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JUNE 5, 2002


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page

Shar Porier
Into the jungle
Well, maybe it’s not exactly a “jungle” per-say, but there’s one part of the yard that definitely has some vines Tarzan would have loved. And they’re smothering my beautiful Butterfly Bushes that provide nectar for so many butterflies and hawk moths and Rose of Sharon trees that the hummingbirds visit so regularly.

Jana Adams
Eating, and more eating, in Charleston
Just back from a short trip to Charleston, S.C., and Folly Beach, I found myself hesitating on Monday when a co-worker asked what all we did on vacation.


SPORTS

Commerce standout transfers to Clemson
Collins to play basketball, football. After officially transferring from Tennessee to Clemson this past week, former Commerce football and basketball star Michael Collins said he now feels he’s in the right place to continue his collegiate athletic career.
“I’m very happy with my decision,” Collins said Monday at the Commerce High School gym while helping out Tiger head basketball coach Rex Gregg with his youth basketball camp. “...I get to be closer to home.”

Jefferson top public school for Class A sports
The final standings for the Gatorade/Jostens Directors Cup were released last week, and several area schools ranked well in their respective classifications.

Area sports camps usher in summer season
Rising temperatures are just one sign that the summer break has arrived. With it, area sports camps began last week, and several others are planned.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
School tax rate to hold steady
The projected school budget for next year will be up approximately 6.5 percent, but the property tax rate for Madison County schools is expected to remain steady.

Parents recount day their daughter was murdered
Wymb’s retrial opens in Elbert County. The parents of murder victim Angela Harris never re-entered the home where she died. Bobbie Joe and Violet Harris were the first two witnesses called in the retrial of Albert Wymbs for the November 1996 murder.

Danielsville duplex conflict may be headed to court
Local developers may turn to the courts now that the city of Danielsville has denied their plans for duplexes behind the Huddle House off Hwy. 29.
The Danielsville City Council unanimously shot down a proposal by developers Gerry Burdette and Phil Munro Monday for a conditional use permit for eight, multi-family duplex units on approximately 8.6 acres behind the Huddle House off Hwy. 29.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Driver killed in dragway crash
Cause of crash still under investigation. Jerry Gannon, 50, of Franklin Furnace, Ohio, died at approximately 2 a.m. Sunday, June 2, at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta from injuries sustained in a fiery crash at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce.

Christian music festival coming this weekend
Harmony Baptist Youth Minister Joel Spencer wanted to do something big, something unlike any other gospel festival.
Spencer and fellow organizer, youth worship leader, Anthony Sadler put their heads together and “Vapor - a Festival of Arts and Music” was born.

Water theft reported in Alto
$100 reward offered. The Town of Alto has had a problem with people taking water from fire hydrants without notifying city hall, according to city officials.

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STOPPING BY FOR DINNER

Taking a different mode of transportation, Jordan Free gets his order from the drive-through window at McDonald’s in Braselton. Free, who often rides his horse to McDonald’s, is also an employee of the fast-food restaurant.

County pays double at Darnell Rd.?
‘Fair market value’ is less than half of $2.1 million BOC agreement with owners. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is paying $2.1 million to purchase four parcels of property that is valued at less than half of that.
The most recent fair market value as set by the Jackson County tax appraiser’s office for the four tracts on Darnell Road the county is purchasing for a new courthouse is $877,846, according to records released this week by the BOC after an Open Records request from The Jackson Herald. The county has agreed to pay the property owners a total of $2.1 million for the property.
“Tax assessments are done by a completely different assessment system,” county manager Al Crace said. “That is what they declare as fair market value off of the tax appraisals, but my experience is that land doesn’t buy nor sell usually at the rates that are posted on those tax appraisals. That’s why we get independent, certified appraisals. That points out in lots of cases...that there are great disparities in tax digests.”
Crace also pointed out that the details of the tax appraisal should be considered.
“I don’t know the details of the tax appraisal.” he said. “If that’s treated as farm land, it will be rated as that. If it’s being bought and sold as commercial and developable subdivision land, that’s a different market.”
Crace said the difference in the fair market value of the property and the purchasing price is also found in the downtown Jefferson area.
“You’ll find the same problem downtown...,” he said. “When we looked at downtown property, we saw the same kinds of disparities... like at the motel everyone talks about. If you look at the fair market value on the books and you look at the land around downtown around the courthouse, we saw the same types of disparity.”
PRIVATE APPRAISALS
The county also had two private firms appraise the property. Classic City Appraisal appraised the 156 acres at $1.89 million, while Northeast Georgia Appraisal Service appraised the property at $1.825 million. County manager Al Crace said the county picked one of the appraisal firms and the property owners picked the other firm.
“You’ve got to understand who is defining fair market value,” Crace said. “Fair market value defined by the tax assessor is not accepted in the normal open market one way or the other. That is why we had the certified independent appraisers. When you get to that and you put 10 percent or 15 percent adjustment factor in...”
RECORDS RELEASED AFTER REQUEST
The records on the Darnell Road site were released following a vote of the BOC Monday night. The commissioners unanimously agreed to release the records. The board had earlier refused to release the documents to The Jackson Herald for review.
At Monday’s meeting, BOC chairman Harold Fletcher said: “The open records request was someone trying to make a statement—someone was grandstanding.”
According to the documents, the fair market value of the 47.85 acres owned by John Stringer and Henry Davis is $268,639. The county has agreed to pay $550,000 for this property. It was appraised at $550,000 by Classic City and $530,000 by Northeast Georgia Appraisal Service.
The fair market value listed for the 62.96 acres owned by Carl and Aloise McNichols is $269,024. The county is paying $742,928 for the property. It was appraised at $765,000 by Classic City and $690,000 by Northeast Georgia Appraisal Service.
The fair market value for the 38.76 acres owned by Chris and Diane Chapman is $189,124. The county is paying $445,568 for the property. It is appraised at $465,000 by Classic City Appraisal and $430,000 by Northeast Georgia Appraisal Service.
The fair market value of the 7.3 acres owned by Chris and Kim Chapman is $151,059. The county is paying $375,000 for this property. The property was appraised at $117,000 by Classic City and $175,000 at Northeast Georgia Appraisal Service. The county also purchased a home and two buildings that are located on the property.
The appraisals were done in the April, but the county had already agreed on the prices in January. The option agreements, which listed the purchase prices, were signed on Jan. 29. The options were executed on May 29.
CLOSED MEETING
The records released by the county also included minutes from May 28 BOC closed meeting in which the motion was made to purchase the property. According to the minutes, an earlier motion was made by chairman Harold Fletcher to extend the option for 60 days and study and compare the sites. Emil Beshara seconded this motion. Stacey Britt and Sammy Thomason voted against it. The minutes did not list whether Tony Beatty voted or not.


Maysville puts moratorium on sewer use
With the city’s wastewater treatment facility nearing capacity, the Maysville City Council approved a six-month moratorium on new sewage service Monday.
The moratorium applies to customers who will use more than 10,000 gallons of sewage capacity per day.
OTHER ACTION
The city council also:
•approved Presley Brothers’ request to rezone one acre of land including a house on Main Street from residential to commercial for the office of their farm supply business. The land around the acre was rezoned to commercial several years ago for the business. Richard Presley and Larry Presley said they did not anticipate any changes in the business.
•agreed to designate the remaining $98,000 of Banks County sales tax money for a water line extension on Ridgeway Road. The council will hold a work session on Thursday, June 13, at 6 p.m. in the library to meet with engineer Jerry Hood to discuss the city’s future water plans.
•approved the hiring of police officer Wendell Wooley after a brief closed session.


Rezoning requests on Jefferson council agenda for Monday
Two subdivisions, one light industrial project to get vote. With a vote next Monday night, the Jefferson City Council will determine if two new subdivisions and a seven-tract light industrial project will be added to the city’s blueprint.
During a public hearing Monday on rezoning, the city council heard requests for the two subdivisions, which would bring an additional 120 homes into the city, as well as annexation and rezoning requests for four light industrial areas off Hog Mountain Road near the I-85 Dry Pond exit. Only one of the industrial rezoning requests will get a vote Monday; the other three will come before council again in July.
The council meets Monday, June 10, at 6 p.m. at the Jefferson clubhouse.
SUBDIVISIONS
Plansouth presented the council with plans for a proposed Spratlin Estates subdivision on Hwy. 82. Plansouth seeks rezoning from A-1 to R-1 for the 45.7 acres to be developed into 50 lots of 3/4-acre for single-family homes. According to the Plansouth representative, the homes could range from a minimum of 1,600-square-feet to as large as 2,200-square-feet, with prices from $180,000 to around $220,000.
The second A-1 to R-1 rezoning request for a subdivision comes from John Buchanan, who wishes to develop 70 lots on 90.23 acres on Ramblers Inn Road for site-built homes. The subdivision would include a 6.5-acre lake, as well as 12 acres of greenspace along a creek. Homes would range in size from 1,600- to 1,800-square-feet with prices from the mid- to high-$100,000s.
The council will take action on both these rezoning requests Monday. No opposition was made during the public hearing and no public questions were asked for either residential rezoning request.
INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT
Peau Investments presented the council with a rezoning request of A-2 to M-1 and annexation for 21.89 acres on Hog Mountain Road to be developed into seven tracts varying in size from 1.6 to 9.7 acres. The focus of the light industrial development project would be on “local small businesses,” the Peau Investments representative said.
One question raised by concil member Philip Thompson was whether or not proposed 50-foot buffers around an “on-again, off-again” spring on the site would meet watershed requirements.
No opposition was made to the Peau Investments rezoning requests and no questions were asked by the public. The council will vote on the request Monday.
Three other A-2 to M-1 rezoning requests and annexation requests for Hog Mountain Road came before council Monday night, but will not see a vote until July when the council has the current Development Regional Impact (DRI) plan in hand. The requests came from Rusty McKeller of Pattillo Construction, also representing Gwinnett Industries and Stone Mountain Industrial Park.
Gwinnett Industries made two requests, one for a 102-acre tract and one for a 10.87-acre tract in the proposed Hog Mountain Road development. Stone Mountain Industrial Park is seeking rezoning for a 43.03-acre tract in the same area.
The three tracts, totaling 155 acres, are broken into three ownerships and would account for 1.5 million-square-feet, in addition to the 5.5 million-square-feet Pattillo has allocated for the McClure Industrial Park on 400 acres in that same vicinity. McKeller said the three ownerships are seeking the same buffers and restrictions as already approved for the McClure Industrial Park.
The three rezoning and annexation requests will come before council for vote in July, after the completion of the DRI in June, which will determine the regional impact of such a project. No opposition was made or questions asked by the public Monday night.
WATERSHED CONCERNS
Discussion of the rezoning and annexation requests during Monday night’s meeting evolved into the related topic of the city’s watershed ordinance.
The city’s Watershed Protection Ordinance was adopted in 1998 and is based on a model given by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and was developed by tthe Regional Development Center (RDC) and a citizen commitee, explained city manager David Clabo. The ordinance states that the impervious surface coverage of the watershed area be limited to 25 percent.
However, in terms of development, some council members questioned whether that 25 percent applied to each individual parcel being developed, or to the watershed area as a whole, and also what the importanct of 25 percent is.
City attorney Ronnie Hopkins said: “The ordinance says the entire area should not have more than 25 percent in the watershed area. When we reach that, we have to stop.”
Thompson, who has voiced concerns before about the watershed limits, said, “I really don’t think (the ordinance) specifies limits for development...How do you limit it to 25 percent and how do you enforce it?”
Saying that the city “can’t continue with (development) on a first-come, first-served” basis, Thompson suggested that the city develop a plan for what percentage of the watershed area can be developed commercially or residentially. He pointed out that the future land use plan for the city dates back to 1999; although the percentage of watershed development shows at 5.4 percent for that time, he added that the plan is unrealistic because it does not account for the amount of commercial development the area is now seeing.
“When we sit down to redraw this (land use plan) and convert every bit of land, I think (the watershed impervious surface coverage) will be far greater than 25 percent,” Thompson said. “That’s just my guess...Once it’s done, it’s done. That’s my concern.”
Mayor Jim Joiner suggested the Clabo get an update on the impervious coverage percentage from the RDC, as well as the explanation for the 25 percent limit.
“I suggest we get a handle on right now where we are with the impervious surfaces and also look at what we have committed to,” Joiner said. “This is too important to keep dragging out. I’d like to see how much damage we’ve already done, then we know where to go.”


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See Galilee Preschool Flyer


Hoschton to offer program on neighborhood watch
The Hoschton Police Department will sponsor an information session to help local subdivisions begin their own neighborhood watch programs.
The one-hour session will take place at Hoschton City Hall on Saturday, June 15, at 3 p.m.
Hoschton police chief Dave Hill will provide brochures and other materials to citizens interested in starting a neighborhood watch program.


Fifth graders’ writing scores above average
JES, MES earn top scores in county. Fifth graders at all six elementary schools in the Jackson County and Jefferson City school systems scored above the state average on the Georgia Grade 5 Writing Test administered in the spring. The state average was 84.5 for the top three stages of testing — the experimenting writer, the engaging writer and the extending writer — while the scores in Jackson County were all above that percentage, ranging from a low of 93.6 percent at South Jackson Elementary to a high of 96.8 at Jefferson Elementary.
According to a release from the Georgia Department of Education, the writing assessment for fifth grade “consists of an evaluation of student response to an assigned topic. Students are assigned a topic in one of two genres, imaginative story or personal narrative, then trained readers score the papers using a standardized scoring system. Papers are evaluated to determine the developmental stage that the writing represents. There are six developmental stages.”
The top three stages assess the students’ performance in topic development, organized ideas, a sense of audience, a variety of sentence patterns and minimal errors that do not interfere with the reader’s message, the DOE release said.


County hires administrator
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners hired a personnel/purchasing administrator Monday night.
Elton Andrew “Andy” Newton, Braselton, was hired to fill this position.
His major duties will include overseeing and developing the personnel and purchasing systems for the county government. He will also serve as the airport manager and the administrator of the county government computer system.
Newton’s education and training include a bachelor of science degree in political science from Old Dominion University and a master of science degree in political science from the University of West Florida.
After college graduation, Newton was commissioned as an ensign and assigned to Naval Flight School for pilot training. He served in a variety of assignments in the United States Navy and rose to the rank of training director/officer in Charge Sea Combat Weapons Advanced Tactics School teaching graduate level tactics and procedures to over 19 aviation units and 1,200 flight personnel. He deployed on four overseas assignments, twice to the Middle East in support of Operation Southern Watch and twice to South America for counter narcotics operation. While on active duty, he rose to the rank of lieutenant commander and earned a number of medals and commendations for outstanding performance.
Since his retirement from active duty, he has held management positions in manufacturing and telecommunications operations.
Newton is married to the former Martha May of Pensacola, Fla., and they have two children, Madelyn, 6, and Daniel, 2.