News from Jackson County...

January 16, 2002

Jackson County

Jackson County

Jackson County

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Tigers Look For Momentum
The Tigers got on a little roll this weekend after falling to the region’s top teams during the past week.
Now they’ll look to shift to the next gear.
“We got a little momentum winning Friday and Saturday night,” said Tiger head coach Rex Gregg, whose team beat Lakeview and Tallulah Falls 58-47 this weekend after lopsided losses to Wesleyan and Jefferson. “It was the first time we had back-to-back wins all year.”

Dragons split with Wesleyan after playing four times in five days last week
Goza reaches 1,000-point mark. Jefferson basketball teams will get somewhat of a break this week compared to last week, and boys’ coach Boling DuBose is probably glad to have it.

Panthers brace for subregion storm
Both girls’ teams unbeaten. Monroe Area will be the focal point of Region 8-AAA south basketball Friday night, as the undefeated Lady Hurricanes host the undefeated Lady Panthers at 7 p.m.

Neighboorhood News ..

Multi-district plan hits snag
Beatty says he won’t support BOE proposal to rearrange districts
Reapportionment plans for the Madison County Board of Education may have to be redrawn.

Industrial park opponents turned away by BOC
Angry Hull residents packed the county commission meeting room Monday night eager to have it out with the BOC over an industrial park planned just east of the city limits.

Neighborhood News...

Saying ‘goodbye’ after 23 years
Avis Lewallen retires as county clerk
Avis Lewallen, county clerk, said goodbye Friday to her co-workers and dozens of county employees, past and present, who had come to wish her well.

Gillsville could lose LOST funds
Gillsville’s city council discussed the prospect of losing a share of the Hall County Local Option Sales Tax at last week’s meeting.
Mayor Larry Poole said he had attended two planning meetings so far and the county is leaning toward eliminating the process of disbursement according to population.
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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The new clubhouse in Jefferson will open in three weeks. It will be available for rent for social functions. The City of Jefferson is also seeking to purchase the Wilkins Industries facility in the downtown area for use as a civic center.

Thursdays wreck
A collision between two tractor-trailer rigs closed U.S. 441 at Center late Thursday morning, sent both drivers to the hospital and caused a fire that destroyed both vehicles and melted vinyl siding from a nearby house.
Witnesses said an 18-wheeler traveling south jackknifed at about 11:15 when it tried to swerve to avoid a southbound car that was turning left into a driveway. The vehicle, carrying an empty flat-bed trailer, crossed the center line and slammed into a northbound Wal-Mart truck carrying frozen food.
Tom Dimitroff, employed by Tomorrow's Homes a few feet south of the impact site, described the scene.
"Within 30 seconds, both trucks were in flames. The driver of the Wal-Mart truck jumped out in his stocking feet; the grass was on fire."
Dimitroff helped that driver get away from the immediate scene. He heard explosions, possibly the tires on the two cabs, then a louder explosion – one of the gas tanks.
Witnesses said passersby helped the other driver out of his vehicle. The fire burned both cabs to the point they could scarcely be recognized as parts of a truck.
Juanita Hinson was doing laundry in the house she rents at 179 Old Commerce Road Extension when she heard the crash, looked outside and saw flames. She called 911. Then she called 911 again. "I told them to please send somebody. The fire is going to burn up my house."
It came close. Vinyl siding on the whole 441 side was melted; the grass was singed to within three feet of her house and leaves on bushes against the house were black from the heat. Her cable TV and phone service were knocked out, but the electricity was unaffected.
Firemen from Nicholson, Athens-Clarke and Commerce responded to the scene.
Law enforcement officials routed traffic around the wreck via Old Commerce Road Extension.

Braselton city planners approve 175-home project
But delay requested before city council takes up plan
A proposed 175-home development along Hwy. 124 received a recommended nod of approval from the Braselton Planning Commission last week, but the developers later asked for a 30-day delay before the Braselton City Council makes a final decision.
In a 3-1 vote recommending approval with conditions, the Braselton Planning Commission favored Duluth 120 Corporation’s request to annex and rezone 83 acres from A-2 to R-2 for the purpose of 175 single-family homes.
City planning commission members George Moen, Kathy Schaaf and chairman Bill Braselton recommended approval of the request while Rita Herren voted against the proposal. Stephanie Braselton wasn’t present for the Jan. 9 meeting.
Five days after receiving the nod of approval from the planners, however, Duluth 120 submitted a letter to the mayor and city council that their request be tabled for 30 days before the Braselton City Council votes on whether to accept the developer’s rezoning and annexation request. According to town clerk Jennifer Scott, the letter didn’t specify why the development company was seeking the motion.
In opposing the project, Herren said the city doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle the new development and pointed to the recent annexation and rezonings that opened the door for 1,260 new homes.
“I’m not for annexation. I just think we can’t handle it,” Herren said while suggesting the planners table the request.
But Moen disagreed.
“We’re either going to be forced with homes or we’re going to be forced with commercial development,” Moen said of the “upscale” residential development.
As one of two citizens speaking in opposition to the request, Otis McNeal said he is concerned about the potential impact the subdivision would have on local schools and roads.
Chateau Elan resident Alan Slogan, also speaking in opposition to the project request, pointed out that Braselton’s applications for sewer service more than doubles its current capacity.
“This commission, I feel very wisely at the last meeting, voted to defer requests like this until there is a comprehensive land use plan,” Slogan said of the planning commission’s recommendation in November to deny several requests for annexation and rezoning for the purpose of more than 1,260 additional homes. The Braselton City Council, however, sided with the developers on those projects and voted to accept them a month later.
Alex Mitchum, representative for Duluth 120, said the “upscale” development’s homes would be constructed of brick and stucco with market values for the homes beginning in the low $200,000s. The homes would range in size starting at 1,800 square feet to more than 2,000 square feet for the larger lots.
“In my opinion, I think this will be a good transition area between Braselton and some of the points of Jackson County,” Mitchum said, while also saying the development would be “an added amendment to the area” as well.
During the hour-long meeting, Mitchum presented the Braselton planners with a map of the development that raised several concerns as to exactly how the property would be arranged, if approved by the city council.
Chairman Braselton said he is concerned that the map was drawn with homes directly lining Indian Creek and not shown with the 25-foot buffer to the water source, as required by the town’s zoning ordinance. The chairman also expressed concerns about retention ponds for water drainage in the development and the map’s lack of greenspace.
Mitchum pointed out that the map was just “the first blush” of the proposed development and that Duluth 120 would be willing to look at meeting the 20 percent greenspace allotment requirement by the town. He also added that while his client originally requested annexation for 200 homes, since that time the development company decided 175 homes would better suit the property.
According to Mitchum, once the development company receives all of the necessary permits, construction on the property could begin as early as April.
Speaking in favor of the request, an owner of two commercially zoned lots near the proposed development said he believes the developers “actually did come up to muster” when it comes to the company’s reputation.
“I think this is a reasonable way to get protection now for a high quality subdivision,” said Tom Seay of Suwannee.
Seay, a former long-time resident near the proposed development, said he would seek annexation of his property, if Duluth 120’s request was approved by the Braselton City Council. Seay further detailed potential flooding problems of the property to the planners. Following a report by planning officer Aaron Whelchel, the planners considered the recommended conditions expressed throughout the meeting. Those conditions include setting aside a separate, exclusive area for lots along Indian Creek, an acceleration traffic lane pending a review by the DOT and an eight-foot visual barrier along Seay’s property, among others.
In voting to recommend approval of the rezoning and annexation request, the planners also included a provision in which Duluth 120 representatives must appear before the Braselton City Council and planning commission to make sure all requirements have been met before giving final approval of the development.

Jefferson seeks purchase of Wilkins building for civic center
Jefferson leaders would like to locate a civic center in a vacant building in the downtown area.
The Jefferson City Council authorized Mayor Jim Joiner on Monday night to negotiate with the owners of Wilkins Industry to purchase the building to be used as a civic center. The action came after a 10-minute closed session to discuss real estate acquisition.
City manager David Clabo said on Tuesday that it is a “very, good, sound building.” He added that it would require some renovations to the interior and the parking lot would need to be made handicap accessibility.
“It is a very solid structure as far as the building,” he said.
In other business, the council approved guidelines for the use of the new clubhouse under construction in Jefferson. It is expected to be open in three weeks and available for rent for social functions.
The rental fee for the clubhouse will be $100 for four hours. An additional fee of $17.50 per hour for every hour over four will also be charged. A $100 security deposit will also be required. The security deposit will be returned if the facility is cleaned up and not damaged by the renter.

Woman murdered during Commerce robbery
Laynette Fincher, 52, manager of the Presto’s convenience store, Commerce, tried to rescue a friend and fellow store clerk who was being abducted during an armed robbery Saturday night. She succeeded, but was shot dead by a man who apparently used the robbery proceeds to buy drugs.
Officials say James Willie Watkins, 26, of Carnesville had been out of jail after a burglary conviction for less than a month when he walked into Presto’s shortly after 10 Saturday night. He came in the store, exited it, came back in and while clerk Kathy Adams was on the telephone with Fincher, produced a gun. He ordered her not to hang up the phone, removed cigarettes and cash and attempted to abduct her from the store, according to Commerce police chief John W. Gaissert.
The suspect was taking Adams from the building when Fincher drove up.
“Mrs. Fincher pulled up in front of the store, apparently to offer assistance,” said Gaissert. “Why she did not call 911 is unknown.”
At that point, Adams broke free, shouted for Fincher to get away, ran back into the store and locked the doors. Fincher attempted to back her car away to escape, but the robber ran after the car, firing multiple times at her through the passenger side window before escaping on foot.
Fincher was dead at the scene. Within 18 hours, Watkins was in jail, arrested without incident at about 6:30 Sunday evening at the Best Western Motel in Lavonia where, Gaissert said, it appeared he was under the influence of drugs. A Commerce officer, agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and officers of the Lavonia Police Department and Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, acting on a tip, made the arrest.
They also found a handgun believed to be the murder weapon, the jacket the suspect allegedly wore during the crime and a quantity of methamphetamine.
“He had checked in under his cousin’s name,” said Gaissert.
Watkins is charged with murder, armed robbery and kidnapping.
From an investigative standpoint, Gaissert said the department got a lot of breaks. The robbery was captured on the store’s video security system and officers canvassing the area after the incident were able to develop other leads, the police chief said. A relative who had given Watkins a ride to Lavonia came down to the police station to offer that information, and one of the suspect’s family members allegedly called the police station shortly after the shooting and asked if a homicide had occurred.
Within 90 minutes of the shooting, police had identified the potential suspect. Watkins was in custody within 18 hours.
“We do have forensic evidence. We have an extremely strong case,” Gaissert said, adding that, in his opinion, the crime contains “aggravating circumstances.”
Such circumstances could pave the way for prosecutors to seek the death penalty, a decision that would be made by the office of Tim Madison, district attorney.
“He chased the car. All he had to do was run away,” Gaissert declared.

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MLK event set Sun.
Andre Williams to be speaker
The 18th annual Jackson County Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration will be held Sunday at the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation auditorium in Jefferson.
The celebration will start with a mini gospel music concert at 3:30 p.m. presented by the Jackson County MLK Choir. At 4 p.m., the ecumenical service will begin.
Andre’ Williams, Atlanta, will be the guest speaker. He is the son of Civil Rights activist the late Rev. Hosea Williams. He graduated from Georgia State University, Atlanta, with a B.S. degree in business administration. He is director of the Hosea Williams Feed the Hungry Ministry and is owner of Williams Bonding Company, both in Atlanta. He is married and is the father of two children. Williams is an active member of the Israel Baptist Church in Atlanta.
The color guard will be the Jackson County Junior ROTC, under the direction of Col. Thomas Taylor. Greetings from the city and county governments will be given by Dr. Sammy K. Thomason, a member of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. Several citizens from throughout Northeast Georgia, as well as area ministers, will also be participating in the program.
This year’s program is dedicated to the memory of the late Miss Edna Stephens of Washington D.C., formerly of Gainesville, who lost her life at the Pentagon on Sept. 11 in the terroristic attack.
Also at the celebration, 27 citizens from throughout Northeast Georgia will receive awards in achievement, humanitarian service and community service.
The celebration is sponsored by the Jackson County MLK Birthday Council.

Feb. 18-19 set as make-up days for local schools
Following the recent wintry weather, Jackson County and Jefferson City schools have set Monday and Tuesday, February 18 and 19, as snow make-up days.
February 18 was already on the school systems’ calendars as a snow day, and February 19 had originally been set as an intercession day.
The rest of the week — Wednesday through Friday — will remain intercession days.