News from Madison County...

January 17, 2001


Madison County
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Madison County
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Madison County H.S.
RAIDERS WEEKLY 


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillispie
Robert E. Lee was a great man

Last week I described for you the characteristics of a Southern Gentleman. This week I want to introduce you to the man who most clearly deserved the title.

Ben Munro
My three years at the Journal

"Look at that young buck," I've said to myself lately when I look at that baby-faced mug shot at the top of this column. "That can't be me."


SPORTS
Lady Raiders set for rivalry-filled weekend

Call it rivalry weekend.
Though the Lady Raiders have gotten back on track from their Jan. 5 loss to top-ranked Hart County with four straight wins, a tough pair of battles with traditional foes-Franklin and Oconee- threatens the winning ways of the 14-3 outfit this weekend.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Citizen complaints aired at BOC meeting
A Banks County man appeared before the Banks County Board of Commissioners Friday morning to discuss their concerns with trash on the roads and debris left in the road after brush was cleared.

Banks County to receive ARC grant for $300,000
Banks County will receive an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant for $300,000 to expand water and wastewater services to Banks Crossing.


News from...
JACKSON COUNTY
Tax digest tops $1 billion
For the first time ever, the net tax digest for Jackson County has topped the $1 billion mark. Jackson County's tax digest is $1.076 billion, up 35 percent from the year before.

Sanders named recreation director
Ricky Sanders is once again heading the Jackson County recreation department.


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Well water non-existent for some Madison Countians
The milk jugs brought in with water from Athens are evidence of a hard fact for James Hardman and his family - the well is dry.
It's been nearly four months since their well on Eugene Hardman Road has produced water.
Hardman refers to the situation as an "act of God," a "natural disaster," a "health hazard."
He's contacted every agency he can think of, every government official he thinks could help, as well as media organizations.
"I'm not doing this just for me," said Hardman. "There's a lot of people now running dry with the drought."
He's right. Months of drought conditions have also meant lasting water concerns for Madison Countians.
According to the Palmer Drought Severity Index, northeast Georgia is in a moderate drought, which has led to poor soil moisture levels in the area. The Jan. 6 index showed that it will take 6.53 inches of rain to end the area drought.
But ending the groundwater shortage and the hardship on some well owners may not come with a mere six inches of rain.
Bob Pulfrey, a geologist with Fortson's Well Drilling, said it may take several years before the county replenishes its groundwater supply.
"It will take a number of correct conditions to replenish the water table aquifer," said Pulfrey. "I suspect it will take several years, unless we have some very unusual conditions."
Pulfrey said that downpours are not the answer. What the county needs are soaking rains over long periods. Pulfrey said that recent rains have brought moisture to the top several feet of soil, but that it will likely take considerable time to "work its way down."
County extension agent Carl Varnadoe said Madison County has long posed problems for those owning bored wells. Bored wells are shallow wells that tap into groundwater beneath the soil. Drilled wells are deeper and more expensive. These wells may run several hundred feet beneath the surface, beneath granite. Drilled wells don't go dry as quickly as bored wells.
Varnadoe said he often gets calls from citizens who have dug new wells to replace old, dried out ones.
He said his best advice to those with water concerns is to work for "year-round water conservation" by doing the little things that add up, such as turning off the water while lathering hands with soap.
"You don't make new water," he said, noting that people often ignore water conservation until it's too late.
Varnadoe said another concern with low groundwater levels is possible contamination of wells. He said that people should have their wells tested every three years.
The extension office conducts mineral testing for $11. The health department will test new wells for harmful bacteria for $25.
While a dried-out well is a major inconvenience, it's also a financial nightmare for many.
Varnadoe said that he does not know of any financial aid for homeowners facing a dry well crisis. But there is assistance available for farmers who need help with wells for agricultural purposes. Farmers needing assistance may contact Jay Jackson of the Farm Service Agency at 335-8111.
Hardman sighed when asked what he will do about his well.
He said he feels there must be some assistance available somewhere for his family and for others he knows suffer with the same ordeal. And he vows to continue looking.
In the meantime, Hardman said he will continue working two jobs, hoping that the rains will bring a merciful end to the problem. Because he doesn't have the money to pay for a new well.
"I don't think I can work a third job," he added.


Regaining financial footing
The Madison County school system's cash flow crisis is over - at least for now.
The new year and the receipt of anticipated tax money has relieved some of the financial strain endured by the school system in recent months.
Interim superintendent Allen McCannon told the school board Tuesday that the schools received $319,000 this month in state property tax refunds due to the Georgia Property Tax Relief Act, which required the state to return some local property tax money to counties. This money, coupled with $259,000 received in property taxes so far this month, means that the school board will not need to use a recently approved loan of $1.2 million.
The BOE approved a loan of $895,000 in September after the board discovered that it had a $369 cash balance to enter that month. The board later approved a $500,000 loan.
The board will pay off half of the $895,000 loan this week.
In other matters at Tuesday's BOE meeting, Robert Haggard will serve as chairman of the Madison County Board of Education for 2001. Elaine Belfield was reappointed to the position of vice chairman. All meetings of the board will continue to be held in the Madison County High School library, with regularly scheduled monthly meetings set for the third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m.
The board approved the 2001-2002 school calendar by a vote of 4-1 with Elaine Belfield objecting. She argued that the early starting date would interfere with planned vacations and travel by members of the staff. She asked to delay the early starting date until next year.
Jim Patton explained that members of the Senior Class wanted to
complete the first semester before Christmas, allowing them to apply early for college. Early application gives them a greater chance of being admitted to the school of their choice. Another argument in favor of the early start is the completion of testing before Christmas eliminating, the three-week delay. That would lead to higher test results.
Pre-planning will begin on Aug. 6 with the first day of school set for August 10. Christmas break will be from Dec. 19 to Jan. 4. Spring break will be March 29 to April 5 and school will close on April 29.
McCannon told the board that the current proposal from the Governor's office includes a pay increase for teachers of 4.5 percent for lunchroom workers and bus drivers of 3.5 percent. Any pay increase for other school employees will have to come from local funds. A committee consisting of members of the board and employees is discussing improvements in pay and benefits for non-certified employees.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County Journal.




Businessman focus of GBI investigation
A prominent Madison County businessman was arrested last week by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the Madison County Sheriff's office, on six counts of theft by receiving.
Thomas (Tommy) William James, 48, of Hull, was arrested on the charges on Tuesday, Jan. 9. James is the owner of Tommy James Wrecker Service.
The GBI also arrested an employee of the business, Calvin Daniel Loggins, 40, of Athens on two counts of theft by receiving.
According to Jim Fullington of the Athens GBI, approximately $150,000 to $200,000 worth of stolen equipment was found on James' property. Stolen items recovered included a 1999 International Rollback wrecker, a Case backhoe, a John Deere gator, a Long tractor and a small piece of equipment for moving dirt.
Fullington said the arrests were made after the GBI received a tip about a piece of stolen equipment on the property.
"This led to us looking at other pieces of equipment," said Fullington.
James, who serves as a bail bondsman, is out on bond.
Fullington said the investigation is ongoing.



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Planners approve rezoning
Madison County planners recommended approval of a controversial rezoning request by a vote of four to two at a public hearing on the matter Tuesday night.
Commission members Roy Gandy and newcomer Jeep Gaskin provided the "no" votes.
The commission started the year off with only one rezoning request to consider - a petition by Ben Rhodes for his brother Timothy Rhodes to rezone a 4.3-acre parcel on Parham Town Road from A-2 (agricultural, five-acre minimum) to R-R (rural residential).
B. Rhodes, who currently resides in a farm house located on the property, said his brother wants to subdivide the parcel into two tracts but has no definite plans for future use of it.
He added that his brother felt the property could be better used and have greater value if it were rezoned so it could be divided.
(The property is currently a non-conforming parcel, as it does not meet the five-acre minimum requirement for A-2.)
T. Rhodes also owns rental property across the road from this parcel but does not currently live in the county.
Carolyn McGee, whose mother lives on adjacent property, said she objected to the rezoning on behalf of her mother. McGee said she didn't want to see the property cut up and possibly used as rental property with a mobile home on it. Another neighbor, Bobbie Parker, said she also objected, and wants to know more about what the property will be used for.
Gandy said he was concerned that there were no "definite plans" for the property and that no permanent resident resides there.
"I'm inclined not to support it....it could possibly end up as three rental units in this small area," he said.
But board of commissioners District 5 commissioner Bruce Scogin objected to that argument, saying the commission was "getting into parameters that are none of your business... the guy just asked for a simple rezone."
Planning chairman Pat Mahoney agreed, saying she felt that making a decision based on whether or not the property might be used as rental property "amounts to discrimination."
"It's totally improper to consider the rental issue," she said.
But Gandy maintained that the issue of rental property did fall within the commission's concerns because "changes could take place that change the character of the neighborhood."
The board of commissioners will have the final say on the request during their regular business meeting next Monday night.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County Journal.