News from Banks County...

April 18, 2001


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OPINION

Letter to the Editor
Approves of proposed flag

I applaud the Banks County Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Commissioners for their promotion of the new county flag.
Unlike the less than honorable tactics Roy Barnes and his co-conspirators used to push the new state flag through, the Banks County officials left it up to the people to decide.


Phillip Sartain
A bedtime story

Without a doubt, bedtime is the single most important part of any day. You can always count on pulling back the covers as a way to tune out all the toil and trouble of life. But even while it is a special time, going to bed has its own demands. And that includes a whole host of peculiar bedtime rituals.



SPORTS

Leopards take eighth in a row
Banks shuts out Towns for 10th region win. After eight region wins in a row, the Banks County Leopards sit at second place in Region 8-AA. The Leopards (14-3, 10-2) will have a shot at inching closer to first when they host top-ranked GAC Friday.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
Overtime pervasive in Jefferson pay
An Analysis
BY MIKE BUFFINGTON
Pay scales in the City of Jefferson have been controversial for years. That's especially true for department heads, where infighting and bickering over compensation has led to a number of heated council meetings.

Commissioners Kill Steel Plant Rezoning, Endorse Apartments
JEFFERSON -- A request to rezone 30 acres on Hwy. 441 in Center for industrial use was denied by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners Monday night, but the commissioners voted to endorse a proposal for a 120-unit apartment complex on Progress Road near Commerce.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Fortson case set to open May 14
The trial of accused murderer Tracy Fortson is scheduled to begin May 14 in Madison County. But a change of venue could still be in the works.

Search under way for new Comer principal
A committee headed by Robert Harrison has received over 20 applications for the job of principal of Comer Elementary School.


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'I relive that fire over and over!'

Gertrude and Alvin Williams, parents of the volunteer firefighter who lost his life fighting the church blaze set by convicted arsonist Jay Scott Ballinger, were present at Ballinger's hearing Friday. Ballinger pled guilty to five charges of arson, including the one set at New Salem United Methodist Church where their son, Loy Williams Jr., was killed as the roof collapsed in the early hours of January 1, 1999. Loy's aunt, Hazel Lacount, could barely hold back the tears as they talked about the fire.

Ballinger pleads guilty to arson
Arson counts include December 1998 fire at Banks County church.
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 60 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 courtroom as Ballinger entered, handcuffed, 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 interstate 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, itmay or may not contain a "no parole clause," according to U.S. 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 interstate 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 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 fire to 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.


DA discusses ordinances for
county property at Banks Crossing

The Banks County Development Authority is apparently gearing up for future growth behind the huge Wal-Mart store at Banks Crossing.
At a meeting Thursday morning, the DA discussed covenants and ordinances for the 19.35 acres behind Wal-Mart at Banks Crossing that the county owns. The board had reviewed ordinances for different industrial parks throughout the state and found the ordinances for the Green Valley Industrial Park in Spalding County to be the one that most suited their needs.
Jack Banks, chairman of the Banks County Development Authority, noted that the length of the ordinances is short enough that someone who wants to build on the property could come to the DA and know what is expected of them.
The ordinances cover such things as the type of building material, types of businesses and landscaping.
The board took the time during its Thursday morning meeting to discuss how the Green Valley ordinances should be adapted to meet the needs of Banks County.
The Green valley ordinances state that all buildings in the property be of masonry construction, or the equivalent. The board discussed if they wanted to maintain the same standard.
"A brick building and a metal building just don't go together," said Banks.
Board member Thomas Wilson replied, "If a business wants to move to Banks County, we don't want to lose the business because we are strong on masonry."
The board agreed but no final decision was made.
How strict to make the ordinances was a topic of debate. Kenneth Brady, Chairman of the Banks County Board of Commissioners, was sitting in on the meeting and noted that business that want to locate in Banks County "are going to want you (the county)to give them something."
Jerry Boling argued that "Companies want regulations."
Boling argued that someone who is investing millions of dollars wants to know that their investment will be cared for.
The board agreed that ordinances needed to be in place but that they should be reasonable without being too lenient.
"Once you give a little, someone else is going to be asking for a little bit more", said Banks.
Lighting was the next Green valley ordinance that the DA approached. It was agreed that lighting consistent with public safety was the requirement that was needed.
The board approached the ordinance concerning cutting trees on the property and agreed that the Green Valley ordinance that said that no tree with a six inch diameter that is 12 inches above the ground could be cut was too restrictive. It was suggested that this ordinance be changed to a six inch diameter four feet off the ground. No final decision was made.
The last item the board discussed did not concern the ordinances for the 19.35 acres at Banks Crossing, but instead the best way to meet the goal of bringing industry into the county.
Boling said "We are trying to bring in a tax base for the county. We should have a full time person, like many other counties, that is trying to recruit business and bring in money."
Brady asked how much this would cost the county and the board discussed how best to have this question answered. It was agreed that an investigation into the amount of time an individual would work in this capacity as well as the cost of employing this person would begin.

 

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Alto seeks water from Demorest
The Alto City Council is looking for a source of water.
The council had made plans to seek surplus water from the City of Demorest, but it was turned down. The Alto council sent the contract to the City of Demorest for its approval, but the contract was turned down, said Mayor Jack King. He said the council is now considering negotiating with Banks County for an emergency water supply.
At the city council meeting on April 3, the council discussed the matter. The council had drafted a contract for the agreement between the two cities and voted unanimously to approve it once an amendment was added that it would be a source of emergency water only.
Mayor King told the council that the Habersham Water Authority has set aside a certain amount of money to pay for the water connection with Demorest and he would like the council to accept the money. King was pre-planning in case a shortage of water in Demorest occurred. The connection would allow Alto to purchase water from the water authority.
Council member Donald Wade made a motion that the town pay for the connection so that the city would have control of the on-off connection. Others voting in favor of the motion were: Susan Wade, Gary Terrill and Audrey Turner. Carolyn Gulley voted against it.


Chamber planting day set Saturday
The Banks County Chamber of Commerce is planning a planting day on Saturday.
Chamber member Leslie George reported at last week's breakfast meeting that a $250 grant from Home Depot had been received to purchase plants for the front of the historic courthouse and courthouse. She asked that members bring shovels, gloves and roto-tillers with them to help in the planting on Saturday, April 21, at 9 a.m.
In other business at the meeting, chamber president Bonnie Johnson thanked everyone for voting in the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax election. Board of commissioners chairman Kenneth Brady said that only 82 people voted against it.
Johnson also thanked Rep. Jeanette Jamieson for all she has done for Banks County.


Maysville's garden party ahead Sat.
The Maysville Community Improvement Club will sponsor a garden party from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the city's Veterans' Park.
The day's highlights will include presentations by Master Gardeners, as well as offerings of annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs and other garden items from local greenhouse growers.
The Linger Longers will provide bluegrass music at 11 a.m. and the Maysville Police Department will give a bike safety course at 2 p.m. There will also be a seed "sell and swap" and a children's corner.
Contact Candice Gunn at 652-2967.


Correction on
shooting caption
A photo caption on a page one story last week about a shooting in Banks County contained an error. It incorrectly stated that the house shown was the site of a "Hwy. 59 murder." It should have stated "Hwy. 59 shooting." It was not a murder and no one has been charged in the incident. We apologize for the error.