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January 15, 2001


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SPORTS
Jefferson remains perfect in duals at 11-0

THE JEFFERSON wrestling team will travel to Lexington Saturday to participate in the Patriot Classic at Oglethorpe County High School.

Jackson County starts 2-0 in 8-AAA south
BOTH THE girls' and boys' basketball teams from Jackson County Comprehensive High School got past Loganville Tuesday, improving both teams to 2-0 in subregion 8-AAA south play.

Dragon Defense Wears Out Tigers, 65-58
For all of the scoring potential, last Friday night's match-up of the No. 4 Jefferson Dragons and the No. 7 Commerce Tigers turned into a defensive battle.


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
Clerk of Court questioned on deed fees
Madison County commission chairman Wesley Nash has asked Clerk of Court Michelle Strickland to provide details about what she does with deed fees collected by her office.

County attorney resigns
John McArthur has resigned as Madison County's attorney.




News from
BANKS COUNTY
BOE rejects all bids for ag barn
After a recommendation from superintendent Deborah White, the Banks County Board of Education unanimously agreed at its meeting Monday night to reject all bids on the high school agriculture barn as they are all above the budget.

Nursing home employee charged with patient abuse
A 28-year-old man has been charged in connection with reports of abuse of two patients at Scenic View Health Care Center in Baldwin.


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Commerce Bank Robbed Thursday

The Commerce branch of Regions Bank was robbed Thursday afternoon in what is
believed to be the first bank robbery ever in Commerce.
The suspect was described as a black male from five feet eight inches tall to six feet, in his late 20s to early 30s wearing brown pants, a camouflage jacket and a black hat and wearing sunglasses. He entered the bank at 2231 North Elm Street shortly after 2:00, handed a note to a teller, collected the
money and walked out, making his getaway in a silver and brown Buick, according to Commerce police. "He did not show a weapon, but he kept his hand in his pocket," said Commerce investigator Steve Kelley. "He wasn't in the bank but maybe a minute or so." The teller activated the alarm as the suspect left. "They did everything just exactly the way they were supposed to," said Kelly of the bank's staff. "Nobody got hurt. They did what they'd been trained to do. When nobody gets hurt, you always come out ahead." The robber was captured on the bank's video surveillance system, Kelley said, but it didn't help much. "The quality is pretty poor. There is just so little you can tell about his face," he said. Under federal banking protocol, the bank closed for the day. The Commerce Police Department FBI and Georgia Bureau of Investigation are investigating the incident. Kelley said the FBI had advised police not to reveal how much money was taken. The bank reopened at the usual time Friday morning."Everyone is fine and positive," said Jackie Whitfield, manager. "We were all a little shook up yesterday, but it's business as usual today."


NEW TANK GOES UP

The City of Jefferson is placing this new water treatment tank at its plant. A work crew from Precon Corp. is shown stressing the tendons, metal cables around the exterior, to 4,150 pounds of tension per cable to equalize the internal water pressure and external water pressure. The one-million-gallon tank is expected to be completed in about three weeks if the weather cooperates. The dropping temperatures of late have already delayed progress as the company has used heaters and put a liner with hay on the roof of the tank to prevent the concrete from freezing.


Panther Creek plans get EPD approval
Plans for an improved sewage system at Hoschton's Panther Creek subdivision have gotten the go-ahead from the Environmental Protection Division.
City engineer Charles Armentrout reported to the Hoschton City Council Monday night that the EPD has approved plans for a revamped gravity flow system in the subdivision, which has had sewage problems for years. The plans call for some gravity flow pumps to be replaced and others to be renovated, with the city taking over ownership of the system. Residents have been asked to sign a contract that gives the city ownership and seals their agreement to paying a monthly maintenance and loan payback fee.
The city has agreed to pay $150,000 in SPLOST funds toward establishing the functional system, with the understanding that a loan will be used to supplement the rest of the construction cost. Project estimates show a total cost of $161,000, so it is possible that each household will pay $15 a month until $11,000 is paid off.
The maintenance contract requires residents to pay a $5 per month, per household, maintenance fee for the first year, with the amount to be assessed after the first year by the council, as well as $15 a month loan repayment fee until a construction loan is paid off.
Armentrout reported Monday that he had received 13 signed agreements from homeowners. The project requires 100 percent participation from all 29 homeowners for the system to function correctly, he said.
"I would like to have 20 or more (agreements signed) by the time we start bidding," Armentrout said during Thursday's work session. "I would like to start advertising bids next week, advertising for 30 days while we continue to work with property owners."
During the December council meeting, the city council agreed that turning off the water to the subdivision is a necessary option if homeowners do not agree to the plan.
NUNLEY QUESTIONS SEWAGE
Alice Nunley again came before the city council Thursday about city sewage issues, saying that she believes the city has more sewage capacity than the city engineer's report reflected. Nunley was denied a C-2 rezoning for Hwy. 53 property in November with the council citing the lack of sewage capacity as the reason.
Water and sewage committee chairman Rosemary Bagwell responded: "We are committed for over 100 percent of our sewage. We have to consider projects we are committed to, and we can't just keep rezoning when we're over our heads."
Council member Genoria Ree Bridgeman also addressed Nunley, saying, "I don't understand where you're coming from with these sewage numbers. The engineers have been saying the sewage is near capacity for a long time now."
Bagwell pointed out to Nunley that she will not be able to reapply for rezoning until six months after her original application date and that she should come back before the council then.
In a related matter, the city engineer reported that he has no news so far from the EPD on the city's request to increase sewage discharge capacity.
"I don't expect to hear about this for several months," he said.


Nicholson again in business
They were heavily coached by the city attorney and had very little to say, but Nicholson's mayor and two city council members had an official meeting Monday night.
It was a called meeting, with a specific, narrow agenda spelled out and agreed upon by all three of the feuding elected officials. It was also the first time Nicholson's government has been able to meet since September.
There were but three items on the agenda.
First, the council authorized council member Margaret Ward and city attorney Wanda David, who conducted the meeting, to hire a temporary worker to keep City Hall open while a clerk is hired. They will negotiate with Etcon.
The second piece of business was to authorize Mayor Ronnie Maxwell and mayor pro tem Thomas Gary to sign city checks, a move that will enable the city to pay bills for the first time since Maxwell was sworn in as mayor Dec. 4.
The final piece of action was to call an election for March 20 to fill the unexpired terms of Stanley Fouche and Daniel Sailors. Fouche resigned to run for mayor and Sailors to run for county commissioner.
Qualifying will take place from 9 a.m. Feb. 12 to noon Feb. 14. The qualifying fee is $5 for terms of office that expire Dec. 31.
How those seats are filled will tip the balance of power in a community split over zoning. With Ward and Gary in favor of enacting a zoning ordinance and Maxwell opposed, the election of two anti-zoning candidates would end the effort to bring zoning to the only local municipality without it. Election of just one pro-zoning candidate would likely result in the ordinance being enacted.
There was no discussion of any of the agenda items, and neither the council members nor the mayor had anything to say, other than to make, second and vote on motions.
However, David indicated that the council's next meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5, which is the regularly scheduled meeting.


2001 to be a good year, says chamber president
Jackson County's economy will continue to grow during 2001, although it will not grow as much as it has in the past.
Call it "Pepecast 2001," the predictions of Pepe Cummings, president of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce. Cummings looked into his economic crystal ball during a program for the Commerce Kiwanis Club last Thursday.
"We are going to create 350 to 400 new jobs and the economy will grow from four percent to 4.5 percent," Cummings predicted. He also speculated that some 300,000 new square feet of industrial space will be added, including expansions from existing companies, and that retail sales will be flat.
While the economy will be somewhat slower, Cummings said it will continue to expand, likening it to a driver on Interstate 85 slowing down from driving 100 miles per hour to 80 mph.
"When you put the brakes on from six percent growth to 2.5 percent, it looks like you are slowing down," he said. "You are, but you're still speeding."
The result may seem like a recession to some, he said, but since a recession is "a sustained period of negative growth," that isn't likely to happen in Jackson County.
"We're going to be OK," he said. "Georgia is going to do OK and the county is going to do 2.5 percent."
The chamber chief said most of the southeast has sustained economic growth without a recession for the past 20 years, although there is some argument that there was a recession in 1990-91.
Georgia's economy, he said, typically grows one point faster than the United States, and Jackson County's a point above that, which produced his prediction of 4.5 percent growth in the local economy.
"We have faster growth and a better-performing economy than one of the fastest-growing states," Cummings said.
Cummings' crystal ball also produced a prediction that the U.S. Census will estimate Jackson County's population to be 40,500 when the figures come out in March, a figure that will be ultimately modified to about 42,000. He also predicted that home construction will slow down because there are 400 new site-built homes in Jackson County that will take more than six months to absorb.


Floor Woes Delay CHS Renovation
They're coming unglued at Commerce High School.
The floor tiles, that is, and it's become a sticky problem for a school system trying to get a $2 million renovation completed.
"We're at a standstill now," reports Superintendent Larry White. "The architect has sent letters of condemnation to the construction firm, basically saying they have not performed up to expectations."
What officials have found is that the glue used to put down new floor tiles all throughout the school is bleeding up through the tiles.
It is a major problem, because most likely, not only will all the floor tiles have to be replaced, but there will also probably be a need to grind down and reseal the concrete pads upon which the buildings are built and possibly even to provide new drainage.
The problem, says White, is that the concrete pads hold moisture. It could be caused by poor drainage, could be related to the fact that the buildings had no gutters to carry off rainwater during the summer, or to the fact that during the summer the windows were open and the air conditioning was running to protect the new ceiling tiles, and it could be caused by the flooring company's failure to clean off the floor when the old asbestos tiles were removed.
"There are a lot of theories about what could cause the problem," White acknowledged. "The main thing is, I want the building finished. That's the bottom line, and I want it done right."
When CHS was built, the ground was leveled and concrete slabs were poured, from which the buildings were built up. In the east and west wings, White says, the floors are lower than the ground outside.
That did not create a problem with the old flooring, which was asbestos, because water did not affect the glue used to hold the tiles down. The new glue, which is required, is a latex glue.
Determining the problem has not been easy. The flooring company ran some tests and decided that moisture was not the problem. A representative of the company that made the glue, however, had more tests run, which reportedly show high moisture content.
"I expect the glue man to come back with recommendations on what to do to get the glue to stick to the tile," said White.
That will include removing the tiles now in place and could include grinding the floor down and resealing it.
The school system has some leverage, about $300,000 left on the contract. If no agreement on what is to be done is forthcoming, the architect can "condemn" the work and the system is free to hire another firm to do the floor work.
The problem with the floor has also put renovation of the special education and vocational labs on hold pending reaching some kind of solution.
At Monday night's meeting of the Commerce Board of Education, the system's architect, Greg Smith, set an April 15 deadline by which the problem will be solved, the floor tiles installed and the CHS renovation completed.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Commerce News.



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Commerce Council OKs New Zoning, Subdivision Rules
Developers and others planning to change the use of land in Commerce now have new ordinances governing what they can do.
The Commerce City Council voted Monday night to approve a new zoning ordinance and a new subdivision ordinance at the recommendation of the Commerce Planning Commission.
Both documents were approved unanimously and without comment.
They are the result of about six months of work by the council, the planning commission, the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center and The Georgia Group, LLC, a firm hired by the city to draft the new subdivision ordinance. The city and the planning commission held a number of work sessions and public hearings on the ordinances.
Among the changes are increased lot size requirements for subdivisions, a set-aside requirement for greenspace and an option for some subdivision developers of "clustering" homes to create additional greenspace.
Also on Monday, the council approved an amendment to its sewer ordinance that will require Roper Pump Company to install a pre-treatment system, abide by discharge limits and will provide a fine if the company exceeds those limits.
"They will be required to put in pre-treatment. We will monitor it," explained city manager Clarence Bryant.
The permit will cover bio-oxidation chemical demand, levels of suspended solids, phosphate, nitrogen, oil and grease.


Braselton adopts police budget for 2001
The Braselton Town Council voted unanimously Monday night to allot more than $190,000 annually to its police force.
The move includes opening positions for two full-time officers and at least two part-time officers, and provides a cost of living increase of six percent for the town's police chief.
Other items in the police budget include $16,886 per year on two financed police cars, $20,000 annually on gas and vehicle repairs and $6,000 for four radar units.


$1.5 million awarded by DOT for three local projects
"Transportation Enhancement" projects in Hoschton and Commerce and at Banks Crossing have gotten a financial boost from the Department of Transportation. Each was named as a recipient for the DOT's Transportation Enhancement (TE) Program fiscal year 2002-2003 funds.
The City of Hoschton Downtown Streetscape Enhancement project sponsored by the City of Hoschton was awarded $550,000. The Commerce Pedestrian Corridor project sponsored by the City of Commerce was awarded $635,914. Phase three of the Banks Crossing U.S. 441 corridor work garnered $400,000.
The kinds of projects funded by the TE program include multi-use facilities such as walking and biking trails and paths; streetscaping and landscaping projects in cities and towns; historic preservation of transportation-related facilities like railroad depots; and scenic preservation of views and scenic byways. Of the 255 applications submitted, 135 have been chosen to receive funding.
Up to 80 percent of the funds being used for the projects have been provided by the Federal Highway Administration, with the local government funding the remainder of the total project cost. Half of the total funding will be distributed on October 1, 2001, with the rest becoming available October 1, 2002. The local government is responsible for implementing the TE project and obtaining federal reimbursement from the Georgia DOT.


Bell, Beatty named to committees
Jackson County's two new members of the Georgia General Assembly received their committee assignments this week.
Rep. Pat Bell was appointed to the House Higher Education Committee, Industry Committee and Transportation Committee.
Sen. Mike Beatty was appointed to the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Cultural Affairs Committee, Special Judiciary Committee, State and Local Governmental Operations Committee and Transportation Committee.