News from Banks County...

March 20, 2002


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OPINIONS

Angela Gary
Look for me on TV next week
I wrote a few weeks ago about my new obsession with going to live tapings of television programs. I sent off postcards to most every show that is taped in New York City in hopes that I would get more free tickets for my upcoming vacation.

Editorial
Good to seecitizen’s care
Too often the only people at a city council meeting are city employees and reporters. Citizens usually stay away from these night-time meetings unless they are concerned about a specific issue that will impact them.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Leopards head into region battles
Banks to travel to Dawson, host GAC
The Diamond Leopards’ season is about to get a whole lot tougher.
After a handful of pre-region games, Banks is poised to go into a difficult region schedule.
The Leopards have faced two region opponents already but are about to take on some of the top teams in the area.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY

Boom town BraseltonTown may get 3 million-square-foot retail, distribution center warehouse
A request from three companies could bring a distribution center, warehouse and retail complex totaling more than three million square-feet to Braselton, along with a “Braselton parkway” to connect Highway 53 and Jesse Cronic Road parallel to Interstate-85.

South Jackson murder to be on America’s Most Wanted
A South Jackson County murder will be featured on an upcoming episode of the America’s Most Wanted television series.
Sherry Elaine Brady, 46, and her husband, Alfred Lewis Brady Jr., 58, both of Jefferson, were murdered earlier this year in their Ethridge Road home.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY

Recreation expansion
County purchases 31 acres for recreation department
Madison County has purchased 31.54 acres of land to expand the recreation department.
The land, purchased for $172,409 from Marianna Miller, is adjacent to the recreation track and county road department.

Grocery store may locate on Hwy. 72
A grocery chain may be looking to locate a store along Hwy. 72 in the near future.
Realtor John Byram told the planning commission that a grocery store chain is currently eyeing a 20-acre parcel up for a business rezone along Hwy. 72. Byram declined to name the chain.

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Poisoned by Antifreeze

Nicole Miles picked Destiny from puppies at the Hall County Humane Society. Destiny was poisoned by anti-freeze and died just days before her first birthday.

Poisoning kills seven pet dogs
Residents look for help to solve antifreeze poisonings
At first, as one drives down the private road of the subdivision, things seem normal. But, then, one will notice the lack of barking dogs in the yards. It’s an eerie quiet.
Dogs abound in the county, especially in rural areas where tire-biters are the norm. But, dogs are ominously absent on Eagle Drive.
It isn’t that the residents don’t like dogs. It’s because someone else apparently does not like dogs.
Antifreeze poisoning in the past five weeks has killed seven pet dogs in the area. Five of the deaths occurred in just two days, according to resident Linda Bray.
“All but one of the dogs were taken to the vet when they got sick,” she said. “The vets verified anti-freeze poisonings.”
The Brays lost their dog. — Spunky, a one-and-a-half-year-old Jack Russell Terrier.
“We found him moaning outside one morning last month and brought him in,” she said. “He vomited and then seemed to feel better. We thought he had just gotten ahold of some bad meat. But, he was so thirsty and drank so much water. Before long, he had become so weak, we took him to the vet.”
Spunky was the first dog to die.
Mark and Nancy Brooks found their three-year-old collie mix Smokey ill and vomiting. They immediately took him to the Animal Medical Clinic in Gainesville. There, the doctor gave the Brooks’ the bad news. Smokey had been poisoned with anti-freeze.
When Bray’s neighbors (who wished to remain anonymous) came over and said their two dogs had also died, worry and anger spread rapidly. The community immediately checked everywhere for a spill of anti-freeze, but found none.
“I don’t think this was an accidental poisoning,” said Bray. “Someone did this.”
Five weeks is not enough time to get over the feeling of grief for the families and they ponder who would do such a thing.
“It’s beyond me to think someone could do that to a member of someone’s family,” Bray said. “That’s what our animals are — they’re family.”
The Miles’ know just how they feel. They, too, still feel the sting of anger and the pangs of sorrow from the loss of their daughter Nicole’s dog, Destiny, a German Shepherd-Doberman Pincher mix.
Destiny was Nicole’s “project.”
“I picked her out as a puppy at the humane society in Gainesville,” she said.
Nicole’s mother, Sue, said her daughter took good care of Destiny. She paid for the dog food and had trained Destiny to obey and do a few tricks.
The neighborhood children loved to play with her. During the day, Destiny had the run of the neighborhood, but after dinner, Nicole would pen her up for the night.
One morning, Nicole found Destiny weak, moaning and lying in her vomit. As Nicole opened the pen, Destiny tried to get to her feet but could not. She called her father, Tom, to come and take Destiny to the vet.
“I felt awful about it,” said Nicole, a student at Piedmont College, “I had mid-terms and I had to go to class. I didn’t want to leave her.”
The Miles’ said they knew their daughter’s dog had been poisoned. They had already heard of the other deaths.
Mr. Miles said: “When I got her to Cornelia Veterinary Hospital, the vet confirmed it was anti-freeze poisoning, like the others. He told me he had seen another dog that had also been poisoned by anti-freeze. That dog had thrown up pieces of a hot dog and they tested it. It was soaked in anti-freeze. I don’t know if the dog was from our area or not.”
The vet told Mr. Miles there was no hope for Destiny. He recommended she be put to sleep to avoid any further suffering.
With a heavy heart, he agreed and said goodbye for the family to the dog that had brought so much joy to their lives in such a short time.
“It was so senseless, “ said Mrs. Miles with tears filling her eyes. “She was so loving, so gentle, so smart.”
Nicole said: “We all hurt. It was such a sad time.”
As the Brays, the Miles, the Brooks, the Hubbards, the Stewarts and the Gillans try to go on with their everyday lives, the threat of someone causing such evil stills hangs heavy over them all.
“For all we know, it could be the work of thieves,” Bray said. “Poison all the dogs and their job is easier.”
The residents have offered a $450 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible, said Mark Brooks.
“If anyone out there has heard of anything, heard someone talking about it, we want to know,” said Bray.
Residents put up reward posters, but they were soon torn down. Bray said that led the community to keep track of who comes down their private road.
“We have been very vigilant,” said Bray. “We have been taking down tag numbers and turning them over to the sheriff’s department.”
The Banks County Sheriff’s Office was notified of the poisonings early on and has stepped up patrols of the area, said Major Kyle Bryant, investigative deputy.
“Finding the person who did this is going to be a tough job,” he said. “Unless we can catch someone in the act, it’s difficult to prove.”
If the poisoning was intentional, the perpetrator could face a stiff sentence, Bryant said.
“If the person is convicted of cruelty to animals, the charges carry a one-year prison term and/or a $1,000 fine for each animal,” he said. “If aggravated cruelty to animals can be proved, it’s a one-to-five year sentence and a $15,000 fine. That adds up to a lot of time.”
Anyone with information concerning the poisonings is urged to contact the sheriff’s office at 677-2248.


Alto citizens air complaints in heated council discussions
Alto citizens filled the small town hall in Alto Friday night to ask the council a number of potentially sensitive questions.
The first concerned whether or not they would be holding an election for the vacant council seat.
When former Mayor Jack King resigned in December, Carolyn Gulley, as mayor pro-tem, took over the mayor’s position leaving a vacant seat.
Alto city attorney Jim Acrey said it was the council’s discretion whether to hold a special election for the vacant seat or make an appointment.
“The charter makes no specific directions,” he said. “As long as the meetings have a quorum, they do not have to do anything.”
Former mayor Grover Stewart said: “You should appoint someone or have an election.”
Donald Wade replied: “That’s a dead horse.”
Gulley said an election would cost too much.
A heated discussion also arose about the legality of the town’s employment of council member Wade as a water operator.
Wade said he was contracted to perform certain duties regarding the quality control of the water system. Since he was contracted, it was legal for him to be in the city’s employ, he said.
Citizens were also confused as to the exact title of the new man that had been hired in the city who they thought was a public works director and questioned why he makes more than other city employees who have been with the city for a longer period of time.
City clerk Barbara Reynolds provided a list of employees and their wages. They are as follows: Reynolds, $13 per hour, over four years of service; Lisa Turner, assistant clerk and bookkeeper, $11.02 per hour, over two years of service; Wiley Cook, field laborer, $10.50 per hour, over two years service; Donnie Ray, field laborer, $8.50 per hour, six months of service; Charlie Wade, temporary field laborer, $8.50 per hour, over 20 years of service; Wendell Sullens, public works supervisor, $591.20 per week, ($14.77 per hour), five weeks on the job.
During the discussion, it was not made clear whether or not Sullens has the qualifications to fulfill the role of public works supervisor. The council preferred calling him a field laborer and said he would be undergoing training.
On the same issue, the citizens wanted to know why the council did not advertise for the position. The council said they had advertised last year for the position and went through the applications they had to hire Sullins.
Wade also said he had been “receiving flack about family members serving on the council.” Donald is married to councilwoman Susan Wade.
Mayor Gulley intervened and said: “We inherited a mess. I have been apologizing since January for things I didn’t know about. We are trying our level best to set things straight. We just need some time.”
At one point, the citizens agreed that maybe it would be better to just dissolve the town and let the county run things.
Donald Wade said the issue could be put before the residents of Alto in a special election.
Resident Tim Tanksley said Baldwin would overtake and annex the city if it dissolved. The council shared the Baldwin absorption theory and said they need to take action to plan annexations that reached out to Highway 365.
Former mayor Grover Stewart, a consistant atendee at all the council meetings, asked why expand at all.
“If we don’t have the water, why annex and continue to extend lines?” he asked. He suggested the town vote on whether or not to expand the water system and control growth.
Gulley said the Department of Natural Resources is reviewing the request Alto had made to dig new wells.
“He was under the impression that we had 22 wells in working condition,” he said. “He didn’t know we actually only have 11.”
Gulley said: “No one around here can cover our water needs. We don’t want to buy from Baldwin. It costs too much.”
Susan Wade said her grandparents lived in Baldwin and were paying $50 per month for water only. They were on a septic system and did not have to pay the sewage fees or they would be charged a lot more, she said.
Many residents were upset about the increase the council enacted to pay costs for water and trash pick-up. They did not understand how the town suddenly needed more money.
Gulley explained the city was losing money on the water department and trash pick-up and the residents would have to pay the increase.
In other business, the council:
•discussed regulations for yard sales. A limit of four sales per year was discussed. A refundable fee of $10 for a permit will have to be paid prior to the yard sale, leaders said. It will be allowed to continue over two days. Once the signage was removed and the area cleaned up, the $10 would be refunded. A motion was made and passed by all to enact the yard sale ordinance beginning April 1.
•denied Tim Tanksley’s request for a variance to put a mobile home on his land as a rental unit on the basis that he did not meet lot size requirements.



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Banks County Historical Society to meet April 1
The Banks County Historical Society will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 1, in the museum room of the historic courthouse in Homer.
The guest speaker will be Jorene Martin, regional preservation planner from the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center. She has worked at the RDC for seven years assisting local governments, non-profit organizations and property owners in a 13-county region with historic preservation projects. She has a master’s degree from the University of Georgia in historic preservation. She is planning to speak on the basics of historic preservation and how it can be used in a community as an economic development tool.
Leaders say that anyone interested is encouraged to attend and all members are encouraged to bring a friend. For more information, call 677-2431.


Lula may be in bind over loss of sales tax funds
The Lula City Council heard the bad news from Mayor Milton Turner Monday night about the loss of funds anticipated from Hall County’s local option sales tax (LOST)
Turner has been attending the negotiating meetings and he says the outlook does not look good.
He prepared a spreadsheet showing the various amounts the city would lose depending on which plan is voted in and how much tax the city will have to charge to make up the loss.
Turner said Banks County dealt in a fair way with the city.
Though the city will lose $10,992 in funds, he said Banks County chose to disburse their LOST funds according to population.
The reduction in funds from Banks is due to an incorrect count of Banks County residents living in the city of Lula, he said.
He said in Hall County, the decision is in the hands of two representatives from the county and two representatives from Gainesville.
Only those two entities had voting power because of the population figures.
None of the smaller cities, including Clermont, Buford, Oakwood, Lula or Gillsville, have a say in how the LOST funds are distributed.
Hall County wants to take the combination of population and the tax digest as the method of disbursement.
If this plan is voted in, Lula, which has a small tax base, would lose $105,283.
The city of Gainesville proposed two plans: one strictly by population; and one of a tax digest only.
Those two plans would cost Lula $17,159 and $130,072 respectively.
No matter the method chosen, Lula will have to look at setting a millage rate to make up the loss, the mayor said.
That could mean a property tax that could be as high as 7.5 mills.
For a city that has always relied on LOST funds from Banks and Hall counties to roll back taxes, it is a step the council does not want to make.
Unfortunately, said Turner, there may be no alternative.
“We have to cover the losses to continue providing city services,” he said.