News from Banks County...

February 27, 2002


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OPINIONS

Kerri Graffius
The things we can’t question in America right now
It’s a dangerous time in America to say you don’t trust the president.
But, I don’t trust the president.

Editorial
Jamieson continues to serve Banks County well
The recent redistricting by the Georgia legislature has left political shock waves across Georgia and is still being wrestled with in a federal court.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Soccer teams start with wins
Banks to travel to Union Friday
Banks County’s Lady Leopards soccer team is already breaking records. And they’ve only played three games.
Banks (2-1) scored eight goals in a win over Jackson County last week, the most in a single game in the program’s history. The previous record was five.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY

BOC refuses to release courthouse site records
Herald sought documents about 157-acre deals
The Jackson County Board of Commis-sioners denied an open records request this week for documents related to the proposed purchase of 157 acres for a new county courthouse.

Jefferson mulls courthouse counter-proposal plan
Jefferson officials may offer a counterproposal to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners’ plan to build a new county government complex on Darnell Road.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON
COUNTY
Simmering controversy
No action, but plenty of talk Monday about the IDA and industrial park dilemma
No industrial authority members were fired as some expected.
And no actions were taken on a proposed commercial/industrial park off Hwy. 72.

Colbert man charged with trafficking cocaine
The second county drug bust in two weeks led to the arrest of a Colbert man last Friday afternoon.


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SALES TAX
NEGOTIATIONS
HAVE BEGUN

The Banks County Board of Commissioners met last week with representatives from area cities to begin discussion of distribution of the local option sales tax. Lula mayor Milton Turner and Homer council member Sandra Garrison are shown with BOC chairman Kenneth Brady. Also present were: Gillsville mayor Larry Poole, Baldwin mayor Mark Reed and Gary Freeman, attorney for Homer and Maysville. Homer city clerk Carol Ayers, county attorney Randall Frost and county commissioner Ernest Rogers were also present.

Child abuse numbers up
The Banks County Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS) investigated 19 new cases of child abuse in January, according to director Renota Free at last weekıs monthly meeting.
The majority of the cases, 11, were neglect, she said. Six were physical abuse, one was sexual abuse and one was emotional abuse.
The cases were added to the 12 pending cases and eight ongoing cases from previous months.
Working un-der full case loads due to changes in staff, social workers were able to screen out 18 of the cases due to lack of evidence, Free said.
Some 16 cases are still pending.
One case was substantiated and remains open; while another was substantiated and closed, having reached a suitable agreement.
There was also an increase in the month of January in assistance to families, she said.
There was a slight rise in the number of families receiving food stamps — from 357 households to 362 equaling about a $600 increase.
Medicaid cases also rose from 543 households to 558.
Childcare services rose from zero in December to $1,480 in January.
Temporary relief for needy families dropped considerably, from $8,161 in December to $7, 854 in January, she said.
DFACS currently has legal custody of 24 children who are in foster homes. Free said there are two children available for adoption.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the board discussed a drug coverage program being offered by Pfizer, called the ³Living Share Card.² Any Medicare enrollee or person 65 years of age or older may apply for the card if their reported gross income is below $18,000 for an individual, or $24,000 for joint reported gross income.
The person may not have any other form of prescription coverage. There is a fee of $15 per 30-day supply of medicine.
For more information on the program, call 1-800-717-6005.
The DFACS board also discussed the plans for the new DFACS building. Free said two sets of plans have been received. One plan calls for separate offices and the other set of plans shows cubicles separating the staff.


LOST funds may be reduced
The cities in Banks County may find funds from the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) reduced beginning in 2003.
In what will be the first of many meetings, city representatives from Baldwin, Homer, Maysville, Lula and Gillsville met Friday with the Banks County Board of Commissioners to iron out a new method of LOST disbursement that will be more equitable for all Banks County citizens.
LOST is a portion of sales tax collected at the various county stores, gas stations and restaurants.
In the past, it has been disbursed according to a per capita formula. BOC chairman Kenneth Brady said the amount of sales tax was divided by the total number of citizens. The county residents of the cities were then multiplied by the per capita sum and a check was cut to the cities.
The LOST allows a county tax rollback which is also passed on to county residents living in the cities, said Brady.
³Youıre getting the property tax roll-back and then youıre getting a check [from LOST fund] that you can spend any way you see fit,² he said. ³So youıre getting twice the money.²
In 2000, $2.37 million came in to Banks County, according to figures compiled by the ACCG.
However, ACCG is cautioning counties to reconsider the formula used for tax money distribution so it will benefit all county residents equally, said Brady.
The city residents fare better than residents in unincorporated Banks County, according to ACCG figures. With 79 percent of the countyıs residents in unincorporated areas, the benefit per citizen is less than those living in the cities.
ACCG figured the amount of sales tax money that was actually benefitting each citizen of the county and came up with $131.
Jerry R. Griffin, executive director of ACCG, said in a memo to the commissioners: ³All citizens in the county pay sales tax and the average amount of sales tax paid per person is $164 per year. It is clear that 79 percent of county residents that live in unincorporated areas are receiving an annual benefit much less than what they paid in sales tax.²
City residents fare better. For instance, said Brady, a resident living in Homer, benefits by an additional $211 from the disbursement to the city totalling $342.
Brady said he wanted to make the distribution fair so all Banks Countians benefit equally from the LOST income
That means ³reduction² to the cities and it caused concern to the city representatives present.
Baldwin Mayor Mark Reed asked if the county would be adding services to the cities, such as public works type services.
Brady replied the county would not.
Homer city attorney Gary Freeman, said: ³The city residents of Homer pay equally into the county budget but donıt get the same county services. They donıt get water service, water line repair from the county. City residents are paying for county services that city residents arenıt getting from the county. So theyıre paying a second time to get those services from the city. I think that affects the fairness of this.²
Brady replied: ³Not one dime comes out of property tax for water service, that comes out of SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax). The city of Maysville benefits from our water system. We sell yıall water.²
SPLOST money is also disbursed to the cities of Maysville, Homer and Baldwin, he said.
³The cities have use of our jail, the sheriffıs department, the fire department, emergency services and the recreation complex,² he continued. ³You donıt pay a fee to use our jail or our deputies.²
Reed suggested that most of the sales tax paid comes from out-of-county residents shopping at Banks Crossing which would skew the figures of ACCG. He also said he felt ACCG was pitting cities against the county.
Freeman agreed. He said the county should continue the disbursement the way it has in the past.
Lula mayor Milton Turner suggested each city bring their budget and be provided a copy of the county budget to go over at the next meeting.
He also said since LOST negotiations were under way as of this first meeting, they had only 60 days to come up with a procedure or the matter would have to enter a non-binding arbitration, a costly alternative.
Commissioner Ernest Rogers said: ³The cities should get a percent over the county residents for the services the cities provide. They do get more benefits than what the county provides. But, I, too, would like to see it more fair.²
Reed said: ³We should get some credit for the money youıre saving not having to provide services in the cities. Thatıs money youıre saving. I think itıs only fair that it comes back to the cities.²
Brady replied: ³We just spent $30,000 on roads that you annexed into the city. So itıs your responsibility now after we have spent all the money on the roads getting them up to par. You gained an extra $30,000.²
Reed responded: ³Under the current law, annexation will continue. Cities will continue to grow. In all fairness, you need to recognize there are some services you donıt have to provide in the cities.²
Another matter discussed was whether or not the cities met the qualifications for disbursement. In order to be a qualified municipality, a city must offer at least three of six services to their residents. These services include fire protection, police or sheriffıs department protection, sewer, water, trash pick-up and library.
In addition, the city must have another method of income, such as property tax or insurance franchise tax, to be considered for LOST disbursement, said county attorney Randall Frost.
Freeman said he had spoken with the state attorney generalıs office and was told that beer tax was considered tax income, if imposed by resolution, and would be acceptable for qualification.
All of the five cites in Banks County present — Lula, Gillsville, Maysville, Baldwin and Homer — have at least three services in place and taxes imposed that meet the requirements, according to their representatives. Alto was not represented at the meeting.
Brady suggested the city representatives think about a fair method of disbursement for the next meeting.
The meetings will be held weekly until an agreement is reached. The next one is at 2 p.m. Friday, March 1.



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Asphalt plant permit likely
No legal reasons to delay, EPD says. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is poised to grant an air quality permit to the state department of transportation for an asphalt plant in Alto.
Monday, in a phone interview, John Yntema, EPD combustion unit manager, said the permit would probably be granted in March and said he sees no legal reason to deny the permit.
³The DOT is committed to moving the plant by July 1,² he said. ³That includes cleaning up and grassing the old site by that date. They have some grading work to do before they can begin moving the plant, so they would like the permit as quickly as possible to meet their deadlines.²
The mobile plant will be located on eight acres of state property at Lee Arrendale Correctional Institution on North County Line Road.
Last month, at a lengthy EPD public hearing, many citizens spoke out against the plant citing concerns over possible health problems and seepage of toxins into ground water sources.
However, at the meeting James Johnson, EPD program manager, and Yntema told the residents there is little the EPD could do to deny the permit as long as DOT managed the plant in accordance with EPD regulations of emissions.
DOT officials pointed out at that meeting that there have been no citations issued by the EPD ever for any air quality violations at any of their plants.
The plant to be moved is currently in Carnesville where it has been in operation 11 years, according to Terri Pope, DOT pubic relations. The plant produced 30,312 tons last year.
The plant is projected to be in operation for three years. It will produce around 30,000 tons annually during its average four-day-a-week, four-hours-per-day operation with around 20 dump trucks per day doing the hauling.
Pope said: ³The asphalt produced is to be used internally for DOT maintenance projects in Northeast Georgia. It will be used for local roads, pot holes and turn lanes. With so much to do over here, we really need the plant at a closer location.²
She said the plant would maintain the asphalt at 350-degrees F, the temperature needed to spread it. The permit DOT applied for will allow 100,000 tons per year to be produced, but they donıt expect to use ³anywhere near that amount.²
In a phone conversation with her on Monday, she said DOT hasnıt had any official word.
³The last we heard was they (the EPD) were evaluating the public comments and would let us know,² she said.


Top rec. director candidates named
The Banks County Board of Commissioners is narrowing down the search for a recreation director.
The top three candidates are: Trey Donaldson, Kelly Howington and Matthew Poole.


A ³Stop the Alto asphalt plant² meeting has been planned by Action for a Clean Environment.
The meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, at Alto Congregational Holiness Church. Directions to the church are as follows: From the Alto post office on the Old Cornelia Highway, cross over the railroad tracks, turn left on Railroad Avenue, continue on to the brick church or turn off Old Cornelia Highway where the sign for the Congregational Holiness Church is located.
For more information, call 778-3537, 776-6931, or 778-3661.