News from Banks County...

May 16, 2001


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OPINION
Ben Munro
Put down the cell phones!

They're almost like an essential appendage to the body now - two arms, two legs, one cell phone.
In fact, some people would probably prefer to violently lose a limb than part with those portable communication devices.

Todd Simons
Gibson's limp to homer history

I recently had the opportunity to watch a replay of one of the best baseball moments I have ever seen. For me it was not only the storybook ending of game one of the 1988 World Series, and the memories of being a young baseball zealot, but it was that I saw a moment in time when the game was transforming.


SPORTS
Diamond Leopards advance to second round

The Banks County Leopards' baseball team is still in the state tournament after beating Monticello in the first round and splitting the Tuesday doubleheader with Calhoun.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
Mar-Jac buys property in Jefferson for feed mill
Mar-Jac Poultry of Gainesville has purchased property on Benton Road near Jefferson to locate a feed mill, but no firm plans are in place as to when the facility will be built.
Pete Martin, complex manager of the Gainesville plant, said this week that the company owns several tracts of land in the Jackson-Banks area and has not decided when or where its next development will be.

Commerce Takes Aim At Rental Housing
City Council Proposes Enforcement Of Codes In Between Tenants
Like the ripples spreading outward from a stone thrown in a pond, comments made by a Commerce citizen at the April Commerce City Council meeting reverberated through the city government. And they may result in tougher standards for rental housing.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Fortson murder trial postponed
The murder trial of Tracy Lea Fortson, which was scheduled to start 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.

County passes tougher noise ordinance
Madison County commissioners unanimously approved new a noise ordinance Monday with "more teeth" than the old restrictions.
Under the new ordinance an officer may impound any "instrument, device, object or mechanism" employed to create noise which is "plainly audible" beyond a person's property line during certain hours of the night.


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RODEO COMES TO HOMER

Katie Whitfield, Homer, maneuvered her horse through the girls' barrel race at the Banks Crossing Saddle Club U.S. Cowboy Tour Rodeo held over the weekend at the Banks County Recreation Department's Horse Arena.

Sheriff seeks salary increase for deputies
BOC approves $380,000 instead of $420,000 sheriff requested.
The Banks County Board of Commissioners faced the challenge Friday of trying to come to terms with sheriff Charles Chapman on a raise for the county's deputies.
The sheriff asked for a 20 percent overall raise for salaries­some $420,000 compared to more than $350,000 budgeted last year. Instead, the BOC approved a total of $380,000 for salaries for the department­up 8.54 percent over this year.
The BOC met with the sheriff Friday in the second of a series of budget meetings with department heads.
"Our deputies need to be compensated so they can make a decent salary for the work they do," Chapman said.
The commissioners agreed with Chapman, but the increase he asked for was too much for them. The sheriff responded with disappointment to the agreement and said that he would need $60,000 budgeted for overtime. The commissioners agreed on $25,000 for overtime.
The sheriff said: "There is not one domestic violence call in the county that goes un-investigated. I'm going to investigate those whether we have the money or not. I'm going to run at least three deputies per shift, 24 hours per day plus holiday pay. The county expects it and demands it."
The commissioners had previously agreed on a three percent cost of living increase for all employees' salaries and therefore could not fall within budget if they went with the 20 percent overall budget increase for salaries the sheriff asked for.
The only other obstacle the commissioners and the sheriff had trouble with was the cost of medical care for prisoners.
"There is no way to predict medical cost in a jail," Chapman said.
Medical costs for 1999 were less than $10,000, but this past year was "high," Chapman said. The budget was set at $22,000 by the sheriff for 2002.
The sheriff's salary will be increased from $41,000 to $52,156.
EXTENSION SERVICE
John Mitchell of the county extension service asked for $44,634 to continue running the county's 4-H program for students in fourth grade through high school. Some $7,500 was earmarked for a program leader to work directly with the students 19 hours per week.
Mitchell also asked for a new fax machine and a laminator. There was also an increase in travel expense because Mitchell will serve as the spouse committee chairman at the 2002 National County Extension Convention in Savannah and will need to travel between Savannah and Banks County.
COUNTY MARSHAL
County marshal Keith Covington presented the commissioners with a budget of $38,940, which included a three percent raise in salary.
FIRE DEPARTMENT
Fire chief Perry Dalton and assistant fire chief John Creasy turned in a budget request of $1.3 million for the fire department. The increase includes a three percent salary raise for the staff, the hiring of three EMS personnel, expected price increases for gas, oil and maintenance on vehicles and equipment, building repairs and utilities.
Brady questioned the need for the additional employees and the high budget. Creasy explained that the "call volume has jumped dramatically over the last three years.
"We want to keep our response times within the national standard of eight minutes," he said.
Creasy said that 50 percent of the calls they responded to in 2000 were within eight minutes, but this year, only 41 percent are eight minutes or less. Dalton said the solution would be to get a third ambulance.
"There are times when we don't have an ambulance to answer a call," he said. "It used to happen maybe once a month, but now it's two or three times a week. We can't continue to rely on neighboring counties [to provide ambulance service] when they're having the same call volume problem."
Dalton commended his volunteers but added that they were not usually available during the peak hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m..
Rather than request a new ambulance, Creasy said that the job could be done effectively by switching three shift supervisors to serve as EMTs with a truck specially outfitted for serving medical needs. The chiefs believe this would help the problem of getting to medical calls and starting treatment while waiting for an ambulance.
"We're trying to be as creative as we can to man a third unit," Creasy said. "But it's difficult. We're looking into what other departments are doing. We are pushing medics to get in and out the hospitals quicker. But they have to wait for a doctor to sign off on the patient and that can take time, tying an ambulance up for 20 or 30 minutes. The issue is we know what will happen if we don't do it and we know what will happen if we do. It's all about time, about saving lives."
The three open positions would then have to be filled. But that, too, will be a problem, they said.
"It's a struggle to try to hire people when our pay scale is so low," said Dalton.
Brady said, "It's our obligation to make sure you have everything you need to do your job. But, we can't offer more than a three- percent raise."
The commissioners agreed that if the revenue would support it, they would approve the proposed budget request.
"If not, we'll have to get back together and knock out something else," said Brady.
911 OFFICE
Retiring 911 director Lisa McClure requested $469,428 for the department. This includes a three-percent raise for the staff. New items in the budget include software, updated phone lines and switches that would allow faster calls to neighboring counties' 911 offices.
McClure also told the commissioners that people are not putting up their 911 numbers as required. She suggested that the county buy blanks and number decals and have the building inspector, Tony Vento, issue the address plates when he assigns building and mobile home permits.
ROADS AND BRIDGES
Wayne Andrews, road supervisor, submitted a budget of $987,273 for road and bridge work over the next year. The proposal also includes a three-percent raise for the staff.




Baldwin mayor asks for resolution on closed sessions
The Baldwin mayor doesn't want to be the only one required to sign a resolution to go into closed session.
At Thursday's work session, Mayor Mark Reed said he wants a resolution drawn up concerning sessions closed to the public. The law requires that the mayor sign an affidavit stating the discussion during these "executive sessions" will only pertain to the three legal topics­personnel, real estate acquisition and legal issues.
Reed asked city attorney David Syfan to draw up a resolution that would require the council members' signatures on the affidavit to close the meeting. As it is now, only Reed's signature is required. If a subject unrelated to the closed session were to be discussed, he could be charged with false swearing.
Reed, who has attended a training seminar that dealt with the do's and don'ts of "executive" sessions, said: "Basically, we were told not to have executive sessions or closed meetings if at all possible."
Syfan agreed, saying: "The better policy is to have as few as possible. But, we have been in compliance with the law."
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business at the work session, the council:
·was given an update by city engineer Fred Hawkins on the progress of the waste water treatment plant expansion
·discussed, but took no action on, a cell phone for a city employee.
·discussed the Banks County Fire Contract.
·discussed the rezoning application of Bryan White for a mobile home subdivision.

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Rabies clinics scheduled Sat. across county
Dog and cat owners in Banks County will have multiple opportunities Saturday to get their pets vaccinated against rabies at a convenient location.
The Banks County Health Department and Commerce Veterinary Hospital will hold their annual series of rabies clinics from 1 to 6 p.m. at seven locations around the county.
Last year, Banks County had one reported case of rabies, and a Commerce man bitten by a rabid animal in Banks County had to take the series of post-exposure shots.
Pets are most frequently the link by which rabies is spread from the wild to people. But not only do the vaccinations protect people, they save animal lives. Standard operating procedure when a rabid animal is found is to destroy all of the domestic animals that had contact with the rabid animal. A lot of dogs and cats have had to be sacrificed because their owners did not get them protected.
The rabies shots will cost $6 at the clinics. Other annual vaccinations can also be administered at that time. Last year, the clinics in Banks and Jackson counties resulted in more than 1,600 dogs and cats being vaccinated.
Anyone who thinks they have had an exposure to rabies should contact the Banks County rabies control officer to report the incident.·Irvin's Store (Davis Academy) 1-1:30 p.m.
·Boling's Store 1:45-2:15 p.m.
·Irvin's Store (Hollingsworth) 2:30-3 p.m.
·Old Courthouse, Homer 3:15-3:45 p.m.
·Mt. Carmel Church 4-4:30 p.m.
·Lula City Hall 4:45-5:15 p.m.
·Alto City Hall 5:30-6 p.m.


Action Ministries to help homeless
Rocky Thompson and Panke Miller, of Action Ministries, appeared before the Baldwin City Council Thursday to ask its approval on using an apartment in Baldwin to provide transitional housing for homeless families.
The matter was discussed at the Thursday work session and approved by the council at its regular meeting Monday night.
Thompson said they need the approval of the local municipality in order to be in compliance to receive a $113,000 grant. The grant money will be used to provide the housing and a counselor to work with the family as they seek employment.
He said that homeless families have been able to use the battered women's shelter, Safe Haven, in Habersham County. However, the time comes when the family is ready to return to the workplace and society, so providing housing is a necessary step for their advancement, he said.
The group first looked in Cornelia, but was unable to find appropriate, affordable housing there, he said. Baldwin does have the accommodations at an affordable price.
Action Ministries, an outreach ministry of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, has been working to provide food, shelter and clothing to those families in need.
Council member Ray Holcomb said that he is familiar with the organization and that they do good work for the community. Kevin Gaddis, council member, said he thought it was a good idea.
"People have needs," he said. "If we can help get them back on their feet and working again, they'll be an asset to the community."


Lula Railroad Days ahead
The Lula Area Betterment Association will be hosting this year's annual Railroad Days in Lula this weekend, Friday, May 18, through Sunday, May 20.
The event kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday as vendors set up their craft booths. The East Hall Middle School Band will perform at 6:30 p.m. followed by the crowning of the LABA King and Queen at 7 p.m. An old-fashioned cake walk will be held at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday begins with a parade at 10 a.m. Entertainers will be featured through-out the day beginning at 11:30 a.m. Joe Olds and the Smokin' Joe Band will finish off the night from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. A fireworks display, sponsored by the city of Lula, will be at 9 p.m.
Sunday, a community church program will be held at 11 a.m. followed by gospel singing groups.
Food and drinks will be available each day. The event will take place at the railroad depot in Lula.