News from Madison County...

November 29, 2000


Madison County
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OPINIONS

Frank Gillispie
'A frightful despotism'

Readers, be warned that my analysis of the 2000 election fiasco will take several columns. Where shall I begin? A quote from our first president, George Washington, is in order.

Margie Richards
Let's move on

It's time once again to put up the Christmas decorations, get the holiday shopping and cooking done, and get ready to face another year.
And what a year it's shaping up to be.


SPORTS
SEE THIS WEEK'S PIGSKIN PICKERS!

Banks tops Lumpkin, falls to Towns
The Lady Leopards were able to pull out a 57-32 win over Lumpkin County to claim third place in the Pepsi Tipoff Tournament last week.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
School rankings mixed
The rankings of Banks County public schools on the annual Georgia Report Card for Parents were mixed this year, with the high school ranking showing a climb while the middle and elementary schools fell.

City of Maysville begins preparing 2001 budget
An increase in insurance and salaries projected for next year will likely lead to the largest hike in the budget for the City of Maysville.


News from...
JACKSON COUNTY
Recreation park planned in West Jackson
A recreation area with walking trails, a lake and a historic mill that will be open to the public is being planned in the West Jackson area.

Building boom ahead in Braselton?
A shopping center with a grocery store, a manufacturing and distribution business and a 550-home residential development are among the plans in the works in the Town of Braselton.


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FIRE DESTROYS HOME


A fire gutted the home of Brad Massey on Hwy. 72 in Comer Monday shortly after noon. No injuries were reported and firemen at the scene had not determined a cause of the blaze. Pictured are Comer volunteer firefighters after extinguishing the flames.



No footing this bill
Madison County citizens will not pay for their commissioners' legal defense of recall efforts.
The county commissioners agreed by a 3-2 vote Monday not to pay a $4,568 attorney's fee for board member Patsy Pierce or a $2,684 legal bill for former commissioner Ken Clark. Both bills are related to recall attempts against Pierce and Clark.
Commissioners Bruce Scogin and Bill Taylor voted to deny the payment - or any future payment - for board members' legal expenses in fighting a recall. District 2 commissioner Nelson Nash and District 4 representative Melvin Drake voted against the action.
Pierce was not at the meeting, nor was Clark.
Chairman Wesley Nash broke the 2-2 tie with a vote to deny the payment.
The issue lit emotions as few have at the commissioners' table in the past year.
Scogin, who was voted into office in District 5 after Jack Fortson resigned amid a recall effort, gave an impassioned plea to fellow board members to deny payment of commissioners' legal expenses related to recalls.
"It's taxpayers' right under the recall act to recall public officials they think are unfit for office," said Scogin, who was re-elected earlier this month. "Taxpayers should not be burdened down with the expenses of financing a recall and financing a public official's attempt to stop the recall."
He gave board members and reporters thick packets with information related to the issue. He cited a June conclusion of law from the State Ethics Commission that stated that the county's payment of Clark's $19,000 in legal fees related to the recall "constituted a campaign contribution." Scogin said state law does not allow a county to make campaign contributions.
"Fellow board members, we can't pay these expenses," said Scogin. "If we do, we're going to get sued. Every time we've sat here and broken the law we've gotten sued. It's wrong to mishandle the public's money."
Nelson Nash did not agree with Scogin's argument and as others thumbed through Scogin's packet, Nash did not review the information.
"Wesley Nash is under a court order to pay these fees," said Nelson Nash.
Nash referred to a 1998 judgment against the chairman in a suit filed by Pierce, Clark and Fortson, who maintained the chairman abused his office by bypassing board authority on fiscal, personnel and security matters. Judge Marvin Sorrells ruled in that suit that the county must pay Clark's legal expenses related to the recall.
But the chairman said that the Ethics Commission ordered the county to "cease and desist" from any payment of the fees.
"That overrides a judge," the chairman said.
Last year, Scogin proposed a legal fee policy that prohibited payment of commissioners' legal fees related to recalls. That policy was accepted.
But Scogin said the old policy does not provide for the payment of such fees either. Therefore, the fees cannot be paid, he said.
However, county attorney John McArthur said the issue was not so simple, noting that the previous policy was "very broad" and that a clear resolution would probably require a judge's ruling. He drew a parallel with the 2000 presidential election fiasco.
"(In the presidential election) we've learned that the law is not always black and white, particularly when you get politics involved," said McArthur.
Three Madison County commissioners faced recall efforts in the past three years, with two - Clark and Fortson - resigning shortly before recall votes. An effort against Pierce fizzled amid legal challenges.


Report cards show mixed results
The rankings of Madison County schools on the annual Georgia Report Card for Parents were mixed this year, with Ila Elementary School showing a jump forward in area and state rankings as other county schools experienced a drop in the ratings.
Colbert Elementary, however, remained the top-ranked elementary school in the county.
Sponsored by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, the rankings are limited, reflecting only math and reading averages in the fifth grade ITBS results in elementary schools, eighth grade math and reading ITBS results in middle schools and the Georgia High School Graduation Test in high schools.
Schools are ranked geographically by area of the state and statewide. For elementary and middle schools, only the math and reading portions of the ITBS are calculated.
Colbert Elementary was again tops among county elementary schools. Colbert ranked 18th in the area and 202 statewide this year, compared to 17th and 197 last year.
Ila Elementary School school was ranked 55th among Northeast Georgia elementary schools in 1999 and 428th in the state. This year, the school is ranked 34th out of 106 schools in the 23-county area and 301 out of 1,086 schools in Georgia.
Danielsville was ranked 72 and 538 in 2000, compared to 64th and 462nd in 1999.
And Comer Elementary was ranked 80 and 623 this year, compared to 58th and 439th last year.
The new Hull-Sanford Elementary School was not included in the rankings.
MIDDLE SCHOOL
Madison County Middle School was 39th out of 45 area middle schools and 245th among 416 Georgia schools, compared to 37th and 252nd last year.
HIGH SCHOOL
Madison County High School was 19th out of 35 area schools and 120th among 323 Georgia schools, compared to 15th and 82nd last year.


Contract approved for new Madison County jail
Madison County commissioners gave the thumbs-up Monday to Boatwright Construction Company from Cumming to build the new county jail.
The company, which is scheduled to begin work immediately on the project, was the lower of two bidders with a proposal of $3.18 million.
The new jail will be located off Hwy. 98 across from the recreation department.
In 1998, Madison County voters approved $2.3 million for a county jail. The county is borrowing money to cover the remaining costs.
Madison County's current jail is consistently ranked the most overcrowded county detainment facility in the state.
The jail sometimes has an inmate count four times its official capacity of seven.




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Deadline extended for kids' photos
The deadline for turning in photographs of children for MainStreet Newspapers' annual special Christmas kids section has been extended to Friday, Dec. 8, at 5 p.m.
Photographs of children ages 8 and under are featured free of charge in the special section planned for the week of Christmas. The children must live in Madison, Jackson or Banks counties. The name, age, address and parent's name must be listed on the back of each photo.
Photos may be turned in at The Madison County Journal office on Hwy. 29 across from the county government complex or mailed to The Madison County Journal at P.O. Box 658, Danielsville, Ga. 30633. If the office is closed, photos may be labeled with correct information and dropped through the window slot.


BOE approves loan
A second bank loan was approved by the Madison County school board last Tuesday to cover current expenses - the school system has already been forced to borrow money this year to cover a cash shortfall.
The only bidder was Merchants and Farmers Bank, which agreed to provide $500,000 at 5.4 percent interest. The money will be withdrawn as needed.
The loans will be repaid from local tax money as soon as tax bills are mailed out and collections received.
The original loan of $895,000 was used by Nov. 16. The interest due so far is $36,231.


Board hires help in superintendent search
Frank King, a former school superintendent from Thomaston, has been hired by the Madison County Board of Education to assist in the search for a new superintendent. In addition, King will conduct staff development classes for the system. He will start immediately.
King agreed to a price of $3,000, plus mileage not to exceed $500, for his services. Because he is teaching staff development classes as well as advising on the superintendent search, the price will be within the staff development budget.
The board had received quotes from several professional organizations to conduct the search. The lowest bid was $10,000 by the Georgia School Board Association.
BOE chairman Jimmy Patton announced before the vote that he would only vote on the hiring of King in the event of a tie. Patton was defeated for re-election to the board in the recent election, and will leave the board before a new superintendent is chosen.
Allen McCannon is the system's interim superintendent. He was named to the position following Dr. Dennis Moore's resignation earlier this year.


Three-month traffic shift set for Hwy. 72 beginning Dec. 5
A traffic shift is planned Dec. 5 on Hwy 72/New Hull Road in Clarke and Madison counties.
"State Route 72 is being upgraded from a two-lane roadway to a four-lane divided highway," said Georgia Department of Transportation engineer Larry Dent. "Tuesday, Dec. 5, we will shift both lanes of State Route 72 from U.S. 29 to Voyles Road onto the newly constructed lanes, allowing us to finish upgrading the existing lanes. Traffic will shift again at Voyles Road to the city of Hull, with one lane of traffic on each side of the median. These traffic shifts will remain in place over the next three months."