News from Madison County...

March 14, 2001


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OPINIONS
Zach Mitcham

Facts should be focus of Almond issue
Answers are few, but two things seem clear in the suspension of Comer Elementary School principal Mac Almond.


Frank Gillespie
North Georgia is growing fast

The National Aeronautical and Space Administration has published a composite picture of earth made at night.


SPORTS
30-0 1981 season was the peak of a remarkable MCHS girls' basketball era

The old banner that hangs from the Madison County gym ceiling is lifeless to those who don't know the stories behind the cloth.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
New county flag leads to emotional debate
A new county flag resembling the former state flag will soon fly over Banks County. The Banks County Board of Commissioners began the process Tuesday night for approving a county flag.

SPLOST vote coming up Tuesday
Banks County voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballot on extending the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) for five more years.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the special called election.



News from...
JACKSON COUNTY
Zoning Central Issue In Nicholson
555 Can Vote To Fill Two Vacancies On Nicholson City Council -- The question of whether Nicholson will have zoning or will not have zoning will likely be settled next Tuesday when the town holds a special election to fill two vacancies on its four-member town council.

Rep. Bell opposed to landfill
Rep. Pat Bell said in a letter to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners that she is opposed to a proposed landfill in North Jackson.



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CONTRACT SIGNING

Keith Cowne (seated) signed a contract Wednesday as the new superintendent of Madison County schools. He is pictured with school board members (L-R) Elaine Belfield, Ric Power, Jim Patton and Robert Haggard.




Comer Elem. principal suspended Large crowd shows support for Almond, anger toward BOE for unspecified allegations.Comer Elementary School principal Mac Almond has been suspended with pay for unspecified reasons.
According to interim superintendent Allen McCannon, "Georgia law says the superintendent has the authority to suspend certified staff for up to 10 days with pay."
McCannon said he could not comment on the cause of the suspension.
The interim superintendent said a termination hearing has been "tentatively" set for March 28.
According to Georgia law, governing boards must meet in the open when "receiving evidence or hearing argument on charges filed to determine disciplinary action or dismissal of a public officer or employee." However, the law stipulates that a board may meet in private to talk about what action to take.
McCannon said that charges against Almond will not be announced at the board's regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, March 20, as some have speculated, but at a hearing on the matter.
Almond did not return calls to his home Monday and Tuesday.
SHOW OF SUPPORT
Many at Comer Elementary School are confused and outraged over Almond's suspension.
Approximately 150 people attended a meeting, which was held off school grounds at the Comer Lions Club building following a PTO meeting at the school earlier that evening, to work out a plan of support for Almond.
PTO president Beth Scott Brown opened the meeting, telling those present of Almond's suspension "pending an investigation on several items the school board brought up."
Brown said the BOE had so far responded to questions about the suspension by saying they could not reveal the allegations yet.
"We are gathered as a community tonight in support of our children," Ms. Brown said as to the primary reason for the meeting.
Many expressed their displeasure with the school board's handling of the matter, saying they were more concerned with that than Almond's guilt or innocence of any charges against him.
"Part of the reason this is happening is because enough of us don't go to the BOE and BOC meetings - a lot of stuff happens in a vacuum there....there's a lot of underlying stuff and a lot us here probably have an inkling of something," Chip Chandler, a former BOC member, said, adding that most were frustrated because of a lack of information. "We need to be informed about what board members are doing all the time."
Plans were made to "come out in force" to support Almond at the March 20 meeting of the BOE at the Madison County High School media center.
School board addresses and phone numbers were also passed out and parents were urged to express their opinions.
The group also agreed to establish a "defense fund" for Almond to assist him with possible legal costs and a petition drive was circulated which read, "We the undersigned citizens, taxpayers and voters of Madison County, Georgia, do oppose the suspension and possible termination of Robert Mac Almond as principal of Comer .
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County Journal.




3 arrested in carjacking incident
Two Athens men and a Colbert man have been arrested for alleged involvement in a carjacking and kidnapping incident in Madison County last week.
Allah Blakley, 20, of Athens, and Christopher Scott Andrews, 19, also of Athens, remain in the Madison County Jail this week and were denied bond during a Superior Court hearing.
Blakley is charged with aggravated assault, armed robbery, motor vehicle hijacking, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and kidnapping.
Andrews is charged with armed robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping, carjacking, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
A third man, Darrell Demetric Lester, 30, of Colbert, was arrested on Friday in Oconee County after deputies there acted on a lookout posted by Madison County.
He is being housed in the Franklin County jail and has not undergone a bond hearing as of press time.
Lester is charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, motor vehicle hijacking, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and armed robbery.
The three are accused of the robbery and kidnapping of a 51-year-old woman and stealing her car as she arrived at her Bellhaven Lane residence near Hull about 1 a.m. on March 7, according to an incident report.
They allegedly locked her in the trunk of the car while driving around for several hours looking for a place to rob.
The woman's 15-year-old grandson called 911 after witnessing the crime from inside the residence.
A Madison County deputy spotted the car on Fortson Store Road and pursued the men onto Bedford Drive where they abandoned the car.
The woman was found in the trunk, shaken but unharmed.



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Cowne signs superintendent's contract
Keith Cowne signed a three-year contract Wednesday as superintendent of Madison County schools.
His contract runs from April 1, 2001, to March 31, 2004. His annual salary is $90,262.
Cowne met school personnel Wednesday and took a tour of the county's seven schools. Cowne ended his tour with a reception in the library of Madison County High School, where he signed the contract.
Cowne replaces Dr. Dennis Moore, who resigned unexpectedly shortly after the start of the school year. Assistant superintendent Allen McCannon has served as interim superintendent since that time.
"I can't think of a better way to start out," Cowne said of his tour. "I was impressed by the enthusiasm, energy and professionalism of the faculty, and the kids appeared busy and happy...I look forward to working for you and with you to help the children have the most productive experiences they can....Thank you for your welcome, I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful, fruitful, productive and professional relationship."
School board member Jim Patton told the group of school system employees, citizens and media that selecting Cowne was the result of "a lot of long hard work and a lot of time put into this."


Citizens discuss 'conservation subdivisions'
Madison County may add a new class of development to its land use plan.
Citizens attending the third meeting on future land use agreed that environmentally sensitive areas should be limited to "Conservation Subdivisions." These subdivisions would be required to keep at least 50 percent of the land undeveloped to provide green space and wildlife habitats within the development. Former commissioner Burton "Chip" Chandler said that the new class of subdivision should be required for any development within the river corridor protection sites and adjacent to agricultural areas.
Audience members said that the present river corridor areas should be maintained and possibly increased in the new plan. Currently, a wide strip of land along Broad River and a narrower strip along South Broad River are marked for special protection.
Leo Smith proposed a change in the high-density area. He pointed out that measuring a three-mile circle from Dogsboro covered agricultural land around Sanford. He suggested that the zone be modified to end at the Helican Springs Road. For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County Journal.


LOOKING AHEAD
Public hearing
on Comprehensive Plan rescheduled
The public hearing to present a draft of the joint city/county Comprehensive Plan for Madison County and the cities of Carlton, Colbert, Comer, Danielsville, Hull and Ila, with the assistance of the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center (RDC), has been rescheduled for Thursday, March 29 at 6 p.m. at the Madison County Government Complex courtroom. The public hearing previously scheduled for March 15 is canceled.
The purpose of this hearing is to brief the community on the contents of the plan, provide an opportunity for residents to make suggestions, additions or revisions, and notify the community of the expected date the plan will be submitted to the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center and the Department of Community Affairs for review and comment.
All interested parties are invited to attend. Draft copies of the plan are available for review at each respective city hall, the Madison County Board of Commissioners, Madison County Planning and Zoning, the Madison County Library, and the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center.
For more information, call Lee A. Carmon, AICP, Planning Director at (706) 369-5650 or email lcarmon@negrdc.org.