News from Jackson County...

July 25, 2001


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Love survives incident to take Lanier win
Maysville's Joey Love survived a lap-17 incident to take the win in Saturday's Akins of Winder Pro Truck division at Lanier National Speedway.

Registration for fall recreation programs now being accepted
Registration for fall recreation programs offered by the City of Jefferson and Jackson County Parks and Recreation Departments began earlier this week.
Both the city and county programs will field competitive football teams participating in the Vince Dooley Football League.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Water relief
Blacks Creek residents seek Commerce water. Residents of the Blacks Creek Church area began voting with their wallets Tuesday night on whether to have water from Commerce piped into their neighborhoods, where wells are no longer dependable.

Restaurant coming to Booger Hill Rd.
BOC approves rezoning for new eating establishment after lengthy debate. GeorgeAnna House restaurant will open in an old Booger Hill Road house near Hwy. 29 sometime in the fall. The owner says it will be an upscale eating facility comparable to Social Circle's Blue Willow or the Berryman House in Franklin County.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Banks County may get pilot program for recycling project
Banks County may be the site for a pilot program which will use recycled rubber from tires for paving roads.

Judge rules in favor of Baldwin in tax case
A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of the City of Baldwin in a lawsuit filed by Banks County residents who have been fighting paying the city's property taxes.


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TUESDAY FIRE

Firefighters responded Tuesday morning to the Jefferson River Road home of Eugene and Janet Kimsey. Three people were in the house at the time, but all escaped unharmed.


Schools gearing up for Aug. 2 start
More students, new principals and teachers and the opening of a new school will all greet students as they return to classes on Thursday, Aug. 2.
The new elementary school in West Jackson is expected to be one of the biggest changes this year for the Jackson County School System. Another change for the county school system this year is that classes are starting 16 days earlier than usual.
In the Jefferson City School System, a Fifth Grade Academy will begin this year and the length of the school day will be longer.
The Jackson County School System expects 5,355 students at its nine schools. The only two to see a significant increase in students are Jackson County Comprehensive High School and West Jackson Middle School.
The Jefferson School System expects 1,489 students when school resumes.
For additional back-to-school related stories see this weeks Jackson Herald


PD Theft Covered By City's Insurance
GBI Pegs Amount Missing At $227,000; Probe Almost CompleteIt appears that former Commerce chief of police George Grimes stole $227,000 from the city.
City manager Clarence Bryant reports that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has informed him that some $227,000 was found to be missing from city fines and forfeitures paid in cash at the police station from 1997 through May. Grimes died June 1.
While the GBI probe is not yet complete, the city received some good news on the matter last week as well. According to Bryant, the city's insurance policy will cover all but the $10,000 deductible. Grimes was bonded as police chief, Bryant notes.
The GBI investigation into the matter continues. The agency has returned to the police station all of the receipt books and its auditing department has sent its findings to the Athens office, said Bill Malueg, agent in charge.
"We had hoped to be finished now, but we had some murder cases and other priorities we had to take care of," Malueg said. "I know this is very important to Commerce, but when we have a murder case ­ like we had last week in Commerce ­ that takes a priority."
As of Thursday, the GBI still had "a couple of interviews" to conduct, according to Malueg.


Public safety tops county spending again in 2000
Tax income up 17% over 1999
Public safety continued to be the number one area of county government spending in Jackson County, according to the 2000 audit. A little over 25 percent, nearly $7 million, of the county's expenditures in 2000 went to various public safety departments. But a close second were capital outlay funds in 2000 which accounted for nearly 24 percent of spending, some $6.5 million.
Overall, the county spent $27.4 million in 2000.
The Jackson County's Sheriff's Department continued to be the single largest department in county government at $1.9 million, not counting capital expenditures. The county road department was second largest at $1.6 million, but that also doesn't include capital expenses, which last year totaled $3.5 million for that department.
The correctional institute was third largest at $1.46 million in 2000, while the ambulance service and the county jail rounded out the top five departments at $1.27 million and $1.1 million respectively.
Total expenditures for the county rose by $11.8 million in 2000 over the year before, a 75 percent increase. Much of that increase was due to the increase in capital outlay spending to purchase new road equipment in 2000 and to a large increase in intergovernmental transfers.
TAX INCOME UP 17 PERCENT
Tax income, mostly from property and sales taxes, rose 17 percent in 2000 over 1999 and accounted for 59 percent of the county's total revenues for the year. The sale of older road equipment in 2000 totaled $2.5 million, eight percent of total income for the year.
Property taxes netted $6.4 million in 2000, while sales taxes brought in $4.1 million. Automotive, insurance premium and other miscellaneous taxes made up the remainder of tax income.
OTHER AUDIT HIGHLIGHTS
Among the highlights in the 2000 audit are:
· The county's solid waste disposal facility continues to lose money. In 2000, the county had to transfer $164,400 to subsidize the facility's operations. One of the reasons for the loss is that county waste is disposed of at the facility at no cost to the county.
· Cash and investments of the county totaled $10.3 million at the end of 2000. Long-term debt by the county totaled $29.6 million, most of which is to back bonds and loans for the county's water authority.
· The county's fire districts showed an unreserved cash balance of $530,000 at the end of 2000.
· County business permit income continued to grow, totaling $112,900 in 2000.
· The county got a $650,000 federal grant in 2000 to expand the county airport.
· County legal expenses topped $130,500 in 2000 while other consulting and professional fees were $124,800.
· The county had to pay a $30,000 penalty in 2000 because of an inaccurate tax digest.
· The county spent $531,000 in 2000 on new vehicles.
· Principal and interest on county debt payments was $861,000 in 2000.
· Vending sales at the county jail topped $53,100 in 2000.


Bigger Lots Proposal Would Cut Number Of Multi-Family Units Per Acre
The Commerce Planning Commission plans to amend the city's zoning ordinance to reduce the number of multi-family housing units per acre in future development.
At the recommendation of vice chairman Greg Perry, the commission, which makes land use and zoning recommendations to the Commerce City Council, will increase the minimum lot size for duplexes, townhouses and apartment buildings in the R-3 and R-4 zoning classifications.
Perry told the planning commission Monday night that the move was recommended to him by city manager Clarence Bryant and proposed increasing the minimum lot size to 7,500 square feet per dwelling unit.
The move comes two weeks after the city council overrode the planning commission's recommendation to allow 29 acres on Mount Olive Road rezoned from agricultural to multi-family, raising the possibility that up to 240 apartments could be built.
"The object is to require more square feet per unit and thus fewer units per complex," said Perry.
The city's zoning ordinance currently requires a lot size of 6,250 feet per dwelling unit for duplexes and 5,500 square feet for two-family apartments. The planning commission took Perry's suggestion even further, proposing to go to 10,500 square feet and a maximum of four units per acre.
"That will still be the smallest lot we have," Perry observed.
Were that provision in effect for the recently rezoned site on Mount Olive Road, the developer would be able to build only 116 apartment units instead of a potential 240. (While that property would not be affected by the change, it is not likely that the developer would actually be able to cram that many apartments onto the property. The planning commission will still have to approve the developer's site plan.)
Kenneth Suber seconded Perry's motion, which was also supported by Doug Newcomer and chairman Billy Vandiver. Member Ronnie Seabolt was not present.
The effect of the change would be to make multi-family developments less profitable and, presumably, less attractive to developers. Members of the planning commission have not been responsive to recent rezoning requests for multi-family housing, and they view the council's decision to rezone the Mount Olive Road site for apartments as a precedent that opens the whole area for multi-family development. The decision so angered planning commission members that they walked out of a public hearing last week that had been called to discuss updating the city's land use plan.
The planning commission will accept public comments at its Monday, Aug. 20, meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center. Whatever the planning commission decides will then go to the Commerce City Council in the form of a recommendation, with the city council making the final decision, probably at its Sept. 10 meeting.
In other business Monday night, the planning commission approved a request from Ray Morris of Providence Academy for a one-year conditional use permit that allows the Christian school to keep a portable classroom on its Minish Drive property.
But Newcomer warned that the CUP provision is temporary and said he expects the classroom to be temporary.
Recalling that he had attended as a private citizen a planning commission meeting three years ago in which the original request was made, Newcomer said: "I'm here three years later. It was to be a temporary trailer ... I don't see any plans, and the trailer is still there."
John Prescott, a member of the Providence Academy board, explained that growth in the school does not, at the time, warrant building another building. In addition, he said the property is being offered to the Commerce Board of Education because Providence Academy plans to relocate.
Vandiver confirmed that superintendent of schools Larry White had told him that the school was having the property appraised.
"Did Mr. White give any indication as to when he will get rid of his mobile classrooms?" Perry offered.
Newcomer answered that the remaining mobile classrooms at the elementary and middle schools will likely remain until a new middle school is constructed.


Elderly woman dies in house fire
A 79-year-old woman died early Sunday morning when her house on Erastus Church Road was destroyed by fire.
Fire departments from Nicholson, Commerce, Maysville, Neese-Sanford and the Jackson County Correctional Institute responded to the blaze.
Eva Tolbert Fleeman perished in the flames. Her body was found in the hallway outside a bedroom.
"When we arrived, it was totally involved," said Nicholson fire chief Mike Wood. "It appeared to have started in the back of the house."
Nicholson got the call at 12:53 and was first on the scene. The first Commerce unit arrived shortly afterward and firemen searched the front two rooms. The rest of the house was fully engulfed in flames.
"Unfortunately, she was not in those front two rooms," remarked Commerce fire chief Johnny Eubanks. "We were able to knock the fire down enough to search the rest of the house and we found her in the hallway just outside of a bedroom."
Because of the fatality, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department and the State Fire marshal are investigating the fire. The cause of the fire is not known.



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State Probe Into Inmate Firefighters Still Ongoing
An investigation by the Georgia Department of Corrections of the inmate firefighter program has not been completed.
Department of Corrections public information officer Peggy Chapman said Tuesday that the investigation is not expected to be complete until late next week.
There have been allegations of arson, improper behavior, access to inappropriate materials and prohibited family visits in connection with the inmate firefighter program between the Jackson County Correctio-nal Institution and the Banks County Fire Department. The Banks County program has been suspended due to the allegations, but the JCCI Fire Department remains in service.
Assistant Banks County fire chief John Creasy said in a statement last week that the Banks County Fire Department has also investigated the claims.
"What we found certainly was no danger to the public," he said. "But we did identify several problems within the program."
Banks County officials found small amounts of money that may have been provided to inmates by family members at the Banks Crossing Fire Station. It was also determined that the inmates had muscle-building magazines, which the correctional system considers contraband.
"We also found evidence of four visits by family members, parents and grandparents who did come and see some of the inmates during their time on duty," Creasy said last week. "That's a prohibited activity. Everything we have uncovered sounds very innocent, but as far as the prison regulations go, it's a violation of rules.
It was determined that the firefighter correctional officer, Dana Maddox, in charge of the men knew about the improprieties. Maddox has since resigned his position with Banks County and with JCCI, said Creasy.
But there has been talk from people close to the investigation that there could be a link between activities at the fire station and the burning by arson of a building across U.S. 441 from the fire station.
The State Fire Marshal's office is investigating the fire that destroyed the office of David Christopher Construction early Saturday, June 23.
The blaze was set using several five-gallon containers of diesel fuel and gasoline that had actually been spotted on adjacent property the day before. A Jackson County deputy, summoned to the cache of fuel June 22, reportedly took photos of the cans found by a neighbor who was walking his dog.
Commerce fire chief Johnny Eubanks said he informed the investigating fire marshal of the connection after reading news accounts.
"He hadn't heard about that," said Eubanks.
Local officials are said to be pursuing other connections between the business and the fire station, but declined to comment on the record.
The Banks Crossing Fire Station is the primary responder for fires at the Banks County Tanger Outlets, The Pottery and other businesses at the busy interchange.


Planning office took in more than it spent
But other departments with outside income still need tax subsidies
The Jackson County Planning and Development office continues to take in more income in fees than it spends each year, but six other county agencies rely on tax money to subsidize their operations.
Although Jackson County includes a number of agencies, seven generate a significant amount of non-tax income which goes toward their expenses. The difference between that income and the department's expenses is the amount which comes from the county's general fund.
In 2000, the planning and development office took in $37,900 more in inspection fees than the department had in expenses. On the other hand, fees charged by the county ambulance service fell $827,200 short of what is needed to operate that department.
Although the departments do not generate self-supporting income, they are not always expected to do so. The Jackson County Correctional Institute, for example, required a $230,000 local tax subsidy last year, but the county makes up some of that expense by using inmate labor for road work and for the solid waste disposal facility.
Planning & Development
Fee Income $400,700
Expenses $362,800
Net +$37,900

Ambulance Service
Service Charges $442,800
Expenses $1.27 million
Net -$827,200

Recreation Department
Fee/Concession Income $126,000
Expenses $371,550
Net -$245,550
E911 Department
Phone Surcharges $477,500
Expenses $898,000
Net -$420,500

Senior Center
Grants, Fees $213,200
Expenses $330,400
Net -$117,200

Rural Transportation
Fees/Grants $24,000
Expenses $44,000
Net -$20,000

JCCI
State Income $1.23 million
Expenses $1.46 million
Net -$230,000