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December 8, 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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SPORTS
Off To The Dome

OK, the game is in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, but the road to the Class A state football championship goes through Lincolnton, no matter what anybody says.
At 9:00 Saturday morning, the Commerce Tigers, having dispatched No. 2 Johnson County 34-20 last Friday, will face a familiar foe Saturday, the Lincoln County Red Devils. The winner plays at home the following Friday night for the state title, and if the Tigers win, the game will be at Tiger Stadium.

JHS to open region hoops schedule
THE REGION schedule starts early this year for basketball teams at Jefferson High School. The Dragons will host region 8-A foe Wesleyan Saturday at 6 p.m. in the first region matchup for both teams. Boys' and girls' games will precede the varsity games.

Grapplers to head north for Mountaineer
Wrestling teams from both Jackson County and Jefferson High Schools will compete Friday and Saturday in the John Smith Mountaineer Invitational tournament on the campus of North Georgia College, Dahlonega.


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
Crowd seeks answers on schools' fiscal problems
Madison County school taxes are up 26 percent to help offset a cash shortage. And a large crowd of concerned citizens sat in the high school media center Thursday night hoping to find out what went wrong with school finances.

Comer renews beer permits as charges pend on two city businesses
The Comer City Council voted 4-0 to renew beer and wine permits for three local businesses although two of the companies are facing charges of selling beer to minors.




News from
BANKS COUNTY
Ballinger pleads not guilty to church arson
Jay Scott Ballinger, 38, Yorktown, Ind., pled not guilty in United States Magistrate Court in Gainesville Wednesday to six counts of arson, including the 1999 fire at New Salem United Methodist Church in Banks County. Volunteer firefighter Loy Williams Jr. was killed while fighting the New Year's Eve church fire.

County moves forward on water expansion project
The Banks County Board of Commissioners is moving forward on the expansion of the treatment capacity of the waste water treatment plant from 70,000 gallons per day to 300,000 gallons per day.


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BUNDLING UP AT PARADE


Sisters Kaitlan Brown, 6, Jefferson, and Megan Davis were among those bundling up to keep warm Saturday at the Jefferson Christmas parade. For more parade pictures, see this week's Jackson Herald.



LATE NEWS
Waddell hired by water authority
JEFFERSON -- Don't look for Jerry Waddell in the unemployment line when his term of office expires Dec. 31.
The chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners was named the new superintendent of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority Thursday
night at the authority's regular monthly meeting. The hiring is effective
Jan. 1.
Waddell, 58, has been chairman of the board of commissioners for almost eight years. He did not seek re-election for a third term.
In accepting the position, salary for which is expected to be in the $60,000
to $65,000 range, Waddell promised the board "not to let you down," and said
he realized that his job "is to follow the policies of the board and to operate as efficiently as I can...and to do everything I can to please the
new board of commissioners."
His election was unanimous. It followed an 80-minute closed-door session in
which the hiring was discussed, along with the acquisition of rights of way.
Vice chairman Larry Joe Wood, who chairs the authority's personnel committee, made the motion. Tom Crow seconded it.
Waddell will assume day-to-day operations of the authority, which manages the county water system and is building a county sewage system. He succeeds Paul Mims, who will focus on outside work, including the inspection of
construction projects and maintenance of the system.


BOC files court order for probate court income records
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners filed a court order Monday to force probate court judge Margaret Deadwyler to release financial records for her office.
On Thursday, Deadwyler released a total amount of fees collected for the first three quarters of this year, but didn't provide a breakdown, BOC chairman Jerry Waddell said. Deadwyler said she collected $2,539 for the first quarter; $2,640 for the second quarter; and $3,110 for the third quarter. "This is not what we need," Waddell said. "We need a breakdown so we can verify it for our end-of-year audit."
Waddell said the county needs to know the total fees charged for each vital records category Deadwyler collects, which includes marriage certificates and birth certificates. The county wants receipt books and bank statements on these fees.
Waddell said Deadwyler also turned in $789 to the county and kept $7,500, as she is allowed to do by state law. Since she has already kept the amount she is allowed to for this year, this means that all fees collected for the fourth quarter should go to the county. Deadwyler didn't turn in any money to the county in 1998 or 1997.
Deadwyler has said that she has done nothing wrong and that the court order is a personal vendetta by Waddell against her.
Waddell said a court date on the matter has not been set and that Jackson County Superior Court judge David Motes had recused himself from the case. If Superior Court judges T. Penn McWhorter and Robert Adamson also recuse themselves from the case, Waddell said it could take some time to find a judge from another circuit to hear the matter.


County budget to eat $4.25 million reserves
Tax bills to be sent in late December
The good news is that Jackson County taxpayers will see the county government tax rate drop five mills when tax bills are eventually sent out.
The bad news is that the county will use much of its accumulated reserve funds, some $4.25 million, to effect that tax decrease, meaning that next year taxes may have to go back up dramatically, or county services may have to be slashed in 2002.
While the five-mill tax rate decrease from 7.58 mills to 2.58 was announced earlier, the actual impact of that was seen for the first time this week in the county's proposed budget for 2001. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved the tentative budget Tuesday night and a public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18.
Although the overall county budget is up for 2001, to $23.9 million from $21.8 million this year, that is mostly due to the re-establishment of SPLOST funds which will add $4.8 million to the budget in 2001. Local tax revenue, on the other hand, is expected to drop from $11 million to $8.1 million, a decrease of $2.9 million.
While the tentative budget has been set, the final tax rate and budget won't be set until Dec. 28. The holdup is the large number of property tax reassessment appeals still pending before the Jackson County Board of Equalization.
Also pending are the tax rates for the various fire districts in Jackson County. County officials said this week they haven't yet received those rates from the fire district boards.
INCOME HIGHLIGHTS
In addition to the dramatic decrease in property tax funds, other income highlights of the 2001 budget are:
· an anticipated jump in building inspection fee income of 62 percent, to $525,000 from $323,100. Those fees were recently raised.
· the addition of a Judicial Council of Georgia grant of $85,000.
· a decrease in a federal COPS grant for the sheriff's department of $90,000, down to $70,000 from $160,000.
· an anticipated increase in E-911 income fees of $55,000.
· an anticipated increase in a federal grant for the county Dial-A-Ride program of $65,500.
· an anticipated state transportation fund grant to the senior citizens center of $108,000.
· the addition of $4.8 million in SPLOST funds for roads, water and sewer, fire protection and recreation. A large portion of those funds will flow to other government agencies in Jackson County (see chart).
EXPENSE HIGHLIGHTS
On the expense side of the 2001 budget are the following highlights:
· no funds were allocated in 2001 for a county animal control facility.
· an increase of $56,500 to convert and fund the county administrator position to a county manager position. The extra funding is for a secretary's position and to allow for an $88,000 salary for a county manager.
· a decrease in funding for the tax appraiser's office of $260,000 that was allocated last year for a countywide property reappraisal.
· a decrease in funds to the probate judge's office of $40,000 that was allocated in 2000 to cover election expenses.
· a decrease of $23,500 for Superior Court expenses to pay for bailiff, witness and jury expenses.
· the addition of a juvenile court at a cost of $166,000.
· an increase in subsidy funding for the Jackson County Health Department of $87,700. Those funds had previously been cut when county leaders discovered the department had accrued a large bank balance of cash on hand. Those funds have now been depleted.
· an increase of funding to the regional library system of $31,000.
· a decrease in subsidy funding to the senior citizens center of $32,700.
· a decrease in the landfill budget of $187,000, most of which compares to capital expenses in 2000 that aren't planned for 2001.
· the leasing of 10 new sheriff's department vehicles at $210,000.
· a planned upgrade of equipment for E-911 at $203,000.
· a new vehicle for the Dial-A-Ride program for $83,000.
· a new vehicle for the Senior Citizens' Center at $33,000.
For the anticipated SPLOST allocations, see this week's Jackson Herald.


Maysville Increases Water, Sewer Tap Fees
By a 2-1 vote, the Maysville City Council agreed Monday night to increase the fees charged to connect to the water and sewerage systems.
The council approved a recommendation from Precision Planning Inc. to increase the tap fees to $700 for a three-quarter-inch line, $800 for a one-inch line and $500 for a sewer tap. The firm reportedly advised that this increase will help the town recoup some of the current losses and keep the system at a break-even status.
Precision Planning executive vice president Jerry Hood said that after the review of the town's operating costs and obligations the user rates should be adjusted.
Precision Planning Inc. is the firm engineering Phase I for the improvement of the water system.
Water and waste water superintendent Ralph Sailors said he has been talking with Commerce, Jefferson and Jackson and Banks counties to compare charges. He told the council that those governments all plan increases after the first of the year.
A report of the actual costs versus fees the city is charging for the taps was also given to the council. Currently, the cost for a water tap is $350, with the city losing $41.36 per tap, according to Sailors' figures.
One of the problems encountered with sewer taps, he said, is the cost of digging up and repairing the roadway. "We're losing money on repairing the roads," he said.
The proposed increase was met with some apprehension and discussion. Council member Andy Martin was reluctant to raise the fees so high.
Sailors said he wanted it noted that "the past administration has tried to keep costs down." He added that that has hurt the town and left it without the money needed to up-grade the system.
"If we had more income, we would be in better shape," he said.
Two other fee hikes in the vote included an increase in the water security deposit, from $50 to $75, and adding $1 to the base water rate.
The increase was approved by council members Jim Saville and William Austin, with Martin opposing.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Commerce News or the Jackson Herald.


'Interim' Tap Fees On City Council Agenda
The Commerce City Council will consider "interim" increases in water and sewer tap fees when it meets Monday night at 6:30 at the Commerce Civic Center.
City manager Clarence Bryant said the city is likely to establish permanent charges for connecting to city water and sewer systems when it establishes "proportional use fees" sometime next year.
"But we need to do something in the interim," he said. "We've got a couple of subdivisions that will be coming to us soon."
In other business on the agenda, the council will act on recommendations of the Commerce Planning Commission to rezone a lot on Central Avenue from R-3, a residential zone, to C-1, a commercial zone, as requested by Lauren "Bubba" McDonald. The planning commission recommended ap-proval of the request.
Also on Monday, the council will approve the beer and wine sales license applications for 2001 and will fill a seat on the Commerce Board of Zoning Appeals.

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Nicholson Mayor Walks Out On Meeting
Mayor Ronnie Maxwell's first official business after being installed as Nicholson's new mayor Monday night was to make sure no business was conducted.
After taking the oath of office from Magistrate judge Billy Chandler at about 6:52 p.m., Maxwell left the building. At 7:00, mayor pro tem Thomas Gary announced that "Our mayor has left" and told a gathering of about 35 people that the town could not conduct a meeting.
"Folks, I'm sorry. We don't have enough for a quorum for the December meeting," Gary said.
Maxwell's hasty exit was designed to counter a move by Councilwoman Margaret Ward, who was prepared to introduce a motion to implement the town's zoning ordinance. If Gary seconded the motion, it would have become law.
Maxwell ran on an anti-zoning platform and easily beat former councilman Stanley Fouche Nov. 28. Fouche was pro-zoning.
Maxwell was aware of Ward's intent, and said Tuesday morning that he had asked that a decision on zoning be delayed until the March special election at which two council seats will be filled.
As for his actions, Maxwell said, "I talked to some lawyers about it (the situation). They thought that it was in my best interest."
Maxwell said he had two primary reasons for not conducting the meeting. The first was the zoning vote. The second was that he was not prepared.
"It was not hardly fair to me," he said of the meeting held six days after the election. "They threw this mountain on me all at one time and it was too much. I'm going to have time to do my homework and know what's going on. I'm going to read the minute book and the zoning book and every book I can get my hands on. I will be educated (by the next meeting)."
The Nicholson city council has not met since September, its ranks depleted by, first, the resignation of mayor Steve Wilbanks, and then the resignations of Daniel Sailors, to run for county commissioner, and Fouche, to run for mayor.
Zoning is virtually the only issue being discussed, but passions are high. A vehicle parked at a Nicholson business bears a sign opposing zoning and suggesting that Ward and Gary should be "recalled" for supporting zoning.
Maxwell said that the town council took no action to change the city's proposed zoning map following a public hearing at which some 20 residents requested that their property be zoned differently than what was proposed on the map.
"When they got through with that, they said they would have one or two meetings to go over the requests. They haven't done that," Maxwell stated.
Nicholson remains the only Jackson County community without a zoning ordinance. What that means is that there are no land use regulations or code enforcement inspections. Property owners, including developers, are free to utilize their land in any fashion that suits their fancy or yields the highest dividend.
In 1999, the rapid development of mobile home parks led to a citizen group's demand that the council develop a zoning ordinance. The ordinance was drafted and public hearings held, but the ordinance was not adopted by the time the city government fell apart.


Santa to visit Hoschton, Jefferson Sat.
Santa Claus will be busy Saturday, making an appearance in Hoschton and in Jefferson.
Santa will make his annual visit to the Hoschton gazebo from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, with his grand arrival planned for 10:30 a.m. Surprises and photographs will be available for the little ones who visit him. The event is sponsored by the Hoschton Women's Civic Club.
BREAKFAST WITH SANTA
The Optimist Club of Jackson County will hold "Breakfast with Santa" from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation's auditorium in Jefferson.
Tickets are $5 for children and $3 for adults eating breakfast.
For more information, contact L'Resu Thompson at 367-2741.


New BOC asks for industrial zoning moratorium
County to hold public hearing, vote on request
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is getting ready to implement a 60-day moratorium on all industrial zoning.
Commissioner-elect Emil Beshara asked the current BOC Tuesday night to take this action. He said the board, which has been meeting at least once a week since being elected, wants the moratorium in place because of concerns about the existing zoning ordinance.
"We feel it would help ease the transition to the new government...if y'all would consider instituting a moratorium on certain classifications of zoning, particularly industrial zoning, I-1 and I-2," Beshara said. "We specifically request, or hope you would consider, a 60-day moratorium on I-1 and I-2 zoning."
Beshara asked that the moratorium be approved Tuesday night, but county attorney Lane Fitzpatrick said a public hearing would have to be advertised and held to seek input before any action is taken. The BOC agreed to set a public hearing and advertise it in the newspaper and then take action on the request. Industrial zoning applications that have already been submitted to the county would not be impacted by this moratorium.
Beshara said the new board had originally discussed asking for a 60-day moratorium on all classifications of zoning, but backed away from this after members of the local building community contacted them in opposition.
"There are aspects of the complete, total zoning ordinance that we would like to address," he said. "The primary and immediate need is for industrial."
Local builder Keith Hayes, who is also chairman of the county planning commission, asked that the moratorium be only for industrial zoning.