Georgia weekly newspapers
by the Georgia Press Association
Place A Classified Ad
Jackson Legal Page
Jackson Opinion Page
Jackson Obituary Page
Send A Letter
List Your Business
Jackson County Stats
Sex Offender Registry
1998 Building Permits
1999 Building Permits
1998 Property Transactions
1999 Property Transactions
2000 Building Permits
2000 Property Transactions
Bear Creek Project
Go to Banks County
Go to Madison County
Jackson County opinion page
Directions to Area Schools
Local youth runs well in Peachtree
JEFFERSON'S Daniel Elder, 14, finished 416th overall in last
week's 32nd annual Peachtree Road Race, the largest 10K road
race in the world. More than 55,000 runners participated in the
Panthers name new girls' hoops coach
The Jackson County Board of Education approved the hiring this
week of Chad Pittman as the new girls' basketball coach at Jackson
County Comprehensive High School.
Two area wrestlers earn All-American honors
WINTER may be the time for high school wrestling season, but
a pair of area wrestlers earned All-American honors during a
recent national tournament in Birmingham, Ala.
Gender Equity Reviewed For Commerce Sports
The Commerce City School System will take a closer look at the
equality of the girls' and boys' athletic programs in the 2001-2002
Neighboorhood News ..
Fortson stands trial for murder DA, defense give opening
arguments, call first witnesses
The Tracy Lea Fortson murder trial got under
way Tuesday afternoon with District Attorney Bob Lavender presenting
evidence linking Fortson to the murder of Doug Benton of Colbert.
Fortson trial won't be televised by Court TV
Cable television's Court TV was denied permission
Tuesday to tape the Fortson murder trial for broadcast later.
Homer council proceeds with new town hall plans
Mayor Leon Ray asked Jason Bond and other members of the Homer
Fire Department Tuesday night to figure out what kind of space
the department will need in the new town hall and fire station
Movie theater proposed for Banks Crossing
A movie theater company wants to open a business in Banks County.
The theater group, which has been talking to the county about
moving in, has expressed a need to add an additional 790 parking
spaces which required a change in the ordinances.
The Jackson Herald
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056
NEWS / ADVERTISING
® Copyright 2001
MainStreet Newspapers, Inc.
All rights reserved.
/ Terms / Privacy
GYM EXPANSION UNDER WAY
A gym expansion project is underway at Jefferson
High School and is expected to be completed by October. The project
includes locker space for girls, new stands and two practice
Judge upholds county
Calling a lawsuit by developer Kelly Henderson a "wasteful
gambit," Superior Court Judge David Motes upheld the county's
zoning codes and ordered Henderson to start over in his bid to
locate a landfill on Hwy. 53.
The ruling was a resounding victory for the county government
and gave validation to the county's zoning codes. Some officials
had earlier viewed Henderson's lawsuit as a serious threat to
the county which could potentially throw local zoning codes into
Motes calls Henderson's actions in the original rezoning application
"unclean" and ordered that the application be resubmitted.
"Throughout the zoning process, the plaintiff was less than
forthcoming with information as to his intended use for the property,"
the judge said. "On his rezoning application, mention of
the intended use of the property as a landfill is notably absent."
Motes ruled that the plaintiff's "persistent pattern of
deception" has not given the citizens of the county the
opportunity to make an "informed assessment" of the
"By concealing the purpose behind his actions, the plaintiff
has again sought to make an end run around the zoning authority
of the Jackson County community," he wrote.
The judge also ruled that the attacks on the validity of the
county zoning ordinance are "completely without merit."
At the bench trial held in May before Motes, Henderson's attorney
said that state law requires three signatures on zoning maps
and that Jackson County's map does not have them. The county
called former director of planning and development Don Seagraves
to testify on that point. He said that the original zoning map
had the required signatures from county officials and that the
map Dean presented is a copy and is not the original. The original
has not been found in county files.
Motes ruled: "It would appear that none of the parties seeking
to present the Seagraves maps as evidence of the original maps
are in any way responsible for the absence of those original
maps. All the above facts being undisputed at trial, this court
must accept the Seagraves maps as the second-best evidence of
the original Jackson County zoning maps."
The judge also ruled that Henderson should have gone to the county
with his claims that the county ordinance was invalid.
"The plaintiff has denied the commissioners the opportunity
to remedy any defects which might have existed," he wrote.
"The commissioners would have had an opportunity to make
a considered, well-reasoned decision as to the necessity of any
proposed changes, and could have acted in a manner which would
save the county untold time and money. Instead, by pursuing its
arguments directly to this court, the plaintiff has placed a
burden on the taxpayers of this county by inducing avoidable
litigation and tying up the judicial resources of this court.
The court will not allow the plaintiff to succeed in such a wasteful
Benton to get second
Jackson County school superintendent Andy
Byers told board members at Monday's monthly meeting that the
state has approved an additional Pre-K class for Benton Elementary
School for the coming year. Byers indicated a lottery will be
planned during the next few weeks to determine which children
on the Benton waiting list will be served by the new class.
Even with the new class allotment, Byers said earlier this week
that there are still approximately 400 eligible children who
will not be able to attend Pre-K in 2001-02 in Jackson County.
"When the state developed the Pre-K program, it was supposed
to be a partnership with private providers," Byers said.
He pointed to the lack of private programs as a key factor in
"We do have some private folks who provide a Pre-K program,
but by the time you pay for electricity and the costs of operating
a classroom, you just can't make a profit on what it pays,"
he said. "That, primarily, is the issue."
Georgia's Pre-K program is funded by the Georgia Lottery, but
increased tuition rates and greater interest in the Hope Scholarship
program significantly limit the amount of funds available for
School systems must submit an application for a class to the
state before offering a class. Though any school system could
apply for enough classes to fully meet its needs, the state would
not be able to approve all the applications due to the funding
"It was the same process when they funded kindergarten a
few years ago," Byers said. "Today, kindergarten funding
is included in the capital outlay formula." That means that
school systems may now include kindergarten costs as a regular
budget item, and that other state and federal funds may be used
to pay for the program. Byers commented that he's not sure if
Pre-K will ever be included in the capital outlay formula, but
hopes that it will.
"I'm not sure it's going to take the same route, but that's
what everyone envisioned when it began," he said. "...The
real downside is that we have to resort to some type of lottery
system for access to the program. Any time you do that, you're
going to have people who don't get chosen, and that makes it
seem unfair to some folks."
Earlier this year, a parent approached the BOE about the perceived
unfairness of one of its Pre-K lottery programs, but Byers pointed
out that everyone who applies has an equal opportunity to be
"We followed the exact procedures outlined by the state
as to how the slots should be filled," he said.
The additional Benton class will allow 20 more students to participate
in the Pre-K program.
No Matter How
You Look At It, The
'01-'02 Commerce Budget Is Up Sharply
It depends on how you look at it. The budget passed by the Commerce
City Council Monday night represents either a 37.2 percent increase
or a 21.4 percent increase over last year.
The $27 million budget to cover spending July 1 through June
30 is up 37.2 percent over the $19.69 million budget passed this
time last year. It is up 21.4 percent, however, over the $22.25
million actually spent during the last fiscal year.
The fact that actual spending for the 2000-01 fiscal year was
$2,566,669 (or 13 percent) more than what was budgeted can be
traced right to the higher-than-expected costs of natural gas,
which was $3.07 million more than budgeted.
The other major boost to the budget is in capital expenditures,
where the city plans to spend $6.7 million. Of that, $2.5 million
is for the beginning of a $6 to $7 million addition to the waste
treatment plant, another $1.8 million will be spent for water
system improvements, including a new tank on Allen Road and $1.47
million in capital improvements spread over the 10 departments
of the General Fund
For the rest of this story, see this week's Commerce News.
Rezoning For Mt. Olive Apts.
The Commerce City Council voted 4-2 Monday night to rezone 29
acres on Mount Olive Road so up to 240 apartment units can be
The Commerce Planning Commission had recommended that Carlotta
Garrison's request to change the land from A-R (agricultural-residential)
to R-4 (multi-family residential) be rejected. That recommendation
was based on the city's future land use plan, which calls for
the area to be high-density single-family housing, and reasoned
that there are already too many rental units in the area.
But Ward 4 councilman Bob Sosebee didn't see it that way.
Sosebee said he had talked to Mrs. Garrison, driven by the property
and decided that it "is ideal for multi-family development."
Sosebee pointed out that, because the land is not in the shared
tax district with Jackson County, "on any development, the
city would get 100 percent of the taxes."
Ward 2 councilman Donald Wilson and Ward 1 councilman Riley Harris
agreed, making and seconding a motion respectively to grant the
But at-large councilman Richard Massey wasn't sold.
"It's going to have a big impact on the schools," he
Ward 3 councilman Sam Brown agreed with Massey.
"I agree with what Richard said as far as the stress on
the infrastructure," he stated. "We had duplexes down
in my ward and we turned it down. If we're not consistent, if
we don't follow the land use plan and go against the planning
commission, where does that put us down the road? If we approve
on one side of the town, are we not putting ourselves in limbo
by not approving them all over town?"
Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. indicated he stood with Massey and
Attorney David Burroughs spoke on Mrs. Garrison's behalf, arguing
that the property, if zoned R-4, was worth $19,000 per acre;
if zoned R-1 or left A-R, he said, it is worth half that.
He also presented a "constitutional challenge," a document
that would serve to keep open the option of suing the city if
the council failed to grant the rezoning.
Mrs. Garrison promised a "quality" development from
the buyer and asked the council members to "Think how it
would be if it was you. Would you want someone to say 'No, you
Jerry Gailey, who lives nearby, asked the council to consider
whether they would want such a development in their back yards.
"I would rather have horses and cows than 500 screaming
kids and a couple thousand cars," he said.
When the question was called, Wilson, Harris, Sosebee and at-large
councilman Archie Chaney all voted to overturn the planning commission
recommendation; Massey and Brown voted against the motion.
A drawing that was included in the rezoning request proposed
30 eight-unit apartments on the site. However, the developer,
who is buying the land from Mrs. Garrison, will have to get the
planning commission's approval for the general design of the
development, so the number of apartment units could be less.
Go to Jackson
Public Meeting Dates
Auto Parts &
Retail Stores & Outlets
A trio of incidents in and near Commerce have officials concerned
about rabid animals.
On July 1, a fox got into a fight with two dogs on Minish Drive
in Commerce, and the fox turned out to be rabid, according to
Ben Mathis, the city's animal control officer.
The two dogs, who had not been recently inoculated for rabies,
had to be destroyed.
Also last week, a Commerce man told Mathis that a fox tried to
bite him in the Willoughby Homes area. The fox did not break
the skin, but Robbie Willis is reportedly receiving post-exposure
In another case last week, a skunk entered a dog pen on Dunson
Cemetery Road south of Commerce. Dr. Larry Meadows of Commerce
Veterinary Hospital sent the animal's head off to the state and
it too came back positive for rabies.
"People should be aware that any time a wild animal exhibits
strange behavior, it could be rabid," Meadows warned.
"If people see an animal acting strangely, they should call
animal control or 911," he said.
The animal control officer said there have been numerous sightings
of foxes around the creek between Heritage Hills Apartments and
the city shop and housing project and that people have been feeding
"Evidently, they are feeding them," he said. "In
the project, where the creek is, I know people throw out scraps."
Both Meadows and Mathis urge pet owners to make sure their pets
have current rabies inoculations.
"If you haven't had your animals updated on rabies shots,
please do so," Mathis said. "That's the main thing
that helps protect people."
charged in Commerce murder
A Maysville man has been charged with "malice murder"
in the Friday stabbing death of Ralph Douglas Stockton, 56, of
68 Chestnut Street, Commerce.
Commerce investigator Steve Kelley said Robert Steve Turpin,
22, of Unity Church Road, Maysville, confessed to the crime Friday
afternoon after his mother brought him to the police station
The stabbing occurred in a field off Walnut Street very early
Friday, said Kelley.
"Stockton had lived with Turpin's mother years ago, and
there were some bad feelings," the investigator said.
The bad blood came to the forefront after Turpin came to visit
Stockton, and both were visiting a third man, who was living
in a camp site in the woods behind Mount Vernon Mills.
"Both of them were drinking. Ralph got to talking bad about
his (Turpin's) family and Turpin just couldn't take it,"
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Commerce Police Department
worked on the case.
Stockton died from being stabbed, but authorities would not reveal
how many times he was stabbed.
"We haven't found the murder weapon yet," Kelley said.
Man charged with
Alabama murder found in Jackson County
A man who has been charged with the murder of an Alabama man
was found Monday morning asleep in a vehicle parked alongside
I-85 in Jackson County.
The Jackson County Sheriff's Department received a medical call
around 8 a.m. Monday about a man in a green Jeep Cherokee on
the off-ramp of I-85 at Hwy. 53. They found Elvernardo Decarlos
Dexter, 26, Rock Port, N.C.
Jackson County chief investigator David Cochran said a .38 caliber
pistol was found in the vehicle, along with what appeared to
be blood. Cochran said the suspect ran away, but was captured
shortly afterward by deputies. He said further investigation
found that the vehicle was involved in a homicide in Opelika,
"A brother and sister had given the suspect a ride,"
Cochran said. "The brother was shot and killed and the body
dumped in Alabama. The sister was driven to a Greyhound bus stop
in Atlanta where she was put out of the vehicle."
The woman notified Atlanta police, who notified Alabama law enforcement
Dexter is being held in the Jackson County Jail on charges of
theft by receiving an automobile, entering an automobile and
obstruction of an officer. The State of Alabama has issued a
warrant for capital murder and Dexter is expected to be extradited