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 September 14, 2000


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OPINION

Letter to the Editor
Questions education reform
Dear editor:
May I share some views on education and school taxation? In the years 1975 through 1978, I served on the Banks County School Board. I thank the people of Banks County for that privilege. This board endeavored to create the small classroom pupil/teacher ratio, with the funds available. This board
also . . .

Drew Brantley
Getting lost not so hard

Not too long ago I went to cover a football game somewhere I had never been before, and along the way, I thought I never would.
I had checked the map and asked co-workers, but the roads . . .


SPORTS
Banks County tools up for 8-AA slate
The first two games of the season have ended in losses for the Banks County football team. The down side is easy to see.
The positive aspect of two losses is that the team will not play this week, giving the team a chance to work on some areas that were exposed in a 20-6 loss to Jackson County and a 48-21 loss last Friday to Jefferson.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
Water Wise, county settle sewer plant suit
The battle between a private sewage firm and the Jackson County government was settled out of court Friday. The county agreed to an offer from Water Wise and Prinvest Financial of $2.7 million for the old Texfi sewage facility in Jefferson.

Art in the Park set this weekend
The 10th annual Art in the Park Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16-17, at Hurricane Shoals Park.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
County schools face financial crisis
Using figures supplied by an outside accountant, interim county school superintendent Allen McCannon predicts a "cash shortfall" of nearly $2 million by the end of the year for Madison County schools. He asked for a called meeting of the Madison County Board of Education Monday for permission to seek bids from the two local banks for a tax anticipation note in the amount of $895,000 to cover immediate needs of the system.

Political forum set for Tuesday
The first of three political forums in Madison County is set for Tuesday, Sept. 19, giving voters a chance to determine who will best represent them in the state General Assembly.


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GOVERNOR READS TO CHILDREN


Governor Roy Barnes and his wife, Marie, visited the second grade class of Nancy Wilkinson last Wednesday to read to the children. Mrs. Wilkinson had the governor read "The Patchwork Quilt," one of the books the children had just finished. The second graders had also made a "quilt" using sheets of paper decorated with their own geometric designs.

Governor praises county schools for smaller classes
In a visit last week to Banks County Elementary School, Governor Roy Barnes praised the school system for moving so quickly on a recently introduced legislative bill requiring a reduction in class size. He chose to come to Banks County because Rep. Jeanette Jamieson and Sen. Eddie Madden have been deeply involved with education reform. "They told me about some of the great advancements made here in Banks County­being ahead of the curve and reducing class size," Gov. Barnes said. "So, I wanted to come myself."He and his wife, Marie, visited the second grade class of Nancy Wilkinson. There, he read the children a book called "The Patchwork Quilt." The students liked the book and made their own patchwork quilt from paper decorated with their own geometric designs. The governor complimented the class on their handiwork. The small class was exactly what Barnes had in mind when the educational reform bill was passed. He also said that he is in favor of smaller schools as well. School class size is essential, he said, in providing the necessary foundation for a good education. "A teacher cannot teach 33 children and that was what was allowed before this issue formed," he said. "If children don't get a good start, they never get caught up. We know that kindergarten through third grade are the most important years that children have." It is during these years that children begin to form the building blocks for quality education, according to studies, the governor said. He said studies show that children learn best in smaller classes, especially in the early grades, and that they're better readers. "Reading is the great skill that must be acquired by the end of the third grade," he said. "Truth of the matter is, we know we have to do something."Recent test scores released show that Georgia is below the national standards, and that Banks County schools are below the state average. "Reading and mathematics are our weak points," Barnes said. "One of the things we've found on test scores is that our children do very well on just the mathematical computation questions. But, when the problem is put in a reading question, they fall off dramatically. So, we know that reading in the early years is also very important to learning math basics."Barnes believes that education reform is about common sense. Small classes, high standards, good teachers and emphasis on the basic subjects, like reading and mathematics, will bring about better opportunities for a sound education, he said.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Banks County News.


BANKS CO. GOVERNMENT

UPDATE:

Alto council chooses reopening wells over asbestos line replacement
Citing drought worries, Alto Mayor Jack King proposed that the city open two wells and postpone replacing asbestos lines.
The council agreed to proceed with closing the wells.
"I feel like with this drought, everybody's had their system shocked and we've experienced a bit of water shortage," he said at a city council meeting Tuesday night.
The mayor told the council he is concerned about future needs and being able to meet them.
"I think the proper time has come for us to begin our legal and paperwork effort to get well number one and well number four reopened," said King. "This process will take us probably a year to a year and a half."
The city will have to file an application with the state to open the wells. He said a report of approval of water quality would be necessary from a geo-physicist and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. King said he felt the EPD would "reluctantly approve it".
If the application is turned down, King said the city would have to take legal recourse, which, he reminded the council, would cost some money. The council would have to give a satisfactory reason why the city has chosen to re-open wells rather than tie on to existing water sources, such as Banks County, Baldwin, or Demorest, he added.
The mayor said one of the reasons would be the cost.
"It would almost double our cost for water," he said.
Currently, Alto pays around a dollar a gallon to produce water. According to King, that cost would go up to $1.80 per gallon, which he thinks is more than the city can afford.
Another consideration he mentioned was that if the city hooked on to an outside water source, rising water costs would be passed on to city and the residents.
"The price would no longer be under our control," he said. "By opening the wells, we can maybe have control over our water costs."
To accomplish this, however, it would mean using funds that could be used for the replacement of asbestos lines. Only .8 of a mile remains to be changed that serves 50 to 60 residents on bits and pieces of peripheral lines, according to King.
"I propose we postpone the replacement until next year and use the money we were going to use for that on opening well #1," said King, who cited the high costs of pipe due to the increase in petroleum products.
To provide funds for opening the two wells, the Alto city council had to consider amending the current water budget. The city's water operation budget currently has a surplus of $51,552.
"This is where the funds would come for the wells, rather than [replace] the asbestos lines," King said. "I think the asbestos lines can wait until next year."
As the council studied the budget, the mayor explained that the city has 10 years to complete the asbestos line change-out. He said that the project would be completed in just three years.
A resident and former mayor, Grover Stewart, said, "I don't know why you had a 10-year limit [on changing out the asbestos lines] to begin with. You need to change them lines today! They could hurt somebody."
Stewart also said the if something were to happen to those lines, the whole system could be affected as the asbestos breaks up.
"We cut through them lots of times to splice them," responded King.
Council member Susan Wade asked, "Why can't we do both?"
The mayor responded, "We could, but we couldn't get anybody to come do the job now anyway."
He said it would be next year before work could begin due to the bidding process.
He added, "There's plenty of work. You can't get anybody here any quicker anyway."
King said he wanted "to close out the contract with Blue Contractors" at the end of the year. He said he does not want to continue doing business with Blue Contractors.
Terrill responded, "Why? What have they done that's so bad?"
The mayor said, "They left in the middle of the job."
The company will be coming back to finish out the contracted work, King told the council.
King wants to put the project of replacing the final .8 of a mile up for bid in January.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business:
·council member Gary Terrell found a discrepancy in the general fund budget as two line items are the same amount. Accounting and legal projected expenses were $9,363. The same amount was given for automotive fuel. King said it was a mistake and withdrew the budget for approval until the correction could be made and the proper amount for fuel accounted for. The revised budget will be presented again at the next meeting.
·Richard Dickens request for a variance to move an old mobile home to his property was denied by the council. The state has a requirement that mobile homes over 10 years old cannot be moved, officials said.. Dickens had wanted to place the mobile home on his property for his daughter to live in.


Baldwin city election set for Tuesday
Baldwin voters will go to the polls Tuesday to fill one vacant seat on the city council.
Five candidates are seeking the council post vacated by Deloris Thomas in June. Thomas resigned her post when she moved to Florida.
Those seeking the council seat include: Banks County residents Marion Hampton, a customer service representative for Alltel, and Ray Holcomb, who is employed with Lucent Technologies. From Habersham County are Phil Hull, who is retired; Helena Dyer, a property manager; and Michael Carroll, a training instructor.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday
For more details on the Baldwin City cantidates, see this week's Banks County News.

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Commissioners look into maintenance log entries
The Banks County Board of Commissioners is concerned about a discrepancy in the maintenance log kept at the ambulance station at Banks Crossing.
Commissioner Pat Westmore-land said at a BOC meeting Friday morning that he had visited the station several weeks ago to check the maintenance log and found only one entry. This led him to request last week that all maintenance logs be turned in for review.
At Friday's meeting, the log from the Banks Crossing station now had eight to nine entries. Westmoreland questioned why it had been changed since he saw it at the station.
Fire chief Perry Dalton, EMS director Doug O'Neal and fire department employee Chuck Bray were called to come to the BOC meeting and discuss the matter.
Commissioner Ernest Rogers pointed out several entries in the log and asked Bray to check his records and tell whether he had changed the oil or done the other maintenance items recorded. On the majority of the dates, which included one Saturday and one Sunday, Bray said he had not done any maintenance work.
O'Neal said that he made the additional entries by going back and estimating when the maintenance was done on the equipment since it was not written in the log at the time.
Rogers then called for the meeting to be closed to the public to discuss "personnel," but the meeting was instead adjourned until next week. Rogers said he would look into the matter further and the BOC would hold a closed meeting at 9 a.m. Friday to discuss "personnel" matters.
The meeting on Friday will have to be opened to the public before any action can be taken. The BOC will also have to vote in open meeting to go into closed session and state the reason. There are limited legal reasons for closing a meeting to the public. The three commissioners also have to sign an affidavit stating that only legal matters are discussed in closed sessions.


BOE offers $100,000 to pacify Southern Engineering
The Banks County Board of Education will offer Southern Engineering, the company responsible for constructing the new high school, $100,000 of the $285,000 it has been withholding as a result of what the BOE feels is an incomplete job.
The list of things that still needs to be completed or corrected includes: the final punch list, 10 roof leaks, three seats in the auditorium with paint stains, one broken auditorium seat, a missing gate latch for the gymnasium, goal in gym will not work electronically, discoloration of roof on the vocational wing, electronic transmission does not work in two classrooms, leaky gutters, loose brick on outside of building, condensation in offices and workroom, missing soap dispensers in auditorium and mirrors in weight room, tiles cracked at expansion joints, bleachers not working properly, a problem with the electrical wiring in the science labs, missing plaque and stained ceiling tile as a result of the leaks.
Despite this list, superintendent Deborah White told the BOE at its work session Thursday, "We're getting to a point where we're going to have to enter into litigation in order to withhold payment."
White said that Southern Engineering Sites Supervisor Mike Reisenberg claims the punch list is complete when it is not. But Roy Denny, CEO of Southern Engineering, has told White that the entire amount should not be withheld. White reported that the final payment request had been sent and a compromise must be reached.
According to White, Denny felt that $50,000 should be enough for the BOE to hold until the remaining items were completed. Because Southern Engineering has entered into litigation with the roofing agent, Denny feels that the roof leaks and resulting damage should not enter into the BOE's decision.
BOE chairman Don Shubert said that White should offer to pay him $100,000. Council member Neal Brown said that the BOE would pay the rest when they were satisfied with the job.