News from Banks County...

JUNE 19, 2002


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OPINIONS
Angela Gary
A new culinary experience
For me, vacation time is always a good time to try different food. I like to try restaurants that we don’t have around here and experience new dishes.

Phillip Sartain
Down on the road
My column is late. But I have an excuse. I’ve just finished driving over 3,400 miles to the coast of Maine and back with my wife and three small children in a tiny camper. That’s my excuse for missing my column deadline— I don’t have any brain cells left.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Banks County site of black bear sightings
Black bears have been on the prowl in Banks County.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger Winford Popphan said several sightings of black bears have occurred recently in Banks County.
One bear was run over and killed near Banks Crossing, and several have been sighted along Damascus Road, Yonah-Homer Road and in most all of the county he said.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
BOC moves forward on courthouse plans
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is moving forward with the new courthouse project.

Developer sues City of Hoschton
Alleging rackteering, a developer has filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the city of Hoschton and its council members.

Three qualified so far for Aug. 20 election
Three people had qualified for the Aug. 20 primary election as of press time on Wednesday. Qualifying ends at noon on Friday.


BOC to extend moratoriums
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners plan to extend two moratoriums until August that deal with certain subdivision plats, including “family subdivisions,” and landfills.

Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
School board approves $30 million budget
Madison County’s Board of Education approved the 2002-2003 budget at its meeting Tuesday night, up approximately $2 million to $30.3 million.
Additional funding from the state and increases in the county property tax digest are expected to prevent any local tax increase this year.

Belfield won’t seek re-election
Long-time Madison County Board of Education member Elaine Belfield has announced that she will not be a candidate for the District 2 seat this year.

County planners stumped on rezoning request
County planners couldn’t come up with a recommendation for the Board of Commissioners Tuesday night concerning a controversial rezoning request by a couple who wants to sell some of their land on Katie Beth Road.

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Lula residents ask for traffic light

Vicky Chambers (L), Lula city council member, talked with residents Barbara Moore and Nita Cain about the problems at the intersection of Old Cornelia Highway and Athens Street in the center of town at Monday’s council meeting.

BOC rejects Baldwin’s fire contract
Banks County and Baldwin might soon have a contract for fire services in the northern part of the county. The cost for that contract, however, won’t come at the price Baldwin would like.
Friday morning, Baldwin Fire Chief Joe Roy, mayor Mark Reed and city councilman Ray Holcomb presented a $31,850 contract to cover county citizens in and around Baldwin. In April, the city requested $43,767 from Banks County to cover rising costs to operate the Baldwin Fire Department.
However, the city council trimmed the original figure to the new $31,850 contract based on a $65 charge for each structure the fire department covers. For the past several years, the county has been paying $22,000.
The BOC was unhappy with the new price and asked that it be cut to $26,925.
“We are not trying to gyp Baldwin, but we must look after the taxpayers of the county,” BOC chairman Kenneth Brady said.
Commissioner Pat Westmoreland agreed with Brady’s comments.
“On behalf of the citizens, we need to continue the contract,” he said. “I do not like the idea of an increase, but on behalf of the citizens, I have to go along with the chairman to extend the contract one more year.”
Holcomb and Reed said they would take the proposal back to the city council for discussion during a work session Thursday night.
They both said, though, that they thought the price is fair. Baldwin currently covers close to 500 structures with 24-hour fire and EMS.
“We are not trying to make money,” Holcomb said. “We are just trying to cover our costs.”
However, commissioner Ernest Rogers said he was opposed to the contract.
“I will not go along with it,” he said.
Rogers told the city that the county already has a working fire station in Hollingsworth that could provide coverage to the residents in the north part of the county. He said he was willing to contract with Baldwin to cover the roughly 100 homes that the county could not provide services for.
“We have gotten good service from Baldwin,” Rogers said. “But we’ve got a station and can cover a lot of that area ourselves. We can cover the majority and are willing to work on an agreement on the areas we can’t cover.”
Reed said the city would not be willing to consider such a contract. He said the county was being unfair by forcing Baldwin residents to pay more for fire service than residents who live around Baldwin in Banks County.
“How can we justify to the city residents that we are providing services to others at a fraction of the cost that our city residents pay?” he asked.
Reed went on to accuse the BOC of refusing to fairly negotiate with the city on water concerns and on the special purpose local option sales tax.
“You’ve taken money away from the cities,” he said. “Y’all should have plenty of money. We’re at ya’ll’s mercy and we’re asking for a little mercy here. I’d hate to see someone lose their life because of $9,350 you are unwilling to share with the city of Baldwin.”
Reed also attacked Rogers, saying Rogers controlled the fire department and all the decisions the BOC made about it. He also said county fire chief Perry Dalton “likes to talk” and had come to the city discussing the fire contract.
Rogers denied Reed’s claims.
“We three are the ones responsible to the taxpayers,” he said. “Me and Perry do talk about what goes on at the fire department but no decision is made without the other commissioners.”
Westmoreland added that he and Rogers “look after” a department to lighten Brady’s load as chairman, but said that nothing was a “one man decision.”
Reed added that the BOC’s meeting times were inconvenient for Baldwin council members and should be held at a different time and at a neutral site.
After the city of Baldwin acts on the proposed $26,925 contract, it will go back to the BOC for approval. In the meantime, Reed said Baldwin would continue to cover residents in the north part of the county as long as negotiations were ongoing. The current contract expires July 1.


BOC, Homer strike deal on Thompson Street work
A dispute over an access road to the county’s windmill farm has ended.
The Banks County Board of Commissioners approved a measure Friday that includes widening and straightening Thompson Street from Hwy. 441 down to the new bypass.
The Homer City Council agreed to the deal and will likely approve it formally at its next meeting.
The deal will have the city secure each right-of-way on Thompson Street, pay for half of the engineering costs on the road project and pay for the movement of electrical poles and water lines.
In turn, the county will pay the other half of the engineering costs and work with the state on grading and paving the road.
“The majority of traffic on the road will be county traffic and I personally feel we should cover the rest of the costs (besides engineering),” commissioner Ernest Rogers said.
As part of the improvements to Thompson Street, the road entrance to Hwy. 441 will have to be moved so that the two roads intersect at a 90 degree angle.


IDA member worried board is becoming too ‘proactive’
Plans for the Banks County Industrial Development Authority to identify potential commercial and industrial sites in the county are drawing skepticism from one board member.
“We need to be cautious in our roles as development authority members,” Horace Campbell said. “My concern is that we’re getting too proactive and getting involved with property owners who make money.”
At the advice of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism, some authority members want to identify potential business sites to present to businesses who are considering locating in the county.
“People don’t come and ask you,” Carol Ciriacks said. “You must make them aware of what’s available. If you don’t have anything identified, you’re cut from the process.”
Chairman Jack Banks and members Sam McDuffie and Gerry Boiling all agreed that the IDA needs to talk with property owners to find perspective property to present to potential businesses.
“We don’t want to get outside and be in a conflict of interest issue,” Boiling said. “What we’re really doing is marketing our county for jobs and businesses.”
McDuffie said that a potential business may be in search of land that provides natural gas, water and sewer and that the IDA needed to know where that land is located.
“We want to lead people in the right direction, not negotiate agreements,” McDuffie said.
Campbell still said the plan was flawed.
“It was stated last month that we would send out volunteers to identify land,” he said. “That’s frought with danger.”
Campbell maintained that any businesses interested in the county would come to them.



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Lula residents ask for traffic light
Lula resident Diane Baker asked the Lula City Council Monday night to request the Department of Transportation place a traffic signal at the intersection of Athens Street and Old Cornelia Highway.
Baker said she had witnessed accidents five Fridays in a row from her beauty shop on the southwest corner of the intersection.
More than just a witness, she was injured not long ago when a car was pushed into the shop and she slipped and fell trying to escape it, she said. She sustained a broken arm in the fall.
Mayor Milton Turner said he had called the DOT and had spoken with Todd Long about the dangerous intersection. The DOT had done a traffic study three or four years ago and found the volume did not warrant a traffic light.
Morgan Saxon, the owner of Baker’s shop, asked: “Does it take someone getting killed before the DOT will take action? This is ridiculous.”
Baker said there are “near misses every day.”
Vicky Chambers, council member, said her daughter was “bumped” at the intersection a few years ago.
“It definitely needs something,” she said.
Turner said DOT officials were considering making the intersection a “high-profile four-way Stop.”
Part of the problem, according to the residents, is the speed of traffic going through town.
Mordecai Wilson, council member, said: “We need a permanent officer assigned here in the city.”
Turner said he was in talks with Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic about building a satellite office in Lula with grant money.
Mike Ostrander, council member, asked if the office would be manned 24 hours a day.
Turner said the best the city could hope for at this time was a “volunteer” officer for eight hours per day. A volunteer officer has all the powers of any deputy, just without the pay.
Saxon said robberies were increasing along the city’s main street.
Chambers added the robberies were occurring after midnight.
The council plans to pursue both the traffic signal and the deputy. In the meantime, Turner has requested the county beef up its patrols in Lula.


Qualifying ends Friday for Aug. 20 election
Qualifying for the Aug. 20 primary election will be held through Friday, June 21.
Local races on the ballot will include two board of commission seats–District 2 held by Ernest Rogers and District 3 held by Pat Westmoreland.
Also on the ballot will be two county board of education seats–District 3 held by Don Shubert and District 5 held by Bo Garrison.
The state senate and house of representative seats and the governor’s post will also be on the ballot.
The general election will be Nov. 5.