News from Banks County...

OCTOBER 16, 2002

Banks County


Banks County

Banks County

among all
Georgia weekly newspapers
by the Georgia Press Association

June 29, 2001

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Angela Gary
Special moments
He held himself up on the rails at the front of the wagon. His blond hair was blowing in the breeze. He looked all around in wonder and excitement with his big blue eyes opened as wide as possible.

Kerri Graffius
A year later and...oops!
Well, I finally made it through my rookie year here at MainStreet Newspapers. Being a journalist is like being in any other public service-related industry—you always have a lot of stories to tell.

Frank Gillespie
Barnes running for president?
Roy Barnes is running for president. I am now convinced that he has had that as his goal from the beginning.

Zach Mitcham
Talking books, movies
Whether you like N Sync or Mozart, Danielle Steele or Dostoevsky, beef jerky or French cuisine, you probably give the thumbs up when you see a good thing and wonder why others shrug their shoulders or offer an “oh please.”


Directions to Area Schools

Banks hopes for second region win
Coach Greg Moore has called the Rabun County game a “big one,” and if Banks has any hopes of resurrecting the season, Moore is right.

Neighboorhood News ..
Caterpillar plant plans temporary shut-down
More than 100 employees at the Caterpillar plant in Jefferson will be out of work for several weeks in December.

City Council, School Board OK Plan For Redistricting
When Commerce elects members of its city council and board of education next fall, the districts for both will be identical.

BOC nixes tax hike; tells staff to cut $1.2 million from budget
A $21.1 million budget proposed to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners this week called for a one mill increase in the county’s tax rate. But BOC members said they would not approve any millage increase and instructed staff members to cut $1.2 million from the budget.

Commerce Cleanup Is Next Week
It's the week everyone's been waiting for, the week Commerce residents can unload that old mattress, the stack of worn out tires (without rims), or just about anything else destined for the landfill.

Braselton landmark to be demolished
A building that was once home to several championship basketball teams in Braselton, will soon be no more.

Nichoslon Water Authority Wants Court To Reconsider
The Nicholson Water Authority has filed an "emergency motion for reconsideration" of an Aug. 21 court decision allowing the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority to build water lines in and around Nicholson.

Neighboorhood News ..
Planners say ‘yes’ to conservation subdivisions
Future residential developments in Madison County may have a new look.
The planning and zoning commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend the approval of an amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance for an “open space overlay zone for conservation subdivisions.”

County, school tax rates to drop slightly
County leaders said they won’t tighten the tax pinch on property owners this year.
And they’ll soon make it official.

Long-time students who move can still graduate from MCHS
Long-time Madison County students will be allowed to graduate with their class even if their parents move out of the county.
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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‘Keeper’ and Moores take a break

Keeper, a six-month-old Newfoundland, is a familiar sight around the chamber of commerce office in Homer as he goes on walks with his owner, chamber executive director, Carole Moores. Soon Keeper, the newest chamber member, will begin training to become certified to work with children and the elderly.

The chamber’s ‘gentle giant’
The Banks Chamber of Commerce has a new “member,” a gentle giant whose main goal in life is service to the community.
“Kimoke Bay’s Keeper of My Heart,” better known as “Keeper,” is a six-month-old, 80-pound, Newfoundland dog currently in training by his owner, Carole Moores, the chamber’s executive director.
“Newfoundlands are known for their gentleness, obedience and devotion to people,” Moores said. “Many are used as lifeguards on beaches in France and Italy. They can be trained to rescue people from drowning. A ‘Newfie’ can pull a rowboat with five or six people on board.”
Others are trained for search and rescue and have no fear in rappelling down a mountain with rescue teams or being lowered from helicopters. They search for people lost in avalanches and are often used to search for victims of catastrophes, such as earthquakes.
Though Keeper won’t be leading quite so exciting a life, Moores said he would be certified in “Canine Good Citizenship.” That means Keeper will be able to visit nursing homes, hospitals and schools.
Donna Smith in Jefferson runs the school Keeper will be attending. It is the only one in the area that can give the certifications, said Moores.
But, school is a little ways off. Keeper has to become used to all types of noises and situations, she said, and obey all her commands.
“He’s a little too young,” she said. “He has to learn to trust me in everything I tell him to do. And I have to learn to trust his instincts. It’s really a team effort that takes time. During his puppyhood, we need to be together 24 hours a day, seven days a week to build that bond of trust.
“We have a ways to go. He does really well and is a fast learner, but he’s still a puppy and has a puppy’s attention span. He’s done well in a lot of strange situations. Like when the fire trucks or ambulances leave the station when we’re out in front of the courthouse. He really doesn’t react to the noise. That’s good.”
Many people who visit the chamber office in the old courthouse have met Keeper and come back often for visits with him.
“He does very well here,” she said. “People love to come in and pet him. Newfies have a way with people. They make people smile.”
Keeper isn’t the only dog who gets to come to work with his owner. Many companies and corporations are allowing pets in the workplace to help reduce stress on their employees, said Moores.
Keeper spends his day with Moores at the chamber office in his pen, sleeping most of the time in his favorite spot over the air conditioning vent. But, with every trip outdoors, he becomes a little more disciplined. Evenings and weekends are Keepers most intense training sessions. That is when she teaches him hand signals and obedience.
Eventually though, Keeper’s life of ease will change as he grows older and graduates from CGC. With diploma in “paw,” he’ll be ready for work bringing smiles and laughter to children in schools and in hospitals and to the elderly in nursing homes.
Though Keeper comes from a long line of champions, Moores said she was not interested in showing him.
No, Moores prefers to have Keeper “bring as much joy into someone’s life as he can.”
“There’s just something about taking a Newfie into a nursing home and watching how the older people just perk up,” she said. “And the kids, when I take them into the schools. They just adore each other.”
Eventually, she may seek water rescue training for him. For now though, her plans for him only involve short-term goals.
“We’ll see what transpires as he grows up and reaches maturity at around three years old,” she said. “He’ll top out somewhere around 150 pounds.”
Moores has been a “Newfie Mom” for a long time raising them along with four children. All of her dogs were trained for therapy.
She became involved with the breed in 1978 when she came across a group called “Newfie Rescue.” Through the organization, Newfoundlands across the country who are no longer wanted as pets for whatever reason are taken into foster homes. The Newfies are brought back to good health and receive obedience training. When they are ready, the group finds permanent homes for the dogs.

Consolidation of Homer Housing Authority proposed
A proposal to consolidate the Homer Housing Authority with other northeast Georgia housing authorities could bring the town nearly $12,500 a year, according to one official.
H.L. Brantley, executive director of the Toccoa Housing Authority, sent a letter to the Homer City Council detailing a proposed consolidation of the Clarkesville, Cleveland, Cornelia, Homer and Toccoa housing authorities.
Currently, the five housing authorities are managed by the Toccoa Housing Authority.
The proposal states that a new housing authority, tentatively called the Northeast Georgia Housing Authority, would serve all of the authorities with new commissioners.
“HUD is very pleased with our progress, but HUD continues to hint that our consortium needs to take the step,” Brantley’s letter reads.
His letter continues to state that all of the boards of commissioners are convinced that consolidation is the most efficient and financially feasible way to operate the 800 units.
The City of Homer, the letter states, should receive an additional $12,487 from the proposed consolidation, which is a 20 percent increase in funding.
Overall, the consolidated housing authority would receive an additional $236,979 a year, the letter states.
And with increased funding, the proposed housing authority could improve programs and services to residents, operate more efficiently and have more storage available to keep appliances.
But, Brantley’s letter warns of several disadvantages of the proposed move. He argues that while some town officials may feel they would be “losing some turf,” Brantley states that consolidation would better serve residents.
The Homer City Council discussed this matter at its Oct. 8 meeting, but took no action. City attorney Gary Freeman said a public hearing will have to be scheduled on the matter.
In other business at the October 7 meeting, the Homer City Council:
•voted to abandon a well on Hwy. 98 after city engineer Calvin Smith said the well’s pressure had been detoriating over several years, despite the drought. He also advised the council that it isn’t economically feasible to continue operating the well.
•heard from Freeman about a proposed wellhead protection ordinance, which will require a public hearing to amend the zoning ordinance. The proposed ordinance would specify prohibited uses within 250 feet of a well, in order to protect the drinking water supply.
•voted to submit the Short Term Work Program to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The program outlines the town’s proposed projects for the next five years, including building a new city hall.

Balloon forced down in swamp
Hydrogen balloon racers, co-pilot Cheri Smith and pilot Mike Sullivan, were forced to land in Banks County last Tuesday afternoon, unfortunately in a swamp off McCoy Bridge Road.
The balloonists were participants in the “America Challenge.” Sixteen balloon teams, from Germany, Canada, England and the United States, lifted off from Albuquerque, New Mexico, around 7 p.m. Saturday evening. Their balloons were full of hot hydrogen gas. The rules do not allow heaters. The race was to see which team could get the farthest before cooling and descending.
Sullivan said they did well holding at an altitude of 16,200 feet passing without mishap over Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. They traveled over 1,300 miles in three days. But hitting the cloud cover over North Georgia cooled the balloon and they began to descend.
“We were throwing everything we could out of the balloon,” said Sullivan. “Batteries, the cooler, food, all the ballast we could ditch.”
The 150 pounds of ballast didn’t help. The balloon could not regain altitude. Sullivan saw a field and tried to bring the balloon down there. But, the balloon was cooling rapidly and he had little control over the landing site. “Team USA” ended up about a half-of-a-mile-away in a soggy swamp.
A resident on McCoy Bridge Road saw the balloon go down and called 911 thinking it had crash-landed.
The dispatcher called the Homer Volunteer Fire Department and Banks County Fire and Rescue Units. Department of Natural Resources Rangers Winford Popphan and Shawn Alexander also answered the call.
Banks County Deputy Chief John Creasy said he was glad the balloon had a GPS, global positioning system.
“It was thanks to that we found them so quickly,” he said. “There’s no telling how long it would have taken us without it. When we found them, the balloon was still partially inflated and the balloonists were safe.”
Sullivan smiled and said: “We didn’t have a problem landing safely. It was a perfect, gentle landing. Just in the wrong place.”
But, finding the balloon proved to be easier than hauling it and the basket out of the swamp, on foot, through a half a mile of water, mud and saw grass. Creasy said there were no roads where they went down. Not that that would have helped.
“It was so muddy, none of our vehicles could get back in there,” he said.
The ordeal lasted nearly four hours and Creasy called dispatch to call for more help around 6 p.m.
“The guys were whipped,” said Creasy. “We were all so tired.”
The chase team (the ground crew that follows the balloon) had lost radio contact with the balloonists around 2:40 p.m. They were scouring the area when they came upon the woman who had called the incident in to E-911 dispatch. She directed them down to the site where the teams were searching. They helped the rescuers bring the balloon and basket out.
After the balloon and basket were loaded into the chase truck, there was a lot of conversation and questions about ballooning and the race.
White said they slept in two- to-three-hour shifts, curled up in an approximately 60-cubic-foot basket that held their food and supplies. It was her first race in a gas balloon. She has been flying hot-air balloons for 20 years.
“I had to give this a try,” she said. “And teaming with the current US gas balloon champion was a real plus.”
Sullivan said: “We did well. Most of the balloons didn’t make it past the Mississippi River.”
As darkness descended, a search for the supplies they had thrown overboard for ballast was postponed until the next day. The rescue volunteers had found some of it during the search. The balloonists and their crew spent the night at Banks Crossing and the next day went out with some of the volunteers to recover their lost supplies.
A US team came in first place making it all the way to Delaware before descending. Third place went to another US team who also landed in Georgia near the Alabama line.

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Clark takes over as Baldwin police chief
Officer Lamar Clark was named as the city of Baldwin’s interim police chief at Thursday’s work session. Clark is filling the position that was held by Frank Andrews for the past five years.
The announcement came following a closed session to discuss Clark’s promotion.
Andrews left the city of Baldwin recently taking the police chief’s opening with the City of Cornelia. Several other Baldwin officers also went to the Cornelia Police Department.
Another Baldwin officer, “Cassie” the drug canine, has also left Baldwin due to budget constraints. The city donated her to the Canine Team at Lee Arrendale Correctional Institute.
Councilman Kevin Gaddis said Baldwin and other area law enforcement agencies would still benefit from her training as she could be used during periodic license checks. He also pointed out that Cassie’s cost and upkeep had been paid for through seizure funds and no taxpayer dollars went into her upkeep.
In naming Clark as interim chief, Mayor Mark Reed said: “We’re proud to have Lamar come on as interim chief. He’s got years of experience in law enforcement.”
Gaddis, who once served under Clark when he was the City of Cornelia Police Chief, said: “I hoped Lamar would step up to the plate. The department is going to have to be rebuilt and Lamar’s a good man to take on the task.”
Clark said: “Baldwin needs the help right now. We’re going to be sure the city is covered with the help of some part-time officers and deputies from Banks and Habersham counties.
“I’m not sure if I’ll stay on as chief or not. There have been other inquiries into the chief’s job. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Clark said his first task is to find officers and get the city protected.
“I want good people to fill the positions,” he said. “I want to maintain at least as good as what we had and maybe do even better.”
Reed said: “We are going to trust that Lamar will make good recommendations for officers. He’s got 30 years of experience, so we’re just going to stand back and let him go to work. In the meantime, however, we’re going to be sure our citizens are protected and the city patrolled. “
Ray Holcomb, city councilman, said: “There will not be a gap in the coverage of the city. There will be patrols.”
Clark will begin the search for six new officers and will talk with prospective police chief applicants.
At Monday’s meeting, Clark said he had hired Don Ford, a former deputy with Habersham County. One part-time officer, Robert Raeshard, has been with the city for nearly 12 years and has pledged his support, Clark said.

Candidates to face off in Oct. 22 forum
The Banks County Chamber of Commerce and The Banks County News will be hosting a political forum for county and state candidates in the November election.
The political forum will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 22, in the Banks County High School auditorium.
The doors will open at 6:15 p.m. and demonstrations of the new voting machines to be used in the Nov. 5 election will be given. Probate judge Betty Thomas and Donna Minish will present the demonstrations.
Questions for the candidates may be submitted in advance. The questions should be mailed to: Banks County Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 57, Homer, Ga. 30547. Written questions will also be taken the night of the forum, beginning at 6:30 p.m. All questions should deal with issues and not personal matters.
The forum will include welcome remarks by Carole Moores, executive director of the Chamber. Angela Gary, editor of The Banks County News , will present the questions that have been submitted to the candidates. There will be 30 minutes for each race.
Those on the ballot for the Nov. 5 election include: Ernest Rogers (D) and Ricky Cain (R), Banks County Board of Commissioners, Post 2; Pat Westmoreland (D) and Danny Maxwell (I), BOC, Post 3; Rob Boswell (D) and Ben Ramsey (R), Banks County Board of Education, Post 3; and Robert Banks (D) and Ralph Hudgens (R), Senate District 47.
Candidates who have no opposition will also be invited to speak briefly at the forum. They include Herbert “Bo” Garrison, BOE, Post 5, and Jeanette Jamieson, state representative.
For more information, contact the chamber at 677-2108.