News from Jackson County...

OCTOBER 16, 2002


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Our Time and Place:
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A complete history of Jackson County, Georgia from 1796 to the present. Written in narrative style for easy reading. Includes material not found in other books about Jackson County.

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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page

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.”


SPORTS

Cardiac Cats
The Denver Broncos have their famed 98-yard game-tying drive in the 1986 NFC title game—a feat forever remembered in pro football annals as “The Drive.”

Panthers prep for homecoming test
Winless midway through their first season at the AAAA level of competition, the Jackson County football team will hardly receive a cupcake opponent, as is commonplace on most schedules during homecoming week. Instead, the Panthers will take the field against a seasoned and well-skilled team from Heritage this Friday night at Panther Stadium.

Third straight Dragon win appears prime for taking
In just their second region game of the season this Friday, the Jefferson football team already has a chance to do something no other 8-A team can claim, they can secure their future in this year’s playoff hunt.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
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.

County plans short-term upkeep of Colbert Park
The Colbert City Park will apparently be under the control of the Madison County Recreation Department for at least one year.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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PUMPKIN TIME

October means that it’s time for youngsters to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween. Ryan Garrett, 2, Jefferson, is shown looking for the perfect pumpkin for the holiday. He and his mother, Jessica Garrett, went to the pumpkin patch sponsored by the Jefferson United Methodist Church youth department.

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.
The company has announced a temporary shut-down at five of its plants, including the one in Jefferson. Up to 3,270 employees, including 150 in Jefferson, will be affected by this. A Caterpillar plant in Thomasville, Ga., along with three in Illinois will also be impacted.
The shut-down will be in December with Jefferson employees expected to be out of work for two to three weeks. The plant in Jefferson manufactures fuel injection systems that go into on-highway truck engines.
Carol Volz, corporate spokesman, Peori, Ill., said the news was expected and is due to a lower industry demand for heavy-duty truck engines. He said the lower demand for the engines is due to new EPA emission standards for trucks that came into effect on Dec. 1.
“The major truck fleets in North America, who buy literally thousands of engines every year, did not have enough time to test the new technology that was coming out because the EPA gave a very short lead time to manufacturers,” he said. “If you are a truck fleet and you’re making investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, you do not want to be a guinea pig for technology that hasn’t been fully tested.”
He said that when the truck fleets leaders read some EPA data on the new truck engines that were being developed and saw that in order to reduce emissions, it would decrease fuel mileage and increase maintenance costs, they began buying the engines that were already available.
“When margins are so slim as it is, they can’t invest in technology that will cost more money on the open road,” he said. “...One option was to buy engines now that have technology that you understand.”
He said Caterpillar had a tremendous pre-buy from January through Sept. 30, the day before the new emission standards became law.
“The truck fleets were buying as many engines as they possibly could,” he said. “As a result, the industry has sold most of the 2002 sales before Oct. 1 and as a consequence, the fourth quarter sales will be very slim. We saw this coming.”
He said the change in EPA emission standards will affect other industries in business, including Detroit Diesel and suppliers. He said it will cause a ripple affect that will lead to thousands of people employed in the trucking industry around the country being laid off.


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.
That assumes that the Georgia General Assembly will approve special election to be introduced next year amending the city charter, as requested by the Commerce City Council and the Commerce Board of Education Monday night.
In a brief joint meeting, the two groups each unanimously passed a resolution seeking that charter change. It is based on a proposed districting map the council brought back last Wednesday from the State Reapportionment Council in Atlanta.
Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. explained that all members of the city council had gone to Atlanta. Information relating to where the individual councilmen and school board members lived had been sent in advance.
"So when we got there, it was almost done," Hardy said. "I don't think we tweaked it more than a street or two." The mayor added that "Having one district for both groups is going to save our voters a lot of headaches."
Steve Perry, board of education chairman, agreed.
"This plan is going to help all the residents of Commerce," he predicted.
Perry convened the school board, got a motion to accept a resolution asking Rep. Pat Bell to introduce legislation to amend the city charter and, after it passed unanimously, closed his meeting.
The council action passed similarly.
Currently, four city councilmen are elected by wards and five school board members by districts. The mayor and two councilmen run at-large. Under the new proposal, five city councilmen and all school board members will be elected by districts and the mayor and mayor pro tem will run at-large. The districts will be the same for council members and school board members.
The new plan remedies a voting system that was totally out of compliance with federal regulations. Federal law requires voting districts be equally divided within a five percent deviation. While the school districts had deviations ranging from seven percent to almost 23 percent, the city's wards had deviations ranging from five percent to 80 percent.
Only one voting district on the new map, District 1, fails the five percent rule, but overall the map averages to about a 3.6 percent deviation. Ideally, each district would have a population of 1,058 residents. They range from the smallest, District 5, which has 1,013 residents, to District 1, which has 1,119.
The change leaves one district, District 1, that is 54 percent black.
Hardy also predicted that "voters will appreciate" the clear lines of demarcation between some districts, such as Madison Street, State Street, Waterworks Road and the railroad tracks.
"We're glad it worked out that way," said the mayor.
All city councilmen and board of education members will run as incumbents, although current at-large councilman Richard Massey will run from District 5.
Council representation will include Riley Harris, District 1; Donald Wilson, District 2; Sam Brown, District 3; Bob Sosebee, District 4; and Massey, District 5. School board representation will include Arthur Lee Pattman, District 1, Mary Seabolt, District 2; Bill Davis, District 3; Steve Perry, District 4; and Paul Sergent, District 5.
Ultimately, the U.S. Department of Justice will have to approve the plan.


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.
Action is expected to be taken on the proposed budget when the BOC meets at 5:30 p.m. on Monday at the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
At a work session this week, commissioners told finance director John Hulsey and county manager Al Crace to work on the budget and cut $1.2 million from it so that a millage increase won’t be necessary.
Hulsey pointed out that the budget presented does not include the annual four percent cost of living and merit raise for employees or any of the items requested by department heads. These items apparently won’t be added to the final budget.
“We have gone through this administratively-through each line,” finance director John Hulsey said. “I don’t have the control to go back and start slashing salaries and services...You all would cut this...I wouldn’t.”
But Chairman Harold Fletcher said all the board wanted was some ideas about where to cut.
“We’re not asking him to do that (cutting),” he said. “I’m just asking for suggestions. As far as the decision to cut a department, that is this board’s decision. We will make that decision.”
The budget does show some salary increases, including 2.25 percent for elected officials, which is a state requirement. The budget also shows a raise for Crace and Hulsey. Crace said the 3.3 percent increase listed for him is called for in his contract with the county. He said the 15.9 percent increase shown for Hulsey has already been approved and came after he received certification and the position he holds was changed to “manager of accounting.”
One of the largest increases in the proposed budget is $1.1 million in salaries, half of which county leaders say will go to the sheriff’s department and jail for raises already approved for some of their staff members. There was no explanation for the other $600,000 jump in salaries, although several positions have been added in the past year.
“Jackson County can’t keep booming when everyone is cutting back,” commissioner Tony Beatty said.
He said cuts should be made even if services are not provided as quickly as in the past.
“It may be a day longer before you get a phone call returned,” he said.
Commissioner Stacey Britt said: “I don’t think it hurts for a government to cut services at times. I think all of us in our households have had to cut back.”
He said the county can’t just keep “adding and adding” positions.
Another large increase is expected in benefits due to health insurance going up 17 percent.
One option to make up the difference in the budget without raising taxes would be to use the fund balance, Hulsey said. He said that the Association County Commissioners of Georgia recommends a 15 to 25 percent fund balance. The county now has a 20 percent fund balance in 2001.
The BOC has been critical of the previous administration for cutting into its fund balance.
One of the largest changes in revenue is expected in local option sales tax where $500,000 less than last year has been budgeted. Sales tax revenue has been down this year and will come in under what was budgeted, Hulsey said.
Several commissioners asked about the courthouse and MACI projects, which are also not listed in the proposed budget. The recommendation is that funds spent on these projects in 2003 would come from a loan and payments would not be made until 2004.


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.
The basis for the motion is the appointment by the Jackson County Grand Jury of three new authority members. Prior to that appointment, the NWA had violated its charter by self-appointing new members, according to the Aug. 21 judge's ruling.
"In its order, the court relied first upon the improper constitution of the Nicholson Authority board," noted the NWA in its request. "That having now been remedied, the plaintiff urges the court to reach the merits," which it says are whether the JCW&SA enabling act allows it to enter the 32-square-mile territory spelled out in the act that enabled the NWA.
The other basis for the appeal is the argument that the JCW&SA violated the Service Delivery Strategy Act.
Peter Olson, the NWA attorney, argues that a section of the Georgia Constitution authorizing political subdivisions to contract with any other political subdivision for services to mean that a JCW&SA must have a contract with Nicholson to provide service there.
In its response, the JCW&SA argues that the "plain language of the applicable legislation clearly shows that the JCW&SA is authorized to conduct operations in the area in question."
Further, JCW&SA attorney Julius Hulsey states that the appointment of new members to NWA "does nothing to change the fact that the present legal action was never properly authorized."
"... In its Aug. 21 order, this court decided that plaintiff NWA never had the proper authority to file its petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief," Hulsey wrote. "This being the case, the appointment of new members to the NWA's board at this late date does nothing to change the fact that the present action was never properly filed in the first place."
The response also noted the court's statement in the original decision that it was "troubled by the plaintiff's inability to provide water services" and declared that "the 30 year history of the Nicholson Water Authority is noteworthy only for what it has failed to accomplish."
As for NWA's contention that the Georgia Constitution requires a contract, Hulsey wrote, "Defendant is at a loss to comprehend how plaintiff NWA derived its interpretation from the above language," stating that the section quoted by NWA "simply means that the state and its agencies and subdivisions may contract with each other ..."
As for the reference to the Service Delivery Act, the response proposed that the NWA board "lacked the legal authority to authorize the NWA's participation in the Services Delivery Strategy" and said that testimony in the hearing "makes clear plaintiff NWA is not meeting the water service needs of those residents and facilities in the area in question," in particular the proposed East Jackson school.
"Defendant JCW&SA must contend that its proposed water service extension does not constitute a duplication of those services offered by the NWA," the answer reads. "To the contrary, it would seem that the JCW&SA is the only body that stands ready to provide the affected areas with the service they so desperately require."
Hulsey also questioned whether the NWA had authorized Olson to file the appeal.
"I got a call from the chairman saying that the attorney did not represent the new authority appointed by the grand jury," Hulsey told the JCW&SA members at their October meeting last Thursday night. "The implication that you draw (from the appeal) is that he represents the old and the new authority."


Opening delayed for new Jefferson bypass The opening of the Jefferson bypass has been delayed two weeks. It will open to traffic on Nov. 6, instead of Oct. 22, according to DOT district engineer Larry Dent.
“Several factors have conspired together to force the delay of the opening of the Jefferson bypass but I must remind you that even with opening on November 6, we will still finish six months ahead of the March 31, 2003 completion date,” Dent said. “The extreme wet weather from Hurricane Isidore, along with problems getting our new signs made and scheduling issues, have forced us to delay the opening of the Jefferson bypass. We’d rather delay it by two weeks and have everything perfect and ready than open it early with problems.”
A small section of the bypass will not open on Nov. 6 with the rest of the roadway. A short detour will be installed to build the section of roadway where the new bypass ties in with existing Hwy. 129. Traffic will narrow to one lane in each direction and will be running side by side. The detour area is at the existing Hwy. 129 near Interstate 85. The detour will be in place for approximately eight weeks, weather permitting, Dent said.


Free concert to open new Curry Creek Park on Sun.
A free concert in the new Curry Creek Park, Jefferson, will feature the Country River Band of Athens playing on Sunday, Oct. 20, from 3 to 6 p.m.
Music lovers are asked to bring their own chairs or blankets to sit in the park and listen to the music.
The park is a community project with the Jefferson Rotary Club in the lead for opening the first section of the park. The club decided to make the first concert free to both the people of the area and to vendors, as a way of getting the park opened, officials said.
“We are going to pass buckets and ask for donations,” said Cindy Bone, secretary of the Jefferson Rotary Club. “We have a number of plans for walking paths, benches, a gazebo, an amphitheater and picnic areas that will need funds.”
The Country River Band will play a selection of both old and new country favorites, as well as some 1950s rock-n-roll music. The band has been a favorite in the area for more than 20 years and has played a number of festivals and clubs in the area, so it is well known to many music lovers. The band recently played at the Maysville Autumn Leaf Festival and often plays in clubs in the area.


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See Galilee Preschool Flyer


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.
Yes, the city of Commerce will hold its annual Cleanup Week next week, much beloved by residents and dreaded by the workers who haul off the tons of discards left along the city's roadsides for pickup.
City Manager Clarence Bryant made the announcement at Monday night's meeting of the mayor and city council.
There is one major change. The city will not pick up construction materials this year, thanks to a couple of residents last year who left, literally, tons of such materials for the city to pick up in 2001.
The free service is limited to residents. Commercial businesses, including rental properties, are not covered.
This will also be the last year that automobile tires will be picked up, Bryant said.
During the rest of the year, the only items that will be picked up curbside are garbage and yard wastes.


Braselton landmark to be demolished
A building that was once home to several championship basketball teams in Braselton, will soon be no more.
On Monday, the Braselton Town Council voted to issue a demolition permit for the former Braselton High School gymnasium, whose roof recently succumbed to heavy rainfall.
“Although this building needs to come down, I think it’s time for it to come down,” said Mayor Pat Graham of the building located on Harrison and Francis streets.
“There’s a lot of memories associated with this building and memories that will continue after the building is gone,” she said.
Decades ago, the gym was home to several Braselton High School championship basketball teams. The school operated from 1924 to 1957.
In 1929, the basketball team was named runner-up in the state championship. A year later, the team won the state title and later was given third place honors in the national competition in 1930.
More than two decades later, the school’s basketball team won the state championship again in 1951. It won the district championship in 1953 and 1954.
Before a vote was taken on Monday, Graham pointed to the building’s historical significance to Braselton.
Several photos of the championship teams, including one with Braselton Planning Commission Chairman Bill Braselton in the 1950s, were on display at Monday’s council meeting.
After the gym’s north-side roof collapsed in September, Graham said town officials entered the boarded-up building to examine what was salvageable.
Inside, officials found a pair of basketball shoes with a name written on them, she said. The name was Billy Holder, who is mayor of Hoschton.
Town officials will try to preserve other items from the gym, Graham said. Bricks from the building may be used for a new location of the Braselton High School bell and beams from the gym could be used in the restoration of the former mill, she said.
Another issue town officials had to deal with before approving the gym’s demolition was if it would hinder historical preservation efforts in Braselton.
Graham said a historian at the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center (RDC) explained that the gym is not only considered a “contributing property” to the National Register, but a “community landmark” as well.
But with the roof now collapsed, safety was a prime concern, she said.
Council member Bruce Yates initially said he couldn’t vote to tear down the historical landmark, but when council member Dudley Ray emphasized the potential safety hazard, Yates decided to change his vote.
The council also voted to issue demolition permits to two other buildings in Braselton—a home behind the post office and a house on Hwy. 124, where the former town hall was located.
The development company which owns the three buildings, 2255 Delk Road Partnerships, requested the town council to issue the demolition permits.
No date was given on when the gym will be torn down.


County seeks more info on courthouse land offer
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is seeking more information from the City of Jefferson on its offer of 25 acres near the new bypass for a courthouse.
County manager Al Crace sent Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner a letter asking for additional information, including the specific location, a plat, identification of the current and/or proposed access, utilities available, soil information, topographic information, flood plain and drainage, whether an environmental assessment has been done on the property, restrictions on the use of the land and availability of adjacent property.
The matter will apparently be on the agenda when the BOC meets at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Administrative Building in Jefferson for its regular monthly meeting.
Last week, the City of Jefferson offered 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.
Property owner Jack Davidson has reportedly agreed to donate the land to the city with the stipulation that it be given to the county for the sole purpose of locating a courthouse on it.
Joiner asked that the county study the site, along with the Darnell Road property which has already been purchased by the county, to determine which is best suited and most accessible for a courthouse. He said the county has 30 days to consider the offer.