Madison County Opinion...

 March 14, 2001


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
March 14, 2001

Frankly Speaking

North Georgia is growing fast
The National Aeronautical and Space Administration has published a composite picture of earth made at night. The picture shows the areas of our world that are covered by the light of civilization. One of the brightest areas of the night world is the eastern coast of the United States of America.
This picture is important to us because it clearly demonstrates the rapid growth of our area. North Georgia is becoming one of the brightest areas on earth. A band of light now floods the area from Charlotte, N.C., to Birmingham, Ala. Madison County is in the center of that arc.
We are in the center of one of the fastest-growing areas of our nation. There is nothing we can do to prevent population growth. We can only take steps to direct growth into limited areas while protecting as much of our agricultural lands as possible.
How do we control and direct growth areas? We can use zoning laws to forcibly limit growth to preferred areas or we can develop incentives that will make development more profitable in one area, and keep agriculture profitable in another. I like the incentive idea.
Currently, Madison County is using both techniques. Farmers in rural Madison County can gain tax relief by committing their land to special covenants preventing subdivisions. This will help keep predominantly agricultural areas undeveloped. At the same time, the county is working hard to provide necessary infrastructure for high-density development in the Hull-Dogsboro area in an effort to direct population and business growth into that area.
A new water system will provide water for the Dogsboro intersection, the Glenn Carrie Road area and the city of Hull. Plans to expand the system along Hwy. 72, up to Diamond Hill and Neese are being discussed. Early planning for a sewage system in the same area is under way.
A new high-density area is being added to the county's development map. The new high-density area will consist of a three-mile circle around the city of Hull. Those areas previously set aside to protect river corridors will remain the same or be enlarged.
The planning and zoning board has been given the tools they need to help direct growth into the same area. Among the factors they may use in determining if development will be allowed on any property is the characteristics of the surrounding area. Requests to develop land near other developments will usually be approved. Requests to build subdivisions in a heavily agricultural area are likely to be turned down.
If we use these techniques to direct growth into the southeast area of Madison County, we will be able to keep the rural characteristics we so love in the remainder - at least for a little while.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
March 14, 2001

From the Editor's Desk

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 - the longtime school head has lost the trust of his superiors, while at the same time Almond's support from many in the Comer community has grown stronger.
Almond has been principal in Comer for 26 years. Ask most anyone in Comer and they'll tell you that Almond is a fine man with kids' interests at heart.
So suspecting Almond of wrongdoing seems unimaginable and infuriating to those who know him. Meanwhile, the dismissal of Almond from work without revealing what he is accused of has confused the public.
People should keep pressure on school leaders to speak on record about what is going on. The reputation and livelihood of a man in a prominent public post hang in the balance and people are eager for clarity - good or bad.
Citizens should demand a public forum in which accusations are spelled out plainly.
People should also realize that Almond's reputation is not the only one on the line. Those who accuse have also stepped into the stove.
There are many allegations being hurled at the county school board. There is suspicion that the suspension is politically motivated - perhaps tied to Almond's recent bid for the superintendent's post. There's also speculation that the suspension is just a way of deflecting attention from the school board's recent financial crisis.
No doubt, this county has had its share of political ugliness. But those with theories about political motives should also consider that drumming up charges to carry out some vendetta against a beloved figure in the community would show an obvious lack of political savvy. It would resemble a kamikaze action, an "I'm taking you out with me" move.
There's always the possibility of that sort of thing, but it seems unlikely here. And if this suspension is meant to deflect attention from fiscal troubles, it is obviously ill-timed.
What's most likely is that school leaders have something they think is truly bad and they want to be careful about how they present it - thus the silence.
If that's the case, caution is understandable, but there should be equal consideration to the damage prolonged silence from leaders may cause. They may foster an atmosphere of gossip and innuendo, where "facts" take shape from whispers.
The BOE might want to consider summoning an outside agency to investigate whatever wrongdoing school leaders believe Almond has committed. Handing the matter over to an objective third party should eliminate concerns about the motivation of Almond's accusers.
It also seems logical that citizens should hear the specifics before issuing judgment against either Almond or those who accuse him.
Let's hope this ugly matter is resolved quickly.
The longer the haze covers this situation, the darker things will get.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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