News from Jackson County...

AUGUST 21, 2002


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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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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page

Shar Porier
Mission accomplished
The tiny face was barely visible over the Lennox Lewis-sized neck brace. Purple, blue and pink bruises surrounded both of her eyes. She looked as if she had been brutally beaten.

Angela Gary
‘Crash position’
A description of the “crash position.” Details on the “rendezvous point” where we were all to meet outside the helicopter if it crashed.

Frank Gillespiie
Still more attacks
on Southern culture
When Southern partisans like myself tell you that there is a national drive to eliminate every vestige of Southern culture, many of you take it as just another group finding something to complain about.

Margie Richards
Some info about the new animal shelter
Madison and Oglethorpe counties will soon have an animal shelter.
Any of you who drive down the Colbert-Danielsville Road may have noticed a large, attractive building going up on land adjacent to the county’s solid waste transfer station (still known by many as the landfill).


SPORTS

Tigers To Tangle With Rabun In Second Preseason Scrimmage
The Commerce Tiger football team will have their second and final preseason test-run when they meet 8-AA Rabun County Thursday.
The scrimmage is set for 6 p.m at Rabun County High School.

Lady Panthers set their sights on new region
Entering last year’s fast-pitch softball season, not many knew what to expect from a Jackson County squad that was heading into uncharted waters in their inaugural campaign.
After reaching the state tournament and finishing in the top eight in Class AAA though, the expectations for the 2002 season will most certainly be higher than last, especially considering the Lady Panthers return eight starters.

Lady Dragons host Jones in opener
After finishing as the second-best team in the state last year, the Jefferson softball team will look to make it back to the state finals again this season, only this time they hope to come out on the winning side of things.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Haggard re-elected to BOE seat
Robert M. Haggard has retained his District 1 seat on the Madison County Board of Education by defeating challenger Greg Bleakley 329 votes to 150.

BOE considers admissions revision
The local school board is considering revising its out-of-county admission policy to allow the siblings of currently enrolled out-of-county students to attend county schools.

Planners say ‘no’ to James Holcomb Road subdivision
The county planning commission nixed plans for a proposed six-lot subdivision on James Holcomb Road at Tuesday night’s public hearings of the planning and zoning commission.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
County’s Baldwin city residents to get tax refund
Banks County residents of Baldwin will soon be receiving a letter from the city concerning the refund due them of property taxes paid from 1999 through 2002.

Rogers, Ramsey get by
Ernest Rogers and Ben Ramsey have both made it past the first round in their bid for county government seats.
Rogers, the incumbent, narrowly defeated his commissioner post 2 Democratic opponent Sarah Yarber Cross 514-448.
Rogers took 53 percent of the vote.

Drought dips into Alto’s water source
In Alto’s desperate search to find additional water, the news of a low production well at one of the chosen sites was not welcome information.

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Drought dips into Alto’s water source
In Alto’s desperate search to find additional water, the news of a low production well at one of the chosen sites was not welcome information.

AFTERNOON ENTERTAINMENT

Richard Griswold can often be found playing his banjo on the front porch of his home on Hwy. 82 Spur. He’s in his 80s and says he has been playing the banjo for as long as he can remember.

Beshara fends off challenger, 736-596
Incumbent Emil Beshara took 55 percent of the vote Tuesday to get re-elected to a second term as the District 3 representative on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
Beshara received 736 votes, while his challenger, Jerry Presley received 596 votes. Both candidates are Republicans and there are no Democratic candidates.
“I am deeply honored that the voters of District 3 have chosen to keep me as their representative on the BOC,” he said. “I look forward to the next four years with great anticipation. ”
Beshara was the top vote-getter in the Talmo, Hoschton and Porters districts. Presley had the most votes in Miller, Randolph and Cunningham.
Twenty-eight percent of Jackson County’s active voters, some 4,771 people, turned out at the polls on Tuesday. Overall, which includes active and inactive voters, there was a 22 percent voter turnout.
In other election news, two incumbents were re-elected to another term on the Jackson County Board of Education. Post 2 BOE representative Tim Brooks received 352 votes, or 68.6 percent of the vote. His opponent, Alvin Marlow had 161 votes or 31.3 percent. Both are Republicans and there were no Democratic candidates.
“I would like to thank all the voters for their support in re-electing me,” Brooks said. “I am looking forward to the next four years in working with you in making our schools a better place for our children.”
In the Post 5 BOE seat, Jill Elliott received 423 votes, or 71.9 percent of the vote. Sammy Qualls had 165 votes, or 28 percent.
“I want to thank everyone for their vote and their confidence in me,” Elliott said. “I’m proud of our school system and very proud to be a part of it. I look forward to continuing the work that we are doing.”
One of the two state House of Representative seats serving Jackson County was also decided on Tuesday. In the District 24 race, incumbent Warren Massey won with 3,132 votes, while Joe Hutchins had 1,641. This district serves a portion of West Jackson County and part of Barrow County.
The other House seats serving Jackson County will be decided in the General Election on Nov. 5. In District 25, incumbent Pat Bell, Jefferson, a Democrat will face challenger Chris Elrod, Jefferson, a Republican.
Three Senate districts are in Jackson County, including District 46, District 47 and District 49. These races will also be decided in the Nov. 5 election.
In District 46, Doug Haines, Athens, a Democrat, is pitted against Brian Kemp, Athens, a Republican.
In District 47, Robert Banks, Canon, a Democrat, will face Ralph Hudgens, Comer, a Republican.
In District 49, Sueellen Simmons, Jefferson, a Democrat, will be on the ballot with L.S. Casey Cagle, Gainesville, a Republican.


NWA vs. JCWSA suit heard in court Mon.
For two-and-a-half hours Monday afternoon, attorneys waged a war of linguistics for the right to provide water service to a 32-square-mile area in Nicholson. With the aid of testimony from a number of witnesses, attorneys for the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority and the Nicholson Water Authority each pled their case to Judge Penn McWhorter, who said he will now review the matter and “get something out quickly.”
The NWA serves some 1,000 customers in the area in question, a territory that runs four miles north and south and two miles east and west of a point where U.S. 441 and Georgia 335 intersect (at the traffic light) in Nicholson. That area is where the JCWSA now seeks to establish a customer base, including providing service to the East Jackson Elementary School under construction and the planned East Jackson High School.
The question comes down to an interpretation of the Georgia General Assembly’s legislative acts that created the individual water authorities — the NWA in 1972 and the JCWSA in 1986. Also at issue is HB489’s service delivery strategy aimed at delineating services offered by county and city.
Is it a monopoly — an “exclusive franchise” — if the NWA only has the right to provide service to customers in the 32-square-mile area? Or is it a duplication of services — competition in the public service arena — if the JCWSA is allowed to expand its services into the property in question?
Two other questions raised during the proceedings were whether or not the NWA would have adequate flow, pressure and fire protection to serve the existing customers, as well as two new subdivisions and two new schools, and whether or not the JCWSA seeks to expand its customer base in the area simply to pay off its reservoir debt.
The issue of the Jackson County Board of Education choosing the JCWSA to service East Jackson Middle School in construction back in 1994-95, rather than the NWA as originally intended, because of water flow concerns also came forth, with superintendent Andy Byers on the stand.
THE NWA ARGUMENTS
Speaking on behalf of the NWA, Peter Olsen disputed the claim that the NWA is seeking “exclusive rights” to water service in the area and added that “public policy disfavors competition in public service.” He said that “Jackson County wants to lay lines where the NWA already has lines...to take the service territory of the NWA and provide competition.”
“Our argument is not that our rights are exclusive, but that our territory is defined, and theirs is too,” he said. “We’ve mostly heard about capability and need today, but we are reading it differently.”
Olsen said that nothing in the legislative act defining the JCWSA says “it can take water where water is needed...it doesn’t give the JCWSA the authority to run to Griffin...or to Hall County...wherever there’s a crisis.”
He also referred to the service delivery strategy act, saying it points to minimizing duplication of services.
Olsen, along with Ray Chester, manager of the NWA, and Christopher Quigley, engineer for the NWA, said “Nicholson is perfectly capable of serving the schools and subdivisions, exactly the customers the JCWSA is after.”
Chester and Quigley also spoke on some of the expansion planned by the NWA, including establishment of a water tank for storage and improved water mains along the Hwy. 441 construction. Chester also emphasized that the NWA has offered to work with the JCWSA, but was “left out” of final negotiations on the service delivery strategy for the county.
In speaking on the possibility of overlapping territories, Chester said, “I cannot even fathom two water hydrants face to face, not knowing which line is which, which customer is served by who — it would be a nightmare for a water operating system.”
Olsen also declared that the issue of schools is not what is driving the expansion of the JCWSA — that that group had to build to accommodate the EJMS project and would for the two new schools, just as the NWA plans to expand to accommodate projects.
“It’s not true that (JCWSA) could serve the middle school and we couldn’t,” Olsen added. “They had to build a tank and lines....You can’t say the schools are driving the (JCWSA) expansion. It’s all part of the whole water system expansion and the need to expand the consumer base to pay the (Bear Creek) reservoir debt. That’s the prime motivation.”
When asked by Olsen, county water manager Jerry Waddell said the county is paying $1.7 million per year for Bear Creek Reservoir and that the expanded water system is part of a plan to service that debt. However, Waddell also said the JCWSA is “on its way to 441 to complete our hydraulics system.”
In his closing argument, Olsen pointed out that the NWA “has operated all these years in the black,” and that the JCWSA “could potentially squeeze the NWA out of service...The judge should issue an injunction against this expansion. The NWA has been willing to work with the JCWSA, but it’s sucking the lifeblood out by taking customers, and that is the threat to the authority.”
THE JCWSA ARGUMENTS
Speaking on behalf of the JCWSA, attorney Julius Hulsey agreed that the two parties “differ in interpretation of the language of the acts given by the legislature.”
Hulsey pointed out, first, that the suit on the service delivery agreement is premature and the NWA has not gone through a formal notification and mediation process. He also pointed out that the agreement is between the county and the municipalities, not the NWA and JCWSA. And, secondly, he said, although the JCWSA does not believe the acts are in conflict, the “latest act is the legislature’s latest intention” and the “latest act gives the JCWSA priority.”
Hulsey questioned Chester, asking him to point to specific language that creates an “exclusive franchise” for the NWA.
Although Chester did not have “specific language” to cite, he offered his opinion that the NWA has tried to negotiate with the JCWSA, and “I’m not saying we have to totally dominate, but it’s not right for a power to come in and force themselves on you.”
Hulsey also questioned Chester about the NWA itself, determining that the NWA board members have not been appointed by the grand jury as required by local legislation, which Chester said was an error due to the board following old by-laws and that the matter would come before the grand jury in September. Hulsey also asked Chester questions about his role in the NWA, as well as his contracting services with the NWA and his family members’ employment with the NWA.
In questioning whether or not the NWA will have adequate water supply, Hulsey asked Chester about the two of the NWA’s six wells that will be closed by the expansion of Hwy. 441. Chester said the NWA is investigating sites for replacing those two wells.
Hulsey also touched on the NWA’s ability to provide adequate fireflow for existing customers, two new schools and two new subdivisions.
He elicited comments from Waddell on planned SPLOST projects for the area in question and the JCWSA’s adequate flow and water source to serve the area, and pointed out that the reservoir debt belongs to the board of commissioners, not to the JCWSA.
Hulsey also got statements from Byers and a new Hoods Mill Road subdivision property owner Larry Bramblett about their preference for working with the JCWSA, “a known source.” Both professed a concern for having adequate fireflow. Byers said new schools won’t get certificates of occupancy unless they have the proper amount of fireflow and pressure.
Hulsey also called Lisa Kesler, a resident on Old Hoods Mill Road, to speak about water problems, particularly dry wells, in the area.
“The neighborhood is very lacking in water,” Kesler said.
She explained that she had talked with Chester about getting water lines and he referred her to Commerce or Jackson County, both of which said “it’s Mr. Chester’s road.” Since then, she has learned that her road is listed as part of a SPLOST 3 county water project slated for a 180-day completion from a June starting date.
“We need water desperately, we really do,” Kesler said to the judge. “To have county water would serve us in enormous terms. We need someone who can get in there and get water. We need water, not who’s in whose property zone. It’s an essential part of life. If Jackson County can do it in 180 days with SPLOST 3, let them do it.”
In closing, Hulsey said: “(The NWA) is basically asking for the court to grant them an exclusive franchise...The language is clear, the legislature never intended to create an exclusive franchise.”


Commercial project near Chateau Elan tabled by PC
A proposal by Gilleland-Merritt to bring 245,000 square-feet of commercial space near Chateau Elan has been tabled until September.
Braselton town clerk Jennifer Scott said the Gainesville-based company wants to meet with local residents before the request is heard by the planning commission next month.
The request was set to be heard during Monday’s town planning commission meeting—when another large-scale commercial development near Chateau Elan was being discussed.
More than 40 people showed up for the standing room only meeting on Monday.
Gilleland-Merritt is seeking to rezone 39.84 acres at the intersection of Thompson Mill Road and Highway 211 in Gwinnett County.
In October 2000, the Braselton Town Council rezoned the property for Concordia Residential for a PUD. The new request seeks rezoning to C-2.
The proposed shopping center would contain 245,000 square-feet of retail space with approximately 145,000 square-feet for the center itself and 80,000 square-feet of out-parcels, the request states. The request does not state what will be located in the buildings.
A portion of the development’s property will run along the realigned Friendship Road, which borders Hall County.


Jackson Co. To Help Commerce On CMS Project
JEFFERSON -- The Jackson County Board of Commission-ers agreed to three requests Monday night for county assistance with construction projects planned in Commerce.
The first request came from the Commerce City School System for road construction assistance on public right of way on Georgia 15 for the new Commerce Middle School. The county will assist in constructing entrance drives and acceleration/deceleration lanes which will access the school property from Georgia 15.
Plans call for construction of the new school beginning in October and being completed by Jan. 1, 2004. The land where the new middle school will be constructed will also have space for constructing the future Bill Anderson Performing Arts Center, a new central office and a future primary or elementary school.
The board of commissioners also agreed to a request from the Commerce Police Department to use the Jackson County Correctional Institute mobile construction crew for several projects. The work will include constructing an interview room, building one outside wall to close in "dead space," installing drywall, building flooring and false ceilings, relocating an air conditioning unit and installing a one-way window in a doorway.
The last request approved came from the City of Commerce and is for assistance in the site preparation and grading work for a new waste water treatment plant. The new 2.1 million gallon per day waste water treatment plant is located at 578 W.E. King Road in Commerce adjacent to the existing treatment plant. Approximately 60,000 cubic yards of dirt needs to be removed from the site.


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See Galilee Preschool Flyer


Digest growth could pull $1 million more to county
Even if the Jackson County government doesn’t raise the countywide millage rate this fall, it will still take in an additional $1.1 million over last year.
Thanks to a larger tax digest from reassessments and new construction, and fewer exemptions, the county’s net tax digest will top $1.27 billion this year, according to preliminary numbers. That is an 11 percent increase over last year.
One of the key factors in this year’s digest is a drop in the amount of exemptions and tax breaks given various classes of property owners. Last year, exemptions totaled $215 million. This year, that dropped to $190 million.
The biggest factor in the drop of exemptions was the amount of property allocated for freeport industrial exemption. That amount dropped by $23 million, from $82.4 million last year to $59.3 million this year.
Also affecting the digest this year was a decline in the amount of acreage put under the conservation use program. The decline was a little over 2,000 acres and the dollar decline in exemptions was $3.6 million.
Overall, 35 percent of the county-wide tax digest came from commercial and industrial property while 14 percent came from agricultural property and 42 percent from residential property. The balance came from motor vehicles.
UNEVEN ACROSS COUNTY
While the overall digest was up 11 percent, the growth was not even across the county.
The City of Jefferson saw a 10 percent growth in its digest this year, to $219.6 million from $200.4 last year. Commerce saw a more modest five percent gain to $116.1 million from $111.1 million in 2001.
Hoschton had a large gain of 21 percent to $30.6 million from $25.3 million while nearby Braselton had only a one percent gain to $22 million from $21.9 million last year. Much of Braselton’s recent growth has been in Barrow, Hall and Gwinnett counties where the town has annexed property for growth.
COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM
The tax digest for the Jackson County School System, which excludes the towns of Jefferson and Commerce, saw a 13 percent gain this year, to $937.9 million from $833.5 million last year. Long dependent on agriculture and residential for its tax base, the system made strides this year in shifting more of its tax digest to the business sector. This year, 28 percent of the county school system’s tax digest came from the business sector compared to 25 percent last year.
At the same time, the residential portion fell one percent, from 45 percent to 44 percent while agriculture dependency fell from 20 percent down to 18 percent.


Local water restrictions now in place
Jackson Countians are being encouraged to limit their outdoor water use following a state-wide drought that has led to water shortages.
The Bear Creek Reservoir is already down four inches due to the lack of rain, according to Jerry Waddell of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority. He added that it is going down an average of one foot per week. With not much rain in the forecast, the conditions are expected to only get worse.
Under state regulations, when the reservoir reaches a certain point, voluntary restrictions kick in. At a further point, mandatory restrictions are applied.
Jackson County commissioner Tony Beatty, a member of the Bear Creek Reservoir operational committee, said the reservoir has already been classified as “stage 2.” If it reaches the “stage 3” level, which Beatty says is possible, car washes and laundromats would be closed. He said a “stage 4” level would impact water use by industries.
“This is a serious situation,” Beatty said. “The next step would be no outside watering.”
Beatty said the operational committee met Tuesday to discuss the situation. The board of commissioners and county water authority will hold a called meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss whether further restrictions should be implemented.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has already implemented a statewide odd-even restriction on outdoor use of water. Outdoor water use is banned from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Those who found to be in violation of the restrictions receive a warning on the first offense and have their water cut off on the second offense. The cost to have water turned back on is $250, Waddell said. This applies to customers of the Jackson County Water Authority, whose staff would enforce the restrictions.
“If things don’t improve, our next step would be that you can only water on weekends on an odd-even basis,” Waddell said. “The problem with that is that it puts such a load on our system because people are home on the weekend and water at the same time. We are going to have to talk about it before we implement that.”