News from Jackson County...

April 2, 2001


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page

Angela Gary
More adventures in the medical world

Just how large is a large glass of water? Is it eight ounces or maybe it's one of those jumbo cups you get at fast food restaurants.

Banks County Editorial
Flag project has brought out negative side of Banks County

The flag project has unveiled a side of Banks County that is not pleasant.
A group of concerned citizens in opposition to the flag proposed for the county that includes the St. Andrew's Cross had planned a meeting.

Margie Richards
Connecting with the past

You know you're getting older when you hear your kids sitting around reminiscing about "the good old days" and some of their sentences start with "Remember when we...."

Frank Gillespie
Enemies of Southern culture feel the heat

The enemies of Southern culture are apparently feeling the heat of rejection by the voters. Many of the same people who led the sneak attack on our beautiful state flag have now endorsed a resolution recognizing April as "Confederate History and Heritage Month" in Georgia.


SPORTS
Diamond Dragons hope to rebound during road trip

Jefferson's Diamond Dragons will try to rebound from a rough few days next week during a Spring Break road trip.
After a frustrating loss to Prince Avenue Saturday and head coach Chuck Cook dealing with the passing of a family member early last week, the break will surely be welcome.

Jackson County starts 2-0 in region
Facing an 18-game region slate against difficult opposition, the Jackson County Panthers could easily have gotten downhearted.
Instead, they cruised to a pair of wins last week as they opened in Region 8AAA action.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Proposed county water moratorium draws criticism
Several people stood before commissioners Monday to voice their dismay with a proposed moratorium on water expansion in unincorporated areas of Madison County.


Madison Co. grows by 22%
Madison County added nearly 4,700 people over the past decade, growing to a population of 25,730, according to early results of the 2000 census.
That amounted to a growth of 22 percent for the decade in Madison County.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Residents question Maysville's fire board members about services
Fire capt. gives explanation of contract with Banks County. A number of Maysville residents, including concerned citizens and volunteer firefighters, came before the Maysville Fire Board Monday night at the fire hall to talk about services the city's fire department offers.

Banks grows by 39%
Banks County grew by 39 percent during the last decade and climbed to a population of 14,422 in 2000, according to recently released census numbers. Banks' growth was higher than all surrounding counties except Hall, which had a growth of 45 percent.


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Authorities seeking two suspects in bank robbery
Two black men robbed South Trust Bank 10 minutes before closing time on Wednesday, March 28.
No one was injured and an undisclosed amount of cash was taken, according to officials.
Theodore Jackson, special agent for the Atlanta division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said that the two men, both brandishing handguns, robbed the bank in a "take-over style." The two entered the bank and moved into the lobby. One robber covered the employees with his weapon while the other vaulted over the teller counter and emptied the money from several teller drawers into a plastic bag.
Both men were wearing masks. One was described as being about 6'0'' tall and 200 pounds. One was wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap. The other had on a gray "Starter" ball cap.
Several bank employees were present when the robbery occurred. While no one was hurt, officials say several were "shaken up." No shots were fired.
The men left the bank and got into a stolen Ford Taurus, according to reports. They drove the vehicle a short distance away and switched vehicles. They were seen leaving in a black pick up truck.
The robbery is being investigated by the FBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Jefferson Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. They are looking for any witnesses that may have seen the robbers, who are considered armed and dangerous, leave the bank. Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI at (770) 534-5111 or the Jefferson Police Department at (706) 367-5231. The FBI is offering a reward for the identification and arrest of the bank robbers. Officials say all information will remain confidential.


Basin authority approves $31.7 million budget
BY ANGELA GARY
With plans for a July 1 start up date for the regional reservoir still on track, the Upper Oconee Basin Authority has approved its first operating budget.
The $31.7 million budget was approved by the basin authority Wednesday, March 28. It includes an estimated $21.8 million for treated water and $9.9 million for raw water. All four county members, Jackson, Barrow, Oconee and Athens-Clarke will share in the cost of the raw water and Jackson, Barrow and Oconee will share in the cost of the treated water.
The funds will come from bond proceeds and the operating revenue.
Finance committee member Elton Collins said the budget is based on "flipping the switch on July 1."
"It is the first operating budget," Collins said. "...It is the best set of numbers we can arrive at at this point."
All of the start up costs for the reservoir, including chemicals, filling up the tank and the first round of water, is included in the budget.
Also at the meeting, Jim Wrona reported that Beers Construction is more than one month behind schedule on construction of the water treatment plant, but officials said they still expect the reservoir to be ready for operation by July 1. The contractor was asked to submit a recovery schedule that will outline how he plans to recoup the lost time. Program manager George Byrd pointed out that the contractor is obligated to finish by the agreed upon time.
"As far as we're concerned, we're still on schedule," he said.
In other business, the authority approved $108,830 for several items not originally budgeted. These items include engineering/office support through the end of June, two additional volumes of construction reports, building inspection fees through June, an operation/maintenance manual, a business item plan and sampling from the reservoir.
"We knew we'd be having change orders," said chairman Eddie Elder of Barrow County. "We're fortunate to not of had more than we've had...We knew they were coming. They are in order."


Cochran guilty of murder in Warren case. Sentenced to life without parole
Emory Wayne Cochran, 52, was found guilty of murder by a Jackson County jury Saturday afternoon and sentenced to life without parole.
The jury found Cochran guilty on counts of felony murder, malice murder, burglary and aggravated assault after a little more than one hour of deliberation Saturday afternoon. The jury then deliberated for almost three hours over the sentencing. The options were: the death penalty, life without parole and life with the possibility of parole. District attorney Tim Madison had asked for the death penalty in the Dec. 8, 1998, murder of Kimberly Warren at her Pendergrass residence.
Many members of the jury were in tears as they came out of their chambers late Saturday night. Judge Robert "Bob" Adamson asked them individually if they agreed to the verdict and sentence and all agreed they did. The sentence was then affirmed by Adamson at 9:20 p.m. Saturday, after a long day of court that began at 8 a.m.
Cochran showed no emotion when the guilty verdict and sentencing were read. As he was being taken from the courtroom, he did ask his attorney, Walter Harvey, to appeal the verdict.
Madison said Monday that he is pleased with the outcome of the trial.
"It was a very physically and emotionally draining trial," he said. "I was very pleased that the jury found him guilty on all charges in the indictment. I thought the evidence was there, and I thought the investigators did a wonderful job of showing what the evidence was against Mr. Cochran. I'm glad they gave him a sentence that will never allow that man to get out again. He is a danger to our community."
Warren's husband, Byron, also offered thanks to the investigators following the trial.
"I would just like to compliment Tim Madison, Brad Smith and the whole district attorney team, along with investigators David Cochran, Rich Lott and the entire investigation team and sheriff's department," Warren said Tuesday. "I want to thank them for over two years on this with us and really working their hearts out on it. I also want to thank Judge Adamson."
The trial lasted four days and the jury had been sequestered since Wednesday. It took two days for the jurors to be selected.
Madison said Cochran was the triggerman in the murder of Mrs. Warren, who was killed near her home on Eagle Lane in North Jackson. Her body was found in her car a short distance from her house. She had been shot four times and the car had rolled into a creek at the bottom of an embankment.
Madison's case included testimony from Cochran's accomplice, Cheryl Gossitt, and a witness who was housed in an area jail with the suspect and said he told him details of the crime.
In May 1999, Gossitt was sentenced to life in prison for her part of the Warren murder. She didn't testify during her trial, but more than three hours of taped interrogation conducted by law enforcement officers was played. The tapes revealed that Gossitt initially confessed to being at the scene of the murder, but she later recanted those statements. She also implicated Cochran during these interviews.
Prior to Cochran's trial, Gossitt agreed to testify against him and said they did commit the crime. In exchange for her testimony in his trial, her life sentence was set aside and she was allowed to plead guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter in the case. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison and charges against her in other counties for burglary and other violations will be dismissed.
Gossitt, 32, who met Cochran around two months before the crime occurred, said he reminded her of her father and she began seeing him shortly after meeting him at a party. She also said that she was scared of him and that he was teaching her how to commit burglaries.
"I was afraid of Wayne two weeks after I met him," she said. "...He made threats toward my children...He's really crazy."
Harvey questioned Gossitt about why she told him two weeks before Cochran's trial that they didn't commit the crime. She only stated that is what she told him at the time.
"I think the truth has been told, in one way or another," she said.
Harvey also presented a letter, he referred to as a "love letter," that Gossitt sent to Cochran in jail on Dec. 29, 1998.
"There is no hard evidence in this case," Harvey said in the closing. "You can't convict him on Cheryl Gossitt's made-up story...If you convict him, which version of the facts do you believe."
INVESTIGATOR TESTIFIES
Jackson County investigator David Cochran testified on the initial confession of Gossitt. He played tapes of two interviews he conducted with her, along with investigator Rich Lott and former Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Wes Wheeler. A drawing by Gossitt of the crime scene, which the state says matches the Warren property, was also presented.
Harvey said the drawing, which was not the only one Gossitt did that day, does not match the Warren property.
Cochran said he asked Gossitt to give him one detail that only someone present when the crime occurred would know. He said that she told him that the motor of Warren's car was running and that it was in reverse.
Investigator Lott testified about a "ride-along" he and investigator Janis Mangum conducted with Gossitt as she showed them the "escape route" she and Cochran took after the Dec. 8 shooting. Lott said she showed them where they stopped when they realized another vehicle (Warren) was following them. He said that this is the spot where officers found spent cartridges.
Harvey said Gossitt knew where the crime occurred because of yellow crime tape in the area. Madison pointed out that there was no yellow crime scene tape where the actual shooting occurred.
Harvey also questioned whether she pointed out the route or was led to it.
Lott said that Gossitt also told them she and Cochran stopped for gas and coffee at a nearby store after the incident. Officers had recovered receipts from a nearby convenience store clerk showing purchases at that time and for that amount.
Also during the four day trial, a man who said he was in a cell with Cochran at a Hall County prison told details of the crime that he said Cochran told him, including the kind of gun used. The man, who has eight months remaining on a drug charge, was not given a reduced sentence for his testimony. He will be given consideration in being moved to a safer jail facility and said he fears for his life after testifying.
Madison pointed out that the witness said Cochran said the victim told him that she had called the law.
"How would he know that unless Wayne told him?" he asked.
Harvey said the witnesses statements were not true and alleged that the man didn't like Cochran because he lived with his girlfriend and had a relationship with her.
"His story is a lie," Harvey said.
It was during this testimony that there was an outburst from someone in the courtroom. Harvey called for a mistrial due to the comments made from a man in the audience, but judge Adamson denied his request. Adamson asked the jurors if they could set aside this outburst during their deliberations and all agreed that they could. He also warned the audience that anyone who made an outburst would be removed from the courtroom.
"This has not been a case where the gallery has gone amuck," he said. "I heard it. I turned my head. It ceased. Security was there. I don't want the record to even suggest that it has been a gallery run amuck as you (Harvey) are suggesting."
This was one of numerous times during the trial that Harvey called for a mistrial.
911 CALL
Harvey repeatedly referred to the 911 call made by Warren on the day of the murder about a suspicious car, which she described as a small gray station wagon. When the suspects were arrested, they were in a gray S-10 pick up truck, which is also what Gossitt said there were in when the crime occurred.
"Kimberly Warren went up to the vehicle," Harvey said. "You wouldn't have to be an expert to know the difference between a little gray station wagon and a S-10 pick up."
In his closing remarks, Madison called this a "red herring." He said the gray station wagon had nothing to do with this crime. He said that the burglars wouldn't have parked in a neighboring lot and locked it if they were stealing items from the Warren house. In the 911 call, Warren said that the car was in a lot beside of her home and that she walked over to it and it was locked. Gossitt said that they parked the truck in front of the house and she stayed in the truck while Cochran went inside.
In Harvey's closing statement, he said that no evidence had been presented tying Cochran to the crime.
"There is a reasonable doubt about every piece of evidence the state has brought in," he said. "In fact, the state has not brought any evidence in."
He said that footprint samples taken from the crime scene didn't match shoes taken from Cochran and Gossitt and no gun was found. Harvey also said Cochran had an alibi for the day of the crime, that he was at the home of Gossitt's brother and sister-in-law. The two testified during the trial, but couldn't pinpoint the date Cochran was at their house.
Madison also detailed a crime spree of Cochran and Gossitt that got "bolder and bolder" and culminated with the murder of Warren. These crimes included a burglary at Hall County church and the assault of an Asheville, N.C., woman, whose purse was stolen by Cochran and Gossitt.
One piece of evidence presented was a pillow case with an "A.J. S" written inside it. The pillowcase, which was stolen from a Talmo residence, was found at the Warren home. Harvey said that there is no evidence tying Cochran to the burglary at the Talmo home.
COCHRAN TESTIFIES
During the end of testimony on Friday, Cochran was called to the stand. He spoke of his life, which includes being in and out of jail since he was 18-years-old. He admitted to several burglaries mentioned during the trial, but denied shooting Warren.
"I didn't shoot that lady, Walter," he said.
Harvey asked why Gossitt would have said he did, and Cochran said: "I guess she thought she was going back to prison, she's tell those people anything."
He also denied ever being in a jail cell with the inmate who testified against him.
SENTENCING PHASE
The jury heard from several witnesses who told of Cochran's alleged attempt to break out of a Barrow County jail during the sentencing phase of the trial. The jury also heard from members of Cochran's family.
Madison called several former inmates who said Cochran asked them to hide a gun in the Barrow County jail. Another man testified that Cochran had asked him to mail him a handcuff key.
Madison said these planned escape attempts are reasons Cochran should be given the death penalty and not life in prison.
Before presenting his witnesses, Harvey asked the judge for a directed verdict of life in prison without parole. He said aggravated circumstances necessary for a death penalty sentence had not been introduced. Madison said that the state has proved murder that involved battery. The judge overruled Harvey's request the attorney called several witnesses, including Cochran's family members.
Cochran's brother, Lawrence, a 54-year-old Hall County businessman, spoke on his family, which includes nine siblings and an 82-year-old mother. He said he is a Christian man and has tried to "extend that to Wayne many times."
"I can't conceive of him committing the murder," he said. "If he did this crime, may God have mercy on his soul. That is his only hope at this point...I beg the mercy of the court not to give him the death penalty."
Cocrhan's brother-in-law, Michael Reed, also asked the court to spare his life and said, "We all love him."
Cochran also again took the stand during the sentencing phase and said he has not committed any violent offenses, other than the North Carolina robbery.
Madison told the jurors that the sentencing will "take a lot of courage" and said they had seen "the darkest faces of evil they will ever encounter in their lives."
"This man will never, ever stop," he said. "I don't ask you for the death penalty for vengeance­God will take care of that...There is one reason I'm going to ask for the ultimate penalty­for the safety of every one of us. This man is a danger to every member of our society.
He pointed out that Warren's life meant nothing to Cochran.
"Look in your heart and do what's right," he said.
JUDGE SPEAKS
After the sentence was given, the judge addressed Warren's family.
"I'm sorry that your wife and daughter came to our community seeking peace and happiness and solitude and, instead found violence, pain and tragic death," he said.
He also addressed Cochran's family.
"I hope you can find some peace and trust in the system," he said. "...I hope you avoid anger and anonymity toward those who only sought peace."
He also offered thanks to Madison and Harvey, court officials and law enforcement officers and jurors.
"You deserve our gratitude and respect," he told the jurors.
Additional reporting by reporter Jana Adams, who attended Friday's court proceedings.


Jackson grows 38% during '90s
Jackson County added over 11,000 people during the last decade, growing to a population of 41,589 according to early results of the 2000 census. That amounted to a growth of 38 percent for the decade in Jackson County, a strong performance, but not the highest growth rate in the Northeast Georgia area.
Overall, Jackson County moved up two notches in the state, from being the 46th largest county in 1990 to 44th in 2000. Georgia has a total of 159 counties.
The census results will have a tremendous impact on the county in the coming years as adjustments are made in a variety of political and financial arenas. The new numbers will be used this summer in a special legislative session to adjust the boundaries of state and federal legislative districts. The numbers will also be used to change the boundaries of local town wards and districts and will be used to reallocate how sales taxes are divided in the county. A variety of state and federal grant funds are also tied to the census results.
SURROUNDING AREA
Of the seven counties bordering Jackson, four had stronger growth rates during the past decade. Neighboring Barrow County's growth during the last 10 years was 55 percent and for the first time Barrow surpassed Jackson County's population at 46,144. Hall County had a growth of 45 percent, to 139,277 people while Gwinnett County continued its growth with a phenomenal 66 percent jump in population to a total of 588,448. Although smaller, Banks County's rate of growth squeaked by Jackson County at 39 percent, giving Banks a total population of 14,422.
Clarke County saw a slower rate of growth during the decade at only 15 percent to a total of 101,489 people. Madison County had a growth rate of 22 percent to 25,730 people while Franklin County grew 21 percent to 20,285 people.
TOWN GROWTH
One of the key impacts of the new census numbers will be to readjust the formulas of how sales tax money is split in Jackson County. Although all towns in Jackson County showed growth, their growth relative to the other towns and to the unincorporated areas varied.
The biggest impact of the new numbers will be in Commerce where that town's population as a percentage of the total fell by one point, from 13.7% in 1990 to 12.7% in 2000. That means the town will get one percent less of the county's sales tax income for the remainder of the decade. Other towns will get more of the sales tax pie, or about the same as during the 1990s.

Northeast Georgia County Growth Rates
Percent Total
County Growth Population
Gwinnett 66% 588,448
Barrow 55% 46,144
Hall 45% 139,277
Banks 39% 14,422
Jackson 38% 41,589
Madison 22% 25,730
Franklin 21% 20,285
Clarke 15% 101,489

Town Growth In Jackson County
Town 2000 1990 Change
Arcade 1,643 697 136%
*Braselton 1,206 418 188%
Commerce 5,292 4,108 29%
Hoschton 1,070 642 67%
Jefferson 3,825 2,763 38%
*Maysville 1,247 728 71%
Nicholson 1,247 535 133%
Pendergrass 431 298 45%
Talmo 477 189 152%
(*These towns have populations that extend into counties other than Jackson.)

Towns In Jackson County As
A Percentage Of Total Population
Town 2000 1990
County Population 41,589 30,005
Arcade 4% 2.3%
*Braselton 3% 1.4%
Commerce 12.7% 13.7%
Hoschton 2.6% 2.1%
Jefferson 9.2% 9.2%
*Maysville 3% 2.4%
Nicholson 3% 1.8%
Pendergrass 1% 1%
Talmo 1.1% .6%
(*These towns have populations that extend into counties other than Jackson.)



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Nicholson
To Vote On
Zoning Monday

NICHOLSON -- An issue that has led to many heated debates throughout Nicholson will finally come to a vote Monday night.
Council member Margaret Ward plans to make a motion at the city council meeting Monday night that zoning be approved for the town. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at City Hall. No public input on zoning will be taken, as numerous hearings on the matter have already been held.
At a work session Monday night, Ward said her motion would be as follows: "In order to protect the integrity of development in the city and to provide for future growth, I make a motion to adopt the Nicholson zoning ordinance and map."
"I've always believed in zoning," Ward said. "I worked really hard for it when Geneva (Nix) was mayor. I'm doing it solely to protect our community because we've grown 133 percent. We're one of the top-growing little towns in Jackson County. Some growth is good. Some growth is not good. We've heard so much about the people who are against zoning. We've not heard anything about the people who are for zoning and that is what started this whole thing--a petition with over 300 signatures on it (of people favoring zoning)."
Ward said numerous work sessions on zoning have been held since May 1999.
The council reviewed requests from citizens on the zoning classifications given to their property. Seven of nine requests for changes were penciled into the map.
And while Mayor Ronnie Maxwell and new members Billy Kitchens and Chuck Wheeler have all opposed zoning, none of them had anything negative to say about zoning Monday night. They all participated in discussion of changing zoning classifications.
Nonetheless, the balance on the council is split evenly between pro-zoning and anti-zoning sentiments, which leaves the matter in the hands of Maxwell. Maxwell defeated six other candidates for mayor in November by running an anti-zoning campaign.
Also at the work session, the council discussed the verbal agreement with the city water authority and agreed to create a written agreement. Two members of the council will meet with representatives of the water authority to discuss this matter further. The council must also designate a member to sign off on invoices submitted from the authority.
The city council serves as a conduit for special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) revenue from the county that goes to the city water authority.
For the rest of this story, see this weeks Commerce News.


Fletcher: Brace Yourselves For
5-Mill Property Tax Hike In The Fall
Jackson County taxpayers who enjoyed a five-mill rollback of their county property tax rate last fall should not fantasize about getting that rate again this year.
Harold Fletcher, chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, served notice at the Commerce Kiwanis Club's meeting last Thursday that the 2000 property tax rollback will be unrolled this year.
Before leaving office in December, commissioners Jerry Waddell and Pat Bell liquidated a multi-million dollar county reserve fund to reduce the maintenance and operation tax rate from its 7.58-mill level in 1999 to 2.58 mills.
"Be aware of the fact that it's not going to happen this year," Fletcher told the Kiwanis Club. "It will probably go back to 7.5 mills. To fund government, you have to deliver the number of dollars to do that. I just wanted to prepare you for that."
Fletcher also predicted that the county's annual budget will soar over the next decade, a result of the county's rapid growth.
"In 1988 when I left office (as a commissioner), our budget was $8 million. It's $28 million now," Fletcher said. "I would expect it to be in the $75 million to $100 million range by the end of the decade."
The chairman, who is a member of the club, presented a program at the request of member Paul Christensen, who asked Fletcher to respond to a prediction published recently in local newspapers that Jackson might well be Georgia's fastest-growing county in 10 years.
Fletcher answered by pointing out that the county, with an estimated population of 40,000 today, grew by 32 percent in the decade of the 1990s, and is projected to grow to a population of between 65,000 and 75,000 in the next decade.
"Based on the subdivisions and the growth we've seen in the last couple of years, I think that may be a little conservative," he stated.
As for rapid growth, the chairman predicted, "You haven't seen anything yet." He said the county's challenge "will be how well we are prepared to service the needs of these people and still maintain the quality of life we desire."
Asked where he expected the growth to occur, Fletcher pointed to the Jefferson and West Jackson areas, but said the location of county sewer lines could be a major determining factor (they are planned for the Jefferson and West Jackson areas).
Fletcher also touched on various projects, including the construction of access roads along Interstate 85, a new access road to the Tanger II outlet center and the expansion of the runway at the county airport from 4,000 feet to 5,000 feet.
The first access road to be paved, he said, is Progress Road, which runs parallel to I-85 on the south side from U.S. 441 to Ridgeway Road.
"We hope it will bring in more economic development in terms of industry and commercial," he said.
As for the airport expansion, Fletcher indicated that several local industries have expressed interest in housing corporate aircraft at the airport ­ if the runway is expanded so they can land. Such airplanes, valued at $7-8 million, would produce significant tax income, he suggested.
Fletcher also pointed out that county leaders plan to address growth topics at a retreat in the near future.
"We need to explore and get some idea of how we want to see Jackson County grow," he said. "We're playing a lot of catch-up and we have a very narrow window in which to try to address that."