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September 21, 2001


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Neighboorhood News ..
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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


 

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SHOW OF PATRIOTISM

This God Bless America sign with an American flag attached was put up at Trinity Tire, Jefferson, following last week's terrorist attacks. Similar signs and flags are visible at businesses, churches, schools, government buildings and homes across the county. For additional storys see this weeks Jackson Herald.

Water projects put on hold
JEFFERSON -- The economic slowdown 96 deepened by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has led the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority to put several water projects on hold.

Manager Jerry Waddell suggested Thursday night "putting the brakes on spending," citing declining revenue from the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST), $149,000 per month payments on the Bear Creek Reservoir and an increase of $59,000 per month on its bond repayment.

"The total (of the two monthly payments) is more than the checks we receive from SPLOST," Waddell said. "That tells me we need to put the brakes on." The delay in finishing the reservoir project costs the authority at least $100,000 per month in lost profits, according to Elton Collins, chairman, and the slowing economy just makes matters worth. The collections from the 2000 SPLOST have been below projections every month since February. Although total collections through the first 14 months of the five-year sales tax are 4.3 percent over projections, collections February through August averaged eight percent below what was expected.

"We are under projection every month this year," said Collins. "And after what happened last week (the terrorist attacks), some say we are sliding into a recession."

At Waddell's suggestion and with the recommendation of engineer Charlie Armentrout, the authority put on hold three projects upon which construction has not been started. They include line installation along Old Hoods Mill Road and various other areas in SPLOST project three, a waterline extension along Georgia 15 in the center of the county and lines in the southeastern section in SPLOST projects four and five.

On the positive side, Waddell reported that the authority's projects moving water lines for the Department of Transportation's Jefferson and Pendergrass bypasses will result in the DOT reimbursing the authority for about $600,000 in expenses.

"That may be the time to re-look at the issue," he told the authority.


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.
For Jackie Golden, president of the company located on John B. Brooks Road, Pendergrass, sitting and watching wasn't enough. He wanted a way to show visible support for the country. The American flag came to mind.
On Wednesday, Golden bought every flag he could find - the kind that attaches to car windows - pretty much cleaning out the supply at the Kmart in Gainesville, where he noted there were "a lot of other people buying flags, too." Golden then passed the flags out to co-workers and employees, and on Thursday morning, nearly every vehicle in the Seydel International parking lot was flying at least one flag - Golden's car sported two, one on each side.
"I bought about 60 flags," Golden said. "I was thinking about those football flags people put on their cars and I was thinking it would be a good idea to get them in American flags...This is just to show support for the United States. They said we should fly a flag until the period of mourning is over, and in retaliation."
All over Jackson County, residents posted American flags outside their homes, while businesses also flew the Stars and Stripes. Flags were flown at half-mast at the courthouse, city halls, schools and other government buildings as a show of respect for a nation in mourning, and Thursday morning found Jefferson Police Chief Darren Glenn and Jefferson City Council member Jim Joiner kneeling in the grass on the square in Jefferson, setting up rows of American flags.
Church signs called for prayer and issued "Open For Prayer!" invitations for those seeking answers, and businesses as well posted their signs with supportive messages.
"God Bless America" read the sign at Trinity Tire, Jefferson, with a small flag attached to it and the arrow above it flashing with yellow lights.


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.
Neal Smith qualified to run for the at-large, Post 2 seat held by Archie D. Chaney Jr. Curtis Stowe will run for the District 2 seat on the Commerce Board of Education against his next-door-neighbor, Mary Seabolt. The other challenger is Oliver Pittman, who seeks the Ward 1 seat on the city council held by Rylee Harris, who also seeks re-election.
Smith, 60, served as an at-large councilman in the late 1980s. A former manager of the Holiday Inn, he is employed by the University of Georgia at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education in hotel management. He and his wife, Doris, live at 334 Roosevelt Blvd., and have two grown daughters, three grandchildren and a fourth on the way.
"I just want to help the people and to continue to make government strong," Smith said.
Stowe, 69, lives at 123 Nunn Street. A native of Commerce and graduate of Commerce High School, he served four years as an at-large councilman. He is retired from Scientific Atlanta.
"I just think I can help the kids and teachers," he said. "I have plenty of time to do it."


County BOE plans slight increase in millage rate
The Jackson County Board of Education plans to increase its tax rate slightly for 2002, from the current 14.89 mills to 15.50. According to superintendent Andy Byers, the increase is necessary due to lower-than-expected county tax digest figures.
"My thinking was that we'd have a much larger increase in the tax base due to the power plant coming on line," Byers said.
Board members struggled with the increase Byers and management services director Jeff Sanchez had asked for during a called meeting last Thursday, finally settling on the .61-mill hike after much discussion about whether to increase the rate at all.
"The truth is, we rolled the millage rate back too much last year," Byers said. "We will not have any choice if we keep it where it is, but to have it go up two mills next year." Byers went on to note that if Tuesday's SPLOST referendum had not passed, the rate would probably have been increased to around 20 mills.
"Well, look at the things we've been able to provide," chairperson Kathy Wilbanks pointed out. "Put in real terms of what it costs them, who wouldn't want this?"
"And you have to ask yourself," Byers continued, "do we want to keep providing a quality education, or do we start cutting, and if so, where do you start?"
"If you think I want to cut anything you're crazy," board member Ed Tolbert commented, "but I have an obligation to the folks who elected me."
"But we'll be doing a greater disservice to the students if we don't raise the millage rate," member Stephanie Kitchen responded. Tolbert agreed.
"The bottom line is, we don't want to take anything away from the kids," Wilbanks said. The final vote was unanimous.
The system's bond millage rate will remain unchanged. Public ad valorem tax hearings ­ required by law if tax revenue increases ­ are planned for next Thursday in the staff development room, the first at 7:30 a.m. and the second at 6:30 p.m. The millage rate will be officially set at a called meeting Oct. 4 at 7:30 a.m.
The board will also hold a called joint meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at the Jackson EMC building with the Jefferson and Commerce school boards for the purpose of consolidating the SPLOST referendum returns.


SPLOST passes 93%
The special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) for education was overwhelmingly passed by 93 percent of the 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.
"I think it's a great vote of confidence on how we handled the previous SPLOST money," Jackson County School Superintendent Andy Byers said Tuesday night after the final votes were tallied.
Byers said the SPLOST funds will be used to increase the capacities of the two middle schools to 880 students each. 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.
Jefferson City School superintendent Dr. John Jackson said: "I feel wonderful over the fact that it passed and it passed in such an overwhelming affirmative. We're just elated."
The funds will be used by the city system to continue reducing the bond indebtedness, saving $1.75 million in the process, to split Jefferson Elementary School into two schools, to do more renovation at the middle school, to re-roof its art/computer center and to make additions to the new middle school now under construction.
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.
Commerce School System superintendent Larry White said: "I'm just excited. It shows the support for public schools we have in Jackson County and Commerce."
White attributes the success of the SPLOST vote to the three school systems doing what they promised to when the sales tax was first approved in 1997.
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.
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, including new floors, ceilings or roofs and wiring for technology.


Town elections set for Nov. 6
Mayoral races on tap in Jefferson, Braselton, Hoschton and Nicholson
Qualifying ended last week and elections are set in several Jackson County towns. Among the races on the ballot will be four mayor's posts.
The incumbents in Jefferson, Braselton, Hoschton and Nicholson are all facing opposition. Jefferson Mayor Byrd Bruce will face councilman Jim Joiner; Braselton Mayor Henry Edward Braselton will face Patricia Graham; Hoschton Mayor Billy Holder will face Gary Titus; and Nicholson Mayor Ronnie Maxwell is being challenged by James Kesler.
A breakdown on those who qualified for the town elections is 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
Those to qualify in Braselton 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, incumbent 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.
HOSCHTON
Those to qualify for the Hoschton 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.
JEFFERSON
Those to qualify in Jefferson 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
Those to qualify in Nicholson for the four at-large council seats include: incumbents Chuck Wheeler and Billy Kitchens and Howard Wilbanks, Bobby Crawford, Lamar Watkins, Paul Cartledge and Deborah Moore.
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.



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School Board Trims Budget To Cut Tax Rate
The Commerce Board of Education held a rare Saturday meeting to reduce its proposed property tax rate.
Had the board not taken action, it would have requested a 15.91-mill rate, which would have been a 1.57-mill increase over last year's levy. The action Saturday reduces the 2001 levy to 15.3 mills, up .64 mills from last year.
The move cuts the budget by $69,695 and will be made up for by tapping the board's "fund balance," or cash reserves. The tax will bring in $1,745,200 if it is all collected.
What precipitated the action was less-than-expected growth in the city tax digest, superintendent Larry White told the board.
The city's tax digest increased only 2.2 percent, partly because of a slow year in construction and partly because the city changed its freeport exemption on certain industrial inventory from 20 percent to 100 percent.
Even with the small tax rate increase, the 2001 rate will still be well below the 1999 tax rate, which was 16.36 mills. Last year, the board kept its budget request at the 1999 level which, coupled with strong growth in the tax digest, enabled the city to reduce the tax rate by two mills.
In other business, the board approved a revised facilities plan that makes its top priority over the next five years to be the construction of a new middle school. It also approved a new system structure, dividing schools into K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 buildings.
The board also approved an application for "advance funding" of $3,076,837 to use with receipts from the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) for education to build the school. Voters approved a five-year SPLOST extension Tuesday.
"The worst-case scenario is that the SPLOST fails and we have to call the state and say cancel the request," White said.
Once the school is built, the system will receive state entitlement funding on it, just as it does on its other schools, and that money will be used to "repay" the advance funding.
The advance funding is contingent upon the General Assembly approving capital improvement money next spring, which is a virtual certainty.
In other business, chairman Steve Perry passed out copies of a newspaper story about "school-government partnership agreements" forged between the Cherokee County Board of Education and the municipalities in Cherokee County. Noting how city decisions on matters like zoning and land use affect the schools, Perry suggested that the board might want to craft such an agreement with the Commerce City Council.
"I think that this may be an opportunity for us to make a formal agreement," said Perry, who said he would attend Monday night's "work session" between the city council and the Commerce Planning Commission on the issue of increasing lot size requirements for multifamily housing districts.
Perry asked the board members to read the article, along with two attached articles about Commerce amending its zoning ordinance, and asked White to get copies of the Cherokee County agreements.


Man charged with stealing American flag
A Jackson County man was charged by the Jefferson Police Department Thursday after allegedly stealing one of the American flags placed around the square in downtown Jefferson.
James Culpepper, 30, Jefferson River Road, was charged with disorderly conduct. Police chief Darren Glenn said the charges stem from the action "causing hostile and unpeaceful feelings from witnesses."