News from Banks County...

AUGUST 28, 2002

Banks County


Banks County

Banks County

among all
Georgia weekly newspapers
by the Georgia Press Association

June 29, 2001

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Shar Porier
The apartment
As I put the key in the door, I dreaded what awaited me inside.
With a sigh, I pushed the door open and before me lay the remains of a life that had gone on for 83 years.

Phillip Sartain
Signs: The sequel
For the last several weeks, I’ve been hearing a lot about a movie starring Mel Gibson and a cornfield. It has something to do with weird signs supposedly left by aliens.


Directions to Area Schools

Leopards to face Patriots Fri.
The beginning of the football season has arrived and the Leopards are about as ready as they’re going to be.
“Everybody is fired up and ready to get started,” head coach Greg Moore said. “We’re just ready to play.”

Neighboorhood News ..
Two students hit in two days near schools
A 9-year-old girl was in “fair” condition Wednesday following a Monday pedestrian traffic accident in front of Jefferson Elementary School.

Drought forcing water capsComplete outdoor ban may be on horizon
The Bear Creek Reservoir has barely come on line and already officials are having to impose water restrictions because of the ongoing drought.

Commerce DDA Has Contract To Buy Old Oxford Building
The Commerce Downtown Development Authority has signed a contract to purchase more than two acres off State Street for a parking lot.

Neighboorhood News ..
Bit finally removed from well
The drill bit that remained stuck in a Hwy. 72 well most of the summer was finally removed Thursday evening.

County commissioners deny subdivision plans
Plans for a six-lot subdivision off James Holcomb Road were shot down by commissioners Monday.

Settlement reached in zoning lawsuit
A settlement has been reached in a zoning lawsuit concerning a proposed subdivision across from Trus Joist on Hwy. 72.
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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Captain Smiley Cragg nails donated floor trusses that will support the next story of a four-story fire training tower for the Baldwin Fire Department. The tower will also have two-underground tunnel entries for confined space rescue training. Rep. Jeanette Jamieson secured some funding for the tower and area businesses have donated many of the materials, Fire Chief Joe Roy said. Baldwin firefighters are providing the labor on days off and weekends.

County keeps free health insurance
County employees breathed a huge sigh of relief Friday morning, thanks to water department head Gary Harper.
At Harper’s suggestion, the Banks County Board of Commissioners voted to use water revenue funds to offset a hefty health insurance rate increase and continue offering insurance to employees free of charge.
“Insurance is one of the great things the county does for employees,” commissioner Ernest Rogers said. “Insurance benefits are the reason a lot of them are here.”
Friday, the BOC learned that its insurance provider, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, raised rates by 14 percent.
Since the county provides free health insurance for all its nearly 150 full-time employees, it would have to absorb the cost increase, an estimated $30,000 over budgeted personnel costs.
Under the new rate increase, the POS (point of service) coverage would cost $264 per month while the PPO (preferred provider organization) option went up to $303. Most employees are under the PPO plan.
Initially, the BOC considered a measure to offer only the POS option to employees free of charge and allow any employee that wanted the PPO coverage to pay the difference in the two plans, roughly $40 per month.
BOC chairman Kenneth Brady and commissioner Pat Westmoreland voted in approval of the initial measure. Rogers abstained from voting.
Moments later, Harper suggested the county use water revenue funds, nearly $700,000, to offset the rate increase and continue to offer free health insurance.
“I’m just trying to keep from losing employees,” Harper said.
The commissioners agreed that the water revenue was needed for future expansion but that providing insurance to employees was also important.
“I feel we should go ahead and take on the burden ourselves,” Rogers said. “We have the water revenue. I don’t want to take it out but we can. We owe it to our employees.”
The BOC then voted unanimously to rescind the first vote. Rogers then made a motion to continue offering free insurance, taking money out of the water revenue fund to supplement the personnel budget.
The motion was unanimously approved.

Drought dangers
This year’s drought is building an exceptional fire load, said Perry Dalton, Banks County Fire Chief.
“This is a bad problem,” he said. “Three-and-a-half years of drought have left everything so dry. And it’s not just the ground cover, the grass and leaves. I’m seeing more and more higher vegetation drying up. When the tops of tress show signs of drying and dying, that can mean trouble.”
Dalton is becoming more concerned as the normally dry months of September and October approach.
“Those are the months the wind tends to pick up as well,” he said. “A grass fire could reach serious proportions. A trash can fire could spread over an acre in a matter of minutes with the right wind.”
He said the grass fires the department has been called to are even burning two-to-three feet down into stumps in the ground, something very unusual and very worrisome.
“A stump can sit there and smolder, and rekindle a fire,” he said. “It’s a dangerous situation.”
Grass fires have accounted for the majority of their fire calls this summer, he said.
At a grass fire on Thompson Road last Friday, neighbor Chuck Jones said he just happened to see the flames and called the fire department.
“The (equipment) was just sitting there in the middle of that fire,” he said. It could have been badly damaged. But the fire department arrived so quickly and got the fire out, it was hardly even singed. I’m real proud of our fire department.”
Dalton said a wildfire of large proportions probably would not be a problem in Banks County due to the lay of the land. But the county does have large tracts of forested land that could be at risk from carelessness.
Though the state is currently under a burn ban due to air quality during the summer months, Dalton said it would be lifted soon.
“The EPD (environmental protection division) enacts the ban,” he said. “The governor’s office could do something to keep it going, but I don’t see that happening.”
He offered advice for homeowners who plan to burn once the ban is lifted.
“Clear back all the dead leaves and debris around the home,” he said. “Before you burn, make sure the area around the fire is completely cleared of any combustible materials. And stay with the fire. Don’t go off and leave it.”
With hunting season only a few weeks away, he also suggested hunters be very careful and extinguish cigarettes and campfires.

Alto City Council finishes town’s first zoning map
The Alto City Council has put the finishing touches on months of work on the city’s new zoning map.
The work began back in December when the council voted to draft a zoning ordinance and zoning map.
Larry Sparks, of the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center, helped draft the ordinance with the council’s guidance and provided the map to determine which areas would be zoned R-1 (single-family stick built homes), R-2 (mobile homes), Ag (agricultural), commercial or industrial.
Most of the commercial zoning is along Old Cornelia Highway where there are already several businesses.
An agricultural district was designated between Wheeler Circle and Old Cornelia Highway.
Almost the entire city on the Banks County side will be R-2 since the majority of mobile homes are there.
Home occupation businesses, as long as criteria are met, will still be allowed in the R-1 district.
“The things that cause the most concern with home occupation businesses is traffic and parking,” said Sparks. “A small home office or a small beauty shop will not present any problems.”
Commercial businesses going up in residential areas have been a problem with no zoning ordinance, officials say. These non-conforming uses are addressed in the new ordinance, said Sparks, and there will be stipulations.
The ordinance will specify setbacks, lot sizes and grandfathered properties.
Still remaining to be given a zoning designation is the newly-annexed Henson family 156-acre plot along Wynn Shoals Road. The council has unsureties of the zoning designation, though they would like to see the area zoned agricultural.
Turner said she will find out about the Hinsons’ plan for the property. At the time of the annexation, the Hensons did not indicate the area would be developed soon. She said she will let Sparks know of the family’s plans so he can include it on the map.
Even though the council has set the zoning areas, approval of the zoning map and the zoning ordinance still must be done before it becomes final. Sparks said he will bring the new color-coded map and the draft of the ordinance to the next council meeting, Tuesday, September 10, to review it with the council and get additional input or corrections.
Next will come a public hearing to allow citizens to view the map and ordinance. Then the measure can be officially adopted.

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Synthetic Industries plans special September 11 observation
Synthetic Industries has planned a special observation on Sept. 11 in recognition of the tragic events of last year.
A flag will be lowered to half mast at 8:30 a.m. at the industry, located on the Yonah-Homer Road in Alto.
There will also be a moment of silence and fire and EMS personnel will be on hand.

News announces early deadlines
The Banks County News will have early deadlines for next week’s issue due to the Labor Day holiday.
The deadline for classified and display advertisements will be noon Friday. The news deadline will be 5 p.m. Friday.
The News office in Homer will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
The office will be closed Monday in observance of the Labor Day holiday.
The paper will be delivered on schedule next week.

Asphalt plant catches fire
The Tugalo Construction Company asphalt plant at the rock quarry on Highway 51 South, across from Banks County Primary School, received minimal damage during a fire Saturday night.
Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mack Garrison said the call came in around 8 p.m. and fire crews were immediately dispatched.
Banks County Fire Department firefighters and equipment were also asked to respond for back-up.
Banks County firefighter Chuck Bray, who was traveling on Highway 51 when he heard the call, said he saw thick black smoke billowing above the trees.
“It was rolling when I got there,” he said. “Smoke was probably rising 100 feet in the air.. We [Banks County] brought in two engines and the ladder truck.”
The fire was knocked down quickly, said Garrison, and caused minimal damage to the plant.
Garrison said the fire may have started in an electrical panel and appeared to have spread to some fuel oil.
Tugalo company officials were unable to be reached to confirm the extent of the damage.