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 January 3, 2001


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OPINION

Phillip Sartain
Floss with care

Winter is a good time to go snow skiing. Spring skiing is OK, but you never can tell about the weather.

Jana Adams
Thoughts on the New Year: On being (trying to be) resolute

If you make resolutions about how to improve yourself and your life each year in late December and early January, you are not alone.


SPORTS
Three from Banks County named to all tourney team

Though neither Banks County team was able to take the gold at last weekend's WJJC Holiday Classic, both left the tourney with a stocking full of goodies.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
Upson County Man To Be Jackson's First County Manager
Jackson County has its first full-time county manager.
The board of commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday night to hire Skip Nalley to serve as county manager on an interim basis.

Attorney Working On Plan To Bring Peace To Nicholson
With encouragement from the office of Governor Roy Barnes and through mediation by city attorney Wanda David, Nicholson's three elected officials are finally talking.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Alcohol poisoning suspected in Hull teenager's death
Alcohol poisoning is suspected in the death of 15-year-old Jeremy O'Brian Gearing of Hull, who was found dead at an Oglethorpe County residence Monday. ...

Ice causes wrecks in the county
Madison County deputies were kept busy recently responding to wrecks caused by icy road conditions in the area just before Christmas. ...


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SHERIFF BOOSTS SUCCESS
OF DEPARTMENT


Sheriff Charles Chapman keeps a close watch on Banks County, working 70- to 80-hour weeks to keep the county's crime rate low. Chapman was re-elected as sheriff this year, after facing seven Democrat challengers in the primary election held in the summer and a Republican candidate in November.



- Newsmaker of the Year 2000 -
Charles Chapman leads the Banks County sheriff's office with diligence and hard work
He is without a doubt one of the hardest working sheriffs in the state. Banks County is fortunate not to have the high crime rates of some of the bigger cities in Georgia, but its sheriff works just as hard as those crime leaders do.
In his four years in office, Sheriff Charles Chapman has been at the office every day-seven days a week-except for a couple of days when he was receiving training. Holidays are no exception and he was at the office as usual on Monday when many people in the county were enjoying the January 1 holiday. Chapman logs 70 to 80 hours a week in work time and can be seen behind the desk, patrolling the roads and at crime scenes.
The success rate of the department under Chapman's tenure has been high, with most of the major crime offenders being apprehended. Armed robberies, home invasions and murder have been the most serious crimes reported in the past year and suspects have been charged in all of the incidents.
Chapman doesn't just keep tabs on the larger crimes; he knows all of the incidents of the minor ones too. He keeps a close watch on the arrest log each week and can go over the various incidents without checking the records.
The past year was also a political success for Chapman. He faced seven Democrat challengers in the primary election over the summer. Political forecasters always call for a run-off with that many candidates seeking an office. It is difficult for one out of eight candidates to get a clear majority, but Chapman beat the odds and did. After the votes were counted, he had carried 53 percent of the ballots cast. He also defeated the Republican challenger in November and prepared for another term in office.
Chapman's diligence and hard work, the success rate of the department in solving crimes and his re-election led to the sheriff being named the Newsmaker of the Year in Banks County for 2000.
"I have given myself 100 percent," Chapman said. "I've put everything I've had into it. I've tried to make myself available. I don't know how a person can do any more than that."
Chapman credits the success at the sheriff's department with the team he has in place. The sheriff said it took him two years to "put together a good operation."
"With all of the major crimes we have had, we have had good success as far as our arrests and convictions," he said. "I feel like our investigators are second to none...We've got a good team."
Chapman, who says he comes to the office seven days a week, says he enjoys law enforcement work.
"You see a lot of bad things, but then there are times you have the enjoyment of being able to help somebody," he said. "That comes with it. There are disappointing times and there are good times."
The past year has been one of the busiest in history for the sheriff's office, which answered 10,124 calls for an average of 28 per day. There were 875 people booked into the Banks County Jail, up considerably over the previous year. The officers also served 1,009 civil papers and other unnumbered subpoenas. Also for 2000, there were 538 accidents reported.


Baldwin leaders accuse Demorest of misappropriating $246,000
Baldwin leaders are accusing the City of Demorest of misappropriating funds.
Baldwin Mayor Mark Reed said at a meeting last week that the City of Demorest had misappropriated $246,000 from the account that runs the water plant.
The Baldwin council discussed the matter at a called meeting Thursday and agreed to meet again at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 4, to discuss the matter further.
"In reviewing the November financial report, there's a discrepancy in the miscellaneous expenses in the sum of $246,000," Reed said at last week's meeting. "A check had been drawn on the water plant account made to the City of Demorest in the amount of $246,000."
It was noted that the sum represented Demorest's 75 percent share from the plant, he said.
Minutes recorded by Juanita Crumbley, Demorest city clerk, at a special called meeting on Saturday, Nov. 4, reveal a motion was made and approved by the Demorest city council "to divide the accumulated funds for the Demorest/Baldwin water plant on a Demorest 75 percent/Baldwin 25 percent basis as to what has been paid into the plant for water that each city has purchased." Demorest city attorney Chris Coomer and attorneys Jim Butterworth and Jim Weidner were also present.
"This has caused me great concern," Reed said. "It's clearly a violation of our contract."
According to the contract, Demorest has no authority to disburse funds [from the water plant account] in that manner. The only checks to be written by Demorest would be solely for the operation and maintenance of the plant, according to the contract
"This was the municipal operating reserve account," Reed said. "Money used to offset depreciation, replacement costs, money to be set aside to effect major repairs to keep us from having to borrow money. These are not profits of the plant. It clearly states in the agreement that the purpose of this [account] is not for Demorest to realize a profit or loss in operations of the plant."
Baldwin city attorney David Syfan said, "They don't have any authority at all to withdraw from our enterprise fund. That's a dedicated account. And our agreements with rural development say it's a dedicated account to be used for Baldwin's water system. They [Demorest] have breached that original comprehensive management agreement they signed."
Syfan has requested that Demorest return the money to the account and gave a deadline of December 28. Upon calling Butterworth to ask about the return of the money, he was referred to Weidner. In that conversation, Syfan said that he was told the matter was set to be discussed at the Jan. 2 meeting of the Demorest council.
Baldwin council member Kevin Gaddis said he considered the misappropriation "a slap in the face" since Baldwin has been trying hard to be "politically correct, by not moving in and taking over operations."
"We should move forward immediately and take over the plant," he said. "Keep the employees in place. And arrange with the police department to keep guard at the plant. My main concern is that a several million dollar plant is vulnerable."
Councilman Robert Bohannon said that Demorest "has water customers too, that they have to provide water to."
Gailey replied that he did not think that Demorest would do any "serious harm to the plant."
"That's just it, we don't know," replied Gaddis. "If they misappropriated $246,000 out of our account, we don't understand what they are capable of doing."
An October ruling from arbitration, sustained by a Superior Court judge, held that Baldwin is sole owner of the plant and the assets, not Demorest.
"Their action shows they've chosen not to abide by that agreement," Reed said. "We've tried to take it easy, let them get over hurt feelings and realize that they did not win [the ownership suit]."
To date, Demorest has not turned over the water plant account or operations to Baldwin, as ordered.
"The water plant is ours and not 75 percent, not one percent, belongs to the City of Demorest," Reed said. "They don't have a claim to any of that money."
Gailey replied, "Let's go full blast. Let's get the cannons."
Gaddis agreed.
"The true realization is that our kindness is not being accepted and they're going to be defiant," he said.
Baldwin has made overtures to the current employees, reassuring them that if they wanted a job, they could stay.
"It's not their fault," Reed said. "They do an excellent job."
Reed said there would be no problem in getting operators to run the plants in an "emergency situation" if the Demorest employees chose not to stay on.
Gaddis suggested that the city still have other operators ready to go should the current crew choose not to work for Baldwin.
Reed reminded the council that they would need money to pay the bills if they took over operations.
"We don't know what is in the account," he said.
Reed had earlier contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to request an investigation into criminal wrongdoing by the Demorest council. The GBI recommended that Baldwin request a hearing with a judge to determine if Demorest would be "held in contempt for disregarding the October ruling and breach of contract."
Syfan notified the Demorest auditors of the matter, and sent letters to Gov. Roy Barnes, Rep. Jeanette Jamieson and the Rural Development facilities department notifying them of the misappropriated $246,000. Copies of all the letters sent were faxed to Demorest attorney Jim Butterworth. Butterworth told Syfan that the letters were faxed on to the Demorest council.
"So they [Demorest] should be acutely aware that we think they have acted improperly," said Syfan.
Syfan told the council to be prepared for the possibility of another round in court with Demorest over the return of the misappropriated $246,000. He also suggested including a request for a court order allowing Baldwin to take possession and control of the plant.
Syfan said the city should have an operator in place, then proceed with the 24-hour verbal notice and "assume management of the plant on that day." Simultaneously, he said the city should go into court and get an order requiring Demorest to pay back the misappropriated funds, pay to Baldwin all funds concerning the plants and obtain an order that would provide for the peaceful transfer of the plant's operations to the city of Baldwin.
The order would also give Baldwin the opportunity to discuss the $82,000 check made to the city out of the water plant account from the city of Demorest. The check notes that it is Baldwin's 25 percent interest from the water plant account.
Syfan said the judge would confirm Baldwin's right to deposit the check into the new water plant account in Baldwin's name. This would finally establish Baldwin's management and ownership of the water system, he said.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Banks County News.
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New Salem UMC holds first service in new church Sunday
It was fitting for "Love Lifted Me" to be chosen as the first hymn to be sung in the newly rebuilt chapel of New Salem United Methodist Church Sunday.
As the congregation sang, tears filled the eyes of men and women with the words "When nothing else could help, love lifted me."
It was a morning of rejoicing. A morning of remembrance. A morning of sharing a great gift - the resurrection of their church.
Pastor Luis Ortiz chose to speak about "The Call" as he relived the horror of New Year's Eve two years ago. The night their church was lost to an arson's flames. The night a life was lost in the battle to save it.
Barely able to get out the words, Ortiz spoke of the courage and devotion of the Banks County volunteer fireman.
"He heard the call and came to Banks County because he heard a church was on fire," he said of the firefighter who died in the fire. "He didn't have to come, but he heard the call."
Captain Kennon Loy Williams of Commerce was trying to save the altar when the burning roof collapsed.
The altar stands, refinished, in the new church as a testament to Williams.
Walter Johnson, executive director of the North Georgia United Methodist Men, spoke of the work that had gone into rebuilding the church. Johnson had heard about the fire and met with the congregation to see if the organization could be of help.
With the congregation's approval, the project was given the green light. Lamar Beard, vice president of local missions for the North Georgia United Methodist group, immediately put the call out over the Internet for help with the project. It was heard by hundreds of people from across the county, the area, the state, the country and the world as they came to help brick by brick, board by board, nail by nail to re-establish the house of worship.
For the rest of this story and the related pictures, see this week's Banks County News.