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Sovereignty of states upheld
I am pleased to announce another victory in the battle to preserve
the sovereignty of the states as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The Supreme Court ruled this week . . .
A squirrel named Tooty Fruity
She was not much bigger than my thumb when I found her, and most
of that was her head. I knew she was a baby something, but it
took me a few minutes to decide she was a squirrel.
SEE THIS WEEK'S PIGSKIN PICKERS!
Raiders bound for Columbus after two wins in state sectionals
The reservations are made, the bags are being
packed. And the adrenaline is rushing.
The Raiders are bound for Columbus with one goal in mind - bringing
home a state fast-pitch softball title.
DOT says Baldwin responsible for cost of relocating
For the past few months, the Baldwin City Council and Georgia
Department of Transportation have been arguing over who is to
blame for the broken water line along Wolford Creek and who should
pay for it. Last week, the council learned that Baldwin will
have to fund the relocation of the line.
Pilot not seriously injured in crash
A South Carolina woman escaped serious injury Saturday in a plane
crash in Banks County. Svetlana Dramoua, 18, a native of the
Ukraine, was on a solo flight from Clemson, S.C., when she crashed
around 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Wickliffe pleads guilty to bid-rigging
Jerry Wickliffe, owner of the private sewage firm Water Wise,
entered a guilty plea Friday in federal court on charges that
he and others engaged in a wide-ranging bid-rigging scheme.
'Referendum A' would cost county $162,255 in taxes
If a statewide referendum to eliminate property taxes from farm
equipment passes on Nov. 7, it would cost Jackson County approximately
$162,255 next year.
The Madison County Journal
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The Rev. Jess Martin and his 3-year-old grandson, Nathan,
stand in front of the Martins' home on Friendship Church Road.
The home will be used as a drug and alcohol counseling center.
Martins' house to
be used for AADAPP
The Rev. Jess Martin and his wife, Anna, plan to move out of
their Friendship Church Road home to use it as a site for a proposed
drug and alcohol counseling center.
Madison County commissioners recently approved the use of the
old tax assessor's office on Crawford W. Long Street for Martin's
proposed Northeast Georgia Alcohol/Drug Addiction Prevention
Program and Aftercare Services (AADAPP).
But Martin said the old county structure is too run-down to renovate
in a cost-efficient manner. He said he contacted a national asbestos
group about removing asbestos from the windows of the old building
and found out that it would cost "about $150,000" to
remove the dangerous substance.
"That alone constituted such a high expense that it made
it (the old tax assessor's building) not feasible to use,"
said Martin, who added that he and his wife plan to move in with
their son, who lives on neighboring property.
Apart from the building, the commissioners recently put $25,000
toward Martin's proposal. Martin said the funds have been turned
over to CPA Daniel Dooley. He added that the $25,000 will be
used for such things as salaries, office supplies and telephone
services. He said he is also seeking grant money to help fund
the AADAPP program.
The issue of money for the program has clearly divided county
Some have been eager to see Martin get county money to run the
program, saying the county's troubled youth need a place to get
help. Others have maintained that it's fiscally irresponsible
to allot funds for a private cause without requiring sufficient
details - such as who will sit on the AADAPP board and manage
Martin said he's fed up with the politics of the issue.
"Arguing back and forth isn't going to make anything work,"
he said, maintaining that every month that goes by leaves more
kids without help.
Martin said he and his wife spent approximately $60,000 renovating
the old house in recent years. And while the property must be
rezoned for the program, and some work will be needed to turn
the house into a counseling center, Martin said he expects the
program could be fully operational in the house by April, serving
"between 30 and 45" people per month.
Martin said he intends to employ three full-time counselors within
the first year of operation. He said the house will provide three
offices, a break area, a large classroom and a waiting area.
He added that the house, which has been a school and a church,
is worth $150,000 and that he and his wife plan to sell the house
to the program for "$30,000 less so there will be equity
BOE fields questions
about system's financial woes, agrees to hold public forum
Members of the Madison County Board of Education began answering
questions about the school system's finances at their regular
meeting Tuesday night, and agreed to hold a public forum on the
subject in the near future.
The school board has been under fire since it was recently revealed
that the school system may face a $2 million shortfall for the
Second District member Elaine Belfield opened the discussion
by quoting state law requiring the board to keep the public informed.
She asked for a public meeting involving all members of the board's
administrative staff to include Steve Sorrells and the consultants
being used by acting superintendent Allen McCannon.
"It's a shame that (former superintendent) Dr. (Dennis)
Moore will not be available," she said. She also requested
an extensive list of documents from McCannon.
Chairman Jimmy Patton agreed to the meeting and suggested that
it be conducted as a public forum. A date for the forum will
be set at a budget hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 24 at
6:30 p.m. in the high school media center.
Greg Bleakley, a parent with two children in the Madison County
school system, presented the board with eight questions Tuesday
concerning finances. Board members and administrative personnel
answered several of the questions, and stated flatly that they
did not know the answers to others. Bleakley was assured that
a full effort would be made to answer his questions at the forum.
Belfield addressed the question of the missing $3 million "surplus"
left by former Superintendent Jim Perkins. She listed numerous
repairs to school facilities that had been put off from previous
budgets, and the purchase of land intended for a sports complex.
Chairman Patton agreed that school repairs had been neglected.
He said that it would have cost less if repairs had been made
a few at a time.
Assistant superintendent Jimmy Minish suggested that the word
"surplus" was not appropriate for the funds in question.
He said that in past budgets, these funds were reserves to help
finance school operations between the start of a new school year
and collection of property taxes in December and January.
Chairman Patton commented that many school systems borrow money
at the start of the school year due to delays in collectinglocal
taxes, but ageed that Madison County had not been forced to do
so in past years.
Ms. Belfield said Moore was responsible for much of the problem.
"A mistake was made giving Dr. Moore too much freedom and
not watching him carefully enough," she said. She pointed
out instances where Moore had granted pay raises without informing
the board as well as other unapproved expenditures.
Bleakley raised the question of the proposed sports complex.
Minish said that the board had paid $240,000 for the land, and
collected $70,000 for the timber. Chairman Patton defended plans
to develop the complex, pointing out that Madison County High
will soon be a Class AAAA school but has no track, soccer field
or tennis courts. District 1 BOE member Robert Haggard reminded
the audience that a large contingent of parents had appeared
at a recent board meeting in support of the complex. Board members
agreed that funding for the complex will be on hold until current
funding problems are solved.
Mary Widles, a teacher in the school system who wrote the original
letter questioning the system's financial plans, told the board
that she was speaking as a taxpayer. She said she was reluctant
to speak because of her position as a teacher. Chairman Patton
told her that there would be no reprisals for her comments.
Widles said that Bleakley's questions covered most of hers, and
she was pleased by efforts to answer his questions, and the promise
of a special meeting to address the remainder. She added two
questions to the list.
She requested that the board carefully study expenditures for
the past two years and change policy to prevent future problems.
She also suggested that the board consider hiring a financial
officer to oversee the budget.
"I will be looking for specifics - how will you become educated
on how to run the system?" Widles said. "Can the board
of education do the job?"
District 4 member Jim Patton - no relation to chairman Jimmy
Patton - answered, "Yes, but it will take belt tightening."
Belfield agreed, saying that budget control was the key.
"The budget must be the spending authority," she said.
Chairman Patton agreed with the idea of a financial officer.
"That will be one of the considerations in hiring a new
superintendent," Patton said.
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Berry's plan for children's homes
Madison County planners gave the thumbs up Tuesday to country
singer John Berry's plans for children's homes on Drake Woods
The Madison County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend
approval of a request by John and Robin Berry for a conditional
use permit on 41.88 acres of agricultural land on Drake Woods
Road, despite quite a few objections from neighbors.
The county commissioners will have final say on the matter Monday.
The Berrys plan to sell the property to North Georgia Christian
Family Services, a private, tax-exempt organization that plans
to operate several children's group homes on the land that will
be licensed by the Georgia Department of Human Resources and
the Department of Family and Children Services.
The homes, which according to Berry will each have three house
parents and eight to 10 children ranging from 6 to 12 years old,
will be for "children in need of a family."
According to James Griffeth, president of the board of directors
of the organization, the homes won't be set up to handle children
with criminal records or behavioral problems and each child accepted
into the program will first undergo a screening process.
But a number of neighbors in the area objected to the permit,
saying that the facility wouldn't be "good for the community."
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County
still considering lowering Fortson bond
A judge was still considering Wednesday morning whether or not
the half million dollar bond set recently for accused "cement
murderer" Tracy Lea Fortson is too high.
Meanwhile, no official word was available Wednesday morning on
whether a Madison County Grand Jury had indicted Fortson for
murder. Grand Jury presentments are expected to be released later
today or Thursday.
Fortson, 35, of Winterville, has been charged with the June murder
of her former boyfriend, Douglas Benton, at his home in Colbert.
Benton's body was found encased in a horse trough filled with
cement on June 19 in a wooded area of Oglethorpe County.
All judges in the Northern Judicial District recused themselves
in the request by Fortson's attorney Tom Camp to consider lowering
her bond. The matter was heard by Judge Roger Dunaway of the
neighboring Toombs Circuit last Thursday afternoon in the Madison
County courtroom in Danielsville before a number of family and
friends of both the victim and defendant.
Camp told the judge that the $500,000 amount set by Judge Thomas
Hodges late last month is "so excessive that it amounts
to no bond at all."
"There is simply no basis for that amount of bond being
set...she is not able to make bond and her house is in foreclosure,"
he told the judge.
Camp suggested a lowered amount of $75,000 to $100,000 and called
Fortson's mother, Sharon Hodges, (no relation to Judge Thomas
Hodges) to the stand to testify that her daughter could live
with her and that the family is prepared to live with any stipulations
and constraints that are placed on her daughter.
She also told the judge that Fortson's 15-year-old daughter currently
lives with her and "wants her mama home."
Madison County sheriff Clayton Lowe testified that he "feared
for the safety of the community" if Fortson were released.
He also said that he was concerned about several pieces of evidence
that had not yet been found.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County