News from Jackson County...

APRIL 17, 2002

Jackson County

Jackson County

Jackson County

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Tigers Look To Stay Afloat In Region
Commerce Drops Two More Region Games After Picking Up First 8-A Win Last Week
The diamond Tigers will try to keep their heads above the region waters this week after being dealt back-to-back 8-A losses.

Lady Panthers peaking as region meet nears
Place second in Jefferson Relays
Jackson County’s girls’ track and field team will participate Friday and Monday in the Region 8-AAA state qualifying meet at Winder-Barrow High School.

Lady Dragons in region meet Monday, Tuesday
Coming off a strong performance in last weekend’s Jefferson Relays at home, the Lady Dragon track and field team will travel Monday and Tuesday to Wesleyan, to participate in the Region 8-A state qualifying meet.

Neighboorhood News ..
Mother charged with murder of infant son
The mother of a 16-month-old child whose death was ruled a homicide last fall has been charged with murder in c onnection with his death.
Hope Bertha Buie, 22, formerly of Colbert,turned herself in to the Madison County Jail Saturday, April 13.

Looking westward
Business park committee to recommend development of western tract off Hwy. 72
Members of the Hwy. 72 Business Park Committee will recommend that development proceed on the western tract, but no action should be taken on the eastern tract until more information is available.

Neighborhood News...
Clermont mayor seeks fair sales tax distribution
Appeals to Lula council
The mayor of Clermont, Steve Gailey, appealed to the Lula City Council Monday night to fight for a fair disbursement of Hall County’s local option sales tax (LOST) money.

Job loss
105 to lose jobs at Mount Vernon Mills
Mount Vernon Mills will be eliminating 105 jobs at the Alto yarn facility in June.
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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Inmates with the Jackson County Correctional Institute provide labor to a number of county departments, including recreation. Inmates were working earlier this week at the recreation field in Jefferson to get the fields ready for spring games.

Jefferson man arrested by FBI for child pornography
A Jefferson man was arrested Wednesday on child pornography charges.
The Jackson County Sheriff's Department picked up Gary L. Smith, 35, at his 4417 Waterworks Road residence Wednesday and held him overnight for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI picked Smith up Wednesday and took him to Gainesville where he appeared in federal court. He was then extradited to Missouri where the charges originate from.
Smith is charged with taking "sexually explicit" photographs of a 12-year-old Missouri girl and selling them on the Internet. According to Todd P. Graves, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, the charges are related to the "production, transportation and distribution of child pornography via mail and the Internet." The incidents allegedly occurred between February and May 2001.
"Unfortunately, new technology is equally available to those who prey on our children," said Graves. "Prosecutors and police agencies must step up to meet this new challenge."
Graves said that Smith has been indicted on three counts of federal child pornography charges. He was indicted March 29 by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo.
It is not know how long he lived in the Jefferson home, which he rented. Following the arrest, federal agents searched the Waterworks Road home. The FBI investigation is continuing, according to spokesman Jeff Holmes.
Smith is being held without bond. If convicted, he could be sentenced up to 90 years in prison without parole and be fined up to $750,000.
The motion to hold Smith without bond cites his plans to travel to the Bahamas and perhaps Cuba or Mexico and his prior conviction in Arkansas for the felony offense of sexual abuse of a 16-year-old. The motion also says Smith threatened his alleged 12-year-old victim. Federal prosecutors also allege that Smith also threatened a defendant in a related case.

Riverdale man gets life in prison for road rage
incident that left one dead
A Riverdale man was sentenced to life in prison last week for a road rage incident on I-85 in August 2001 that left a Hampton man dead.
Kenneth Augustus Mills Jr. was found guilty of felony murder, vehicular homicide, aggravated assault and failure to stop at an accident. He was sentenced to life in prison, which means it will be 14 years before he is eligible for parole.
The victim, Christopher Robertson, 38, was driving north on I-85 toward South Carolina when Mills intentionally hit his car twice, according to reports. Robertson's vehicle left the road and overturned. He was killed in the wreck, while his wife and three sons, ages 17, 8 and 4, suffered minor injuries.
Robertson was driving in the passing lane when the incident occurred.
"He wouldn't get out of the fast lane and then Mills hit him twice with his vehicle, forcing him off of the road," Jackson County Sheriff's Department chief investigator David Cochran said in August 2001 when the incident occurred. "He kept going. It is a clear case of road rage."
Mills didn't stop and continued on into South Carolina where he was stopped by the state patrol.

RDC study says JCCI ‘valuable and necessary’
A review of the Jackson County Correctional Institute shows that the operation is “necessary and valuable.”
Alex Simpson of the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center spent four months studying the operation for the board of commissioners. He presented his findings at the BOC meeting Monday night.
“The JCCI is a necessary and valuable operation for Jackson County,” he wrote in his report. “While many of the functions it serves will eventually be replaced with hired labor, for now it is inconceivable that the county could afford to do without inmate labor in most areas of its public services. A decision to discontinue operation of the prison would not be based on economic efficiency.”
Simpson reported that operating costs for the facility in 2000 were $1.5 million. He added that the state provided $1.3 million with Jackson County directly providing $336,949 for the operation. However, additional costs for inmate supervision in other county departments put the actual cost to the county for the operation at $1 million.
Still, Simpson’s report was mostly upbeat about the value of the prison to the county.
“This investment is returned in both tangible benefits, such as salary amounts saved, and intangible benefits, such as improved quality of life for the citizens of Jackson County,” Simpson wrote in the report.
At Monday night’s meeting, commissioner Emil Beshara asked about the costs associated with inmates intentionally damaging county equipment. Simpson said the inmates could be offered “rewards,” such as ice cream and extra phone privileges if equipment is not damaged. He also pointed out that the only cost to the county is parts since inmates also provide the labor for repairing county equipment.
Eleven agencies or departments use inmate labor in Jackson County.
Among the recommendations for the future, the RDC report calls for additional manpower to manage the inmate labor pool and to reorganize all supervision under the control of the JCCI wardan.

BOC pushes water board to again borrow funds
But action a ‘sore subject’ with chairman of county water authority
Once again, pushed by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority is borrowing money.
Just days after bowing to board of commissioners’ pressure to sell $5 million in bonds (actually, the commissioners wanted $7 million), to “advance fund” projects financed by the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST), the authority authorized a $1.2 million line of credit to pay a debt to which the commissioners are obligated.
The line of credit is to enable the water authority to make the $149,000 monthly payments on the debt for the Bear Creek Reservoir and water treatment plant. The commissioners had previously accepted responsibility for those payments, according to Rep. Pat Bell, a former county commissioner.
“There was a memorandum of understanding that the county was responsible for that debt,” said Bell.
Theoretically, the proceeds from selling Bear Creek water would make the monthly payments, but while the payments began July 1, 2001, water has yet to flow through Jackson County lines. In March, the authority exhausted a $1.2 million SPLOST reserve fund to make the payments.
“It’s kind of a sore subject with me,” noted Elton Collins, chairman of the authority. “I hate it that we had to take $1.2 million of our money to pay an obligation that is Jackson County’s.”
The BOC’s push for the authority to borrow the money comes at a time when the board itself has over $8 million in cash on hand, according to county financial documents.
Referring to the fact that the $5 million bond issue was as much as he felt the authority could afford, Collins asked: “The question is, if we couldn’t do it two weeks ago, how can we do it tonight? I don’t mind telling you I’m not comfortable with it.”
The authority agreed to establish the line of credit – but to require a resolution signed by the board of commissioners stating what the money is being borrowed for, what it will be spent on, how the authority has already spent $1.2 million making the payments and guaranteeing that the commissioners will repay the loan if the authority is unable.
Meanwhile, officials expect the water plant at Bear Creek to be able to send treated water late this week. It will take Jackson County two or more weeks to sanitize its transmission line to the plant, after which it will be a month before the effect of that water will be seen in the authority’s cash flow.
Currently, the authority buys most of its water from Commerce. Water from the reservoir is expected to be substantially less expensive, generating extra cash that can be applied to the Bear Creek debt service.

Budget talks reveal possible expansion for Braselton PD
The Braselton Police Department soon could move into a separate facility, recruit more full-time officers, purchase additional patrol vehicles and possibly bring a drug dog to its force, if the agency’s preliminary budget is approved by the Braselton Town Council in June.
Citing the need to grow with the community, Braselton police chief Terry Esco and officer Rusty Turpin presented the department’s wish list of budget expenditures during a budget meeting with town council members last week that could increase the department’s annual budget by more than 167 percent. Currently, the department operates on a $305,705 budget; the officers are seeking an $818,500 budget for the next fiscal year.
But Mayor Pat Graham emphasizes that the budget discussion is “very preliminary” and that the Braselton Town Council will continue to amend the budget before a public hearing is held June 6. The town council will make its final decision on the budget on June 10.
“The police department usually has the highest budget in any city, but you’ve got to,” said town council member Elise Cotter.
One of the highest priorities for the police department, Esco said, is to eliminate any part-time positions. That would require the hiring of three additional police officers, which would bring Braselton’s police force from five to eight law enforcement officers. The move would also bring the amount spent on police department payroll from $180,000 this fiscal year to $339,000 next year.
Another move Esco presented to the town council is the proposal to relocate the police department from Braselton Town Hall into a separate facility, even into a temporary building until a permanent facility is constructed.
Council member Tom Clark, who heads Braselton’s police committee, said building a permanent facility could take up to four years, but Graham said she would like to see a precinct built within the next year. She explained that with loans from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a combined police department and municipal court building could be constructed soon. Esco added the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has also been historically helpful at getting loans for the town.
“The bottom line is, if we have to stay where we are, that’s fine,” Esco said.
With the Braselton Police Department now patrolling more than six miles along Interstate-85, Esco said a drug dog could help officers identify drug traffickers on the busy roadway and that a drug dog could be used in local schools as well. The drug dog would cost $8,500, which would also include training for one officer and upkeep for the canine.
Esco also said the drug dog would require a separate vehicle, on top of the three additional vehicles the department is requesting. The police department is further seeking a larger budget for better communication among officers within the town’s four-county region and improved weapons, which was requested during a recent audit of the town’s resources by the Georgia Municipal Association.
Yet with a total budget that needs to trim more than $530,000 for fiscal year 2003, Graham told Esco the police department may not get everything it’s requesting. Total operating expenses for the town is expected to exceed more $1.7 million, but total revenue accounts for only $1.2 million.
Since the town council is considering an excise tax for liquor by the drink sales and increased business license fees, Cotter said the town’s proposed revenues is not up to date. The council will discuss revenues during its next meeting May 23.
In other items presented during the budget meeting, council member Bruce Yates proposed his committee, parks and recreation, receive a $270,500 budget for the next fiscal year. Last year, his committee received a mere $7,000.
“That will definitely get us on the way,” Yates said about the proposed budget increase.
Among the largest single item for the committee is a potential $150,000 for land acquisition, which doesn’t include the $25,000 park in The Vineyards subdivision.
Yates said the most important element of his budget proposal is a $10,000 study to determine the best locations of future recreational areas.
Park improvement is expected to cost $15,000, while a proposed pavilion with restrooms at the Braselton park near the tennis courts is estimated at $75,000.
In other items presented Thursday, the Braselton Town Council:
• heard from Cotter about possibly relocating the
Braselton Library. Graham said she had a recent meeting with Jackson County Board of Commission chairman Harold Fletcher and county manager Al Crace about using additional land adjacent to West Jackson Intermediate School as a possible centralized location for the West Jackson Library. $75,000 has been proposed for library land acquisition.
• heard from council member Dudley Ray about his proposed
water and sewage budget for next fiscal year. The town is expected to generate more than $3 million in revenues, while operating expenses is expected to cost more than $1.4 million. The potential net income is more than $1.5 million. Ray said he hopes to hire two additional people for the wastewater plant.

Distribution center gets OK from Braselton PC
Mobile home residents question representative on relocation effort
A three-million square-foot distribution center, warehouse and retail complex between Highway 53 and Jesse Cronic Road received a unanimous recommended nod of approval for rezoning from the Braselton Planning Commission Monday night.
But three residents of The Oaks Mobile Home Park, where the proposed development will lie if approved by the Braselton Town Council, appeared during the town’s planning commission hearing to express concern at how the property owners were handling the removal of the more than 30 residents from their home.
“It seems how they’re throwing us out, I think they should be responsible for putting us back together the way they’re taking us down,” Patricia Ward said.
In a letter dated April 10, residents of the mobile home park were told by Scott Property Management that the owners “demand that you vacate the premise after the 61st day after receiving this notice.”
Sue Turk, an Oaks Mobile Home Park resident who said she applauds and celebrates the increased number of jobs the development will bring to Braselton, also said she resented the property owners for not providing more financial assistance to the residents.
“I don’t think this development was thought of last week or even last month,” Turk said. “Y’all had an opportunity to prepare for this meeting, not just 60 days, because we have 60 days to get out.”
Turk pointed out that many of the mobile home residents won’t be able to relocate their homes since regulations forbid many of them being moved into another county. She also added the residents were being offered money at a fraction of the cost to relocate.
Steve Gaultney, representative of the three companies requesting the rezoning of more than 345 acres for the Georgia Distribution Center, told residents he will check into getting a 90-day notice to vacate the premises for residents, but that state law only requires 61 days notice.
When residents continued to question Gaultney about relocation efforts, Braselton town attorney Gregory Jay said the private matters of property owners and tenants can’t be resolved through public bodies, such as the Braselton Planning Commission.
Several residents of the mobile home park left the meeting before hearing the planning commission’s recommendation for approval of the rezoning request.
Yet, for the most part, Gaultney detailed during the meeting how the expansive project will fit into Braselton’s landscape in the coming years.
Following approval of the four-tiered request, Gaultney said the developers would begin construction of the Braselton Parkway to connect Hwy. 53 and Jesse Cronic Road in mid-summer with a possible completion date of January or February 2003 for the roadway. The entire project is expected to be completed in five years, depending on a favorable market.
The Braselton Parkway will be a three-lane road dedicated to the town that would begin before Hoyt Wood Road and end near the current entrance of The Oaks Mobile Home Park.
A roadway between the two planned retail buildings will be aligned with Chardonnay Trace Drive, which is across Hwy. 53 in The Vineyards subdivision. Gaultney said the retail buildings are designed to accommodate a Wal-Mart or Lowe’s home improvement store, but that no retail company has taken interest in the project yet. The retail portion along Hwy. 53 will remain graded, but not developed with the buildings for about a year.
Hwy. 53 would also be widened by the developers to three lanes, with acceleration/deceleration lanes leading into the Georgia Distribution Center. Two stoplights would be added as well—one at Chardonnay Trace Drive and the other at Ednaville Road.
Some of the planners, however, said they were concerned about semi-truck traffic through the property to either Hwy. 53 or Hwy. 211.
“It would be quicker to get out over an improved (Hwy.) 53 and go to (Interstate) 85 to go north or south,” Gaultney said, but added that only time will tell where the traffic will flow.
The companies’ plans to get an interchange at Jesse Cronic Road onto I-85 with county and state assistance, he added, have been stepped up by the project.
According to one traffic study presented during the hearing, an estimated 25 percent, or 150 vehicles a day, will be semi-trucks, he pointed out.
Planning commissioner George Moen said he wanted to make sure the “upscale” development followed a landscaping plan to include native plants to serve as a buffer zone along property lines.
Kathy Atkinson, a nearby Country Cove Road resident, also said she was concerned about an industrial park lighting up her backyard.
“With a well-lighted parkway coming down there, its going to be like a Christmas tree,” Atkinson said.
Château Élan resident Alan Slovin, who spoke in favor of the request, suggested the developers include a natural buffer along Jesse Cronic Road with more trees. Slovin further pointed out that traffic along Hwy. 53 will certainly increase for a project of the Georgia Distribution Center’s scale, but that the proposal offered the best solution.
“This will be, by far, the most well thought-out, non-residential development in Braselton,” he said.
The development is expected to generate 1,400 jobs for Jackson County, Gaultney said; but Moen questioned the accuracy of the figure. Gaultney replied that it was “close to correct” for the distribution center, as it’s currently proposed.
The companies’ rezoning request filed at Braselton Town Hall in February called for 750 jobs with an estimated $600,000 in taxes to be brought to the county.
In recommending approval of the request, the Braselton Planning Commission added conditions that the buffer zone landscaping include plants that will live year-round, allowed sign heights to be increased from six to seven feet and that convanents for the development be reviewed by the Braselton Town Council.
The town council will vote on the request May 13.
In other business, the Braselton Planning Commission:
• unanimously recommended approval of an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance to define large-scale developments, or PUDs, as property of 50 acres or more.

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Nicholson To Buy 10 Acres For City Park
NICHOLSON -- Aside from drafting a new town charter, getting the wheels moving on creating a city park was at the top of the new Nicholson City Council's agenda when it took office in January, according to Mayor Ronnie Maxwell.
With the charter already marked off the list, Nicholson leaders took a large step toward accomplishing their second goal Monday night, agreeing to the purchase of 10 acres for the purpose of constructing a city recreation area.
The land, currently owned by John Stringer, will cost $200,000.
According to Maxwell, an earnest payment on the property was to be made Tuesday.
The council closed its doors for approximately an hour at the specially called meeting and, shortly after coming out of closed session, voted unanimously to buy the 10-acre tract which lies directly across from the city's post office on Lakeview Drive.
"I think we'll have something that Nicholson can be proud of," Maxwell said of the future park.
Maxwell said the $20,000 per acre price tag might surprise some, but was reasonable.
"People don't realize what land costs in Nicholson," Maxwell said over the phone Tuesday.
The mayor explained that recent dealings with the U.S. 441 widening project opened his eyes to the value of land in the city, pointing out that the city sold a small parcel of land to the D.O.T. for what amounted to $21,500 an acre.
Maxwell said the city got a fair deal in the 10-acre purchase.
"Twenty thousand dollars per acre isn't a bad price for a good piece of land," Maxwell said.
The mayor said the council also considered five and 17-acre tracts in the city, but chose the 10-acre site because they thought it was the "best spot left in Nicholson."
Maxwell said the location is ideal since it was in the "heart of the city" across the street from the post office, but also off the main road.
"We've got the best of both worlds," Maxwell said.
With a site for the park now in place, acquiring funding will be Nicholson's next phase in the project.
Maxwell said Monday night that he was to meet Tuesday with Christopher McGahee of the Northeast Georgia Regional Development to form a plan for securing grant money to aid in covering the cost of the park. The city and RDC are working with the Rural Development Administration, which Maxwell said offers lower interest rates than a bank.
McGahee, along with RDC representative Jim Dove, previously met with Nicholson leaders March 27 to discuss various avenues the city could take to acquire grant money.
Based on Dove's advice at that meeting, Nicholson has taken perhaps the best step forward in attracting funding dollars with their purchase of the land for the project.
"It's a step're showing your commitment, you've got a vested interest in it....and they're going to take that into consideration," Dove said at that meeting.
The plans for the park include walking trails, a pavilion and a playground.
Maxwell said the city could have the walking trails ready by this year, but added that additions like a pavilion would have to wait until funds are built up.
But city clerk Jennifer McNeil pointed trails would be something the citizens of Nicholson could use.
"People have to go to all the way to Commerce to walk," she said. "It's a step in the right direction for Nicholson."

Road work to begin next week on I-85 upgrade
The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to start work next week on a construction project to reconstruct and resurface I-85 from State Route 211 at Chateau Elan to Hwy. 441 at Banks Crossing.
“The project to reconstruct I-85 will remove existing asphalt and base down to a maximum depth of three inches and replace it with new base and asphalt topping,” said DOT district engineer Larry Dent. “We have awarded this project to APAC of Georgia for $9.9 million.”
On Sunday, the DOT will begin lane closures on a 24-mile stretch of I-85 from State Route 211 at Chateau Elan (exit 126) to Hwy. 441 at Banks Crossing (exit 149). The project’s completion date is Feb. 28, 2003.
“Nightly work will begin at 7 p.m. and continue through to 7 a.m. Mondays through Fridays,” Dent said. “Weekend work will begin at 7 p.m. and continue to 10 a.m. No work will be scheduled during holiday weekends such as Memorial Day.”

BOC approves 121-home subdivision
In a split vote, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning Monday night for a 121-home subdivision on Jackson Trail Road.
The BOC agreed to the request from Tina McDaniel to rezone the property from A-2 to R-1 for the project.
Commissioners Stacey Britt and Sammy Thomason voted in favor of the rezoning. Tony Beatty voted against it and Emil Beshara didn’t vote. Chairman Harold Fletcher voted in favor of the motion.
The county had postponed action on this request pending the outcome of a traffic study on the area.
In other planning matters, the BOC:
•unanimously approved a request from Robert White to rezone 33 acres on Holly Springs Road from A-2 to R-1 to locate a 26-home subdivision. The homes will be single-family and site-built. Fletcher recused himself from this discussion due to a conflict of interest.
•approved a request from Billy Hightower to rezone 26 acres on Ramblers Inn Road from B-2 to R-1 to locate nine single-family, site-built homes. Britt, Thomason and Fletcher voted in favor of this. Beatty voted against it and Beshara didn’t vote.
•denied a hardship request from Donnie and Brenda Bagley for a property split for land on Dennis Drive, Commerce. Britt, Thomason and Beshara voted to deny this. Beatty didn’t vote.
•unanimously approved a hardship request from Howard McCants III for property on Savage Road.
•approved a hardship request from Frankie Martin for property on Old Miller Road. Thomason, Beshara and Beatty voted for approval. Britt didn’t vote.
•approved a hardship request from Tim R. Taylor for property on Old Lebanon Church Road. Beatty, Beshara and Thomason voted for approval. Britt didn’t vote.