The Madison County Journal
December 27, 2000
Time to take a serious
look at the future
As the new century dawns, it is time for all citizens of Madison
County to take a serious look at our future. Our rapidly changing
society puts us at risk of falling further behind the rest of
the state and nation in many areas.
Over the next several decades, our population will double. With
greater numbers of people will come greater demands for public
and private services. Unless this growth is planned and directed,
we will face the same kind of problems that hounded Gwinnett
County a few years ago.
The key word is infrastructure: roads, water, sewage, schools,
parks, libraries and other public buildings. Where do we construct
these vital resources and how do we finance them?
We have a Catch-22 situation here. Without the infrastructure,
we cannot attract the high-end housing and business construction
that will produce sufficient property taxes. And without considerably
more revenue, it will be difficult to build the necessary infrastructure.
Here is the problem. Madison County is a combination rural and
low-end residential community. Recent figures show that 60 percent
of all homes in the county are manufactured homes. While most
of them are well constructed and comfortable, they generate very
little in property taxes.
Every new manufactured home in Madison County brings with it
another, usually young, family that will need schools for their
children, safe roads to reach schools, churches and work, more
deputies, fire trucks and ambulances to assure their safety and
parks to provide safe places for their children to play. The
taxes yielded by manufactured homes will finance only a fraction
of the cost of these services.
Our farm areas must be taxed at the lowest possible rate or farmers
would be driven off the land. Even the tax rates now charged
are a serious burden to most farm operations. Clearly, increasing
revenue by collecting more property taxes on homes and farms
is not the answer.
The other primary source of revenue for the county is the sales
Here too we have a problem. Madison County has the least developed
economy in the area. The majority of our citizens must go outside
the county to find work and to shop. As a result, most of the
sales taxes paid by our citizens go to places like Athens, Commerce
Unless the state legislature finds a formula that redirects these
taxes back to the shoppers' home county, we will continue to
finance our neighboring counties when we are most in need of
Madison County's governing boards, the Board of Commissioners,
Board of Education, Industrial Authority, Planning and Zoning
and others will have to work closely together to find ways to
rapidly build our infrastructure while at the same time attracting
high-end housing and quality businesses that can generate tax
revenues to pay for them. They will have to seek out every available
grant or low-interest loan. They will have to be careful to fully
collect user fees where available. They will have to carefully
control their budgets to be sure that the county receives the
greatest possible value for tax money spent.
The next few years will be critical for Madison County. We need
elected officials who will devote their energies to solving these
and many other problems. We do not need elected officials wasting
their energy and our money in partisan fighting!
My prayer for the new century is that we the people of Madison
County will come together as a united community to build the
kind of future our children deserve. It will take the best effort
of all of us to get the job done.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.
His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address
The Madison County Journal
December 27, 2000
From the Editor's Desk
Over the Christmas holidays a lot of families surely ask the
What is it that makes brothers such tormentors?
I don't have the answer to that, but I could be a case study
on the subject.
I had just turned 7 years old when my sister was born. And I
remember my parents putting her in my lap and taking a picture
of our first meeting.
It was peaceful.
She hardly weighed as much as a football. And there was very
little hair to pull.
Her name was Anna Marie Mitcham, not Anna Bell as my parents
had threatened to name her, drawing loud protests from me.
But fighting for a good name was one of the few times I stood
up for her over the next several years.
I have always been quiet and pretty good about keeping my temper
in check. But Anna brought out the bad side in me like no one
It might have been the last Oreo that did it, perhaps a television
show. She liked "Pinwheels" and that kiddie show drove
She was a little girl, unable to relate to a much older boy.
And I didn't understand her either.
So over the years I tickled her relentlessly. I squashed her
frequently and "frogged" her on her arms, drawing tears.
I teased her in mean ways, asking questions like "when's
it due?" I was a very skinny kid and she had a round stomach
as a child. But she has gotten some payback on this matter in
recent years, asking me the same question.
I never passed on an opportunity to torment her. And any confrontation
between us was usually my fault, but I tried to frame it where
our parents would see her as the guilty one. This was part of
Naturally, she wanted to beat me in anything she could. We both
remember the day we got the last two ice cream bars out of the
freezer and sat watching TV, trying to be the last one to finish.
The reward was eating the ice cream while the other sat watching
- "treatless." She ate slowly and kept careful watch
of me. And when I said I was done, she was unable to contain
a smile as she rubbed the ice cream across her mouth in delight,
showing me what I was missing. She finally finished, then I held
my dripping ice cream up from the side of the recliner and let
out a loud "mmm good" as she endured the bitter defeat.
It's a goofy story, but one that shows the competitive streak
in both of us. Each wanted to outdo the other, no matter how
small the reward.
Now, Anna is not the little kid I picked on. She is a junior
drama major at the University of Georgia and a better student
than I ever was. She is very good at what she does. I have seen
her in countless plays over the years and I'm amazed by her ability.
She seems fearless in front of large crowds, able to take on
a separate persona. Sometimes when she's on stage I forget she's
On top of that, she is witty, making me laugh as much as anyone
My sister and I have grown closer over the years. And I hope
Still, I'm not opposed to issuing the time-honored threat:
"Don't make me come sit on you."
And she'll look at her 28-year-old brother with wide eyes, knowing
there's a lot of weight behind those words.
But the tormentor lives on.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.