Jackson County Opinions...

September 13, 2000


Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 13, 2000

Fall Is The Most Disappointing Of The Seasons
I hereby declare it fall. I base that on three things - school has started, prep football is under way and the ragweed plants are spewing pollen.
Fall is the season of the greatest disappointment.
I eagerly await the cooler weather, thinking that it will make me more energetic about yard work I've neglected under the it's-too-hot excuse. Second, I always expect fishing to improve as water temperatures fall. Finally, I look forward to a bit of a fall garden.
Since most of my anticipation takes place during the dog days of summer, I tend to overlook the twin curses of fall ­ ragweed and leaves.
I'm not sure if it's the allergic reaction or the medicine I take to combat it that robs me of energy in this season. I come home from work on a cool, crisp evening, then collapse for two hours on the sofa. I feel drugged from a week after Labor Day to at least the first of December. In fact, I am drugged.
Yard work sounds invigorating in the fall, but when you're allergic to ragweed, raking leaves brings red eyes and heavy congestion. Mowing, even with a pollen mask, can be terminal. Besides, you just don't feel like doing anything in a drugged stupor.
The fishing never lives up to expectations either. Half of the time, your lure comes back with leaves attached, and if fish are supposed to be more aggressive in the fall, fish around here have not been informed. It's like they all migrate to Florida.
Whoever came up with the concept of a fall garden should be sued for spreading misinformation and generating false enthusiasm.
Some people allegedly plant squash, cucumbers, beans and even tomato plants for fall production.
It doesn't work. The seeds germinate poorly, and the plants that do arise just sit there as if they know they're supposed to be in decline. Fall gardening in Georgia is a concept created by the seed companies and nurseries. Plants like lettuce and spinach that do grow will be consumed by deer or matted with leaves.
All garden pests are now at maximum populations, and they pounce on young plants with the vigor of a bass dining on minnows in shallow water. Disease sets in. Your time would be better spent mulching the garden for next year.
Leaves on the grass are OK. Wet leaves matted in the flower beds, gutters and on the patio are a nuisance. Leaves that attach themselves to fishing hooks are a major cause of fall cursing.
Raking the yard is a ritual of autumn, but removing successive falls of leaves every two weeks to keep the grass from suffocating is madness, particularly after one shower turns them into a mushy layer.
It's during fall that the Braves are swept in the World Series, when the Falcons eliminate all fantasies of playoffs and the Bulldogs lose to Georgia Tech on a referee's bad call.
Fall is nature's false advertisement setting us up for winter. It is a warning of cold and dreary days to come, when the ground stays wet and the flu will strike.
You can have fall. Give me winter when nothing is promised and nothing delivered. At least the leaves and ragweed are long gone.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
September 13, 2000

Water Wise settlement a good deal for county
After a year of legal maneuvering, the controversial Water Wise sewage issue ended late last week after the county government accepted an out-of-court settlement offer from the firm. Despite the fact that the county will pay an additional $1.2 million for the old Texfi sewage plant, that is still a deal for the taxpayers of Jackson County.
At issue in the Water Wise case was what entity would control the county's future growth: A private sewage firm, accountable to no one, or a local government accountable to all the citizens?
There's no doubt that growth will happen where sewage is available. But it would not have been wise to allow a private sewage firm to have unregulated control of county sewage services. Public interest, not just private profit, should decide where sewage lines are laid in the county and who gets access to that service.
That was the conclusion reached by an overwhelming consensus of local leaders last year, a group which included the board of commissioners, the county water authority and the City of Jefferson, and led the county to condemn the old Texfi plant after it had been purchased by Water Wise. Of course, the sewage firm appealed the condemnation, but lost in court.
Last week's settlement was the conclusion of an appeal of that earlier court decision. At issue was the amount the county should pay for the old Texfi plant. The county initially paid $1.5 million, but Water Wise owner Jerry Wickliffe claimed the plant was worth $8-$10 million. (He bought it for $1.3 million.)
So last week's settlement of $2.7 million was much less than Water Wise had claimed, but it was well within what county officials believe the site is really worth. (It's important to note that Water Wise didn't put up any expert witnesses in the earlier court proceedings, thus the county initially got the plant at $1.5 million by default. At the time, the county was prepared to settle at $2.5 million had Water Wise lawyers brought in expert witnesses to contest the $1.5 million.)
In addition to the price, there were three main reasons the county agreed to the offer last week:
1. Lawyers for the county say that jury verdicts on condemnation suits generally fall at about 40 to 50 percent of the asking price. At that rate, a jury verdict could have been over $3 million, not counting additional legal costs to the county. With a settlement offer on the table of $2.7 million, and no previous case law on Georgia sewer plant condemnations (this is the first one in the state), lawyers advised the county not to gamble on a jury outcome when that verdict might have been higher than $2.7 million.
2. County leaders were hesitant to saddle the incoming new county board of commissioners with such a major lawsuit. That board already has a heavy agenda and this lawsuit would have further complicated the new board's task.
3. Finally, and most importantly, the lawsuit appeal had held up an expansion of the plant and the laying of sewage lines. As long as the lawsuit was alive, no bonds for new lines could be issued. That meant that the Mulberry Plantation project and several other major developments were on hold. Those are the projects that will pay the bulk of the cost in getting the system up and running. The suit and attendant appeals might have gone on for an additional two years before a final decision was reached. In the meantime, the county would have lost untold thousands of dollars it could have been generating with the facility.
The road to last week's settlement was long and hard. The Water Wise issue became extremely complex, controversial and at times, difficult to explain to the public.
But through those stormy times, county leaders held their course, never backing down and never wavering from their commitment that the county's major infrastructure decisions should be made by those who answer to all the citizens, not just to the bottom line of a private sewage developer.
It may not seem very important today, but 50 years from now, people will look back and realize that the county's entry into the sewage business was a major turning point.
And that it was done with the constraints of public accountability in place will be remembered as a very smart decision.

Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
September 13, 2000

Bohanan will be missed
When David Bohanan came to work at this newspaper 15 years ago, he still had all his hair.
Fresh out of college, David began his newspaper career by writing local sports. One of his first articles was in the summer of 1985 about the Babe Ruth tournament being hosted in Commerce.
Over the next eight years, David expanded his professional life here, eventually moving into government news coverage and taking on our most difficult news beat of covering the Jackson County government.
On a personal note, David somehow found time to get married and father the first of two strapping sons while he was writing for the paper. From the life of a bachelor reporter, David became a husband and father, a life transition that no doubt changed his view of the world.
After those eight years reporting on government, David got the itch to actually become a part of government when he was offered the position of county clerk and personnel director for the Jackson County government.
We tried to talk him out of it. We pleaded with him to think carefully about the fire he was about to jump into. Being a reporter is hard. Being the "reportee" is even harder.
But David's mind was made up, and so he left the insane world of writing about politicians to the inane world of working for politicians. We hated to see him go, but wished him well.
For the last seven years, David has made his professional work that of public service. In the background of many county government decisions was David Bohanan. At times, his employers were swirling about in a frenzy of political upheavals. It often appeared as if the county government was standing still.
It wasn't. Even as the politicians fussed and fumed at each other, David kept the machinery of county government moving. He did that without crossing swords with his employers or his subordinates, a feat that says a lot about his ability to get along with people.
Because of that finesse, David was often mentioned as a potential candidate for the new county manager position. Opinions varied on that. Some believed bringing in someone with no previous connection to Jackson County would be better. Others thought having David's experience at the helm would help the transition to a new government structure.
Whatever the view, that question is now moot. David is moving on to another new challenge as city manager of Dahlonaga. No one can blame him for removing himself from what might be a difficult transition in county government.
But David's professional gain is the county's great loss. David is one of only a few people in the Jackson County government who's been involved in a huge number of issues. Most department heads know what's going on with their own department, but they seldom get the larger picture of how it all fits into the county government as a whole.
David is one of the few who does have the big picture. He knows the background on a wide variety of issues. He knows why certain decisions were made. He knows the dynamics both internally and externally in county government. One has to wonder if the loss of such knowledge can be replaced.
David Bohanan came to Jackson County as a young man with a full head of hair. He pulled a lot of it out during the last 15 years, but he is far wiser than when he came. In his wake is a body of work spanning two careers that contributed greatly to the betterment of Jackson County.
And David, once again, we hate to see you go, but wish you well.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
September 13, 2000

Opportunity For Input On Greenspace Plan
Citizens concerned about or interested in Jackson County's future as it endures rapid growth should attend the meeting Thursday night at which a "greenspace plan" will be discussed.
Under Gov. Roy Barnes' legislation, counties and cities must develop plans to permanently protect from development 20 percent of their land. The meeting, at 7:30 at the Jackson County Administrative Building, is being held so citizens can offer ideas about how this can best be done.
The idea is to preserve a high quality of life by protecting a fifth of the county's land from development. Decisions are yet to be made as to what areas should be preserved, how the land can be acquired or what incentives can be offered to private property owners to give or sell development rights to counties and cities. Because Jackson County is among the 40 fastest-growing counties in Georgia, it is among the first to address the issue so it can qualify for state funds that could help acquire the land.
The protection of so much land can neither be done quickly nor cheaply, and it probably cannot be done without much discussion and some controversy. It can be done with much less confusion, however, if the public has a chance in advance to voice its concerns and opinions and to learn what is being done and why it is being done. That is why Thursday's meeting is important.
The plan that will eventually be put into action will have a lasting effect on how the county develops. It can affect property values, tax rates and overall quality of life. County officials and developers will be present to make sure their ideas are considered. Citizens should attend this important meeting to make sure theirs are too.

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