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APRIL 10, 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
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS

Tigers Snap Losing Skid, Looking For More Wins
Commerce Downs Providence 3-2, Set For Three More Region Contests This Week
Winning cures all ills. And a quick-fix remedy is just what Tiger head baseball coach David Cash said his outfit needed.

Panthers hope to get mental with Franklin
It may have been baseball icon and philosopher Yogi Berra who said that 99 percent of baseball is half mental, but it’s the 2002 Jackson County Panthers who’ve proved it.

Dragons to host Jefferson Relays Saturday
Jefferson High School will host the 38th annual Jefferson Relays Saturday at Bryan/Keen track at Memorial Stadium. Field events are set to get underway at 10 a.m., and track events will follow at 1 p.m.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
County leaders to discuss rec. expansion
County leaders will meet Thursday, April 18 at 7 p.m. to discuss how recently purchased land for the recreation department will be used.

Cowne shares SPLOST ideas with crowd
Supt. talks about schools’ long-term facilities needs
At a meeting with the Madison County Arts Education Committee Monday night, county school superintendent Keith Cowne shared his thoughts on possible future special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) programs.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
BOE fills key positions
BCHS principal, athletic director, counselor among hires Monday
The Banks County Board of Education filled three key vacancies at its meeting Monday night after entering into a closed session.

Banks to contribute $10,000 total to joint development authority
BOC, local development group agree on $5,000 from each
With $10,000 from Banks County and $10,000 from Habersham County in the bank, the Banks-Habersham Joint Development Authority plans to pay some bills and get a consultant’s help on creating a “road map” and seeking grant funding for future projects.

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LOTS OF PARTICIPANTS

The largest crowd ever participated in the Banks-Jackson American Heart Walk Saturday at Hurricane Shoals Park. More than 100 people participated in the walk and raised over $10,000 for the heart association. Katie Davis, regional director of the American Heart Association said this is the most ever raised for the local event. Davis is shown cheering on walkers during the last stretch of the walk.

Leo Daly Firm declines to participate in BOC meeting
The Leo Daly Firm declined to present its recommendation for a downtown courthouse site at a public hearing set by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
The BOC had set the meeting for Tuesday, but company officials sent a letter to the board April 5 stating that they wouldn’t present their recommendation.
“It is clear from the various public statements and material presented by the county during the last year that the county has chosen to locate the new county courthouse and county administrative facilities on a site outside of downtown Jefferson and away from the existing historic courthouse and other administrative facilities,” Keith G. Mawson, vice president, and Jim Lenahan, associate, wrote in the letter. “We feel quite strongly, in an opinion formed in our role as professional architects with significant experience in the planning and design of the built environment, that removing the county facilities from the immediate downtown area will have a significant detrimental impact on the viability of downtown Jefferson... It will remove a historic civic center and source of pride for many generations, and will cause the existing courthouse building to languish and lapse into disuse.”
Mawson and Lenahan also wrote that the difficulty of traffic congestion would be mitigated through the opening of the bypass and through “smart reorganization of traffic intersections.”
“We feel that room for the long-term expansion of the court and administrative facilities is available on property the county has purchased for this complex and surrounding available properties in downtown,” they wrote.
The letter also states that the firm spent considerable time and effort without pay working with the courthouse committee.
“We researched and updated site information for the properties surrounding the current courthouse,” they wrote. “...Together with the new committee members, we also formulated new alternatives and updated cost estimates and the various financing alternatives for the county to pay for the project.”
Mawson and Lenahan also wrote that they “tried in earnest to rekindle the project” when the new commissioners took office.
“At that time, we presented each commissioner with all previous reports prepared during 1998 and 1999,” they wrote. “We met in early 2001 and were to meet again during the last quarter of 2001. The meeting never took place.”


No more package stores in Braselton until 2010
Braselton won’t see another alcoholic package store until the next U.S. Census rolls around — in 2010.
Citing estimates of an oncoming population explosion, Braselton town attorney Gregory Jay said the town needed to evaluate its alcoholic beverage ordinance which would have allowed twice as many package stores if the ordinance wasn’t amended.
The former ordinance allowed one package store per every 500 residents; the amendment unanimously approved by the Braselton Town Council Monday permits one package store per every 1,000 residents.
The ordinance was narrowed further to say only the official count from the U.S. Census will determine Braselton’s population in permitting additional package stores.
Even if the town completes another population study before the 2010 Census, the increased population count still cannot be considered as a means for allowing more package stores, Jay said.
According to the 2000 Census, Braselton’s population stands at 1,206.
With three package stores currently approved for the town, Braselton won’t permit another package store until the population rises above 3,000 residents.
EXCISE TAX DISCUSSED
Alcohol sales was another topic of discussion during the Braselton Town Council work session on Monday.
Since Barrow County, which is one of the four counties Braselton is located in, is considering a three percent excise tax for liquor by the drink sales, town council members said the matter deserves a look by the municipality as well.
“I think we’ll put it on the agenda real quick—real quick,” council member Bruce Yates said.
Under Georgia law, a municipality can include a maximum three percent excise liquor by the drink sales tax.
Jay explained passing the proposed tax would require time to establish new procedures with liquor by the drink vendors. Only Château Élan has a permit to pour liquor in Braselton, which Mayor Pat Graham said would call for a meeting with Château Élan officials to discuss the proposal.
The town, Jay said, could be collecting money from the tax as soon as July or August.
The item is expected to be on the May 13 town council agenda.
In another amendment unanimously approved the Braselton Town Council, convenice stores and truck stops with gambling machines will no longer be permitted to operate the devices.
The “amusements” amendment would only apply to those businesses with alcohol sales and doesn’t include pool tables or other gaming devices, as was discussed during a meeting in March, said town clerk Jennifer Scott.
“An alcoholic beverage license is a privilege, which the town grants,” Jay said.
Following a survey of nine surrounding municipalities, Braselton officials also decided the town’s yearly fee for alcoholic sales licenses deserves a second look.
The town council unanimously agreed to raise alcoholic beverage license fees up to $4,000 for businesses selling liquor by the drink. Fees range from $100-$4,000.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business discussed during Monday’s meeting, the Braselton Town Council:
• unanimously approved a business license request for Perez Dental Lab, located on Highway 53.
• unanimously approved a business license request for McDonalds, located on Hwy. 53. The fast-food restaurant will open April 22. Council member Yates told McDonalds’ representative that he was concerned about excessive trash near The Vineyards subdivision, but was assured it would not be a problem.
• unanimously approved a business license request for Out of Sight Screen Sales to operate out of a home office in Keys Crossing. The business will store the screen doors at another location.
• heard from an American Construction Company representative about proposals to relocate the Braselton school bell from behind town hall to the front of the building along Hwy. 53. Two options for a gazebo to house the bell were presented for $20,000 and $18,000 that would also include a sidewalk and benches. Mayor Pat Graham also briefly mentioned the company was looking into a pavilion adjacent to the town’s tennis courts in the park as another possible project.
• unanimously approved the preliminary plat for one phase of the Mulberry Park subdivision, located in Gwinnett and Hall counties.
• unanimously approved the landscaping plan for Mulberry Park’s entrance and amenity center.
• unanimously agreed to table a resolution to accept the Service Delivery Strategy with Hall County. Instead, the town council agreed to send a letter to Hall County officials citing their concerns about several services, especially water and sewage service.
• unanimously agreed to amend the speed zone ordinance to allow Braselton police officers to start using radar along I-85 and to have the Department of Transportation move the town limit signs to the Gwinnett County line.
• unanimously agreed not to grant additional street lights until the town approves a street light ordinance, at the request of Jackson EMC officials.
• unanimously agreed to accept bids for a new maintenance truck to be shared among the town’s departments.
• heard from business owner Frankie Hulme during the public hearing section of the meeting about a “conflict of attitudes” in the Braselton Police Department. Martha Martin also presented her difficulty in filing a police report near the same time of the fatal car accident on Hwy. 53 on April 4. Martin said there was a miscommunication between county emergency personnel and town law enforcement officers. Mayor Pat Graham said she will follow up on the incidents.
CLOSED SESSION
The Braselton Town Council also met in a closed-door session for 30 minutes following Monday’s meeting to discuss pending or potential litigation. No action was taken once the meeting was opened to the public.


Hoschton’s enforcement of zoning violations leads to finger pointing
Turman explains rationale behind ‘difficult’ effort
Shelby Stancil has been driving a Jackson County school bus for 22 years. And for more than two decades, when she isn’t taking children to school, the large, yellow vehicle remains parked at her home in Hoschton.
A few weeks ago, however, Stancil was informed that she could no longer park the school bus at her home since it violated a Hoschton zoning ordinance law passed in 1999.
Stancil, like more than 30 other people in Hoschton, was notified recently that something on her property didn’t fit the city’s laws largely dealing with aesthetics.
The laws, which have only begun to be enforced since January, became a topic of controversy at a Hoschton work session recently when a representative of the Jackson County School System asked city council members to grant a waiver for two school busses, including Stancil’s, to be parked at their residence.
By parking the school buses at the drivers’ homes, the risk of vandalism is reduced and the drivers can efficiently begin their routes from home, explained Charles Reed, director of operations of Jackson County Schools.
Hoschton city council members Joyce Peppers and Ben Davis favored the waiver request for the school busses. Although Brian Boehmer said he agreed with the request, he stated that by granting the request other people will seek waivers as well.
“I think the council that passed it was in the mistake of including school buses in the ordinance,” Davis said during the work session.
Reed further explained that due to the expansive layout of the county, the school system must rely upon drivers to keep their busses nearby the outlying schools. The school system hasn’t been able to centralize a bus barn location yet, he said.
When council member Rosemary Bagwell questioned Reed as to why other school buses remain parked at the elementary school overnight, Reed said those drivers live in subdivisions where there is no room to park a bus.
“We are undergoing a very strong effort to enforce our ordinances and keep up the city. In order to do this we have to do this as fairly and as equitable as possible, we have to be fair and your school buses fall under this,” said council member Paul Turman to Reed at the work session.
Bagwell and Turman both stated that parking school buses on school premises isn’t much of a hardship for drivers, especially since Hoschton’s two schools are closely located to the drivers’ residences.
Turman also said warming up the school buses doesn’t require an hour, since “we’re not living in Alaska.”
Stancil said: “Well, at least we wouldn’t live with you.”
Turman then asked Mayor Billy Holder to declare Stancil “out of order,” which the mayor did. The issue at the work session was soon dropped and Reed left the meeting without the requested waiver; the issue wasn’t brought up at Monday’s city council meeting.
ENFORCING ZONING LAWS
Thursday’s incident at the Hoschton work session points to the larger ongoing effort by city officials to “clean up” the city.
Although many of the zoning ordinances people are being notified about for violations were passed years ago, Turman said all of them are being enforced “fairly” and “equally.”
Turman, who heads the city’s planning and zoning committee, said that an effort to clean up Hoschton is an issue that is not only “very difficult” to explain to the public, but also has ultimately led to fingers being pointed at him.
“Would I rather sit in the background and not cause waves, of course. But somebody had to do it, so I took up the responsibility,” Turman said in an interview with The Jackson Herald.
To him, the effort to clean up Hoschton began more than a year ago when he first started to look at the city’s zoning ordinances. Turman, who holds a master’s of science of urban development degree, compared Hoschton’s existing zoning ordinances with similar ones provided by the Regional Development Center (RDC).
The first effort, however, was cut short when he had to attend to a family situation for several months.
“When the new council started, I was looking for a fresh, new start,” Turman said. “And one of our council members made a wonderful statement about the zoning violations of the city and I took that as enough cause to be proactive to enforce the laws for the city of Hoschton.”
Council member Boehmer stated at a January city council meeting that he was tired of Hoschton “looking like a damn car lot.” Since then, Hoschton’s code enforcement officer, Wayne Holcombe, has begun the task of systematically noting the residences and businesses in the city that don’t meet the zoning ordinances. Once notified by the city, violators have ten days to bring their property up to regulation; if not, the violator can be cited and taken to court to defend their case.
Turman emphasizes that the process of finding violators has been so fair, the city of Hoschton even cited itself.
According to Turman, the city was notified by Holcombe of the dilapidated-state of the former Boy Scout cabin, which the city owns. The case was later presented in court and the judge ordered the city to do something about the cabin in 30 days, which hasn’t happened yet.
Two other cases have been brought to court as well, he said. One involving trash in a yard and the other for a dilapidated building undergoing renovation.
In all of the controversy surrounding the council member’s involvement with the zoning enforcement in Hoschton, Turman says he has only written one zoning law himself—the recently-passed law that allows business owners to live above their business in areas zoned C-1.
“Hoschton is in the unique position of preserving it’s downtown,” Turman said. “Otherwise it would just be another strip mall.”
And one of the ways he says Hoschton will become the “shinning gem of West Jackson” is to strictly enforce the zoning ordinances while understanding that the council and citizens “can’t ignore” the oncoming growth.


Commerce Goes After Unpaid Taxes, Business Licenses
A dozen Commerce merchants could find themselves in Municipal Court soon if they refuse a final invitation to pay their business licenses. And property owners who owe back taxes may get to see their property sold for taxes from the steps of the Jackson County Courthouse.
At its Monday night meeting, the Commerce City Council decided to go after merchants delinquent about getting their 2002 business licenses and taxpayers who owe a total of $128,045 for the years of 1995 to 2000.
City manager Clarence Bryant said there remain up to a dozen merchants who have not paid their 2002 business licenses.
"These are Main Street-type businesses," he said.
City attorney John Stell advised that the city can cite the store owners and summon them to municipal court for violating the city's business license ordinance, after which Bryant said he would first send them yet another letter.
Bryant also asked for direction in handling delinquent taxpayers.
"What do we do with real property taxes that haven't been paid. We've written them a second letter and sent a fi fa letter," he said.
The council agreed to turn them over to Stell to begin the legal process of selling the property for taxes, but Stell proposed that it might be more efficient to hire a company that specializes in the process.
"That may be a more efficient way to collect them," Stell said. "A tax sale is your only remedy."
Stell and Bryant will research the companies to determine the cost, then make a proposal to the city council at its next meeting.
City clerk Shirley Willis told the council that there is $128,045 outstanding from 1995 to 2000, and another $107,309 outstanding for 2001.
In a related matter, the council voted unanimously to write off some $10,183 in "uncollectible" personal property taxes dating back to 1995 and to publish the list of taxpayers who owe that money.
"Most of these are businesses that have gone bankrupt, closed or left town," mayor Charles Hardy told the council.
The list, containing 81 entries from $4.03 to $1,082, is largely a list of defunct businesses, most of whom are listed for multiple years.
In other matters, the council:
•granted a zoning request for Pat Hodsdon for a .6-acre lot on Green Street from C-1 to R-2 for the construction of a duplex.
•amended the budget for the city library to add $500 for property appraisal.
•approved Bryant, gas superintendent Jim Eubanks and Willis as employees authorized to sign a gas hedging agreement with the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia.
•nominated Ward 3 councilman Sam Brown to run for a regional district vice president's position in the Georgia Municipal Association.
•heard Bryant report that the city is $390,000 in the black for the fiscal year and that the recent water and sewer rate increases appear to be on target for providing the revenue projection.
•learned that the three winners of the sixth grade "If I Was Mayor" essay contest will be invited to the May 20 city council meeting, where they will be presented with savings bonds.
•asked Bryant to write a letter to the Commerce Planning Commission to amend its residential zoning ordinance to prohibit the parking of heavy commercial trucks in residential zones.
•heard a complaint from Thomas Richey about the garbage service.
•met and welcomed new police officers Dwight Byrd and Al Figueroa and learned that they will host this Saturday a cleanup of the recreation facility at the corner of Harper and Ridgeway streets.
•heard Stell report that the city can clean up property of out-of-town landowners who do not respond to repeated city requests, then attach a lien to the property. The city has three houses that should be torn down if they are not repaired, according to Bryant. The owners, who live in California or the Northeast, have not responded to repeated requests for action.
•heard Hardy report that Nicholson mayor Ronnie Maxwell has maps he will make available to the city as it tries to determine which natural gas customers live in Nicholson.


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City School Board Objects To ‘Needs
Improvement’ Status
Commerce school leaders took exception Monday night to a recent release that pegged the elementary school as one of hundreds of Georgia schools "needing improvement," calling the assessment misleading.
Commerce Elementary School was placed on the federally-funded Title I program's list of 436 schools "not meeting standards" after failing to show a five percent decrease—or "move-out" rate—of students failing the reading and math portions of the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT).
Assistant superintendent Nancy Baird said that data needs to be taken in perspective.
"Look at how we've done historically," she said. "The majority is doing well."
Schools meeting certain poverty rates are eligible for Title I money if they demonstrate these move-out percentages in both areas of the test. The test is given to fourth grade students in consecutive years and scores from the first year are compared with scores from the second year to see if the move-out percentages have been met.
Overall, the board felt Commerce Elementary did well on the CRCT exams, with 79 percent of fourth graders meeting or exceeding the reading requirements and 67 percent meeting or exceeding the math requirements.
However, despite the low failure rate, the school was still placed on the list for not meeting the mandated move-out percentage.
According Baird and the school board, this system of evaluation needs to be reexamined, claiming that it's unfair to schools with low percentages of students not meeting standards.
Theoretically, it would be impossible for a school which only had four percent or fewer of its fourth graders not meeting requirements to meet the five percent move-out standard.
"Somebody's not on the same page," board of education member Lanny Pope said.
"There are a lot of schools that would like to have 79 percent of fourth graders meet or exceed standards," Superintendent Larry White added.
Baird said it is easier to show a decrease in failure rates when there is larger group in need of improvement.
The assistant superintendent submitted figures showing that Cleveland Road Elementary in Clarke County had nearly half of its students not meeting requirements in reading requirements 1999-2000 and 54 percent failing the math portion. But was recognized by the Title I program as a "distinguished school" when they demonstrated move-out rates of 21 and 14 percent the next year.
Furthermore, Baird said one needs to break down Commerce Elementary failure rate numbers to fairly assess the school. In 1999-2000, 23 fourth graders didn't meet the CRCT reading test requirements. That number only dropped to 19 in 2000-2001, but 10 of those students were in special education. That left only nine regular education students failing to meet requirements, down from 18 from the previous year which Baird said was a sign of improvement.
School leaders also disagreed with the system of comparing the scores, saying it was unfair to test a group of fourth graders one year and determine improvement by putting their scores against another group of fourth graders the following year.
To better prepare students from the tests, the Commerce school system will now start giving the CRCT every year in grades 1-8.
Although elementary school principal Kim Savage said the faculty has already done a solid job in preparing the students, they're ready to tackle the job of meeting the Title I requirements with the students now taking the test every year.
"We already have our plan in place," elementary school principal Kim Savage told the board. "
In other business conducted Monday night, the board:
•agreed to move $14,630.38 to the maintenance and operation equipment account from the building improvement portion of the budget to buy a new tractor.
•nominated Lanny Pope as the board's delegate at the Georgia School Board Assembly June 21-22 in Savannah with Authur Pattman serving as the alternate.
•announced that the parking lots at all three school were re-paved over spring break and that the striping of the lots was 80 percent complete.
•presented the Golden Apple Award for the month of April to 23rd-year Commerce Elementary Kindergarten teacher Cynthia Gregg.
•recognized Commerce High School Star Student Amy Collette and Star Teacher, band instructor Jack Balthazor.


Teen killed in Braselton wreck
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 of last week.
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, 13, Braselton, who was the backseat passenger, was killed.
Dustin Elliott, the 15-year-old driver, was transported to Grady Hospital in Atlanta. The second passenger in the car, Jeremy Johnson, 14, Braselton, was taken to North Fulton Medical Center for treatment.
McIntyre was treated at Barrow Community Hospital and released.
Two life flight helicopters landed at the Braselton Tile Factory parking lot in the early morning hours to transport the teens to Atlanta hospitals, said Braselton police officer Rusty Turpin.
Traffic was deterred around the site of the accident at the downtown Braselton intersection by the Georgia Department of Transportation for seven hours, Turpin said. McIntyre’s Mack truck landed on the doorstep of the dentist office on Hwy. 53, but the building did not sustain extensive damage.
The car with the teenagers was traveling along Hwy. 124 from the direction of Mayfield Dairy; McIntyre was traveling southbound on Hwy. 53 headed toward Winder, Turpin said.
Officials are still conducting their investigation of the accident. The three teens were all students at West Jackson Middle School.


Boy Scout hut given OK for city park
Boy Scouts in Jefferson may soon have a permanent home.
The Jefferson City Council approved a request Monday night from Boy Scout Troop 158 to locate a log cabin for a Scout Hut in the city park. The approval is with the condition that a final determination be made as to where the property line is located.
Mike Buffington presented the plans at the city council meeting Monday night. Scoutmaster Brian Harris and Cub Scout leaders Dennis and Marie Coté and Debbie Castellaw also attended, along with several Scouts. Buffington said the Scouts have met in various locations over the years and need a permanent home.
“We’ve got a lot of growth coming and we’d like to plan for that,” Buffington said.
He added that plans call for a 25’ x 41’ log cabin with an eight foot porch across the front.
Boy Scout leaders have donations promised for some of the materials and will raise funds to pay for other costs.
The building would be owned by the city and maintained by the Boy Scouts, leaders said.