News from Jackson County...

March 20, 2002

Jackson County

Jackson County

Jackson County

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Diamond Tigers Searching For Wins
Commerce Looks To Snap Three-Game Skid This Thursday Against Wolverines
The young baseball season has been anything but light work for the diamond Tigers (1-3). And according to head coach David Cash, that should serve as good preparation for region play which looms next month.

Dragons look to rebound against Prince
After picking up their first two losses of the season, Jefferson’s Diamond Dragons were scheduled to meet a tough Prince Avenue team on the road Wednesday. Georgia Military College will host the Dragons Saturday at 2 p.m., and Prince Avenue visits Monday at 4 p.m.
Jefferson travels to Lakeview next Wednesday for their region opener at 4:30 p.m.

Panthers begin region play Friday at Monroe
Late-inning rally not enough to win at Buford. It was less than a year ago that Van Samples and Rusty Hendricks sat in the same dugout for a baseball game. Come Friday afternoon, they’ll both watch the same game again - this time from opposing dugouts.

Neighboorhood News ..

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.

Neighborhood News...

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.

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.
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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The sunshine has brought kids across Jackson County to the outdoors. Here, youngsters are enjoying a spin on the merry-go-round at the Jefferson Park, near the new clubhouse. Spring officially arrived on Wednesday of this week, which means more sunny skies are likely ahead.

March 26:
Two Public hearings Held on Courthouse
More than 125 people have attended two public hearings held on the proposed Darnell Road site for a new courthouse.
The largest crowd so far was at the District 1, Jefferson area meeting, held at the Administrative Building Thursday night. A crowd of more than 100 people went to the State Courtroom to hear a presentation on the Darnell Road site and to give input to the commissioners. Twenty-five people attended a second meeting Monday night at South Jackson Fire Department for District 4, but half of those had also attended the Jefferson meeting.
A meeting was set for District 3 on Tuesday night at the Braselton Community Center. The District 2 meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Commerce Civic Center.
At the meeting in Jefferson, 16 Jackson County residents spoke out against moving the courthouse to Darnell Road, with only two supporting the plan. Two others asked questions about the proposal, but didn't state where they want the new courthouse to locate.
In addition to the 20 citizens who spoke, the majority of whom are from the Jefferson area, commissioner Sammy Thomason presented a tape on the proposed Darnell Road site. The meeting lasted more than three hours.
Tom Bryan, who served on the original courthouse committee, said he favors the downtown site selected by the Leo Daly firm. He also spoke on his concerns with the BOC only giving one proposed site at the meetings held so far.
"In all meetings, you have advocated a campus-type development outside Jefferson," he said. "It would appear this preconception in thinking precluded a complete, thorough, objective look at the committee's reasoning, conclusions and recommendations...It appears you have willed the Darnell Road plan to the only plan--costs be what they will...In public presentations, you have only set out one plan. That is not being 100 percent objective."
The commissioners said that they have not made a decision on the site.
"I want to assure everyone that a decision has not been made," chairman Harold Fletcher said. "We are earnestly receiving input. We want to make a decision that is in the best interest in all citizens of Jackson County."
Bryan said the process the commissioners have used in selecting a site has caused "divisiveness."
"A concern to me is the divisiveness and the alienation on the part of the county people because of this project," he said. "I grew up in this county and I know it's history about as good as anybody. Tumbling Waters Society and Art in the Park are amongst many projects that have brought people from all sections of this county together. It had never been done, but they did it and they worked together. Even the county schools and the location of the entities have had the unification of the county in mind and the service of the population base. The existing chamber of commerce came about as a merger between the commerce and Jefferson chambers of commerce.
"...We've come a long way in almost extinguishing the existence of the North Oconee River as far as that imaginary line goes, but I think what y'all are doing is alienating the hell out of a whole lot of people and undoing a lot of what has been done. The way you've approached this project has caused people from Nicholson and Commerce and Jefferson and Braselton and others to create strong talk of one community against another. We don't need this. I expect your leadership to scotch such talk instead of encouraging it"
As for the proposed "campus-style" design of the courthouse, Bryan said that it could be built in several stories instead of in one level.
"Hall County built up, not out," he said. "So the direction doesn't matter. It is the thoroughness of the design and utilization of spaces that does matter."
Bryan also spoke on the concerns of traffic and cost that he said the commissioners have.
"Dealing with cost first, that factor doesn't hold water when you are prepared to pay over twice the appraised value for the Darnell Road property," he said. "Then, consideration must be given to engineering studies on the site, millions of dollars on road development of infrastructure, cost of compliance with EPA and others."
Addressing the traffic factor, he said that Jefferson would have relief when the bypass is open and numerous semi-trailer rigs will no longer go through the town and that school traffic will decrease when East Jackson school opens.
Commissioner Sammy Thomason asked: "Accepting the premise that traffic will bet better with the bypass and East Jackson High School, but don't you believe traffic will come back with growth?"
The members of the BOC asked Bryan several other questions, including whether he has any business or financial interests in the downtown area; whether he had considered the cost of removing historic houses in downtown Jefferson for the property that would be needed; whether the county should buy 10 acres in downtown; how long the county should plan for the facility to last; whether or not he saw the benefit of purchasing the larger 157-acre tract; and what it is about Jefferson that he believed required a courthouse to be in the downtown area in order for its vitality.
"What is it about Jefferson that you require a courthouse for vitality and viability when there are other cities out there that are successful and viable and vibrant without a courthouse?" Commissioner Emil Beshara asked. "What is it that makes Jefferson special and you can't survive without it?"
Beshara also asked whether the courthouse should be built for a "small minority of lawyers."
"Put it where it is most convenient for the most people of Jackson County," Bryan said.
Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner also spoke on his concerns with the Darnell Road site. He said that moving the courthouse from the downtown site would take away the "history and focal point" of the facility.
Several others who spoke asked the BOC for the amount spent on the option for the Darnell Road site and other financial information. The BOC didn't release this information.
"Those figures are not available at the present time," Fletcher said. "We will make those available all in due time all at one time so the people of this county will know."
Ed Thompson said: "We don't have a lot of numbers. You may, but we don't...Keeping stuff from the taxpayers and not making it available is not right."
He asked the BOC to make all of the information available to the public.
Angeline Scarborough also asked for more information on the project. She said the public needs more facts and not just opinions.
"We've got to have a lot more facts," she said. "I question making decisions based on opinions verses facts."
Thomason said that once a site is selected, the financial figures would be available.
The commissioners were also asked how much it would cost to build the roads needed for the Darnell Road site.
"Those roads are going to be needed where ever the courthouse location is," Fletcher said.
Two Jefferson area men spoke in favor of the Darnell Road proposal. John Kidd, who lives on Jefferson River Road, said that the county will need more courthouse space.
I don't think they have the space downtown to add what they would really need," he said.
Mike Schmucker, who lives on the Old Swimming Pool Road, also said he favors the Darnell Road site and asked the BOC to put aside political and business interests and think of the majority of the county. He said that the city needs some relief because the population is exploding.
The hearing at the South Jackson Fire Department was more informal with more people asking questions than giving their opinion on where the courthouse should be located.
At this meeting, Thomason also presented the Darnell Road proposal. Judge Motes spoke on the Jefferson site recommended by the Leo Daly Firm.
Motes said that the firm and the committee had decided that the downtown site would be the most "cost effective." He said the study listed the cost of the project at $12 million to $16 million at the downtown location.
"Our proposal has been out in the open since day one," he said. "Perhaps that is why it is a little easier to criticize. We have nothing to hide...We have been open and above board."
Beshara said: "The courthouse committee did an excellent job for that plan on that location...That site is still under consideration. It has not been completely ruled out."
Fletcher said that the Leo Daly Firm would be asked to give a formal presentation to the BOC on its recommendation before a final decision is made.
Fletcher also said at this meeting that no decision has been made yet on the courthouse site.
"That is still up in the air," he said. "We're still open. We're still looking."
Fletcher also said that he had received two proposals on locating the courthouse on the bypass and said this would be considered.
There was also some discussion at this meeting on how much of the 157 acres on Darnell Road would be usable. There has been some concern about the property being in the flood zone, but Beshara said he believes all of the land would be usable. The BOC said a study by the Environmental Protection Agency would be done before a decision is made on the site.
Charlotte Mealor, a member of the courthouse committee, asked the five commissioners if they have any financial interests in the Darnell Road property or adjacent land. All replied that they do not.

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.
Madison Ventures, Long Term Investors and 2255 Delk Road Partnerships submitted a request to rezone two tracts of land totaling 131 acres from C-2 and manufactured housing (MHD) to wholesale and light industrial (M-1). Another 47-acre tract of land is to remain zoned C-2 and a fourth tract at 166 acres is being asked to remain M-1. The project will total more than 345 acres.
Estimated at $52.5 million to build out over the next two years, the Georgia Distribution Center is expected to bring $600,000 in taxes and 750 jobs to Jackson County.
“It’s not Mall of Georgia-scale, but it’s a big project,” said Jackson County Chamber of Commerce president Pepe Cummings. “They’re quality developers and we’re cheering them on.”
But when the Braselton Planning Commission hears the ambitious request at its April 15 meeting, it must also deal with the fact that residents still live on a portion of the property.
Currently, more than 30 mobile homes at The Oaks Mobile Home Park lie on one tract of the property, with the remaining land remaining undeveloped.
If Braselton approves the four-tiered industrial park request, the residents of The Oaks will have to be relocated, said town clerk Jennifer Scott. The manager of the mobile home park is currently looking at moving costs and new locations for the residents, who rent the property.
One of the companies applying for the request, 2255 Delk Road Partnership, presented their plan to the Braselton Planning Commission in November to relocate The Oaks’ 33 residents a short distance and include an additional 110 mobile homes. The request sought to rezone The Oaks property from MHD and another parcel of land zoned C-2 to M-1 for wholesale and light industrial.
The Braselton Planning Commission recommended denial of the request and the Braselton Town Council decided to table the request in December. A month later, 2255 Delk Road Partnership withdrew its request and submitted the current request for the Georgia Distribution Center on Feb. 15.
The proposed Georgia Distribution Center is just another sign that developers are highly interested in bringing more industry to Braselton, Cummings said.
Once Haverty’s began to seriously look at Braselton for its 932,000-square-foot furniture distribution center, other developers started investigating the advantages the I-85 corridor in the town could offer, he said.
As a massive as the Haverty’s project stands at, it’s only one-third of the total projected size of the Georgia Distribution Center.
Thus far, the project will bring in at least nine buildings for the industrial park, plus commercially-zoned property along Hwy. 53. Cummings said the three applying companies are looking into potential retail stores and additional developers for the retail element.
Another element to the project is a proposed “Braselton parkway” to connect Jesse Cronic Road and Hwy. 53. The development companies are expected to fund the road project, Scott said.
The request expects more than 340 vehicles will exit the complex on a daily basis, with at least 370 vehicles entering the site.
But the first step for the project is a public hearing before the Braselton Planning Commission on April 15, followed by a decision from the Braselton Town Council with the commission’s recommendation.
Dirt on the property could be moving as soon as June, Cummings said.
The first phase of the project with more than 1.7 million square-feet is expected to be completed in spring 2003, with additional phases finished by fall 2004, the request says.

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.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department is seeking warrants for David A. Hodges, 23, Indianapolis, Ind., on two counts of murder and one count of auto theft.
Jackson County Sheriff’s Department chief investigator David Cochran contacted the television series about featuring the murder.
He said the request was reviewed by the series and was selected last week to be featured. A date has not been set for filming the segment in Jackson County or for airing it.
“Since we know he is going state to state, this will give us an audience to be looking for him,” Cochran said. “I think it will be tremendous help for the case.”
Hodges worked for Mr. Brady in his construction business. He had reportedly lived in their home for three weeks when the murder occurred.
“The Bradys were apparently good Samaritans, having given Hodges not only a job, but a place to stay,” Sheriff Stan Evans said at the time of the murder.
Hodges is described as a white male, six feet tall, 155 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes. Law enforcement officers say he could possibly be driving a 2001 blue Ford Expedition that belonged to the Bradys.
The vehicle has Georgia license plate, 282DFC, but could possibly be bearing plates of another state, possibly Indiana, law enforcement officers say.
“Hodges should be considered armed and extremely dangerous and is believed to possibly be headed to the Florida area,” Sheriff Evans said.
Anyone with information on Hodges is asked to contact the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department at (706) 367-8718.

Letters mostly opposeDarnell Road plans
The written responses from Jackson Countians concerning a proposed new courthouse are overwhelmingly opposed to the Darnell Road site.
Only five of 37 people who sent letters to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners about the issue favored the proposed Darnell Road site. Of those, three are Commerce lawyers — Greg Perry, Allen Lacey and Don Moore. Others favoring the Darnell Road site were Joe and Janis Miller, Pendergrass, and Don Segraves, Jefferson.
When the BOC first announced its plans for the Darnell Road site, it said it only wanted written comments from the public. The board later agreed to hold four public meetings, the first of which is to be held this week (see related story).
“The site proposed by the commissioners is the best site that has been presented for the needs of the county government,” Segraves wrote. “I don’t believe the entire 157 acres are needed. I believe the courts or judicial building should be the first building in order to relieve the crowded conditions and place all the courts in the same building. This will also relieve the parking problem in Jefferson when court is in session.”
As for the 31 letters opposing the move to Darnell Road, many came from county and city officials and organizations, including Superior Court Judge David Motes, who served as chairman of the courthouse committee that recommended a downtown site; Pendergrass Mayor Melvin Tolbert; the Crawford W. Long Museum board of trustees; the Jefferson Development Authority; Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner; tax commissioner Don Elrod; the Jefferson Area Business Association, the Historic Preservation Commission of Jefferson and the Jackson County Historical Society.
Others writing letters opposing the Darnell Road site, or asking for more study to be done on the matter were: Philip Thompson, Jefferson city councilman; Priscilla Daves, Jefferson; Susan and Darrell Chaisson, Jefferson; Charlotte Mealor, Commerce; Keith Ariail, Jefferson; Kathy Venable, South Jackson; Tim Venable, South Jackson; Joyce Ethridge, Jefferson; William Ives, Jefferson; Guy Dean Benson, Jefferson; Durian S. Ives, Jefferson; Barbara Johnson, Jefferson; Ray and Jean Bauerband, Jefferson; Frances Sauls, Jefferson; Tom Bryan, Jefferson; Archie Chaney, Commerce; Margaret Ward, Nicholson; Van and Doug Waters, Jefferson; and Joe Booth, Jefferson.
“Because the downtown site is located near major roads, there will be no need for the county to spend vast sums of money to build roads and other infrastructure to it,” wrote Judge Motes. “Please do not build a courthouse in an inconvenient location and then spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to make it more accessible...Please do not spend vast sums of taxpayer money developing an undeveloped, in accessible, inconvenient site when the committee has offered a better proposals.”
Mrs. Ward, who was a member of the original courthouse committee wrote: “I am appalled at the supposition of Emil Beshara that the committee was stacked in favor of the Jefferson site. For the record, I am a 71-year-old grandmother from the east side of Jackson County in Nicholson. The courthouse committee was composed of a cross-section of citizens from throughout Jackson County and all walks of life.”
The county also received a letter from Sheriff Stan Evans, who requested that a new courthouse not be built without including a complete new detention and criminal justice facility.
The Georgia Trust also sent the county a letter listing questions for the BOC to consider in selecting a site and asking that a cost analysis be conducted with the assistance of architects experienced with historic courthouses.

City Planning Panel To Look At Rezoning Request Again
The Commerce Planning Commission will revisit a local man's request to rezone a lot on Green Street for duplexes Monday night.
The planning commission, which makes recommendations on zoning and land use matters to the Commerce City Council, meets at 7:00 at the Commerce Civic Center.
The only item on the agenda is Pat Hodsdon's request to zone six-tenths of an acre from C-1 to R-3 so he can sell it to someone who would build one or more duplexes on the site. At its February meeting, the planning commission recommended that Hodsdon's request be denied on the grounds that the city's land use plan calls for commercial development in the area.
But the planning commission was hesitant about rejecting Hodsdon's request, and at its March 11 meeting, the city council voted to send the matter back to the planning panel "to try to work something out."
The problem is that while the lot, which previously contained a house, may be zoned commercially, no one thinks that commercial development will ever actually occur there. The lot is a block west of South Elm Street and is accessed only by Green Street, which is too narrow for two cars to pass. And though surrounding property is zoned for commercial use, most of it is actually in apartments or duplexes.
The irony of the situation was not lost on Hodsdon.
"So the only way I can conform (to the land use plan) is to non-conform (to current use)?" he observed.

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See Galilee Preschool Flyer

Lights’ Tickets Selling Fast
In the third week of ticket sales, the 2002 City Lights Concert has already generated as much revenue as the 2001 concert.
That's the drawing power of Vince Gill, who will headline the June 21 concert at Tiger Field.
And anyone hoping to get a good seat should be advised that half for the "gold" (field level) seats have already been sold, says Jan Nelson, executive director of the Commerce Downtown Development Authority.
"We are getting a whole lot of requests for tickets for the field level," said Nelson. "I would guess that of the 4,000 seats, 2,000 are sold."
In addition, there are very few seats left for the June 20 Dinner With the Stars that will be held at Mount Olive Baptist Church.
"There are probably two tables (16 seats) and 10 to 15 individual seats left," Nelson reported Tuesday.
Those seats cost $50. The event features acoustical sets by Bill Anderson and other country music celebrities in an informal environment.
There are plenty of the cheap ($10) seats left for the concert, which will also feature Anderson, Ray Price, humorist George Lindsey ("Goober" on "Mayberry RFD") and The Jordans.
The committee putting on the concert is still struggling to figure out how many people might show up. With 4,000 seats on the field and an estimated 8,000 in the bleachers, the question becomes what to do if more show up, a distinct possibility, given Gill's popularity.
Nelson said one option is to have a standing-room-only section on the football field, separated by some kind of barrier from the $25 "gold" seats.
"This (peak attendance) is a whole new universe we're operating in," Nelson said.
Meanwhile, 17-18 teams have already committed to play in the celebrity golf tournament on Thursday, June 20, at Sandy Creek Golf Course. Some 25 teams are expected once the field is full.
Tickets for all events are on sale at WJJC Radio, Hyman Brown Insurance and the DDA office.
All of the events are part of the City Lights Festival, which will also include music, food, booths and other activities in downtown Commerce Friday and Saturday, June 21-22. Proceeds of the entire event are earmarked for the construction of the Bill Anderson Center for the Performing Arts

First courthouse meeting set Thursday in Jefferson
Jackson County residents will have their first opportunity to publicly speak out against or in favor of a proposed courthouse locating on Darnell Road in a public hearing set for Thursday.
It will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the State Courtroom in the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
This meeting is being held by District 1 commissioner Stacey Britt. Other public hearings are planned by the other commissioners in their districts.
At the board of commission meeting Monday night, Britt invited citizens to attend and voice their opinions on the 157-acre site on Darnell Road that was unveiled several weeks ago. He said that all of the commissioners would be present for the meeting and that chairman Harold Fletcher would present the proposal.
The commissioners have said the district meetings will be a “town hall format” with the courthouse being the main topic, but other issues being addressed.
The schedule for the remaining meetings will be as follows:
•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.