News from Banks County...

JULY 3, 2002


Banks County
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OPINIONS
Angela Gary
Through the eyes of a child
Sitting in the gentle waves tapping at the ocean water as it rushes by him.

Phillip Sartain
Over and out
Right after our first child was born, I was flipping through the Owner’s Manual For Little Girls, Father’s Edition, when I came across the chapter on toys.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Four of Banks’ all-stars teams out of tourney
12-under baseball playing this weekend. All but one of Banks County’s all-stars teams are out of their respective district tournaments.
The 11- and 12-year-old baseball all-stars have yet to play in their tournament, which begins Friday. Banks will face Towns County at 7:30 p.m. on field one at the Lumpkin County Recreation Department.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Mobile homes older than 5 years may have to stay put
Mobile homes older than five years old may just have to stay where they’re parked, the board of commissioners discussed on Friday.

BOC borrows $3 million for courthouse
In a unanimous vote, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed to borrow $3 million to start work on the Darnell Road courthouse site.

Hoschton citizens tell council to resign
Residents of Hoschton are telling their council members to resign from their posts—or they’ll be removed.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Colbert July 4th parade set for Thurs.
The city of Colbert will hold its annual “Old-Fashioned Independence Day Celebration” this Thursday, July 4.

Danielsville may back off duplex restriction
Danielsville leaders will consider easing off a new restriction that requires four acres for a duplex in the city.

Two seriously burned in Ila accident Friday
Two people were seriously burned Friday afternoon when a 55-gallon drum they were welding on blew up at Thomason Tire in Ila.

Ila to move forward with city hall renovations
Ila council members agreed Monday night to serve as their own general contractors for city hall renovations and to move forward on getting the work done.

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LIGHTNING’S ENTRY

After Banks County’s E-911 communications tower picks up lightning energy, cables like the ones above carry the energy into the building where it destroys equipment and knocks phones out of dispatchers’ hands.

Lightning causing safety concerns at
E-911 center
Dispatcher supervisor Paige Crocker knows the effects of lightning at the E-911 center.
She has seen phones fly out of dispatchers’ hands, headsets come off their heads, computers smoke and lightning travel through the floor.
When it is lightning, Crocker said she and other dispatchers have to take special precautions.
“You have to hold the phone up and talk and keep it away from your head,” she said. “But you have to keep talking. I heard it hit outside one day and saw the phone fly out of a girl’s hand across the room.”
Like most other E-911 centers, Banks County’s dispatch area sits on a raised platform. All the electrical and communication wires run under the floor and to the equipment.
At times, Crocker said she has seen lightning travel through the wires under the floor and hit machines and telephones.
Because of the safety concerns, E-911 director Deidra Moore said the center has policies for when the dispatchers see lightning in the floor. She said they are supposed to pick up their feet and push away from their consoles, trying not to touch anything.
In the past, the county has spent thousands of dollars replacing equipment destroyed by lightning.
The problem, according to Gunby Communications, is improper grounding of equipment, cables and the center’s 270-foot tall tower.
John Smith told the board of commissioners at a meeting Friday that the tower, equipment and cables needed more grounds to fix the problem, a solution he roughly estimated to cost between $7,000 and $10,000.
“You are talking about rewiring the whole center,” Smith said. “There is no excuse period for you to be suffering the lightning problems you’re suffering.”
The BOC agreed to entertain a bid from Gunby Communications to properly ground the center, noting concerns with the safety of employees there.
Smith said he was so confident that he could fix the problems that Gunby Communications would cover lightning damage if the county turned over its maintenance contract to the company. The county currently contracts with Motorola for its maintenance.
In a phone interview Sunday, Smith explained that the agreement would cover lightning damage costs up to 75 percent of the contract.
For example, if the maintenance contract was worth $20,000, Gunby Communications would cover lightning damage up to $15,000. He added that no other company even covered lightning damage.
He also said the problems in Banks County were not caused by direct hits, but by lightning strikes in the area.
“They are getting damage from nearby strikes and we can prevent that,” Smith said. “There is nothing you can do to get 100 percent protection for direct hits.”
And the center has been damaged greatly from nearby strikes in the past.
A strike last year resulted in an insurance claim close to $30,000 and hours of downtime for the center.
Moore said that when equipment at the center goes down, she has to scatter her dispatchers around between the center and the fire and EMS building.
Dispatchers have to use cellphones to answer 911 calls and sometimes use portable radios to communicate.
And it’s the safety concerns and problems with damaged equipment that have dispatchers hoping someone will do something soon.
“Definitely,” Crocker said. “With all the computer equipment here, I think it should be more grounded.”


BOC tables Baldwin fire contract
Banks County and Baldwin still have not reached an agreement for fire coverage in the northern part of the county.
At a called meeting Friday, the board of commissioners tabled a $27,000 contract from the city for the protection of nearly 500 homes.
At a meeting two weeks ago, BOC chairman Kenneth Brady, commissioner Pat Westmoreland and some Baldwin officials tentatively agreed to the contract at a price of $26,925.
“My problem with Mr. Reed (Baldwin mayor) is that we agreed on $26,925 and they go and raise it up, even if it is just to $27,000,” Westmoreland said.
The BOC decided to ask Baldwin again to cover homes outside of a five mile radius from the county’s Hollingsworth fire station until a new station is built closer to Baldwin. Mayor Mark Reed rejected any such agreement two weeks ago. Brady said he would probably reject it again.
“Right now, we don’t have a station closer to Baldwin and since they’ll cover all or nothing, we’ve got to keep those people in that area protected,” Brady said. “I don’t see how we can turn this (the contract) down.”
Rogers explained that residents in the area would not be losing fire and EMS protection if the county took over the service.
He said the ISO rating would drop marginally, causing some residents’ house insurance to go up.
Fire chief Perry Dalton said Baldwin had an ISO rating of five, while the county’s was six. He said the area’s ISO rating would only drop one point, resulting in an insurance increase of $15 to $20 a year.
Perry also said he would talk with Cornelia’s city manager about providing coverage to the Windy Knoll area of Banks County until the county builds a new fire station.
“We can cover everything else fine,” Perry said.
Until the city and county formally reach or reject a contract, Reed said two weeks ago the city would continue to provide coverage in the area.


Banks County issues water use ban
Banks County officials have mandated an outdoor water use ban between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. each day until further notice.
Residents on the county water system are to follow the odd/even system for water use outdoors during permitted times.
Residents with even number addresses can water on days of the month that are even. Residents with odd number addresses can water on odd days.
Keith Covington, county marshall, urges residents to follow the schedule and not use water during the hours stated.
Customers found in violation of the ban will receive a written citation from the Banks County Sheriff’s Department.



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BOC approves new budget
Banks County’s new budget has been approved and a millage rate hike doesn’t seem likely.
The board of commissioners adopted a $7.8 million budget Friday, up six percent from last year. With growth in the county, BOC chairman Kenneth Brady said he doesn’t expect a hike in the millage rate.
He explained that the county had added 115 homes, 61 home additions, 17 businesses and 130 mobile homes for an approximate increase in the tax base of $18 million.
The BOC won’t be able to set the millage rate for the new budget year until the tax assessor’s office completes the tax digest.
“Hopefully, we’ll offset the increase in the budget to keep it (the millage rate) at or where it has been for the past two years,” Brady said.
In other business the board:
•approved spending $25,000 for a Banks Crossing advertising campaign. Jackson County will put $12,500 and Tanger will add $75,000.
•agreed 2-1 to allow recreation department director Trey Donaldson to purchase a $7,411 Scag mower from Swineharts. Commissioner Ernest Rogers opposed the motion, saying he wanted to purchase an $8,637 Kabota mower because Kabota had been cutting the grass at the recreation department for free while testing new mowers for the past several years. Brady and Pat Westmoreland wanted to buy from Swineharts because it is a Banks County business.
•appointed Ernest Rogers to the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Council.
•approved a $5,670 contract with the state department of transportation for a county-wide transportation study. Jackson County and Franklin County will also be participating in the contract for a regional transportation plan.


Homer fireworks planned Thursday
The Homer Fire Department will sponsor the annual July 4 fireworks on Thursday.
The fireworks will be shot from Hwy. 51 around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday.