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November 7, 2000


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The Jackson County Greenspace Steering Committee seeks input that would better prepare the Committee for developing the Jackson County Greenspace Plan. Please take a moment to answer four questions and return them on the form provided here.


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SEE THIS WEEK'S PIGSKIN PICKERS!

Rivalry 2000: Jefferson-Commerce Friday

The Jefferson Dragons and Commerce Tigers will play out the latest football game in their long-standing rivalry Friday night at Tiger Field in Commerce. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
The meeting is the 55th between the two teams since the series began in 1947.

Wesleyan No Match For Williams, Tigers
The Wolves were at the door last Friday night, but the Tigers booted them out, 34-10.
Behind a 246-yard night from senior Monté Williams, the Commerce Tigers handed the Wesleyan Wolves their second consecutive defeat and first region loss.

Freeland, Parr qualify for state cross country meet
Jackson County High School senior Sara Freeland dominated the field Saturday to claim the region 8-AAA girls' cross country crown. Along the way, Freeland established a new personal best time, finishing at 20:49. That time is only 12 seconds slower than Carly Parr's fifth-place finish in last year's state meet.


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
Amendments, referendums to be on Tues. ballot
The following proposed constitutional amendments will appear on the Nov. 7 general election ballot . . .

County to pick favorites in 11 contested local elections
After months of listening to the candidates, voters will have their turn to speak Tuesday.




News from
BANKS COUNTY
Baldwin, Demorest still at odds over water plant
Winning the arbitration was just the first step of an uphill climb by Baldwin officials to wrest control of the water plant from Demorest.
Baldwin officials say they have been kept in the dark as to what has or has not been done up at the pumping station. City leaders say they have not seen any bookkeeping records, maintenance logs, plant records or expens reports.

Wilbanks asks for new trial in home invasion
A man found guilty in a 1999 home invasion in Banks County has asked for a retrial.


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UPDATE:
Bell's son injured in sign altercation
The son of Jackson County state representative candidate Pat Bell was slightly injured early Tuesday morning after being struck by a truck during an altercation over political sign thefts.
Greg Bell was struck by the truck at 4:20 a.m. after he stopped to confront a man he saw tearing down a political sign for his mother in Jefferson, according to a report filed at the Jefferson Police Department.
Greg Bell and his cousin, Larry Phillips, reported that they spotted a man tearing down a sign at Sycamore and Kalurah Street across from Kinney's Feed and Seed in Jefferson. Phillips called for a policeman while Greg Bell walked toward the man to confront him.
According to the police incident report, a female driving a blue Ford pickup truck then pulled over to the area and told the male suspect to get in an leave. Greg Bell then told the female driver to wait until the police arrived. She refused and putting the truck in reverse, backed up hitting Bell with the passenger-side door. Bell suffered minor injuries to his hip and left leg, according to the report.
The female suspect is described as a young white female with dark hair and the male as a young 17-19-year-old with stringy hair. Bell and Phillips did get a tag number and authorities are searching for the vehicle.
Pat Bell said her family had gotten up early election day morning to get balloons ready and to replace signs. She said a number of her political signs had been stolen in recent weeks as the election approached and that her son and nephew were driving around Jefferson replacing signs at the time of the incident.
The state representative's race has been one of the most heated and controversial during this election cycle.


UPDATE:
Huge turnout seen across Jackson County Tuesday

Voters Cast Ballots mid-afternoon at Jefferson Precinct.

A huge voter turnout was apparent across Jackson County at midday Tuesday as long lines formed in a number of precincts. Up to an hour or longer waits were seen in Jefferson, the county's second largest voting district. Other precincts also reported a heavy turnout.
In the July primary, a light voter turnout was seen in the county. Just over 3,000 voters cast a ballot during the primary out of nearly 16,000 registered voters.


State seeks to admit testimony from victim in 'crime spree' in Cochran murder trial
The state is seeking to admit evidence into accused murderer Wayne Cochran's trial that he committed other violent acts during a "crime spree" that led up the murder of a Jackson County woman.
District attorney Tim Madison questioned two witnesses in a motion hearing last week on a violent incident, allegedly involving Cochran, that occurred in Asheville, N.C. Cochran is charged in the 1998 murder of Kimberly Warren near her North Jackson home.
Security was heavy in the Jackson County courthouse last week for the hearing with eight deputies, two investigators and the sheriff present in the courtroom. A large number of Warren's friends and family also attended the three-hour hearing.
Madison told Judge Bob Adamson of his intent to bring "similar transactions" involving Cochran into evidence during the trial. He questioned an Asheville, N.C., woman who identified Cochran as the man who hit her in the back of the head in a robbery in a store parking lot several days prior to the Jackson County murder. She had a nine-inch gash on the back of her head and her purse was stolen. She identified Cochran after reviewing a photo line-up prepared by the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
Cochran's court-appointed attorney, Walter Harvey, questioned the woman about how certain she is of her identification of the man who hit her.
"There is absolutely no doubt," she said. "...I'd never forget that face."
The only other witness questioned on the similar transaction motion was chief investigator David Cochran, who spoke on finding the woman's stolen purse in the Banks County home where Cochran was found. He also said that credit card receipts, photographs and other items from the purse were found in a trash bag at a trailer where Cochran had spent some time in Cherokee, N.C.
The judge said he would delay ruling on this motion until other evidence is presented. Motion hearings have also been set up for Dec. 13-14. Harvey said he intends to file a motion asking for a change of venue for the trial.
Cochran's trial was originally expected to be held in the spring of 2000, but he was handed additional charges after a foiled attempt to shoot his way out of the Barrow County courthouse. He had allegedly conspired with a Nicholson man, who is charged with hiding a loaded .38-caliber revolver in a bookshelf in the law library in Winder. Authorities uncovered the plot and removed the gun. They then took Cochran to the Barrow County courthouse, where they said he searched for the gun.
Cochran is suspected of being the triggerman in the murder of Mrs. Warren, who was killed near her home on Eagle Lane in North Jackson after apparently having a confrontation with someone who had broken into her home. Her body was found in her car a short distance from her house. She had been shot several times and the car had rolled into a creek at the bottom of an embankment.
In May 1999, Cheryl Gossitt, 30, was sentenced to life in prison for her part in the Warren murder. At the time, Madison estimated that she wouldn't be eligible for parole for 24 years.
Gossitt initially conferred to being at the scene of the murder, but she later recanted those statements. She also implicated Cochran in her earlier statement.


Next week's elections to close contentious political season
With two heated local state races, a presidential contest and four seats on the board of commissioners up for grabs, voter turnout is expected to be high at Jackson County polls next Tuesday.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jackson County residents who are planning to vote in the Nov. 7 election but aren't sure whether they are registered or not are asked to call the voter registration office.
In addition to county, state and national races, voters in Maysville, Pendergrass and Nicholson will also have city elections to decide next week.
STATE CONTESTS
Highlighting the local ballot are two races for Georgia General Assembly seats. Those races have been especially heated this year as both political parties have pumped tens of thousands of dollars into negative advertising efforts. With reapportionment looming, each party has been jockeying for the upper hand in the 2001 General Assembly session.
Incumbent Republican Scott Tolbert is facing challenger Democrat Pat Bell for the District 25 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives.
In the Senate, incumbent Democrat Eddie Madden is facing Jefferson Republican Mike Beatty for the District 47 seat, of which Jackson County is a part.
COUNTY CONTESTS
County races are highlighted with the four new district seats on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
The candidates are: District 1, Tommy Benton (D) and Stacey Britt (R); District 2, Don Blalock (R) and Sammy Thomason (D); District 3, Emil Beshara (R) and Fran Thomas (D); and District 4, Tony Beatty (R) and Daniel L. Sailors (D).
Other local races include sheriff, where incumbent Stan Evans (R) faces Steve Gary (D); District 1 on the Jackson County Board of Education, where Stephanie Kitchens (R) and Mitchell Clark (D) will be on the ballot; probate judge, where incumbent Margaret Deadwyler (D) is pitted against L. Leann Crawford (R); and coroner, where incumbent Keith Whitfield (D) will face Sammy Qualls (R).
CITY ELECTIONS
City elections are set in Maysville, Pendergrass and Nicholson for Nov. 7. Voters in these towns will have a separate ballot for these races.
In Maysville, incumbent Mayor Richard Presley will face former mayor Jerry Lewis.
The incumbent council members in Ward 1 and Ward 3 will also face challengers in the election. In Ward 1, incumbent Jim Saville, former councilman Andrew Strickland and Todd Dorsey are on the ballot. In Ward 3, incumbent Andy Martin, Richard Parr and Frank Chesonis qualified.
In Pendergrass, Rebecca Danner, Judy Carol Stowe and Joyce Cooper are all seeking the vacant Post 4 council seat.
In Nicholson, seven candidates are seeking the vacant mayor's seat. They are: Stanley Fouche, Carl Bergeron, Ronnie Maxwell, Billy Kitchens, Bobby Crawford, Ray Hancock and Clarke Kesler.
For more details on these races, a sample ballot and candidate profiles, see the special election section in this week's edition of the Jackson Herald.


Senate candidates have conflicting views on education reform bill
Incumbent Sen. Eddie Madden (D) believes the new education reform bill is a step forward, while challenger Mike Beatty (R) says it "demoralizes" teachers across the state.
The two candidates for the District 47 Senate seat spoke at a political forum Thursday night sponsored by the Jackson County Farm Bureau and Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce.
Beatty, who was a classroom teacher for eight years, said the main problem he has with the education bill is that it "demoralized all of the teachers in the state of Georgia."
"The bill blames teachers, parents and our students for all of the problems in education," he said. "The problems have been big-government programs and the lack of relying on our local officials to get the job done. It is also created a ton of new bureaucracy that undermines our local school boards. It has the potential for unfunded mandates that actually cause increases in property taxes..."
Madden said the education reform bill is a "beginning" in addressing the problems across the state. He referred to it as a "work in progress" and said more work will be done on it.
"As a leader in this state, you have to make some hard decisions," he said. "I've been on the forefront of trying to make those decisions for us. We're dealing with real education reform. Georgia has languished at the bottom for too long. We're tired of racing with South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi for the bottom. Our students, our parents and our taxpayers expect better. We've got to give them a better result."
He said that smaller class sizes is one of the main benefits of the new bill.
In his opening statement, Madden also spoke on his concerns about problems seniors citizens face.
"We're also working for our seniors because we're concerned about our health care crisis in this state," he said. "We're concerned about the rural hospitals as well because they're under dynamic pressure because of funds being cut in the budget. We're going to continue make sure seniors can stay in their homes through a declaration of independence giving them tax credits toward long-term health care and any assistance they need."
Health care, referendum A and a proposed rest stop on I-85 in Jackson County were among the topics the candidates addressed in questions from the audience.
On health care, Beatty said: "I believe one of the main problems with the rural health care is looking at the balanced budget act. I think Medicaid and Medicare make up 71 percent of the payments. I know there is a shortage of health care profession. Because of the increased cost of health insurance, more and more of our citizenry do not have health insurance. That also plays a factor. I'd like for us to look for ways to have more of our population insured. I think that will help."
Madden said the "plight of rural hospitals" was brought on by the balanced budget act of 1996 which mandated cuts in health care payments through Medicare and Medicaid.
"We've got to be sure as we deal with the Medicaid cuts that we don't cut these hospitals to the point that they can't exist," he said.
Both candidates said they support referendum A on eliminating taxes on farm equipment and they both oppose the proposed rest stop on I-85.
This story appears in its entirety in this week's Jackson Herald.


Taxes, water the major issues, according to House candidates
Incumbent Rep. Scott Tolbert (R) said the most important issue facing Jackson County is increasing taxes. His opponent, Pat Bell (D) said access to water will be the most important issue facing county residents in the coming years.
The two candidates spoke at a political forum in Jefferson Thursday, the last one before the election on Tuesday.
"I think the most important issue to Jackson County, other than trying to get this new county government in place and hiring a county manager, is the tax situation," Tolbert said. "What has happened is that we've had a net tax increase of about 40 percent over the past four years. We've got to address that because it will get to the point where you can't live in Jackson County. You can't afford to."
Tolbert said one idea he has to tackle this problem is to eliminate school tax for senior citizens.
"They've paid their fair share of taxes over the years and they should be given a break," he said. "Another thing we can do is freeze the tax assessments, meaning that when you buy a house that is what it is assessed for. They don't raise for you each year. When you sell the house, the next person will purchase it and it is assessed and that is their tax rate."
Bell said she disagreed with Tolbert's plan on freezing tax assessments.
"This is now in the courts on the grounds of being unconstitutional to charge one taxpayer more money than another taxpayer for the same services," she said. "Taxes is not it (the most important issue facing the county). Our major issue is protecting and keeping our water. We have a lot of thirsty neighbors. This is going to be a major issue for the state. I have worked very hard to keep our water. That will be a major issue. I will work hard to make sure someone doesn't stick their pipe in our reservoir."
Both candidates also spoke on their public service and the accomplishments they are most proud of. Tolbert has served two terms in the House, while Bell has been a county commissioner for four years.
"During the last four years, we've done some great things," Tolbert said. "We've cut about a billion dollars worth of taxes while I've been serving as your state representative. We've cut the welfare rolls in half. We repealed the sales tax on food. We've lowered property taxes through a homestead exemption in Jackson County, saving Jackson County taxpayers over $363,000 this year alone. We've instituted a taxpayers bill of rights that will eliminate the back door tax increases that have plagued us over the last four years.
"The thing I am proud of more than anything is that I was able to initiative and pass the change of government for Jackson County. This finally lets every individual in every part of this great county have their own representative on the county level. We don't want to stop there. We have a lot of other things that we've got to get accomplished."
Bell said: "I am proud of my record as a county commissioner. When I took office, Jackson County was in the red, borrowing money to make payroll. We have been in the black since and without raising your tax rate. As a matter of fact, I was the deciding vote not to raise your taxes in 1998. I'm proud to announce that your tax rate will be lowered five mills. This is a savings of approximately $200 on every $100,000 home. Jackson County's tax rate for county operations will be the lowest in the state.
"I've had vision. We now have water for the next 30 years. We have solid waste for the next 20 years. I have built bridges between our cities and county. I have stopped two landfills and one private sewer company."
Bell said her plans as state representative include the following: "working for ethics in government, no more gun control, working to increase sales tax limits on the state level. helping seniors and those disabled and on fixed income and working for farmers.
"My desire is not personal gain, power or recognition," she said. "I have worked hard as your commissioner. I will do the same as your state representative."
Tolbert also outlined his goals for another term in office.
"I hope you've seen that I have a conservative philosophy of lower taxes and less government," he said. "I hope that you see I have a platform...In a recent non-partisan poll...they said they are tired of negative campaigning, name-calling and mud-slinging. What I am going to do is tell you what I' going to do. We plan on trying to help with your tax problems. We want to freeze tax assessments. We want to eliminate property taxes on senior citizens so they'll have a house to live in. We wan to eliminate sales taxes for purchases of volunteer fire departments. I believe in true education reform. One that empowers our local board and empowers our teachers.
"My record is clear and it speaks for itself. I assure you that your trust will not be displaced. I will continue to bring conservative values to Atlanta while representing the 25th District to the best of my abilities. I will continue to represent you and your interests and not the special interest of just a few."
Bell said the things she has pointed out about her opponent have been the truth.
"It has not been easy pointing out the things that you, as a voter, have the right to know about my opponent," she said. "I've only told you the truth. I proved it. He did give himself a raise. He chose not to show up for work and attend committee meetings. He has made statements that have puzzled us all. He has distorted the truth on taxes and issues, confused our senior citizen, he has betrayed our trust...I know my way around the capitol. I know the people in the arena..."
For the candidates responses to questions from the audience, see this week's Jackson Herald.

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Candidate Goes After Publisher
During Forum

For a moment, it looked like Mike Beatty was running against MainStreet Newspapers' publisher Mike Buffington.
Beatty (R), trying to oust incumbent state senator Eddie Madden (D), used part of his time to blast Buffington for endorsing Madden in The Jackson Herald.
What particularly irked Beatty was that Madden read a faxed notice of the endorsement at a forum in Elberton last Wednesday.
"Mike, I know you had been agonizing for months over who to endorse. It was considerate of you, Mike, to send this to Eddie so he could read it to me at the forum and over the radio. Folks, these are the same old politics that we are all sick and tired of. Mr. Buffington supports my opponent because he knows I will never be held hostage by his threats and bad press if I don't bow to his concept of what good government is all about.


County tax rate to drop 66%
5 mill decrease due to digest growth
Jackson County leaders expect the county government tax rate to drop by 66 percent, from 7.58 mills last year to 2.58 this year. That will make the county government's part of local property taxes among the lowest rates in the state.
Leaders of the Jackson County School System also anticipate a rate decrease of 10-15 percent, depending on the final numbers of the county's property tax digest. Preliminary rates for the towns in Jackson County, the fire districts and the Jefferson and Commerce City School Systems have not yet been announced.
In a called meeting Friday, Jackson County Board of Commissioners chairman Jerry Waddell announced the five-mill drop for county operations. The decrease comes after a countywide re-evaluation and the influx of new homes and businesses. The county will also eat into some of its accumulated reserves to fund the rate drop.
"Between the re-evaluation and the growth in the digest and using some surplus money...we're going to reduce our fund balance down to between 25 and 30 percent and, due to that, we will lower our millage rate from 7.58 mills to 2.58 mills," Waddell said. "...It leaves the county, with a new board coming in, in good financial shape. We're going to have somewhere around $4 million still in surplus for them."
Commissioner Pat Bell added: "This shows cooperation with the board of commissioners to go from the red to the black to the lowest tax rate in the state."
Also at the called meeting, the BOC asked county attorney Lane Fitzpatrick to seek a court order setting a temporary millage rate in order for automobile tag fees to be collected in January and February. The action was needed because the tax digest is not yet finalized.


Taste Of Jackson Set Thursday At Civic Center
It's billed as the "Taste of Jackson County/Business Showcase," but it's really a party with beverages, food and giveaway items covered by the $5 admission charge.
However you view it, the event, set from 5:00 to 8:00 Thursday night at the Commerce Civic Center, is "our biggest event of the year," says the chamber's Elizabeth McDonald.
Seven or more caterers or restaurants will offer food or beverages and a total of 74 businesses, industries or non-profit groups will have booths explaining their products or services and many of them raffling prizes as well.
Last year's TOJ drew upward of 500 visitors and chamber officials expect at least that good a response this year.
To sweeten the pot, the chamber and its members have come up with a host of door prizes, all valued at $50 or more, to be given away in a raffle. Those prizes include a number of gift baskets, gift certificates, a weekend getaway to the coast, a bread maker, a smoker-grill combination and others. Many individual booths will have raffles of items of lesser value, not to mention giveaways of everything from candy to ball hats to pens and pencils to koozies.
"It's a great way to see what Jackson County businesses have to offer, but it's also a great social event," says McDonald.
There are no booths featuring political candidates, McDonald noted.

More Treats Than Tricks

Allen Lacey, costumed as a scuba diver, hands out treats in front of his law office on North Elm Street Tuesday. Approximately 2,000 people paraded through the downtown in the annual Downtown Trick Or Treat sponsored by the Commerce Area Business Association and the Downtown Development Authority. A similar scene could be found in Jefferson, where the Jefferson Area Merchants' Association sponsored the event.