News from Madison County...

OCTOBER 9, 2002


Madison County
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Madison County H.S.
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OPINIONS

Frank Gillespie
For once, I agree with the McKinneys
We Southern ladies and gentlemen are required to look for areas of agreement with those whom we disagree. That is one of the meanings of “love your enemies.” Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I announce that I agree with Rep. McKinney’s latest statements.

Margie Richards
A treasure trove of memories
When I was a kid, my mother constantly chided me about being a pack rat. I saved everything: school papers, ticket stubs, cards, notes, old toys, etc.

Angela Gary
It’s past time to start Christmas shopping
If you haven’t started Christmas shopping yet, you better get busy. I’ve got well over half of the names on my shopping list marked off already.

Phillip Sartain
For Sale: Moronic Homeowner
The house I live in has a large attic. But that doesn’t mean you can put just anything you want up there. Even the simplest of minds will tell you not to put a queen-size mattress and box springs in your attic. It’s hard to do and it doesn’t make any sense. I did it anyway.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Raider softball team ready for area tourney
With a sub-area co-championship now in hand, the Madison County fast-pitch softball team now turns toward to the daunting task of bringing home a 8-AAAA crown.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
BOC hires architect for new courthouse
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed Thursday to hire an architect for the courthouse project despite hearing a request from one of its members that a decision not be made until the board considers an alternate site being suggested by Jefferson.

Jefferson offers county 25 acres for courthouse
The City of Jefferson is offering the Jackson County Board of Commissioners 25 acres to locate a new courthouse on.
The property is located on Hwy. 129, just north of the downtown area. It is between the new Hwy. 129 bypass and the old Hwy. 129.

Parking Ordinance Would Target
Downtown Owners, Employees
The city council won't act on it when it meets Monday night at 6:30 at the Commerce Civic Center, but it's preparing to enact a parking ordinance designed to keep local business owners and their employees from parking on the main streets in the downtown.

Grading Begins On New City Waste Treatment Plant
Earth moving equipment is feeding a steady parade of dump trucks as rough grading got under way last week at the site of Commerce's new waste treatment plant.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Where is Banks County going?
Rarely do the county’s main entities ever get together in one session. But this week they did, at the request of the development authority, in a round table discussion about the county’s growth.

Sewage debacle
At a special called meeting last Wednesday, the Baldwin City Council sat down to figure out how to get past the problems plaguing the expansion of the city’s sewage treatment plant.

Commissioners approve maximum jail price
Banks County now has a definitive maximum price on the new jail.
The board of commissioners approved a $3,199,480 guaranteed maximum price on the construction of the new jail.

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MCHS Homecoming Queen

Anna Adams is crowned Madison County High School’s 2002 Homecoming Queen at Friday night’s football game against Grayson.

Journey into Palestine
When Brad Smith, of Jubilee Partners in Comer, heard the call from an international organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) for volunteers to go to Palestine last spring, he didn’t hesitate.
“I talked it over with my wife, of course, and with the Jubilee community, and everyone was supportive,” he said.
Brad and his wife, Jennifer, along with their three children, have lived at Jubilee Partners, a Christian outreach organization, for the past six years, often working with refugees from various countries around the world.
Brad says it is the stable, Christian environment provided by Jubilee that attracted them to the area, adding that they had both performed volunteer stints there earlier when single, and later as a couple.
Previously they spent two years in Poland during the time the Berlin Wall came down, then later worked at a homeless shelter for four years in Baton Rouge, LA before making the move to Jubilee.
And Brad feels these experiences aided in his being chosen as one of 14 recruits from around the United States to fly to Palestine for a two-week stay.
“There just wasn’t much time for training, so we had to rely on our experience,” he said.
The group met in Toronto, Canada, where they then flew together into Tel Aviv.
It was mid-April and the Middle East was embroiled in its long-standing conflict, with Israelis occupying large portions of the West Bank.
“CPT has tried to maintain an almost constant international delegation in the area for the last seven years or so,” Brad said.
Once in Jerusalem, the CPT group immediately split into three teams.
Brad’s group joined others involved in international peacekeeping to organize a march through the city of Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity, hoping to deliver food to those being held captive there in a standoff with the Israeli army.
When the army turned them away, to the surprise of no one and in the presence of the international media, they dispersed the food in the neighborhood they were in.
“Those families were also under strict curfews and in need of assistance,” Brad said. “Most curfews we know about in crisis situations in this country are from dusk to dawn - these people are under a 24/7 curfew that is lifted only for a few hours every other day or so,” Brad emphasized. “Imagine being unable to work to bring in an income or to get food...there are bullet holes everywhere and piles of metal — just a lot of destruction.”
Brad says he feels the most important thing they may have accomplished while there was just to listen.
“There was a real need of the local people to tell us what was going on. We went from home to home and just listened to their stories and looked at the damage they showed us and didn’t hurry off.”
A ‘NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
EXPERIENCE’
Later, Brad’s team traveled to an area south of Hebron near the Dead Sea to stay with Palestinian peasant families that still live in the caves there.
“That was a ‘National Geographic experience,’” Brad said. “To see where Jesus and David traveled, to be near where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, with the area still much as it was then - was amazing. It really brings the Biblical description to life.”
Brad, along with a translator, stayed with a Palestinian family for three days in their cave, eating, sleeping and working as they did.
The people who live there do so very primitively, with only a few nods to modernization - such as propane for cooking and a tractor to help with some of the tilling and hauling.
Food is cooked over a propane stove and household water is brought to the area in a huge portable water tank hooked up to the tractor. Goats and sheep are kept in rock corrals for their meat, milk and wool.
“Everyone eats from a communal platter while sitting in mats on the floor,” Brad said. The menu consisted of fresh bread, rice, chicken and milk products from the family goats.
Since Jewish settlers in the area sometimes harass the Palestinian cave-dwellers as they work their fields, Brad and the others would accompany them to the fields hoping, as outsiders, to provide a degree of protection and assistance by their presence.
“We worked side-by-side cutting the wheat with a sickle, just as it has always been done,” he said.
“It is hilly, but not like here (north Georgia), it’s barren and desolate; there are no trees, there’s hardly any vegetation above knee high,” Brad remembers. “It’s amazing that they get enough top soil together to grow the wheat and barley.”
A TENSE TIME
The most tense moments for the group happened when they tried to reach the city of Ramallah. They were not allowed through the army’s checkpoint, but were given a ride by a taxi van driver, who said he knew a “back way” in.
“It was cold and windy that day and after lots of twisting and turning we didn’t know where we were anymore,” Brad remembers. Finally the taxi stopped and the missionaries got out, uncertain what to do next and knowing only that they were in an area surrounded by the Israeli army. About that time a stranger appeared “out of nowhere” and gave them hot tea, sweetened with mint and thyme while he directed them to an area sheltered from the wind.
“He pointed in the direction of where we needed to go and told us he would accompany us to the edge of his village, but no further,” Brad said of their benefactor.
“He told us the whole area was under curfew and that the situation was ‘not good,” Brad added. “We had heard shots earlier and since we were not in a situation that was urgent to provide aid, we made the decision to turn back.”
Brad Smith will be at the Madison County Library on Thursday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. to share more stories and slides of his trip to Palestine.


Raising pay of paramedics a focus in
budget talks
Despite a tight budget, Madison County leaders plan to raise the pay of county paramedics and EMTs in hopes of keeping qualified personnel from leaving the county.
Commissioners Mike Youngblood and Bruce Scogin spoke out this past Thursday in favor of granting pay raises to county EMTs and paramedics, saying that high turnover in the department threatens public safety.
Youngblood noted that county EMTs begin at the same pay as park attendants. He said this must change.
“We’re losing paramedics right and left,” said Youngblood. “They’re going to other counties for better pay. We’re losing quality people....We need to bring them up to a class where we can keep good paramedics.”
He added: “I’ve never been more concerned about something since I’ve been in office.”
Scogin agreed that the EMS staff is underpaid.
“When it comes to a matter of life and death, you can’t have a well enough trained person,” said Scogin. “We’re just training these people to move on somewhere else.”
The EMS requested that EMTs and paramedics be moved up two pay classifications, which would cost the county approximately $90,000.
But the board is planning to raise the pay by one classification, which would cost the county approximately $24,000.
County clerk Morris Fortson suggested that the commissioners consider raising the pay of the EMS director, Dwayne Patton, if his employees receive raises. He said Patton, who is on salary, makes less than some of his employees, who receive overtime pay.
“If you do this for his personnel, you need to do this for him too,” said Fortson.
The commissioners agreed that Patton does a top-notch job as EMS director, pointing out that the department has won numerous state awards.
In a separate matter Thursday, the board discussed purchasing a vehicle for assistant EMS director Eric Temple, preferably one that is four-wheel drive so that paramedics can get in and out of rough terrain.
On a related note, Scogin said he would like to review who uses county vehicles outside of their job duties.
“It seems we’ve got some people with vehicles who really could do without them and some who really need vehicles who don’t have them,” said Scogin, noting that a white county pickup truck has sat in the county government complex parking lot with a flat tire for quite some time.
BUDGET TALKS CONTINUE
The county commissioners met Thursday and then again Tuesday to discuss the 2003 budget. The commissioners are considering an approximate $10 million general fund budget, up about $300,000, or three percent, over this year’s total. The chairman’s recommended budget includes no tax rate increase on property owners, but some $800,000 in capital outlay projects proposed by county department heads are not addressed in the proposal due to limited revenues. Proposed contingency funds — or emergency funds — are also low, at only $128,000, about $370,000 less than the standard rule of thumb for contingencies, which is five percent of a county’s operating budget, Nash said. But the recommended budget does carry a 2.25 percent cost of living raise for county employees The 2003 budget is on the commissioners’ agenda for Monday, Oct. 14, at 6:30 p.m. The board will set a schedule for finalizing the budget at this meeting. The final budget is expected to be approved in early November.
REC BOARD MEETING
In a separate matter Thursday, county commissioners met with several recreation board members in hopes of improving communications between the two boards.
The commissioners agreed to ask county attorney Mike Pruett to revise recreation department bylaws so that rec board members can get a clearer picture of what their responsibilities are.

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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.


Work resuming on jail project
Work will finally resume on the new county jail.
Nicholson Professional Consulting of Roswell set up an office on the new jail site off Hwy. 98 this week.
The company will oversee correction of construction problems on the new jail, a project which has been halted for months.
There is still no time line established on the jail completion.
“Some structural problems will have to be rectified,” said Vernon Smith, the county’s jail consultant. “Inferior work must be removed and replaced.”
Boatwright Construction Company, the original construction management firm on the project, was fired earlier this year after an independent inspection firm revealed numerous structural flaws in the jail.
Since then, the project has moved at a snail’s pace as county leaders have tried to get their surety company, Atlantic Mutual, to move on the $3.2 million project.
County commission chairman Wesley Nash said the county won’t suffer financially from the jail dilemma, noting that the county will even recoup housing out costs of prisoners incurred during the delay.
But the slow pace of the project has been an obvious source of frustration for county leaders.
Nash told the BOC Thursday that the delay has been a result of a big surety company dealing with what it sees as a small project.
“You’ve got a multi-billion dollar surety company dealing with a $3 million jail,” he said.
On a related note, Nicholson Professional Consulting has requested night-time security at the jail site. The county will provide a watchman and bill the company for the service.