News from Banks County...

May 9, 2001


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OPINION
Angela Gary
A day at the lake

Donald and Daffy hang out together. They swim around the lake, occasionally getting out to waddle around its banks.


Todd Simons
The golfing nun

I learned to play golf from a nun.


SPORTS
The tourney is coming

Friday will mark a milestone in recent Banks County baseball history.
For the first time in at least 20 years, the school will host a state playoff baseball game.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
Woman dumped on roadside
A woman was abducted at a Clarke County night spot in the early hours of Sunday morning by a man she didn't know who put her in the trunk of a car and beat her before dumping her on the roadside in Jackson County.

Adamson rules in favor of county on sewerage line dispute
Judge Robert Adamson issued a declaratory judgment Friday morning permitting surveyors from the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority to go onto the property of three residents fighting the new county sewerage line.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Madison Co. Relay for Life raises $116,000 in fight against cancer
At least 125 cancer survivors, along with their caregivers, family and friends, took to the track at the county recreation department last Friday evening to begin Madison County's third annual Relay for Life.

Fortson trial opens Monday
The murder trial of Tracy Fortson is set to open Monday, beginning with jury selection. Fortson is accused of killing her ex-boyfriend Doug Benton of Colbert, leaving his body encased in cement in a wooded area in Oglethorpe County, then attempting to burn his house down to destroy evidence.


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STILL FOUND

Law enforcement officials found evidence of a moonshine still and a methamphetamine lab at this Rattletrap Road residence in Banks County. Sheriff Charles Chapman (front) is shown at the scene of the still in the back yard of the home. For additional photos see this week's Banks County News.

Drug bust: Harold Ballew Jr. charged
A Banks County man was arrested Friday after law enforcement officials found evidence of a moonshine still, a methamphetamine laboratory and a stash of firearms, including a machine gun, at his residence.
Harold Ray Ballew Jr., 47, Commerce, was charged with possession of explosive devices, criminal attempt to manufacture methamphetamine, possession of non-tax- paid whiskey and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The Banks County Sheriff's Office, assisted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms division and the Northeast Georgia Task Force searched Ballew's 526 Rattletrap Road, Commerce, residence Friday. He was not at home when officers arrived with the search warrant, but arrived after they started the search.
The search came after law enforcement officers received information about the possible criminal activity.
"Through investigative intelligence we received and substantiated, the search warrant was conducted of the residence, the outbuildings and all of the premises," said Sheriff Charles Chapman. "We seized 17 firearms, one of which was a fully automatic weapon (machine gun)...We also seized a large quantity of black powder and other bomb paraphernalia."
No bombs were found at the home, but the sheriff said that the materials used to make a bomb were found.
For more on this arrest, see this week's Banks County News.




Computers, new employees, salary increases among requests at hearings
Computers, additional help and salary increases for employees are among the requests the Banks County Board of Commissioners heard Friday when it began budget hearings.
The BOC, which is in the process of setting the county's budget for the coming year, held its first hearing Friday with some of the department heads that run the county. The BOC will continue the Friday sessions until the commissioners have heard from all those that deal with part of the budgeted money.
Each department head entered the meeting with the amount and purpose of money that they propose to spend in the next year. Most department heads began by requesting cost of living increases for the employees within their department. The commissioners had decided that three percent would be given to county employees across the board. Outside of that, requests ranged from a new telephone to a new truck.
TAX APPRAISER
Tax appraiser Andy Scroggs said that his department needs to invest $20,000 for a new computer because the one that is in use now has a malfunctioning tape drive and back-ups can't be done. Some $10,000 of this amount was set aside for a computer last year, it was reported.
TAX COMMISSIONER
Tax commissioner Margaret Ausburn also requested a computer. She explained that the four terminals that were installed in the courthouse are at the counter where the public comes to pay for their motor vehicle tag. She said her office could use one away from the front window where large clients could be handled.
She also requested two cordless phones that would free up tangled lines and allow clerks to take a phone with them when they leave to check records, for instance.
PROBATE JUDGE
Probate judge Betty Thomas told the commissioners not to "expect major expenses" from her.
"The only thing we need is a typewriter," she said.
Thomas said she had taken the actual expenses for 2000 and projected it to be the same for the coming year. In 2000, the department spent $102,985.
There is an election coming in November and Thomas did have to budget for a small election.
MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Magistrate judge Henry D. Banks opened his session by saying, "I want everything just like last year, except salaries." Salaries increased the prior budget of $76,930 to a proposed $90,390 for the budget under consideration.
SUPERIOR COURT CLERK
Superior court clerk Tim Harper recommended that the commissioners create a position for an employee to run the microfilming machine that the county owns. The only method of preservation that the state recognizes is microfilming and the county needs most of its records microfilmed, he said.
Harper also reported that the state used to deliver the county $10,000 to $20,000 per month in money collected from probation charges. The county is now receiving approximately $300 per month because the fines and fees are not being collected, he said. The commissioners discussed getting this problem resolved by attempting to have the commissioners and judges write letters to the state agency.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
District attorney Tim Madison asked that his assistant's wages be brought up to a competitive level. The assistant district attorney made $36,000 last year and Madison would like to see the salary raised to $40,000.
CORONER
Coroner Tommy Herbert will receive a state-mandated salary above just receiving death benefits. Herbert will earn $200 per month in next year's budget.
Herbert also requested $1,000 for supplies, including, "much-needed body bags."
BUILDING INSPECTOR
Building inspector Tony Vento is using a car that needs to be repaired or replaced, it was reported. BOC chairman Brady explained that," Tony goes to developments where there are no roads. When it rains, he has to wear rubber boots and he needs a four-wheel drive."
Vento had been shopping Ford Ranger pick-up trucks but Brady suggested that a heavier truck might serve Banks County better in a major ice storm where it could be used for towing.
The building inspector's proposed budget for the coming year is $106,523.
RECYCLING
Leslie George, recycling center coordinator, said that the recycling center operator gets to work 15 hours per week now and that should be raised to 32 hours per week. The recycling department also requested a new copy machine and repairs to the old jail where it has its offices.
For much of the other negotiable expenses, the department receives a reimbursement grant, which means the county has to spend the money to receive the money. This grant will cover education outreach and "adopt-a-highway" signs, officials said.
WATER/WASTE MANAGEMENT
Water/waste management director Gary Harper said his department is "flushing and flowing right along". He did express the need to get a system to stop people from stealing water out of the county reservoir. There have been reports of people using hoses to fill their swimming pools and now there is no system by which one department is responsible for arresting these individuals, he said. There is a state law against stealing water, but the county has no fines in place, and water employees don't have the power to arrest citizens.
"That person needs to have a badge," Brady said.
Other than salary increases everything was about the same as it had been in previous years. Revenue increases could occur due to adding control on summer water usage, Harper proposed.
SUPERIOR COURT
The Superior court is a place where one bad crime can really mess up a budget, but Judge Robert Adamson said it is best to budget as they have in the past and not expect a death penalty case where attorneys have to be appointed and jurors kept by the county for extended periods.
Adamson did report that less than 50 percent of summoned jurors are showing up for trials. Bench warrants are not being sent out because the county feels that individuals may not be receiving there summons. Adamson suggested that a survey be done, which would cost about $3,500.
"We save $2,500 to $3,000 when we call off a jury," he said. "We'll save $3,500 in a year's time."
RECREATION
The recreation department has installed new lights at the ball fields and will put up plastic guards across the tops of their fences to protect people from getting cut by the wire at the fence tops, it was reported. The cost will be approximately $11,000 this year and the guards can be put in place for less than $1,000. Because of the lights, utilities will go up, leaders said.
The department also needs a storage shed which the county can for $4,000 on a existing concrete slab. Barry Brooks, the director of the recreation department, said the county needs a picnic area, but to save money the county would like to take donations of these tables.
Chairman Brady said that "tables could be purchased from Scott Wheatley, the Future Farmers of America director at Banks County High School, for $75 each," and the county would take as many as it can get.

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Rodeo ahead this weekend
A Banks County Middle School sixth grader, 12-year-old Casey Pardue, will be one of the featured trick and fancy riders performing in a U.S. Cowboy Tour Rodeo Friday and Saturday, May 11 and 12, in Homer.
In addition to the Gillsville girl, rodeo professionals from across the southeast will show off their bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling and other rodeo skills when the rodeo hits the horse arena in Homer.
The rodeo will be presented by the Banks Crossing Saddle Club, which includes membership from surrounding counties, and 4L Rodeo Company, Inc., with gates opening at 5 p.m. and the rodeo starting at 8 p.m. each evening at the arena at the Banks County Recreation Department located on Thompson Road off Hwy. 441 in Homer.
Rodeo events will include bareback bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping and a new event, cowgirl break-away roping, as well as bull riding and barrel racing. A raffle will be held, with at least $100 worth of donated items given away nightly. The event program, which includes more than 60 pages listing rodeo sponsors, will serve as giveaway tickets.
Also, a special "Cowboy Church" will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday on the rodeo grounds.
This is the first professional rodeo to visit this area, saddle club members say.
Seating is available for 2,200-plus each night. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children ages 6 to 12. Children 5 and under enter for free. There are no reserved seats. Seating will be first-come, first-served. Advance tickets are available at Mayer Chevrolet, Boots, Etc., Redstone Equipment, McGahee-Griffin-Stewart Funeral Home and Camelot Homes. The Banks County FFA will also have tickets, with $1 from each ticket members sell going toward FFA funds.
For more information about the rodeo, see this week's Banks County News.


Homer citizen says property zoned wrong
Bobby Blackwell, Homer, presented an argument to the Homer City Council at its meeting Tuesday night stating that his business was improperly zoned community business (CB) instead of highway business (HB).
Blackwell told the council that all of the surrounding businesses at the intersection of Hwy. 98 and 441 are classified as highway businesses with the exception of the Farm Bureau. He said he had attended two of the three zoning hearings and it was his understanding that his property was going to be zoned HB.
Mack Garrison, who headed the zoning committee, said that was also his understanding and that the CB classification was merely an oversight.
City attorney Gary Freeman explained to Blackwell and the council that the only way the property could be changed was for Blackwell to go through the process for rezoning. A notice would have to put in the paper for 15 days and a sign will have to put on the property in question letting the public know about the rezoning request. Freeman said Blackwell will have to fill out an application, attend two public hearings and pay any fees the city requires for the rezoning. Freeman said that Maysville charges $250 to rezone property, which covers the cost of advertising in the paper, lawyer's fees if one were needed and paperwork.
Mayor Leon Ray suggested that the council wait to set rezoning fees for next month so that Blackwell's property could be rezoned without costing him anything. Ray said delaying setting the fee would allow others to come and look at the official map to make sure their property is zoned correctly. They could appeal to the planning commission before its June meeting and not pay any fee for the rezoning. Councilman Ray Broome agreed with Ray and tabled setting rezoning fees until next month.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Banks County News.