News from Madison County...

 September 13, 2000


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OPINIONS

Frank Gillispie
Violence is big
business in America
Yet another report has been released about the effect of violence in movies, TV and video games. This report suggests that the producers of this kind of pornography actively target teenagers in their advertising.
Yes, violence in the media is . . .

Ben Munroe
Nightmare in Columbia
Yeah, it might have felt like 100 degrees Saturday in Columbia, but that sure didn't stop hell from freezing over.
While witnessing Georgia's 21-10 demoralizing, derailing flop against the South Carolina Gamecocks, I kept assuring myself that at any moment I would awake . . .


SPORTS
Raiders rout Jackson County 21-6
The Raiders could get used to this.
For the third week in a row, it was Madison County enjoying a post-game victory celebration in the locker room, basking in the glow of a hard-fought 21-6 win over border opponent Jackson County in Jefferson Friday night.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


News from...
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.


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The Madison County Journal
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READY, SET, HUT


The Madison County 11-and-12-year-old Bulldogs face off against the Oglethorpe Patriots Saturday at the Madison County Recreation Department.


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. The note would be due on Dec. 31, 2000.
The schools' current cash flow chart shows that the system began the month of September with a cash balance of $369. Estimated income for the month is $1,630,434 and expenses are expected to total $2,428,374, leaving a shortfall of $797,571. Much of the expense involves school opening expenses, including $250,000 for textbooks, $40,000 for paving at Hull/Sanford School and $77,000 in remaining construction expenses.
Board member Elaine Belfield expressed concern about mismanagement of school funds. She reminded the board that Superintendent Jim Perkins, Dr. Dennis Moore's predecessor, left a budget surplus of $3 million. She asked where that money went, pointing out at least two items on the anticipated expenses list that had never been presented to the board - the $40,000 paving cost and $10,400 for playground expenses at Hull-Sanford Elementary School.
McCannon said he cannot currently answer her questions because there is no detailed line item budget and it will take time to re-create one. He agreed that some money was spent without board approval.
Belfield apologized to McCannon for having to face financial problems so early in his term as interim superintendent.
"I am sorry you have to deal with these things rather than educating our children." she said.
McCannon told the board that there are three things that must be done immediately: arrange financing for their short-term cash flow, create a detailed line item budget and start working to adjust the next budget.
One victim of the cash flow crunch is the sports complex being planned for property across the road from the high school. McCannon said that purchase of the property may be a part of the missing $3 million in surplus money. He made it clear that work on the complex has been placed on hold.
The board will hold a called meeting to approve the $895,000 loan as soon as paperwork is ready. McCannon assured the board that the banks will act quickly to make the funds available.
State law allows school systems to borrow up to 75 percent of anticipated tax receipts. Property taxes contributed just under $4 million to the school budget last year.
McCannon attributed problems to the cost of opening the new Hull-Sanford school and to delays in reformulating the county's QBE funds. State funding for schools is based on a combination of number of students, number of schools and other factors. Operating an additional school causes a large increase in the system's payroll, McCannon said, but it will be January before the formulas are recomputed. McCannon is confident that with anticipated additions in state funds, the year-end collections of local property taxes and a more frugal approach to the system's expenses will solve the problem.
McCannon admitted that the expense estimates for upcoming months have been "padded" to reflect the highest possible figures. He said that actual costs may be somewhat lower, but not enough to prevent the cash flow crisis. For that reason, he will ask the winning bank to calculate loan interest on a daily basis. He will withdraw only those funds necessary to operate the system, thus keeping interest expenses to a minimum.
Another factor that may reduce the problem is timing of property tax receipts. Tax commissioner Louise Watson said that she anticipates property tax notices to be mailed by Dec. 1. Many taxpayers will pay before the end of the year to gain an income tax deduction. Watson said that the school system should receive a partial payment on property taxes in December, but could not estimate the size of the payment.


BOC reverses decision, approves cell tower
A 180-foot cell tower will soon be placed on the property of Ralph Hudgens off Hwy. 106.
The Madison County commissioners reversed their earlier decision Monday to deny Hudgens' request for a conditional use permit for a cell tower on his 13.13 acres.
Commissioners voting in favor of the permit Monday were Bill Taylor, Patsy Pierce, Melvin Drake and Bruce Scogin. Nelson Nash provided the lone vote against the request.
The approval was made on Scogin's condition that American Towers, the company operating the tower, make the tower accessible to the county 911 service if it becomes needed.
Cory Cusker of American Towers agreed that space would be made available on the tower for the county's 911 service, though she could not promise that the company would do so free of charge.
Two weeks ago, Taylor, Drake and Scogin opposed the permit. But Scogin said he reversed his decision because the property owner nearest the proposed tower had stated in writing that he had no objection to the plans.
"It would border on criminal for us to deny this," said Scogin. "I feel they've met the zoning criteria."
Commissioner Nash said he felt Hudgens' neighbors should be notified by the county of the reconsideration of the proposal before a vote was taken. Several surrounding residents voiced their disapproval of the project before the commissioners two weeks ago, citing aesthetic concerns, fears of the tower causing cancer and the danger of the tower falling.
"I feel the surrounding landowners have not been treated fairly," said Nash.
Nash said he didn't think the proposal met the county's setback requirements for towers. The proposed tower is 180 feet tall and will sit less than 180 feet away from adjoining property. Nash also said the board is being inconsistent in approving the request when commissioners recently denied a tower on Allen Road because it didn't meet setback guidelines.
Taylor said the Allen Road tower was a guideline tower and that county requirements for such towers are different than for cell phone structures. But Taylor voiced concern that the neighboring property owner, who has no objection to the proposal, might sell the property to someone who could put a house within 180 feet of the tower. He asked what the county's liability would be if the tower then fell on that house.
Scott Jacobson of Marietta, who spoke on behalf of American Towers, said the liability would fall on American Towers and its insurance company. And he reiterated Cusker's assertions of two weeks ago that engineers believe a cell tower won't fall like a tree, instead it will crumple and fall on itself, meaning the tip of the tower would not fall 180 feet away as some might assume.
But commissioners voiced skepticism about this. And Scogin pointed out that engineers also said the Titanic wouldn't sink, drawing some chuckles from the audience.
Chuck Auslander, who was sitting in for county attorney John McArthur, advised the board to "tread lightly" in reconsidering its earlier decision on the matter, noting that county guidelines require a six-month wait on a denial for such matters. He said additional evidence was produced Monday, but not at "an advertised public hearing."
But Jacobson said he had researched the matter and said that no six-month wait is required before reconsidering a denied conditional use permit request. He cited a Rabun County case to support his argument.
Hudgens, who represents Madison County in the Georgia House of Representatives, was not at the meeting, but his neighbor, Augusta Jenkins, read a letter from Hudgens about the proposal.
He wrote that the tower site is large enough to contain debris resulting from tower failure and that the "board cannot legally deny this permit."
He noted that he moved the proposed tower from the back of his property "not for safety reasons, but to try to satisfy the property owners on my east boundary."
"The property owner to the north has signed a statement that he has no objection to the tower being located near his property," wrote Hudgens.
He also said the tower will improve cell phone communications along Hwy. 106, adding that 40 to 50 people have told him they hope the cell tower is approved for that reason.
"The common feeling is that cell phones are here to stay and that to deny towers is to deny progress," wrote Hudgens.
In other business Monday, the board met briefly to discuss a proposed amendment to the county zoning ordinance to eliminate Planned Commercial Farm District (PCFD) zoning classifications. No vote was taken on the proposal that would change all PCFD zonings to A-1. The board agreed to advertise the closing of a section of the old Shiloh Fort Lamar Road.
The board took no vote on accepting Gunter Drive, Gatewood Drive and Millbrook Circle into the county road system. The BOC agreed to change a three-quarter time job in the transfer station to a full-time position. The group also hired Annette Greeson and Mary Jane Ledford to positions in the transfer station. Lisa Hattaway was approved as a road department employee.
The commissioners approved an $18,000 lease agreement for a truck for the transfer station.
The BOC also agreed to meet Monday, Sept. 18, to discuss next year's budget.


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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.
Tuesday's forum will be held at 7 p.m. in the county government complex courtroom. Those who will participate include candidates for the state senate, District 47 seat: incumbent Eddie Madden, a Democrat; and Mike Beatty, a Republican. Candidates for the District 24 state representative post will also speak. They include incumbent Ralph Hudgens, a Republican; and Douglas McKillip, a Democrat.
The second forum will be Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in the county courtroom for candidates for county constitutional offices. Races highlighted in this forum will be the chairman of the board of commissioners, probate judge, clerk of court and coroner.
Candidates for the BOC chairman's post are incumbent Wesley Nash, a Republican; and Nelson Nash, a Democrat. Those seeking the probate judge's post are incumbent Donald "Hoppy" Royston, a Democrat; and Lynn Smith, a Republican. Those seeking the clerk of court position are incumbent Michelle Strickland, a Democrat; and Mike Sales, a Republican. Candidates for the coroner's position are Democrat Michelle Cleveland and Republican Phyllis Dickinson.
The third forum will be for candidates seeking district seats for the county commission and school board. It will be held Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. in the county courtroom.
Those participating in the forum will include: BOC District 1 - incumbent Democrat William "Bill" Taylor and Republican John Brueshaber; BOC District 2 -Republican Larry Stewart and Democrat Johnny Fitzpatrick; BOC District 3 - Republican Danny Andrews and Democrat Michael Youngblood; BOC District 5 - incumbent Republican Bruce Scogin and Democrat Edwin Baker; and BOE District 5 incumbent Democrat Jimmy O. Patton and Republican Richard Power.
The forums will include a three-minute opening statement by each candidate, written questions from the public that will be asked by the forum moderator and a one-minute closing statement by each candidate.