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I've been slimed!
I was at the house subcommittee hearing on the house bill for
farmers' rights recently. The room was filled with unknown "suits,"
company execs, subcommittee members, poultry farmers and the
executive director of the Georgia Poultry Federation. Abit Massey
was his name.
C. W. Crawford
Nothing finer than a tomato sandwich
I thought I was getting my fill of home-grown tomato sandwiches.
My mouth was a little sore from the acidity and, you know, enough
Directions to Area Schools
Lady Leopards to open area play Tuesday
Banks downs East Hall in opener. With the season just getting
under way, the Lady Leopards' slow-pitch softball team is about
to head into area competition.
JCCI firemen's group shut down by state
BOC chairman calls for 'management review' of entire corrections
The state has shut down the inmate firefighter program at the
Jackson County Correctional Institute.
Commerce Goes To College For Police Chief
North Georgia College & State University Public Safety Director
Hired As New Chief
The current head of public safety at North Georgia College and
State University has accepted a job as the new police chief of
Commerce, city manager Clarence Bryant announced Monday.
Lowe asks for boost in funding for sheriff's office,
Madison County sheriff Clayton Lowe asked county commissioners
Monday to provide an additional $500,000 for sheriff's department
and jail expenses in the 2002 budget.
BOE passes 12% budget increase
The Madison County Board of Education completed its financial
arrangements for the current school year Tuesday night by adopting
a budget and arranging a line of credit. The board expects to
spend $28.5 million this school year, up 12 percent from the
The Banks County News
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Williams family talks after hearing
After Friday's sentencing, members of the
Williams family gathered to discuss the sentencing of admitted
arsonist, Jay Scott Ballinger. Ballinger had set the fire at
New Salem United Methodist Church which took the life of Kennon
Loy Williams. Pictured are: Linda Williams, sister-in-law; Rodney
LaCount, cousin; and Karen McCallister, cousin. Se this weeks
Banks County News for additional coverage of the hearing.
Judge gives life
sentence to church arsonist
Jay Scott Ballinger, the man who has described himself as a missionary
of Lucifer, received a sentence of life in prison, plus 80 years,
for a series of five church fires he set in rural Georgia from
December 24, 1998, through January 1, 1999.
The five counts of arson included the fire at New Salem United
Methodist Church that resulted in the death of volunteer firefighter
Captain Kennon Loy Williams, Commerce. Four Banks County firefighters,
Tim Smallwood, Chuck Bray, Perry Dalton and Chuck Bakanus, were
injured in the New Year's Eve blaze.
Williams' family, dressed in T-shirts that said "In memory
of Kennon Loy Williams" on the back and his number, 402,
on the front, quietly moved into the courtroom Friday morning
in Gainesville. Williams' mother Gertrude, eyes reddened with
tears, glared at the man responsible for her son's death as federal
marshals led him to the seat next to his attorney, Paul Kish.
Banks County firefighters Dalton, Bray and Smallwood were also
present at the sentencing.
At the beginning of the sentencing hearing, defense attorney
Kish objected to cross-referenced charges that linked murder
with the arson.
"He (Ballinger) was targeting churches, not people,"
Kish said. "The cross-reference to murder would apply only
if Mr. Williams had been targeted by Ballinger."
Kish added that Ballinger had planned his acts of arson at specific
late night hours so that no people would be involved. He asked
the judge to consider a lesser sentence.
District attorney Chris Wray said key language in the statute
defines the death as murder when it happens during the committing
of a felony crime.
"This is a felony murder," said Wray. "The frequency
of the fires transforms his crimes into a wantonness for human
life. He saw on the news that he had killed one man, and continued
to set more fires."
Judge William C. O'Kelley overruled the defense objection and
said the death of the fireman resulted directly from Ballinger's
act of arson. He stated: "Some people spend the night at
churches. Just because he thought no one was there is no reason
to consider lowering the sentence in this case. Anyone would
expect firefighters to be present to fight the fire. There is
always the possibility of loss of life in any fire."
Before sentencing, Judge O'Kelley asked if there was anything
Ballinger would like to say. Kish said Ballinger had written
a statement and requested it be read to the judge. As Ballinger
sat sobbing, tears streaming down his bearded face, Kish read:
"To everyone I've harmed and left with crazy memories by
my barbaric actions, I want you to know I'm sorry I regret what
I did. Please accept my apology for losing control After getting
to know so many people here in Georgia while in jail, it's caused
me to accept a new way of living, no matter what sentence I receive
Family members of the fallen firefighter were also called upon
to make their statements. Instead of addressing the judge, they
directed their remarks to Ballinger and spoke face-to-face with
the man who had cost them their loved one.
Williams' mother, Gertrude, trying helplessly to fight back tears
and fury, said: "A good man died because of you. At 10:22
p.m. on December 31, 1999, you left a big empty hole in our hearts
where once there was joy. Now there is just pain and anger. We
know you don't care. Nothing would make me happier than to have
you set on fire and watch you die like he did. At least I can
say my son died with honor. I don't think anyone will be able
to say that about you."
Dorleen Holland, Williams' cousin, looked at Ballinger and told
him about the loss they lived with each day and the nightmares
they lived with each night, especially Williams' young daughter,
"A little 9-year-old girl lost her father that night,"
she said. "He won't be there for her, to see her graduate
or walk her down the aisle. God showed you what was awaiting
you in Hell when He set that fire back on you. Man's sentence
will never be as hard on you as God's sentence."
Another cousin, Karen McCalister, said: "Serving Satan doesn't
get you anywhere. You're going to have to change your heart.
I hope that someday you know who God is and Jesus is."
Ballinger, nodding and with tears in his eyes, looked at her,
said: "I know."
Alvin Jr., also a volunteer firefighter who had gone to the fire
with his brother, said: "I lost more than a brother that
night. Everybody lost a good person. He was a good man who helped
everyone. If he had seen you (pointing to Ballinger) on the side
of the road, he would have stopped and asked if you needed help."
He told Ballinger that though he had burned a 100-year-old church,
he didn't hurt Christianity, he made it stronger, better.
"A church is replaceable," he said. "It will be
built back bigger and better."
Judge O'Kelley then handed down the sentence of life in prison,
plus 80 years. As a federal charge, the life sentence prevents
any chance for parole. Ballinger was also ordered to pay restitution
of over $558,000 to churches and two firefighters injured in
the fire at New Salem United Methodist Church, Perry Dalton and
Chuck Bray. Ballinger was also fined $10,000 to be paid after
restitution is paid.
But, there is a catch, according to Wray. Ballinger admitted
guilt to the fires only if he would be allowed to appeal the
federal jurisdiction over the offenses. The appeal, which will
come before the court in the spring, would not overturn any state
and local rulings relating to the arson, he said. He feels confident,
however, that the Court of Appeals will stand by O'Kelley's ruling
and that the federal sentencing will be upheld.
Ballinger had also been sentenced to 42 years and seven months
in Illinois for a series of church fires set in Indiana, Alabama,
California, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and
Ballinger was caught in Ohio when he went for treatment of burns
he sustained while setting a church fire there.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Banks County
Stop signs to slow
In an effort to slow speeders on neighborhood streets, the city
council agreed Monday to install stop signs at certain trouble
spots in the city. The council discussed placing three-way stop
signs at the intersection of McCloud Street, Tombs Street and
Maiden Lane. Residents of the area spoke in support of the signage
to make the neighborhood safer for the children.
Nelson Smith said: "If it would save a child's life, I'd
like to see something done."
The sentiment was echoed by the Rev. Darryl Womack of First Baptist
Church of Lula, which is at one of the chosen sites. He told
the council the church has plans to use the lot across the street
as a place for walking trails. "We want you to anticipate
that increase of foot traffic," he said.
The council decided to review the effectiveness of the signs
before placing speed bumps on the roads.
In another case related to speed bumps, the council rejected
the installation of them on Hemlock Springs Road. Letters asking
the residents' approval/disapproval were mailed two months ago
to residents in the Hemlock Springs Subdivision. Mayor Tim Allen
said the city has received 10 disapprovals, eight approvals,
and 11 letters were not returned. The council decided to count
the non-returned letters as disapprovals and voted to drop the
idea of the installation.
In other business, the council:
·discussed with Norfolk and Southern bridge department
officials the repairs being made to the old bridge over the tracks
in the heart of Lula. Norfolk and Southern would like to see
the city take over the maintenance of the bridge and say it will
not hold up long if it remains open to traffic.
·heard from Barry Wikle, who presented a plat showing
the lot where the new well is located that will help provide
the city with water. The first drilling for a well did not produce
a sufficient amount of water. Wickle moved to another site and
now has a well producing between 50- and 80-gallons per minute.
He also agreed to put up $25,000 and deed to the city the lot
where the well was drilled in order to get water to the subdivision.
·discussed the road work to be done and swapping of easements
along Cobb Street running along property owned by Bobby Miller.
It was determined that taped minute from July's meeting concerning
the road placement need to be reviewed before making a final
·considered a request from the Rev. Darryl Womack, First
Baptist Church of Lula, for a proclamation declaring Sunday,
Sept.23, 2001, as "Friends of Hirtop, Moldova Day."
Womack's church has taken up missionary work in the small village
in what was once a province of Romania. Womack said the current
mayor, Hirtop, is the first official to recognize the Christian
Church and has given land to be used for the building of a church.
Womack felt it would be a special honor for the mayor of Lula
to sign a friendship proclamation between the two cities. The
congregation at First Baptist has donated funds to build a fence
around the land and will be helping to build the church.
·heard a request from Jesse Cable to allow him to put
a produce stand on city property at Athens Street and Hwy. 123.
The council voted to turn down the request because it has turned
down other offers on the land and are thinking of making the
area into a park or parking lot, or both.
·held the first reading of the Wellhead Protection Ordinance.
The measure restricts property uses within a 250-foot radius
of the wellhead, identifies possible contaminants and their sources
in the city, lists stringent permitted uses, lists prohibited
uses and sets administration policies. A copy can be read at
Lula City Hall during regular hours.
·discussed hiring a new clerk as Suzanne Martindale will
be retiring at the end of the year.
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at school to pray for peaceful year
Members of congregations from six churches in Banks County gathered
as night fell to pray for peace and protection in the coming
school year on the grounds of Banks County High School last Wednesday.
Organized by the Rev. Vaughn Howington of Charity Baptist Church,
nearly 100 people from Charity, Mt. Carmel Baptist, Damascus
Baptist, Nails Creek Baptist, Gillsville Baptist and Ridgeway
Baptist churches came to ask God to protect the students and
teachers from harm.
"We, as God's people, are coming together for a common cause,"
Howington said. "I am inspired and encouraged by this gathering
tonight. It is because of God we made it through this past school
year safely. We must pray for vigilance and renewed love."
Diane Purcell said: "We're asking for holy protection in
our schools, so that nothing violent happens like it did at Columbine
and other schools."
Howington asked the assemblage to split into groups and go to
the corners of the school to surround it with prayers of hope
and peace. The prayer warriors took their positions and asked
their Father and His Son to keep an eye on the children that
would soon be walking the halls in all the schools in the county.
They gathered back at the front of the high school when they
had finished their pleas and sang together, "On Holy Ground."
The group hopes to make the prayer gathering a yearly event.
The 29th annual Banks County Festival will be held on the historic
courthouse lawn in Homer on September 8-9.
Festivities begin on Saturday at 10 a.m. with the traditional
parade. The parade is a special highlight of the festival. Entries
are judged and trophies are awarded in the following categories:
Best float, best antique auto, best classic auto, best truck,
redneck award, best equestrian entry, most unique entry, yesteryear
award, best children's entry, best buggy award, most unique tractor
and oldest tractor award. Beginning this year, judges will highlight
a special auto class. This year, judges will highlight Volkswagen
entries with a special "Best Bug" award.
Entries wishing to be considered for these awards must be registered
and set up by 8:30 a.m. No entries will be judged after 8:30
a.m. Registration forms may be picked up at the chamber office
and turned in to parade officials on Sept. 8. There will be no
four-wheelers, mini/dirt bikes or go-carts driven by minors or
unlicensed individuals allowed to participate in the parade.
For further information, call the Banks County Chamber of Commerce
seeks session on video poker
In a letter sent to Gov. Roy Barnes, Rep. Jeanette Jamieson has
requested that the subject of video poker be added to the agenda
for the second part of a special session.
The session originally called to address reapportionment is expected
to reconsider legislation previously passed which requires continuing
education for cosmetologists.
Mrs. Jamieson cited concerns from her constituents that communities
lying nearest to South Carolina will experience a tremendous
expansion of video poker operations should the state refuse to
address the matter.
Mrs. Jamieson states that she knows Gov. Barnes is greatly concerned
about the influx of video poker into Georgia and expects him
to grant the request to address the matter during the coming
weeks of the special session.