News from Banks County...

October 17, 2001


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OPINION
Phillip Sartain
Travel guide: the old myth of Old Faithful

When you spend three weeks driving across America, there just isn't enough time to see everything.

Our Views
What's really happening with CVB moves?

The accountability for public money is one of the most important issues in any government agency. Yet two local government groups have been lax in having their books officially audited each year, even though both handle a large amount of taxpayer funds.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Leopards hosting Lumpkin Though the Leopards (1-5, 0-4) have only gotten one win so far this year, the season hasn't ended yet.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
Commerce's Annual Residential Cleanup Is Next Week
It's time for Commerce's annual fall yard and house cleanup.
All next week, the city's Public Works Departments will pick up from the roadsides and take to the county transfer station all manner of junk, trash and debris that the rest of the year it refuses to remove.

Texfi shuts down; 160 lose jobs
For the second time in as many weeks, a local textile plant is shuttering its windows. Texfi Industries in Jefferson shut down Friday, according to plant manager Tim Harris. A small crew is finishing up some work at the plant, said Harris.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Mother arrested for 'false statement' in child's death
The mother of a 16-month-old Colbert boy whose Sept. 29 death was ruled a homicide was arrested on Wednesday, Oct. 10, in connection with the crime.

Planners tied up on controversial variance request
County planners were evenly split Tuesday night on a controversial zoning issue that earlier caused a mother and daughter who own neighboring property to storm out of the meeting.


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PROMOTE DOMESTIC
AWARENESS MONTH

Peace Place board members James Dumas and Dock Sisk hung T-shirts, painted by domestic violence victims and their family and friends, at the Banks County courthouse.

Rec. director charged with embezzlement
Banks County Park and Recreation director Barry Brooks, 35, was charged with embezzling over $10,000 from recreation funds and arrested Friday.
The charges came after a seven-month investigation by the county commissioners, Michael Fisher, county financial advisor, and Kyle Bryant, chief investigator for the Banks County Sheriff's Office.
Kenneth Brady, commission chairman, said the county had become aware of missing funds in March and began looking into past accounting records.
"We have good accounting here," said Fisher, "but the figures didn't look like they should."
There was a discrepancy in the amount of money the county had received from concessions at the recreation center and the amount it cost for the supplies.
"We couldn't understand why we were losing money," said Fisher. "We weren't clearing enough and we became suspicious."
Bryant's investigation began two weeks ago when the commissioners turned over the evidence they had uncovered.
"I compared documents of sign-ups with moneys paid," Bryant said. Some money paid to the rec department was not turned in to the county."
As records were combed, forged checks were also discovered, he said.
Brooks was asked to resign Friday and turned himself in to authorities.
"He cooperated in every way he could," said Bryant. Some $224 has been repaid by Brooks, he said.
Brooks was charged with "theft by conversion," which includes the forged checks incident, said Bryant.
Brooks posted the $10,000 bond and was released.
The sheriff's office is still reviewing accounting records of the past nine years, the time Brooks has been employed by the county.
He will come up for trial sometime around the first of the year, said Sheriff Charles Chapman.
"We will ask for restitution, but it's the court's decision," he said.
Brooks' sentence will be up to the district attorney's office and the judge, he added.
The commissioners have planned to enact stricter regulations regarding financial accounting, said Brady. "We're going to be sure all the dollars get turned in to the county office."
In the past, the set-up for payment was difficult, explained Fisher. "Some of the parents would pay over at the rec office and some would come here," he said. "Our policies and procedures needed to be rewritten."
One of the main concerns of the commissioners was to keep the recreation department going, in spite of the setback. "Our programs have been so successful," said Fisher. "It is our top priority to keep these programs strong."
For the time being, the county commissioners and the recreation department staff are handling the duties of the director, said Brady.
The commission will discuss hiring a new director at the work session on Friday, October 19, he added.




Beatty speaks to chamber on video poker, redistricting
State Senator Mike Beatty spoke on video poker and redistricting at the Banks County Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday.
Beatty praised the way Georgia Democrats and Republicans got together on the video poker bill to ban the machines. Beatty said there were times when he thought the bill would not pass. With the support of Governor Roy Barnes and Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor, he said the two opposing forces came together in a special session to outlaw the games. The Senate voted unanimously to prohibit video poker, while the House passed it by a vote of 159 to 12.
He continued saying he wished the same effort could have been put into the reapportionment of voting districts. Beatty displayed maps of the new districts in Georgia and talked about how they were redrawn favoring the Democratic Party.
"The Republicans had no input on redistricting," he said as he spoke of his disappointment with the process. "The maps were designed to keep Democrats in power for the next 10 years. They disenfranchised a lot of people. The real losers are the voters of Georgia. I thought the people chose their leaders. It's wrong for the politicians to decide who their voters are."
Beatty's district under the new map excludes Banks County and divides four other counties, including Jackson, into multiple districts. He questioned how to represent "one-third" of a county.
"You can't ride in half a parade," he said. "You have to represent all the county."
People will have difficulty understanding who represents them, he added.
The maps may not hold up in court, he said. He reported the maps may end up going before a panel of judges to determine their legitimacy.
To insure the problem doesn't happen again in 10 years, he is thinking about sponsoring a bill that would call for a non-partisan panel to draw any future redistricting maps.
"It would be much better to have someone removed to come in and actually draw a non-political performance map," he said. "One that makes sense to all the people."
He recommended voters send correspondence to the governor and lieutenant governor about their displeasure with the maps.
"We should have a state government that would take ideas and make Georgia a better place," he said. "Look for ways to actually lower taxes, reduce the bureaucracy, provide a better education and attract industry to help out tax base. We should look for ways to improve the quality of life and not care who gets the credit."


Mar Jac proposes feed mill construction in Lula
Mar Jac Poultry Company wants to build a feed mill in Lula behind its hatchery on Hwy. 52.
Mayor Tim Allen has been in contact with company representatives who said the current plant in Gainesville is in disrepair and "they're looking to move it up here."
The company is looking for approval to build the feed mill complex on 97 acres of land, reported Allen.
"They want to put it back in the woods," he said.
The company leaders have also requested to be annexed into the city limits. Allen said the paperwork has been forwarded to Hall County for their approval of the annexation as required.
Annexation is not the main worry the council faces on the issue, though. Mar Jac officials have also given Allen a list of 17 adjoining property owners who could try to block construction of the tall silos.
Allen told the council members the facility would be similar to the one in Maysville.
He said he received a call from a Jackson County official who told him "Mar Jac had bought some land down there, as well."
"But where it is, is right in the middle of a residential district--in the middle of a subdivision," he said. "She said they couldn't understand why [Mar Jac] even bought that land down there. She indicated the odds weren't good that they'd be able to do something like this down there."
Allen said that since the area in Lula they chose was not a residential neighborhood, they would have a better chance of building in Lula.
"I haven't talked to any of the property owners," he said. "No one has contacted me yet. But I know they know it's coming. The people from Mar Jac have already gone out and talked to a few of them."
"They do touch our city limits, so we have to consider their request," said Allen. "It's something you all need to think about."
Allen added the proposal would affect only a few properties within the city's boundaries. Most of the affected properties lie outside the city limits.

Homer flush with money
The economy may be forcing some governments to make cutbacks, but for the Town of Homer, the problem isn't how to raise the money, it's how to spend it.
Homer ended its fiscal year June 30 with $125,000, one third of its income, unspent. The total accumulated funds by the city topped $714,800 at the end of June, which was almost three times the city's expense last year of $251,900.
The bulk of Homer's income comes from sales taxes, which topped $217,700 last year. Total revenue to the city in fiscal 2001, excluding the water department, was $377,100.
The bulk of the city's expense, $168,500, went toward administrative costs. Some $4,300 went to the fire department while another $63,800 went to the city's street and sanitation department. Total expenditures for the town in fiscal 2001 was $251,900.
While the city's general operations fund was flush with money, the town's water department showed an operating loss for the year of $32,400. By backing out depreciation, however, the water department showed a positive cash increase of $5,900.

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Group works to raise public awareness of domestic violence in Banks County
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the Domestic Violence Task Force, representing Banks, Jackson and Barrow counties, wants the people in the community to know how far-reaching abuse actually is.
So, on October 12, T-shirts painted and decorated by those who have been abused or family and friends remembering someone who was killed in an act of domestic violence were hung at the old Banks County Courthouse in Homer by task force members Dock Sisk and James Dumas. Other cities across the country will be participating in the national campaign throughout the month. It is a heartfelt plea for understanding and acknowledgment of victims of sexual and physical abuse.
The task force is also promoting ways citizens can take steps to help put an end to the violence and, maybe, save a life, says Peace Place director, Pat Peterson.
The Domestic Task Force offers these tips:
·call the police if an act of violence is witnessed or heard.
·resolve conflict in a non-violent, respectful way.
·begin cultivating a respectful attitude toward women in the family and the workplace.
·refer a friend or co-worker who may be experiencing family violence to Peace Place.
·help build a consensus that abusive behavior and language is unacceptable in the workplace, neighborhood, school or church.
·look for domestic violence resources in the community. Consider contributing time, resources or money to local programs.
·make others aware of the inappropriateness of jokes about domestic violence or when victims are belittled.
·ask local government to support programs to benefit victims.
·support development of a school-based curriculum on dating and family violence.
·make information about domestic violence available to clergy and church membership.
Peace Place is the area's shelter for abused and battered women seeking to change their life. The organization offers shelter, counseling, day care, and job training. Since its inception in June 2000, Peace Place has sheltered 81 women and 97 children, according to Peterson.
"Many, many others have been helped, through the Hotline," she said. "Some may just want to talk, to know someone is listening and understands. We need to let everyone out there who is helping us know how much we appreciate their support."
District attorney Tim Madison said: "The more we talk about these issues in our communities, churches and social and political networks, the greater chance we have of saving someone's life."
The organization will be holding a candlelight vigil on Monday, October 22, at 7 p.m. at the Barrow County courthouse. Organizers say a list of names of victims who have died as a result of domestic violence in Georgia will be read.
Call (770) 307-3633 or 1-800-33-HAVEN for details.

Volunteers sought for Veterans Day tribute in Homer
The advisory group for the "United We Stand" tribute is seeking help and suport.
Volunteer groups or choirs are needed to sing under the direction of Jack Banks during the service on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. at the Veterans Park in Homer.
The group also needs the names and rank of current military personnel from Banks County and their parents' name in order to recognize them during the program.
For more information, contact Clifton "Pete" Hill at (706) 677-3314 or Janet Galloway at (706) 677-3275.