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Georgia needs a new constitution
Last week I described the problems we have with the Georgia legislative system that allows a small group of legislators to dictate policy with no regard to the desire of the voters.
So, how does it feel to be short?ı
Have you ever had a lot of people ask you the same dumb question?
Sure you have.
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Eight to State
Raider wrestlers enjoy record performance at area tournament. Due to inconsistent record keeping at Madison County, itıs hard to know at times whether an achievement is or isnıt a school best.
Neighboorhood News ..
Braselton/Hoschton bypassı not in the works, officials say
While the rumor mill may say Braselton and Hoschton will see a bypass in the near future, the Department of Transportation and county officials say it isnıt so.
New courthouse site proposed
BOC to hold forum Feb. 13 to outline proposed location
A potential site for a new Jackson County Courthouse will officially be unveiled next week following action this week to take options on several tracts of land.
Faith leads way to education for Banks woman
When Annie Thomas picked up her Bible and found there were words she could not understand nor pronounce, she decided it was time to go ³back to school.²
Hotel-motel tax raises questions
Westmoreland looks at tax use. Banks County commissioner Pat Westmoreland waded into an ongoing controversy last week over the allocation of the countyıs hotel-motel tax.
The Madison County Journal
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CONCERNED TRUS JOIST NEIGHBOR
Colbert resident Patty Bidinger, shown with her two children, listens during the EPDıs public hearing on Trus Joist Tuesday night. Bidinger told EPD officials that her daughter was diagnosed with asthma shortly after the family moved to Colbert in 1996.
Trust in Joist?
Residents raise concerns about possible contamination from wood products plant. The cafeteria of Colbert Elementary school was filled to capacity Tuesday night, as more than 100 people came out to hear and talk about their concerns over air and water quality around Colbertıs Trus Joist plant, a wood products manufacturing plant located just east of the town.
Officials from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Divisionıs (EPD) Air Quality Control Division hosted the meeting, which was also attended by representatives of Trus Joistıs management staff as well as a number of plant employees.
The meeting was scheduled after Colbert resident Billy Russell sent a letter to the EPD last October about the communityıs concerns.
Russellıs letter was in response to a legal notice published by the EPD last August, citing an ³opportunity for public comment² about its intent to issue a five-year Title V Air Quality Operating Permit to the plant.
Russell said he felt the notice provided a good opportunity for community members to speak out.
The new federal permit is being issued to 500 out of 3,000 industries in Georgia which the EPD considers to be a ³major source² of three chemicals classified as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS) formaldehyde, phenol and methanol.
Besides these chemicals, Trus Joist also emits several substances known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), as well as carbon monoxide.
The potential to emit these compounds increased, according to the EPDıs application review, after the installation of a second wood veneer dryer at the plant in 1993.
The purpose of the new Title V permit is to have a ³single document that encompasses all existing air permitting regulations required by the federal government,² according to Jimmy Johnston, head of the EPDıs Air Quality Division.
Trus Joist, which located in Madison County in 1988, uses Southern Yellow Pine and Poplar to produce its copyrighted product Parallam, as well as dry veneer, cores and chips and is one of the leading industries in the county.
The Title V permit, according to the EPD, will not add any new emission restrictions or regulations to the plantıs operation, nor does it require the plant to modify its current manufacturing processes.
What it does do, according to Lou Musgrove, EPD chemicals unit manager, is give the EPD a ³bigger hammer² to use to make sure that Trus Joist stays within federal and state guidelines for pollution control.
Musgrove urged residents to give the EPD a chance to investigate problems by documenting incidents of concern, particularly those that last for extended periods of time, noting the date, time and duration of each occurrence - and to notify him by calling 404-363-7122.
³We can do more unannounced inspections if we get more complaints,² Musgrove said.
³Without the (Title V) permit, the plant could still continue to operate as it does now, but with less monitoring,² Johnston said. ³...The Title V permit is a good thing.²
Johnston added that Trus Joist will likely be a candidate for a revised set of federal regulations, called MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) to be proposed later this year.
Black and blue smoke, a sickly sweet odor and brownish oily water downstream from the plant were just some of the concerns of residents who live within a few miles of Trus Joist.
Most long-time residents noted that they didnıt see things that concerned them during the plantıs first few years of operation, but that problems have seemed to increase in recent years.
For example, several spoke of seeing black smoke pouring from the plantıs stack at various times of the day, sometimes for sustained periods of time and with increased frequency.
Trus Joist officials said the smoke was caused by equipment malfunction resulting in ³incomplete combustion² of fuel in the boiler and has been corrected.
EPD officials, who are supposed to be notified of such malfunctions, said they had received no recent reports of such a problem from the plant.
Patty Bidinger, whose family moved to the area in 1996, said her daughter was diagnosed with asthma shortly after the move.
³She didnıt have a problem at all until we moved here,² Bidinger said. ³I am concerned about the air quality around our home.²
Bidinger said she was also concerned that there doesnıt seem to be a clear picture of formaldehyde contamination.
Billy Russell, who owns and raises cattle on farm land adjacent to the plant, said he has had to take steps to prevent his cows from drinking the water flowing in creeks downstream of the facility because of its brownish, sometimes oily, tinge. He has also noted that beavers residing in watersheds in the area have abandoned their dens.
Russell, a retired representative of the Soil and Water Conservation District, also noted that the community is especially concerned over the number of cancer cases in the area and that two of those have occurred in his own family his mother, who died of the disease, and his wife, Barbarianne Gaulding Russell, who was diagnosed and treated successfully last year.
Mrs. Russell told the crowd that she and her husband felt a ³personal responsibility² for the issues raised since she, while serving as Chamber of Commerce president, promoted the plantıs location in Madison County. She and her husband also sold some of their land to the company for the plantıs construction.
Mrs. Russell asked Trus Joist representatives to research and provide a list of cancers known to be caused by the plantıs toxic emissions.
Alan Johnson, who lives about 3.5 miles from Trus Joist, says he has a ³birdıs eye view² of the facility and often sees black or blue smoke for extended periods of time. A particular concern of his is a frequent ³sickly sweet² odor coming from the plant.
Colbert mayor John Waggoner requested that plant officials finance independent testing of air and water outside the perimeter of the plant. Waggoner said he felt the responsibility for such monitoring should fall on their shoulders, not the EPD or taxpayers.
Trus Joist plant manager David Craft said after the meeting that he was surprised by the magnitude of people that came as well as the number of questions asked.
Craft also said he was ³at a loss² to understand many residentsı insistence that signs of pollution from the plant have increased in recent years.
He added that he was very receptive to the suggestion by Barbarianne Russell to form a ³citizensı committee² to deal with the concerns.
Russell suggested the committee be made up of Colbert mayor John Waggoner, Board of Commission District 5 representative Bruce Scogin and other area residents who would meet with Trus Joist representatives on a regular basis and report back to the community.
Craft said the plant would also consider the suggestion of another neighbor, Frank Strickland, to host another open house and tour of the plant to help ease concerns about the operation.
³We want the community to know that we are approachable and willing to listen to what they have to say,² Janet McRanie, Communications Manager for Weyerhaeuser, parent company for Trus Joist, added.
³Trus Joist has tried to be a good neighbor to the community and we want to learn how to be a better one,² Mark Johnson, Area Regulatory Affairs Manager of Environment Health and Safety operations for Weyerhaeuser said.
Johnson also said the plant is willing to work with the EPDıs water quality division to check for water contamination downstream.
Danielsville puts clamp on apartment growth
How will Danielsville grow?
Probably not with apartments.
The Danielsville City Council unanimously approved an amendment to the city land development ordinance Monday that requires ³all duplexes and multi-family dwellings...have a minimum lot area per family...of two acres...²
Former Danielsville mayor Marc Perry, who recently appeared before the council with plans for duplexes, spoke out against the change, saying the amendment gives the city an unfair stranglehold on apartment growth.
³I think you ought to have some control,² said Perry. ³But four acres for somebody to put two families on. You might as well say donıt have apartments...It takes more room for a duplex than it does for a courthouse.²
Perry added that 185 homes are on less than an acre inside city limits.
³(Two acres or more) is a great big oleı lot for inside city limits,² said Perry. ³(The amendment) makes it hard for anybody to move in.²
Council member Don Delay said city officials are not trying to ³put up a gate to keep people from building.²
Fellow council member Nina Hitchcock said the council is doing ³whatıs best for Danielsville.²
³Iım not in favor of Danielsville becoming an apartment city,² said Hitchcock.
Former city employee Jerry Riley said the amendment was inappropriate.
³I think youıre barking up the wrong tree,² said Riley. ³Itıs the wrong way to control population.²
In other matters, the council hired Marlin Carithers as the new part-time city police chief. Carithers recently retired as the county courthouse security guard.
The council heard from Edwin Hart who is seeking city water for a planned subdivision outside of city limits off Hwy. 98 east. The council took no action on the request. Last month, the city agreed to pay $3,000 to $5,000 for an engineering study of the cityıs water resources, which should be completed by March 8. The city recently passed a moratorium on multi-family developments because city leaders said they needed to study the cityıs water situation and the possible impact of future developments on Danielsvilleıs water supply.
The council agreed to have city attorney Victor Johnson draft an amendment to the city noise ordinance to prevent engines and refrigeration units from running between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. in the large parking lot next to city hall. Neighboring residents have complained that tractor trailers create a disturbance by parking in the lot late at night and leaving their refrigeration units running.
The group approved a variance for developer Mike Hipp to allow a sewage line to be placed closer to a wellhead than required by city guidelines.
The council approved a grievance and appeals procedure for city employees on disciplinary matters. The group approved a health insurance proposal from Health Plan Select. The council agreed to move water and general fund accounts to Merchants and Farmers Bank. The group officially approved plans to provide sewage services to the new Madison County jail under construction off Hwy. 98. The council kept the cityıs mileage reimbursement rate at 31 cents per mile, instead of a proposed 36 cents a mile. The council agreed to allow a Danielsville couple to make monthly payments on their water connection fees instead of paying in a lump sum.
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Madison Co. BOE adopts another redistricting plan
The Madison County Board of Education adopted a redistricting plan last week that complies with the wishes of State Senator Mike Beatty.
Voting 3-1 with one abstention, the board adopted the map designated ³Madison One² as their preference for new election districts. The map will have to be approved by the state legislature before becoming official.
By adopting ³Madison One,² the board of education refused to go along with the board of commissionersı choice of ³Madison Two,² leaving the two boards with different election districts.
Both plans have the advantage of keeping the countyıs voting districts intact. This greatly reduces the number of separate ballots that must be produced by the election supervisor, and assures that each polling place will serve a singe district. In the previous plan, many voting sites had to have ballots and machines for as many as three different districts.
Three of the countyıs five districts will be the same in each plan. The difference falls in districts two and four. The board of educationıs District 2 will cover Mill, Harrison, Collins Paoli and Fork precincts while District 4 will consist of Danielsville and Poca precincts. The board of commissioners will have Poca, Mill Harrison and Collins making up District 2, while Danielsville, Paoli and Fork will compose District 4.
In both plans, District 1 will consist of Pittman (Neese/Sanford) and Ila. District
3 covers Hull, and District 5 includes Colbert and Comer.
By choosing ³Madison One,² the board of education eliminated one of two instances where sitting board members were being forced into the same district. Elaine Belfield, who currently represents District 2, will be moved to District 4. James H. Patton will now represent the second district.
The plan leaves two members, Ric Power and John Mason, in the fifth district and District 3 is without representation. Power and Mason will face each other in this fallıs election; Patton also faces re-election this year. Belfield and Robert Haggard, who represents District 1, will serve until 2004.
The original board of education plan created one single member district and two two-member districts. However, Sen. Beatty refused to introduce this plan because it conflicts with legislation against split precincts and multi-seat districts that he is supporting in the legislature.
When the final vote was called on the new plan, Belfield abstained from voting. Ric Power and John Mason, the two who will be impacted by the plan, moved and seconded the selection of ³Madison One.²
Chairman Robert Haggard joined them to produce the three votes necessary to pass the resolution. Jim Patton cast the ³no² vote.
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.