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Old barn provides training
Last Saturday, I got a taste of what it feels to be a firefighter.
I was asked to join members of Banks County District 3 firefighters
at a controlled, training burn at an old barn.
Oh my dog
If you don't believe in a divine being or maybe you are questioning
just a little, I can attest to a miracle that happened just down
the road this week.
Moore leads Leopards' spring football
New Banks County football coach Greg Moore set out to build a
competitive football team in Banks County during the Leopard's
spring practice which ran from May 14 to 25.
Directions to Area Schools
Chamber To Support School SPLOST Renewal
Hoping to help the three school systems in the county snare up
to $43 million over five years, the board of directors of the
Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce has endorsed extension
of the special purpose local option sales tax for education.
Grad test a struggle for some students
Science and social studies remained problematic for local high
school juniors this year.
Cowne says schools must restore reserve funds
Superintendent Keith Cowne told school board members that as
well as meeting the financial needs of the system, the board
will need to restore the system's reserve fund.
Kesler reinstated as coach
Doug Kesler was reinstated as Madison County fast-pitch softball
coach at a called meeting of the board of education Monday night.
The Banks County News
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Veterans and family members saluted the departed in a Memorial
Day service held Monday in Homer. See this week's Banks County
News for additional photographs.
wants back in old courthouse
Members of the Banks County Historical Society made clear at
a meeting Thursday night their intent to be part of the future
of the historic courthouse and hold their meetings in it.
The group met Thursday night with chamber of commerce president
Bonnie Johnson, chamber executive assistant Sherry Ward, board
of commissioners chairman Kenneth Brady and commissioner Pat
Brady asked at the start of the meeting: "Why are we here?"
Historical society member Tom Jones replied: "So that you
know there is a historical society. We have 70 members."
Jones said the group wanted to get together with Johnson and
the commissioners to decide what is best for the courthouse and
for the people.
"We want to be in on the decision to determine what happens
to the courthouse," he said.
Problems occurred a few months ago, according to historical society
member Horace Campbell, when the chamber rented the front room
of the old courthouse to Country Roads Real Estate, owned by
Shirlene Allen. The room had been serving as a museum for antiques
and relics from Banks County history, gathered and collected
by the historical society. When members saw their collections
placed in the hallways, they called the chamber and the commissioners.
Thelma Dunson asked why the historical society's items had been
moved into the hallways and why the real estate company wasn't
given the room in the back.
"We went to a lot of trouble to get it all there,"
Johnson said: "I didn't have anything to do with it except
that the woman requested to come into the courthouse and we just
agreed to let her come."
Campbell gave a brief description of the events which led to
the saving of the courthouse when it was slated for destruction
in 1987. He said many people in the community "thought the
demolition reprehensible." Community leaders began working
to save it and have it placed in the National Registry of Historic
Buildings. A straw vote, sponsored by the historical society,
was held to save the courthouse.
"The straw vote came back 2-to-1 in favor of saving the
courthouse," he said.
The historical society, with the aid of the chamber, under the
presidency of George Evans, worked together to convince the commissioners
of the project's worth and to pay for renovations through a hotel/motel
tax, said Campbell. In order to be able to receive the funds,
he said the chamber and the society created the Banks County
Convention and Visitors Bureau. A total of around $300,000 was
spent on restoration, he said. The commissioners permitted the
historical society to lease the building. When the society began
having difficulty paying for the utility bills, it was decided
that the chamber could sub-lease the building and help pay for
the upkeep. The society would still have a room there to hold
Campbell said in the late 1990s, the society became basically
"The past commissioners took it upon themselves before the
society's lease expired and evicted the society from the museum
in 1999," he said in regard to a termination letter from
the commissioners to the society.
The letter, signed by former BOC chairman James Dumas, states
that after reviewing all the leases held by the county, it was
decided that the "county has need of the old courthouse.
Pursuant to the lease agreement between the Banks County Historical
Society and the Banks County Commissioners, the commission is
exercising its option not to re-new the existing lease agreement."
The termination date was February 14, 1999.
Campbell said the letter was invalid, since the society was told
to vacate, but no action was taken against the sub-lease holder,
the chamber of commerce.
"You can't terminate the lease and honor the sub-lease,"
Alex Chambers, secretary of the society, said the letter sent
to then-president Richard Chambers was not disclosed to the other
members. He said the society had paid a lot of the bills for
the courthouse from the treasury accumulated through membership
dues. He said the society still has an active bank account.
In February 2001, Brady said he was approached by Johnson to
allow the chamber to sub-let the front room to the realty company
for $300 per month for one year. He said the rent would be used
by the chamber. Brady said the chamber was to use the collected
rent "to support industry and trade and the commissioners
in what we needed done in advertising or anything that we needed
in Banks County."
Brady said he "didn't know there was a historical society
"I assumed that it had disbanded because we didn't hear
anything out of them after the letter," he said.
According to county attorney Randall Frost, there was nothing
to prevent the chamber from leasing any room in the old courthouse.
"There was no malice on our part," he said. "We
didn't think we were doing anything wrong. We thought we were
doing the right thing. But it came back and bit us."
Campbell said the society did not believe that the realtor's
office should be in the building.
"In my opinion, leasing the front room to the realtor is
inconsistent to the whole background of the courthouse,"
he said. "It does not fit the criteria." He cited a
clause from the original 1989 lease: "The society shall
not put the courthouse to any other use which is inconsistent
with the promotion of tourism and the promotion of the historical,
cultural, or artistic heritage of Northeast Georgia."
"We would like to see it back the way it was," he said.
He requested the commissioners re-draw the lease and give the
historical society back control of the endeavor they had worked
so hard to complete.
When asked if the chamber had a 10-year lease, Brady did not
But, Johnson said, "It's renewed annually."
When asked if it is in writing, she replied, "That's what
we've been told."
Brady said to Johnson: "Bonnie, they want the lady out from
up there and I think everything will smooth over."
Johnson replied that the realtor had a one-year lease.
Brady said the historical society is welcome to use the back
room for its meetings.
"Do as you please," he said. "Put your name across
the door. I know you think that the commissioners have done you
a bad deal. But think about it from our side. I haven't seen
a soul about the historical society until a couple of months
ago. We didn't do anything dishonest."
He asked the society to work with the chamber "for the common
good" and suggested they get together and reach an agreement
as to how the courthouse should be used. Then, the county would
draw up an agreement, he said.
Campbell also requested the commissioners grant $25,000 to finish
the restoration at the historic courthouse. Chambers said that
the society ran out of money before it could finish the insulation
in the ceiling. He said it would end up saving money in the long
"I don't think we can legally spend tax dollars on a Historical
Society budget, " said Brady.
He said he would ask the county attorney if it is legal to give
the society any county money. Campbell replied that he thought
the society should be able to receive funds under the original
agreement when the hotel/motel tax was initiated. He said that
the tax was raised from two percent to five percent to cover
the cost of restoration. Verification whether or not the percentage
was still being paid to the Convention and Visitors Bureau was
Thomas Wilson, society member, said the historical society was
a promoter of tourism and could see no reason why money could
not come their way. "I thought $150,000 for Banks Crossing
was a bit much," he said. "I think that $150,000 could
have been spread over the county for a more equitable use."
Brady and Johnson defended the beautification project expense
and said that additional money came from a matching state grant.
"When you see it, I think you'll see that it was a good
investment," said Brady.
Johnson told the society members to organize projects like the
chamber does to raise money.
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It's cap and gown time at Banks County High School. Graduation
will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at Leopard Stadium, located at
the middle school.
The valedictorian and salutatorian had not been named as of press
time Wednesday. School leaders said they would be announced Thursday
when final tests have been completed. Others to be on the program
have also not been named yet.
Honor graduates are as follows: Laura Carlyle, Heather Cash,
Steven Caudell, April David, William Dickerson, Jamie Evans,
Elisha Funk, Tiffany Haag, Edward Herring, Shannon Hill, Billy
Jackman, Thomas Keller, Bray Maxwell, Laura Mitchell, Jessica
Mullins, Casey Murray, Becky Nation, Joseph Pardue, Ashley Reece,
Sandra Reece, Tonya Trotter, Jason White and Thomas Whitworth.
Baldwin to get
tough on water theft
The Baldwin City Council decided Thursday to take a tougher stand
on residents who turn their water meters back on after the city
has shut them off.
"It's a theft of water," said councilman Kevin Gaddis
at Thursday's work session. "It's city property they're
Gaddis suggested the city send a police officer with a citation
after a resident illegally turns back on the water. A court appearance
would be required by the offender.
"Let the judge decide what penalty they should pay,"
said Mayor Mark Reed.
The issue came up as the council discussed the problems with
collecting past due water bills and the increase in requests
for water bill adjustments due to leaks at residents' homes.
"The water bill is the last bill some folks take seriously,"
Reed said that part of the problem leading to the lack of money
in the water operating fund is due to people not paying their
"People move and don't pay their bill," he said. "They
are not maintaining their water systems from the meters to their
homes and ask us for adjustments. They bounce checks."
Councilman Robert Bohannon said a compromise is needed to deal
with people asking for adjustments on their bills due to leaks
and the rest of the council agreed. He suggested taking the resident's
average usage for the year and adding the late fee and the water
cost the city pays for the consumption over the average. That
total would be what the resident owes, he said. Gaddis added
that a person needs to provide proof of the leak to verify that
the request is bona fide. Gaddis also suggested that a minimum,
either in gallons or in dollars, be set for individual adjustment
"If it's above that set amount, we'll discuss it with the
customer," he said. "If it's below that amount, they
will have to pay according to the formula."
Bohannon said the council should consider increasing the service
fee for connections and disconnections.
Gaddis said: "We need to make a policy and stick by it.
We need to look at this as a business, not a government."
muster coming up June 2
The second annual Banks County Fire and EMS Firefighting Muster
will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 2, at Banks County High
School. The event is open to the public of all ages.
Teams competing in timed events will be from Banks County and
surrounding areas. The events include: night attack, bull's eye,
"Wet the Turkey," the burst hose event, firefighter
rescue and rapid dress.
The Banks County Mobile Unit Support Team will serve hamburgers,
hot dogs, chips, drinks and more.
For more information, call the fire department at 677-1812.