News from Madison County...

August 1, 2001


Madison County
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OPINIONS
Zach Mitcham
Kids' Journal was a positive experience

Once you've gotten beyond childhood years, it's easy to get wrapped up in adult things and forget what it's like to be a kid.


Frank Gillespie
King Roy is busy drawing maps

King Roy and his Democratic vassals are at it again! This time they are drawing legislative district maps behind closed doors and plan to force their plan through the legislature without giving any of "we the people" a chance to express our opinions.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Leopards put on pads for 2001
The Banks County Leopards strapped on the blue helmets and began practicing in pads Monday on the practice field behind the school.


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.



News from...
JACKSON COUNTY
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.

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.


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The Madison County Journal
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BEATING THE HEAT

Zachary Conner Funk, 4, of Winterville splashes in the water at Watson's Mill State Park Monday.




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.
And while that perception is somewhat due to the drama of television, getting into a law enforcement vehicle still offers a front row seat to the life of a lawman.
"It's the best way for people to understand what we do," deputy Jeremy Howell said.
Howell, who allowed the Journal to tag along with him Thursday, said he traded in an office job as an environmental engineer to do what he does every day. His "office" is now a Madison County Sheriff's Department squad car, armed with a scanner, patrol radio, shotgun, .40-caliber Glock and a pocket-sized photo of his 2-year-old daughter Heather, which is attached between the sun visors in the car.
"Just a reminder that I've got something beyond this job," he said of the picture.
But Howell, 28, is just one of the deputies who wears the badge and hits the roads on a 12-hour-a-day shift to watch over the growing county.
It's a rewarding job at times and a thankless one at others, but it's a way of life for 19 people in the sheriff's department.
It's just past 5 p.m. and Howell, who's been a deputy for over two years, cruises the back roads near Hull. Things are slow on the scanner, but the young law enforcement official says that this is about the point in the afternoon when things get hectic for deputies.
"This is about the time when people get home and people find that things have been stolen," he said.
On many occasions, this is how Howell's beat goes - rolling through the neighborhood areas usually between Diamond Hill and Danielsville, looking for anything out of the ordinary.
"I don't know," he said when asked why he chose a life as a cop. "I guess it's just something I've always been interested in."
But when Howell stops and thinks about it, he delves further into the essence of the job.
"You can't come in with the attitude that you're going to change the world," Howell said, driving down the road. "It's hard to correct 20 years of abusive relationships. But if you help one out of 20, then it's good to know you've made a change."
Things may be calm on this day, but Howell, who estimated that he's been in about a dozen high-speed chases, knows not to take the serenity on patrol for granted. Lives can be put on the line in a matter of seconds in this line of work, like they were on October 3 - a harrowing experience for Howell and others on the force as they followed an armed escapee from the Hart County jail.
"That day started like any other," Howell said of the experience.
But it changed quickly, ending in a shootout in the woods that night as he and others tracked the escapee on foot. It was Howell's first experience being fired upon.
"It was at night, in the dark woods," he said. "It was difficult to know who was who or what was what. That was a wake-up call saying my mortality is real and this is not just a game."
Howell is interrupted from relating the intense story by getting a call to a Dry Creek Road residence concerning a theft-more routine police work than Howell's October eye-opening experience.
Howell explains that he usually responds to six or seven calls a day but estimates that only 10 percent end in arrest.
The deputy agreed that an officer's presence isn't always popular, acknowledging that the badge often brings stereotypes.
"People are sometimes paranoid that we're on a power trip," he said. "But many times jail is a last resort. We look for the best possible solution."
Howell said what people don't understand is that police are dealing with just what they see when called to an incident.
"People often don't see situations the same," he said. "I'm dealing with what I see at the moment. It's a snapshot."
The deputy also explained that often the sheriff's department is too busy to fit the cop stereotypes.
With limited manpower - there are only two other deputies patroling on a shift-the job can often be strenuous.
"It hurts us when we have calls that require multiple officers," he said, referring to a recent Hwy. 106 hay fire that required all deputies on hand. "It ties up all our deputies and our lieutenant has to cover calls."
As the hour nears 7 p.m. and near the end of Howell's shift, he gets one of those calls that ties up everyone. He is told to go to the Madison County Mental Health Center and arrives to find the entire daytime shift there plus a Danielsville police car.
"The whole shift's here plus Danielsville, so I say to myself 'What's going on here,'" Howell said as he exited the car to join other deputies.
The situation turned out to be fairly routine, though. After nearly two hours, Howell returned and explained that a mental patient didn't want to be transported to another location and said the situation needed "a show of force" till the transportation van arrived.
While such calls concerning multiple officers might strain manpower, he said that those weren't the most dreaded things to respond to.
Howell said incidents involving accidents with injuries are the hardest for him to endure.
"You really hate seeing people getting hurt," he said.
While the job often has negative aspects, Howell said there are many times when people are helped, which he said is the rewarding part of the occupation.
"Just seeing a case going through to the system - from the collecting of the evidence to the courts - and seeing it help someone," he said. "That's the best part of the job."
A day in the life of a cop may be sporadically mixed with these rewards and tragedies, but Howell said he is happy in the career path he has chosen.
In fact, he sees himself hopefully carrying a badge for a long time.
"I couldn't see myself doing anything else," he said.



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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.
"We're shooting for Dec. 25," said Tom Payne, site manager for Boatwright Construction from Cumming.
Payne has hired Battle Masonry to take over for a mason that he said was not performing adequately. The new masonry company is dependable, Payne said, recently completing work on a B-1 Bomber building at the Warner Robins Air Force base.
Payne said he tried to hire Battle Masonry at the beginning of the project, but the company was involved in other business.
Payne said he hopes to start setting steel for the building next week.
The $3.2 million, 60-bed jail is being funded primarily through $2.3 million in sales tax funds approved by voters in 1998. The county is also borrowing money for the project.
Madison County's current jail next to Danielsville City Hall has an official capacity of seven inmates and consistently ranks as the state's most overcrowded county detainment facility.


To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.