News from Madison County...

December 5, 2001


Madison County
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OPINIONS

Frank Gillespie
Time to reduce the gov’t sponge
When will these tax and spend politicians understand that all taxes are paid by the little guy? Every time you turn on a news show, some politician is complaining because the “rich” are not paying enough.

Zach Mitcham
Shelter contract a source of contention

A bullet to the head. That’s the old solution for troublesome stray dogs and cats in Madison County.
Thankfully, leaders want to put that crude approach behind, getting the ball rolling on an animal shelter. But there is a contractual hitch that now threatens to derail the shelter project.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools


Wrestlers down Cedar, Monroe
Raider wrestlers overpowered Cedar Shoals and Monroe in a home match last Tuesday, 75-6 and 62-1


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY

It’s Going To Cost More To Live (And Die) In Commerce Next Year
City Council Pondering Increases In Electric, Water And Sewer Rates And The Cost Of Cemetery Lots
Members of the Commerce City Council, meeting in their first of what will be regular monthly work sessions, received the warning Monday night that both the cost of living and the cost of dying are likely to go up in 2002.

Santa to visit Hoschton, Jefferson Sat.
Santa Claus will be visiting in Jackson County Saturday, December 8, making stops in Hoschton and Jefferson.
Santa will be at the gazebo in downtown Hoschton from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., along with a special escort. He’ll have surprises and candy for all the children.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Poultry plant will not locate in Lula
Mar Jac withdraws application. Mar Jac Poultry Company has withdrawn its request to annex 112 acres into the city of Lula to locate a poultry plant.

Christmas at the Fort event ahead Sat.
An open house celebrating Christmas will be held at the historic fort in Hollingsworth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 8.


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The Madison County Journal
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Santa Claus visits Comer

Santa Claus came early to Comer to be in the parade Saturday with some of his local “elves.” See Page 8B for more photos of the Christmas parade

DA ‘still reviewing’ Almond case
Whether Mac Almond will be prosecuted for alleged illegalities as Comer Elementary School principal has yet to be determined.
Northern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Bob Lavender said he is “still reviewing” a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about Almond’s alleged misuse of school funds as principal.
“I’m still reviewing it at this point,” said Lavender.
The district attorney added that he has several months to consider whether charges are warranted – the next commencement of the Madison County grand jury is set for April.
Almond resigned this past March after then school board attorney Lane Fitzpatrick released approximately 150 pages of evidence to support allegations that Almond showed “a pattern...of personal abuse of school funds,” that he disposed of evidence that might have incriminated him, that he falsified records and that frequent absences left him unable to perform his duties.
Almond received significant support from the Comer community after the allegations were released, with many of his supporters suggesting that the charges were politically driven.


Baker says county should review
residential planning
Madison County needs to change the way it designs residential areas, according to Jay Baker, newly employed planning director. Baker, who began work on Oct. 1, listed several new housing designs at a board of commissioners work session Monday night.
Baker overcame a computer glitch that eliminated a slide show to point out the advantages in using neighborhood development and conservation subdivisions in place of the standard cul-de-sac type developments.
Neighborhood developments use a street grid such as those found in most cities, making streets open to traffic in all directions. These developments make it easier to install water, sewer and power systems. They create space for recreation parks, schools and business areas. They make better use of available space, allowing more development with less loss of farmland.
Baker said that since most cities already have a street grid in place, these developments could most easily be established as extensions of existing cities.
Conservative subdivisions are used in areas where open spaces are vital.
In these developments, 50 percent of the land is left undeveloped by clustering houses near one side of the lots, leaving the backsides open. Again, clustering the houses near each other makes it easier and less expensive to build roads and infrastructure.
Leo Smith, a member of the group studying zoning laws, agreed with the need for change.
“If we had been using the conservative subdivision plan for the past 100 years, we would still be 50 percent undeveloped,” he said.
Baker and his staff have started rewriting the county’s zoning and subdivision laws to incorporate these new concepts. Any changes will have to go before public hearings and be approved by the board of commissioners.


Rezoning approved for office park
A local developer got the go-ahead Monday for a probable office park at the corner of Hwy. 29 and Rock Quarry Road.
The Danielsville City Council approved a request from Mike Hipp to rezone 23 acres from residential to business. Hipp plans to put office spaces on the property and to allow the Madison County HeadStart to locate an office on the land.
The council approved the request 4-0.
In a separate matter, the council approved a conditional use request by Marc Perry for multi-family dwellings on Sam Groves Street. Perry plans to build three duplexes for a total of six apartments on the property.
Neighbors complained that traffic is already bad in the area and that additional residences would make the problem worse. The council agreed to consult the county on making the street a one-way road to cut down on traffic.
The approval was nearly delayed due to concerns about providing city water to the residences. Mayor Glenn Cross said that approving Perry’s request would likely open the door for many other requests for water services. And he said the current drought has hurt city water levels.
Perry told the council that they shouldn’t approve water for anyone else before they vote on his request, noting that water services should be handled on a “first-come, first-serve” basis.
The council approved Perry’s request unanimously.
In other matters:
•The council swore in Mayor Glenn Cross and council members Nina Hitchcock and LaVernne Watson.
•The council officially approved a $1 water rate increase.
•The group approved an increase in water tap fees from $450 to $500 with no boring required and $825 to $875 with boring required.
•The council approved beer and wine applications for Golden Pantry #43, Foodlane, Danielsville BP, Amoco Corner Store and Danielsville Beer and Wine.
•The council lowered its insurance license fee from $35 to $15.
•The group agreed to meet Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. to discuss the city’s zoning ordinance.
•The council agreed to hold its monthly work session on Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. Its regular meeting is scheduled for Jan. 7 at 7 p.m.


Drawing the lines
BOE, BOC explore reapportionment optionsA joint meeting of members of the board of education and board of commissioners Monday focused on possible changes in the proposed local election districts.
District lines must be redrawn to comply with population figures from the 2000 census. Board of commissioners and school board districts are not required to be identical.
At the request of county leaders, two maps were prepared by the legislative office in Atlanta that followed election district lines. Either of these maps will greatly simplify voting in Madison County by eliminating split districts.
Both maps would move current BOE members Elaine Belfield and Jim Patton into one district and John Mason and Ric Powers into another. The change would force them to oppose each other in future elections. Because of the staggered terms used by the school board, Ms. Belfield would be forced off the board for two years before she could seek re-election.
Superintendent Keith Cowne was instructed by the board to seek modifications in the maps that would keep board members in their current districts. The new maps actually create districts more closely equal in population than the first maps, but resulted in splitting two voting districts.
Probate Judge Donald “Hoppy” Royston told those at the meeting that splitting districts will not cause any major difficulty for his office, but would cost the county approximately $1,000 per election in additional expenses.
Commission chairman Wesley Nash asked if the county could use local legislation to exempt current office holders from the requirement that they live in the district they represent for the duration of their service on the board. The exemption would end once they leave office or fail to be re-elected. Such a plan would prevent splitting districts without forcing incumbents to run against each other.
After the meeting, Rep. Ralph Hudgens contacted the legislative council to determine if the exemptions were legal. The response was that it would take a Georgia Constitutional Amendment to allow the exemptions. However, multiple-seat districts are legal and would also solve the problem.
In this plan, Madison County Board of Education would have two two-seat districts and a one-seat district. In the multiple-seat districts, all voters in the district would vote for both seats. Board of Commission districts would remain single-member districts.
Each board will present their preferred reapportionment plan to the local delegation. The plans will then be submitted to the Georgia legislature for final approval. The plans have to be filed during the 2002 legislative session that begins in January.

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BOE watches Enron carefully
Superintendent of Schools Keith Cowne is watching news reports on the financial health of Enron, Inc. The school system recently signed a contract with Performance ACC, an affiliate of Enron, to update the school’s electrical systems. The entity was previously identified as Enron Facilities Services.
“We are monitoring the situation and looking at our options,” Cowne said.
Enron, a major power provider has filed legal action for Chapter 11 reorganization following a massive financial collapse. Performance ACC purports to be financially sound. Company officials fully expect to fulfill the terms of the contract.
According to Cowne, equipment and supplies have been ordered to upgrade lighting, heating and air conditioning equipment in all Madison County schools. Work was scheduled to begin Oct. 22 with completion scheduled for Feb. 22. The school system agrees to pay $136,940 per year for 12 years beginning April 2002. Performance ACC promised that savings in operating costs will more than cover the payments.


To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.