News from Banks County...

September 19, 2001


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OPINION
Angela Gary
Pets bring smiles and laughter

She suddenly takes off in hot pursuit of a small yellow butterfly. She jumps and twists in the air in her quest to get the small colorful thing flying by her.

Shar Porier
A writer afraid to write?

There it sits. My Christmas present from my nephews. I feel bad I haven't done anything with it yet. They were so happy when they gave it to me. "We picked it out just for you, Aunt Shar." And it was a great gift.



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Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
Flags flying in county to show patriotic spirit, support
As the news unfolded Tuesday morning of terrorist attacks against the United States, employees at Seydel International gathered around a television, much like Americans everywhere, to watch in horror, disbelief and outrage as news footage showed commercial jets crashing like fireballs into the two World Trade Center towers and into the Pentagon.

3 To Challenge Incumbents In City Elections
Three challengers qualified late last Friday to take on three incumbents in the Nov. 6 Commerce elections. Two of the challengers are former city council members.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
County mourns for victims of terrorist attacks
Their faces solemn, their heads bowed, many Madison County students joined hands in front of the high school Friday morning to pray for the victims of last Tuesday's terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

Expect increase in county taxes
Expect an increase in property tax rates for the Madison County government this year.
This is in addition to an anticipated tax hike for county schools.
Projected general fund expenses for the county government in 2002 are approximately $9.5 million, while anticipated revenues are around $8.5 million, leaving about $1 million in needed funds.


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FLYING THE FLAG AT HALF MAST

Members of the Banks County Fire Department held a special early morning service last week in front of the courthouse in memory of the firefighters and rescue workers who had lost their lives in New York. Captain Lee Burks, Kevin Nix, Brian Waters, Aaron Henley, Chuck Bray, John Keilholtz and fire chief Perry Dalton were among those attending the ceremony. "These men made the ultimate sacrifice," Dalton said. "You can't imagine how it feels to lose just one man, let alone hundreds."

SPLOST approved
Low voter turnout reported; referendum passes 729-43
Banks County voters who went to the polls on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved renewing the one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for education.
The referendum passed 729-43. Only 787 of the county's 6,424 registered voters went to the polls.
The SPLOST calls for a maximum collection of $16 million over the five-year time period. The SPLOST currently in place for education was initiated in March 1997 and it produced over $6.25 million. That revenue was dedicated to pay for construction of the new high school.
New SPLOST money will go to construction of a new middle school. Also planned are additional elementary school classrooms and renovations and improvements to existing kindergarten through eighth grade facilities. Completion of the athletics complex at Banks County High School is also included in the plans.



County couple's trip to Washington, D.C., cut short last week by terrorist attack
Fred and Judy Wendt had planned a few days of sight-seeing in Washington, D.C. before attending the United Methodist Women's Conference set to begin on Thursday, September 13. The terrorist attack on the Pentagon last week cut their visit short.
Wendt said they arrived Monday night in the small town of Long Church, Va., where they planned on staying until Wednesday, when they would check into the Washington hotel where the conference would be held.
Upon waking early Tuesday morning, they took the subway into Washington and went to the Longworth Building to visit with an old friend, congressman Charlie Norwood. Wendt said Norwood was providing them with tickets to tour the White House and the Capitol Building on Wednesday.
He said they went up to Norwood's office, where they found staff members glued to the TV.
"We had not known that anything had happened," she said. "They told us the Trade Center had been struck by two aircraft in a terrorist attack."
He said the television was showing the two attacks and Judy, his wife, not wanting to believe her eyes, asked if what she was seeing was real or was it a movie? They assured her the attack was all too real, he said.
Judy said, "We were just in shock. But everyone was so calm, we didn't think there was going to be a problem there in Washington."
"For a short while, we sat and discussed who would do such a thing," he said. "Then one of the staff began looking for our tickets. We were thinking the event in New York wouldn't really affect us, so we were going to go ahead with our tour."
Minutes later, other office workers burst into the office telling them a building four blocks away had been bombed and everyone was to evacuate the Longworth Building, which houses many congressional offices.
"People immediately headed for the stairwells," he said.
"When we started down the stairwells we began praying - for the people in New York and thanking God for keeping us safe," said Judy.
Wendt said, "And we all proceeded out of the building. Things were very calm and orderly. There was no panic, no rush. When we got outside, we looked around for some evidence of the explosion. We had heard nothing at all from the office."
As the Wendts walked down the street toward the Capitol Building, they thought it odd that none of the other buildings were being evacuated. As they stood at the pool by the Capitol Building, they watched as workers from the the Capitol and news crews gathered at the base of the steps.
"We thought maybe it had been a false alarm," Judy said. "Then someone saw some smoke rising in the distance. Fred climbed up on a statue to see a little better and he saw the smoke, black, billowing up." A jogger with a radio told them someone had flown a plane into the Pentagon, just a mile away across the Potomac River.
As fire and police sirens sounded and units began setting up around the Capitol, Wendt said a security officer told them to get away. The Capitol Building had been identified as a target. The sidewalks and streets filled up with people and cars as buildings and the area were evacuated.
"We did hear an explosion then, but couldn't tell where it came from," they said.
The Wendts went back to the hotel where friends were supposed to be staying, but they had not checked in yet. Wendt said they watched TV as events unfolded. The hotel was beginning to fill up because the airport had been shut down.
"Roads, bridges, everything had been shut down," he said. "We tried to figure out what to do when our friends arrived at the hotel."
He said their friends had been near the Pentagon at the FDR Memorial when the plane struck. They said they did not hear any explosion, just saw a flash and smoke.
Judy and Louise Young, president of the United Methodist Women Northeast Chapter, decided this was not the week to hold the conference and called it off.
"That allowed the hotel manager to begin giving rooms to the people who were stranded," said Judy.
The Wendts decided they had better start calling the family back home to let them know everything was all right. "We didn't want them to worry," said Judy.
Rather than try to get to the Pentagon to see for themselves what was happening, Judy said they thought the best thing they could do would be to just stay out of the way. "If we thought we could have been of some help, we may have tried to go there. But, there was really nothing we could do. And we felt it was more important to let the people at home know we were safe."
After a few hours, the Wendts left the hotel to get back to their car in Long Church and head for home.
"It was odd," Wendt said. "Washington looked like a ghost town. There was no one on the streets, very little traffic."
As they tried to find their way to the nearest subway station, they came across a well-dressed gentleman who was walking hurriedly down the sidewalk. He told them he was with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They asked him where the nearest station was and he told them to follow him, that he was headed there to get to the temporary offices the agency had set up in Virginia.
"He told us to get out of Washington," Wendt said.
"He was like an angel," said Judy. "He helped us and then he just disappeared. We never saw him on the train."
The Wendts said they ran into a number of people who did not know what was going on. When they told them what little they knew, they had this look of astonishment, he said.
"It was the most amazing thing. There was no panic, everyone was so calm and considerate," he added.
The Wendts arrived safely home Wednesday evening.


Alto, Homer, Lula to hold elections
Three towns in Banks County will be having elections Tuesday, November 6, for council and mayoral seats. Qualifying ended last week and the following names have been announced:
In Alto, the only race will be in Post 1 where Donald Wade and James Phil Lomax will face each other. In Post 5, incumbent Gary Terrell was the only one to qualify, and in Post 3, incumbent Audrey Turner was the only one to qualify.
In Homer, seven candidates are seeking the two at-large council seats up for grabs. Those to qualify include: incumbents Doug Cheek and Sandra Garrison and Ricky E. Blackwell, Betty Borders, Bobby Joe Caudell, Danny Vaughn and Larry Whitfield. Incumbent Leon Ray was the only person to qualify for the mayor's seat.
In Lula, former councilman Milton Turner and Eddie Withrow are seeking the mayor's seat. In the Post 3 council seat, Greg Smith will face Vickie Chambers. In Post 2, Mordecia Wilson was the only one to qualify.
Baldwin will not be having an election as no one qualified for the mayor's or the two council members' seats up for grabs.


BOC hires clerk
The Banks County Board of Commissioners hired Regina Gailey Friday to serve as the new county clerk.
She is a former county employee. Gailey, who will begin work on Oct. 1, will replace long-time clerk Avis Lewallen, who is retiring. Lewallen will remain with the county through January and will train Gailey. The clerk's salary will be $30,000.
In other business Friday:
·chairman Kenneth Brady read a letter from President George Bush declaring Friday as a National Day of Prayer.
·the BOC approved a resolution from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia on the national crisis and honoring those killed and injured by terrorists.
·the BOC heard a request from W. Collier Cato of the Georgia Mountains Community Services to provide space in the county for a program for mentally challenged area residents. Cato said he would provide the staff members, but needs the space to offer services to these county residents. The BOC made several suggestions for available space in the county, including the old BOC building, and agreed to work with Cato on this.
·agreed to hold a surplus equipment sale for county equipment. It was held this past Saturday.
·agreed that county employees will now be required to wear identification badges. They will be made in-house and provided to the staff members.
·agreed to hold random drug screenings for county employees.
·agreed to purchase three sets of table and chairs for the new agriculture barn in the county at a cost of $360.
·agreed to sell the fire station at I-85 when the planned road project is completed. Commissioners pointed out that this project will likely be at least two years away. The BOC also agreed that revenue from the sale of the property will go toward locating a new fire station at the I-85 area. Any remaining money would go into the county's general fund, officials said.
·the BOC agreed that parking not be allowed the alley behind the courthouse. No parking signs will be up and the curb will be painted yellow.

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Maysville hears water complaints
Unhappy water customers made their grievances known at last week's Maysville City Council meeting.
Stephanie Garrison and Norris Ray both protested additional fees appearing on their bills.
The residents have one or more additional dwellings that come off their meter base. A base charge of $24 per month per dwelling is added to their bills because of the extra dwellings, said water superintendent, Ralph Sailors. This procedure has been in place for a number of years and was initiated to save customers the cost of installing additional water meters, officials said.
Over the years, this cost has increased from $10 to $15; $24 if garbage pick-up service is included, he said.
City attorney Gary Freeman said: "The city has a code requiring a system fee of $24 for each dwelling. Residents pay that fee plus their water usage. Everybody in town who has a similar situation is being billed in the same manner, consistently. Everybody is being treated the same, as best I can tell."
Sailors said: "It was a way for a resident to save the cost of adding an additional water meter. The minimum cost for installing a meter is $775; more if we have to bore under the road to reach the home. The fee is also refundable after two years if the account is held in good standing or if the resident moves. The FDA requires one meter per dwelling."
Garrison said she is concerned about the amount of the bill because the base fees were not specified on the bill.
"I just want to know where my money is going," she said.
City clerk Lois Harper said the computer accounting system is unable to break down the billing.
Council member Andy Martin suggested changing systems so customers would know where their money was going.
Garrison also said: "I think the meter is wrong. You're saying I'm using 12,000 gallons a month. I don't see how I'm using that much."
Sailors replied: "A meter will not turn if water is not going through it."
She then asked if the city had checked for water leaks on the city's side of the line.
Mayor Richard Presley answered that water lost on the city's line would not turn the meter.
When it was suggested she install a new water meter for the additional dwelling, she replied: "I would rather dig my own well than pay the town."
Ray said he received a bill showing a charge of $153 that was crossed out and $80 put in its place.
"Why was that done? Why were y'all going to charge my $153," he asked
Sailors replied that the previous bill had been delinquent and that even thought the payment had been received by the city, the billing had not reflected the payment. So, it was corrected at the office when the bills were mailed.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business:
·Sailors reported that the water lines on Magnum Bridge Road to Hwy. 98 and the loop out Hwy. 98 through Oak Ridge to West Ridgeway had been completed. He said residents have been cooperative in installing pressure regulators to protect their water lines from the increased pressure now running in the lines. He suggested that residents check the pressure gauge before putting the regulator in which comes pre-set from the manufacturer. He said anyone in the water department would not be able to set the pressure due to possible problems that could occur. The pressure regulation is up to the resident, he said.
·Sailors also reported that 12 leaks have been repaired.
·Sue Mealor, Maysville Public Library director, thanked the council for the financial support toward the summer reading program. Some 168 children participated in the program and read over 3,000 books, she said. ·Martin said a benefit 5K run is in the planning stages and asked the council for their approval to hold it in the city. Proceeds from the race will help the family of Angie Rouse who is battling cancer. The race is planned for Saturday, Oct. 27. The council approved sponsoring the event.
·Scott Harper, council member, said the Maysville Beautification Committee have finalized plans for the park.
·the council approved the hiring of David Savage as a full-time officer on the police department.
·the council approved the bid of $3,875 per cutting submitted by Dennis Cantrell to cut grass in the city limits.