News from Madison County...

January 3, 2001


Madison County
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OPINIONS
Frank Gillispie
NAACP boycott of South Carolina a total bust

Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young is attempting to quiet the storm over the Georgia Flag.

Zach Mitcham
Newsmakers of the year

Like years past, 2000 was a busy one in Madison County politics.


SPORTS
Madison County squads to face top-10 teams in return to hard floor

The Madison County basketball teams may have gotten a break from school, but their return to the hard floor will be anything but a vacation.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
- Newsmaker of the Year 2000 -
Charles Chapman leads the Banks County sheriff's office with diligence and hard work. ...

Baldwin leaders accuse Demorest of misappropriating $246,000
Baldwin leaders are accusing the City of Demorest of misappropriating funds. ...


News from...
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.


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The Madison County Journal
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2000: A year in review



A perfect run


The Madison County Red Raider football team smashed its way to the school's first ever undefeated season, going 10-0 in a non-region schedule in 2000. Pictured are Madison County confetti-covered helmets raised in triumph after the team's season-ending victory over Athens Christian. See page 1B for a recap of the season.



Political story of the year: Nash wins second term
The county's top political story of 2000 was the narrow re-election of board of commissioners chairman Wesley Nash, who defeated distant relative and District 2 commissioner Nelson Nash Nov. 7.
The chairman's race was one of 11 contested local elections. And it was clearly the closest. Even after all of the precincts had reported on election night, the outcome was unclear. The seat was not decided until absentee vote totals were announced nearly two hours after the last precinct had reported. In the end, the incumbent held on to his seat by 145 votes (3,811 to 3,666).
"...I'll continue to carry on as I have for the last four years - to provide the best services possible for the least amount of money," said the chairman after the election.
Wesley Nash's campaign focused on his management of county funds over the past four years. He pointed out that he maintained a balanced budget and did not raise taxes during his first term. Other campaign points included developing localized water systems in targeted areas of growth in the county, such as Dogsboro, Sanford and locations along Hwys. 106, 29 and 22. Nash said he is working diligently to establish a county animal shelter. He said he would like to see a new emergency services facility in the Hull-Sanford area. He said he will submit a plan for creating a website for all county offices. And he said he would support televising commission meetings.
"Open meetings, open records, open doors," Nash said in his campaign.
Nelson Nash said his number one focus in office would be completing the new Madison County jail. He promised to recommend a 10 percent increase in funds for the 11 volunteer fire departments and Madison County Rescue. He said he would try to work with state officials to ease the traffic problems at the three schools in Danielsville. Nash said he would "make the commissioner's office more accessible, rather than having to deal with voice mail recordings." He said he would work to keep the county "green and clean." The challenger said he would recommend development of water and sewer services in high-growth areas in the county.
Nash also criticized the incumbent, saying he spent too much time listening to a "special interest group such as Jerry Mattox and John Scoggins."
"When elected chairman, this special interest group will not have my ear," said Nelson Nash.
After the election, the challenger reflected on his years on the board.
"I don't have nothing to be ashamed of," Nelson Nash said. "I've enjoyed my eight years as district commissioner and feel like I've got a good bit accomplished."
In the other 10 races decided Nov. 7, Republican Ralph Hudgens held on to his State House District 24 seat, defeating Doug McKillip 52.5 to 47.5 percent. Republican challenger Mike Beatty ousted incumbent Eddie Madden in the State Senate District 47 race, 52.4 to 47.6 percent. Democrat Bill Taylor held on to his BOC District 1 seat, topping John Brueshaber 61.7 to 38.3 percent. Democrat Johnny Fitzpatrick defeated Larry Stewart for the BOC District 2 post, 65.7 to 34.3 percent. Democrat Mike Youngblood won the BOC District 3 seat over Danny Andrew, 67.5 to 32.5 percent. Republican Bruce Scogin held on to his BOC District 5 post, defeating Marion Baker 66.8 to 33.2 percent. BOE chairman Jimmy Patton, a Democrat, was ousted from his seat by Republican challenger Ric Power, 56.5 to 43.5 percent.
Clerk of Court Michelle Strickland, a Democrat, retained her post, downing Mike Sales, 71.9 to 28.1 percent. Donald "Hoppy" Royston, the Democrat incumbent probate judge, held on to his post, defeating Lynn Smith, 70.1 to 29.9 percent. And in the coroner's race, Democrat Michelle Cleveland topped Republican Phyllis Dickinson, 53.2 to 46.8 percent.




Story of the year: Schools face financial crisis
The turmoil at the Madison County commissioners' table died down considerably in 2000, shifting instead to the county school board.
Dr. Dennis Moore's resignation and the subsequent revelation of the school system's financial woes shocked many and is this year's "news story of the year."
Moore announced his resignation, which took effect Sept. 1, on the fourth day of the school year, saying he had a business opportunity he could not turn down but offering no specifics on the business venture. Moore served as superintendent for two years. His three-year contract was set to expire in July of this year.
Shortly after the resignation, the school board attorney spelled out how Moore would be compensated.
"...Dr. Moore will not draw a salary for the entire 2000-2001 school year," said Fitzpatrick, adding that Moore's August check was his last salary check.
Days after Moore's departure, the county learned that the school system entered September with a $369 cash balance. The board then approved a loan of $895,000 and later approved a 26 percent increase in property taxes to help offset a projected $2 million cash shortfall by the year's end.
Many wondered what happened to put the school system in such a bind. And opinions varied.
Though there was speculation, there has been no evidence presented to support any belief that Moore had any illegal profit from the school system.
Still, much of the blame for the financial fix has been directed toward Moore.
BOE member Elaine Belfield, the board's most outspoken member on the school finance problems, spoke about her disgust with Moore's spending practices.
She said Moore did not keep the board informed on what was going on.
For example, Belfield said she was in a local restaurant when she overheard someone talking about a retreat to Vermont for local school employees. She said she knew nothing about the trip.
"He made many decisions without informing the board," said Belfield. "I did not know many things he was doing."
Belfield added that Moore was careless with the money, paying for projects that weren't really needed. She pointed to the new glass walls of the high school front office as evidence of frivolous spending. She noted that Moore approved the payment of college tuition for some teachers without board approval.
"We had a lot of trust in the last treasurer (former superintendent Jim Perkins)," said Belfield. "And we made the mistake of trusting him (Moore) also."
But other board members weren't as willing to blame Moore.
Belfield's fellow board members said the county was in dire need of facilities improvements
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County Journal.



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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.
"We suspect alcohol poisoning, but we won't be able to confirm that until the crime lab runs a blood-alcohol test," said Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Bill Malueg, who estimated that the results will take a week.
Malueg said Gearing was found at a relative's house. He would not comment on whether charges are expected against anyone who may have provided the teenager with alcohol.
According to a press release from the Oglethorpe County sheriff's department, deputies were dispatched to 3400 Smithonia Road about 12:53 p.m. Monday.
Witnesses said Gearing consumed a large amount of alcohol the previous day.


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.
In one accident, a Commerce woman traveling on Black's Creek Church Road during the winter storm said she slid on ice while attempting to make a left turn onto Smallwood Hill Road.
After turning on her caution lights while attempting to get traction, she was struck in the rear by a Danielsville man who also slid on the ice.
Other accidents involving icy roads included those involving one vehicle each on: Booger Hill Road at Brewer Phillips Road; Griffeth Road near Moon's Grove Church Road; Hwy. 29 south near Glenn Carrie Road; Fleeman Brown Road near Hwy. 106; Fleeman Brown Road near Hwy. 106 and Nowhere Road near Hwy. 106.
In another accident, an Athens man, Benjamin Jones Houston, 45, was charged with DUI and following too close when he reportedly hit another Athens man's SUV and trailer in the rear while he was stopped on Hwy. 29 at the redlight in Danielsville.