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June 20, 2001


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Jefferson golf enthusiast becomes PCS-certified Class A Clubmaker
Jefferson's John Segars has been named a certified Class A Clubmaker by the Professional Clubmakers' Society, according to a press release from the PCS this week.

Father and son both victorious on eve of Father's Day
It couldn't have been scripted any better for two Maysville residents. The father is a former late model driver and NASCAR regional champion who recently decided to come out of retirement after a four-year hiatus.

Summer Hoops For Commerce Tigers
The Commerce Tigers' basketball team has been competing against area teams in a summer schedule that is more about practice than competition.

Peach State back in action Saturday
A week after operations were temporarily suspended by track owners, engines will fire once again at Peach State Speedway Saturday, for a special Fan Appreciation Night.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
BOE hires new legal counsel
The Madison County school board hired the law firm of Sam Harben and Phil Hartley of Gainesville as the school system's new legal counsel Tuesday night.

Jury selected for Wymbs trial
A jury of six men and seven women, including one alternate, will determine the guilt or innocence of Albert Wymbs. Wymbs is accused of murdering Angela Harris at her home on the Ila Road near the Clarke County line.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Fire destroys Homer residence
The home of Homer native John Nation burned to the ground Sunday afternoon. Nation, who was not seriously injured in the fire, said he was watching a race on television when he noticed how hot the house had become.

Banks Countians to receive Indian names from chief
Rene´ Hudler, Commerce, has earned the honor of receiving her "Indian name" from Chief Edwin "Wamblee" Poulan of the Southern Band of the Cherokee.


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BIG SPLASH AT VBS

Vacation Bible School worker Keyonia Randolph got all wet as this youngster successfully completed the balloon burst during last week's VBS Field Day at Gordon Street Park. The event was held as part of VBS week at St. Paul First Baptist Church.


BOC says 'No' to Earth Resources landfill request
North Jackson residents opposed to a landfill locating on Lanier Road had reason to celebrate Monday night, but the battle likely isn't over yet.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners unanimously denied a request from Earth Resources for a conditional use permit for 94.48 acres on Lanier Road, zoned I-2, to locate a construction demolition landfill.
Developer Sonny Dinsmore of Earth Resources and attorney Robert Lovett of Macon didn't say whether they plan to appeal the decision, but county leaders anticipate that they will. Lovett did imply in a letter to the BOC that the developer would appeal a denial.
"Where a county has established zoning criteria such as yours, the law states that you must approve the application where the applicant has met all of the applicable zoning criteria," he wrote. "Earth Resources Inc. has met your criteria and they are entitled to a favorable decision, if you follow your laws...Your failure to follow your own ordinances, rules and regulations would effect the applicant's constitutional rights which will be enforced in the courts."
North Jackson residents and other countians spoke at several recent meetings in opposition to the landfill plans. City leaders from Pendergrass and Braselton also spoke on the negative impact the landfill would have on their jurisdictions.
Commissioners Sammy Thomason, Stacey Britt and Tony Beatty voted to deny the request. Commissioner Emil Beshara excused himself from the discussion and didn't vote on the matter. Many of the opponents of the project were in the audience and applauded after the request was denied.
Lovett asked the BOC for the reasons for the denial and Thomason said they are the same ones given by the planning commission in its recommendation that the request be denied. Planning and development director David Clabo read those reasons as follows: the proposed use is not suitable in view of the use of adjacent and nearby property, the conditional use would have an adverse impact on surrounding and nearby property, the property has a reasonable economic use as is currently zoned, the conditional use would create an overcrowding of existing road and the proposed use doesn't conform to the county land use plan.


JMS project plagued by sewer line, water problems
A request for two construction change orders Thursday brought to light a host of problems the Jefferson City Board of Education is having with work at the new Jefferson Middle School. The problems include unusable sewer lines and confusion over water hook-up specifications on a project that is already some $1 million over budget due to grading and paving costs.
BOE chairman Ronnie Hopkins took Southern A&E to task, via representative Mike Raeisghasem, for flaws in the design stages of the JMS and Jefferson High School fieldhouse work that he said have resulted in lost time and money for the school system, as well as strained relations with the City of Jefferson over the water hook-up issues.
The change order requests were for $3,158 for additional hardware and windows needed at JMS and for $4,130 for wiring, a new electrical panel, breakers and conduits needed for the fieldhouse project. Raeisghasem said the JMS items and the fieldhouse electrical items were not included in the designs for the projects.
"Enough is enough," Hopkins said, adding that the amount of time he and superintendent Dr. John Jackson have had to spend on dealing with the problems is inexcusable. "It's not just the $3,000 (for a change order), it's what this has cost us in other resources," he added.
From the start, the sewer line work has been problematic at the JMS school site. However, Hopkins revealed Thursday that the sewer line has not only been installed improperly, it is also the wrong kind and will have to be completely pulled out and the project started again.
Dr. Jackson clarified that, from what he has surmised through related conversations, the sewage lines were drawn incorrectly to begin with, with a line drawn on paper to a location where in actuality it could not be hooked up. The line had to be re-directed and is now longer than originally anticipated.
Similarly, the plans for water hook-up were also flawed because the specifications do not necessarily meet those set by the City of Jefferson, Dr. Jackson said.
"Getting water run to the site has been delayed while it's figured out who is responsible for what," he added. "It's time it was resolved."
Water and sewage problems aside, the JMS project looks as if it will come in at a cost some $1 million over what the school board had budgeted, Dr. Jackson said.
"We got a figure from the architect that was supposed to include construction costs and grading and paving as well," he explained. "We set our budget based on that and gave ourselves a little cushion...But perhaps (grading and paving) were not included in that cost, although it was our understanding that it was."
Dr. Jackson said he and the school board had questioned the initial total cost several times. Now, he said, it appears as if the total cost for the building will run around $5.7 million, about what the board had anticipated the whole project would cost. The paving and grading will add an extra $1 million to that, for a total project cost of $6.7 million.
Although the school board approved the change orders and payment of bills Thursday for construction work, Raeisghasem pointed out that $40,000 has been held back from the Salloum Construction Company bill until the JMS site water and sewage problems are resolved. The board approved payment of $324,948 to Salloum, $1,884 to Southern A&E and $165,266 to Driver Construction Company for work on the JHS gym and field house.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Jackson Herald.


GBI Probe Of Police Funds To End Soon
The investigation into allegations of embezzlement against Commerce's late police chief George Grimes will probably end in a week.
City Manager Clarence Bryant said he expects the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to wind up its probe "late this week or next week."
The city summoned the GBI after finding empty envelopes that should have held cash payments for traffic fines and forfeitures. The envelopes, still containing receipts, were in boxes under the police chief's desk. The theory is that Grimes took the money, and speculation is that the amount dating back to 1997 could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"I haven't heard anything recently from the GBI," said Bryant on Monday.
Officers accompanied Grimes' widow to his Commerce apartment, where they reportedly found still more of the empty envelopes. And while rumors persist that officers found drugs and pornography, the GBI's only focus is on the missing money, according to acting police chief Aubrey Pittman.
"We went over there with his wife to make sure she got everything she needed. There were other envelopes, which we turned over to the GBI," said Pittman, who declined other comment out of concern for jeopardizing the GBI probe.
Pittman also said officers found a single rock of crack cocaine in a "junk drawer" in Grimes' desk at the police station, but said there is no suspicion that Grimes was selling, using or stealing drugs.
The GBI took Grimes' computer for analysis.
SEARCH PROCESS
The city is advertising for a police chief in local and area newspapers, on the web site of the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, Bryant said. By the fourth week in July, Bryant hopes to begin narrowing the field, though he hasn't decided yet on the exact process.
"I will probably come up with a short list, but I may bring in somebody from the Georgia Police Officers Standards and Training Council or the Association of Chiefs of Police to go through and see what they come up with," he said. "I've done that before."
Bryant also indicated that representatives from one of those two groups may be asked to give input on the qualifications and check the references of applicants.
One of the criteria used for selection will be the applicants' community experience.
"We want somebody who's community policing oriented," Bryant said. "Certification is always important, and we're going to look at references too."
FOCUS ON MONEY HANDLING
One result of the alleged embezzlement is that departments that handle money have been asked to submit to City Hall a detailed explanation of the funds they receive and the procedures used to account for the money. Aside from the Police Department, those are the Commerce Public Library and the Recreation Department.
The process for handling police funds has already been changed. Bryant said he and city clerk Shirley Willis go to the police station each Monday morning and collect all of the fines and forfeitures money. Willis and the police dispatcher on duty total up the money, match the amount with what the police receipt book says, and then Willis and Bryant take the money to City Hall, after which they send a receipt back to the Police Department.



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Elton Collins named county water authority's new chairman
The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority has its first new chairman in six years.
With his term of office expired, Alex Bryan resigned as chairman at Thursday night's meeting, and the authority elected Commerce banker Elton Collins to replace him.
Bryan, who became chairman in 1996, will remain on the board until a successor is elected. The authority tried twice to get special legislation approved amending the authority's bylaws so members could serve an unlimited number of terms on the authority. The first attempt failed when the authority crossed then Rep. Scott Tolbert over the Water Wise controversy; the second attempt failed when the Jackson County Board of Commissioners decided to change the legislation too late in the legislative session.
Theoretically, Bryan could remain on the board for years, but no one has any indication of what the county commissioners plan. Authority members had strongly urged the commissioners to find a way to keep Bryan active because of his knowledge and experience.
Authority members receive no pay.
"I am going to step down as chairman," Bryan announced Thursday night. "This job takes a lot of commitment and I feel like I've given a lot to this authority."
Bryan said that while the authority tried to work with the board of commissioners as closely as possible, it is important that it remain autonomous, and he challenged the commissioners to "keep electing good people" to the authority.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Banks County News.


Planners Deny Zoning Request
The request by a Commerce woman to rezone 29 acres on Hospital Road so apartments could be built ran into a snag Monday night. The Commerce Planning Commission voted to recommend that the city council deny the request on the grounds that the city's comprehensive land use plan calls for high-density, single-family development in the area and because the area already has an abundance of rental units.
Developer Mike Britt, Snellville, plans to buy the property and put up 240 apartment units on the site.
The Commerce City Council will make the final decision on the request at its July 9 meeting at 6:30 at the Commerce Civic Center.
In other business, the planning commission approved the final plat for Shades Crest, a duplex development on Hospital Road; approved the preliminary plat for the three-lot Pecan Grove Subdivision on Jefferson Road at Washington Street and approved the final plat of Brentwood Estates.


Jackson Co. To Join 'Keep Georgia Beautiful' Program
Jackson County leaders agreed Monday night to join the Keep Georgia Beautiful program.
Board of commissioners member Sammy Thomason made the motion to join the program, which includes litter control and recycling education programs. The fee to join is $2,500 and it will come from the county's contingency fund.
"I think it is quite important," Thomason said.
At a board of commissioners meeting earlier this month, Lynn Cobb, manager of the Keep Georgia Beautiful program, asked Jackson County leaders to participate in the program. Cobb said that the program provides public education on environmental issues such as litter prevention, waste minimization, beautification and economic development and water conservation. Annual events include the Great American Cleanup and the Chipper Christmas Tree Recycling program.
Cobb said there are 63 affiliates in the state, including most all counties surrounding Jackson.