News from Banks County...

 December 27, 2000


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OPINION

Letter to the Editor
Says article inaccurately portrayed BJC Medical center

Recently, an article about BJC Medical Center appeared in an Athens paper. There were a number of inaccuracies in this article, and we are writing to help clarify some facts.

Shar Porier
Christmas conversation with Dad

Hiya, Dad! I know, it's been a while since I've been by to see you.


SPORTS
Gowder named quarterback on All-Area team

Banks County High School senior Drew Gowder was named one of the quarterbacks on the 2000 MainStreet Newspapers All-Area team.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
Candidate Calls Nicholson 'Town Hall' Meeting
A former candidate who got two votes when he ran for mayor in November has called a "public town hall meeting" for next Wednesday evening to discuss zoning.

County Gets $800,000 To Rebuild Covered Bridge
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to contract with the state and federal departments of transportation for over $800,000 in grant money to help replace the covered bridge over the North Oconee River at Hurricane Shoals.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Holiday season special for organ donor, recipient
Both Priscilla Harrison and Susan Risler say their lives are particularly blessed this holiday season by the bond they share.
Priscilla, because she received the life-saving gift of a kidney transplant earlier this year, and Susan, because she gave that kidney so that her friend and colleague might live. ...

Conflict over legal expenses remains
A conflict over payment of legal fees continued last week as former county commissioner Ken Clark submitted a written request to be on Thursday's BOC meeting agenda to discuss legal expenses. But that request was denied by BOC chairman Wesley Nash. ...


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FIRST SNOWMAN


Christopher Bowden, 4, and his daddy, Bobby Bowden, built this six-foot snowman during the recent winter weather in Banks County. It was Christopher's first "real" snowman and he enjoyed it, according to his family.



BOC allows saddle club to host rodeo
The Banks County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the Banks Crossing Saddle Club's request to host a rodeo at the county's horse arena off Jolly Street.
At Friday's meeting, the BOC approved the request pending legal review and with the stipulations that the saddle club make improvements to the road leading to the arena and name the county co-insured under liability insurance. The saddle club must also pay the county 10 percent of all gate receipts from the rodeo, which will be used to make improvements to the horse arena.
"The county can begin making money off the arena," said Katie Harrison, who was making the request to the board. "Right now, only small clubs can use it but we must do things like this to make money to have the money to put back into the arena."
Harrison said the Banks Crossing Saddle Club, which is sponsoring the event, must pay $10,000 up front to a stock contractor to bring the rodeo to Banks County. The club will also pay an additional estimated $5,000 for insurance and security, Harrison said.
OTHER BUSINESS
Also at its meeting Friday morning, the BOC:
·approved a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax agreement with Homer and Maysville. Under the agreement, the county will give Homer six percent and Maysville three percent of the proposed SPLOST. Approval of the agreement is pending legal review by the county's attorney.
·approved the contract to close on land for the proposed Gillsville Fire Station.
·approved the contracts to expand the sewer system, pending lease and first right of refusal agreement.
·reappointed Barbara Poole to the Banks County Planning Commis-sion.


Ambulance billing proposals under BOC review
The Banks County Board of Commissioners is considering three proposals from companies wishing to provide ambulance billing services to the county.
The BOC is reviewing information on the three proposals and has yet to make a decision. The board was scheduled to talk about the proposals in a called meeting Wednesday morning.
Three companies submitted proposals to the BOC, Central Georgia Billing, Information Automation Managment (IAM) and Alpha and Omega.
The proposals were for a one-year contract to send bills, make insurance and Medicaid claims and collect fees for the county's ambulance services.
Central Georgia's proposal includes a nine and a half percent fee for each bill. However, Central Georgia does not require a start-up fee and will collect back bills. The company will also allow the county to choose its own payment date and charges no late fees.
The proposal also allows the county to recieve the payment for its ambulance bills first, then pay Central Georgia from those collections.
"Central Georgia would probably give us the best service," fire chief and EMS director Perry Dalton said. "They've been in ambulance billing for 11 years and it seems to be geared more towards smaller counties."
BOC chairman James Dumas agreed: "Based on what I've studied, I recommend we go with Central Georgia," he said.
Susa Kitchens, a Central Georgia representative, said she collected $80,000 from back bills when she implemented a similar system in Peach County.
IAM's proposal included a seven and a half percent fee for each bill and a $1,000 set-up fee. IAM also charges $4.50 for each Medicaid claim; these are exempt from the seven and a half percent charge.
The $4.50 charge is collected whether Medicare pays the ambulance bill or not. IAM also collects the fee any time it must resubmit a Medicare claim.
IAM also agreed to attempt to collect bills over the past nine months and will allow the county to set its own date each month to pay fees to IAM. It charges a one and a half percent fee for late payments.
Under IAM's proposal, all bill payments are sent to a locked box at a bank, and the bank distributes the checks.
"There's no doubt they could provide the service," Dalton said.
Locally owned Alpha and Omega charges 10 percent for each bill and a $1,500 start-up fee. The company will not do back billing and requires payment for its services on the 15th of each month. Alpha and Omega also charges a five percent fee for late payment.
Unlike the other two companies, Alpha and Omega collects all the bill payments, then writes a check to the county for its portion of the bills.
The company, which has not done ambulance billing before, operates out of Homer.
"We need someone who already knows ambulance billing, not someone who is learning it new themselves," said assistant EMS director Jim Crisp.
But commissioner Pat Westmoreland said he would like the county's billing service to stay local.
"It's easier to deal with local people," he said.
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Newspaper deadlines moved up for Jan. 3 issue
News and ad deadlines have been moved up for the next week due to the New Year's holiday on Monday, Jan. 1.
The deadline for classified and display ads will be at noon on Friday, Dec. 29. The deadline for legal notices will remain the same, noon Thursday.
The news deadline will be 5 p.m. Friday. This includes school, social and other news submitted to the paper.
The Banks County News office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday due to the deadlines being moved up.
The office usually closes at noon on Fridays. The office will be closed Monday, Jan. 1, for the holiday.


DFACS clients see $3.3 million in assistance program benefits
Between July 1, 1999, and June 30, 2000, more than $3 million in public assistance program benefits was distributed to Banks County clients with the Department of Family and Children Services. The bulk of the benefits went to Medicaid recipients, while other funds were used for Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) and food stamps.
Banks County DFACS director Renota Free presented a copy of the department's 2000 annual report to the DFACS board Thursday, including information about client benefits, administrative costs and social services statistics.
During the state fiscal year 2000, $3,342,525 in direct and indirect benefits were disbursed.
According to the annual report, in Banks County in 2000, some $96,324 in TANF benefits was distributed in 42 cases, including 62 children and 12 adults. Free pointed out that TANF caseloads have decreased by 28.3 percent over the course of the fiscal year, and decreased by 65.6 percent through welfare reform since January 1997.
Food stamps allotment for the fiscal year totaled $547,551 for a monthly average of 344 cases and 686 recipients. Some 2,049 Medicaid recipients received $2,605,127 in benefits.
In support services, Banks County provided $20,470 for therapy services, $4,297 for services to prevent out-of-home placements; and $11,901 for homestead services. The county also saw $$534,627 in administrative costs.
SOCIAL SERVICES
During the fiscal year, Banks County DFACS employees investigated a total of 94 child protective services cases out of 145 referrals. The majority of the children served were white and between ages 1 to 3 years old. Seventeen of the children were investigated for alleged repeat episodes of maltreatment.
Throughout the year, the monthly average of children in custody was 24, for a total of 44 for the year. The majority (27) have been placed in non-relative foster homes or emergency shelter.