News from Banks County...

March 13, 2002


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OPINIONS
Phillip Sartain
Crank calls
When you live on the main drag, certain things are bound to show up in your yard. Things like little bits of garbage and discarded newspapers. I usually know what to do with the trash, and if I have time, I’ll read the paper. It’s the weird stuff that gets me into trouble. Like the car engine I found in the driveway the other morning.

Editorial
Six months later...
It seems like it was much longer than six months ago. Then again, it seems like it was just yesterday. It is often that way with tragedies. Time becomes hard to define.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Golf teams trying to play around bad weather
Nearly a quarter of the golf season has already passed, and the Leopard golf team has yet to play more matches than have been cancelled.
The team’s opening match two weeks ago in the Habersham Tournament was called off due to rain. Banks’ following match against Commerce fell by the wayside because of cold.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
JABA opposes courthouse move
On behalf of the Jefferson Area Business Association, president Stephanie Stempinski has composed a letter stating the group’s opposition to the courthouse moving away from downtown Jefferson.

Crash reenactment may deter prom night drinking
A disaster is in the making at Jackson County Comprehensive High School, but it’s one that could help save lives this prom season.
The JCCHS Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Chapter — formerly Arrive Alive — has been approved for a $2,000 mini-grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Danielsville songwriter hopes to top the charts
The world of country music may have to make room for its next star, Danielsville’s Joe Olds.
On April 1, his first 10-song CD “This One’s Gotta Be Right” hits the radio stations nationwide.

Another round
Audience offers more criticism of Scoggins, Nash and the IDA. Perhaps they’ll soon need a bell.
And a card to mark the round.

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Brush fire kept from spreading to home
Banks County firefighters responded to a brush fire that quickly spread from the backyard of the Vaughn residence at 239 Patton Road. The home and several outbuildings remained untouched by the fire that cut a 200-foot swath through a cow pasture. Wade Bray manned the hose at one end of the fire as teams worked the blaze.

Banks BOE to pay off 1996 school bonds
Gets record low borrowing rate on SPLOST II. The Banks County Board of Education plans to retire the 1996 school bonds in August when the first issue of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax expires.
The bonds were taken out in 1996 in order to build Banks County High School.
Bond underwriter Bryce Holcomb gave the board an update Thursday night on the current SPLOST.
“You are right on track with it and doing very well,” he said. “It should not expire early and we should be able to go ahead and retire the existing ’96 bonds. I’ll be back at the end of August just to make sure that those are retired out, deeded out, which means they will be off of your books in August which is what we promised the voters when we voted SPLOST in in March of ’97. For that, you don’t owe me a dime because that is what I promised I would do when you hired me.”
Approximately $9.7 million was bonded out in 1996 to pay for the high school.
In a related matter, Holcomb said the Banks County school system received the lowest rate of his 15-year career at 3.01 percent for its 2002 bonds. The system plans to borrow $12 million to pay for a new middle school, add an athletic complex to the high school and renovate the elementary school. The board plans to use SPLOST money to pay for the bonds.
“School SPLOST has been around since March of 1997,” said Holcomb. “I’ve probably done 30 to 40 school SPLOSTs, your yield is the lowest I’ve ever gotten in my five years doing school SPLOSTs. It’s the lowest I’ve ever seen, which basically says that you borrowed money at the right time. So we couldn’t of had a better crystal ball in the last five years.”
Holcomb said since the board is borrowing less than $15 million it can invest the money at a higher rate until the money is needed for construction.
“So what we want to do is take bids from all your local banks and see what they can offer you and we should look to keep it local if it benefits the board and your kids,” he said. “I would think that your number one goal as a board is to maximize your rates on these monies because it will allow you to reroof more schools, build more athletic fields, build more buildings, which is the purpose of this. So what we’re going to help you do is to maximize that yield. If you don’t get the maximum yield from your local banks, then I recommend that we look to going with another investment option that does give you that maximum yield.”
Holcomb said he felt the best rates would be had from a “flex repo,” which offers a fixed rate based on the average amount of money kept in the account for a fixed period of time.
“Plus, they give you the withdrawal ability of one day’s notice versus a bank CD or a treasury note,” he said. “As an example, some of your local banks are going to say I want a ladder in bank CDs. The problem with that is from a school board standpoint we can map out when you think you need money and we can be as exact as possible but we are going to be dead wrong. There is no way we are going to be exactly right because you’re going to have delays. You may not bid it out right on time or withdraw the money out right on time so the problem is when that CD or treasury note comes due you’ve got to turn around and re-invest that money and typically you’re going to be investing at a much lower rate than you had it invested at so you have re-investment risk on those dollars.”
Holcomb said his firm would help the board find the best place to invest its SPLOST dollars so that it obtains the maximum yield.


Homer doesn’t need property tax, city attorney says
After reviewing Homer’s ordinances, the city will not need a property tax to support the municipality as was previously thought, said city attorney Gary Freeman.
Last month, Freeman told council members Homer needed to pass a property tax since the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) has a provision that says municipalities receiving funds from LOST must have another tax besides LOST.
At the time, Freeman said he believed the city didn’t have another tax source to meet the LOST provision.
Freeman said during the February city council meeting that he had only been informed of the LOST provision the day of the meeting and warned he didn’t have complete details. When he later looked at the city’s ordinances, however, Freeman said Homer did in fact meet the LOST provision.
“It was just a miscommunication,” he said.
In a related matter, the Homer City Council accepted the LOST allocation in which the city will receive a percentage of funds, based upon the city’s population within the county.
Homer is one of three municipalities in Banks County that will see a reduction in LOST funding due to population increases in the county and not the city. While the city saw $200,681 in sales taxes in 2000, that figure will drop to $156,138—a 22 percent decrease in funding.
DOG ORDINANCE
Also during Tuesday’s city council meeting, Freeman said he reviewed Homer’s ordinances, in relation to the proposed dog ordinance.
The dog ordinance, which uses a three-tiered system to classify dangerous dogs according to their previous run-ins with the law, proposes an animal control board to conduct public hearings to determine penalties for dog owners found in violation of the ordinance.
“I don’t believe after studying (the city ordinances), we can use it to enforce the dog ordinance,” Freeman said of the proposed animal control board. The city ordinances, he said, are meant to monitor things such as zoning and junk yards, not dog control.
Freeman suggested the city look into using magistrate court to enforce the dog ordinance. The question, however, is how busy magistrate court officials are and if they would be willing to hear dog ordinance cases, he added.
If Homer established a contract with the county court to enforce the dog ordinance, the city would also have to pay court fees.
“Your cheapest route would be the enforcement board,” Freeman said.
“It’s kinda like the egg and the chicken thing...it’s no good having a dog ordinance if we can’t enforce it,” said city council member Bobby Caudell.
The city council took no action on the proposed dog ordinance, but agreed to present three Homer residents to serve as possible animal control board members at the next council meeting. Freeman will also prepare a resolution for the animal control board.
OTHER NEWS
In other items discussed during Tuesday’s meeting, Homer City Council:
•heard from mayor pro-tem Sandra Garrison about a letter the city received from the Department of Transportation. According to the DOT, Highway 441 through downtown Homer will not need to lower the speed limit, since most of the vehicles traveling through the city were not found to be excessively speeding. Through traffic studies, the DOT said several trucks were traveling above the 45 m.p.h. speed limit on the north side of town, while trucks in the south side of town were traveling at or below the speed limit. Passenger cars, the DOT said, accounted for the majority of speeders. The DOT acknowledged lowering the speed limit would create a speed trap.
•discussed the delivery date of the new fire truck, which is expected no later than the first week of May.
•discussed potential sites for Homer’s city hall, including conversations with the Banks County Chamber of Commerce about receiving a portion of land. The council made no decision on the matter. “We need some sort of architectural design to see how many acres we need,” Garrison said.


Trey Donaldson named county’s recreation director
Trey Donaldson was named as the new recreation director Tueday night by the Banks County Board of Commissioners.
The BOC agreed to the recommendation of the newly-formed recreation advisory board. The recreation board, led by chairman Sam McDuffie, reviewed the 16 applications for the post and interviewed the top three. McDuffie appeared before the BOC at Tuesday’s meeting to recommend that Donaldson be hired.
The BOC agreed that his starting salary would be $30,000 per year.
In other business Tuesday, the BOC:
•held a public hearing on the application for a $500,000 state grant to be used to construct a facility to house a new mental health and adult learning center in the county.
•approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Banks County School System over the county providing approximately 33 acres for the construction of a new school.
•approved a school tax levy resolution concerning the special purpose location option sales tax approved last year for education purposes. Attorney Corby Kirby presented this to the BOC.



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Trucker pursues hit-and-run driver
It was just another Friday night at Ryan’s Steakhouse at Banks Crossing. The lot was full as usual, said Dinah Black, and customers filled the aisles and tables.
Then, she said, as she and other patrons watched, a semi-tractor trailer sideswiped a car in the parking lot and just kept going.
Don Magrini, who had been seated with his wife, Marla, eating dinner, jumped up and bolted out the door. Magrini, a self-employed hauler who owns his own rig, told Black truckers had enough of a bad reputation and that he intended to catch the driver.
Magrini jumped in his truck with cell phone in hand and talked with a Banks County deputy as he followed the Stevens Transport rig down the road.
“I saw the whole thing,” said Magrini. “People were out in the parking lot trying to wave the truck to stop, but he nearly ran them over getting out of there. I just stayed on the line with the deputy and when he stopped at the travel center down the road, I just kept him there until the deputies arrived.”
Mrs. Magrini said: “Oh, this is normal for Don. He’s always stopping to help if he sees someone on the side of the road or if there’s a bad wreck. He’s a good-hearted man.”
She said it was not the first time he’s done something like that.
“What that person did was so wrong, he just couldn’t let it go by,” she said.
The driver, Joe Misael Sarmiento, 31, from Texas, was arrested at Williams Travel Center for failure to stop at an accident with damage, according to Major Kyle Bryant, Banks County Sheriff’s Department. Sarmiento posted bond and was released, he said.


Ten Commandments will be displayed in Banks courthouse
The Banks County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday night to hang a large framed copy of the Ten Commandments in the courthouse.
The framed print was presented to the county by Grove Level Baptist Church with the request that it be placed in the courthouse. Church member Trent Wilson presented the request to the BOC at Tuesday’s commission meeting.
“We just felt like, in the light of Sept. 11, that we would like to join in the zealousness to come back to the basics,” Wilson said. “...If America would follow after these Ten Commandments, we would be in a much better place.”
BOC chairman Kenneth Brady said: “I would love to hang it in the courthouse. It would tickle me to death. It is the laws we should live by every day.”
The more than 40 people in attendance at the meeting applauded when the BOC agreed to the request.
“We have to take a stand,” Brady said.