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August 1, 2001


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Fall sports teams prepare for 2001
CHANGE is in the air.
Across Jackson County, school is beginning in early August for the first time ever. In the sports world, the transition from summer into the fall seasons has begun.

Tigers Put On Pads And Begin 2001 Workouts
The Tigers have had spring workouts and spent the summer in the gym. They went through the Northeast Georgia Offensive Camp and had a week of conditioning. Finnally, the eager tigers put on their pads and began hitting.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
A day in the life of a Madison County deputy
The mention of a ride-along with a cop often evokes thoughts of high-speed chases and high-dollar drug busts.

Crew shoots for Dec. 25 completion of prison
The company in charge of construction of the new Madison County jail off Hwy. 98 hopes to complete the project by Christmas.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
124th Sunday School celebration held
Gray clouds provided a welcome relief and cooler temperatures than the usual 90 degrees on the last Saturday of July for the several hundred people gathered in Homer's Veteran's Park for the 124th Sunday School Celebration.

School council members attend training last week on objectives, guidelines
Members of the newly formed school councils attending a training session last week at Banks County High School found out what their role will be.


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AT SITE FOR NEW DEVELOPMENT

Jackson County leaders are shown at the site for a new Haverty's distribution center in Braselton. Shown are: (L-R) board of commissioners chairman Harold Fletcher, county manager Skip Nalley, chamber of commerce president Pepe Cummings, industrial development authority chairman Scott Martin, chamber of commerce president Randall Pugh and Braselton Mayor Henry Edward Braselton.

Haverty's to locate distribution center in Braselton
Haverty's Furniture Companies Inc. has announced plans to locate a $25 million regional distribution center in Braselton next to Mayfield Dairy. The business is expected to bring more than 300 jobs to the county.
John W. Rooker and Associates Inc., Atlanta, will develop the site and lease the facility. The 932,000-square-foot facility is expected to be completed and in operation by the fall of 2002.
The $25 million development includes the land and building, with the potential for another $25 million in furniture and equipment.
The building will replace two existing regional distribution centers, one in Atlanta and one in Charlotte, N.C. Both have reached the limits of their capacity and expansion is not possible, officials say.
"We are very pleased to make this announcement of a new regional distribution center that will accommodate future growth for Haverty's," said Clarence H. Smith, chief operating officer of Haverty's. "It will contribute to our goal of constantly increasing our operational efficiencies and strengths... Braselton, Ga., is an ideal location and a wonderful employment base for the jobs this endeavor will create."
Jackson County Chamber of Commerce president Pepe Cummings praised the team effort it took to bring the company to the county.
"Everyone worked together real hard," Cummings said. "It was really pretty impressive."
Braselton Mayor Henry Edward Braselton said: "We are happy to welcome Haverty's to the town of Braselton. We are pleased that they chose the Braselton site over other locations in Georgia and South Carolina. With 108 stores in 14 states, Haverty's is one of the top 10 companies in the United States in sales of quality furniture and accessories."
Haverty's narrowed its initial search to four locations­two in Jackson County, one in Anderson, S.C., and one in Gwinnett County. Cummings said the Jackson County sites were the top two choices. He added that the main reason for selecting Braselton was the accessibility to I-85.
Jackson County Industrial Development Authority chairman Scott Martin said the effort to bring Haverty's to the county was a joint effort by the cities of Jefferson and Braselton, school officials, the chamber of commerce, the board of commissioners, the county manager and the IDA.
"We all worked together as a team to come up with a package," he said. "Everybody rose to the occasion and we came out on top. I'm real pleased with the partnership that we have here...It's a tremendous shot in the arm for Jackson County."


Huge warehouse center planned in Braselton
The Trammel Crow Company wants to annex 160 acres at Hwy. 53 and I-85 into the Braselton city limits and rezone it in order to build a distribution center that would serve the Atlanta area and the Carolinas.
The center would be composed of five buildings totaling more than 2.6 million square feet of warehouse space. It would be similar to the Sears building on Hwy. 124 and Hwy. 211.
At a rezoning and annexation hearing in Braselton on Monday, project coordinator Dwayne Wood from Trammel Crow estimated that the project would bring in 1,500 to 2,000 jobs to the Braselton area and up to $200 million of tax base.
Action is expected on the requests at the council's regular meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 13, at the town hall.
At Monday's hearing, a crowd of more than 30 residents attended the meeting in opposition of the project.
The Trammel Crow Company officials focused much of their presentation of the project on road improvements they would propose for the area. Company officials proposed that Zion Church Road be rerouted so that it would be made more safe. The Georgia Department of Transportation has reportedly said that Zion Church Road will become right turn in and right turn out only from Hwy. 53 because of growing safety concerns at the intersection.
Another focus of rerouting would be to make Zion Church's overflow lot, which is across the road, be on the same side of the street so that the church's property is not bisected.
City council member Kit Braselton said that because of the lack of a straight intersect over Hwy. 124 in Braselton, the influx of traffic would be a "headache" for the town.
Trammel Crow representative Jason Williams said they "might address this as part of the rezoning."
Speakers in opposition to the proposal brought up various arguments. Hari Purugulla, owner of the Best Western motel, was concerned that the rerouting of Zion Church road would make his business inaccessible.
Others expressed concern about potential over development.
"I appreciate improvements (concerning roads), but I don't think that will be enough" said Phillip Davis. "I just moved from Gwinnett County and I hate to see this area go the way that did, selling out the countryside."
Some others expressed concerns about possible noise.
Trammel Crow representatives reiterated that the roads would be safer and that with only two percent office space, the impact on water and sewer would be negligible. They also stressed that there is not a subdivision adjacent to the property and thus noise pollution would not be as much of a problem.


Bear Creek Dedication Moved To Next Spring
Scratch the plans to dedicate the Bear Creek Regional Reservoir this fall.
Because of concerns over when the project would actually be done, the possibility of bad fall weather and the inability to get an access road paved, the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority voted Wednesday to postpone its dedication until the spring.
With the contractor scheduled to complete the water plant Oct. 29, the four-county group had planned to hold a dedication ceremony early in November with Gov. Roy Barnes as the speaker.
But at Wednesday's monthly meeting, a number of board members worried that a November ceremony might be a little optimistic.
For example, the completion date is hardly etched in stone. Originally scheduled to be done this past July 1, the date has been moved back several times. And as it rained heavily outside, members were reminded that the date could be further pushed back if there is any significant bad weather.
It didn't help that the Georgia Department of Transportation refused a request to pave sections of New Savage Road that will provide access to the site.
"We haven't been able to get the DOT to fund any," said George Byrd of Moreland Altobelli, the project program manager. "And to get any paving done by the end of October, we've got to advertise for bids this week."
The DOT is reluctant to have the road paved until the new bridge over Bear Creek is built on Savage Road.
"The staff just flat-footed said no, it can't be done," said Jimmy Conners, Moreland Altobelli's liaison with the DOT. If the road is to be paved early, the authority would have to spend the $300,000 to $400,000 itself.
Athens mayor Doc Eldridge then broached the subject.
"Are we pushing too close to the dedication?" he asked. "We've got road issues, funding issues and other issues. If we had more time, would that improve our odds of DOT funding?"
"Probably," Conners replied.
"This is the biggest crowd at one time we'll ever have. Paved roads would help," observed chairman Eddie Elder, who chairs the Barrow County Board of Commissioners. "You wouldn't show off a new car without the fenders."
The group wanted to avoid conflicts around Thanksgiving and Christmas and once the new year starts, the legislature is in session.
Board member Elton Collins, Commerce, has always favored a later dedication.
"It looks like to me, by April, we'll have the bridge built, the road paved, the lake will be full, everything will be green and the weather will be beautiful," he said.
"It's been 10 years in the making, 25 years in talking. We've got one opportunity to showcase it not only to the state, but the entire southeast, what can happen when several jurisdictions pull together," said Eldridge. "It should be our day in the sunshine."
Oconee County banker Amrey Harden made the motion to delay the opening until spring; it passed unanimously.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Commerce News.


Blacks Creek Road Residents Sign Up For 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.
The Madison County Industrial Development Authority hosted a meeting at which more than two dozen people put their names, addresses and phone numbers on a list signifying their willingness to pay the $600 to $900 it will cost to have municipal water brought to their property.
Reticence about municipal water and dealing with Commerce and desperation for reliable water represented two schools of thought exhibited among nearly 100 people who met with the IDA and the Madison County Board of Commissioners in the sanctuary of Blacks Creek Baptist Church.
John Scoggins, chairman of the IDA, moderated, explaining the options available to residents desiring city water. The first alternative, he said, is to let Commerce build, operate and maintain what would be an extension of the city system. The second option is to let Commerce build and operate the system, with the IDA purchasing it in five years. The third plan, the one favored by the IDA, is for the IDA to install, operate and maintain the system, buying water wholesale from Commerce.
According to Scoggins, Commerce is willing to extend its system out the Blacks Creek Church Road as far as Red Hill Road, serving residents of Mize Road and parts of Blacks Creek Church Road, D. Williams Road and McGinnis Chandler Road about a mile into Madison County.
"That's as far as they're willing to go," Scoggins said. Beyond that point, "the size of the area served is going to be determined by the number of people who sign up," he added. "You need a certain number of people per mile."
Scoggins proposed installing six-inch mains through an arc approximately two miles out from the Madison-Jackson line and selling water at a rate equal to the average of nine area water systems. He estimated a base rate of $10 for the first 2,000 gallons and $4.50 per 1,000 gallons thereafter.
"That's less than the citizens of Colbert pay and about the same as people outside the city limits of Commerce pay," he said.
Scoggins estimated that customers would pay $350 to $450 for a tap or connection fee during construction ($500 to $600 once the pipe is buried), plus a meter fee and the cost of running water lines from the meter to the house.
If enough households make the commitment, the project would take four to six months from the time the IDA authorizes its engineers to begin work, according to Scoggins. The IDA would borrow money to build the lines, which Scoggins said would cost about $22 per foot.
Not all of the residents seemed thrilled at the prospects of water lines. A number questioned the "control" Commerce would have over the water and water rates, the effect of municipal water on development, zoning or property taxes or grumbled about the costs.
Wesley Nash, chairman of the Madison County Board of Commissioners, seemed surprised by what appeared to be some opposition.
Nash explained how he was first approached by Commerce mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr., who had reported getting a lot of requests for water service from Madison County residents. Later, those people began contacting the Madison County Board of Commissioners, which turned the matter over to the IDA.
The problem, Nash said, is that area wells are running dry and costly new wells don't always produce sufficient water. He spoke of a constituent who "drilled a 500-foot well and got a whopping three gallons per minute."
Nash also pointed out that water lines would be accompanied by fire hydrants, which he estimated would result in a 50 percent reduction in annual fire insurance premiums.
Scoggins said he will contact the people who signed the list Tuesday night "in two to three weeks" to consider the next step.
For the complete story, see this week's Commerce News.


SPLOST for schools vote set Sept. 18
Local schools may be just opening for the new year, but education leaders are gearing up for the next five years in major construction projects. The key to those projects, leaders say, is the continuation of the one percent sales tax for education.
Jackson County voters will be asked Sept. 18 to approve extending that sales tax another five years or $43 million, whichever comes first. Approval of the sales tax will allow additional construction to accommodate a growing student population and will save millions of dollars in interest payments on existing bonds, school leaders say.
The tax was approved in 1997 for $25 million which was split between the county's three systems. Approval of the sales tax has to pass voters in all three school districts since sales taxes are collected countywide.
Superintendents from all three school systems in Jackson County spoke on the issue at the Jefferson Rotary Club Tuesday and again before the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.
The chamber has already passed a resolution in support of continuing the sales tax for education. Chamber president Randall Pugh said at the breakfast this week that it is extremely important to continue the tax.
"You can't separate the needs for quality education from all of the other things we are doing in economic development," he said. "It all goes hand in hand We have to be educating our children to fill these jobs we are attracting in the community."
Jefferson Board of Education chairman Ronnie Hopkins also made a pitch for continuing the tax at the city school system's annual community breakfast Tuesday morning.
"This would be a continuation of the existing tax, not a new tax," he said. "(It would give us) the ability to continue to do what we need to do. It cannot be done without SPLOST or a tremendous increase of ad valorem tax. We need your help. This will be an opportunity for all of us to contribute to the educational facilities for our children well into the future."
Jefferson School System superintendent Dr. John Jackson said the major projects planned would include the addition of a primary school for grades K-2, new buses and additional payments on existing bonds.
In the Jackson County School System, superintendent Andy Byers said an expansion of the county's two middle schools, a new high school in East Jackson and payments on existing bonds would top the list of projects for the funds.
Commerce School System superintendent Larry White said plans for the funds would include the construction of a new middle school, restroom and concession stand improvements at the high school stadium and adding practice rooms to the gym.
Since 1997, with SPLOST funds, the three systems have added dozens of classrooms to existing schools, built new schools, done extensive renovations to older facilities and made payments on older bond issues to lower property taxes and to save on interest.



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Tractor Trailer Wreck Closes U.S. 441 For Most Of Day Monday
The Georgia Department of Transportation blocked off a half mile of U.S. 441 at Center most of Monday after a southbound tractor trailer rig owned by Truck Service Inc., Forest City, NC, went off the right shoulder of the road at about 10:35 a.m. and spilled its load of insulation. Dink Wood used a chain saw to cut the trailer into pieces to be hauled off. A crew from Waldrop's Tree Service piceds up the load for disposal. The driver, who was not identified, was taken to Athens Regional Medical Center, according to the Georgia State Patrol at Gainesville.


Property sales up, but construction down
Although Jackson County hasn't been hard hit yet by the global economic slowdown, there are signs that some of the local growth boom has slowed.
During the first half of 2001, the estimated value of local construction projects fell 37 percent, down $26 million from the first half of 2000. Perhaps driving that downturn was a drop in permits issued for single-family homes of 25 percent and a corresponding drop in multi-family residences from the year before. Some $70.8 million in construction was estimated for the first half of 2000 compared to $44.8 million in the first half of 2001. Manufactured home sales remained about the same during the period at 92 units for 2001 compared to 90 units in 2000.
But while home construction may have slowed, property sales climbed during the first half of 2001 by 34 percent. Property sales hit $106.1 million during the first half of 2001 compared to $78.9 million the year before.
Total property sales for 2000 were $172.2 million while total construction in 2000 was estimated to be $131.5 million.
For the graph, see this week's Jackson Herald.


Jefferson, Jackson schools to open Thurs.
Summer's over!
Well, not really, but it may seem that way to several thousand students and their parents as the Jackson County and Jefferson City School Systems open their doors on the earliest date ever. School for students in both systems will begin Thursday under a new school calendar and amid a variety of facility changes.
And the traffic, well, plan for the worst as parents gear up for drop-offs and pick-ups.
Some 5,355 students are expected in the county school system while 1,500 are expected in the Jefferson system.
Among the highlights of the new school year are:
· New time schedules. Elementary schools in the county system will have an 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. schedule. Jefferson Elementary School will have a 7:50 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. schedule.
· A new calendar that has a week break in October and again in February for students who don't need extra help.
· A new primary school in West Jackson for grades 3-5.
· A new math series in all county elementary schools.
· A new fifth grade program at JES called "Fifth Grade Academy."
· Four new principals in the county school system and one new principal in the Jefferson system.


School Starts August 8 at Commerce
Some 1,400 children are expected to walk through the doors of the three Commerce City School System schools next Wednesday, Aug. 8, when the 2001-2002 school year starts. The system ended last year with 1,298 students and peak enrollment was 1,335.
"We're going to be ready," beamed superintendent Larry White, who after two years is crawling out from under the pressure of the renovation of Commerce High School.
Actually, the school year starts at 8:00 this Thursday morning with a systemwide breakfast at Commerce Elementary School.
"It's basically kind of a welcome back," said White. "We will introduce the new staff members at each school."
The three new school councils are also ready for the school year, having received their training Monday night. They will make recommendations to the Commerce Board of Education.
"The whole purpose is to get the community and the parents involved, especially in improving student learning," said White. "We had 20 of 21 council members there. I think we're off to a good start."
As expected, the final touches on the Commerce High School renovation are taking place this week. Most of the floor tile is down in the academic areas and workers are preparing to install new floors in the gym.
About the only thing that will be unfinished, said White, is the installation of new bleachers in the gym, and that will be done before basketball season arrives.