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JUNE 12, 2002


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OPINIONS

Frank Gillespiie
Make candidates answer your questions
By now, most of you are aware that elections are coming up soon. Chances are that you will encounter numerous candidates seeking offices from Board of Education to Governor. All these candidates will be asking for your vote.

Margie Richards
Remembering Daddy

This time of year always reminds of my dad. He was 48 when I was born and died when I was only 10, but his impact on my life was — and is — profound.
Had he lived, he would have celebrated his 91st birthday this past Monday. Instead, June 30 marks the 33rd anniversary of his death.


SPORTS

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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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.
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.

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.

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HULL CITY HALL TO BE SOLD
The Hull city council voted Monday evening to sell the white house on Old Elberton Road currently used as the city hall.

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.
The status of the well came up Tuesday evening during the Business Park Study Committee’s public presentation of their concept plan for a proposed business park off Hwy. 72 at James Holcomb Road.
The park committee, made up of area residents and others, was appointed by the Industrial Development and Building Authority (IDA) to develop the plan and has been working on it since early April.
Audience member Nick Paski, who is also on the planning and zoning commission, asked the committee about the status of the well during the meeting.
“The bit is still in the well,” committee chair Kenny Beck said, referring to a drill bit that got stuck in the well during work on it a few weeks ago. The bit has not been recovered.
“I can’t speak for the IDA board, but I’d favor selling it all, personally,” Beck said, when Paski asked him what the IDA will do with the land if the bit is not recovered, rendering the well useless as a water source.
Paski was also concerned that the IDA will lease the land if it can’t sell it.
“It seems to me we’ve been out there buying and spending before any research was done,” Paski told the committee. “...We’re (the county) in this to generate money, not lose it. If it can’t work, let’s scrap it and move on.”
That sentiment was seconded by several other audience members during the meeting.
CONCEPT PLAN SPECIFICS
The concept plan favors smaller businesses.
Committee member Rob Kaser said the committee was attracted to a plan that favored smaller businesses in individual lots because that concept “appeared to be more in line with what the county wants.”
In the final analysis, the committee found the acreage located on the western side of James Holcomb Road (nearest to Hull) to be better suited for business development. The western site consists of six lots of approximately five acres each. Recommendations for types of businesses to be located there include light manufacturing, retail, office, wholesale, public utilities, cell towers and parks.
Noise, light and delivery limitations are included in the concept plan for this area, as well as a 50-foot tree buffer between the park and surrounding residential areas.
The committee also recommended that no rail spur be allowed in the park.
As for the eastern portion, the committee recommended that most of this land be sold, with restrictions, for residential development.
The committee feels that the majority of this acreage is not suitable for business development due to its topography, to previous covenants placed on three lots adjacent to James Holcomb Road and to the close proximity of neighboring residences.
Two corner lots near the railway and Hwy. 72 - one containing the well and another for a proposed cell tower site - would be kept and an access road constructed to reach these areas from James Holcomb Road.
ACCESSIBILITY
One big issue the committee could not resolve was accessibility.
Committee members are concerned about CSX trains that block the entrance onto James Holcomb Road from Hwy. 72 at unpredictable times.
It seems the IDA has not been able to discuss this issue with the rail company so far.
The committee was also unable to resolve how ownership of the lots would be transferred from the IDA to business owners and what financial resources would be available for expansion of the park.
“This is just an idea we were asked to come up with...We may be faced with a very real situation that we can’t get businesses in here,” park committee member Julie Adams emphasized during the meeting.
A written transcript of Tuesday evening’s meeting will be included in the committee’s final report to the IDA, according to IDA attorney Victor Johnson.
The concept plan will be presented to the IDA next Monday evening during their regular monthly meeting which begins at 6 p.m. at the county government complex.


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.
Mayor B.W. Hutchins said the council considered the property to be no longer needed and therefore “surplus.” The council purchased the building several years ago for $55,000, and currently owes a loan balance of approximately $30,000 on it to BB&T Bank.
City attorney Pat Graham said once the loan is paid off from the sale, any remaining funds will be placed in the city’s treasury.
The property will now be advertised for 30 days as required by law, and bids will be opened at the August 12 council meeting, according to Graham.
The council will most likely hold their monthly meetings at the Hull Volunteer Fire Department once the building is sold.
In a separate matter, the council voted to call for a special election on September 17 to fill the council seat vacated by Mark Cronic in January.
August qualifying dates will be announced later.
In other business, the council:
•heard that the spring festival was a success, drawing the largest crowd to date. Mayor Hutchins said approximately 2,000 people were believed to have visited Hull during the festival.
•agreed to have city clerk Janet Seagraves transfer $2,000 from the city’s checking account into the city’s money market fund.
•heard from Seagraves that Jerry Hawkins, CPA, has completed the town’s audit at the annual cost of $1,150.
•heard that the town’s grass was cut just prior to the festival by volunteers since the person hired to do so could not be contacted. Councilman Ken Murray agreed to seek someone with an insurance certificate to cut the grass on a regular basis.
•heard that the town’s request for a Community Block Grant to help fund street lights for Hwy. 72 has been denied. The grant proposal was prepared by the NE Georgia Regional Development Center. The council has not heard whether they will receive any funding from a Governor’s Discretionary Fund Grant.
•agreed to pay $425.44 for flags purchased for the Hull Spring Festival. The council voted to purchase the flags at last month’s council meeting.
•heard that a community service worker has been assigned to pick up trash along roadsides in Hull using garbage bags furnished by the DOT.

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To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.


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.
The Harris family, seeking closure in the nearly six-year-old murder case, was inconsolable after the “not guilty” verdict was handed down following nearly two hours of jury deliberation. Some were visibly overcome with grief; others voiced anger.
“There is no justice,” one family member shouted as she stormed out of the courtroom.
On the other side of the courtroom, the Wymbs family shared hugs with Athens defense attorneys Jim Smith and Scott Davis as the acquittal ends over a year of courtroom proceedings for Wymbs in the murder case.
Wymbs still faces a five-year prison sentence for burglary charges in Athens. He has also been indicted for the 1994 rape of a University of Georgia student.
Wymbs, who was charged in 2000 with killing the 24-year-old Harris, was almost convicted of the crime a year ago after a Madison County jury split 11-1 with only one vote for acquittal, leading to a hung jury.
Just as in the first trial, Wymbs’ counsel attacked what they felt were sizable holes in the prosecution’s proof against their client.
District attorney Bob Lavender’s case leaned heavily on shoe prints found at the scene leading to Wymbs’ house, which matched a Nike “Air Slant” shoe box at the residence, along with the incriminating testimonies of former friends of the defendant, Terrell Young and Shloin Dious.
During his closing argument, Lavender provided a motive, painting a picture of a sexual assault turned deadly based on testimony that claimed Wymbs had sexual interest in the victim.
“Does it all make sense?,” Lavender asked the jury. “It makes perfect sense.”