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March 6, 2002

Jackson County

Jackson County

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Spring Sports Kick Into Full Swing This Week
With arctic-like temperatures recently sweeping through the area, “Spring sports” wouldn’t seem the most appropriate way to categorize athletic competition this week.

Jefferson one win away from repeat
Ladies to vie with Wesleyan for state title Friday at noon
Yogi Berra would be proud.
Jefferson’s Lady Dragons and Wesleyan’s Lady Wolves will experience deja vu all over again Friday at noon, when the two teams meet at the Macon Centreplex in the Class A state basketball championship.

Rough seventh pushes Buford over Panthers in opener, 7-2
Jackson County played six innings of solid baseball in Tuesday’s season opener against Buford, but a five-run seventh inning resulted in a 7-2 home loss. The game had originally been scheduled for Monday, but was postponed due to cold weather.
“We’re in the game all night,” head coach Van Samples said of Tuesday’s game, “and we should be able to win it in the last inning, but we just can’t make the plays.”

Neighboorhood News ..

IDA tables Scoggins’ resignation request
The Madison County Industrial Authority voted Friday morning to table action on a letter of resignation from John Scoggins.

Debate to continue Monday over IDA, industrial park
The debates surrounding the county industrial authority and its recent purchase of 80 acres for a proposed industrial park will continue Monday.

Neighborhood News...

Moon to retire, Bertrang to take over at BCES
There will be two big changes at Banks County schools in August aside from the earlier start time. Both Banks County Elementary School and Banks County High School will be under new leadership, though at this point it’s uncertain who will lead the high school.

BCHS ranks fourth in state in graduation test science segment
Banks County High School ranked fourth in that state on the science portion of the high school graduation test with 83 percent of the student body passing, according to the Georgia Department of Education’s website.
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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Leland Thomas, 19, Duluth, was seriously injured in this one vehicle accident Monday afternoon on I-85. He was traveling south on I-85 when he drove into the emergency lane and off the west shoulder of the road, according to the report filed with the Georgia State Patrol. Thomas then reportedly hit the guard rail and an embankment. He was transported by helicopter to Grady Medical Center. Photo by Yve Assad

BOC holds weekend ‘retreat’ to discuss courthouse, other items
Dates for district meetings; alternative site rejected
With the controversy over a proposed site for a new courthouse gathering steam, members of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners went to the North Georgia mountains last weekend for a “retreat” to discuss that issue, among other county items.
But exactly what the board talked about remains something of a mystery. Unlike its usual practice, county officials did not contact local media outlets, including The Jackson Herald, about the weekend meeting.
County manager Al Crace said the lack of public notice about the meeting was simply an oversight. The meeting announcement was posted at the Administrative Building, he said, but it was not forwarded to The Herald, the Jackson County legal organ, as required by Georgia law.
“It was not done with a callous disregard for the law,” Crace said this week.
The BOC met Friday and Saturday at Amicalola Falls, near Dawsonville. The meeting had been planned since the first of February, Crace said, and the board discussed the top ten issues facing Jackson County during the two-day retreat. The courthouse issues was reportedly ranked in the top five, but Crace said he hadn’t taken detailed notes about the discussion. A report of the meeting compiled by an outside moderator is expected to be released later this week, Crace said.
In related developments on the courthouse issue, the BOC rejected a proposed 18.5 acre site submitted by commissioner Stacy Britt Monday night following a 10-minute closed-door discussion. Britt presented the site, which is on the south side of Peach Hill, just across the Hwy. 15 bridge in Jefferson.
Following the brief closed-door discussion, chairman Harold Fletcher announced that the board “elected not to pursue this site for several reasons.” The reasons were not given, however.
Also Monday night, the BOC set the schedule for an upcoming series of public meetings to discuss the county’s courthouse proposal.
Fletcher said the board welcomed citizen input on any proposed alternate sites for the courthouse.
“We certainly invite them (the citizens) to come to these meetings and present any information they may have,” he said. “This board is desirous of getting a dialogue going to discuss this so we can move forward with this issue this year. This item has been hanging fire for too long and this board is determined to move forward with it and we solicit input from everyone and anyone.”
Fletcher added that the Darnell Road site presented by the commissioners is only a “proposal.”
The commissioners said the meetings would be a “town hall format” with the courthouse being the main topic. Commissioner Sammy Thomason is expected to give a presentation on the proposed courthouse site at all four meetings with a question and answer session to follow.

The schedule will be as follows:
•District 1, which is served by Stacy Britt, 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, at the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
•District 4, which is served by Tony Beatty, 7 p.m. Monday, March 25, at the South Jackson Fire Department.
•District 3, which is served by Emil Beshara, 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, with the site to be determined later.
•District 2, which is served by Thomason, 7 p.m. Thursday, March 28, at the Commerce Civic Center.

Jefferson IDA offers $10,000 for professional courthouse study
The Jefferson Industrial Development Authority voted Wednesday to offer the Jackson County Board of Commissioners $10,000 to help fund a professional study on where a new courthouse should be located in Jefferson.
The IDA held a called meeting Wednesday and approved a resolution on the matter and agreed to forward it and a letter to board chairman Harold Fletcher.
“It is our belief and concern that such an important decision as is the location of the new county courthouse should be made with utmost care,” IDA chairman Ron Bond wrote in the letter. “Naturally, we are concerned with the possible impact that the location will have on the City of Jefferson, the county seat, and believe that only with the help of qualified professional planners can you minimize any negative effects. We believe, as you do, that there should be a citizen input but we, as citizens, are not professionally qualified to make such an important decision.”
In a related move, the Jefferson City Council agreed Monday night to authorize Mayor Jim Joiner to submit a proposal to the county board on what Jefferson might offer toward the project should it be kept in a downtown location. The council agreed that it would offer to assist the county with providing parking for a downtown facility and to assist with water and sewer hook-ups. The council also said that the city’s public building authority could handle the financing for the project. The council authorized the mayor to discuss these issues with the board of commissioners.
Council members were adamant, however, that the city shouldn’t purchase property for the project and just give it to the county. Joiner said that he had discussed the courthouse location with several board members and they indicated that the town should buy and donate the land for a downtown site.
Joiner also spoke on the need for the facility to remain downtown.
“We need the courthouse in downtown,” Joiner said. “It is paramount to out Better Hometown program. It is a part of Jefferson’s history. It is also very important to our merchants in downtown.”

If we move the courthouse out of town, along with the bypass coming in and retail stores locating in that area, we are going to start seeing some buildings in the downtown area empty and we can’t afford it.”

Concerned about lawsuits, Hoschton approves subdivision
Fearful the city could see another lawsuit concerning a proposed residential development, the Hoschton City Council decided in a 4-2 vote to rezone property on Cabin Drive for a 90-home development. Council members Rosemary Bagwell and Genoria Bridgeman voted in opposition to the request.
Four days prior to the city council’s decision, however, concern over the development’s density for 2.4 homes per an acre prompted disapproval from the Jackson County Planning Commission.
Yet the fight to reduce the number of homes on the Cabin Drive property dates back to May 2000, when owner Calvin Hayes first requested to rezone the property from A-1 to R-1 for 55 homes. At the time, the county planning commission unanimously recommended approval of the development, but the Hoschton City Council later denied the request.
Hayes filed a lawsuit over the council’s decision, but Superior Court Judge David Motes sided with Hoschton’s case in July 2001. Two months ago, an attorney representing Hayes met for an hour with the Hoschton City Council in a closed-door session.
In the end, Hoschton city council members said they had to face the inevitable.
“There is no way the city can stop a subdivision going on that property,” said council member Paul Turman while referring to the previous lawsuit and the possibility the town could see another litigation, if Kenneth Gary’s request to rezone the property was denied.
Regardless of any opposition to the request, the land use plan calls for residential development at the property, Turman said.
At the county planning meeting, Gary asked the commission to forgo the county’s two lots per acre maximum density to allow him to put 2.4 lots per acre within the development. His request didn’t suit the planners.
“If we agree to do this, we’re setting precedent for others who want to do the same,” Hoschton planner Bob Garrett said.
Gary argued that setting precedent in his situation would not be bad.
“You are setting precedent, but if you make developers follow strict covenants and requirement, then it isn’t bad precedent,” he said.
Gary’s residential development calls for back alleys and sidewalks, which reduces lot sizes.
Planning commission attorney Daniel Haygood told the board it did not have the power to grant Gary’s request to raise the maximum lots per acre.
“Y’all are bound by the two (lots per acre),” he said. “I’m not sure you have the authority to grant the 2.4 (lots per acre).”
A group of citizens from nearby subdivisions also took issue with other facets of the development.
Tony Stinchcomb presented a petition of 90 signatures from residence of Quail Crossing and Deer Creek Farms subdivisions opposing the development. One of Stinchcomb’s arguments was against the ability to access the subdivision from Cabin Drive, which goes through the city’s cemetery.
“I don’t see how that road can be widened,” he said. “My grandfather is buried 20 feet off the road. If you widen it, he’s going to have pavement on his feet.”
The comment angered Gary.
“We are not going to put pavement over the feet of anyone buried,” he said. “I resent any insinuation of that.”
Gary said he had held a meeting with residents in the area to go over his project. However, he said neither of the two citizens who spoke against his project attended the meeting.
“I have no problem if you disagree with me,” Gary said. “But don’t go giving out information about my project if you don’t have all the facts.”
Bob Howell, a resident who attended the county meeting, spoke in favor of Gary’s request.
“I signed the petition against this based on what I was told,” Howell said. “It turns out, that was not accurate. Gary presented some points in his presentation to us and changed my mind totally.”
Turman, who said Hoschton would benefit from the increased water pressure flow with the subdivision, submitted a motion to approve Gary’s request with 15 conditions.
One of the recommended conditions submitted by city engineer Charlie Armentrout said the “city water system has adequate capacity to serve the 90 homes.” The city council voted to allow Gary to develop the first 24 homes and, but the remaining 66 homes will not be granted building permits and final platting until Hoschton’s new waste water treatment plant is completed sometime in early 2004.
In other Hoschton rezonings, the city council:
• unanimously approved Plansouth’s request to rezone a little more than one acre at 60 E. Jefferson Street from R-3 to C-1 to build two office buildings. Plansouth president John Purcell said he would use one of the buildings for his office and the other for an office, retail store of sandwich or pizza shop. The Jackson County Planning Commission recommended approval of the request.
• tabled C. Stephen Mobley’s request to rezone a little more than a half-acre at 456 Hwy. 53 from A to C-2 to use as a professional office. The Jackson County Planning Commission and the Hoschton City Council voted to table the request until they receive conformation that the Department of Transportation will approve the request.

There’s Still Hope Reservoir Will Be Done By April 1
ATHENS -- The project manager still clings to hopes that the $63 million Bear Creek project will be completed by April 1. But the counties who own the reservoir and treatment plant decided to play it safe and moved the dedication of the facility back to October.
Chairman Eddie Elder pressed program manager George Byrd for a confirmation of the April 1 completion date at last Wednesday's monthly meeting of the Upper Oconee Basin Group Water Authority. Byrd dodged the question, but Athens mayor Doc Eldridge followed up Elder's query, leading Byrd to give April 1 as the "most optimistic" date at which treated water would be sent to Barrow, Jackson and Oconee counties.
"When is your dedication?" Eldridge countered, referring to an April 24-May 11 "window" previously agreed upon for getting Gov. Roy Barnes to preside over dedication of the regional effort.
"May 1 is more realistic," suggested Elton Collins, chairman of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, who pointed out that it will be several days after the water plant is finally finished before Jackson County can sanitize the line from the water plant to its system.
In addition to running the risk of dedicating a plant that is not operational, Eldridge proposed that waiting until fall made sense for other reasons.
"I would hate after all these years and all those millions of dollars to show off to the state and show off to the public without a finished project," he said. He wasn't so much referring to the dam, lake and water plant as he was reminding members that the main road through the site will not be paved this spring.
"It's not going to look that way (finished) in April, no matter what," the mayor concluded.
Collins seconded Eldridge's motion to delay a dedication ceremony until fall. It passed unanimously.
But exactly when the water plant, owned by Barrow, Jackson and Oconee counties, will be done is still a subject of speculation. Byrd projected that the plant would require two weeks to complete testing of its functions, another week for total disinfection and then one to four weeks of producing quality water before the Environmental Protection Division gives the green light to open the valves and send the water to the three counties.
That testing began Feb. 4, but was suspended twice to correct problems and had not been resumed as of Feb. 27.
Athens-Clarke takes raw water from the reservoir for treatment at its water plant. That water has been available for weeks.
Meanwhile, the bridge being built over Bear Creek on New Savage Road is virtually completed, except for the installation of guard rails. Elder estimated that it will take three to six months to pave the road, which will be done under a Jackson County contract funded by the Department of Transportation. The authority agreed to solicit bids for that work.
In other business, the authority approved a motion authorizing its Recreation Committee to seek proposals on the construction of a boat house and the purchase of a pontoon boat for use in management and care of the dam and reservoir.
Dan Gunnels, chairman, estimated that a 22-foot pontoon boat with a four-stroke gasoline engine would cost approximately $18,000, while a boat house could be constructed for $20,000 to $25,000.
Jim Wrona, senior project engineer, reported that the lake was within four and a half feet of full pool. That means the lake should be full in four weeks.

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How to contact your
county commissioner

Chairman Harold Fletcher
Office Phone: 367-6303
Home Phone: 367-9228
Fax: 367-4526
Mobile Phone: 706-654-7204
Pager: 706-355-3360

District 1 Stacey Britt
Office Phone: NA
Home Phone: 706-367-9818
Mobile Phone: 770-318-9809
Pager: 706-552-5511

District 2 Sammy Thomason
Office Phone: 706-335-4222
Home Phone: 706-335-2104
Fax: 706-335-3682
Mobile Phone: NA
Pager: 706-552-5507

District 3 Emil Beshara
Office Phone: 706-654-3683
Home Phone: 706-693-7723
Fax: 706-654-2349
Mobile Phone: 706-654-7723
Pager: 706-355-3406

District 4 Tony Beatty
Office Phone: 706-353-4260
Home Phone: 706-367-9074
Fax: 706-543-0516
Mobile Phone: 706-540-4963
Pager: 706-552-5560

County Manager Al Crace
Office Phone: 706-367-6314
Home Phone: NA
Fax: 706-367-9083
Mobile Phone: 706-654-7692
Pager: 706-208-2514

Council Balks At Per Diem Raise For School Board
Will Ask Board To Make Proposal Based On Monthly Or Annual Salaries
It appears that the Commerce City Council will support a request from the Commerce Board of Education for pay increases. It just won't support the plan proposed by the school board.
The board, voting in Helen Feb. 23, decided to ask the city council to introduce legislation amending the city charter to double members' pay from $50 per diem to $100 per diem.
The city council is supposed to act on the matter at its regular monthly meeting Monday night at 6:30 at the Commerce Civic Center.
But after discussing the matter at its agenda-setting "work session" this past Monday night, the council members were in agreement in opposing the per diem increase. Instead, they will ask the board to come up with a new payment plan based on monthly or annual salaries.
"I think they ought to get a raise, but it should be like ours, $200 per month. Not per meeting," suggested councilman Richard Massey.
"It ought to be raised, but it ought to be per month," agreed councilman Archie D. Chaney Jr.
Councilman Bob Sosebee also proposed that the school board pay should be equalized with that of council members, with the BOE chairman making the same amount as the mayor pro tem. City council members get $2,400 per year; the mayor pro tem gets $2,700. The BOE proposal would pay school board members $2,400 per year based on two regular meetings per month, but it would also pay the per diem for any other training, meeting, conferences or travel approved by the board. Under that scenario, each board member would have received $200 for the retreat in Helen – plus mileage and expenses.
"That could run it up to several thousand dollars," said Massey.
"I don't like the way they did it. It was bad judgment to go off to Helen and make a motion," Sosebee advised. He also suggested that, in the public's eye, a per diem reimbursement could be abused "by going to a lot of short meetings and collecting $100 every time you go in the door."
In the end, members agreed to advise superintendent of schools Larry White that they will support a pay increase based on monthly or annual salaries.
The council's position pretty much assures that the legislation will not get to the General Assembly this year, since any new proposal by the school board would have to be voted upon first by the school board and then by the city council. The school board meets at 7:30 Monday night, which means a new proposal would not get to the city council until its April meeting, by which time the General Assembly should be adjourned.
Also on Monday night, the city council is expected to rule on two rezoning requests.
The council indicated it favored Rodney Gary's request to rezone property on Orchard Drive at South Broad Street from C-1 to C-2 as recommended by the Commerce Planning Commission, but it wants the planning commission to reconsider the other rezoning matter.
In that case, the planning panel voted 3-1 to recommend that the council reject Pat Hodsdon's request to rezone a lot on Green Street from C-1 to R-3 so he could sell a 1.25-acre lot to someone proposing to build duplexes.
The council indicated it would ask the planning commission to consider approving the rezoning with some restrictions.
The lot is zoned commercial and is surrounded by property that is zoned commercial but has residential uses. The planning commission had struggled with the issue, fearing that in spite of how it is zoned, the lot may have no real value as a commercial property; the council seemed to share that view.

Brockton Loop development gets approval
The Jackson County Planning Commission approved a rezoning request for a 45-house subdivision on 50 acres on Brockton Loop Thursday. But not all of the commission members were in agreement on the rezoning.
Randall Duck, Billy Norris and Donald Lord all voted in favor of the rezoning request, with Wayne Wilbanks and Thomas Smith dissenting.
Neither Wilbanks nor Smith gave a reason during the meeting for their no vote. However, a resident on Brockton Loop did raise the issue of water availability for the project.
“The water table is an issue,” Terry Powell said. “Our ISO rating is still at nine. When we go to 10, we become uninsurable with fire insurance.”
The county is slated to begin installing county water lines down Brockton Loop to Orrs School Road during its next phase of the water project. However, the time frame for that project is unclear.
“Don’t approve this until the infrastructure is in place,” Powell said. “Don’t approve it on a promise that it is coming.”
Jim King, who was representing Balata Development Corporation, the company making the application, said he would agree not to record the final plat on the subdivision until county water was in place.
Powell said she moved into Jackson County to get away from dense housing and get into an agricultural area. King took issue with Powell’s statement.
“Everyone who moves into the county wants to shut the door behind them,” he said. “Jackson County has a got a good thing and everybody wants to move here.”
According to a planning commission staff report, the subdivision would be the first on Brockton Loop.
“A 45-lot subdivision would impact this area because it would be a completely different use for this immediate area,” the report stated.
The report also said the proposed use fit into the county’s land use plan and the staff recommended approval of the project.
“I hate to see it start down the road of one subdivision then another,” Powell said.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will take action on the request when it meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 18, in the Administrative Building in Jefferson. The BOC held a public hearing on the request when it met Monday night. King also presented the plans at this meeting. No one spoke in opposition.

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