Madison County Opinion...

Janaury 2, 2002


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
January 2, 2002

Frankly Speaking

A few cautious steps, but little progress
To see into the future, one must study the past. I don’t remember who said that, but it is a true statement. Therefore, if we wish to see what the year 2002 will bring for Madison County, we need to consider what happened in 2001. More to the point, we need to consider what did not happen.
Madison County did not complete the new jail on schedule. We did not complete the purchase of the Hull water system from Clarke County. We did not secure enough new businesses to affect our tax revenues. The only significant thing we did was create a dramatic increase in property taxes.
So, what about the near future? We will finally get the jail completed, but we will have trouble finding the money to properly staff it. With luck we will finalize the purchase of the Hull water system, but the badly needed expansion will drag along. A few small businesses may locate in the area, but I will be surprised if we are able to open any major businesses within the year. But we will manage another property tax increase.
Those taxes are likely to slow the county’s population growth. Many people build homes in our county to escape high property taxes in neighboring counties. As our tax rate grows, the incentive to build here will decrease. Rather, I expect to see a boom in subdivision development in the Smithonia and Beaverdam sections of Oglethorpe County.
The key to Madison County’s future is the development of an economic base. And economic growth depends on infrastructure and a pro-business political system. We have taken a few small steps on the infrastructure part, and show no progress on the political front.
Water in the Hull area will not be enough to draw the kind of business we need. We must also build, as quickly as possible, a sewage system as well. I know of at least one major restaurant that would have built in the Dogsboro area if sewage had been available.
There is no advantage in having a four-lane highway in the county if our planning boards and commissioners refuse to grant zoning requests for the best use of property along the highway. The Hwy. 72 reconstruction created a road that can easily handle the heavier traffic associated with economic development. By blocking plans to place commercial sites along the highway, its potential is being wasted.
My prediction for Madison County in the year 2002 is easily summed up.
It will be about the same as 2001: a few cautious steps here and there, but little real progress.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His email address is frankg@mcga.net.


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Column
B y Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
January 2, 2002

Moment With Margie

2001 — a memorable year
2001 – one thing we can all say for sure, was a year none of us will forget. Unlike many parts of the past, it will not fade into obscurity, but instead will remain a sharp memory, particularly anything that happened just before or after 9 - 11.
I was not quite four years old when JFK was shot, but I remember the tension in my parents’ faces, the first sign to me that something earth-shattering had happened. And I remember my daddy turning on our black and white RCA TV and sitting in stunned silence before it, hour after hour, paralyzed by what he saw and heard.
I sat there too, fascinated by the black riderless horse pulling the flag-draped coffin in what seemed like an endless procession, and of the little boy and girl, now fatherless, who stood near their somber and elegant mother, her sad face draped in black lace.
I didn’t know what it all meant, but I did know it meant something was terribly different.
That’s the same way I felt on Sept. 11. And although no longer 4, but 42, I’m still not quite sure what that event meant to us either, but I do know it means life feels — and will continue to be – different from what it once was.
Although that was the singular moment that will undoubtedly define the year, it was by no means the only thing that happened.
The Journal spent a lot of time on the homefront as usual last year, dealing with local issues and concerns, as well as attempting to feature a little of the people, places and history of our county — in other words the many things that make what we have here unique.
When I’m feeling low about what the future may bring, I have only to think of some of the people I’ve met — most just quietly living their lives — to make me know just how much we have going for us.
My favorite part of the job, as I’ve said before, is writing features, where I get to meet, learn about — and learn from — people and their life experiences.
For example, it was really touching to see the the recreation department’s track field lit only by candlelight the night Boy Scout Troop 328 invited county fire, emergency, rescue and law enforcement officials to a service that was both a memorial to the victims of Sept. 11, and an opportunity for the Scouts and others to honor these men and women for their service to Madison County.
As for the profiles I’ve done, one of the first of those that come to mind this year has to be Fran Black, the lady with the “can do attitude.”
Ms. Black, although a diabetic and double amputee with eyesight in only one eye, is anything but an object for pity. This remarkable woman maintains her independence by not only caring for herself, but her pets, as well as helping out folks in her neighborhood. She doesn’t have the time — or the desire — to feel sorry for herself.
Her secret to living life to its fullest despite her circumstances is her determination to not let anyone or anything interfere with her joy in living.
She’s earned my admiration and my respect, and I hope yours as well.
And she’s certainly not the only one who has touched me — and I hope helped me touch you — with their spirit, resilience and love of life.
Another story I enjoyed very much was the tale of the 100-year-old love letters of Oscar and Annie Maxwell that just wouldn’t be forgotten.
Lost, and then found through an extraordinary coincidence by the Maxwell’s grandson George Bugg, of Hull, they ended up not only to be known and cherished by several generations of the family, but by people around the country when the story of the find was picked up by national media.
It was truly a "feel good" story of enduring love that we all could use more doses of.
Another facet of my job as a reporter of course is that I get to attend a lot of county “goings-on” and while many meetings can be long and tedious, there is often one thing in particular that I’m impressed with.
That’s the fact that so many of my fellow Madison Countians are looking beyond the end of their noses — and their driveways — to what’s ahead for this county.
That much was obvious in the many meetings held early in the year to update the county’s comprehensive land use plan.
The only disheartening thing was that there weren’t more residents there to make their voices and opinions heard — at a time when those voices could make a real difference to the county’s future.
But it’s another year — and another chance — to live our lives, and hopefully to make a difference in our little corner of the world.
We welcome 2002 and let us hope for better days ahead.
And we at the Journal hope you’ll continue to allow us to bring you the news, the people and the events that make up Madison County life.
As always, we welcome your ideas, your comments and your criticism.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.


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