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August 23, 2001


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Dragons to host Panthers Friday in scrimmage
Though they're separated by less than a mile as the crow flies, the Jefferson and Jackson County football teams couldn't be further apart.

Lady Panthers rock Glads in fast-pitch debut
In the first-ever varsity fast-pitch softball game in Jackson County, the Lady Panthers rolled over visiting Clarke Central last week, 14-0. J

Commerce Set To Scrimmage Athens Academy Thursday
After beating up on each other for nearly three weeks in summer practice, the Commerce Tigers will get their second chance of the preseason to knock headgear with someone else.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Lowe asks for boost in funding for sheriff's office, jail
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 last budget.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

Stop signs to slow Lula traffic
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.


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Beatty asks for funds from Bear Creek contractor to go to counties

Since the delay in getting the Bear Creek Reservoir in operation
is costing Jackson County $100,000 a month, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners want some of the damages assessed the contractor responsible for the delay.
Commissioner Tony Beatty asked members of the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority this week to consider sending some of the $5,000 per day in "liquidate damages" being charged to Beers Construction Company back to Jackson, Barrow
and Oconee counties. Beers is building the water plant and is being assessed the money because it is so far behind on the project. Beatty broached the subject of rebating some of that charge to the counties paying for the 21-million-gallon-per-day plant.
"I would like to see how that penalty is going to be refunded to Barrow,
Jackson and Oconee counties," Beatty told the group at its August meeting. "The basin authority has lost nothing as far as the delay. The three counties are the ones losing money."
Beatty explained that the Jackson County system, instead of having its own water source, must buy water from Commerce, Athens-Clarke and other suppliers, due to the delay.
Elton Collins, who chairs the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, said the loss to the county water system amounted to $100,000 per month."
Harold Fletcher, chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, agreed with Beatty and asked that the distribution of such funds be put on the agenda for the September meeting. Authority chairman Eddie Elder asked the Finance Committee, which Collins chairs, to discuss the matter and make a recommendation to the authority at that time. Meanwhile, the firm serving as project manager for the construction, speculated that the water plant would be able to send treated water to the three counties by Nov. 1 "if nothing goes wrong," but at least by mid-November.
Collins, noting that Jackson County will need time to sanitize and test its four miles of 36-inch and 24-inch transmission line before it can begin offering Bear Creek water to its customers.
"We're looking at January for Jackson County, don't you think?" he asked.
"I can see, potentially, you may have it in December, replied George Byrd of Moreland Altobelli.
"January," declared Fletcher in an aside to Collins.
"That's what I've been telling everyone," Collins agreed.
Athens-Clarke is not participating in construction of the water plant. Instead, raw water will be pumped to the county's treatment plant. That target date for that to occur is Sept. 22.


JAPANESE STUDENTS VISIT

Japanese students, led by Hidekatsu Sakamoto, visited Jefferson High School Wednesday morning as part of a two-week tour through Georgia. Here they performed a ritual dance in front of the school

JCCI firemen's group shut down by state
BOC chairman calls for 'management review' of entire corrections facility
The state has shut down the inmate firefighter program at the Jackson County Correctional Institute.
County manager Skip Nalley said he received verbal notification about two weeks ago that the firefighting program was being shut down at the county correctional institute. He has not received notification in writing, but the reasons apparently include concerns about the training of the inmates.
"They have concerns about the level of training that the firefighters need and that our inmates have not had," he said.
There has been no information given on whether the decision is connected to the recent allegations of abuse by the Jackson County firefighting unit at Banks Crossing.
On another matter related to the JCCI, board of commissioners chairman Harold Fletcher called Monday night for a "management audit" to be done of the facility. Nalley said this isn't connected to the problems with the firefighting unit.
When calling for the action at the BOC meeting Monday, Fletcher said it had been a part of his campaign platform that county have management audits of several county departments be done. The BOC unanimously agreed for Nalley to get the scope of services and fee for the management audit.
Fletcher said the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center could oversee the review. He said the report will determine the efficiency of the operation, any improvements needed and whether it should be continued or not. He said a similar review of the facility was done in 1977.
Commissioner Sammy Thomason said he "strongly agrees" with a study being conducted of the JCCI.
"The correctional institute is here in Jackson County because it has served as a work camp and not as a service to the state of Georgia Department of Corrections," he said. "If this is not a work camp and indeed we are merely providing a service to the Georgia Department of Corrections, then we would look at some changes. We need to know. If we are doing the right thing, we need to get in and try to correct the problems we have and make everything better. If we're not doing the right thing, we need to get out of the corrections business."
Nalley said similar reviews will be done on other county departments.
"We're trying to measure the effectiveness of all of our departments and, hopefully, be in a better position to do what we can to make our local government the best in the state," he said.


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.
John Gaisser, 50, who accepted the job Friday, was judged by Bryant to be the best of almost 40 candidates interviewed for the job. He is expected to begin his new job in about 30 days.
Gaisser grew up in and lives in Athens, where he was with the Athens-Clarke Police Department until June of 2000, when he took the job in Dahlonega. He has a bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Georgia and a master's degree in urban administration from Georgia State University. He was a commander in the U.S. Navy, served as a manager of corporate purchasing and as a marketing manager for private companies.
"He has had the experience in the private sector too," Bryant noted. "I think that has a lot of value. That wasn't one of the deciding factors, but it gives him a varied background you don't usually see with someone who's come up in a police department."
But it was the interview, Bryant said, that separated him from the other two finalists.
"It was his attitude toward policing, how he wants to go about it, what he wants to implement and what he wants to try to do," said Bryant. "Not only does he want to be active in the community, but he wants everyone else in the department to be the same. He wants people to know their names when they walk up and down the street."
Bryant said Gaisser's background has been thoroughly investigated, both professional and financial.
"He's a professional manager. It just happens that he has a good law enforcement background. He teaches training courses with the regional POST command in Bogart. He is a very people-oriented person," Bryant said.
Gaisser's wife is an anesthetist at an Athens hospital. They have two sons, one a freshman at the University of Georgia and the other 15 months old.


Beshara: Animal control plan needed in Jackson County
Jackson County commissioner Emil Beshara pointed to the large number of animal-related complaints reported each week at a meeting held last week as one of the reasons for the need of an animal control ordinance.
Beshara spoke to a small crowd of city officials and interested citizens at a meeting in Jefferson Thursday night. He reviewed the proposed ordinance and asked the city leaders to consider adopting it.
"This is not something we're trying to force down anyone's throats," he said. "There is a need for this in Jackson County."
Beshara shared a story of a Nicholson woman who was walking on a county road when she was attacked by dogs. He said she had to go to the emergency room immediately and required several stitches. The county dangerous dog board heard the case and the dog was determined to be dangerous.
He said the proposal doesn't call for "an animal control officer to cruise the county looking for stray dogs crossing the street." He said the officer would respond to complaints and the ordinance would be enforced on that basis.
Beshara said the section of the ordinance on registering animals is the "most misunderstood" portion of the document.
"This is a funding mechanism," he said. "It's an element I put in here to fund it fairly. The people who have cats and dogs are causing the need for this...The required fee is controversial but there is a need for it."
He also addressed concerns that he is ignoring how the project would be fully funded. He said that the funding would depend on the scope of the ordinance and how many municipalities participate.
The commissioner also emphasized that the ordinance is not a "leash law."
"Nowhere in it does it say that owners of cats and dogs must have them on a leash," he said. "...I'm opposed to a leash law."
Beshara said he hopes to have the final ordinance ready to present to towns within two months for consideration.


CHS SAT Scores Continue Slow Gain On State Average
Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores at Commerce High School continued a four-year trend of slight improvement. The SAT is used by most colleges to gauge a student's potential for success and as an admissions guideline.
The CHS test scores are still below the state and national averages, but they are 15 points better than last year overall.
The Class of 2001 averaged 948 on the test, including a 465 score on the verbal portion and a 483 on the math section. The seniors in the college preparatory program averaged 1,012, up 11 points from the Class of 2000. They averaged 492 on the verbal portion and 520 on the math section.
"We need our top students to have higher SAT scores if the mean score is to go up," observed Dr. Nancy Baird, assistant superintendent. "When you've got low scores, it really pulls the mean down."
To help boost scores, CHS will offer an SAT preparation course during the second semester to give juniors taking the test a refresher on the kinds of materials on the SAT.
In addition, Baird says the system needs to do a "better job of advisement" in all schools so students will take the courses that will best prepare them for their futures ­ and for the SAT if they plan to go to college.
"We know most jobs will require post-secondary training, but not necessarily college," Baird said, adding that advisement aimed at career choices should begin in kindergarten.
"We're pleased that the scores are going up, and we hope that trend will continue," said CHS counselor Elaine Roller, who also mentioned the SAT preparatory class.

CHS SAT Score Comparison

01 00 99 98 97 96
Verbal 465 474 474 474 491 481
Math 483 459 456 450 483 502
Total 948 933 930 924 974 983

College Prep Scores

Verbal 492 502 511 540 506 511
Math 520 499 475 489 500 534
Total 1012 1001 986 1029 1006 1045

Other 2001 Scores

Verbal Math Total
Commerce 465 483 948
Georgia 980
U.S. 1,020
Jefferson NA NA NA
Jackson Co. NA NA NA
Madison Co. 484 484 968


SPLOST for schools vote set Sept. 18
Local education leaders are gearing up for the next five years in major construction projects by promoting a "Yes" vote next month on a one percent sales tax for education.
Jackson County voters will be asked Sept. 18 to approve extending the education 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.
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.


County facing another lawsuit on landfill zoning
Jackson County is facing another lawsuit over a landfill zoning issue.
CKS Properties has filed a lawsuit against the Jackson County Board of Commissioners over its denial of a request for 195 acres on Cedar Grove Church Road to be rezoned from A-2 to I-2 and a conditional use permit being issued for a landfill.
CKS is a corporation composed of Kelly Henderson, Keith Appling, Scott Appling and Vicki Appling. Henderson filed another lawsuit against the county earlier last year over the denial of a zoning request that would have allowed him to locate a landfill in the West Jackson area. The court ruled against him in that suit. He has appealed the decision.
In the latest lawsuit, CKS claims that the existing zoning is "arbitrary and unreasonable in that it substantially devalues the property by restricting its use to a use which is no longer reasonable or economically viable and which constitutes a substantial detriment to the plaintiffs."
"There is no market for the property under its present zoning classification that would in any way approximate the value of similarly zoned property in Jackson County or in the vicinity of the property," the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also contends that the county zoning ordinance is unconstitutional and should be declared void.
This is the second lawsuit filed against the county in the past month over a landfill zoning issue. Earth Resources has also filed a lawsuit against the BOC over the denial of the company's request for a conditional use permit to locate a landfill in the North Jackson area. The BOC turned down the company's request to locate a construction and demolition landfill on 94.48 acres on Lanier Road that is zoned I-2.


Jefferson to advertise for city manager
The Jefferson City Council is in the market for a city manager, with plans to have the position filled by the beginning of 2002.
In a work session following the council's meeting Monday, council members reviewed advertisements for similar positions in other towns. They agreed for Jim Joiner to draft an advertisement for the city manager position to be published in the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) publications and websites.
The Jefferson council will hold a work session at 6 p.m. Tuesday, August 28, at city hall to further develop a job description for the city manager position, but agreed Monday on some of the basic qualifications that will be listed in the ad. The position will call for an individual with a degree in public administration, success in grant acquisition, Better Hometown program experience and previous experience in city management. The city council will have a professional, education and criminal background check conducted on applicants.



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See Galilee Preschool Flyer




City Third Graders Post Best Area
Scores In New Standardized Test
Students in the Commerce School System scored above the state and national averages on the new Stanford 9 standardized test last spring.
The results of the test were recently released after delays because of problems with the testing company that has the Georgia contract.
Designed to replace the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, last spring was the first time local students took the Stanford 9 test in large numbers. By state mandate, grades three, five and eight were tested. These are the "gateway" grades where students will have to past the CRCT standardized tests to advance a grade level in coming years.
The Commerce School System tested all grades in elementary and middle schools. Commerce third graders ranked at the 61st percentile overall, 15 points above the state percentile ranking for Georgia third graders. Commerce fifth graders were at the 57th percentile, while Georgia fifth graders as a whole were at the 50th percentile. Local eighth graders hit the 50th percentile, compared to a 47 percentile rank for eighth graders statewide.
Educators use the individual results to measure where students are strong or weak. Students are tested in the general areas of reading, math, language, spelling, study skills, science, social science, listening, using information and thinking skills. In addition to the overall scores, there are around 50 subsets of information showing strengths or weaknesses of students or groups of students. The results are also used to improve schools' curriculum materials.
Administrators and teachers had hoped to have the results studied and analyzed by the time school started, but the delay in getting the scores out means educators are just now seeing the results.
"Our teachers haven't even had a chance to look at these," said Kim Savage, principal of Commerce Elementary School.
Nonetheless, even at first glance, the scores look good.
"I think we're pleased with the scores," said Dr. Nancy Baird, assistant superintendent. "Part of it is that it's a norm-referenced test. It was new for students and teachers and when you do well, that really says the kids are performing well.
"I think that the kids were all above grade level and the percentiles were above the state is something the community can take pride in. They are above what would normally be expected at the time they were tested."
Each student and group was also ranked for grade equivalency in each subject area. A child tested in March in the third grade would be expected to have a 3.7 (third year, seventh month) grade equivalency score in any given subject. All grades, on average, tested well beyond their actual grade level. Sixth grade students, who should have been at the 6.7 level, were at the 8.0 level overall, for example.
Grade three was at the 5.3 level, compared to a 3.6 level statewide; grade five was at the 6.6 level, whereas the state average for fifth graders was 5.8; and eighth grade students in Commerce performed at the 9.5 grade equivalency; the Georgia average is 8.7.


Legislative districts to change again?
In a surprise move, Gov. Roy Barnes announced Tuesday that he wanted to change some of the new legislative districts approved last week by the Georgia General Assembly. The move comes as a response to apparent legal problems with some of the districts around Atlanta where minority voting strength was diluted.
As of Wednesday, it was not know if the proposed changes would affect Jackson County. Earlier, Jackson County was split into two legislative districts with adjoining Barrow County. Over in the state senate, Jackson County was split three ways.
In addition to revisiting the redistricting issue, the General Assembly is scheduled to also debate tougher regulations, or an outright ban, on video poker machines. Sen. Mike Beatty of Jefferson has been pushing for a ban on the machines, but that proposal met resistance during the last legislative session.
"Recent public comments made by the governor, Lt. Governor and speaker Murphy show they agree with the provisions given by the District Attorneys Association that would ban gambling," said Beatty in a news release this week. Beatty said he has seen bipartisan support to ban the machines.


Dixie Red Ave. homes flooded by runoff
Several Dixie Red Avenue, Jefferson, residents attended the Jefferson City Council meeting Monday to voice concern about runoff water from a nearby subdivision flooding their yards and pooling under their homes.
R.L. and Florene Griffith told council members that water running down the hill from the subdivision behind their neighborhood and then collecting under their home has caused their floor to buckle up.
Two other Dixie Red Avenue residents slipped into the audience at the end of the meeting, with one, who did not give his name, saying: "It's like the Oconee River through (the yards) when it rains."
Council members expressed concern that the subdivision developed just up the hill from Dixie Red Avenue residences was not built with proper drainage, and that the stormwater has simply been diverted to run down the hill and across the property below.
The council agreed for attorney Ronnie Hopkins to write a letter to county planner David Clabo stating that belief and seeking advice on what can be done.
When the Griffiths said they will have to have a new floor installed because of the water damage, Hopkins told them the one who caused the damage, possibly the developer, should reimburse them.
Council member Jim Joiner added: "The first thing to do is get (the water runoff) stopped...Let's get it corrected, get it stopped, then y'all are going to have seek damages."