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APRIL 4, 2002


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A complete history of Jackson County, Georgia from 1796 to the present. Written in narrative style for easy reading. Includes material not found in other books about Jackson County.

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OPINIONS
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SPORTS

Commerce Rematches With Athens Academy Today (Wed.) In Final Non-Region Contest
The pre-region high school baseball schedule could easily be called the “spring training” portion of the season.

Panther tracksters back in action Saturday at Winder
Long break crops already-short season. As they close a break that head coach Steve Collins surely thinks has been way too long, Jackson County track and field teams will be back in action Saturday in the Winder Invitational at Winder-Barrow High School.

Dragons smash Lakeview in region opener
To host region rival Commerce Friday
After handing the Lions of Lakeview a thrashing they won’t soon forget last week, Jefferson’s Diamond Dragons will host rival Commerce Friday at 5 p.m. for just their second region game of the season. Friday’s contest will be the region opener for the Tigers.


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?


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY

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.

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.

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LIVING CROSS
CIUTT BETHANY UMC

Members of Bethany United Methodist Church and others took turns portraying the crucifixion last Friday. Good Friday is the day generally recognized as the day Jesus was crucified. Pictured on “the cross” is the Rev. Hulon Hill.

Update 04/04/02
Teen killed in Braselton wreck
Two other WJMS students, truck driver injured
One person was killed and three others were injured in a two-vehicle wreck at the intersection of Hwys. 124 and 53 in the City of Braselton at approximately 2:20 a.m. Thursday morning.
According to Gordy Wright, a Georgia State Patrol spokesman, a 1989 Nissan Maxima driven by a 15-year-old from Jefferson was struck in the left quarter panel by a 1996 Mack truck driven by Ronny McIntyre, 53, Gainesville.
According to the report, Justin Wood, 14, Braselton, who was the backseat passenger, was killed. The 15-year-old driver was transported to Grady Hospital in Atlanta. The second passenger in the car, a 14-year-old from Braselton, was taken to North Fulton Medical Center for treatment.
McIntyre was treated at Barrow Community Hospital and relased.
The three teens were students at West Jackson Middle School.


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.
In the last of four district “town hall meetings” on the site selection process, no new ground was broken, but the overwhelming majority of citizens who addressed the commissioners in the comment portion of the two-hour session supported the “campus” site on the outskirts of Jefferson.
Of the 13 citizens who expressed opinions, 10 backed the Darnell Road site, one supported the downtown Jefferson location and two did not indicate a preference.
The next step will be a presentation Tuesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. at the Jackson County Administrative Building on the downtown site by the Leo Daly firm, which came up with the proposal.
Approximately 35 people turned out at the Commerce Civic Center where they listened first as Charlotte Mealor, a member of the Jackson County Courthouse Committee spoke on the merits of the downtown facility and as Commissioner Sammy Thomason promoted the advantages of the Darnell Road site.
The only thing they agreed on was that a new courthouse is needed.
Mealor noted that the committee, appointed by Superior Court judges, spent $69,185 “of the taxpayers money to bring this (the downtown site) project to a construction bidding phase.”
“The board of commissioners has in hand right now a complete, professionally prepared program ready for construction drawings and the bidding process,” Mealor said.
Not only did Mealor present the Leo Daly plan, but she also defended it against criticisms aired at previous hearings and criticized the board of commissioners for its proposal.
Stating that Thomason in a previous hearing had used the personal pronoun “we” 35 times, she asked, “If this is not the plan of the current board of commissioners, then who is the ‘we’ and why is the board of commissioners presenting a plan for which it disclaims ownership?”
“I am categorically opposed to the Darnell Road site,” she concluded. “I strongly believe that the plans presented in July 1999 by the seven member Jackson County courthouse committee ... are right for the citizens of Jackson County.”
In his presentation, Thomason noted that the county “did not spend significant money producing this because at this stage it is just a proposal,” he said. “We have made every effort possible to produce facts that portray the proposal accurately.”
Thomason repeatedly stressed the “campus” theme, what he called easy access to the Darnell Road site and the room it would provide for growth in the future.
Key to the site are the creation of two new roads, the so-called “east Jefferson bypass” and the “airport connector.”
“These roads are important regardless of if this courthouse is built. If the courthouse is built in this location, it does encourage us to expedite the construction of these roads,” he explained.
Although Thomason argued that the cost of development would be less expensive at the Darnell Road site, his main focus was on accessibility and parking.
“If you go through Jackson County and ask people what they want in a courthouse, this is what they say,” he said. “They want it easily accessible and they want adequate parking.”
Those who chose to address the commissioners largely agreed with that statement.
The first was Chris Chapman, who is one of the owners of the property on Darnell Road. He argued that a lack of space downtown would result in citizens “paying for two courthouses at one time,” and said “This decision is basically a no-brainer.”
Joe Fenn of Commerce, who said he was formerly in the construction business, claimed that the courthouse committee’s $12 million to $16 million cost estimate for the downtown facility was “grossly underestimated,” projecting it at “closer to $30 million.”
Commerce mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. told the commissioners “We definitely need the complex to be a campus approach.”
Commerce attorney Greg Perry lectured the commissioners on the need to be “statesmen” about the issue, argued that trying to fit the facility in downtown Jefferson was like trying to fit a size 8 foot into a size 6 shoe, and recommended the Darnell Road site because “You’ve got to look not 20 years down the road, but 50 years down the road.”
Others endorsing the Darnell Road site included Nelson Brock of Jefferson, David Oppenheimer of Maysville, Commerce attorney Terry Brown, Ray Chapman of Jefferson and Ricky Waldrop of Jefferson.
The only person who spoke against the Darnell Road site was Jerry Pressley of West Jackson, who read at length from “The Georgia Courthouse Manual,” a document published by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.
“Your peers are telling you ... that moving a courthouse is detrimental, not just to the county seat, but to the whole county,” he concluded.
Dillard Phillips, Braselton, expressed no site preference. “We in West Jackson want a courthouse, period. Something that will be nice,” he said. And Ralph Freeman Jr., Hoschton, questioned whether the Darnell Road site would interfere with operations at the county airport; county manager Al Crace stated that it would not.

Online poll:
According to the results of an online survey at MainstreetNews.com, only 35 percent of those responding to a poll about a move of the Jackson County Courthouse favor the proposal by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners to put the facility on Darnell Road east of Jefferson.
Some 44 percent of those who responded to the poll said the courthouse should remain close to downtown Jefferson, while eight percent said the facility should be put on more land, but not in downtown Jefferson.
Twelve percent of those responding said Jackson County doesn’t need a new courthouse while one percent said they didn’t have a reaction to the BOC’s plans.
Some 206 responses were logged on the online poll.


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.
The board of commissioners have held four meetings to present information on the Darnell Road site. At one of these meetings, a member of the courthouse committee asked that the Leo Daly firm be allowed to present its recommended site for the new courthouse. County manager Al Crace announced at the BOC meeting Monday night that the presentation would be given on April 9.


Animal control on hold
BOC to name citizens to give input on proposal
Jackson County Board of Commissioner Emil Beshara backed off Monday night on calling for an animal control ordinance to be passed and instead asked his fellow commissioners to form a citizen’s committee to look into the proposal.
Beshara had planned to call for a vote Monday night on his proposed animal control ordinance. But he instead asked each of his commissioners to appoint two members to serve on a citizen’s committee to give input on how animal control should be handled in the county.
County manager Al Crace was also asked to compile a list of possible people to serve on the committee. Members of hunting clubs, the cattlemen’s association, humane society and homeowners association are among those to be included on the committee.
Beshara said the committee would review the proposed ordinance and give their input on the plans. He said they would try to “modify the ordinance to make everyone happy.”
“We’re not dropping the issue,” Beshara said. “We’re not delaying the issue. We are simply extending the process to allow the people who have particular concerns to have an influence on the process.”
A public hearing on Beshara’s proposed ordinance was held two weeks ago with citizens speaking out both for and against the plans. A group of county men who enjoy rabbit hunting as a hobby were among those opposed to the proposed animal control ordinance that will require pet owners to register their cats and dogs with the county and pay a small fee for each one. Other county residents spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance and said they want it in place to help problems with stray animals in the county.


Jefferson takes step toward its own planning, development
By adding an administrative secretary/adminstrative assistant position to the city’s roster, the Jefferson City Council has taken a first step toward establishing its own planning and development functions.
The council voted in a called meeting Monday night to advertise for an administrative secretary/administrative assistant to work with city manager David Clabo. Council member Philip Thompson specified that part of that person’s job would be to help establish the city’s planning and zoning activities by the end of the year. Council member Steve Kinney agreed that having the planning and zoning activities specified by that deadline would help the city “know what to expect come next budget time.”
The person in the administrative secretary/assistant post would also serve as secretary to the city’s planning commission, once the city has set that up, and would be a permits clerk issuing construction permits, as well, Clabo said.
Clabo requested that the council add the position and advertise as quickly as possible, saying the salary range would be $27,000 to $32,000 depending on education and experience.
“This is a vital position that needs to be filled ahead of time before we move forward (on planning and development),” he said.
If the city is to proceed with developing its own planning functions, the council will also need to eventually hire a planner and an inspector, and would need a resolution to establish its own planning commission and then appoint members, Clabo said.
While Clabo said the city could probably get its planning and development functions established with a couple of months, Mayor Jim Joiner was more cautious, saying the city was probably looking at six months. He added that the city might be able to get by with a part-time inspector to begin with.



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Nicholson Wants To Levy Franchise Tax On City Gas
At the request of Nicholson mayor Ronnie Maxwell, the Commerce City Council is researching whether it could and should pay a three-percent franchise tax to Nicholson for city gas customers in that community.
At Monday night's non-voting meeting, city manager Clarence Bryant reported that Maxwell and Nicholson's attorney, Chris Elrod, had approached him and mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. about an "old issue" of franchise taxes.
The issue could come up for discussion at Monday night's regular meeting, which will occur at 6:30 at the Commerce Civic Center.
The city council meets on the first Monday of each month at 6:00 at City Hall for a "work session" and on the second Monday of each month at 6:30 at the Commerce Civic Center for its regular meeting.
The franchise tax matter first came up in 1981, Bryant said, based on correspondence between the two communities.
Bryant estimated that the city has approximately 70 to 75 gas customers in Nicholson.
"We've spent the last two to three weeks trying to find who (among city gas customers) lives in Nicholson," Bryant told the council. "They don't have any maps; their city limits is a mess."
It is not clear whether Nicholson qualifies to collect the tax, which would be added on to Nicholson residents' bills if it is ever imposed. City attorney John Stell has been directed to research the matter, Bryant said. For one thing, a franchise agreement could require Nicholson to keep the rights of way cleared, he indicated.
Councilman Bob Sosebee proposed that the matter be sent to the legal counsel of the Municipal Gas Association of Georgia before any action is taken.
"We don't want to do something arbitrarily that may set a precedent for other cities," Sosebee observed.
The tax would be a way for Nicholson to gain revenue, but mayor Charles L. Hardy pointed out that the revenue would come from those paying the tax, not from the city.
"I don't know if Ronnie is aware that we would add on that three percent to their citizens' bills," he said. "When those 70 citizens down there see their rate go up for a three percent franchise fee, they may not want it."
Other business on the council's agenda will include a request from a city resident who does not want city garbage pickup. The council discussed the matter briefly and agreed that it does not want to change its garbage policy, which requires all city residents to have residential garbage service.
"It's our responsibility to pick up that garbage and see that it is put in a Subtitle D landfill. That's our responsibility to the state and to the environment," said Bryant.
Also on the agenda Monday night will be Pat Hodsdon's request to have a lot on Green Street rezoned from C-1 to R-3 so a duplex can be built. The Commerce Planning Commission reversed its earlier recommendation and now favors the rezoning; the council indicated it will approve it.
change.


Lawsuit filed against county over zoning
A Jackson County family has filed a lawsuit against the Jackson County Board of Commissioners over a recent zoning ruling.
Laverne Jordan Bennett, Gerald Jordan and Rob Jordan filed the suit this week over a decision in March by the BOC to zone their 30 acres on White Hill School Road and Old Hoods Mill Road to A-R. The developers had asked that the property be rezoned from A-2 to R-1. The county planning commission had recommended approval of their request in December of 2001.
The A-R zoning given to the property by the BOC requires all lots to be one and one half acres which means a maximum of 20 homes could locate on the site. The developers had asked for the R-1 zoning which calls for one-acre sites and would have allowed 30 homes to be located on the 30 acres.
“The denial by Jackson County for rezoning was not based on any valid or legal reason and certainly was not substantially related to the public health, safety, morality or general welfare of the people of Jackson County,” the suit reads.
The plaintiffs say that the BOC “arbitrarily and capriciously denied” their rezoning application “without any reason whatsoever.”
The Jordans also say they have spent tremendous amounts of time and money on the project relying on representations made by the county.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to order the county to rezone the property in a constitutional manner. They are also asking that the court declare the property free of all zoning restrictions unless the county rezones the property in a constitutional manner within a reasonable time.
This lawsuit is also the first that refers to the recent action of the BOC to abolish the county planning commission and recreate it with new regulations and members. The suit claims that this action is a clear violation of the zoning procedures act.
“Due to the fact that the present planning commission does not comply with the zoning procedures law, the plaintiffs were denied a valued hearing as required,” the suit reads. “Due to the illegality of the planning commission which operate as the public hearing forum, the Jackson County Zoning Ordinance should be declared null and void.”