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January 30, 2002


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillespi
ŒWe the Peopleı have little say in Ga. politics
I was taught in school that government in America was based on the will of the people. Political decisions were supposed to come from the people and move up the various government levels. Well, that is not the way it works in Georgia!

Zach Mitcham
Jail project: A rocky road
First November.
Then Christmas was the scheduled completion date of the new jail.
But that was bumped back to February.
And now March.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Raiders look for redemption in rematches this week
If redemption is on the minds of the Red Raiders, this would be the week to settle some scores.
After all, Madison County will match up with three squads—Franklin, Oconee and Hart—that downed them earlier this month in games where the Raiders were victims of their own second-half lapses.


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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


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The Madison County Journal
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PACKED HOUSE

The Madison County commissioners met before a packed house Monday night.


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.
County residents filled the Madison County commissionersı meeting room to express their opinions on a recent purchase of nearly 80 acres off James Holcomb Road for industrial use.
Some took the podium to praise the Madison County Industrial Authority (IDA) for buying the land for the project. Proponents of the plan say that the county is in dire need of commercial development to offset the growing tax burden on local property owners.
Opponents say the IDA was underhanded in acquiring the land and that the proposed locale is unsuitable.
BOC chairman Wesley Nash led off discussion of the matter with a prepared statement focused on the need for economic development in the county.
³If we are to keep our promises of better roads, better public safety, better schools and better recreation programs, we are going to have to have a source of resource other than property taxes,² said Nash (see Page 5A for the full text of Nashıs statement).
Local banker Thomas Dial told the crowd that without economic development county residents will feel a pinch on their way of life.
³The only way to slow the taxes on these people (farmers and homeowners) is to push some of that tax burden on businesses,² said Dial.
Regular BOC adviser Leo Smith spoke in favor of the park, noting that the BOC will have the final say on zoning requests for the park. He suggested the county set up a committee involving local leaders and community members to establish guidelines for approving businesses for the park.
Smith and Augusta Jenkins, who attends most board meetings, also praised the efforts of authority chairman John Scoggins — who was not at the meeting — in seeking businesses for the county, noting that Scoggins has done much for the betterment of the county.
Others did not share their kind words for Scoggins.
Many opponents of the industrial park plan say Scoggins and the IDA were underhanded brokering the land deal, acting without public input. Late last year county commissioners turned down a proposed rezoning for a cold storage facility on the property. Months later, the IDA purchased the land and many are upset by the action, saying itıs a backdoor way for the IDA to get its wishes.
Most opposing the proposed park said they support industrial growth in the county, but disagree with the IDAıs choice of locale.
Local property owner Lamar Stephens was one of the most outspoken opponents, vowing to do everything he can to tie up any development on the property with legal actions. He said the IDAıs purchase undermined the authority of the BOC. Stephens, who has hired a lawyer to fight the proposed park, called for the board to remove the IDA members from their posts, adding that ³dirty dealings² need to be exposed.
³There are some snakes in the grass that need to be exposed,²
said Stephens, to applause from some in the crowd. ³Some snakes need to have their heads chopped off.²
Audience member Louis Steed said he opposed the action, saying the whole controversy could have been avoided if the IDA had consulted the BOC and begun their search for a park just two miles down Hwy. 72, away from residential areas.
Steed said the IDAıs charter, as amended in 1985, does not empower the authority to purchase land for a park.
³The IDA was not empowered to purchase 80 acres and thus that purchase was illegal,² said Steed.
CROWDED MEETING
Mondayıs county commmissionersı meeting was one of the most crowded BOC functions in years. Cars filled the parking lot by the government complex 15 to 20 minutes before the meeting with all seats in the boardıs meeting room taken well before before the 6:30 p.m. starting time. Audience members lined the walls and many stood out in hall trying to hear the action inside. Some suggested that the board move the meeting to Superior Court, also located in the county government complex, where more people could be seated, but BOC chairman Wesley Nash explained that state law requires that zoning hearings be recorded and that the board did not have recording equipment — microphones, etc. — set up in courtroom. An official count of those on hand could not be determined because an attendance book passed around to crowd members was not returned to the commissioners.
FAMILY EMERGENCY
Madison County District 5 commissioner Bruce Scogin was not on hand Monday due to a family emergency. Nash informed audience members that Scoginıs 4-year-old nephew had been hit by a car and was transported to Augusta for medical care. Scogin was not at the meeting so that he could be with his family. The commissioner had scheduled three notable agenda items which were withdrawn. They included: 1) board of commissionersı relationship to the industrial authority, 2) request for work session with planning and zoning commission and county planner Jay Baker, and 3) composition of industrial authority (board membership).


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.
The hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m., will be held in the cafeteria of Colbert Elementary School.
Last year, the EPDıs Air Protection Branch published a legal notice of ³opportunity for public comment,² citing its intent to issue a five-year ³Title V Air Quality Operating Permit² to the plant.
Trus Joist is a parallel strand lumber (Parallam) manufacturing plant that located off Hwy. 72 just east of Colbert in 1998. The plant uses Southern yellow pine and poplar to produce Parallam, dry veneer, cores and chips and is one of the leading industries in the county.
Trus Joist plant manager David Craft said Title V is a new permitting process required by the EPD in order for the plant to emit certain manufacturing by-products into the air.
³Iım sure several issues will come up (at the public hearing), weıve heard of a number of things and weıre working to act on them,² Craft said of community concerns.
One of the things Craft pointed out the facility is doing in response to complaints from residents is to clean up litter along the roads around the plant by participating in the countyıs Adopt-a-Highway program.
Craft said the company is also in the process of getting water sources around the plant tested for any possible contamination. He said the tests will be done by an independent state-certified company.
³To our knowledge, thereıs nothing any different (being released into the environment) than you find in your own home,² he said.
Craft also said that black smoke seen coming from the plantıs smoke stack on occasion was caused by equipment failure and has been corrected.
³Our goal is to be a good citizen,² Craft emphasized. ³After all, most of our 400 full-time employees are county residents.²
SEEKING ASSURANCE
In the meantime, Billy Russell, who owns farm land adjacent to the plant, wonders where the beavers on some of his streams have gone.
And wondering why the beavers have abandoned their homes downstream of Trus Joist is just one of his and other neighborsı concerns.
After reading the Title V notice, listening to other members of the community and having some concerns of his own, Russell wrote to the EPD requesting the hearing be held before a permit is issued.
As a retired representative of the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation District, Russell says heıs been trained to recognize possible environmental problems.
And heıs concerned enough to have begun piping in water from other parts of his farm to some of his cattle after noting a brownish tinge to their drinking water, also downstream from Trus Joist.
As to the black smoke, Russell says he doesnıt accept the explanation that it was caused by ³equipment failure,² noting that he and others have seen the smoke on a number of occasions.
And thatıs not all.
It seems at least 15 residents within a two-mile radius of the plant have been stricken with several forms of cancer. And several have died of the disease.
³We donıt want to be alarmists,² Russell said. ³We just want Trus Joist to be responsive to our concerns...We want to be assured thereıs not a problem with the air quality and ground water, and we felt this was a good time to get some answers to our questions.²

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BOC votes Œnoı on subdivision
Madison County commissioners said ³no² to a proposed subdivision off Colbert-Danielsville Road Monday.
The board voted 4-0 to deny related requests by Phil Munro — representing Annette Shubert — to rezone a 13.67-acre tract on Colbert- Danielsville Road and a 41.33-acre tract on neighboring Kincaid Road from A-1 (agricultural) to R-1 (residential).
The Shuberts want to build 1,600-minimum-square-foot site-built homes on 1.5-acre lots, each with its own well and septic tank.
Munro said the subdivision would be an ³asset to Madison County,² providing more housing opportunities in the county for middle income families.
Ralph Hunt of Colbert-Danielsville Road spoke out against the proposal, saying the plan is not in line with the long-term land use plan for the area. He said there was not adequate infrastructure for the area and that an increase in the number of wells in the area might hurt the water table.
Mike Rock, who also lives near the proposed subdivision, voiced concerns about an increase in traffic in what some view as an already dangerous area.
³I am not anti-development, but in favor of slow residential growth that comes with careful planning,² said Rock.
Another audience member said he was concerned that allowing the development is a move toward the area becoming ³like Gwinnett County.²
Munro pointed out that the proposal is in a ³medium density area,² saying that the development would be appropriate. He answered water concerns, noting that nobody had shown what the water levels in the area are. He said there should be adequate sight distance for motorists in the area as long as they travel the speed limit. Munro also said that Madison County will not be like Gwinnett County because it is not next door to Atlanta like Gwinnet
t.


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.