News from Banks County...

JUNE 12, 2002


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OPINIONS
Shar Porier
The 60-hour vacation?!
Yes! 60 hours free from work and chores!
What can one do in 60 hours? Doesn’t sound like much time. Guess I’m fixing to find out.

Rochelle Beckstine
This person belongs to Beckstine Hacienda
After two years, one month and 13 days of home ownership, I’ve come to a conclusion that most of you probably already know: you don’t own your house, your house owns you.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

BCRD teams to play in district tournaments
Several Banks County Recreation Department teams will be playing in District 7 Class C youth baseball and softball tournaments.
The 9- and 10-year-old girls softball tournament will begin Thursday June 27 at 6 p.m. at the Union County Recreation Department. Banks will be playing Union County in their first game.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
BOE 2003 budget may bring tax increase
For the past couple of years, the Jackson County Board of Education hasn’t asked for much of an increase in taxes, but that may change as the BOE juggles a nearly $40 million proposed 2003 budget that school system budget director Jeff Sanchez said will involve a “little bit of catch-up.”

Another rabies case confirmed
A raccoon found on Holly Springs Road, Pendergrass, was recently confirmed to have rabies.
According to a report, the raccoon was in a tree on May 22 when it came down and attacked a dog.

‘Curiosity’ leads manager to compile editor’s tax data
County manager Al Crace had property tax appraisal information of Jackson Herald editor Mike Buffington’s home compiled in a memo to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners last week. The memo also included county property appraisal information about property owned by Mainstreet Newspapers, Inc. which is owned by Buffington and his family.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Well problems could cancel business park plans
After weeks of work by a study committee, the future of a proposed Hwy. 72 business park could ultimately hinge on one thing — whether a well located on the western half of the 80 acres can be used as a backup water source for the county’s fledgling water system.

Wymbs found not guilty in Harris murder
An Elbert County jury acquitted Albert Wymbs of the 1996 murder of Angela Harris last Thursday, almost a year after a Madison County jury fell one vote shy of convicting Wymbs for the slaying.

Hull city hall to be sold
Hull’s city hall is for sale.
Following a 15-minute closed session, the city council voted 2 - 0 Monday evening to sell the white house on Old Elberton Road currently used as the city hall. Councilman Ken Murray abstained from the vote.

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ROCKIN’

Chris Wark gets into bass while playing with his bandmembers of The Beep during Saturday’s Vapor Christian music and arts festival at the Banks County Horse Arena.

BOE looks at athletic complex plans
The Banks County Board of Education has begun looking at preliminary plans for the new high school athletic complex.
Architect Steve Hill and project manager Tommy Wiley presented the board with several options for the high school athletic complex and asked for the board’s decision on whether to put bleachers on one side or two and whether to construct them from aluminum or concrete.
Wiley presented the board with a preliminary budget (see sidebar) based on only one drawing Hill gave him. He emphasized that many things can change depending on what plan is finalized by the board.
Preliminary plans call for seating 3,076. Superintendent Deborah White said that in order to host state semi-finals, the stadium must seat 3,000 minimum.
The most economical way to seat stadiums is to place all of the seating on one side. With bleachers on both sides, the costs escalate because of needing to double the bathrooms and the concession area, said Wiley.
“It would cost you $150,000 more to go both ways just for the restrooms,” he said.
Hill added that the topography of the land would make it nearly impossible to get people to the visitors’ side and he felt that everyone would sit on the home side anyway. The board agreed to put all of the bleachers on one side.
“I’m not a proponent of single-sided bleachers,” said board member Don Shubert, “but I can learn to live with it.”
The board members discussed constructing a metal field house building and leaving it unfinished in order to finish the project within the $1.4 million budgeted for it.
Wiley said the building, which would have the plumbing completed and a raw concrete floor, would cost the school system only $100,000.
Board member John Williams said the metal building would not hold up as well as one constructed from concrete blocks. The rest of the board members agreed and decided to construct the field house from concrete blocks and then to brick the outside to match the high school.
White said she expects that the stadium will be finished in July of next year if the project is on time. Bids will be awarded in August.


Council considering dividing Homer into districts
The next elections for the city of Homer could be broken into districts.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, councilwoman Betty Borders introduced the idea of dividing Homer into different wards with one council seat each.
“If you have a person from each district, then they’ll know more about what’s going on in their district,” Borders said.
City attorney Gary Freeman said the change would require amending the city’s charter, which the council plans to do anyway. He also said the change would not take effect until the next election.
City councilman Bobby Caudell said the city might have trouble finding enough qualified candidates from each ward during election years.
“At the last election when we had five seats open, we only had six running and that was city-wide,” Caudell said. “We don’t have a lot of people seeking office in a city this size.”
The council will revisit the matter as it begins to update the city charter.
Freeman told the council he would prepare a draft of a new charter for the city to look at during a work session in the future. Any charter changes will have to be approved by the Georgia General Assembly in January.
In an unrelated matter, Freeman agreed to research the county’s zoning ordinance concerning the maximum square footage for the construction of a structure without a building permit. The council is considering amending its zoning ordinances to coincide with the county.
Freeman also said he would research a question about the city’s signage regulations and whether to apply them to the entire city limits or just the historic district.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council reappointed Sandra Garrison to the Georgia Mountain Regional Development Center and appointed Janice Freeman to the Library Board.


Auditor tells Baldwin to ‘trim the fat’
Baldwin city auditor Beth Grimes told the council to “trim the fat” from its new budget.
At last week’s work session, Grimes said the $1.5 million budget was around $200,000 short in revenue.
She said revenue loss was due to the absence of property taxes from Banks County residents and a drop in the local option sales tax revenue from the county.
A nearly 50 percent decrease in the police department’s criminal record checks, a $180,000 loss, was cited as another.
“These revenue items present problems that you’re going to have to deal with,” she said. “You’re going to have to tighten up on the expenditures and trim the fat.”
Grimes and the council went over the police department’s budget with police chief Frank Andrews and cut $11,500 in part-time salaries, worker’s compensation and gas and oil.
The council also cut the street department’s budget by $21,900, ending the city’s clean-up day.
Grimes also raised questions about the city’s $33,000 phone expense. She said the phone bill had doubled in two years.
She cited possible abuse of long distance calls and overuse of cell phones. Council member Ray Holcomb said they had been looking into the problem.
The council discussed restricting access through special codes to city phones and reserving cell phones for department heads only.
Grimes said some of the phone expenses the city administration absorbs should be assigned to the proper department’s budget.
Currently, the general fund pays for the water, sewer and street departments’ phones.
She also discussed the city’s need to recover $64,000 in fees the water department incurred.
Grimes asked the council to pass on more responsibility from the engineer to the city’s public works director, Vic Melton.
Holding fewer council meetings was another suggestion she made to lower costs.
Clerk Betty Harper said she would work on the expenses of the water plant and sewer plant and have revised figures for the council later in the month.
The city may not meet its June 30 deadline for the new budget due to the changes requested and to look into additional cutbacks.
Mayor Mark Reed asked if the council could extend the deadline if necessary. Grimes said that was not a problem.
In other business, the council:
•approved Andrews’ request to sell the drug dog. He said he had received two offers from other departments.
•heard from Jim Wickle about a proposed mobile home park on Duncan Bridge Road and whether or not the city would be in favor of it. Reed told the council at its meeting Monday night that the proposal had been withdrawn.



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Alto enacts outdoor water ban
The town of Alto has announced a total ban on outdoor water use until further notice. Leaders say no outdoor use of water is permitted until further notice and a fine will be imposed.


BOC will hold meeting Friday
The Banks County Board of Commissioners will hold a meeting at 9 a.m. on Friday in the conference room of the courthouse.
Items on the agenda include:
•Discussion with the city of Homer on the Windfill Farm access road along Thompson Street.
•Fire contract with the city of Baldwin.
OTHER UPCOMING
MEETINGS
The BOC will hold a budget hearing at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 21, to allow public input on the proposed fiscal year 2003 budget.
A called meeting will be held at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 28, to adopt the budget.


Homer City Council to appoint new mayor
The Homer City Council will appoint the town’s next mayor to fill the unexpired term of Leon Ray.
City attorney Gary Freeman told the council Tuesday night that its charter does not allow the town to hold a special election to fill the mayor’s post or any empty council seat.
The council will likely appoint one of its own members as mayor to fill the vacancy until the next election. The move will force the council to then appoint a citizen to fill in the empty council member seat.
Freeman said the citizen would have to meet all the qualifications of any candidate who sought the city council post in an election.
The council considered appointing a mayor Tuesday night but tabled the matter at councilman Bobby Caudell’s request.
“I need to do some soul searching first,” he said.
Mayor pro-tem Sandra Garrison has expressed interest in the open mayor’s seat. She is currently the acting mayor for the city.
“Sandra has the power to act in full capacity as mayor until something happens,” Freeman said.