News from Banks County...

January 30, 2002


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OPINIONS
Angela Gary

Lessons Iıve learned from my nephew
Iıve never been around newborns or small babies. I had never held one until my nephew, Jake, was born almost three months ago. Iıve learned a lot about little babies in the past couple of months.
Editorial
Public boards shouldnıt close the door to the public
Itıs a trend all over the state — local elected officials get nervous about public scrutiny of their actions, so they dream up creative ways to keep the public out.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Leopards end losing skid with Rabun win
Banks to face East Hall, Union. The season is quickly coming to a close for the Leopards. And if they want to get any wins, theyıll have to do it on the road.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
County canıt handle unsafe animals, says Humane Society
The county doesnıt know how to handle animal control issues, according to members of the Jackson County Humane Society.

Braselton meets in closed session
The Braselton City Council met in a closed-door session Jan. 23 to discuss personnel matters, but didnıt take any action or publicly discuss what the members talked about.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
The industrial divide
Large crowd voices views on proposed Hull commercial park on Hwy. 72. There was a large crowd, a lot of talk, a lot of emotion shown, but no action on a proposed industrial park off Hwy. 72 Monday.

EPD schedules public hearing on Trus Joist
Citizens concerned about possible contamination. Concerns over air, ground water and environmental quality in the community surrounding Colbertıs Trus Joist plant prompted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to set up a public hearing next week to allow citizens to speak out about those concerns.

 

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The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
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WEATHER SPOTTERS

Milinda Dalton, Emergency Management Agency director, spoke with volunteer firefighters Ricky Blackwell and John Hoyt after the weather spotter class held Saturday.


Funds down, Baldwin loses money in 2001
But cityıs budget balances. The City of Baldwin cut into its general reserve funds in fiscal year 2001 with a $137,300 net loss. But that was close to the amount city leaders had planned in its budget for the year.
At the end of June 2001, Baldwin had a net fund balance of $198,000, down from $335,300 the year before. The city had planned to have a net fund balance of $205,400 at the end of the year.
The fund balance represents a net accumulated ³profit² the city makes when income exceeds expenses. City auditor Beth Grimes said the fund balance should be kept between 15 and 25 percent of the cityıs budget. Baldwin is running close to 15 percent.
Grimes said 34 percent of the cityıs income, $446,555, came from charges for services such as background checks the police department performs. The second largest source of income came from fines and forfeitures totaling $356,983, or 27 percent of the cityıs income.
Property taxes and other taxes, such as alcohol, franchise and insurance taxes, brought in $486,981, or 37 percent of the cityıs income.
Eleven percent of the townıs income came from city taxes and the ad valorem tax provided by Banks County.
As far as expenditures go, 50 percent, $797,564, is spent on public safety — the police and fire departments.
³Thatıs to be expected since a large part of your revenue is provided by the police department,² said Grimes.
One problem in the audit has been trying to determine the cityıs fixed assets, which include such things as city- owned property, buildings, equipment, machinery and the like. 25 percent of fixed assets are unidentifiable from the years previous to 1994, she said. That was the year the city hired Bates, Carter and Co. to handle the books.
The outlook for the city looks good, Grimes said. When compared with other cities of similar size, Baldwin stacks up pretty well. She said property taxes for other cities are ³12 percent higher² and they have ³much more debt.²
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the city council:
€heard a report from Vic Melton, public works director, about the progress of the water line down Moss Mill Road. He said the line had been laid and all that was needed was to test the lines once the hook-ups to the customers are completed. He said the tests would have to come back before service could be started. Residents on Moss Mill Road had complained to the council last summer about the lack of water pressure.
€discussed purchasing a dump truck. They decided to look into government surplus equipment to try to find the best deal.
€discussed using prison help to maintain the cityıs vehicles.
€discussed the problem with people paying their water bills past the due date.
€discussed the problem of getting a permit with Norfolk and Southern Railroad to bore under the tracks and install the sewage line that will serve the prison. The city is still waiting on the Environmental Protection Division to approve the plan.
€closed the public meeting and entered into closed session to discuss personnel and pending litigation. No action was taken when the meeting was opened to the public.


Rattletrap Road home gutted by blaze early Saturday
A double-wide mobile home on Rattletrap Road was gutted by fire early Saturday morning.
No one was in the home at the time of the 3 a.m. blaze.
Owners Travis and JoAnn Brown said they had purchased the home and had been working on it since November.
³We put up paneling and intended to paint the bedrooms and lay the carpet today,² said Brown as he stared shaking his head at the charred remains Saturday afternoon. ³We put a lot of time in on this.²
The couple was unaware of the fire until Mrs. Brown received a phone call at 8 a.m. from James Whellus, the man from whom they had purchased the home. Whellus, who lives up the road from the home, had called in the fire when he saw the flames.
Brown said he had planned to move next weekend.
³We bought the place for the kids,² he said. ³Thereıs plenty of room here for them to run,² he said pointing to the vast yard of the corner lot.
In the yard sat the remains of a table on loan from his brother.
³He loaned us the table and a refrigerator,² he said. ³Not much left of either. It wonıt be easy to tell him theyıre gone.²
Captain Chuck Bray arrived to get the coupleıs insurance information and told them how the firefighters of District 3 had fought to keep the blaze from spreading to the shop just out the back door of the add-on room.
³We put a lot of water on this fire,² Bray said. ³I went in once and ran out of air. When I came back out, condensation had frozen the valve of my breathing tank. It was sure cold last night.²
Bray looked at the couple and offered his apologies.
³I know this doesnıt mean much, but I canıt tell you how sorry I am we couldnıt save the structure,² he said. ³It was already going strong when we got here. Our primary concern was to be sure none of the outbuildings became involved.²
Bray told them Deputy Fire Chief John Creasy would be coming to the scene to investigate the origin of the fire.


Banks Countyıs active duty list being compiled
The Banks County News will keep an active duty list of all Banks County natives serving at home and abroad in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Information to be submitted should include: name, rank, branch and hometown. Mail the information to: Angela Gary, The Banks County News, P.O. Box 920, Homer, Ga. 30547, or send it via email to AngieEditor@aol.com.



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Auditor says Baldwin needs to beef up water revenues
Though the city is doing ³all right² overall, city auditor Beth Grimes suggested the city council address shortcomings in its water department.
After expenses, net incomes for the operations totalled $42,100 in fiscal year 2001. But the city still carries a $400,000 loss from lax business practices of previous years.
³Basically, itıs revenues not being high enough to cover expenses and paying for water that wasnıt sold,² she said.
Grimes repeated the suggestion she made during budget talks last year.
³You need to think about reinstating the administration fee for your water customers.² The fee of $3 per month on Baldwinıs 1,455 water customers would add some balance to the books with the approximately $60,000 per year it would raise, she added.
City attorney David Syfan asked how strong a recommendation she was making.
³I would definitely consider the fees, especially with the delays in bringing the sewer plant on line,² Grimes replied. ³I donıt understand why you dropped it to begin with.²
The city needs to be ready for the expenses of equipment when it wears out or breaks down, she said. She recommended the city keep $147,000 in a special fund just for that purpose.
She also touched on the subject of the Baldwin-Demorest Water Plant and said the plant showed a net loss of $11,800. However, she added, her firm did not perform the audit of the plant and they had to rely on figures from the audit performed by Demorestıs accounting firm Alexander, Almond and Tillman.
One of the findings of the audit concerning the Baldwin-Demorest Water Plant was the potential for ³unaccounted-for or stolen funds² when receipts were not deposited by Demorest in a ³timely manner.² There was a total of $80,122 in undeposited funds at the close of the fiscal year last June.
The two cities remain at odds over the water plant ownership, but are in quiet negotiations to transfer all operations to Baldwin.
Grimes said things would be pretty tight until Lee Arrendale Correctional Institution came on line and provided the city with more income from waste water treatment.
³With all the problems youıve had this past year,² she said, ³I think youıve done an excellent job. You are one of my favorite clients and you always provide me with the most interesting situations.²