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August 29, 2001


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Start It Up
Tigers To Start 2001 Season Against Young Franklin Team. If experience is the best teacher, then Friday's season opener against Franklin County will be day one of class for a host of Tiger players.

Let the pigskin begin
Leopards to take on Panthers Friday. The beginning of football season only happens once each year. And for Banks County, it will happen on Friday.

Pigskin teams set to begin Friday
Area teams to start at home. All three of Jackson County's high school football teams will open the 2001 season Friday at home, and all three games are set for an 8 p.m. kickoff.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
BOC to seek help with plans for Hwy. 98
Madison County commissioners want help in determining how to develop the Hwy. 98 corridor.

House fire under investigation for possible arson
An early morning house fire is under an investigation by the state fire marshall for possible arson, according to Hull Volunteer Fire Chief Frank Edwards.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Alto sets qualifying for election
The Town of Alto has set qualifying for the November 2001 election.
Qualifying will be on Monday, September 10, through Friday, September 14, with the office being closed on Wednesday.

State probe of fire unit completed
Inmate admits to sex with woman at fire station. The Georgia Department of Corrections has completed its investigation of allegations of misconduct at a Jackson County Correctional Institute fire unit that was stationed at Banks Crossing.


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GYM RENOVATIONS UNDERWAY

The Jefferson High School gym is getting a major renovation. Here, two men are shown painting the inside of the gym. Jefferson has used funds from the current special purpose local option sales tax to renovate most of its high school. Numerous other projects have been funded with the SPLOST funds as well.

Math a major weakness on CRCT results
Local middle schools struggle most on new state test
Like their peers across the state, local students were weakest in math on last spring's Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT). At some local schools, over one-third of fourth, sixth and eighth graders failed to meet state standards in math competency.
Statewide, 38 percent of the fourth graders failed to meet state math standards, but the averages of local schools show that fourth graders generally performed better here than the rest of the state. In fact, all local elementary schools had results that were better than the overall state average.
That trend did not hold, however, for local sixth and eighth graders, where two of three school averages were at or above the state failure rate. At both East Jackson Middle School and West Jackson Middle School, sixth and eighth graders exceeded the state rate for underperformance.
Language arts was another weakness in local schools, again mostly at the middle school grades. Forty percent of EJMS sixth graders and 35 percent of its eighth graders failed to meet state standards in language arts, both of which exceeded the state rate. Some 36 percent of WJMS eighth graders failed to meet state standards, a rate that was also higher than the rest of the state.
While local schools were generally stronger in reading, students at Jefferson Middle School did worse than other students in Jackson County and were at, or above, the state failure rate. Some 27 percent of JMS sixth graders failed to meet state reading standards, a number which was above the state failure rate of 24 percent. Eighteen percent of JMS eighth graders failed to meet standards in reading, a number which matched the overall state results.
Unlike other standardized tests, the CRCT is not a national normed test where students are compared to their peers across the nation. The CRCT is a Georgia test designed to measure student performance against state standards. Eventually, the CRCT will be used as a "gateway" exam students will have to pass at certain grade levels in order to advance to the next grade.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Jackson Herald.


Planners Pass Bigger Lot Sizes
For R-3 And R-4Proposal Would Limit Developers to Maximum Of Four Units Per Acre. A proposal to decrease the density of duplex and multifamily housing goes to the Commerce City Council with a "do pass" recommendation from the Commerce Planning Commission.
Meeting Monday night, the planning commission voted to recommend that the city increase the lot size per dwelling unit in zoning classifications R-3 (duplexes) and R-4 (multifamily) to 10,500 square feet. The amendment proposes a maximum of four dwelling units per acre.
The zoning ordinance currently requires 6,250 square feet per dwelling unit for duplexes and 5,500 square feet per dwelling unit for apartments or other multifamily housing.
The Commerce City Council will make a decision on the recommendation at its Sept. 10 meeting at 6:30 at the Commerce Civic Center.
What the planning commission hopes to do is to make Commerce less attractive for such developments. As the ordinance now reads, a developer could put six or more (depending on the number of acres) dwelling units of duplexes on an acre or almost eight apartments or townhouses per acre.
Vice chairman Greg Perry made the motion to approve the amendment. Doug Newcomer seconded it, and the matter passed unanimously without discussion.
In other business Monday night, the planning commission voted to recommend that a couple's request to rezone a lot for duplexes be denied.
Beverly and Warren Toney wanted a change from R-2 to R-3 for an oddly shaped lot fronting on Park and Troy streets.
"We felt like the only way we could do anything with it was to put a duplex on it," Mrs. Toney explained.
Real estate agent Susan Harris supported the Toney's request.
"This would conform with everything else in the area," she said. "Everything else is small residences or duplexes."
The planning panel didn't see it that way.
"If we grant their request, developers will be coming in, tearing down those houses and building more duplexes," complained Perry, who noted that the city's comprehensive land use plan calls for the area to stay single family.
Newcomer made the motion to deny the request. Kenneth Suber provided a second and the vote was unanimous.
In its only other action, the planning commission accepted the final plat for the first phase of Belmont Park subdivision. That phase has 72 lots; there will be 112 in the completed subdivision.


Commercial village plan gets nod in Braselton
Request to go before mayor and council.
At its first-ever meeting, the Braselton Planning Commission recommended annexation petitions and C-2 rezoning requests for a new restaurant and a commercial village project.
The newly formed commission, which elected William Braselton as its chairman, also includes Stephanie Braselton, Rita Herren and Kathy Schaaf. Attorney David Kirk serves as the commission's acting officer and Aaron Whelchel remains the town's planning officer.
With an audience of more than 30 people, the commission met Monday afternoon at the Braselton Community Center.
COMMERCIAL VILLAGE REQUEST
Tom Bowen, speaking on behalf of Frank Duncan, described the commercial village proposed for 50.19 acres to be annexed into Braselton from Hall and Gwinnett counties. The existing property is zoned residential and agricultural and is located at the intersection of Spouts Springs, Friendship and Thompson Mill roads. It would need both water and sewage services, with maximum sewage projections given at 100,000 gallons a day. City Clerk Jennifer Scott reported that the city will have a sewage line that will run to the Barrow County line and already has a water line that will run through the intersection in question, but that the developer would be responsible for connecting to the town's lines.
The preliminary drawings presented by Bowen show a number of commercial developments - from one large facility down to a number of smaller ones - clustered together within a greenspace and all within walking distance. Bowen proposed keeping 20 percent of the property in greenspace and calls for a 100-foot setback from Duncan Creek.
"This is purely commercial, no residential, with first priority to retail, then to professional offices," he said. He emphasized that there have been no contracts signed, but gave examples of Target, Applebee's, a mini-hospital and a golf-pro shop, as the types of commercial ventures that could locate in the proposed village.
"It's an upscale area, so we will put upscale commercial buildings there," he said. "It's a loose translation of Vinings at Jubilee."
Whelchel's report called for protection of wetlands, that the developer work with the town on water and sewage issues, that all erosion and stormwater requirements be met and that an approved wastewater treatment facility be established.
The commission agreed to recommend the request to the mayor and town council with the conditions that the final site plan approval by council be required for the commercial ventures and that 20 percent of the property be kept in green space.
RESTAURANT REQUEST
Phil Carter requested that 1.56 acres located at the current site of Pure Oil Station near the southbound ramp of I-85 at 5845 Hwy. 53 be annexed into Braselton and be rezoned from agricultural to C-2 for construction of a restaurant with a parking lot. The site is now in Jackson County and utilizes wellwater and a septic tank, but Carter's proposal calls for use of Braselton water and sewage.
"I can't disclose what type of restaurant, but it'll be a nice one," Carter said, adding that the restaurant would have 85- to 110-person seating.
In response to Herren's concern about traffic on Hwy. 53 and the lack of turn lanes at the site, Carter said the plans call for a decel/accel lane and would have to be approved by the department of transportation. He said construction could begin as soon as 90 days.
Carter was also amenable to S. Braselton's suggestion that the building's aesthetics be carefully considered.
"Since Waffle House, this will be the first restaurant to be built and will really dictate what comes next," Braselton said.
After discussion, the commission agreed to recommend Carter's request to the town mayor and council, which will have the final decision on the matter. Conditions for the recommendation are that a decel/accel lane be included in the plans; the developer will work with the town on aesthetics and site plans; and that an adequate grease trap will be installed. Whelchel's report also called for removal and clean-up of old gas tanks, proper restaurant parking and that the developer work with the town on establishing water and sewage.
City clerk Jennifer Scott pointed out that if the restaurant would use more than 350 gallons a day of sewage capacity, it would have to be added to the town's waiting list.


SPLOST vote on education coming up Sept. 18
A referendum will be held Sept. 18 on extending the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) for education.
That tax is due to expire June 30, 2002, but because collections will hit the $28 million cap earlier, it will end three to five months before then. If the Sept. 18 referendum passes, the tax would continue without interruption.
The three superintendents have been speaking at area meetings about plans to spend the expected $45 million in SPLOST revenue over the next five years.
Commerce City school superintendent Larry White said the funds would be used to finance a $6 million bond, proceeds of which would go to build a new middle school to house 450 students, for new concession stands, restrooms and a visiting team's dressing room at the high school football field, an addition to the CHS gym to provide practice space for wrestling and cheerleading, a new central office facility, upgraded locker rooms for girls' sports and miscellaneous heating and air conditioning and plumbing work.
"This is the best way in the world for us to take care of our capital needs without being a burden on the property owners," said White, who also pointed out that SPLOST funds "allow us to access" state funds that require a local match. The school system hopes to get $3 million in state funds to help with the middle school construction.
White said the accomplishments with SPLOST funds from the first round included the renovation of Commerce High School, the seven-room addition at Commerce Elementary School and the four-room addition at Commerce Middle School, plus a host of other improvements from new floors, ceilings or roofs and wiring for technology.
"A lot was accomplished with that penny the first time around," he concluded
JACKSON COUNTY
Jackson County School System superintendent Andy Byers said that the Tanger II outlet alone provides more than $2 million per year to the system.
As for the current SPLOST, "We did what we said we would do," Byers said, reducing the millage rate for bonded indebtedness from 4.53 mills to one mill. "That is a tremendous savings to the taxpayers," he added.
The system also built 10 new classrooms at North Jackson Elementary School, 10 new classrooms at South Jackson, nine at Jackson County Elementary School, built an intermediate school in Hoschton and bought 147 acres near East Jackson Middle School, where grading has started on what will be the East Jackson Elementary School.
"We've got $4.5 million in the bank for the new school we're grading on," Byers marveled.
If the voters approve the extension, Byers said the Jackson County Board of Education will increase the capacities of the two middle schools to 880 students; they're currently at 650 capacity. The system will also build an East Jackson High School on the same site where the EJES is under construction, will keep the millage rate for the 1994 bonds at one mill or less and will buy more land for new schools as the need arises.
"The sales tax allows us to buy $1 worth of brick and mortar for every $1 in taxes paid," he said, noting that to pay for the same amount of construction, the system would have to issue $100 million in bonds.
"I pledge to you the continued wise use of the sales tax money," he concluded.
JEFFERSON
Jefferson City School superintendent Dr. John Jackson said that when it comes to providing classroom space, the school systems have no choice but to provide it.
"When these kids are here, we've got to educate them," he said. "We can't close the door and say we don't have the room."
With funds from the current SPLOST, Jefferson has reduced its bond obligation, renovated most of its high school, added six classrooms at the elementary school, upgraded computers and done major renovations to its middle school and gym. It is currently building a new middle school.
If the tax is extended, the city system will continue reducing its bonded indebtedness, saving $1.75 million in the process, will split Jefferson Elementary School into two schools, will do more renovation at the middle school, re-roof its art/computer center and make additions to the new middle school now under construction.
Jackson also alluded to the percentage of the tax paid by non-residents.
"That's not something to be ashamed of," he said. "When you go to Gwinnett or you go to Athens-Clarke and spend money, you help their educational system with the SPLOST they've got going."



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Hospital Authority Can't Elect Commerce Member
The Banks-Jackson-Commerce Medical Center Authority will have to hold a special meeting after its apparent election of a replacement for the late Thomas Benton was ruled invalid.
It was to be a simple election Monday night. All the eight members of the authority had to do was cast their votes for the Rev. Tom Lewis, Rick Massey or Tommy Stephenson. Those were the candidates submitted by the Commerce City Council as potential replacements for Benton.
On the first ballot, Lewis and Massey each received three votes and Stephenson two.
"I think this is positive. It indicates to me that we had three qualified candidates," declared Chairman Charles Blair.
Blair then asked for a second round of voting, instructing members to cast ballots for either Lewis or Massey.
When the ballots were counted this time, Lewis had four votes, Massey three and Stephenson polled one vote.
Blair expressed the opinion that since Stephenson was not officially on the second ballot that the vote for him was void, making Lewis the winner. Dr. S.J. Shirley agreed, as did Jimmy Hooper, who deadpanned, "We can't read the intention of the person who voted for Tommy Stephenson."
Administrator David Lawrence agreed to check with the hospital's legal counsel to make sure Lewis was indeed the winner of the vote. The authority's attorney said no, advising that the winner had to have a "clear majority," which with eight members would be five votes.
It should be noted that there were no hanging chads in either round of balloting.


Appeals court denies motion on landfill lawsuit
The State of Georgia Court of Appeals has denied an appeal by Kelly Henderson over a Jackson County judge's ruling on his lawsuit against the county related to a landfill rezoning.
Judge David Motes ruled against Henderson in July in his attack on the county's zoning codes. Henderson had filed a lawsuit against the county contending that the zoning codes were not correctly approved in 1974. The lawsuit was part of his effort to develop 117 acres on Hwy. 53 as a construction and demolition landfill. The board of commissioners denied his request to rezone the property from PCFD to I-2 for the development.
In a separate matter, Henderson had also filed a motion asking that Judge Motes be recused from the case. This was denied by Judge T. Penn McWhorter. If the court of appeals had ruled in favor of Henderson, the case would have proceeded to trial.
Jackson County is also facing two other lawsuits related to zoning matters. Earth Resources and CKS Properties, of which Henderson is a partner, have filed suit over the county's denial of their rezoning requests for landfill projects.


State probe of fire unit says inmate had sex at Banks Co. fire station
The Georgia Department of Corrections has completed its probe of the Jackson County Correctional Institute fire unit stationed at Banks Crossing, concluding that an inmate had sex with a woman while on duty at the site.
The fire unit included three inmates from the JCCI facility and a guard from the Banks County Fire Department. The guard has since resigned his position.
The Department of Corrections looked into the allegations because state inmates were involved. Their report includes findings that one of the inmates had sex with a woman who came to the Banks Crossing fire station six times. The incidents occurred at the fire department, but the guard said he was not aware that it occurred. The woman and the inmate both admitted what happened.
The inmate also admitted that he had a cell phone sent to the woman through the mail and he had a cell phone.
The guard admitted in an interview to having unauthorized cookouts for the inmates, allowing family members to visit the inmates and allowing one of the inmates to drive to a nearby business in order to pick up a tool. The guard also said he knew the inmates had money.
The JCCI firefighting unit had been shut down by the state for several weeks, but it is now in operation again. Jackson County leaders say one of the restrictions will be that the inmate firemen will not be allowed to leave the county to go to fires and will not be allowed to return to the Banks Crossing fire station.
"Ultimately, they (the department of corrections) want to do what is best for the community," county manager Skip Nalley said. "Part of the reason the DOC was of the mindset they were when they closed the program is that, including Jackson County, there are only two other correctional institutes that have fire departments. The newness of the program and the uncertainties involved with liabilities played a role in that. The DOC is very supportive of the program."