News from Jackson County...

September 17, 2001


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Dragon machine rolls over Banks, 35-7
Fresh off a pair of huge wins to open the season, the Jefferson Dragons will rumble on to the Johnson High School campus Friday hoping to improve to 3-0. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.

Panthers fall to Madison County, 35-7
The Jackson County Panthers will travel to Elberton Friday for a game in one of the most reknowned and easily recognized football stadiums in the state, Elbert County's Granite Bowl. The game will be the first region contest for both teams.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
County reacts to national tragedy
Downtown Danielsville was unusually quiet Tuesday afternoon, as many stayed home or in their offices, glued to their televisions and radios as the unprecedented terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and other American government buildings unfolded.

BOC denies request to reverse work stoppage order
The Madison County commissioners unanimously agreed to stick to a work stoppage order on a manufactured home on Hwy. 106.
J. Stuart Teague Jr., an attorney for Classic City Homes, asked commissioners to reverse a work stoppage order issued by the county on a manufactured home on Hwy. 106 for Brenda Witcher.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Voters go to the polls Tuesday
SPLOST on the ballot.Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballot on renewing the one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for education.

New 911 signs arriving at planning office
The new 911 number signs are arriving and being prepared.
New homeowners will receive a 911 sign with their permits at the Banks County Planning Office.


Nicholson Candidates Qualify
NICHOLSON -- Two candidates have qualified to run for mayor and seven others will run for the four positions on the town council when Nicholson holds its municipal elections Nov. 6. James Kesler will challenge incumbent mayor Ronnie Maxwell. Incumbent councilmen Chuck Wheeler and Billy Kitchens qualified for re-election. They're joined by Deborah Moore, Bobby Crawford, Howard Wilbanks, Lamar Watkins and Paul Cartledge for the four council seats. Incumbent Margaret Ward did not offer for re-election. All of the city council seats are at-large and the four candidates with the most votes will win the four council seats. Kesler, Crawford and Moore were all unsuccessful candidates in the March 20 special election in which Kitchens and Wheeler were elected. Kesler polled 101 votes, Crawford 59 and Moore 30. Qualifying was Monday through Wednesday.

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SEEKING COMFORT IN PRAYER

Hundreds of local people, like these men and women at White Plains Baptist Church, went to special church services Tuesday night to pray for those killed and injured in terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

SPLOST passes; only 11 percent
of voters go to the polls

The special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) for education was overwhelmingly passed by 93 percent of voters who went to the polls Tuesday.
Some 1,712 countians voted in favor of the sales tax, while only 134 voted against it. Only 11 percent of the county's approximately 17,000 registered voters went to the polls.
The tax is expected to bring in $45 million in SPLOST revenue over the next five years.
Commerce voters passed the tax 363-15; Jefferson voters passed it 336-14; and county voters passed it 1,013-105.


Town elections set for Nov. 6
Qualifying ended last week and elections are set in several Jackson County towns. Those seeking office in the various towns are as follows:

ARCADE
In Arcade, an election won't be necessary as only the incumbents qualified. The council will consist of: Mayor Doug Haynie and council members Dean Bentley, Tom Hayes, Cindy Bone, Polly Davis and Ron Smith.

BRASELTON
In Braselton, incumbent Mayor Henry Edward Braselton will face challenger Patricia Graham. Others to qualify include: District 1, incumbent Bruce Yates; District 2, Tom Clark; District 3, incumbent Pam Jackson and Elise Cotter; and District 4, incumbent Dudley Ray.

COMMERCE
In Commerce, those who qualified are: At-large Post 2, city council, incumbent Archie Chaney and Neal Smith; Ward 2, city council, Donald Wilson; Ward 1, city council, incumbent Riley Harris and Oliver Pittman; District 1, board of education, Arthur Lee Pattman; and District 2, board of education, incumbent Mary Seabolt and Curtis Stowe.
Qualifying will end Friday. The qualifying fee is $81 for the city council seats and $18 for the school board posts.

HOSCHTON
In Hoschton, incumbent Mayor Billy Holder will face challenger Gary Titus. Those two qualify for the council seats include: Post 1, incumbent Roslyn Clark and Brian Boehmer; Post 2, Benjamin Davis, Glenn Evans and Larry Stancil; and Post 3, incumbent Joyce Peppers and Sandi Romer have qualified.

JEFFERSON
In Jefferson, incumbent Mayor Byrd Bruce will face Jim Joiner. Those to qualify for the council seats include: Ward 2, incumbent Marcia Moon and Bobby Patterson; Ward 4, incumbent Bosie Griffith. Those to qualify for the board of education include: chairman, incumbent Ronnie Hopkins; Ward 2, BOE, incumbent Steven Hix; and Ward 4, BOE, incumbent Derrell Crowe.

NICHOLSON
In Nicholson, incumbent Ronnie Maxwell and James Kesler have qualified for the mayor's post. Those who have qualified for the four at-large council seats are: incumbents Chuck Wheeler and Billy Kitchens and Howard Wilbanks, Bobby Crawford, Lamar Watkins, Paul Cartledge and Deborah Moore.
Qualifying was to have ended Wednesday.

TALMO
In Talmo, the incumbents were the only ones to qualify. They are: Mayor Larry Joe Wood; Post 3, Jill Miller; and Post 4, Trapper Brissey.


Two men from Jackson at WTC during attack
Two men who grew up in Jackson County were in or near the World Trade Center Tuesday when it was attacked by terrorists flying commercial airliners into the buildings. Both men are reportedly safe, said family members.
Former Jefferson resident Stephen Bryan, who is a professor at Wake Forest University, was at the World Trade Center on business Tuesday. His stepmother, Rebekah Bryan of Jefferson, said he was not injured in the attack.
"He got out," she said. "I haven't heard any more than that."
Mrs. Bryan said she hasn't been able to talk with Stephen, but that family members have had contact with him and he was not injured. She said she heard he was able to walk from the World Trade Center after the attack occurred and was in a church nearby.
Another former Jackson Countian, Robert Goodman, was working in a bank across the street from the World Trade Center. He is the son of Robert and Linda Goodman of Nicholson.
Mrs. Goodman said Robert received minor injuries when the attack occurred and saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center.
"He got hurt a little, but he's OK," she said. "He was knocked to the ground and he got cut up...Last night when I spoke to him, he kept telling me that he was fine."
Mrs. Goodman's sister and niece also work in New York, but were not injured. She said after the attack occurred, Robert walked six or seven miles to where her sister works.
When news of the terroristic attacks in New York was reported, Mrs. Goodman said she worried until she heard from her family.
"It was really tense until we got confirmation that he was OK," she said. "It was really scary. You tell yourself not to think the worst, but it's really scary because you are so protective of your children."
Goodman, who graduated from Georgia Tech in 2000, has been employed at Deutsche Bank since January
.
CITIZENS STUNNED
Like millions of other Americans, local citizens were stunned Tuesday as word of the terrorist attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon filtered into offices and schools.
Students across the county sat silently around televisions as news of attacks was reported. Office workers gathered around radios and small televisions in shocked silence as the latest news came in of thousands being killed in the largest terroristic attack to hit the United States.
And Tuesday night, many local churches held special prayer services in the wake of the events and additional services were scheduled for Wednesday night as well.
While some evening meetings and events were canceled in Jackson County Tuesday, most events went on as scheduled. Budget hearings held by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners continued Tuesday night, but the board stopped at 8:30 p.m. and gathered in the conference room to watch the president's address. After the brief remarks, the commissioners returned to their meeting.


Waste Management Wins Contract
Starting in January, a new company will provide residential and light commercial garbage pickup service in Commerce.
Accepting the recommendation of city manager Clarence Bryant, the city council voted Monday to enter a five-year contract with Waste Manage-ment.
Waste Management, said Bryant, provided the low bid for the service, saving the city $41,286 per year over what it is now paying Robertson Sanitation and $5,272 less than the BFI bid.
Under the terms of the contract, Waste Management will provide the service at the same rate for two years, after which it will be adjusted according to the cost of living in the southeast.
The city charges $11 per month for residential garbage pickup, but that also covers removal of yard wastes. Waste Management will charge $7.33 per month for weekly pickup of trash in 95-gallon containers. It will charge $13.56 per month for twice-weekly pickup of 95-gallon containers for small businesses and for twice weekly pickup of downtown trash cans.
"All of the bidders also submitted a proposal for curbside recycling starting in the second year. I recommend we look at that in about a year," said Bryant.
In addition, Waste Manage-ment offered an option, which the council did not discuss, to cover the pickup of other household wastes currently not covered by garbage service or the city's yard waste pickup.
One result of the change is that residents will get new garbage containers, Bryant said.


School SPLOST vote set Tuesday
New schools, upgrades at stake in key ballot issue. Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) for education will be extended for another five years.
The current SPLOST for education is due to expire June 30, 2002, but because collections will hit the $28 million cap earlier, it will end earlier in the year.
If the Sept. 18 referendum passes, the tax would continue without interruption. The tax is expected to bring in $45 million in SPLOST revenue over the next five years to be used by all three school systems in Jackson County.
Jackson County School System superintendent Andy Byers said that the Tanger II outlet alone provides more than $2 million per year to that system.
"We did what we said we would do," Byers said of the current SPLOST, which reduced the millage rate for bonded indebtedness from 4.53 mills to one mill. "That is a tremendous savings to the taxpayers."
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 Schools superintendent Dr. John Jackson said that when it comes to providing classroom space, the school systems have no choice but to build 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."
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.


Braselton warehouse project draws mixed reaction
A public hearing about an industrial warehouse proposed for location on 162 acres at Zion Church and Tom White roads alongside I-85 near Braselton brought mixed responses from residents and business owners Thursday night. At the second public hearing held on the proposal, TC Atlanta Development, Inc. representatives presented plans for the 2.6 million-square-foot industrial warehousing project and again requested that the town council annex the property into Braselton and approve rezoning from A-2 to M-1.
The council heard the TC proposal, then listened as 12 audience members spoke - seven in opposition to the project and five in favor. The council will make a decision on the matter when it meets at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 13, at city hall. Mayor Henry Edward Braselton and councilmember H.B. "Kit" Braselton are abstaining from any decision on the project, as they or family members have property interests that could be affected by the rezoning, explained city attorney Tom Fitzgerald.
During the two-hour hearing, TC Atlanta representatives Duane Wood and Pat Henry described the project, saying the benefits of the $75 to $100 million total investment would be to attract more businesses to the area, bring some 900 jobs to the area, boost the local tax base - serving as a "funding mechanism" for the school system - and "ultimately bring higher property values for the surrounding area."
When questioned by councilmember Bruce Yates, Wood said an estimate on how much tax money the project could bring in was "somewhere between $800,000 to $1 million" per year, including ad valorem, personal property and equipment taxes. He also estimated that 65 percent of that tax money would go to the school system.
"We want to join the Town of Braselton in addressing any concerns," Wood said. "We want to partner with the town, county and state."
THE OPPOSITION
Wood's pronouncement that the warehousing project would ultimately increase property values brought laughter from residents who are concerned about residential quality of life dropping if the project is approved. Audience members filled the meeting area Thursday night, overflowing up the stairway in the hall and into an adjacent room.
Town resident and property owner Bill Braselton was the first to speak in opposition to the warehousing project.
"As a citizen of Braselton, I am totally opposed to this project," he began. "It will cause endless traffic, with trucks running maybe 24-7...It would result in immediate lowering of residential property value."
Braselton proposed that the town council consider "much better, less negative, less impacting" uses for the property, adding, "We are going to grow, why not do it right?..My simple question to the council is, are we going to become a town of warehouses?"
Braselton also added that he has a piece of commercial property for sale near the site, and that the plans for the warehousing project calls for a road to be cut through that acreage.
Other residents, including James Harrison, Linda Post and Tom Clark, spoke against the project, citing concerns about traffic, noise and pollution, as well as the desire for the council to consider "sound growth" for the town's future.
Post discussed traffic pollution and noise, saying "Atlanta smog is not what we need...I hope when progress and change takes place, you will consider environmental issues, such as greenspace, noise and pollution...We picked a charming community to move into, not an industrial park."
Harrison, who recently re-located to the area from Gwinnett County, said he moved to get away from the bumper-to-bumper cars and is deeply concerned by what he sees as the "threat of not only bumper-to-bumper cars, but also bumper-to-bumper 18-wheelers." He questioned the council's opposing a Mercedes truck terminal locating in town a couple of years ago, but "now it's OK to consider tractor trailers in our residential areas?"
SUPPORT FOR PROJECT
A number of property owners and businessmen spoke in support of the warehousing project, including Herb Braselton Jr., Mike Dominy, Gary Waters and Charles Titshaw Jr., as did Pepe Cummings, president of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce. The city received a letter of support from school superintendent Andy Byers, who said if the property is valued at $100 million, it would generate $595,600 in school taxes, while a $150 million would generate $893,400.
Zion Baptist Church building and grounds committee sent a letter of support - contingent upon a new parking lot - as did other business and property owners. The DOT also sent a letter stating that it would be in support of relocating Zion Church Road, which TC Atlanta has said it would be amenable to facilitating. If the road is not relocated, the DOT is looking at making Zion Church Road a right-in, right-out only road at Hwy. 53 to alleviate traffic problems at that intersection.
Waters, Titshaw and Murahari R. Purugulla, who each own a business on Zion Church Road, voiced support for the TC Atlanta property and for keeping Zion Church Road open, saying restricting road access could be devastating to their businesses.
"They're willing and big enough to buy rights of way to move the road," Titshaw said of TC Atlanta. "That's the only way they could get trucks in and out."
Titshaw added: "It's also a huge tax base for the school system, and our schools need it, and eventually for the city if it is annexed in...It would be in the best interest of the city. Realistically, the development is going to come; it's just a question of whether it's for Jackson County of Braselton."
Other supporters, such as Edd Price, who submitted his opinions via letter, pointed out that the best place for industrial property is along the interstate, and that such zoning is consistent with county and city land use plans.
"This type of development will enhance the professional feel of the area and will attract other professional type businesses and business people...They will pay millions of dollars in taxes and use relatively little of the city's services...I believe this change will not only be consistent with the zoning of the surrounding area and land use plan, but will also have a positive economic impact and help to solve a serious traffic safety issue."

 



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Only Incumbents Qualify So Far
For Commerce City Elections

It's still early, but as of press time, all incumbents have qualified but no challengers have filed to seek election to seats on the Commerce City Council and the Commerce Board of Education.
Qualifying for the Nov. 6 city elections continues through Friday. The qualifying fee is $81 for city council members and $18 for school board members.
Incumbents Archie D. Chaney Jr., at-large post 1; Donald Wilson, Ward 2; and Riley Harris, Ward 1, have qualified for re-election to the city council. Mary Seabolt has qualified for re-election from District 2 on the school board and Arthur Lee Pattman qualified for the District 1 seat. All terms are for four years.
"We've got a good council and we're working together," said Chaney, 62, pointing out that one community development block grant project is under way "and we just got another one."
"I just want to continue to enforce city policies, help reduce crime and just try to take care of the residents of the city of Commerce," Wilson, 59, commented. "I look forward to serving the city during the next four years."
Harris, 69, seeks his third term of office after being elected in 1994 to fill the unexpired term of the late John Pardue.
"I would like to see the city get its infrastructure updated, get sidewalks everywhere they should be and I'd like to see the city posture itself for the expected growth," Harris said.
Seabolt has been on the board since she was appointed by the city council in 1989. She was vice chairman 1992 and 1993 and served as chairman from 1993 to 1998.
"I would love to see us build a new middle school, upgrade the facilities at the football field and see the special purpose local option sales tax pass again so we can do the things we started with them," she said.
Pattman said he wants to apply "all I have learned in eight years on the board to make the Commerce City Schools the best city school system in the state of Georgia.
"I want to continue to be here to watch this growth, especially the new middle school and the performing arts center."


Secret slush fund discovered at county road dept.
A secret checking account at the Jackson County road department was recently discovered by county leaders and a subsequent audit revealed that thousands of dollars has been spent on furniture, employee meals, flowers and gifts.
More than $29,000 had been deposited in the account since 1998, but leaders said they knew nothing about the fund until it was accidentally discovered while tracing a wayward check. A balance of $1,578 was shown in the account at the end of July.
There were apparently two signees on the account: road superintendent Sam McClure and his secretary, Kathy Mize. The account was funded from timber permits and the sale of pulp wood and scrap metal from road rights of way, according to the audit.
County commissioner Emil Beshara brought the matter to light Monday night, saying that an audit has been completed on the account.
"This is public record," Beshara said. "This commission is committed to spending the taxpayers' money responsibly. All issues like this will be aired out to the public. If we find a situation like this, we will correct it."
The audit reveals that more than $1,000 from the account was spent on a retirement party and gift; more than $1,500 was spent on meals for employees; $271 went toward commercial driver's licenses for employees; $352 was spent on flowers; and $1,250 was spent on electronic equipment, including a television. Some $1,400 was also made payable to cash, rather than to a specific payee. So far this year, more than $5,200 has been spent on furniture, including an oak table purchased in July for $450.
County officials said the funds should have passed through the county's general fund rather than being held by the road department. The account was apparently set up under the direction of the previous administration. The money was apparently spent at the discretion of the department and the purchases didn't go through the budgeting process or the purchasing department.
Finance director John Hulsey said that the money wasn't reviewed by county auditors earlier because it wasn't linked to the county tax identification number. When an audit is done, the county's accounts are found at the bank by the tax identification number.
The BOC agreed to close the account immediately and for all funds remaining in it to be deposited in the general fund.
The secret account apparently came to light when a check paid by the water authority to the road department was deposited into it instead of into the county's general fund. That led to questions from county officials as to why the water authority hadn't paid the bill for the road work. It was then discovered that the water authority had paid the bill, but that it was put into the secret account.
BOC chairman Harold Fletcher asked county manager Skip Nalley and Hulsey to send a letter to all department heads advising them if there are any other accounts like this, they need to be closed and the funds need to be put into the general account. Fletcher added that if any accounts similar to this are found in the future, it will be grounds for dismissal.
No disciplinary action against road department officials was taken by the board Monday night.


Kesler Challenges Maxwell In Nicholson
A man who narrowly missed being elected to the city council last winter has qualified to run against Nicholson mayor Ronnie Maxwell Nov. 6.
James Kesler and Maxwell have both qualified for mayor. Kesler received 101 votes in the March special election in which Billy Kitchens and Chuck Wheeler were elected to the council with 107 and 108 votes respectively.
As of 3:00 Tuesday, Wheeler was the only incumbent councilman to qualify for office. Others running for the four seats are Bobby Crawford, Paul Cartledge and Howard Wilbanks.
All city council seats are open. Terms are for four years and qualifying was scheduled to end today (Wednesday) at 4:30.
The other incumbents are Kitchens and Margaret Ward.