News from Madison County...

May 14, 2001


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillespie
Church and state separation not in Constitution

The first line in the Bill of Rights reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Margie Richards
For Mother's Day

Mother's Day is this Sunday, and although my mother is no longer alive, I still think of her often.


SPORTS
Boys end season in Elite 8

The Madison County boys' tennis teams advanced to the state's Elite 8 for the first time in school history last week, before falling to Westminster Monday.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.



News from...
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.


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UPDATE:
Fortson trial postponed
The murder trial of Tracy Lea Fortson, which was scheduled to start today (Monday) in Madison County Superior Court, has been postponed because reports from the GBI crime lab were not received in time to proceed with the case.
No new trial date has been set, but Superior Court Judge Lindsey Tise is expected to decide within a week when the case will be held. The judge said the case will be rescheduled for no sooner than 30 days and no later than 60 days. Tise has not ruled on whether the case will be held in Madison County. Fortson's attorney, Tom Camp, filed a change of venue request earlier this year, asking that the proceedings be moved up to 150 miles away due to pre-trial publicity. Tise reserved a ruling on the change of venue request until jury selection.
Fortson, a former Oglethorpe County sheriff's deputy, 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. She pled not guilty in November to malice murder, felony murder, attempted arson and two counts of aggravated assault. Fortson is being on a $500,000 bond.
The web site will be updated as more facts are available.



'OUR BIGGEST CHEERLEADER'


Relay for Life chairperson Louise Watson (R) presented a plaque to honorary chairperson Augusta Jenkins, a cancer survivor, at last weekend's Relay event to raise funds and support for the fight against cancer. Watson called Jenkins the county's "biggest cheerleader."



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.
This year's Relay for Life, which wrapped up Saturday morning, raised more than $116,000 for the American Cancer Society, as well as heightening awareness about cancer and honoring those who have survived and those who have died from the disease.
The event also raised well over the $100,000 goal set by event organizers.
Louise Watson, who was serving as event chairperson for a second time, credits the hard work of many Relay teams and individuals for surpassing this year's fund-raising goal for the second year in a row.
The county collected $92,000 last year, almost doubling its goal of $48,000.
Honorary chairperson for this year was Miss Augusta Jenkins, a cancer survivor whom Watson dubbed as the county's "biggest cheerleader."
"Her biggest fight was cancer," Watson said.
"You're here to walk proudly with friends and survivors," Jenkins said, speaking to the crowd at the Relay's opening ceremonies Friday evening. "I am among the most dedicated, compassionate and giving folks there are."
"To matter, to count, to stand for something - is everything," she added.
Watson said there were many more people coming to the Relay "just to visit," participating in activities and patronizing the many team tents set up inside the Recreation Department's quarter-mile track.
For information about the relay awards, see this week's Madison County Journal.


County to take over Athens water lines in Hull in August
Madison County's new water system will take operational control of the portion of the Hull water system currently operated by Athens on Aug. 1 of this year.
The pipes, meters, fire hydrants and contracts with 180 customers in the city of Hull and along Glenn Carrie Road are being purchased from Athens-Clarke County for $507,000. Water for the system will be supplied from the new water tank behind the Hull/Sanford Elementary School.
During the Industrial Authority's Tuesday morning meeting, chairman John Scoggins said up to 63 requests for new water service are in hand and more are expected.
He told commissioners Monday night that he expects the system to pay for itself by the time the system has 400 customers, which he believes shouldn't take long.
Athens-Clarke has refused to add any new customers to the line, making it clear that they wanted out of Madison County.
Athens-Clarke will take readings of meters on July 31. These readings will be used to determine final bills from Athens-Clarke and the starting point for Madison County's records.
As part of the agreement with Athens-Clarke, the Industrial Authority will assume the unpaid debt and interest due from the city of Hull. The $36,000 principle will be considered a part of the purchase price.
Negotiations with the city will determine the terms for repayment of the $19,000 in accumulated interest.
Required intergovernmental agreements between the Industrial Authority, the city of Hull and Madison County Board will be completed by the end of May.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County Journal.


Officials hope new well will solve Colbert's water pressure problems
Colbert's water problems should be solved shortly by bringing a new well on line. The well is being installed by Piedmont Water off the Foote-McClellan Road.
The company is waiting for approval from EPD for the design of pipes to connect it to the system. Mayor John Waggoner said the addition of the new well to the system should eliminate the late-afternoon periods of low water pressure.
Other efforts to increase the city's water supply were not as successful. Redrilling of the failed well at the city park failed to produce usable water. To replace the well, Piedmont Water will connect two nearby wells, each yielding approximately 30 gallons per minute. By connecting the two, only one well house and treatment facility will have to be maintained. EPD approval will be required before the combined wells can be put on line.
Mayor Waggoner asked for any suggestions of locations where new wells may be constructed within the city limits. According to Waggoner, new Madison County rules will prohibit the city from drilling new wells outside the city.
In other actions, a contract with the Madison County Recreation Department for use of the old Colbert gym is near completion. Work has started on grinding off old paint from the Colbert Depot in preparation for repairing and repainting.

 


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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.
Attorneys were in court Tuesday arguing the legality of a judge's Feb. 28 decision to close pre-trial hearings in the case.
As of press time, presiding Judge Lindsey Tise had not issued a ruling in the matter.
Tise, District Attorney Bob Lavender, defense attorney Tom Camp, and attorney James Ellington, representing Athens Newspapers, Inc., met in Madison County Superior Court Tuesday morning to argue the legality of a ruling from Tise to close all pre-trial hearings in the case in an attempt to help ensure a fair trial for Fortson.
Fortson's case has garnered considerable attention from both the public and area media since she was charged last June with killing Benton at his Colbert residence.
Fortson, who was in court for part of Tuesday's proceedings wearing an orange Franklin County jail jumpsuit, pled not guilty in November to malice murder, felony murder, attempted arson and two counts of aggravated assault.
The judge made the closure ruling in the case at the Feb. 28 pre-trial hearing to hear a "Motion to Suppress" request by the defense.
Camp admitted that other issues were also heard during the closed hearing, including a request for a "Change of Venue" for the trial.
According to court papers filed by Ellington, the closed meeting lasted more than three hours.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County Journal.


Several county agencies moving
to new offices

Several Madison County agencies will be moving to new offices over the next few weeks.
The Industrial Authority - Chamber of Commerce offices will move from the Strickland House to the old courthouse. The move is being made necessary by plans to widen Hwy 98 to accommodate traffic in and out of the recreation department, library, senior center, Fine Finish and the new jail.
The Strickland House will be moved across the road from its present location and restored for future use.
The Clean and Beautiful office will be relocated from its present location on Hwy. 29 North of Danielsville to the new building at the transfer station. The new county water and sewage office will be located in the old Clean and Beautiful office.
"We need an occupant for the old courthouse," said Commission Chairman Wesley Nash. "An empty building is hard to maintain."
The new tenants will use the old probate judge's offices. Nash said he would encourage other civic organizations to renovate and utilize other rooms in the building.