News from Madison County...

SEPTEMBER 18, 2002


Madison County
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Madison County H.S.
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OPINIONS

Frank Gillespie
New Athens mayor
may impact Madison Co.
The recent election of Heidi Davison as the new mayor of Athens is likely to have a major impact on Madison County. Davison’s platform has created uncertainty among many of Clarke County’s businessmen and developers.

Zach Mitcham
The hair/gut ratio
Pythagoras had his theorem.
Maybe I can establish Mitcham’s theories and observations.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Raiders can’t find offensive flow in loss to Spartans
The water flowed Friday night.
The Raider offense didn’t.
Madison County managed just 106 total yards of offense in a 16-7 loss to Athens Academy on a rain-soaked Slaughter Field.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.

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.

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The Madison County Journal
Danielsville, Georgia
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PULLING OUT THE UMBRELLAS
Madison County fans pulled out their parkas and umbrellas as the Raiders and Spartans battled on the gridiron Friday night in Athens.

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.
Proposals for the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) are far from finalized, but there are some broad goals being discussed.
One primary objective is to get younger kids out of mobile classrooms.
“We’re going to try to have adequate permanent structures for our K-5 kids,” said superintendent Keith Cowne.
This will include construction of more classrooms to eliminate mobile units at Ila, Colbert and Comer Elementary schools.
Other facility needs which will likely be addressed include enlarging the cafeterias at the middle school and Danielsville Elementary, as well as reflooring the elementary schools.
The board is also looking at finally moving forward with a much-anticipated sports complex across from the high school and middle school, which will include — among other things — playing fields and a track. And the BOE is considering construction of a 180-seat auditorium with raised theater seating at the high school.
SPLOST money could be used to upgrade video security systems on school campuses and install video cameras on buses. Purchasing more buses might also be a focus. And the board may consider using SPLOST money for technology upgrades, such as cutting computer replacements from once every four years to once every three years.
Superintendent Keith Cowne said he expects the school board to finalize SPLOST plans in November, then pass a resolution in December, which will be passed on to the Justice Department for official approval for the March ballot.
In the meantime, Cowne and school board members will meet with all county school councils to discuss wants and needs at each school. (See box on Page 1.) The board will then hold a public meeting to discuss its proposals.
Cowne said the SPLOST money should address a wide spectrum of school improvement projects.
“The resolution and referendum will be written in broad strokes,” said Cowne. “I think there’s going to be a lot of agreement when all is said and done.”
As the board establishes a checklist of improvement projects, it must consider just how much money will be generated through a five-year, one-cent sales tax.
Assuming there is no growth in sales tax collections over the next five years, Madison County can anticipate $7.7 million in revenue. Cowne expects that $1.6 million of this will be allocated to paying off old bonds. That leaves $6.1 million. But the superintendent said that schools may only receive 85 percent of their anticipated sales tax income through bonds. So, in effect, that would leave approximately $5.2 million to work with initially.
If the referendum is approved, the school system could count on this money for improvement projects. The most needed projects — or “Phase I” improvements — would be addressed with this $5.2 million.
However, county SPLOST collections rose at an annual 5.25 percent rate between 1995-2001. And if this trend continues, the school system can expect additional revenue and a “Phase II” of improvement projects.
Likewise, Cowne said the board is looking at other revenue sources to pay for future school projects, such as applying for federal no-interest loans available to schools, as well as saving “entitlement” money — which, as he described, is a school system’s annual “allowance from the state.” The system now has $800,000 in its entitlement fund balance, which as it grows, will provide a “nice nest egg” for building a new middle school near the end of this decade, he said.
Along those lines, Cowne said he anticipates a new middle school being the primary item on the 2008 SPLOST referendum. He said the current middle school facilities would no longer serve as a middle school, but would be used in a variety of ways, with perhaps the most notable plan for the old school being the establishment of a ninth grade academy. Cowne said that moving the middle school to a new locale will help reduce the before-and-after-school traffic congestion in Danielsville.


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.
Varnadoe said rainfall averaged from just over the four inches he received at his house, to reports he’s gotten of five and a half inches in some parts of the county.
“But we still need 11 inches or so just to get to normal for this year alone,” he added. “It will take that, plus normal rain, just to bring us where we need to be for this year.”
“But what we need to remember is we’re working off rainfall deficits from the last three years - that’s more than a 30-inch total,” Varnadoe emphasized. “This rainfall last weekend helped tremendously for the short term — like putting grass back in pastures, but we need several more of those just for this year’s shortage.”
And the rain, with the exception of a few heavy downpours, was the kind the area needed, a good soaking that let the water get below the topsoil instead of washing away, like the flooding situations in southwest Georgia.
“It was a fabulous, wonderful rain without a lot of runoff...I was in Donaldsonville last weekend where they got 14.5 inches; I saw cars floating,” Varnadoe said. “It’s not good to get it all at once like they did.”
And watering bans are still in effect.
“This (rain) does not mean the ban is over by any means. We still need to be conserving water,” Varnadoe said. “We still have a long way to go.”


Reaping the rewards’
Without a doubt, Ila Elementary teacher Sandra Seymour says being elected “Teacher of the Year” by her colleagues twice - once in 1993 and again for 2003 - are the greatest accomplishments of her career.
“I am extremely honored and humbled to be recognized among the great degree of talent and experience within my school,” Sandra said. She was also honored to be recognized as the Georgia Autism Society’s Teacher of the Year in 1994 for successfully adapting her classroom to full-time inclusion of a child with autism.
But Sandra is quick to say there are many immeasurable rewards in teaching, and by far, she says, the greatest of these is “a hug, a smile, or ‘love letter’ from a young child in her class.”
Another is to watch those children develop into fluent readers over a nine-month period of time.
“You cannot put a price on this ‘reward’ but in first grade I get to ‘receive’ it every single year!” she said.
Sandra has taught first grade at Ila since 1986 -with the exception of a one year hiatus to go with her husband, Jeff, a minister, while he attended Rhema Bible Training Center in Oklahoma.
The Seymours have two sons; Zack, 13, and Caleb, 7.
MADISON COUNTY ROOTS
A Madison County native, Sandra began her career by teaching third grade at Colbert for a year and while she enjoyed the experience very much, when the opportunity arose, she couldn’t resist coming back “home” to the elementary school she herself attended as a child.
And she credits many of the teachers who taught her in school for providing her with a “wealth of applicable knowledge far beyond textbook knowledge.”
“They mentored me and helped me in making critical decisions concerning students,” she added.
“I personally believe that a great teacher is one who is eager, enthusiastic, and is a person of high quality, character and standards,” she said. “...A teacher is a teacher 24/7 - willing to give extra time at home.”
LIFE LONG GOAL
As far back as she can remember, Sandra says she knew she wanted to be a teacher of young children.
“I can recall countless fantasy days of dressing up dolls, stuffed animals, pets, and playing school as a child. I always played the role of ‘bossy’ teacher,” she said.
Sandra’s mother, also a teacher, provided the greatest influence and Sandra remembers begging to attend teacher in-service days with her mom so she could help create bulletin boards and do other things to prepare the classroom for another year.
IMPROVING
PUBLIC EDUCATION
“I reject the idea that a majority of Americans regard public education as a failure and are eagerly awaiting opportunities to transfer their children to private schools,” Sandra said.
And she believes the current move toward school vouchers - designed to give parents ‘more choice’ and force public schools to reform - is not the answer.
“Public schools will improve only if our government officials and the public decide to make a serious commitment to educational quality. Diverting money from public schools to private schools will not achieve any goal but will hurt the nation’s public education system,” she said.
On a personal level, Sandra believes she can make a difference in public education by setting high expectations for her students, and by ‘pushing and prodding’ them to do their best; by helping her school to be a positive, effective and creative environment for students, parents and staff; by encouraging others to enter the teaching profession, and by being a positive role model.
And according to some of her colleagues, she has been and is continuing to be successful in making that difference.
“Sandra is an excellent example of a master teacher. She is a role model for other teachers because of her teaching ability, her leadership, and her understanding of her profession as well as people,” Ila principal Carol Douglas said. “The children she teaches reach high levels of academic achievement. She will be successful at whatever she attempts- whether she continues to teach or aspires for a curriculum or administrative position.”
“The highest compliment I can give to any teacher is to say that if I had a child, I would want that person to be his/her teacher. With no reservations, I can make this statement about Sandra Seymour,” county curriculum director Jane Fitzpatrick said.
“(Sandra) loves her students. She displays this deep concern and caring attitude toward her students on a daily basis,” said Assistant superintendent Allen McCannon, a former principal at Ila. “...Sandra Seymour makes a difference.”

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To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.


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.
It could be some six to nine months after the IDA accepts water line bids before the new well and accompanying system is fully functional.
Bob Ward of Carter and Sloope, the IDA’s engineering firm, dropped the bad news near the end of the authority’s Monday meeting.
The news was particularly troublesome because the IDA must have a backup well for its existing Hull water system before it can legally acquire Athens-owned water lines in Hull. The IDA’s scheduled takeover date for those lines is Dec. 1. After Ward’s report, industrial authority chairman Ed Brown acknowledged that the IDA won’t be prepared for the takeover due to “delays beyond anybody’s control.”
“From that statement (from Ward), we know we’re not going to make the Dec. 1 deadline,” said Brown.
Despite the disappointing setback, Brown said he is optimistic that the water expansion effort in the southern end of Madison County will eventually prove fruitful. And he emphasized that the summer-long technical problem did not cost the county any money, just valuable time.
“I can guarantee you that when this thing is done, it will be done right and probably done for the best dollar value we can get,” said Brown. “We’ve got people here working hard to make sure we have all the I’s dotted and all the T’s crossed.”
Board of commission chairman Wesley Nash, who also serves as a non-voting member of the IDA, said he didn’t think the delay should affect the water-line takeover date. He said he felt the EPD would probably allow the takeover as long as Athens is willing to provide emergency water support if needed.
“It would behoove us to move along with this purchase before the political climate changes (in Athens),” said Nash, ostensibly referring to the election of Heidi Davison as the city’s new mayor.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other matters Monday, the board discussed hiring two water employees to manage the Hull water system — beginning with one employee, who would later help in hiring a second employee. The IDA discussed receiving assistance from the city of Comer in training its water employees and making sure that the Hull system functions effectively amid transitions. The authority may also consider using Comer city clerk Steve Sorrells’ computer utility billing system at a cost of $3,300.


Athens man murdered in Madison County
Willie Frank Smith of Athens was found murdered beside his car off Helican Springs Road in Madison County Sunday morning.
There were no suspects in the case as of press time and officials have yet to release the cause of death. The body has been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab for an autopsy.
Investigators believe the 46-year-old victim, who resided at 118 Sandy Springs Drive, was killed sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight Saturday near the intersection of Helican Springs Road and Howard Road.
According to captain Bill Strickland, the sheriff’s department received a call about a car — a maroon, four-door Plymouth — sitting on the wrong side of the rural Helican Springs Road with its parking lights on.
“The body was discovered laying right outside the driver’s side door,” said Strickland.
Sheriff Clayton Lowe said the victim did not have a wallet in his possession and he acknowledged the possibility of robbery as a motive.
But motive — along with numerous other questions — remains unsolved. And investigators are asking for help from the public in bringing the killer to justice.
Anyone who was in the Helican Springs/Howard Road area who noticed anything suspicious is asked to call the sheriff’s department at 795-2101 or the Athens office of the GBI at 542-7901.
“We’re looking for anybody who might have been in the area that evening,” said Strickland. “Even an anonymous call would be good.”