News from Banks County...

February 7, 2001


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OPINION

C.W. Crawford
Time for asparagus patch

It is still sort of cold here on the knob on the ridge overlooking the Hudson River. But the sun's rays have a different slant to them that is teasing the grass to begin greening up and coax the crocuses and daffodils to push up out of the ground.

Adam Fouche
Officials' image is becoming tarnished

Since the very infancy of modern sports, officials have been criticized. Either they make the wrong calls, don't make enough calls or need to have their eyes checked.


SPORTS
Leopards clawing for third seed

Crucial playoff seeding for both the Leopards and Lady Leopards relies on the outcome of Friday night's game with Dawson County.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
Juvenile with pellet gun apprehended at high school
No one was injured late Friday afternoon when a male juvenile brought a pellet gun onto Jefferson High School grounds.

Pike Co. murders echo from the past
The arrest last week of two area men on murder charges from Pike County echo deep into one of the darkest times of Jackson County's history.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Supreme Court upholds Madison Co. conviction
The Supreme Court of Georgia has affirmed the convictions and sentences of Randy Lamar Gordon, in connection with the Oct. 31, 1984, beating death of Raymond Conway.

Interviews begin in school head search
Madison County may have a new superintendent of county schools by early March, according to school board chairman Robert Haggard.


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TIME TO PROMENADE

Patricia Fricks and Bill Jones are shown promenading with style at the Homer Square Tracker get-together Friday night. The group, which meets on the first and third Fridays of the month, is seeking new members.



Judge denies Baldwin's move to take over water treatment plant from Demorest
In a court ruling by Judge James E. Cornwell Jr. on Monday, Baldwin has been denied its effort to take over operations of the water treatment plant from the city of Demorest.
Cornwell ruled that Demorest's appeal to the State Supreme Court prevents Baldwin from moving forward in changing operations of the plant.
In his ruling he states, "The court has not been apprised of any substantial breakdown of service or in quality of water" for the past 14 years. Further, he gave comsideration to the over $1 million that Demorest has paid in retiring Baldwin's 1987 construction bond debt of the water plant.
Cornwell was concerned that Baldwin would be able to operate the plant maintaining the same standards due to information disclosed by Demorest attorneys Jim Weidner and Bart Gary.
They say that the company Baldwin has chosen to operate the plant, Wayne Miller Inc., is not qualified to do business in Georgia, according to a review of the secretary of state's records. Weidner also states that "no information has been offered as to its experience, financial strength or what rates or compensation it will expect for running the plant."
The disclosures were enough for Cornwell to rule in favor of Demorest to ensure that the water customers of Baldwin and Demorest not suffer any interruption of water service.
Baldwin will now have to wait until the appeal process has been finalized.
After Baldwin and Demorest officials were unable to reach an amicable agreement on operation of the water treatment plant, they went before Cornwell Thursday as Baldwin sought a court order to begin operations at the facility. Cornwell chided the two cities for being unable to reach a diplomatic conclusion.
"I'm not particularly pleased to have this in court," he said. "I have tried mediation. I have tried arbitration. And now we're back in litigation."
The granting of the court order Baldwin seeks is contested by Demorest.
Demorest attorney Jim Weidner earlier initiated an appeal of the October 2000 arbitration ruling favoring Baldwin. At the hearing last week, flanked by Atlanta attorneys T. Bart Gary and Stuart W. Gray, Weidner claimed that the appeal supersedes the issuance of a court order and suggested the court has no power to rule in favor of the order.
Baldwin's attorney David Syfan argued that since Demorest had fully agreed to abide by the decision of the arbitrator, Judge G. Grant Brantley, and since that ruling favored Baldwin, the town has the legal right to begin operation of the plant.
Cornwell was most concerned about the water customers served by the two cities. He requested some sort of assurance that there would be no interruption of service if Baldwin began managing plant operations.
When all the issues under litigation were listed by Cornwell, Syfan was surprised to hear of a counterclaim Demorest had filed against Baldwin. Weidner said he had mailed Syfan a copy. Syphan said he had not received it. Cornwell granted Syfan until last Friday to form a response to the counterclaim.
"There are issues in there that I have concerns about and I would like you to respond to all of them," he said. "I'm not sure whether or not some of the issues in this counterclaim could have or should have been raised or [are] affirmative defensives to the underlying action that has already been litigated."
Demorest was bound by the Comprehensive Management Agreement and the three modifications the two cities entered into, according to Syfan, with the arbitrator's and Judge Cornwell's final ruling in Baldwin's favor. The modifications gave Baldwin the legal right to assume plant operations. "The notice of appeal does not act as a stay preventing Baldwin from assuming plant operations," Syfan argued and presented case laws to that effect. He said that Baldwin should have its right to do so upheld by the court.
Speaking for Demorest, Gary said that the city's main concern is its 4,000 customers and that service not be interrupted. He also said that he was not sure that the arbitrator had the power to grant or deny Baldwin's request.
Cornwell told Gary that the "parties agreed to this manner of resolution.
They came before this court saying that [they] proposed to resolve this through binding arbitration. So, I don't think you can tell me he didn't have the authority to do what he did, since they agreed to that."
Asking the Demorest counsels just what is the city appealing, Weidner's reply was "the arbitrator made mistakes and made a completely different decision than what the pleading started out as."
Getting back to the issue at hand, who will operate the plant, the judge reiterated his concern that his decision would not impact the customers level of service. He asked if there had been problems.
Syfan replied that plant inspections had found problems and that there were operational issues. He also brought up the $246,000 that Demorest had allegedly misappropriated from the water fund account.
He assured Cornwell that Baldwin had a licensed staff ready to take on plant operations so there would be no interruption of service to the customers. He said Baldwin was prepared to take care of all water customers.
Weidner asked why Baldwin had not made Demorest aware of the problems so they could be dealt with.
Cornwell suggested that the counsels meet together in private chambers for one hour to come up with some sort of agreement rather than "butting heads and pointing fingers."
At the start of the session, as Syfan began to speak, Gary said, "I don't think it's appropriate to discuss this in front of the press." and closed the discussion to the press representatives.
Their talk disclosed that Demorest's real concern is that Baldwin would cut them off as a customer, denying them water, according to one Baldwin official They talked about drawing up a contract insuring the continuance of a water supply to Demorest from Baldwin, he said.


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BOC looks at new county flag
A new county flag could soon be flying over the Banks County courthouse and other county facilities.
The Banks County Board of Commissioners is looking at a design for a county flag that would include six stars, one representing each of its towns, and a small depiction of the former state flag that was changed last week by the state legislature. The county has not had its own flag and BOC chairman Kenneth Brady said this is a project he would like the commissioners to undertake.
Commissioners Pat Westmoreland and Ernest Rogers both spoke in support of the proposal and said they want to ensure that the former state flag is a part of the county's design.
On a related matter, Westmoreland said he is disappointed with the way the state handled changing the flag that has been controversial in recent years. He said the matter should have been put on the ballot for voters across the state to consider.
"We're getting away from the foundation of our country," he said. "It is eroding day by day."
He commended Sen. Mike Beatty and Rep. Jeanette Jamieson for voting against the flag change. He added, "I"m glad we've got a few people willing to stand up for what is right."
Brady said he took the flag that was in front of the courthouse down after the change was made and took it to the Banks County Chamber of Commerce. He said officials there agreed to put it on display in the historic courthouse.


County office locations have changed
Banks Countians going to the courthouse on county business will find a few changes.
The planning department has moved its office across the hall to the former county extension office. The probation office will be relocated from the old jail to the area where the planning department was located.
The county extension office is now in the former health department, which was vacated when the new facility opened last year. The former health department, which also houses the Family Connection office and coroner's office, will now be known as the courthouse annex.
These changes were discussed at a called meeting of the Banks County Board of Commissioners Friday morning.