurd.

Zach Mitcham
Openness is key to confidence in schools

The resignation of Dennis Moore as superintendent of Madison County schools has set off a firestorm in Rumorville.


SPORTS
See this week's Pigskin Picks!


Raiders down South Forsyth 14-10, pass first test of non-region schedule
While the game may have lacked flash and glitter, the four-point win posted on the South Forsyth scoreboard in the season opener gleamed bright as gold for the Red Raiders and their faithful.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Impact fee advisory committee named by Baldwin City Council
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.


News from...
JACKSON COUNTY
Medical Center 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.

Slocum questions 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.


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The Madison County Journal
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RAIDERS WIN


Raider Steve Austin celebrates Madison County's first season-opening win since 1994 Friday night at South Forsyth.


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 problems. He officially announced his resignation last Wednesday, saying he had a business opportunity he couldn't turn down.
Moore, whose three-year contract would have expired in July of next year, did not return Journal calls this past week.
The superintendent told an Athens reporter last Wednesday that his resignation had nothing to do with the busing dilemma facing the system. Parents have complained that their kids aren't getting home until late in the afternoons.
He also told the reporter that he has been eligible for retirement for a long time and cannot turn down his current opportunity, though he would not give any details about his business venture, saying it was personal.
The resignation caught many off guard, including board attorney Lane Fitzpatrick, who said he knew of Moore's decision before last Tuesday but was "floored" when he learned of the superintendent's plans.
Asked for specifics on Moore's plans, the attorney said the superintendent just said he had a business opportunity he couldn't pass up.
Fitzpatrick spelled out how Moore will be compensated.
"Dr. Moore will not be compensated at his departure for anything other than his regular monthly salary for the month of August and possibly accrued vacation time," Fitzpatrick wrote in response to a Journal records request. "Dr. Moore will not draw a salary for the entire 2000-2001 school year. His July 2000 gross monthly check amount was $7,853.04. His August check has not been paid yet, but it will be the same amount, $7,853.04. Since he retires September 1, 2000, his August check will be his last salary check."
Reaction on Moore's departure varied on the school board. Four of the BOE members said they felt Moore had a positive effect on the school system during his two years on the job.
"He was very knowledgeable and brought some things we needed to the county," said board chairman Jimmy Patton.
Board member Jim Patton - no relation to Jimmy Patton - agreed.
"I appreciate all the time and effort he put into the school system," he said.
BOE member John Mason said he didn't "blame him for taking another offer." He said opinions will differ on the job Moore did, but he was pleased with what he saw.
"He's done a lot of good things," said Mason. "It's a lot easier to armchair this or that than to get out there and do it. I'm not saying we were perfect or that he was perfect....But overall, he's been a positive for the schools."
Board member Robert Haggard said he is sorry to see Moore leave, saying that the superintendent brought needed renovations to school facilities.
"He did a lot of good," said Haggard.
BOE member Elaine Belfield was not as eager to praise Moore. She said the superintendent did not include the board in decision making like he should have.
Mrs. Belfield said some employees got substantial salary increases without the board's knowledge and she questioned the legality of that. She also said many employees who were hired were friends of Dr. Moore and she questioned the ethics of such actions.
"He (Moore) should not have been so autonomous in decision making," she said. "He would make decisions and we all would find out later."
Moore was hired as superintendent in May of 1998, replacing longtime school head Jim Perkins.


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.
The Madison County Alcohol/Drug Addiction Prevention and Aftercare Services (ADAPP), planned by Reverend Jess Martin, will provide counseling to those struggling with addictions as well as counseling for their families. A state-certified 20-hour course for drug and alcohol offenders will be offered. The program would also oversee the renovation of vacant county-owned buildings, using labor from those ordered by the courts to perform community service.
Though Martin had asked for $70,000, he appeared pleased with the support he received from the board, letting out an "amen" after the commissioners approved the money as many in the packed meeting room applauded enthusiastically.
Martin and many others, including state senator Eddie Madden, asked the county commissioners to support the proposal.
The commissioners' vote to aid the program followed emotional testimonies from a number of people who have been affected by drugs and alcohol, either with their own addictions or that of someone close to them.
Gene West told the commissioners that money means nothing in comparison to a kid's life.
"$70,000 is not a lot of money for a life," he said.
Rev. Randy Crowe urged the board to support the program for the children of the county.
"God may save their souls," he said. "But we need to do all we can to save their lives."
Commissioners Bruce Scogin and Nelson Nash were outspoken in favor of the program. Scogin spoke of his own struggle to help a son battling addiction and said no other commissioners supported the program as much as him. But he told Martin that the budget looks tight for 2001, noting that department budget requests outweigh expected revenues by $658,000 (See story on Page 3A). He asked for more time to find money for the program.
But commissioner Nash, who coaches at the recreation department, said he was alarmed to find former players in newspaper arrest reports for drug offenses. And he proposed that the county go ahead and promise an initial $25,000.
"We're going about this right attacking it as a community," said Nash.
Commission chairman Wesley Nash said he too supports the program, adding that the issue is important to him. However, he urged the board to be cautious in awarding funds, noting that the board will be held accountable for how the funds are spent.
Martin, whose son Jeremy was killed by a drunk driver on Hwy. 29 in 1998, has been an addiction counselor for about five years through his Beyond-the-Edge Ministry.
He said that once the program is up and running it will require no further financial support from the county, operating on court fines and fees, as well as grant money.


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Hull man charged with Harris murder
A Hull man has been arrested for the November 26, 1996 murder of Angela Harris.
The Madison County Sheriff's Department, along with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, arrested Albert Wymbs, 28, of 165 Creekwood Drive, for the murder Wednesday.
Sheriff Clayton Lowe said Wymbs "has been a suspect since early in the investigation and was charged with the crime after investigators conducted new interviews and corroborated information which was developed after the murder." He said no other arrests were expected in the case.
Harris was found stabbed to death in a doublewide mobile home she shared with her parents. The home was located near the Clarke County line just off Hwy. 106.
Harris' father discovered her body when she failed to report to her job in Athens Regional Medical Center's pediatric unit that morning.
Harris had been stabbed to death and wrapped in a comforter. An autopsy performed at the time showed that Harris had been killed by multiple stab wounds to the back and chest. The murder weapon was not recovered.
According to a story in the Madison County Journal in 1996, investigators collected evidence in the form of shoeprints leading away from the scene. Dogs were used to follow the trail to a nearby mobile home, but no arrests were made at the time.
According to Sheriff Lowe, Wymbs was known by Harris and they had gone to school together.
Wymbs is being held in the Athens Clarke County Jail.


McCannon named interim superintendent
Madison County assistant superintendent of schools Allen McCannon has been named interim superintendent to replace Dr. Dennis Moore. McCannon will serve until the board of education can complete a search to find a permanent superintendent.
McCannon was named assistant superintendent at the end of the 1999-2000 school term. Prior to the appointment, he served as principal of Madison County High School.
Dr. Moore ann-ounced his resignation last week to be effective on Friday, Sept. 1, listing a private business opportunity as the reason. The board of education accepted his resignation at the called meeting Tuesday night and immediately went into executive session to discuss a replacement. McCannon was called to the meeting for several minutes of discussion. He left the meeting and returned to his office before the decision was made.
Following his appointment as interim superintendent, McCannon was given permission to conduct an audit of the school system for July and August. He will use an outside auditor. Second district member Elaine Belfield said the audit was intended to allow McCannon to be comfortable with the current figures.
McCannon asked the board to conduct an expeditious search for a replacement. However, Chairman Jimmy Patton said that no discussions have begun about the search. He said that this is a difficult time of year to begin a search as most administrators are set for this school year.
Dr. Moore was named superintendent two years ago after a nationwide search conducted with the aid of the Georgia Association of Boards of Education.