News from Banks County...

April 16, 2001


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OPINION

Angela Gary
Margaret Mitchell visited Braselton

Margaret Mitchell is one of the most famous authors of all time. Most everybody knows that she wrote "Gone With the Wind." Many people also likely know her life was cut short when she was hit by a car when walking across Peachtree Street in Atlanta.


Phillip Sartain
The black and blue division

I have bruises all over my legs. It was hard to figure out at first. Then I realized what was happening - I was banging into furniture around the house. It seems the older I get, the clumsier I get.



SPORTS
Leopards on a region roll

With the season half-way behind them, the Leopards will look to better their 7-2 region record during the second half of the season.
"If we can duplicate or improve our record in the second half of the season, we will be in good playoff contention," head baseball coach Mike Williams said.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY

Third landfill request goes to county
Rezoning to be on April 26 planning commission agenda.
A third rezoning request from developers trying to locate a landfill in Jackson County will go before the planning commission at its April meeting.

Split Council Endorses Duplex Development
The Commerce City Council was split 4-2, but a Mississippi developer Monday night won the city's endorsement for a project that could place up to 150 units of duplexes on Georgia 98 at the U.S. 441 bypass.


News from
MADISON COUNTY

Where the lines are drawn
County leaders want the state to include all of Madison County, Oglethorpe County and part of Clarke County in one district in the state House of Representatives when new district lines are drawn this summer.

Debate continues on county water management issue
The debate continued Monday on whether the Madison County commissioners should give more power to the Industrial Authority in handling county water services.


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SPEAKING ON FLAG ISSUE

Willie Bell Rucker of Banks County is one of several citizens who spoke on the proposed county flag at the board of commissioners meeting Tuesday night. A large crowd was on hand for the meeting, with more than 40 minutes of discussion being held on the flag proposal, which was tabled by the BOC.

Ballinger pleads guilty to arson in Banks County church fire
By Shar Porier
Jay Scott Ballinger, an admitted Luciferian, pled guilty Friday on five counts of arson, including the December 31, 1998 fire at a Banks County church.
Federal Superior Court Judge William C. O'Kelley will sentence Ballinger in the next 30 to sixty days.
All of the charges he pled to involve church fires he set in middle and north Georgia. The Banks County fire was at New Salem United Methodist Church on New Year's Eve 1998. Volunteer firefighter Loy Williams Jr. was killed while fighting the blaze. Four of Williams' family members attended the hearing -- his parents, Alvin

and Gertrude Williams, his aunt, Hazel Lacount, and cousin, Rodney Lacount. They sat quietly, tearfully, at the front of the court room as Ballinger

entered, hand-cuffed, head-down, guarded by three U.S. Marshals.
Also present were Banks County Fire Chief Perry Dalton, Deputy Fire Chief

John Creasy, Lieutenant David Martin and Captain Chuck Bray who had been part of the team fighting the blaze in the cold morning hours of January 1,

1999. Bray was one of three injured in the fire.
The group sat somberly as Chief Magistrate Judge John R. Strothers Jr.

told Ballinger that the purpose of the hearing was to determine that his
guilty plea was "free and voluntary." He asked Ballinger if he knew that by pleading guilty he would be "giving up all rights to a jury trial and other

constitutional rights." The 38-year old from Indiana said, "Yes, your Honor."
Judge Strothers also said he needed to determine that Ballinger was

"mentally competent" to plead guilty. Since his incarceration, Ballinger has been receiving medication. This was of concern to Judge Strothers. The

medicinal treatment Ballinger was receiving was not "mind-altering,"

according to Ballinger's court-appointed attorney, Paul Kish. The type of

medication was not disclosed in the hearing.
Though Ballinger pled guilty to the five cases of arson, he did not plead guilty to the charge of inter-state commerce, which would make the charges federal and would make any chance of parole impossible. As the case stands now, the charges are state offenses, and, though, he

faces the possibility of life imprisonment due to the loss of one life, it

may or may not contain a "no parole clause," according to US prosecuting attorney Christopher Wray.
Wray contends Ballinger bought gasoline in a container with an Indiana credit card and drove an Indiana vehicle and used gas purchased in this

manner to set fire to churches in three states on Ballinger's way to Georgia.
The first fire in Georgia, at Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Dalton, was also started with gasoline purchased on his credit card, as were the other Georgia fires. Wray said this makes the cases fall under federal

jurisdiction as a violation of inter-state commerce law. Further, said Wray, Ballinger continued his arson spree as he headed back to Indiana, setting three fires in Kentucky, again using his credit card to purchase the gas used for the arsons.
Judge Strothers asked Wray if he had enough evidence to prosecute Ballinger under those circumstances and Wray replied, "Yes, your Honor." Wray also said that Ballinger had admitted that he burned the churches intentionally, because they were Christian churches.
Judge Strothers asked if Ballinger was a part of a group or cult of anti-Christians. Kish replied that Ballinger did "hold to independent

beliefs which are antagonistic toward churches." Judge Strothers then said, "My finding is that you are fully competent; that you are aware of the nature of the charges against you; that you voluntarily

submitted the guilty plea; that you agree your guilt is supported by facts." He also said that the plea was conditional due to the interstate commerce issue. \
"The court accepts your plea," said Judge Strothers.
Ballinger, Kish and Wray all signed the guilty plea.
Ballinger was convicted in November last year in Indianapolis on 26 arson charges of other churches he admitted setting in California, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee. He was serving 42 years on those charges when he was extradited to Georgia to face charges here, officials said.


Planners say 'No' to rezoning for day care center
BY TODD SIMONS
Plans to bring a day care center to Banks County hit a roadblock last week.
The Banks County Planning Commission recommended denial of the rezoning of 2.2 acres at the intersection of Highway 51 South and Welborn Road for the project when it met Wednesday, March 28. The request, by applicant Scott Thomas, was to change the zoning from agricultural, rural residential to C-1, neighborhood commercial for a day care center
Nick Denton spoke in favor of the rezoning. Denton's argument was centered around the growing need in Banks County for daycare.
He said, "There are 640 children in Banks County between the ages of three months and five years."
The facility that he proposed would serve 104 children in a state-funded pre-kindergarten program.
County marshal Keith Covington noted that the applicant would have to come back to propose the site be used for center. The planning commission would consider if the property is suitable for a business to be run in this agricultural neighborhood.
Dianne Westmoreland and Randall Jordan spoke in opposition to the rezoning. Westmoreland asked that those present that are opposed to the rezoning stand and eight in the audience rose in opposition. The speakers, who live near the property under consideration, brought many issues to the commission. The one issue that seemed most relevant in the denial of the application was the necessity of a deceleration lane and the influx of traffic to the intersection.
Banks County Planning Commission member Joe Barefoot stated "at 104 children, one per car and 14 employees, that is 236 comings and goings a day."
Others speaking against the plan seemed to believe that rezoning this one tract of land may lead to heavy use of the area. Jerry Gordon, who lives "one mile up the road," said during the meeting, "don't start infringing on our rural community. My cows will be looking at tractors and trailers coming out instead of the woods and creeks they are used to."
The application for rezoning was unanimously denied.
The Banks County Board of Commission will take action on this request and those listed below when it meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10.
GRIFFIN REQUEST
The commission also approved a request from Griffin Brothers Incorporated to rezone 12.93 acres on Griffin Drive from agricultural residential to M1, industrial. Billy Griffin spoke in favor of the rezoning. Griffin said that this change, "won't increase traffic, no noise or air pollution. There will be very little change."
Planner Ed Lindorme requested that the rezoning take place under the condition that Griffin deed 30 feet of land from the center of the road to the county and then plant a row of protective trees on the front and side of the property.
Lindorme said, " I know this equipment is money to you, but to some it can be an eyesore."
Griffin agreed to deed the land and plant the trees.
Commissioner Alicia Andrews requested that Griffin continue to spread gravel to keep dust down. Griffin agreed.
Griffin's brother, Jerry, spoke in opposition to the request: "I don't think any of y'all (the commissioners) would want an industrial site next to your property."
Toni Gillespie said in opposition, "They are taking our land, knocking down our fence and the equipment runs till seven or eight at night."
Commissioner Lindorme said, "You (Griffin Bros Inc.) would be grandfathered in. It wouldn't be fair to say that a man has to move because his business has grown."
Barefoot abstained from voting at the request of Billy Griffin because of his friendship with Jerry Griffin.


Man killed in shooting
A 36-year-old man died early Tuesday morning after reportedly being shot in an apparent domestic dispute late Monday night in Banks County.
West Turpin, Commerce, was shot three times by his 16-year-old stepson, according to Banks County Sheriff Charles Chapman. Chapman said Turpin, who is separated from the boy's mother, broke into the Hwy. 59 residence where she resides with her three children.
The sheriff said that the 16-year-old and two younger siblings, ages 10 and 4, were home alone when Turpin reportedly began beating on the back door and then the front door. He said that the 16-year-old said that he told his step-father to leave, but that Turpin allegedly kicked the front door down and entered the home, which is when he was shot. He was shot once in the leg and at least twice in the upper portion of his body.
The children then went to a neighbor's house and called 911. Turpin was taken to BJC Medical Center, where he died shortly afterward.
Chapman said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in to assist in the investigation, which is still ongoing. The sheriff said no charges have been filed yet in the shooting.
Chapman added that law enforcement officers had been called to the Hwy. 59 residence in the past and that Turpin had been arrested previously on domestic dispute charges.


BOC tables flag vote
Large crowd debates merits of proposed flag. Banks Countians wanting some resolution to the flag proposal left the board of commissioners meeting Tuesday night disappointed.
The BOC unanimously agreed to table taking any action on the proposed flag, which includes the St. Andrew's cross, the Banks County seal and six stars, representing each town in the county. Two of the town councils have already passed motions that they not be included on the flag (see separate story).
At the BOC meeting, the commissioners didn't comment on whether the matter would be addressed in the future, but chairman Kenneth Brady said that it would have to be voted on within 60 days or the proposal would automatically die.
"If it doesn't come back up in a 60-day period, it is dead in the water," he said. "...I have heard some conflicts. I have heard a lot of people say they would love to have a flag. Seeing that there is a lot of controversy on the flag issue, we feel we need to table it."
Several in the audience, including citizens on both sides of the issue, yelled that tabling the request was a "cop-out."
More than 80 people filled the courtroom for the BOC meeting Tuesday night. After the issue was tabled, 40 minutes of discussion was held with both supporters and opponents of the proposed flag speaking.
"The proposed flag issue has brought about division among the citizens" Willie Bell Rucker said. "Think of the economic impact the Confederate flag will have on the outlet mall if the current selected flag is adopted. Banks County needs and depends on the revenue from the outlet mall. A county flag is a good idea if the flag is a positive representation of all citizens. The Confederate flag does not meet this criteria."
Mitch Whitfield said: "Let's don't offend a few people to glorify a few people...This thing right here is insensitive. It is way too much controversy for little old Banks County to have to handle. We have bigger fish to fry, like what to do with all of these people moving in here...If we can't come up with a flag that represents everybody, let's don't have one."
Another man, who didn't identify himself, said: "I've lived 65 years in Banks County without a flag. I think I can live 65 more years without a flag. If you've got to have a flag, why don't you put the Banks County emblem on it and fly it over Banks County."
The Rev. Fred Wilson, who served 25 years in the military and now pastors a Banks County church, said: "I served under one flag and that was the American flag. All other flags...it just does not matter. It is just a piece of cloth."
SUPPORT FLAG
"One of my ancestors was a founding father of Homer," said Dennis Bellew, who organized a flag rally in Madison County. "His ancestors fought in the Civil War under the St. Andrew's cross...We do not want that flag (the proposed one) changed. We don't want this issue dropped."
R.W. Moore, Toccoa, said that flag is "not racist."
"Of the 224 years that slavery was legal in this country, only four years was under the St. Andrew's battle flag," he said. "...Two-hundred and twenty years was under what flags--the stars and stripes. So, I think your argument doesn't hold water."
Tom Spence said the flag is a "memorial to the ancestors who fought in the war."
"This flag is for people's heritage," he said. "...It is a memorial to them. The people with no heritage don't have to look at the flag...In South Carolina, the flag came down because they have a lot of descendants of carpetbaggers and scalawags who didn't have any heritage."
BOC chairman Kenneth Brady said the commissioners had heard enough comments about the flag and called for the meeting to be adjourned at 8:40 p.m. The flag issue brought several television crews to the meeting, including two from Atlanta.


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Get your baskets ready!
The Garrison family will once again be holding the annual Easter egg hunt at the Garrison Farm on Hwy. 51, across from the Banks County Primary School.
The hunt starts at 2 p.m. on Easter Sunday. Ken Cook, from Fox Channel 5, will be the emcee.
Sandra Garrison said there would be 100,000 eggs spread across the field. There will be 125 prize eggs. The finder will be able to choose from live bunnies, stuffed animals or an Easter basket.
For more information, call Sherry Ward at the Banks County Chamber of Commerce, (706) 677-2108.
Lula plans egg hunt
The Lula Area Betterment Association is planning a second annual Easter Egg Hunt.
It will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 14, beside the Lula Post Office. Prizes will be given, leaders say.
For more information, call (770) 869-1509.


Homer doesn't want to be part of county flag
Homer is the second Banks County town to pass a motion that it not be a part of the proposed county flag.
The city council unanimously agreed to a motion made by councilman John Ausburn Tuesday night that the town not be a part of the county flag project. The proposed flag includes St. Andrew's cross, the county emblem and six stars representing each town in the county.
"I think Homer ought to keep their name off of it and have nothing to do with it," Ausburn said.
Councilman Roy Broome said he agreed and seconded the motion.
Last week, the Maysville City Council passed a similar motion that it not be included on the county flag.