News from Banks County...

February 13, 2002

Banks County


Banks County

Banks County

among all
Georgia weekly newspapers
by the Georgia Press Association

June 29, 2001

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Angela Gary
Valentine memories
In the back corner of the closet in my bedroom is a shoe box covered with white tissue paper. It has red construction paper hearts pasted on it and ³Happy Valentineıs Day² scrawled across the side of it.

Elected officials need to know Open Meetings Law
The Georgia Open Meetings law is quite clear on when an elected board can go behind closed doors to discuss public business.


Directions to Area Schools

Going into a basketball war
Columnist takes road trip with hoops teams. I didnıt play any sports in high school. So the experience of traveling to a game on a team bus was foreign to me.

Neighboorhood News ..
South Jackson couple murdered in their home
A South Jackson couple was killed in their home on Ethridge Road Friday afternoon and a man renting a room from them is the suspect in the double murder.

Facility plan calls for new elementary, high school in East Jackson
Additional classroom units that would max out West Jackson Middle School at 900 students, as well as a new elementary and high school in East Jackson, are among the ³meat² of a five-year facility plan set for the Jackson County School System.

Neighboorhood News ..
Jail project halted
County finds over 100 problems with construction.Madison County officials suspended construction of the new county jail off Hwy. 98 last week after months of delays and building problems.

County schools ranked by state
Several Madison County schools ranked in the top third of the state in a recent comparison of standardized test results for 2001
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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Banks firefighters travel to New York
Shown are (L-R) Banks County Fire Chief Perry Dalton, Batallion Chief Andy Kitchens and Captain Chuck Bray who traveled to New York and the Hyde Park Volunteer Fire Department to present a check to a firefighterıs widow.

Fire department reps travel to New York
Firefighterıs widow presented with $23,000 check. Three Banks County firefighters traveled to New York last week to present a check for $23,000 to Cathy Tetgmeier, the widow of a firefighter killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Thanks to an invitation from the Hyde Park Volunteer Fire Department, Banks County Fire Chief Perry Dalton, Captain Chuck Bray and Battalion Chief Andy Kitchens flew to New York, all expenses paid.
Bray had become familiar with the Hyde Park fire division during negotiations with them for the purchase of a ladder truck for the county.
Paul Tetgmeier had trained at the station and had become friends with the volunteers there. He was assigned to another New York station and would have been out of harmıs way.
But, on that horrible September morning, he was pulling duty at New York Station 1010— a breath away from the WTC. He, like many others, was killed doing his duty as a firefighter.
Banks County Fire Department and emergency personnel took the loss as if it had been one of their own. The firefighters and emergency personnel mounted a boot drive that pulled in $23,000 in two days, said Kitchens. ³Everybody in the department helped, volunteers and their families. We raised more in those two days than any other boot drive weıve held.²
Bray said:²I felt like I had to do something to help. The boot drive gave me the feeling I had helped.²
They sent the check on to Fire Chief Ray Davis and thought that would be the end of it, said Kitchens. But Davis had another plan in mind — the opportunity to meet the widow they were helping and give her the check in person.
³While I wanted to go,² said Kitchens, ³my emotions were on edge. I didnıt know how Iıd react when I actually got there and met with her face-to-face.²
Dalton said: ³She was speechless when she saw how much the check was for. It was hard. She was moved and so were we. Itıs so hard on her. They still havenıt found her husband. She has been waiting so long for that call.²
Kitchens said, ³Cathy told us she was overwhelmed. She said we were so far away, yet we cared so much. I guess that surprised her.²
Such overwhelming emotions did not prepare them for what the three men felt as they toured ³Ground Zero² the next day.
³It was a sobering experience,² said Dalton, of the memorials that were set up. ³We read the letters from children and families. It really hit home, the number of lives that were lost in just a few minutes. You look at 343 smiling faces up on the wall — all killed at one time. It was a shock to see it. We all just looked at it in silence.²
Bray said there were pictures, flowers, balloons and teddy bears brought to the memorials by family members and friends.
Kitchens remembered one letter from the daughter of one of the pilots in the airliners. ³The letter was so sad. She felt so bad for everyone who had been killed. That amazed me, here is this young girl who lost her dad and sheıs consoling the families of others.²
Even more shocking was the scope of the site of the remains of the towers, said Dalton.
³You just canıt imagine,² he said. ³And the faces on the men working thereŠthey had that 1,000-yard-stareŠlike they were looking right through you. You see the site on TV, but when you go there and see it, and smell it... it smells of death.²
Bray painfully, solemnly, talked briefly about the process the men working the site went through.
³The debris is gone through 12 inches at a time,² he said. ³Itıs sifted through by hand. They look for any type of identifiable objects — jewelry, pagers, papers, clothing Šanything that might give them a clue to identify someone missing.²
Dalton said of the 343 fire fighters lost that day, only 154 have been identified.
³You know how hard that has got to be on the families,² said Dalton.
Bray continued softly: ³I was shocked at what I saw. It makes you appreciate life. You look all around you and all you see is damage.²
Kitchens added, somberly, ³It shows you how precious life is. It also shows how dangerous our job can be. It makes you think.²
On a wall at Station 1010 is a display holding badges left by visiting fire fighters not just from around the country, but from around the world, said Kitchens. ³We added our Banks County badge to the collection.²
Tetgmeier visited the men before they left and presented them with long-sleeved T-shirts that were being sold to help raise funds. ³I wanted to be sure you got these,² she told them.
³It was a trip I will never forget,² said Kitchens.
Members of the Hyde Park Fire Department plan a visit to Banks County in the near future.
³They called us ŒBrotherı,² Dalton said, ³and treated us like one of their own.²

Middle school construction bid accepted
The first phase of the middle school construction has begun.
Superintendent Deborah White told the board that a bid has been accepted for phase one of the project. Qore was the low bid. The firm will examine the site for any gas lines, power lines, sewer pipes or other utilities. White said state law requires that before construction, someone must inspect the area.
The job will cost $1,800.
White said the second phase has already been advertised for bids. She expects to get proposals on the topography in the next week or so.
The site is across the street from Banks County High School on Hwy. 441, but at this point, the proposed school site doesnıt have road access to 441.
³Kenneth Brady (board of commission chairman) called to ask whether the school system can mark an X at the point across from the high school where the proposed road will go in so they can go ahead and get a lay of the land for that and I told him we would do that,² she said.
The middle school project is expected to cost $10.2 million. The grading alone is projected to cost $800,000.
In a related matter, White told the board that it may qualify for help from the Georgia State Finance and Investment Commission (GSFIC) for the middle school project.
She said because the school system earned approximately $500,000 as part of the stateıs class size reduction program or House Bill 1187, the system would qualify for any assistance they request from the GSFIC on the project the money is put toward. The board had allocated the money to go towards adding 11 units onto the primary school, but White said the money would be better served at the middle school.
³The middle school project is larger and would benefit more from having their help,² said White at the Thursday night work session.
The GSFIC is a full service architectural and construction firm employed by the state to assist school systems. The firm will help any school system that requests its services from the design phase of a project to getting its certificate of occupancy.
Because the school system is receiving the $500,000, GSFICıs services are free.
Since the board designated the funds for the primary school expansion, the funds will have to be shifted to the middle school. White said she will not know whether that is possible for a couple of months. If the money canıt be shifted, then the GSFIC will provide their services for the primary school project.
Normally, a school system would have 40 hours of free service to use on any project it requests.
White suggested the board use the 40 hours of free service for the design of the athletic complex.
In an unrelated matter, White told the board how Governor Roy Barnesı budget will affect the school system.
Barnes proposes to cut the principal supplements by 33 percent, a reduction of $1,000 from $3,000 to $2,000.
White said she had hoped Barnes would include increases in allocations for textbooks, library books and instructional supplies since there has not been an increase in more than four years.
³He did not propose any new money for that,² she said. ³Just to give you an example, currently we are $30 for FTE for a textbook. We havenıt been able to buy a textbook for $30 in years. Library $26. There again, it costs a lot more than that. Supply money is $29 and equipment $19. And the computer money has been cut from $25 per FTE to $21. So weıre not getting any new money on that.²
FTE stands for Full Time Equivalency. For every student in a classroom full time, the state will pay $30 for a textbook, $19 for equipment and $21 for a computer. That would mean a class would need 29 students in a classroom full time to purchase one computer with state money if the computer costs $600.
White said the system is also taking a cut in staff development again.
³Weıre taking cuts in some areas in order to gain in others,² she said.
For the second month in a row, the board approved several policies. Only nine were new policies or policies with significant revisions, the rest were minimal revisions to existing policies. The new mandates included: vacancies on the school board should be filled by the remaining board members electing a successor; all children aged six to 16 must attend school; the systemıs willingness to accept transfer credits from other accredited schools; students must attend school in the county they live unless they live 45 minutes closer to another school; the existence of a student support team as well as student services within the guidance program; in-school solicitations must be preapproved by the superintendent and fund-raising projects must be approved by the superintendent and board of education; and student records will be kept confidential except for directory information which can be disclosed, directory information includes: studentıs name, studentıs participation in clubs and sports, weight and height of a student who participates in sports, dates of attendance and awards received.
Two of the new policies seek to define at-risk students and drop-outs.
An at-risk student is one who at the preschool level is a member of a household at or below poverty level or one who canıt speak English well or is developmentally delayed. At the primary level, an at-risk student if their family is at or below poverty level, they have not made progress in mastering basic skills appropriate for their age or they are determined to be at risk by the principal after meeting with the studentıs parent. The principalıs determination will be based on assessment by school staff members who are familiar with the student and with any health, social or family problems the student is experiencing.
A student in grades four through 12 is at-risk if they score lower than the level of performance established by the Georgia Department of Education for a student to successfully complete high school, they have been held back for one or more years, they have dropped out or had unexcused absences of 20 or more days or they are determined to be at-risk by the school principal.
A drop-out is an individual who was enrolled in school and is not currently enrolled in school or has been absent for 20 or more days and has not graduated from high school and does not meet the following criteria: transfer to another public, private or home school or temporary absence due to suspension or illness documented medically. The board also states its commitment to reducing dropouts by ³determining the extent and nature of the dropout problem and in identifying students who have dropped out or who are potential dropouts.
White said all of the policies were changed or added in order to bring the system up to date with state laws and guidelines.
In an unrelated matter, the board entered into a closed session at its Thursday work session and its Monday meeting to review specific personnel matters. On Thursday, the board met behind closed doors for an hour and a half with primary school principal Donna Reed. On Monday, the board met with Banks County Middle School principal Gloria Gabriel from 7:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.

How does CVB spend sales
The Banks County Convention and Visitors Bureau spent over $92,500 in tax money last year to promote tourism in the county. At the end of 2001, the CVB had a little over $136,000 in cash on hand, up from $88,900 at the end of the previous year.
The CVB financial reports for January through December 2001 were released last week following an open records request from The Banks County News.
During 2001, the CVB took in $139,800 in income, mostly from the countyıs hotel-motel tax.
The largest expense for the CVB in 2001 was for a beautification project at Banks Crossing which totaled over $25,000 during the year. Over $18,000 was spent on billboards during 2001 and another $9,000 on other advertising. A website expense of nearly $1,400 was also on the reports.
Some $17,400 was spent on wages during the year. The wages early in the year were listed at $1,076 per month, but that had increased to $2,307 per month by the end of the year. Executive director Sherry Ward is the only employee. The CVB has budgeted $30,000 for her salary during 2002.
The CVB also spent $5,200 in 2001 on an ³honorarium² for president Bonnie Johnson.
CVB money is used to promote tourism, according to an agreement the CVB has with the Banks County Board of Commissioners.
In the 2002 budget, the CVB expects $112,000 in revenue. Officials say the hotel-motel tax will be supplemented with money from fund-raisers and membership dues. The CVB recently sent Banks County businesses information on becoming a member of the organization at a cost of $50-$100 each.

Banks County CVB
2001 Income & Expenses

Beginning balance $88,916
Income $139,806
Expenses $92,575
Balance EOY $136,147

Beautification $25,187
Billboards $18,600
Wages $17,465
Advertising $9,024
Honorarium $5,200
Website $1,379
Dues $2,400
Repairs $1,056 tax money?

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Armed robbery reported at Regions Bank
South Carolina woman charged; warrant issued for second suspect. Warrants have been issued for a South Carolina couple in the armed robbery Thursday at Regions Bank at Banks Crossing.
Banks County Sheriff Charles Chapman said warrants have been issued for Vickie Lee Barton, 25, Marietta, S.C., and Micky Alexander Peterson, 32, Travelers Rest, S.C., both on armed robbery charges. Barton was being held by the Cocke County Sheriffıs Office in Tennessee but was extradited to Banks County. Peterson is still at-large.
The bank was robbed around 3:50 p.m. Thursday when a white male went into the bank wearing a heavy trench coat and baseball cap and carrying a pop shotgun. Sheriff Chapman said he demanded the money and threatend to ³blow away² the bank employees if they didnıt cooperate.
³He also told them that if they put a dye pack in the bag, he would come back and take care of them,² the sheriff said.
He left the bank in a vehicle that he had left parked to the side of the bank. The sheriff said a bank employee described the vehicle as being dark-colored and having a South Carolina tag. She also gave a partial tag number.
The sheriff said deputies were at the bank within four minutes of being called to the robbery. A look-out was placed on the vehicle in all surrounding counties and states.
The sheriff said the car used in the robbery was found abandoned Friday on Haggard Road, which is located off of Ridgeway Church Road in Banks County. A Jackson County Sheriffıs Office deputy went to check out the car and the Banks County Sheriffıs Office was called in because it fit the description of the car used in the robbery. It was a late model Honda Civic and had been stolen out of Spartanburg, S.C.
The Banks County Sheriffıs Office got its next break in the case on Saturday morning when a call came in from the Hamlin County, Tenn., Sheriffıs Office where Barton had been picked up on public drunk charges.
Chapman said the Tennessee officials said that they had received some pieces of evidence that might link her to the Banks County bank robbery. Banks County law enforcement officers, along with a federal agent, traveled to Tennessee and interviewed the woman. The sheriff said Barton was ³very cooperative² and told the officers that she and Peterson had rented a motel room at Banks Crossing several days prior to the armed robbery. The sheriff said that Barton also said that she had traveled to Spartanburg with Peterson the day before the robbery and he stole the vehicle used.
³She said they went together and picked out the spot where they were going to abandon the vehicle at,² the sheriff said. ³She said that she met him at the pick up spot on Haggard Road and from there they went north and ended up in Tennessee.²
Chapman said Banks County officers searched the Banks Crossing motel room and found paperwork from Regions Bank that was taken in the armed robbery. No money has been recovered yet.
Peterson is also wanted in a Jan. 24 armed robbery in Oconee County, S.C., Chapman said. He added that federal charges may be filed against the couple in the Banks County robbery.
Regions Bank was also robbed last year.