News from Jackson County...

October 17, 2001


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Tigers Keep Postseason Alive With Pair Of Big Wins At Sectionals
Sure, regular season wins might make the stat book look nice, but victories in the post- season are the ones that get you places.

Softball teams head to Columbus Thursday
The fact that five softball teams within the Mainstreet Newspapers coverage area qualified for last year's state finals in Columbus was nothing short of incredible.


Neighboorhood News ..
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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


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PLANT DESTROYED BY FIRE

The Porter Truss plant on Storey Porter Road in Jefferson was totally destroyed by a fire Tuesday evening. The Jefferson, Harrisburg, North Jackson and Jackson County Correctional Institute fire departments responded to the fire. The cause of the fire has not been determined. Fire personnel stayed at the scene all night and into the early morning hours Wednesday.


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.
As a result, citizens who have stockpiled old tires, demolished furniture, spent appliances, decaying lumber, spoiled carpet and shredded bedding rather than paying a tipping fee at the county transfer station may unload that material free of charge simply by hauling it to the roadsides, starting Saturday.
True, some people have been lining the roads with trash already, but City Manager Clarence Bryant asks that residents put the trash to be picked up out this Saturday. Pickup will be next Monday through Friday, Oct. 22-26.
There are some materials the city will not pick up, and anyone who puts those items out by the road will be made to dispose of them themselves. They include hazardous materials and tires with the rims still attached. Tires and rims will be picked up ­ but not if they're attached, Bryant says.
The city will also refuse to pick up commercial debris, and Bryant specifically notes that the restriction includes landlords who try to clean up an entire apartment complex or trailer park via the residential cleanup week. Anyone caught bringing trash from outside the city into the city for removal will be prosecuted.
The city asks residents to get all of their materials out to the roadside at once so that city workers won't have to make multiple visits to the same addresses.


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. Within a couple of weeks, however, all 160 employees will have lost their jobs. The firm is closing its other location in North Carolina as well, with a total job loss of around 500 people between the two operations.
The closing of Texfi leaves only two textile manufacturing plants in Jackson County: Buhler Yarns in Jefferson and Mt. Vernon Mills in Commerce. Wilkins Industries announced the closing of its Jefferson plant last week with the loss of 135 jobs.
Harris said officials from the Georgia Department of Labor would be at the plant starting Tuesday to explain training and other benefits available to employees.
Texfi Industries had been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings for the last year, but had recently found a prospective buyer. But the events of Sept. 11 scuttled financing for the deal and sales orders fell.
The Jefferson plant had been on short-time since July, said Harris, but earlier in the year had more work than it could produce. The plant made a polyester/rayon blended fabric for clothing.
Texfi Industries was part of a long history of textile manufacturing in Jefferson that goes back to 1899 when the first cotton mill opened. It soon went broke, but by 1916, the facility had been purchased by several Athens businessmen, including Morris Bryan Sr. In the ensuing years, Jefferson Mills grew into a large operation with plants also in nearby Royston and Lexington. By the 1940s, Jefferson Mills employed around 1,200 people and was becoming both an industry leader and a powerful community institution.
In 1966, the modern Southworth Plant was built next to the "old" mill. The plant incorporated innovative operations and was one of the most modern textile plants in the nation for the next decade. From that facility, 17 patents for various inventions were issued.
But as machinery made production more efficient, the workforce needed for textile manufacturing fell. By 1986, only 325 people were needed to run the operations and the Lexington operation was incorporated into the Jefferson plant the year before. The Royston plant had been sold in the late 1940s.
By 1990, imported textiles and an economic recession began taking their toll on the textile industry, including Jefferson Mills. In August 1990, the Bryan family, which had retained ownership of the mill over the years, sold half ownership to Texfi Industries. At the time, Texfi was a fast-growing company and had purchased plants in the Southeast and Northeast to a total of 15 manufacturing facilities and 3,500 employees. The workforce at Jefferson had climbed to 570 during the late 1980s and early part of 1990.
The following year, the firm began a series of layoffs. There was some speculation that the plant would shut down completely. Layoffs had already caused the loss of 363 jobs in nearby Commerce when other textile firms closed or slowed production.
In October 1991, Texfi closed its finishing plant in Jefferson and began a restructuring of the operations. By early 1992, the operations had been split into two divisions, with Marion Fabrics operating the "old" mill facility and Texfi Blends the Southworth plant facility.
In 1995, Texfi closed the Marion Fabrics division in the "old" mill, leaving 168 employees at the Texfi Blends plant across the road. The impact of international trade agreements and the move to Mexico and offshore operations were cited as the main reason for the Marion Fabrics shutdown.
Texfi had continued to operate in the Southworth plant until now.


Authority Pledges To Complete Water Projects
JEFFERSON -- The chairman of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority wanted to make one thing crystal clear at last Thursday night's meeting: The authority is not backing down on its commitments for water projects funded by the special purpose local option sales tax.
Chairman Elton Collins went out of his way to make that point in response to concerns raised by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and some citizens following the August meeting, when the board voted to halt engineering work on SPLOST projects not yet under construction.
"We are not stopping any of the projects. All work is continuing," Collins insisted, adding that stopping engineering work temporarily "doesn't necessarily delay the project" because of the "lead time" allocated for getting the engineering done.
The chairman reiterated the authority's reasoning for putting engineering work on SPLOST projects in the Old Hoods Mill Road, Georgia 15 and southeast Jackson County areas on hold. They include the delay in the completion of the Bear Creek Reservoir, which means the authority must make the $149,000 monthly payments without the revenue from selling Bear Creek Water; $70,000 monthly bond payments to cover the up-front financing of the SPLOST projects; and reduced income from the SPLOST.
"The last month of the sales tax, we got just $6,000 more than these two (Bear Creek and bond obligations). The month before that, we didn't receive as much (as the two monthly payments)," Collins noted.
And while Collins said he is "optimistic" about the ability to finish the SPLOST projects, he also repeatedly called the current slump a "recession," noted that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks "kind of threw us into a recession," and predicted that sales tax revenue would continue to decline before it improves.
"We just need to be very cautious and not stretch ourselves out," Collins warned. "We are not going to stop doing anything ... (but) the last thing we want is to get into a liquidity crunch.
"We're optimistic, but we're also being realistic," he concluded.
Manager Jerry Waddell pointed out that the authority has eight ongoing projects, including the Jefferson and Pendergrass bypasses, SPLOST projects one and two, the connection with Braselton, the upgrades of two pump stations, the upgrade of system telemetry, and the Doster Creek extension, which is funded by a $500,000 community development block grant and some $400,000 of authority money.
All of the SPLOST projects are based on projections of sales tax collections. As of Sept. 1, when 15 of 60 months of the sales tax checks are in, collections are $84,031 over what was projected. But the most recent eight checks were all under the $248,185 projected income, and checks representing post-terrorist attack sales have yet to come in.
Returning to the subject later in the meeting, board of commissioners chairman Harold Fletcher called for "more dialogue" between his board and the authority. He was accompanied by Commissioner Stacey Britt.
Fletcher said newspaper accounts ­ and the authority's minutes ­ referring to the "halt" of some SPLOST projects "gave rise to our concerns."
He asked the authority to "as quickly as possible to come up with a time line to reassure the people of this county that we are going to in an expediential manner as possible, get back on track. It would be good for all of us if we have some kind of understanding where we were going and when we will get there."
Fletcher also told the authority that the county marshal is checking to make sure sales tax from all Jackson County businesses is being attributed to the right county. He said there has been preliminary talk of a joint effort with the county school system to pursue the issue.
"We feel, too, that there's some money escaping and there is a need to do something about it," Fletcher said.
Collins told Fletcher that the authority would "have a better feel" for a timetable as it develops its 2002 budget.
"We will come up with what you have asked for in the next couple of weeks," he said.


Anthrax scare leads to reports of 'suspicious mail' in county
Public on edge as nation deals with terrorism.
Reports of a piece of suspicious mail being delivered to a Jefferson River Road residence Friday led to fire, rescue, emergency medical service and law enforcement officers being called to the home.
The FBI and the Center for Disease Control were also notified of the mail, but they determined it was "probably a hoax," according to Mark Duke of the Jackson County EMA.
At least two other suspicious mail calls came into Jackson County public emergency agencies this week, but both were also unfounded.
As for the Jefferson River Road incident, a woman called the Jackson County 911 center Friday and said she received a letter that had an odor and made her eyes burn. It had no powder in it. The woman and her daughter were checked out at an area hospital, but nothing suspicious was found, Duke said.
The letter was picked up by an official with the post office where it is being held in a "secure location" until it is picked up to be inspected.
The letter came from Pensacola, Fla., and reportedly outlined traffic conditions there.
The increased number of possible anthrax terrorist cases reported across the country has led to a heightened awareness of suspicious mail.
"The actions of Sept. 11, 2001, are being felt by all that live within this country and abroad," Duke said. "Because of those events, everyone in America is sure to be on edge and a little scared of what might be to come. We, in Jackson County, are no different to these effects and feelings."
Duke said the county routinely has bomb threats in the county and a policy is in place to handle these calls.
"These calls are handled with the utmost care to the lives of our personnel and the citizens of Jackson County," he said. "Our policy to handle bomb threats and routine hazardous material incidents are not much different than that of a chemical or biological threat to our community...It is unfortunate that in this day and time these things happen; however, in the event they do, we would request that everyone be patient, remain calm and allow us to carry out our job."
The county EMA has released several tips for citizens who may encounter a terroristic threat or attack, including the following:
·Remain calm. These problems are limited and are likely a hoax.
·Only if you suspect or experience a possible terroristic act should you call 911.
·All other questions and concerns should go to the special hotlines set up by the Centers for Disease Control and FBI.
·After you have called 911, expect a lot of questions. This is normal for the agency to carry out an operation of this type. Help is already on the way after you call.
·The 911 communications officer, or a member of the EMA staff, may ask you to conduct several tasks prior to their arrival, including: give as much information as possible about their condition and the scene; isolate the immediate area they are in along with all persons involved; cover or place in a closed container or bag the item in question; take down the names, information and symptoms of everyone present; remove all contaminated clothing and secure it in a closed container or bag; take a warm shower using soap (no bleach) to remove any chemicals; and be prepared to go to an emergency room for further evaluation.
·If you live in the incident area, do not call 911 unless you are involved.
For more detailed questions, call the CDC at 1-800-311-3435 or the FBI at (706) 549-6477.



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BOC to seek new county manager
BOC splits 3-2 in vote to find a replacement for Skip Nalley.
County manager Skip Nalley technically wasn't fired Monday night, but he still got the proverbial axe by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
In a 3-2 vote, the BOC agreed to begin searching for a new county manager to take the county's helm. Nalley was hired in January and given a one-year contract. Monday's action came following a nine-month review by the board of Nalley's job performance.
That evaluation was apparently discussed in a 30-minute closed-door session Monday night. When the meeting was reopened to the public, the board made its vote with virtually no discussion.
Commissioner Stacey Britt made the motion to seek applications for a new county manager. Tony Beatty seconded the motion and Sammy Thomason joined those two in voting for the move. Commissioner Emil Beshara and chairman Harold Fletcher voted against the action.
Beshara asked that Britt, Beatty and Thomason explain their action. Beshara also asked the three to comment on whether the board had given Nalley any "guidance or direction" on his job duties. Fletcher said Beshara's request was "out of order."
"I'm sure it is," Beshara said.
After the meeting, Britt said of the vote: "I think this is in the best interest of the county at this time." He said there are no specific reasons for the motion he made.
On Tuesday, Nalley released the following statement: "I agreed to come on board for 12 months as interim county manager to help organize a manager-council government for Jackson County. As I see it, my work in that regard is essentially complete. The board of commissioners has decided to seek additional applications for the county manager job and I think they should. I'm moving on to explore other opportunities. Jackson County is a beautiful community with wonderful citizens. I have enjoyed working with community leaders here and wish you well in the future."
Nalley was hired in January by the new commissioners and is the first county manager Jackson County has had. He had also served as county manager in Upson County and city manager in Perry, Cartersville and Thomaston.


Mar Jac looking in Lula
While Mar Jac Poultry officials have threatened to file a lawsuit over a rezoning denial that would have led to a feed mill locating in Jefferson, company leaders are apparently moving forward with plans to construct a plant in Lula.
Mar Jac reportedly wants to build a feed mill in Lula behind the firm's hatchery on Hwy. 52. Lula 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."
"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."


Mayor's race off in Hoschton
A candidate in the mayor's race in the City of Hoschton has decided not to seek office.
Gary Titus announced last week that he had dropped out of the mayor's race in the west Jackson town. Long-time incumbent Mayor Billy Holder is now the only candidate in the Nov. 6 election for mayor.


Jefferson looking to drop tax rate
The preliminary budget for the City of Jefferson plans for a 27 percent drop in the city's general fund tax rate, a 1.5 mill decrease over last year. But to fund the decrease will force the city to use $272,500 of its reserve funds. Last year, the city used $511,400 of its reserves to fund city operations, mostly to cover some expenses for the town's two new fire stations and related equipment.
The budget and millage rate are expected to be set at a called meeting of the Jefferson City Council Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. The proposed millage rate is 4.15 mills, not including taxes for the Jefferson City School System.
At the proposed rate, the city will collect $236,000 less in taxes this year than it did last year. Total property tax income to the city is set at $842,500 under the proposed rate compared to $1.07 million collected last year.
Overall, the city budget is expected to climb from $2.7 million to $3 million. In addition to using some reserve funds, the city also anticipates $100,000 additional from franchise tax income, $29,000 more in garbage collection fees, $40,000 more in probation collections and $12,000 more from city court fines.
On the expense side, the city administrative department is expected to increase spending by $84,000, mostly to cover expenses to hire a city manager.
A major change to the budget for 2002 is the growth of a city recreation department with a budget of $119,700. The department was created earlier this year, but the 2001 budget only had $25,000 allocated at the beginning of the year. The department has spent far more than that in 2001, but the city does not usually amend its budget to show changes during the year.
The city fire department will see a $142,000 increase in expenses, most of which will go to purchase new equipment.
The city street department shows a $146,000 drop for next year, but that was due to $208,000 in that department's expenses being moved to the "non-departmental" category. The $208,000 is allocated to pay for garbage disposal and had previously been put in the street department budget.
Under the non-departmental category, the city has no funds allocated as a contingency fund for 2002 while $152,800 was allocated during the current year. The city also projects interest expenses to drop by $36,000, but group insurance costs to climb by $55,000 next year.
Not counting the city's water department, which operates under a separate fund, Jefferson had a debt liability of $2.77 million at the end of last year. Most of that, $2.2 million, is for bonds issued to build and equip the new fire stations. Some $477,700 of the debt is to pay back a 1993 loan in which the city consolidated all its earlier debts into one account.