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February 23, 2001


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Area hoops teams head for GHSA state tournaments this weekend

It all comes down to this.
All the preliminaries have been completed, and the best hoops teams from each region have claimed their spots in the 2001 GHSA state basketball tournament, which begins Friday.

Tigers Take On The Walker School Saturday At 8:30
The post-season begins Saturday night for the Commerce Tiger basketball team.




Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
Flag fight not over in Madison Co.
Many Madison Countians were angered by the state legislature's approval of a new Georgia flag. And some county residents are vowing to continue the fight to keep the 1956 flag.

County schools $900,000 over budget
Madison County's school system overspent last year's budget by just under $900,000, according to audit figures released by acting superintendent Allen McCannon Tuesday night.




News from
BANKS COUNTY
Lula council rejects offer for alleged water theft
The Lula City Council voted unanimously Monday night to reject an offer made by the owners of CMW Pipeline, a well boring company, to pay a small amount for water allegedly stolen from the city's hydrant on Belton Bridge Road.

Banks to receive $1.7 million in state funds for school system
Banks County will receive $770,313 in state funds to go toward the construction of new classrooms.


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MOVES TO CHANGE CHARTER

The Jefferson City Council agreed in a called meeting Tuesday night to a proposed change to its charter calling for a city manager to handle the day-to-day operations of the town. Shown are: (L-R) Mayor Byrd Bruce, city attorney Ronnie Hopkins and councilman C.D. Kidd III.

Fletcher Breaks Tie on Road Vote
JEFFERSON -- Jackson County Board of Commissioners' chairman Harold Fletcher had to break a tie vote to get a road in an industrial park paved.
Commissioners Stacey Britt and Sammy Thomason voted at a called meeting Thursday night for a motion to enter a contract with the city of Jefferson to pave Jewell Farm Road, which is in the Walnut Fork Industrial Park. But commissioners Tony Beatty and Emil Bershara voted against the contract, after which Fletcher voted to support the motion.
Neither Beatty nor Bershara explained the reason for their "nay" votes, although Bershara noted that the road is "not in the shared tax district; all of the school taxes go to Jefferson."
Bershara's reference was to a negotiated district along Interstate 85 in which school taxes are shared equally between the Jefferson and Jackson County school system. There is a similar shared district farther north on I-85 in which the Commerce and Jackson County systems split school tax revenue. Both districts were negotiated to remove concerns over annexation by the cities. Bershara's point was that any industry attracted to the site would not help the county school system because all of the property taxes for education would go to Jefferson.
Bershara and Beatty represent districts wholly inside the Jackson County school district; Thomason and Britt both have constituents in city and county school districts.
The contract provides that Jackson County will provide the base and surfacing, the cost of which is to be $258,306, and Jefferson is to reimburse the county for half of that amount. In the event that the Georgia Department of Transportation participates, the two governments will split the savings.
The road will belong to Jefferson. The incentive for the intergovernmental contract is that the road is expected to help lure industries into the park, which would improve the tax digests of both the county and the city.
In other business, the commissioners voted to ask Rep. Pat Bell to introduce legislation increasing the amount of goods the county may purchase without taking competitive bids from to $5,000. It is now $1,000.
The board also voted unanimously to submit a pre-application for a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund on behalf of the county recreation department. The board approved the request, in spite of the fact that no one, including county manager Skip Nalley, had any information as to the amount sought or the matching percentage.
"We're under no obligation to stick with it if we get funded," Nalley pointed out.


Jefferson approves new charter
The Jefferson City Council approved a new city charter Tuesday night that will shift control of the city's day-to-day operations to a city manager.
At a special called meeting, city attorney Ronnie Hopkins told the council the charter was very similar to Commerce's city charter. That town adopted a city manager form of government in the mid-1980s following several years of turmoil on its city council.
The Jefferson council had voted two weeks ago to adopt a city manager form of government, but Tuesday was the first time it had discussed the details of the plan.
Following Tuesday night's approval, the new charter will now go to the Georgia General Assembly as a piece of local legislation. It will become effective Jan. 1, 2002.
The only vocal opposition to the new charter came from Mayor Byrd Bruce, who said he did not like the idea of taking control of the city away from the mayor and council. In the past, the mayor had been responsible for creating the city budget and was the de facto day-to-day manager of the city. In addition, city council members were put in charge of the various city departments.
Under the new charter, however, the responsibility for operating the city will fall on the city manager. Council members will no longer be able to oversee city departments and the mayor's powers will be drastically reduced.


No Change Planned In Sewer Route
The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority will continue with plans to build a sewer line from Jefferson to Mulberry Plantation on a route along the Middle Oconee River and Doster Creek.
Property owners along the route thought they'd gotten a reprieve Feb. 8 when the authority voted unanimously to reconsider those plans.
After residents showed up at the Feb. 8 meeting to complain about the route and about possible condemnation of their property, the authority voted on a motion by Elton Collins to "regroup and sit down and re-look at what we are doing."
"We will take a whole fresh look at this," Collins pledged.
Not exactly. What Collins says he meant is that the authority will take a new look at its process for informing residents of what is happening ­ not a new look at routes.
It is generally agreed that the authority made a big mistake by having its attorney send notification to the property owners in a letter in which residents were told to give permission for surveyors and appraisers to enter their property or they would be subject to a lawsuit.
"We should not have sent as one of our first contacts a letter with a law firm's name up in the corner," Collins acknowledges.
But while the property owners were angered by the letter, their main point of contention was the possible condemnation of their land for sewer rights of way. Many of them proposed that the sewer line be built along the road rights of way instead of along river and creek bottoms.
That, the authority says, is not feasible, because the main trunk line needs to be gravity flow, both for access and for cost and expense of operation. In addition, since the authority has sold bonds to finance the project, its route is limited by provisions of the $12 million bond issue.
"We're kind of restricted. It doesn't mean we can't move the line a hundred feet, but we can't make major changes," said Collins.
Speaking the following day to the board of directors of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, authority superintendent Jerry Waddell said that the route was chosen because it provided the largest service area.
"We think it was a good decision. Our engineers said it was not feasible for us to run on the road rights of way," Waddell said, adding that if the line ran along the roads, it would require six lift stations and every property owner would have to have a pump station to get sewer service because Georgia 124 is built along a ridge.
"We are limited to any movement in that line," agreed Collins, pointing out that any substantial change in the line will "start running you into problems with the bond issue."
Even if it could completely redesign the route, its obligation to serve Mulberry Plantation by Jan. 1 would be in jeopardy if there are lengthy delays. Should the county not live up to those obligations, it could find itself sued by the developer.
Mulberry Plantation has already paid $1 million for its first 400 sewer taps and will pay another $2.8 million over the next four years as it is built out.
The sewer project will serve a lot more than Mulberry Plantation. It will also serve West Jackson Middle School and a vast area along Georgia 124 up to Interstate 85.


Jefferson, Jackson school leaders upset over state construction formula
Jefferson and Jackson County school systems leaders expressed outrage this week over state funding formulas that they said shortchange local school construction efforts.
The money allocated by the state was supposed to help schools build more classrooms to meet the lower pupil-teacher ratios mandated by last year's education reform legislation. But the formula for calculating those dollars was based on "existing need," said Jackson County superintendent Andy Byers. Since all three school systems in Jackson County had recently used local SPLOST funds and issued bonds for new construction, their "need" wasn't considered as great. Byers said that basically, school systems that didn't take the local initiative are being rewarded for their lack of local effort while schools that did move forward on their own are being punished.
Byers said the Jackson County School System will not earn any additional state funding for any of its elementary schools and only six classrooms at the middle school level. And while the formula does allocate eight classrooms for the Jackson County Comprehensive High School, Byers said the system may not be able to use those dollars. By local board policy, the system had earlier decided to cap JCCHS at 1,200 students, using the old Bryan Hill facility as overflow. When the high school student population reaches 1,600, the system plans to construct another facility in the county, creating two high schools of 800 students each, he said. But the money for the eight classrooms allocated by the state can't be banked for that, so the system faces a "use it or lose it" dilemma.
Byers pointed to several nearby systems that had used mobile trailers as classrooms rather than building additional space. Those systems, he said, are getting an unfair allocation of the building funds.
"They (the state) are rewarding systems that didn't do anything," he said.
JEFFERSON CITY SCHOOLS
The situation is similar in Jefferson City Schools. Superintendent Dr. John Jackson said Wednesday that he is disappointed with the formula and also believes Jefferson is being punished for taking the initiative to build classrooms.
Both Byers and Jackson met with state department representatives last week to review the formula. Jackson said that Jefferson will receive less than $100,000 and it must be used at the elementary school level for one classroom.
But even that may not be possible since the construction of just one classroom may not be feasible.
Jackson said he believes Jefferson should receive a larger share of the money and be allowed to use it toward its bond payoff.
The 2001 supplemental budget includes $468 million for the construction of nearly 7,000 new classrooms statewide to help Georgia's public schools achieve the smaller class sizes required by last year's education reform act.
For the complete story, see this week's Jackson Herald.


3,500-Square-Foot Expansion Of Library To Be Proposed
At the suggestion of the director of the Piedmont Regional Library Board, the Commerce Library Board agreed to ask the Georgia Board of Regents to plan for a 3,500-square-foot addition to the city library.
Cautioning that it is "very initial," Nancy Ray told the local board members Monday night that the state's library directors want to be able to present to the board of regents in the near future a list of library building plans.
Libraries, once funded by the Department of Education, now get capital funds through the Board of Regents.
The request, Ray said, need not be accompanied by any plans for how or where such an addition would be built. Ray's proposal would give the library 13,000 square feet of space.
"If you know of something beyond the 13,000, let me know," she urged.
Estimating the cost (including furnishings) at $200 per square foot, such an addition would cost $700,000.
"That is not a high estimate. This might not come to fruition for four or five years," Ray noted.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Commerce News.



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Planning board to mull NJ landfill Thursday
Plans for a construction and demolition landfill in the North Jackson area that have been on hold since December will be addressed when the Jackson County Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
Earth Resource is requesting a conditional use permit to locate the landfill on 94.84 acres on Lanier Road that is zoned I-2.
The proposal first went before the planning commission in December, but was tabled in order for the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center to do a review of the impact. The RDC review had not been submitted to the county planning office as of Tuesday, but is expected before Thursday night's meeting. A group of citizens opposed to the plans has met at least one time.
This is the second request to go before the county this year seeking a rezoning for a construction and demolition landfill. The earlier request was from another company for a site in West Jackson. It was denied by the BOC. The company has sued the county and a court hearing is scheduled for March 14 in the county courthouse.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will consider this request when it meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 5, at the Administrative Building in Jefferson. The BOC will hold its voting session at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 19.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Jackson Herald.


Authority to ask county to manage airport
The Jackson County Airport Authority plans to ask the board of commissioners to take over the day-to-day operations of the Jackson County Airport.
At the authority's Monday night meeting, member Clarence Bryant pushed for that change.
"We've got new leadership on the county level and we definitely have got new management," he said. "It is time to take some of these responsibilities that we're doing to the county staff. I think the thing to do is sit down with the new chairman and manager and say, 'Look, we don't have time to swap letters or make three to four phone calls a week. We don't have time to manage the airport. There is no need for us to do anything but set policies.'"
Bryant said that authority chairman Andy Byers, who was unable to attend Monday night's meeting, is about to the point where he will have to resign because of the time demands being placed upon him as a result of the airport expansion.
"The thing of it is none of y'all really know what goes on at this airport on a day-to-day basis," former FBO manager Max Allen told the authority members.
"That really is not our function," said member Paul Christensen.
Bryant said that with the authority meeting monthly to take action, it often takes many months to get done what should have taken only two business days.
Christensen and member Jack Seabolt raised the possibility of using Federal Aviation Authority funds to pay a part-time manager. Bryant said that the funds could not be used for such a purpose. He said that Byers will contact commission chairman Harold Fletcher to discuss getting help managing the airport on a daily basis.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Jackson Herald.