News from Jackson County...

JUNE 26, 2002

Jackson County

Jackson County

Jackson County

Our Time and Place:
A History of
Jackson County, Ga

A complete history of Jackson County, Georgia from 1796 to the present. Written in narrative style for easy reading. Includes material not found in other books about Jackson County.

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Jackson County opinion page

Shar Porier
Planning the attack
When you have three acres to mow, time seems to stand still. Now, I know some people might just grab the earphones and listen to music or the radio to pass the time. But, I prefer to let my mind wander.

Roshelle Beckstein
Curl up with a good book
I had been waiting for weeks for the book to come. With my fast-pace life always doing, doing, doing, I ordered it one morning while I checked email.


Tiger Sharks Compete In Gainesville Meet, Set To Swim In Dacula Invitational This Saturday
The Commerce Tiger Sharks swim team hit the water for the fourth time this summer when they take part in the Dacula Invitational this Saturday.
This weekend’s competition will be almost identicial to what the squad swam against this past Saturday at the Gainesville Sports Festival meet which consisted of North Georgia Swimming League teams.

Pinion: Dragon cross country teams on the drawing board
A generation ago, the Jefferson cross country teams garnered six state titles under the leadership of former coach Jack Keen before the progam eventually folded in the early 1980’s.
This fall, Jefferson High School wants to get the defunct distance-running dynasty back on the cross country trails.

Weekend races completed at Lanier Speedway despite rain
Lanier National Speedway officials were able to tiptoe around raindrops Saturday evening long enough to complete the night's scheduled racing program - with the exception of the 50-lap pro late model event. 

Neighboorhood News ..
Negotiations continue on jail completion
Firm to formulate ‘remediation plan’. With the building of a new jail halted due to faulty construction, county leaders are negotiating a plan to get the project completed — and done right.

Colbert prepares for July 4th parade
The city of Colbert is preparing for its annual “Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration” on Thursday, July 4.
Colbert’s Canna Run, a 5K and one-mile race, will begin at 6:30 a.m. at the Colbert Elementary School. The 5K run will start at 7:30 a.m. and the one-mile walk will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Johnson Jr. to run unopposed for BOE seat
Arlen Johnson Jr. will run unopposed for the District 2 post of the Madison County school board.
Qualifying for the District 1 and 2 seats on the county BOE, as well as the county magistrate’s post, concluded Friday, with Johnson the only candidate in his district. Elaine Belfield did not seek re-election to that position

Neighborhood News...
Officers seize $89,500 in drugs, cash money. Two men and a woman face multiple drug charges after officers seized an estimated $77,000 in suspected cocaine and marijuana.
BOC holds first public hearings on budget
Friday’s board of commissioners public hearing on the budget yielded little public input.
The budget stands at just under $7.9 million. BOC chairman Kenneth Brady said he did not anticipate the board having to raise the mileage rate this year.

Nine qualify for August 20 primaries
Five candidates will be vying for board of commissioners seats this fall.
In BOC post two, incumbent Ernest Rogers and Sara Yarber Cross both qualified as Democrats. Ricky Cain qualified as a Republican candidate.
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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A two-vehicle wreck occurred Wednesday, June 19, on Hwy. 129 in Jefferson. Isalia Espinosa Herrera, 29, 108 Barrel Lane, Athens, was driving southbound on Hwy. 129 when she reportedly lost control of her vehicle and began to rotate and cross the center line. Her vehicle was in a slide when it entered the path of a vehicle driven by Warren Willis Williams, 34, Bowman, causing a head-on collision. The accident report states that the injured were taken to Athens Regional Medical Center by ambulance, but it doesn’t name who was injured or the extent of their injuries.

Sales tax shortfall
Past year brings dip in local sales tax proceeds.What has happened to revenue produced by the three cents (on the dollar) of local sales taxes in Jackson County?
There’s the local option sales tax (LOST), the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) and the special purpose local option sales tax for education (education SPLOST). They’ve been growing sources of revenue for government for a decade and a half.
As retail business grew – largely because of the Tanger II Factory Outlet – so did government’s dependence upon sales taxes to fund school construction, water and sewer projects, road construction and recreational facilities, in addition to providing property tax relief.
Hailed as an opportunity to get someone else (tourists) to help fund Jackson County needs, referendums for the SPLOST taxes passed, for the most part, overwhelmingly.
But for 15 of the past 16 months, sales have fallen below the revenue projections used to promote passage of the tax referendums. For 2002, SPLOST proceeds are down at least 10 percent; for the two most recent months (checks received in April and May), receipts are 15 percent below projections. It’s even worse for the education SPLOST, where receipts have fallen 30 percent or more over the past two months.
The economic slowdown that started in January 2001, and got bumped up with the terrorists’ attacks Sept. 11, 2001, is causing financial planners in government to re-calculate their budgets and cut back on projects.
But in one case, the proceeds have fallen so much that there is even talk that Jackson County funds are being diverted elsewhere.
Jackson County superintendent of schools Andy Byers, who has seen SPLOST revenue drop 30 percent since the January check (received in March), thinks there’s more to the shortfall than a recession.
“I think there’s something else,” Byers said. He recalls 1999 when the Georgia Department of Revenue could not account for $240 million in sales taxes. Revenue commissioner Marcus Collins was fired (he was later hired, at a higher salary, to preside over the distribution of tobacco suit settlement funds).
“Nobody really has any accountability. How do we know that what is coming in (to DOR) from Jackson County is going out (back to Jackson County)?” Byers asks. “We just haven’t seen that kind of recession. We may not have the kind of money we had a year ago, but unemployment is still pretty low. I just don’t understand that kind of drop in revenue.”
Byers thinks it’s time for the Jackson County governments and agencies that receive sales tax funds to join ranks, compare notes, develop spreadsheets to track the revenue and possibly to audit Jackson County businesses – particularly the outlet stores – to make sure their sales taxes are being paid to Jackson County.
Several years ago, Jackson County and its auditing firm did just that and Jackson County “found” more than $1.2 million that had been paid by Jackson County businesses but attributed to other counties. The money was eventually recovered.
“It may be time to revisit that,” Byers proposes.
In the meantime, he worries about the affect of declining revenues.
“Having the revenue drop off by a third is absolutely frightening,” he says.
The county school system expects to average over $380,000 per month in SPLOST income for the next five years. Without adequate revenue from the tax, the county has little hope in meeting the need for more school space caused by the rapidly growing population.
“If that doesn’t occur, we certainly can’t spend $23 million for buildings we had anticipated over the next five years,” Byers said. He also said a revenue shortfall could put the board’s use of SPLOST funds to help pay off its 1994 bonds (that built the East Jackson and West Jackson middle schools). The board of education has used from $1.2 million to $1.3 million per year of SPLOST money to make the $1.8 million annual payments that would otherwise be fully funded by property taxes.
The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority gets the lion’s share of the special purpose SPLOST revenue. Earlier this year, the authority trimmed its expectations of how many projects it could build with the 2000-2005 tax. Chairman Elton Collins has repeatedly expressed the opinion that it will be many months before revenues meet pre-9-11 expectations.
“Mr. Waddell, I don’t foresee you meeting that (projected income) for a while,” Collins observed after manager Jerry Waddell reported on the SPLOST income for May (representing March sales). It was 15 percent below projections.
Waddell, former county commissioner, agrees totally with Byers about the need to follow up with local stores.
“We need to send the county marshal out to check the business licenses to make sure they’ve got the right county code,” he explained. “If they have the wrong code, the sales tax money is going to the wrong county. They have those (outlet) stores all over. They may be sending all of the proceeds to one store, and that store may be in Henry County or Dawson County.”
Commerce superintendent of schools Larry White also sees the falling receipts, but says the decline will not threaten the Commerce School System’s plans to build a new middle school.
Expecting to get $7.1 million over the five-year SPLOST, the Commerce Board of Education issued $5.5 million in bonds against those proceeds. That money, along with $3 million in state funds gives the system $8.5 million to spend. The board is also drawing sufficient interest on those investments to cover the interest on its bonds.
“We’re going to be OK. We were conservative and put in a little cushion,” White said. “If we’d done a $6 million bond, there’d be a little more concern.”
If the revenue continues to decline, there will be a lot more concern.
Fortunately, sales taxes are not used for operations, so a decline in revenue does not directly affect the current day-to-day operations of the schools, governments or water and sewer systems. But in a county where the population is among the fastest growing in the state, the pressure to build to meet the demands of new residents is constant. Providing classrooms, roads and water and sewer infrastructure with the sales tax money is problematic; meeting those needs with declining sales tax money is daunting.

‘Lights’ Concert Draws
Biggest Crowd Ever
The sixth annual City Lights Concert drew the largest crowd so far last Friday night. Country music superstar Vince Gill, Commerce’s favorite son Bill Anderson, Ray Price and George Lindsey played to the closest thing Tiger Stadium has had to a full house since the 2000 Class A state football title.
So far, there has been no official count of the crowd, but estimates range from 9,000 to 11,000 fans. And while that is the biggest City Lights crowd yet, it was not too big to manage from a parking and crowd control standpoint.
The 3,200 reserved seats on the stadium field were sold out, and another 2,000 to 3,000 patrons sat on the grass of the field in lawn chairs. The home side of the field was nearly full, while the visiting-side bleachers were more than half filled.
The concert was the highlight of the three-day festival that included a golf tournament (Page 1B) and Dinner With the Stars (see photos on Page 8B) on Thursday, the concert on Friday (see photos on Page 8B) and a festival in the downtown area Friday and Saturday (see photos on Page 4B).
Proceeds from all of the City Lights events will be used to help build the Bill Anderson Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of the new Commerce Middle School, located on Jefferson Road.

Pat Bell to seek re-election
Pat Bell has announced her intentions to seek re-election to the District 25 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives.
Bell is completing her first term as a state representative. Prior to being elected, she served as a member of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
“It has been my pleasure to serve the 25th District for the past two years,” she said. “I have worked hard to bring recognition and needed funds specifically to our county. During my term, I was ever mindful of the people and I fully realize that the seat I held is their seat, not mine. I will continue to work for the people of this area. I have tried to make you proud with integrity and honesty in the past and hope to do the same in the future. Everyone is welcome to join us at our campaign kickoff this Friday evening at 5:30 at Hurricane Shoals Park. Please call me at (706) 367-8067 if you can come.”
Bell obtained a B.S. degree from Western Carolina University and was employed for 30 years as a University of Georgia extension service agent. This includes serving 23 years as the director in Jackson County. She has been involved with the child abuse council, the human resources council, the regional evening school, programs for the Farm Bureau, the mentoring program, Hurricane Shoals Park development, the governor’s economic development program and the Tumbling Waters Society.
Bell grew up on a farm in Horse Shoe, N.C. She and her husband, John, have one son, Greg, and one granddaughter, Hannah.
Republican candidate Chris Elrod released his announcement several weeks ago.

BOC, BOE posts to see Aug. 20 vote
No Democrats qualify for the three seats. When qualifying for the Aug. 20 Primary Election ended at noon on Friday, races were set for one seat on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and two seats on the county board of education.
In the District 3 BOC race, incumbent Emil Beshara and Jerry Presley both qualified as Republicans. No Democrats qualified.
In the District 4 BOC seat, incumbent Tony Beatty, a Republican, was the only one to qualify.
In the District 5 Jackson County Board of Education race, incumbent Jill McEver Elliott and Sammy Qualls both qualified as Republicans. No Democrats qualified.
In the District 2 BOE seat, incumbent Tim Brooks and Alvin Marlow both qualified as Republicans. No Democrats qualified.
In the District 3 BOE seat, incumbent Kathy Wilbanks, a Republican, was the only one to qualify.
Three Senate districts are in Jackson County, including District 46, District 47 and District 49.
In District 46, Doug Haines, Athens, qualified as a Democrat and Brian Kemp, Athens, qualified as a Republican.
In District 47, Robert Banks, Canon, qualified as a Democrat and Ralph Hudgens, Comer, qualified as a Republican.
In District 49, Sueellen Simmons, Jefferson, qualified as a Democrat and L.S. Casey Cagle, Gainesville, qualified as a Republican.
Two House of Representative Districts are in Jackson County, District 24 and District 25.
In District 24, Joe Hutchins, Winder, and Warren Massey, Winder, both qualified as Republicans. No Democrats qualified.
In District 25, incumbent Pat Bell, Jefferson, qualified as a Democrat and Chris Elrod, Jefferson, qualified as a Republican.
Sen. Mike Beatty, Jefferson, has qualified to run for the office of lieutenant governor as a Republican candidate. Others to qualify were incumbent Mark Taylor, a Democrat, and Al Bartell, Cartersville, and Steve Stancil, Woodstock, both Republicans.
The Primary Election will be held on August 20. The General Election will be November 5.

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Residents file lawsuit
over zoning decision
A group of Jackson County residents have filed a lawsuit against the board of commissioners over the rezoning of property on Jackson Trail Road for a 121-home subdivision.
The BOC agreed in April to rezone the 121 acres from A-2 to R-1 for the development. Dorothy Wills, James Allen Wills, Carol Wills Aaron, Jean Wills Hothem and Jackie Wills Johnson filed a lawsuit in June over the rezoning. They are the collective owners of approximately 120 acres near the 116 Jackson Trial Road site where the subdivision is planned.
The plaintiffs contend that the BOC did not comply with a required traffic count study regarding the increased traffic the subdivision would bring to Jackson Trail Road.
The lawsuit also states that the commissioners’ action in abolishing the former planning commission and recreating the board using different criteria was a violation of the Zoning Procedures Act.
“Due to the fact that the present planning commission does not comply with the zoning procedures law, the plaintiffs were denied a valid hearing as required,” the suit reads.
The plaintiffs are asking that the property be zoned R-1 and for the defendants to “show cause” as to why the property was rezoned.

July 4th celebration planned
Saturday in downtown JeffersonA street dance, games for the youngsters, plenty of concessions and, of course, fireworks, are all planned for the annual Independence Day celebration in Jefferson.
The festivities will be held on Saturday, June 29, on the downtown square in Jefferson. The events will begin around 6 p.m.
The games will include a “power jump,” while food offered will include homemade ice cream, shaved ice, cotton candy, roasted corn and boiled peanuts.
The Jefferson Area Business Association sponsors the annual July 4 celebration. The City of Jefferson sponsors the fireworks and the town’s fire department is in charge of the presentation.

Kroger store planned for Jefferson
It looks like another grocery store may be coming to Jefferson.
A developer is seeking the rezoning of 12 acres to locate a shopping center that will be anchored by a Kroger grocery store.
The Gipson Co. is asking that the 12.08 acres on Old Pendergrass Road and the Jefferson bypass be rezoned from R-3 to C-2 to locate a retail shopping center. It has not been announced what other stores would locate in the 100,000 square foot shopping center.
The Jackson County Planning Commission will consider the rezoning request when it meets at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Administrative Building in Jefferson. The Jefferson City Council will hold a public hearing on the request when it meets at 6 p.m. Monday at the city clubhouse. The city council is expected to vote on this request at its regular council meeting on Monday, July 8.
This would be the third grocery store in place in Jefferson. Bell’s and Food Lion are both located on Hwy. 129.