News from Banks County...

SEPTEMBER 18, 2002

Banks County


Banks County

Banks County

among all
Georgia weekly newspapers
by the Georgia Press Association

June 29, 2001

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Jana Adams
What are the dance steps?
One evening in the spring, I saw a young woman, or perhaps a girl, dancing out in her front yard in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Phillip Sartain
The ugly Georgian
There are many difficulties associated with traveling to another country. A lot of them are serious—like being mistaken for a spy or accidentally starting a war.


Directions to Area Schools

Lady Leopards earn first home fast-pitch win
There must be something about Wolves.
In their second game against a team with a wolf as a mascot, the Lady Leopards got a win, this time a 1-0 victory over Wesleyan. But with two area wins behind them, Banks (2-11, 1-4) has only six regular season games to go, all area match-ups.

Neighboorhood News ..
Beshara to call for county alcohol vote
Jackson County Commissioner Emil Beshara said Monday night he will introduce a motion Oct. 21 to call a pair of alcohol referendums.

Braselton shopping center gets OK
The Braselton Planning Commission has recommended approval of a 245,000-square-foot shopping center along Highway 211.

County BOE raises millage rate
Come December, property owners in Jackson County will pay an additional 2.22 mills to the county school system to maintain programs and keep up with growth.

Investigators looking into suspicious car fire
Investigators are labeling an early morning car fire last week in the Mt. Olive Townhomes off Mt. Olive Road in Commerce as suspicious.

Water tank could become giant billboard
If all the details can be worked out, Jackson County will have its first 500,000-gallon billboard.

Neighboorhood News ..
Schools looking ahead at future sales tax projects
Voters will hit the polls in March to determine whether to renew a one-cent sales tax for county school improvement projects. But first, the county school board must decide what projects to put on the referendum.

Hanna’ provides some ‘short-term’ relief
Last weekend’s rain from tropical storm Hanna may have provided some short-term relief for the long-term drought affecting Madison County and surrounding areas, but it by no means provided a solution to our water problems, according to county extension agent Carl Varnadoe.

IDA’s water expansion plans in Hull still behind schedule
The bit.
It bit ‘em again.
No the drill bit is not lodged again in the old well on Hwy. 72, but the county industrial authority (IDA) learned Monday just how far that troublesome drilling tool — which was stuck most of the summer — set back their water expansion efforts.
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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Students at Banks County Upper Elementary and Middle schools showed pride through colors and flags at a special ceremony honoring those who lost their lives in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Honoring Heroes
From one end of the county to the other, from morning until night, “Patriots Day” ceremonies were held in remembrance of the tragedy of September 11, 2001.
At Banks Crossing, Tanger Outlet Mall and Wal-Mart early morning tributes were held for those who perished in the terrorist attack as officials from the Banks County Fire and Sheriff’s Departments lowered flags to half-mast.
The same was happening at Synthetic Industries in northwestern Banks County. There, a group gathered to reflect on the events that senselessly took lives and threw the nation into grief.
All the county schools participated with ceremonies at Banks County High School, Primary, Elementary, Upper Elementary, and Middle Schools.
At BCUES and BCMS, students showed their pride by making banners red, white, and blue in all the classes and carried them as they walked in silence around the schools led by a Banks County deputy’s car, a fire engine and ambulance.
The walk ended in the stadium and there, the banners were gently laid on the ground.
Some of the students carried red, white and blue chains. Each link of the paper chain had a name - a passenger on one of the jets; a pilot, a stewardess; a secretary; an office manager; a janitor, a dishwasher; a firefighter; a police officer — a name to someone that was Mom; Dad, Brother; Sister; Son; Daughter; or Friend.
Students gathered in the stands and listened to their classmates relate their thoughts on the attacks and how they felt American pride and unity had risen from the ashes of the Twin Towers.
They listened as Judy Wendt, former first grade teacher at Banks County Primary School, told about her experience in Washington, D.C. as the plane crashed into the Pentagon.
In Baldwin, the tribute was simple, but somber. There, firefighters from Lee Arrendale Correctional Institution and the Baldwin Fire Department gathered for the ceremony requested by the National Firefighters Association. Baldwin firefighters rolled out the engine and rescue trucks at the same time emergency crews rolled out of their station in New York one year ago. They sounded the sirens and lowered the flag to half-mast.
City clerk Betty Harper and police officer Lamar Clark read off the list of 360 names of the firefighters and police officers who died trying to save lives.
Deputy fire chief Gary Pollard read the Firefighter’s Prayer.
At the conclusion, the sirens were again sounded and the flag raised.
Fire Chief Joe Roy said: “I don’t know how they coped with losing so many men. When we lost one — Cale Thomason — it was hard enough. Losing 343 men...I just can’t imagine.”
The same heart-felt empathy was expressed by Banks County fire chief Perry Dalton, at the Woodmen of the World flag dedication ceremony. The station at Banks Crossing was decorated with red and blue bows — a red one for each firefighter and a blue one for each of the police and port authority officers who died in the line of duty.
Dalton spoke of the death of volunteer firefighter Loy Williams killed in 1999 at the New Salem Church fire set by convicted arsonist Jay Scott Ballinger.
“It was hard enough telling one family,” he said. “When I saw his mom, Gertrude’s face...I can’t imagine looking into 343 faces. I don’t know how they dealt with that. It was a sad day. We have to learn to cope with it somehow. This is something you never get over. I’ll never get over it.
“And it’s not just the rescue and emergency people...all those families. Children left without a Mom or a Dad. How do you tell 2,500 families their loved ones aren’t coming home,” he asked solemnly.
Philip Holcomb, WOW area manager said: “We’re here to honor the men and women who died that day. But we’re also here to celebrate what these men and women in uniform do every day. When we get up in the morning, we know what our day is going to be like. These people don’t. They may have to race into a burning building, cut someone out of a car, or pound on a chest to keep someone alive. They deserve our respect and our support.”
Tinita Hill, president of WOW Lodge 264, said 700 such ceremonies were being held simultaneously across the county. Each one had selected an individual killed that day to honor. In Banks County, the tribute was paid to 32-year-old John Gnazzo, a vice president at one of the companies who had offices in the World Trade Center. He left behind a wife and two children.
She spoke of the heroics of the passengers who decided to take control of their destinies and overpower the hijackers no matter the cost.
“There was no shortage of heroes on that day,” she said. “Nor was there a shortage of heroes in the days that followed. The families who had lost loved ones had to put their lives back together. They are heroes. The men and women in our armed forces are heroes. The men and women who stand ready in our communities to keep us safe are heroes.”
She presented a new flag to Banks County Sheriff Charles Chapman who walked to the flagpole where members of the Homer American Legion Flag Corps waited. The new flag was raised and the Banks County Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts led the gathering in the “Pledge of Allegiance.” The flag was then lowered to half-mast and “Taps” was played.
Rep. Jeanette Jamieson said: “I wish we could be here commemorating anything but this.”
She said she was in session when word came of the attacks and her first instinct was to gather her family to her to protect them.
“We need to tell our kids ands family how much we love them each and everyday,” she said.
District 2 Battalion Chief Andy Kitchens spoke about the fire department’s dedication to one New York firefighter killed by raising over $23,000 in a marathon weekend to give to his widow and children.
“It was thanks to the generous hearts of people from Banks County and the surrounding counties and states that we were able to raise that much money,” he said.
Kitchens talked about his experiences in new York when he, Dalton and firefighter Chuck Bray traveled to New York courtesy of the Hyde Park Fire Department to deliver the check to Cathy Tegmeir personally.
“Everywhere we went, we relayed the feelings of Banks County, Georgia,” he said. “The visit to ground zero was indescribable. We watched as crews sifted through debris looking for anything that might help identify someone — a ring, a watch, anything. It was and unimaginable sight.
“There were a number of memorials that had been set up with letters and mementos from across the country. One in particular, I will never forget. It was from a 12-year-old girl. She offered her heartfelt sorrow for all the people who had been killed. It was touching and compassionate. At the end, she said her Dad had been the pilot of the first jet that hit the towers. She had lost her Dad. I was amazed that a 12-year-old could have so much compassion to write that letter about the tragedy that had touched so many lives.”
Chaplain of the Banks County Fire Department, Perry Smith, gave the benediction and donated refreshments were served.
Later in the evening, many area churches held special services commemorating “Patriots Day.”
At Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, a 9-11 Remembrance Service was held. After the church’s youth group came in one-by-one carrying a small American Flag and joined the congregation in singing “God Bless America, guest speaker Hall County firefighter Andy Buffington told of his young sons’ reactions to the events of September 11.
“When I came home, my youngest, Alex, had hoses and rakes gathered up,” he said. “He told me, ‘Let’s go, Daddy. Let’s go help.’ Then when Jackson came home from school, he said ‘Let’s go get whoever did this,’ and went to his room and got his play gun.”
Buffington told how generous the public was in days after as money poured into the stations in Hall County through boot drives and other fund-raisers. He told how many of the poorest seemed to be one’s who gave the most.
He traveled to New York a month after the attack with others from Hall County.
“The people were scared,” he said. “There were National Guardsmen with armed machine guns on corners. Police were everywhere.”
He was not prepared, he said, for what he saw at Ground Zero.
“Everything was dirty, dusty,” he said. “They were sorting through the debris. Tractor trailers were hauling loads out. Thousands of loads had gone out and there was still so much there. The smell, the smell is something I’ll never forget. I saw all I wanted to see.
“We must live our lives, so the terrorists never win. The price for our liberty has been paid. Live your life. Dream your dreams. But always remember,” he said.
The Rev. James Duncan said it was the responsibility of each of those who are free to never forget what had happened on September 11, 2001.
“The sadness this day has brought to my heart and soul,” he said. “That day changed our lives whether we wanted it to or not. It touched all of us and shocked all of us. It broke our hearts. We shouldn’t fail to realize we have enemies in this world. We must never forget what happened.”

Lula to get 106-home subdivision
Lula is about to grow by more than 100 homes.
After hearing the concerns of bordering property owners, the Lula City Council approved the annexation and re-zoning of a 110-acre planned subdivision along Belton Bridge Road and Talon Drive and a 58-acre commercial development site off Highway 365.
During a public hearing at Monday’s meeting, project manager John Purcell said the residential area will have 106 low-to moderately-priced homes with eight acres for green space and a playground. Covenants for the homes will include a minimum size of 1,200 square feet with a two-car garage. All utilities will be underground, he said.
The development will have curb-and-gutter and will maintain clean and cared-for yards. All homeowners will be required in their deeds to participate in a homeowners association and adhere to the covenants.
“We have worked hard with the county and the city on this development,” Purcell said. “The department of transportation has agreed to allow us four access points off Hwy. 365 with one break in the median. That will help take pressure off Belton Bridge Road.”
Purcell explained the land will be terraced and erosion controls will be in place as required by state law.
The homes will have septic systems, which caused some of the main concerns of area residents, both within and outside city limits.
James Grier suggested the septic systems could cause problems to the creeks on the property and to Lake Lanier. He also asked why the buffer zones and creeks were not clearly marked on the project plat. Grier, a realty appraiser, was speaking on behalf of his mother, who owns adjacent property.
Purcell replied that there are “many lots on Lake Lanier that have septic systems” and he saw no problems.
Purcell added the commercial development would include a 40-foot buffer zone to protect the privacy around the perimeter.
Tommy Duncan, property owner, said he wasn’t sure that would be enough and asked if the developers would consider constructing a privacy wall as well.
Purcell said it was possible. He said the commercial area may include a grocery store and a bank as well as other light industrial businesses.
Crystal Smith, Talent Road resident, suggested that without a letter of intent from a grocery store, the council could not be sure one would be built there.
“Where’s the proof,” she asked. “This is just an excuse to get the subdivision in. You’re just sliding the residential development in under the pretext of commercial development.”
Purcell said he had already been approached by interested businesses but was not at liberty to say which ones. He said the demographics prove the area needs a grocery store and that one is planned for the commercial development.
“We’re obligated to make this work,” Purcell said. “Believe me, commercial property is taxed at a higher rate. We’re not just going to sit on this property. You’ll see, it will all come together.”
Greg Smith accused the council of using the project to get to Hwy. 365. He was also concerned about the increase in the student population at Lula Elementary School that would come with the development.
Doug Calvert, Hall County Board of Education for the Lula district was at the meeting and gave some statistics of the area’s schools.
“Currently, Lula Elementary has 449 children,” he said. “It has a capacity of 500 children. The five-year projection for the Lula area estimates the LES student population will rise to 510 by 2005. Lula would need to add additional classrooms if the trend continues.
“The SPLOST (special local options sales tax) includes the construction of two new schools. One of them could be placed between Lula and White Sulphur Rd.”
Most of the residents’ concerns were about the subdivision more than the commercial development. Some wanted to know why larger homes couldn’t be built to place less of a strain on the city’s infrastructure.
Purcell replied, “Many people in this area can’t afford larger homes. It all depends on the local wage. We weighed all the issues and came up with a marketable project. We want to make the homes affordable for your children so they can stay in Lula and find work here. The commercial development could bring as many as 100 jobs to the area.”
The council will require the developers to submit the subdivision covenants.
The subdivision was rezoned from agricultural to R-1, single family residential. The commercial development was rezoned from agricultural to highway business.

Chamber plans ‘Business After Hours’
The Banks County Chamber of Commerce will hold its next “Business After Hours” on Thursday, Oct. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m.
The event will be held at Harbor House Inn, Commerce. The Harbor House Inn is also sponsoring the event.
Participants are asked to make their reservations for the event by Tuesday, October 1.
For more information on “Business After Hours”, call the Chamber of Commerce office at 677-2108.

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Alto looks for help with water
Alto Mayor Carolyn Gulley said the city could apply for a $50,000 “Immediate Threat, Endangerment Grant” that would help the city finance bringing the new well on Gilstrap Road on line.
At Friday’s regular council meeting, Gulley said the matching grant (the city would have to come up with $50,000) would come from the Georgia State Department of Consumer Affairs, according to a letter from Chris McGaughey of Precision Drilling. Precision would handle the grant application once the council gave the go-ahead.
Alto residents have been under a permanent outdoor water use ban since May when the city began experiencing empty tank syndrome. Water storage facilities were being drained from excessive use.
Since the town had been notified that Banks County and the City of Demorest cannot sell water to cover city needs, the situation has become serious, said Gulley. Serious enough, she believes to warrant the grant.
The new well was reported to be producing 147 gallons per minute at a depth of 600 feet, she said.
Resident Grover Cleveland questioned why Precision went down to that depth. He said normally one wouldn’t drill that deep.
Though Cleveland’s question was not answered, council member Donald Wade said water had been hit at 300 feet that produced 170 gallons per minute. He added the drilling process went through four fractures.
Water samples from the new well, which lies on land leased for three years from the state department of corrections, have been sent to the Environmental Protection Division for analysis, said Gulley.
“Once the test results are complete, we may have the well on line in six months or maybe less. Maybe two,” she said.
The council approved the grant application.
On another water-related matter, the council discussed what they were going to do with the one-acre parcel off Yonah-Homer Rd. that was purchased as a possible well site. Drilling had been done last month and the well was non-productive.
Gulley said the city had received two offers for the land, though no advertising for bids had been done.
Gulley added the town would not be able to grant the right-of-way the city negotiated on the deal if the land was sold.
Council member Gary Terrill said the town should be able to transfer right-of-way with the sale.
John Christmas, a resident at the meeting, said he thought it was illegal to sell land-locked property.
With no attorney present to offer a legal opinion on the subject, the council voted to table doing anything about the land.
They suggested they may keep the land and pursue other well sites on the property.
In other business:
•discussed the reduction in hours of a temporary employee for the winter season. All council members said they were pleased with the employee’s work and did not want to lose him. Council members Gary Terrill and Audry Turner voted in opposition to reducing his hours and wanted to keep him on call. Council members Donald and Susan Wade voted in favor of reducing his hours. Gulley broke the tie, voting for the reduction. Donald Wade said the three other city employees needed to learn to take on responsibility and not rely so much on the temporary employee. Gulley said once the temp gets his water operator license, the city could bring him on full time.
•approved billing utility companies when water lines are cut.
•tabled a request to annex property owned by Charles Ferguson into the city. Gulley said the necessary documentation had not been completed.
•approved changing the winter hours of the three city employees. Their new hours, starting September 30, will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with one unpaid hour for lunch, Monday through Friday.
•Gulley reported residents had been responding positively to the letters sent out requesting yards be cleaned up.
•Richard Price, resident, asked if the council would consider installing a fire hydrant to protect his home and business on Apple Pie Ridge Rd. Donald Wade said around one-quarter-of-a-mile of line would have to be changed out at a cost of around $50,000 with the hydrant.
Gulley said the city would be applying for another $500,000 grant next year that could help the city improve its water lines and storage capabilities and add fire hydrants.
•Gulley said the zoning map had been completed during a work session in August and would be presented to the council at the October meeting.

Rafe Banks Park to get walking trail
Rafe Banks Park in Lula will soon get a walking trail. Monday, the city council voted to spend $5,000 on the trail.
Hall County is chipping in $12,000, the Lula Area Betterment Association has donated $1,000 and the East Hall Coalition has donated $500.
In other business:
•the council tabled the public hearing on the Roper property until October.
•Mere Barbee said people needed to be more frugal in their use of water and read part of writer Bob Justus’ column about the severity of the drought.
•Bobby Moore requested the council close 6th Street due to hunters going to her property to hunt deer illegally. The council determined the city had paved the road and connected it with Hampton Street. The matter was tabled until attorney Brad Patten can review it.
•approved the purchase of a $13,500 boring and trenching machine from Morgan Saxon Construction.
•tabled voting on the purchase of new stop signs to replace old, faded ones. The council will decide which intersections need the new high-visibility signs.
•tabled a decision on accepting bids for the installation of pipe to handle rain run-off along Chattahoochee Street.
•approved the second reading of the re-districting ordinance with the change of Rep. Amos Anderson in place of former Rep. Clint Smith. The ordinance establishes five residency wards according to the 2000 Census.
•discussed placing the city’s records on microfilm.
•discussed giving developer Barry Wikle a time limit on repairing the road in his subdivision. Residents say the road has been in a state of disrepair.

County board of registrars to meet
The Banks County Board of Registrars will be holding official board meetings on a monthly schedule, starting in October.
The meetings will be held the fourth Monday of each month, beginning at 9 a.m. in the registrar’s office in the Banks County Courthouse.
The meetings are open to the public.