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APRIL 3, 2002


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OPINIONS

Rochelle Beckstine
Guns aren’t the answer to animal control
Trespassing is a misdemeanor at best. Kids walk into my yard all of the time. Chasing an out-of-control ball. Petting my dog. Crossing through to the creek.

Editorial
Zoning issues must be ‘by the book’
It was a phrase used many times at the Banks County Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday night. And it’s one that the planners must live by.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Leopards fishing for region wins
Banks hoping to better 4-4 region record
If post season play is on the Leopards’ minds, then they’re going to have to bag a few crucial region wins.

Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Mixed reactions
Commerce ‘town hall meeting’ brings support for Darnell Rd. govt. campus
If the Jackson County Commissioners were looking for an endorsement of their Darnell Road county government complex, they got it in Commerce Thursday night.

Downtown Jefferson courthouse site to be presented April 9
The Leo Daly Firm will present information on the downtown Jefferson courthouse site at a meeting planned for Tuesday, April 9. It will be held at 7 p.m. in the Administrative Building in Jefferson.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Adams named MCHS principal
Madison County’s Board of Education has named Mr. Robert Adams, currently principal at Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School, to serve as principal of Madison County High School

Park planners get rolling
Committee meets to discuss use of controversial land
What will happen to the controversial land the Industrial Building and Development Authority purchased along Hwy. 72 recently?
The Business Park Study Committee members took their first step Monday night to begin the process of figuring that out.

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Resident signs petition
TO STOP asphalt plant

Alto resident Jimmy Wright asked Eunice Ferguson if there was a petition he could sign to stop the DOT from building an asphalt plant near the town. Ferguson provided one and Wright signed it. He then agreed to take the petition around his neighborhood to get more signatures.

Asphalt plant battle reaches Capitol steps
Activists hold press conference, get petition signed by Alto residents
Activists opposing the department of transportation site for an asphalt plant in Alto have taken their fight to the steps of the Capitol Building in Atlanta.
Adele Kushner, Action for a Clean Environment director, and others in opposition to the plans held a press conference on the steps of the Capitol Building Wednesday, hoping to attract attention of the legislators.
In her statement, she said: “The EPD did not prepare an environmental risk assessment, or even an air modeling report which would show the areas receiving the heaviest deposits of the dangerous chemicals.
“This is not the end of our effort to stop the emission of noxious fumes that would trigger asthma attacks, allergies, emphysema and other respiratory problems.
“What will it take to make the EPD live up to its title? Until it does, we’ll have to keep reminding them of their duty to protect the environment of Georgia and health of the people. We hope it won’t take lawsuits to make them responsible for the failing health of residents and property devaluation.”
Kushner said there was no other alternative.
“How else can we get their attention?”
The group has sought help from elected officials, including the Banks County commissioners, Sen. Mike Beatty, Rep. Jeanette Jamieson, Gov. Roy Barnes and Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor. The pleas appear to have fallen on deaf ears, they say.
So they decided to move the picket line from the Alto Grocery Store on Old Cornelia Highway to the highly visible Capitol Building.
Even though the plant is already under construction, residents are not giving up.
“We’re fighting this all the way to the finish line,” Kushner said. “We have until April 14 to appeal.”
Concerned citizens had been picketing over the past three weeks. Many area residents stopped to see what the picketing was about, she said.
“Some hadn’t even heard about the plant. We’ve gotten a very positive response from the community. They have asked what they can do to stop it.”
Some took petitions with them to get their neighbors’ signatures, like Jimmy and Tina Wright. They stopped at the line Monday and asked to sign the petition. They took it with them to get other signatures.
“I don’t think Alto needs an asphalt plant,” said Wright.
James Vaughan, who lives one mile from the plant, talked while holding a sign that said: Stop the Alto Asphalt Plant, and said it was a matter of “economic discrimination.”
“You know that if there were a subdivision, or $200,000 to $300,000 homes in the area, we wouldn’t even be here,” he said. “This is a depressed economic zone.”
He is not alone in his thinking. Many area residents voiced that very opinion at an EPD public hearing in January.
Picketer Eunice Ferguson said: “I truly hope I can make a difference. It’s not just about air quality; it’s the water quality as well. We know there are toxins in the production of asphalt and so do they.”
Ruth Armour, a native of Alto also on the line Monday, said: “We don’t need an asphalt plant here. There’s so much at stake health-wise. If they don’t stop it for us older folks, they should do it for the children.”
She said she remembers when the roads of Alto were first paved and the fumes that hung on for days afterwards.
“If you can smell it, it’s getting into your body,” she said. “That can’t be good.”
Elizabeth Patsis is concerned about the health of the elderly and children as well.
“With 1,000 to 1,500 people within a mile of where the DOT is putting this plant, it’s a great concern knowing they’ll be breathing these emissions,” she said.
Kushner said she and three others had even met with DOT regional engineering manager, Larry Dent, and presented him with a petition with over 300 signatures.
“It didn’t make a difference,” she said. “None of those people made a difference to him. He said everywhere the DOT goes with an asphalt plant, the same thing happens. Nobody wants it. He did say the DOT was planning on paving North County Line Road to keep the dust down from the dump trucks and traffic. I guess that was supposed to be some sort of consolation. There’s no justification in the DOT saving $5,000 while putting people’s health at risk.”


CVB reports economic downturn for 2002
Gordon Eanes, Banks County Convention and Visitors Bureau board member, reported an eight percent loss for January in hotel-motel tax receipts over the same period last year.
At last week’s meeting, Eanes said: “That’s indicative of the impact of the slow economy as well as the September 11 episode. I personally think the hotel industry is placing too much blame on 9/11 and not enough on economics. I think the 9/11 issue is basically behind us now.”
He said the slow economy would be reflected in the sales tax receipts for some months to come. May, he said, will provide some relief from the downturn with the activities at the Atlanta International Dragway. He said many hotel rooms had been booked.
“In spite of their events throughout the summer, I think we will still be looking at six months of soft receipts,” he said.
Fewer people staying in Banks County’s motels and hotels means fewer tax dollars for the county and the CVB, he said.
He also said at last week’s meeting: “I can tell you the remittances for the month of January that came in from the county failed to include a tax receipt for one of the hotels. There was a problem with the check clearing. We called it to the attention of the county.”
Bonnie Johnson, president, said: “Gordon is our bulldog. He’ll see that the money is there or find out why. We’ve got to have those dollars so we can get out there and do all those things for all you business people that we should be doing.”
In other business, the board:
•discussed the problem with not having Banks Crossing as a separate zip code. Members said travelers were confused with the location being listed as Commerce. Postal authorities said there was no room in the budget to build a new post office. Members talked about continuing the effort for Banks Crossing to have its own zip code. 
•heard from Alicia Andrews, co-chairperson, who said the Banks Crossing Beautification Project is moving along with Phase II nearly complete. All lamp posts and sidewalks have been installed and the crossings have been painted. Rob Moore, public relations chairperson, said there would be no lamp posts on the bridge because DOT plans to raise the bridge in future construction.
•heard from Johnson, who reported radio ads promoting Banks Crossing would be aired on WJJC and WCON on a continuing basis. She said rates were being gathered for billboard advertising as well.
•discussed getting new members. Johnson said: “We need to (plant) in people’s minds that we’re the advertising folks.”
•Rob Moore, public relations chairperson, said the CVB should plan ahead for the holidays and get news releases out to the press prior to Thanksgiving. He suggested including promoting restaurants as well as the hotels and motels in the area to appeal to overnight shoppers. He also suggested “Banks bucks” or discount coupons.
•Moore also reported on the proposed welcome center in Baldwin. He said there had been no word of finding a mobile home as yet. He suggested the center be staffed by volunteers. Also at the center will be a satellite Banks County Sheriff’s office and an emergency back-up ambulance to speed up response time.



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Chamber to meet April 11
The Banks County Chamber of Commerce will hold its monthly breakfast meeting on Thursday, April 11, at 8 a.m. at the Garrison Civic Center, Homer.
AgGeorgia will sponsor and provide the program. The guest speaker will be Richard M. Henderson, vice president.


DOT starts site prep work for asphalt plant
The Georgia Department of Transportation has begun preparing the site for the controversial asphalt plant near Alto on North County Line Road on department of corrections property.
The site is on an eight-acre knoll surrounded by grazing cows and pastures. A pond lies about 1,000 feet downhill from the plant.
Terri Pope, DOT spokesperson, said the mobile plant on Conger Road in Carnesville had already been in the break-down stage when the application for the air quality permit from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division was made.
“We needed to get the new site going,” she said. “The grading has started and the fencing is up and sediment controls in place. It will take nearly three months to get the plant up and running. We will start operating the plant on July 1.”
Pope said the location of the plant is strategic to work that needs to be done in the region.
“There are a number of state roads that need repair and there will be some turn lanes going in,” she said. “Now that we’ll have the hot asphalt, we’ll be able to do the needed repairs.”
Working out of the Alto plant, the asphalt will be delivered to the work sites at the 350-degree temperature needed for spreading, Pope explained. The plant will run around four hours per day four days per week, she said. The plant is expected to produce approximately 30,000 tons per year. The plant is permitted for 100,000 tons per year. DOT anticipates running twenty dump trucks per day.
Pope said the location of the plant on state land will save the DOT $5,000 per year. That was the rent paid to a Carnesville landowner for use of eight acres of land.
The DOT had never received a citation from the EPD on any air-quality violations, she said..
David Sutton, press secretary for Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor said:
“This is really not a legislative issue. It’s an administrative matter that should be handled through the EPD. They grant the permits.”
Sutton said he would be forwarding all letters Taylor’s office has received concerning the asphalt plant to DOT commissioner, Tom Coleman.