News from Madison County...

OCTOBER 16, 2002


Madison County
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OPINIONS

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.”

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.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Raiders host struggling first-year Northview
There’s only one real remedy that can ease the sting of back-to-back heartbreaking losses—a win.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
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.


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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The Madison County Journal
Danielsville, Georgia
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Fall flavors of Carlton

John Allen (above) of Elberton checks out the barbecue he’s cooking for the festival.

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.”
In simple terms, the amendment, would “fit” over all residentially zoned areas (R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-R) and some agriculturally zoned areas (A-2) would offer a “perk” to developers by allowing them to have smaller lot sizes than the zoning ordinance now calls for — if they agree to save a minimum of 50 percent of the land suitable for development as “green space.” Land not suitable for development, such as wetlands and land in a flood plain, cannot be included in the 50 percent set aside for green space.
“There will be no mandatory requirement; we’re offering it as an alternative to the traditional,” said Leo Smith, chair of a conservation committee that came up with the amendment following last year’s update of the county’s comprehensive plan.
“We’re hoping developers will take a look at it and say ‘hey, I can make money at this,’” Smith told the commission.
Conservation subdivisions will not be allowed in business, industrial, or areas with intense agricultural operations (such as commercial chicken houses or hog farms).
“The overlay zone means a conservation subdivision can potentially be developed most anywhere in the county,” Smith said.
“The 50 percent of green space would be held in a ‘perpetual easement’ by a non-profit group (such as a homeowners’ organization) that couldn’t be violated,” Smith emphasized.
Proponents of the conservation subdivision say they will require less infrastructure, such as roads, cost less to maintain and generally provide no loss of the number of homes that a developer can construct on a tract of land.
In addition, they will provide protection of farm and forest lands, water recharge areas, and wildlife habitat.
Planning commission chair Rob Trevena quoted a section of the proposed amendment that says conservation subdivisions will “encourage the best possible site plans and building arrangements under a unified development plan rather than under lot-by-lot regulation. The subdivider benefits from better land utilization, economy in the provision of roads and utilities, and flexibility in design. The county gains the advantages of variety in building types, compatibility of uses and optimum community development. Review and approval of the developmental plan by the Madison County board of commissioners provides an opportunity to assure that the development will be in harmony with the character of the neighborhood in which the development is located and meet demand for housing in a rural setting.”
But not everyone attending the meeting was enthusiastic about the proposed amendment.
“I believe there is a place for this type of development... but I just want to know - am I going to catch a lot of flack from planning and zoning wanting me to go with a conservation subdivision?” developer and former planning commission member Gerry Burdette asked.
“It’s (conservation subdivision) not going to be mandatory,” Trevena replied.
“Another perspective on conservation subdivisions is that they will drive property prices right up the wall,” Burdette added.
The board of commissioners will have the final say on the approval of the amendment after another public hearing at their next regular business meeting on Monday, Oct. 28.


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.
Both the county government and the county school board released their five-year tax history this week, a prelude to final approval of their tax rates. And both are planning a slight tax rate reduction. Of course, property owners could still pay more in taxes this year than last year, depending on how their property is assessed.
The county school board will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m., Oct. 31, in the high school media center to approve its 2002 millage rate, while the BOC will meet at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 4, in the county government complex to approve its tax rates.
The schools board plans a 16.88 millage rate for maintenance and operations, down slightly from 16.94, while eliminating a 1.33 mill rate for bond retirement, thanks to a surplus in sales tax revenue. The mill rate for bond retirement is expected to be put into effect again next year. The school system anticipates $7.6 million in revenue through local property taxes.
Meanwhile, the county government is slightly reducing its tax rates for incorporated (city) and unincorporated (out-of-city) areas. The incorporated rate will drop from 11.62 to 11.51 and the unincorporated rate will fall from 10.17 to 10.13. Total anticipated county government general property tax revenues are $4.6 million.


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.
A new policy approved at the October board meeting will allow out of county students who have been in the system for 10 years and who are juniors or seniors at Madison County High School to remain enrolled in the school until graduation. Such students would be required to pay tuition based on actual cost to the county.
Board member Jim Patton voted against the rule, arguing that 10 years was too long. He wanted to reduce the time requirements to make it easier for students to qualify. Two students currently in the school system will be affected by the decision.
CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT
In a separate matter, Madison County has responded to an Office of Civil Rights directive concerning athletic programs. One area of contention is the publication of programs for athletic events. Basketball and Football booster clubs sell ads and publish programs at each game. OCR ordered that all sports have published programs.
Superintendent Keith Cowne noted that the schools do not publish the programs, but OCR does not care about that. He proposed that the schools work with the booster clubs to see that they include sections on all sports in their published programs. Other options are to have no programs, or have simple four-page programs prepared for all sports. Settlement of the complaint is still under negotiation, he said.
SPLOST CONSULTANT SPEAKS
Frank King, of Knox-Wall, has been hired to assist in the SPLOST extension program for the schools. The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax currently being collected will expire at the end of 2003. A vote to extend the tax will be held in March of 2003.
King outlined a timetable for actions leading up to the vote. The Board will be presented with an updated project list for approval in November. A resolution listing the projects and calling for the election is due in December. The resolution must be presented to the Federal Elections Board by mid January in order to qualify for a March election.
King said the new SPLOST is expected to produce as much as $9.5 million over its five-year lifetime. Most of the money will go to classroom construction and improvements in athletic facilities.
BUS DRIVERS RECOGNIZED
Cowne presented certificates to the schools transportation workers. He cited the bus drivers for their “extreme patience and diligence” as the system completely revamped the bus schedules. He credited the new schedule for allowing elementary teachers more planning time in the afternoon and providing separate buses for elementary and secondary students. He praised the workers for performing a “difficult and trying job, well done!”
OTHER BUSINESS
The board heard a request by Bruce Pilon for an easement behind Danielsville Elementary School to allow him to build a drive to a 20-acre lot on the back side of his property for a new home.
Board members were also invited to a Tuesday, October 22 program on promotion and detention of students. The meeting will be at the high school at 4:30 p.m.

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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.


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.
County commissioners agreed Monday that the county can maintain the park through Dec. 31, 2003. The Colbert city council will now have to vote to make the deal official.
Earlier this year, the city of Colbert requested that the county take over control of the park.
But county commissioners, facing a tight 2003 budget, said they can’t commit to long-term maintenance of the park. However, they agreed to let the county recreation department take over the upkeep of the park on a short-term basis.
“We are limited in our finances but we feel we can take on (the Colbert Park) for a year and see what we can do,” said chairman Wesley Nash.
Recreation director Dick Perpall said the recreation department can postpone placing new siding on a recreation building, leaving about $8,000 to $10,000 in funds available for use at the Colbert park.
Mayor John Waggoner said the city of Colbert has about $12,000 to use for the park. Restoring bathrooms at the park is a main objective.
Perpall said he will need a part-time employee designated to the Colbert Park.
In other business Monday, the commissioners agreed to abandon part of Sawdust Road, meaning the county will no longer maintain a portion of the road. Two residents of the area requested the abandonment. They said the road has several problems, including dogs and cats being dropped off on the road, trash being thrown out frequently, people drag racing on the road and people meeting at the road to loiter and drink.
Hoke Strickland spoke out against a proposal by commissioner Melvin Drake to make Hope Thompson Lane a one-way street. Drake said he wanted to help alleviate school traffic congestion. But Strickland said making the road a one-way lane will only worsen traffic problems on Hwy. 98, while increasing the likelihood of wrecks. Road department head Charles Temple suggested that the county widen the road from its current 18 feet to 24 feet. The board approved a motion by Drake to widen the road, which will include securing rights of way from property owners on the road.
Also Monday, Fern Coutant was named to the Madison County Library Board. A van was transferred from the senior citizens’ center to the sheriff’s department for transporting prisoners. (The Francis Woodworth Foundation recently provided the senior center with money for a new van.) The commissioners agreed to have Temple look at Short-Seagraves Road to determine an appropriate speed limit. Nash proposed to have Precision Planning serve as architects for the new health center, noting that they did a good job on the county’s new Fine Finish Center. The board agreed to look at other health departments the company has worked on. The board met in closed session for about 45 minutes to discuss litigation but took no action.