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March 13, 2002


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page

Frank Gillespiie
Lessons of history ignored
Do you remember the quote; “those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them”? Well, it has happened again.

Zach Mitcham
Madison County’s Gaza Strip
You might say Madison County has its own Gaza Strip, an 80-acre plot of land off James Holcomb Road.
And like the endless Middle East conflict, the war over the property is deteriorating into an emotional bully match.


SPORTS

Diamond Dragons start 3-0; to host Winder
Jefferson’s varsity baseball team took the first steps toward its goal of repeating a Class A final four appearance last week, claiming wins in its first three games of the 2002 season.

Panthers continue to struggle in late innings
Jackson County head baseball coach Van Samples has a solution to his team’s late-inning woes: rename the sixth inning.
After a sixth-inning disaster in the season opener that left his team with a loss, Samples watched last week as Jackson County dropped two more games in the late innings, and almost lost a third.

Tigers Look To Snap Two Game Skid This Week
With spring around the corner, the transition to life on the baseball diamond continues this week for Commerce.


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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY

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.

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.


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A FIRST MEETING
Little “Prissy,” owned by Marylinn and Conrad Bertrand, isn’t scared of the big dog, “Egore,” owned by Allen Schneider and daughter Katy. The two came nose to nose during a first session of dog and puppy training sponsored by the City of Jefferson Parks and Recreation Department Tuesday night. Because of inclement weather, the first class of the six-week course was held indoors. Donna Smith, owner of Critter Care Plus, is class instructor.

Comments on courthouse due Friday
District meetings set for courthouse discussion
Jackson Countians who want to submit their written comments on plans for a new courthouse in Jefferson have until Friday to do so.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is taking written comments on the matter through Friday. They may be given to county manager Al Crace at the Jackson County Administrative Building.
District meetings have also been set by the BOC to discuss the location of a new courthouse.
The commissioners said the meetings would be a “town hall format” with the courthouse being the main topic, but other issues being addressed. 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, at the Braselton Community Center.
•District 2, which is served by Thomason, 7 p.m. Thursday, March 28, at the Commerce Civic Center.


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. The letter is addressed to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners in care of county manager Al Crace.
“Basically, it is a ‘we oppose it being moved’ letter,” Stempinski explained during JABA’s meeting Thursday.
The draft letter begins: “The Jefferson Area Business Association would like to officially oppose the proposed site of the new courthouse on Darnell Road. As watchmen over the businesses in the downtown Jefferson area, we believe that building the courthouse outside the downtown Jefferson area would fiscally harm many of the businesses which rely on the daily traffic (the courthouse attracts).”
The letter also praised Mayor Jim Joiner for his efforts to keep the courthouse in Jefferson and pointed out to the BOC “the historical role you can play in making sure Jefferson is given every chance to flourish. The courthouse is not only a part of the Jefferson landscape; it is part of Jefferson’s success. Please keep it that way.”
Stempinski passed out copies of the draft letter to JABA members, giving them a chance to review it and get back to her with comments. A final draft will be submitted to the Jackson County BOC and Crace by a March 15 deadline.


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. The students plan to use most of the funds to reenact a car crash in the school’s stadium in the hopes of deterring fellow students from drinking and driving on prom night.
Dr. Carol Cotton, representing SADD, told the Jackson County Board of Education Monday night that, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety’s statistics, Jackson County’s alcohol-related fatalities are twice the state average, but may also be related to the statistics for speeding and lack of safety belt use.
The crash reenactment — full-blown with students made up as crash victims, realistic sounds, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel at work and possibly a helicopter to lifeflight the “victims” — will be held only days prior to prom, which is scheduled for April 20.
Dr. Cotton also reported that local law enforcement agencies will help coordinate sobriety checkpoints in the area for the prom.
The JCCHS SADD Chapter — formerly Arrive Alive — was one of 42 in the state to receive a mini-grant, Dr. Cotton told the BOE. In addition to proposing the crash reinactment as one the activities they plan to undertake, the SADD members also listed other ideas on their grant application. The group plans to bring a race car driver to school to discuss driver safety during next year’s homecoming week, and also intends to distribute fliers on new driver’s license requirements, including curfew and passenger limits, in the meantime.
The group had also listed a non-alcoholic after-prom party as one of its plans, but when a survey of the student body revealed that 50 percent of the 250 who responded said they would not attend, the chapter members have asked to shift those budget funds for the crash reinactment instead.


BOC pushing county water authority to borrow more money to finance projects
But authority board balks at taking on more debt
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners continues its efforts to have the county water and sewer authority take on more debt.
County manager Al Crace and finance director John Hulsey appeared at a called meeting of the water authority Thursday night to try to convince the authority to borrow another $7 million against the current special purpose local option sales tax.
The money would be used to construct three water projects that would otherwise be delayed until enough sales tax revenue comes in to fund them.
The authority, on the other hand, is uncomfortable with any bond issue greater than $5 million for fear that in a slumping economy, SPLOST proceeds will not be sufficient to pay off the debt.
“The real difference in our perspective is that they (the commissioners) have a much higher revenue expectation than we do,” noted Elton Collins, chairman of the authority.
The authority’s financial consultant projects revenue for the remaining 39 months of the SPLOST at $9 million. The commissioners have projected the revenue at $13 million.
“They had a work session over the weekend,” Crace told the authority. “Harold called me and said they all wanted to go the full $7 million (in bonds).”
The authority has already sold $3 million in bonds against the SPLOST. In addition, it must borrow or establish a line of credit to make payments on the Bear Creek reservoir project until whatever time the authority finally starts getting and selling water from the reservoir. The authority’s monthly payments for that are $149,000.
Add to that the fact that sales tax revenue is falling short of projections. The most recent check, representing sales in December, came in at 11 percent ($27,255) under projections, and Collins, a banker, thinks sales tax revenue will continue to lag for several months.
“We’re looking at a whole different economy than when this (SPLOST) thing started,” he said.
Crace said the commissioners’ projections, reportedly prepared by Hulsey, went back, to the beginning of the 60-month SPLOST.
Jerry Waddell, manager, produced a list of both met and unmet obligations of sales tax money. He projected that a bond issue of $6.175 million would create a $267,453 annual shortfall and that a $7 million bond issue would leave the authority $556,185 in the red annually.
Crace advised that county staff would go over Waddell’s numbers and that they and Waddell would meet to come up with projections “we are all comfortable with.”
Collins appeared skeptical.
“I get the feeling talking to the commissioners that their minds are made up,” he said. “They don’t care about the figures. They think we can do $7 million and their minds are made up.”
Later, after Crace and Hulsey left, Collins was more blunt.
“If we can’t make the payments, they’re going to want us to go to the bank and borrow (more money). I just don’t want us to pyramid debt like that,” he said. “...The truth of the matter is, the commissioners have not looked at the numbers.”


Animal control plan to be presented March 18
A proposed animal control ordinance will be presented at the Jackson County Board of Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, March 18, at the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
The “first reading” of the ordinance will be held at this meeting. The BOC will also take public comments on the ordinance at this meeting, according to commissioner Emil Beshara, who has spearheaded the animal control effort. He added that comments will also be taken at the BOC meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 1, prior to a vote being taken on the proposal.
“Anyone wishing to speak for or against adoption of the ordinance as written should either submit written comments to the county manager or appear and speak at one of these two meetings,” Beshara said.
The ordinance, as written, would take effect on June 1. Copies of the ordinance are available in the county manager’s office for review.


Jefferson OK’s new zoning procedures
The Jefferson City Council now has in place public hearing procedures for zoning requests.
The council approved the guidelines when it met Monday. Zoning applicants will have 10 minutes to present their requests. The opposition will then have a total of 10 minutes to speak. This time can be used by one spokesman or several people who want to speak in opposition to a request. The hearing will end with a three-minute period for the applicant to rebut any comments made by the opposition.
In other zoning business, the council deleted several property uses allowed under R-3 zoning. The uses removed included hotels, office buildings and clinics. City leaders said this is an effort to remove commercial zoning classifications from residential areas. The deleted uses are allowed in other zoning districts.
In other business, the council:
•tabled a request from Health Connections Inc. to rezone 1.4 acres at 218 Athens Street from R-1 to C-2 to relocate its expanding medical practice from another location on Athens Street. Owner Angela Haynes asked for the action to giver her time to look into a property dispute further.
•agreed to amend the zoning ordinance to get commercial uses out of the R-1 and R-2 zoning classifications. This will go to the county planning commission for a recommendation before the city council takes action on it.


Reception for Byrd Bruce set for Sunday
A reception has been planned for former Jefferson mayor Byrd Bruce.
It will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, at the new Jefferson clubhouse, located at 302 Longview Drive.


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Braselton council passes 120-day moratorium on annexation, rezoning
Pointing to the ongoing update of Braselton’s comprehensive land use plan, the Braselton Town Council passed a 120-day moratorium Monday for annexation and rezoning requests in a 4-1 vote. Council member Bruce Yates opposed the move.
The Braselton Land Use Plan Advisory Committee, which is comprised of Braselton citizens, business owners and county officials, started the process of revising the town’s comprehensive land use plan on Thursday (see story on page 3A). The process includes updating the definitions for residential densities and determining where residential developments will be zoned in the town.
“This moratorium will take some pressure off the (Braselton Land Use Plan Advisory Committee) to not go through that process hastily,” Mayor Pat Graham said.
Town clerk Jennifer Scott told the advisory committee during its first meeting Thursday that the land use plan updating process is expected to last at least two months, but possibly longer. Once the advisory committee is done, the Braselton Planning Commission will discuss any ordinance amendments.
Jim Hinshaw, who proposed a 90 or 180-day moratorium to the town council Monday, pointed to the annexation and rezoning of more than 1,200 homes in December and urged Braselton officials to take time “to absorb what’s been done so far.”
Graham acknowledged some people have asked during the town’s planning commission hearings for a growth moratorium until Braselton’s comprehensive land use plan is completed.
A year ago, more than 100 Braselton residents also asked for a moratorium on zoning and annexation during a town council meeting.
But the rezoning and annexation moratorium passed during Monday’s town council meeting will not affect any pending requests.
Following Hinshaw’s comments, council member Yates said he was not comfortable with the proposed time allotment of the moratorium. After tossing proposals for 80, 90 and 120 days, council member Elise Cotter motioned for a 120-day moratorium, which was seconded by Tom Clark.