News from Jackson County...

OCTOBER 23, 2002

Jackson County

Jackson County

Jackson County

Our Time and Place:
A History of
Jackson County, Ga

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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Jackson County opinion page

Jana Adams
Atari, anyone?

If you are around my age, you’ll remember being called “Generation X” and puzzling over what that meant. I still don’t know, really.

Rochelle Beckstine
Society encourages weight gain
Is it too many carbs? Or is it too much fat?
For years, “experts” have been urging America to cut this or avoid that in order to slim down; yet the truth is cutting one food group out of your diet is not good for your body.

Frank Gillespie
Proposed amendments show weakness in constitution
When you go to vote on Nov. 5, you will be faced with a series of constitutional amendments concerning property tax exemptions. I have a real problem with these questions.

Margie Richards
Some marks of a true Southerner
Recently my pastor, Wayne Douglas, read an amusing piece in church concerning what it means to be a “true southern person.”


Savage: ‘We’re Moving On’
Don’t expect Commerce to be throwing itself a pity party on the practice field this week.

Old nemesis strikes again, ends season sour note
LOGANVILLE—It may not have been the type of ending the Jackson County fast-pitch team was hoping for this season, but one thing remained certain in the eyes of their coach Mark Mahoney following the team’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Madison County last Thursday—they are better now than they were at the beginning of the season.

Playoff Bound
Last Friday’s region clash between Jefferson and Towns County was a meeting of two teams headed in opposite directions from the opening kickoff onward, as the Dragons dominated the first half and bombarded the Indians on the ground en route to an easy 41-14 win.

Neighboorhood News ..
Senate 47 hopefuls face off in forum
Candidates for the State Senate District 47 post, which represents most of Madison County, faced off at a political forum in Banks County Tuesday evening.

Home near Colbert destroyed in fire
A Tuesday night, Oct. 18, fire left a home on Hardeman Morris Road a “total loss,” according to Colbert volunteer firefighters Dwayne Patton and Tony Mattox.

IDA seeks extension on water takeover
County industrial development authority (IDA) leaders are seeking an extension from Dec. 1 of this year to June 1 of next year on the takeover of Athens water lines in Hull.

Neighborhood News...
County’s solution to festival fee dispute may not work
Though the county has taken a step to solve a horse arena fee conflict with the chamber of commerce, the solution may not work at all.

American Indian festival, horse show planned Saturday
An American Indian festival and horse show is planned for Saturday, at the county’s horse arena.
The Banks County Horse Association and the newly-formed Winter Hawk Clan of Georgia, Cherokee are sponsoring the event.

Local candidates come together for forum
The candidates running in four contested seats within the county came together in a political forum at Banks County High School Tuesday night.

Lula to issue ultimatum
Members of the Lula City Council voted unanimously Monday night to issue an ultimatum to developer Barry Wikle to fix the road into a subdivision on Victoria Lane or be fined $2,500 per day until the road is properly repaired meeting city codes.
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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Kindergarten students in Susie Thurmond’s class at Jefferson Elementary School are among those who checked out a Lifeflight helicopter last week. Shown are: (L-R) Jackson County paramedic Adam Garrison, kindergartners Madison Rodgers and Emily Elrod and Jackson County paramedic Marcus Crowe.

County tax rate to stay the same
But net property tax income to climb by $1.2 million
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is poised to set this fall’s tax rate the same as last year’s millage numbers. But even though the rate may be the same, the county will still sweep in over $1.2 million more in property tax income, thanks to growth in the tax digest.
The BOC set a tentative tax rate of 9.78 in incorporated areas of Jackson County and 8.72 in the unincorporated areas.
But while the county is getting a property tax windfall, no new programs or services are currently planned in next year’s budget. Instead, the BOC has been wrestling with ways of cutting costs from the budget to avoid a millage hike.
Monday night, county manager Al Crace reported to the BOC that he and finance director John Hulsey had balanced the budget over the weekend.
A detailed line-item printout of the new budget shows that an additional $480,000 in income was added to revenue projections while $390,000 in projected expenses was taken out of the budget. One of the larger items taken out of the expense column was $98,500 that had been allocated for a new West Jackson Library.
In addition to those changes, Crace and Hulsey moved several departments out of the general fund budget into a “special revenue” category.
That change may force higher user fees, most notably for development projects. No county money was allocated for the county’s planning and zoning department, a move that will leave the department about $59,000 short in revenue over its projected fee income. Several commissioners have wanted to make that department “self-supporting” by raising building-related fees. The new changes in the budget would force that to happen.
The department shift will also leave the EMS department about $124,000 short of its expenses, according to the new budget. The department brings in about $460,000 per year in fees, but has expenses of $1.88 million. The new budget only allocates $1.29 million in supplemental county funding, creating the shortfall. The department has come under fire for not collecting ambulance fees quickly enough and its accounting services were recently reorganized.
While the parks and recreation department was also moved out of the general fund, enough supplemental money was allocated for it so that a major fee increase would not be necessary.
Before the new budget was presented Monday night, the county had been faced with either raising the tax rate, dipping into reserve funds, or laying off workers.
In a related matter, fire district taxes in the North Jackson and South Jackson districts will be going up this year. The North Jackson Fire District tax will be going up 60 percent, from .64 mills to 1.03 mills and the South Jackson Fire District rate will go up 27 percent, from 1.13 mills to 1.43 mills.

Officials Celebrate Completion
Of Bear Creek Reservoir Project
The weather was perfect and the atmosphere festive as approximately 100 people gathered under a big tent on the shore of the Bear Creek Reservoir last Friday afternoon. The occasion was the dedication of a $60 million project that has been in the works for a decade and a half.
The ceremony, highlighted by comments from Harold Reheis, director of the Environmental Protection Division, put a cap on a project that has consumed officials of Jackson, Barrow, Oconee and Clarke County since the drought of 1986-87.
The word "collaboration" was used with great abundance by speakers seeking to explain how the governments of four adjoining but diverse counties put aside political differences, overcame regulatory hurdles and met financial challenges to create a 505-acre reservoir and a 21 million-gallon-per-day water plant.
"The Bear Creek Reservoir project stands as a symbol of collaboration, cooperation and the culmination of Northeast Georgia coming together to work for the greater good of the area," waxed Harold Fletcher, chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. "I'm sure when this project was initiated, there were nay-sayers who said it couldn't be done. But folks, we're here today to celebrate the fact that it is."
Fletcher praised the "vision and hard work" of the people who "many years ago took the time, effort and the energy to make what we see here today a reality."
"Truly, this is unprecedented collaboration between four government jurisdictions," agreed Melvin Davis, chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners. "Its success has immeasurable implications for the future. The project has brought together four neighboring counties working together as a cooperative team and enhancing the resources of our area ... We anticipate this being the cornerstone of many future collaborative efforts."
Davis suggested it was time to look ahead once again.
Growth, he said, "is going to continue to push our region to demand more efficient use of water. We need to begin today to upgrade our treatment facility to meet the future demands for our water. We must utilize cutting edge technology as we explore wastewater treatment and water re-use on a regional basis. Our educational efforts with our citizens must continue to impress upon them to conserve water with good, common-sense practices."
Reheis, who oversees a budget of more than $80 million and a staff in excess of 750, spoke about the difficulties local officials went through to build the reservoir.
"I have to be real honest. The EPD requirements - a lot of this is our fault," he noted.
But that is based on the state's philosophy, he quickly added, "that we shouldn't be drying up our streams. That would be wrong. This is not the west. We are not water poor in Georgia. We don't want to dry up our streams."
Such a philosophy is not universal. According to Reheis, many states, including Tennessee and North Carolina, have no such policy. They issue no withdrawal permits.
"If you're in one of those states, you can take however much water you want. It's OK, don't worry about anybody downstream," Reheis commented. "That's an interesting way of going about business."
Growth was another complicating factor the EPD director cited, noting that the population of the four counties had doubled in the past 40 years and would likely double again in the next 30.
"Water is finite," he said. "People are not. We've got the same amount of water in Georgia and elsewhere in the world that you had a million years ago."
In addition, most Georgia streams are small and there is little groundwater in North Georgia.
"In these four counties ... there is no stream that doesn't start in one of the four counties or start in the next county upstream, so we don't have thousands of square miles of watershed."
Reheis noted that the "cumbersome federal process" is another obstacle to reservoirs, calling the acquisition of a federal 404 (withdrawal) permit, "extremely difficult."
"It's interesting though," he commented, "because it is not a level playing field," because the states with no local permitting processes are able to avoid building reservoirs altogether because they can take every drop of water from a stream or river. Reheis indicated he is trying to get federal agencies "to take into account that we have policies that make sense and are protecting our water resources."
Then there are the anti-reservoir residents, who Reheis called "misguided" in their opposition. He noted that of the half million acres of impounded water in farm ponds, recreational lakes, Georgia Power reservoirs and all other reservoirs, less than two percent goes for municipal water.
"That doesn't sound like a terrible apocalypse to me," he declared.
"Only those of you who have worked on this the last 12 to 15 years know how difficult it has been," Reheis concluded. "You have done a great and wonderful and visionary thing for the four communities, but also for the people downstream in this state who also rely on those same waters."

County alcohol
referendum on hold
County commissioner Emil Beshara agreed Monday night to hold off on calling for an alcohol referendum until the county seeks input from those supporting the action.
Several people spoke out in opposition to the move at a recent meeting, but there has been little public support of the action.
Beshara made a motion on the matter at Monday’s BOC meeting, but he withdrew it after commissioner Sammy Thomason said he would prefer to hear from those supporting the action before he voted. Thomason said he would like input from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce on their stand on the issue. He also asked for any other supporters to give the BOC their input.
Thomason said he is also concerned about the cost of calling an election, which was estimated at $10,000. There is no regularly scheduled elections planned next year.
Beshara plans to make a motion that two referendums be placed before county voters in a called election in March. One would ask whether packaged alcohol should be sold in unincorporated areas of the county, while the other would address whether alcohol by the drink should be allowed.

In other business at Monday’s meeting:
•it was announced that the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department was recognized as the 7th District Agency of the Year by the Georgia Recreation Parks Association. Rick Sanders is the director.
•agreed to accepted a $1,400 state grant to be used by probate judge Margaret Deadwyler for poll worker training and community education.
•agreed to work with other government bodies to verify that sales tax funds are being paid to the correct county.
•agreed to seek bids to repair four furnaces at the county correctional institute.

Commerce To Sell Property
For Back Taxes On Nov. 5
It will be mid-November or later before Commerce sends out its 2002 property tax bills, but officials are getting ready to sell property at auction Nov. 5 to collect delinquent taxes from prior years.
For the first time in years, Commerce has ordered the sale of property to pay delinquent taxes. Some 50-60 pieces of property have already been advertised for sale and a second round of tax notices will go out soon.
"A lot of people have come in and paid their bills," said City Clerk Shirley Willis. "In some cases, they hadn't paid because there was a property transfer and they never got the bill and were surprised it was outstanding. I guess the purchaser never followed up to make sure they didn't owe taxes."
The sale, on the steps of City Hall at 1:00, will coincide with election day and with a similar sale conducted at 10:00 a.m. on the Jackson County Courthouse steps by Don Elrod, Jackson County tax commissioner.
In all, the city hopes to recover some $180,000 in back taxes. The first phase covered $68,051 of that total. As of a week ago, some $21,875 of that had been paid.
The Commerce City Council hired Delinquent Tax Solutions Inc., a Snellville firm, to do the collections. The city will pay nothing for the service, but DTSI will get its money from a collection fee that ranges from $50 to $150 per parcel.
In addition, the taxpayer must pay a $10 "fi fa fee" to the city plus the cost of the legal advertising.
Another property tax collection tool will be available starting next year, according to Willis. Under that law, the city cannot issue a business license to someone who owes back taxes.

Jefferson’s budget calls for 8% tax hike
The Jefferson City Council reviewed a proposed $7.66 million 2003 budget Monday night that calls for a 1.48 mill increase for city operations and a 1.1 mill increase for the city school system.
The total millage rate proposed is 20.52 for fiscal year 2003, up from 17.94 in 2002, an eight percent increase.
As the council looked over the figures Monday, Mayor Jim Joiner pointed out that the city needs 5.63 mills, up from 4.15 mills in 2002 and close to the 5.65 mills set in 2001.
“This gets us back to where we were in 2001, as far as the city,” he said.
The school millage rate for the proposed budget is set at 12.99 mills, with bonds at 1.90.
Anticipated revenue included in the proposed budget are: $3.117 million anticipated revenues, $1.25 million in taxes for the city, $2.87 in taxes for the school system and $419, 954 in taxes for school bonds.
City clerk Brenda Duncan explained that the city will need the $1.25 million from the tax digest to “plug in.”
The budget requests from the departments include:
$866,614, financial and administration; $1.356 million, police department; $400,965, fire department; $924,591, street department; $89,883, museum; $257,480, parks and recreation; $145,330 planning and development; $110,821, library; and $3.5 million for “other financing,” including $2.87 million maintenance and operation and $419,954 in bonds for the Jefferson Board of Education.
Duncan said that the department budgets will look “greatly inflated” this year because items such as insurance will no longer be lumped into a non-departmental fund, but will show up in each department’s budget.
“The state auditor wants to give a true representation of what each department costs,” said city manager David Clabo. “That amount will have to be shifted out among the departments.”
But at the end of this year, some $1 million will be in the non-departmental fund, the mayor said.
During Monday night’s discussion, council member Bosie Griffeth wondered what the budget allows for in pay raises.
Clabo said the proposed budget also allows “room” for a 4.5 percent raise for every employee, effective on an employee’s job anniversary date, although he doesn’t anticipate every employee getting that much of a raise.
“We’re budgeting for 4.5 percent, that doesn’t mean everybody who comes along (for evaluation) will get that,” he said. “It won’t happen, but if it did, we’d have it covered.”
Council member Philip Thompson suggested that the city again consider a pay study to determine how to “get in line with everybody around us.”
“We’re still in the same situation — someone way above and someone way below (pay for comparable jobs in surrounding cities and counties),” he said. “That’s where you lose good people...Eventually we will have to bite the bullet and get the study and keep people from moving one county over to do the same job.”
Clabo agreed to provide more information for the council on the matter. He also agreed, per Thompson’s request, to provide information on the legalities of impact fees for a recreation department.

Clabo explained that the proposed budget is shaped from departmental budget requests with no adjustments. However, he said that he anticipates a few possible “strikes,” giving the example of the request for a new animal control truck that will be taken off the list because a truck has since been donated.
“We have two or three departments that want to do things a little differently,”Clabo said. “We ought to hear what they want to do. They want to present (their ideas) to you.”
He gave the example of the police department, which has included a request for funds to purchase a standard weapon for each officer. Currently, the officers supply their own weapons.
The council agreed to hold three public hearings on the budget at the club house, with representatives from the fire, police, recreation and roads departments to attend the 6 p.m. October 31 meeting to present their budget requests. Other public hearings are set for 1 p.m. October 31 and 6 p.m. November 7, with a called meeting to follow.


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Property owner rejects courthouse site terms
Although the Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed Monday night to take an option on a second potential site to locate a new courthouse, the property owner has rejected the deal because he doesn’t want a jail to be located within a specific distance of property lines on the site.
The BOC unanimously agreed after meeting behind closed doors for more than one hour Monday night to pay a $1,000 option for 200 acres owned by Jack Davidson near the bypass north of Jefferson. Commissioner Emil Beshara, who made the motion to take the option, said the purchasing price for the 200 acres would be $3 million, about $15,000 per acre. Davidson had earlier offered to donate 25 acres for the courthouse project.
But Davidson had also proposed a list of restrictions on the property, most of which the county rejected. County manager Al Crace said on Tuesday that Davidson in turn had rejected the county’s offer without some restrictions in place on the location of any future jail.
“I’m very, very disappointed,” Beshara said Wednesday about the inability of the two parties to come to terms.
The BOC earlier purchased 165 acres on Darnell Road for $2.4 million for the location of a courthouse.
The option on the Davidson property would have been for 90 days and the BOC had agreed to ask its architect, Cooper Carry, to evaluate both sites and make a recommendation on which is best suited for the new courthouse.
At Monday’s meeting, Beshara said that during preliminary negotiations, Davidson asked the county to put 300 feet of roadway on an adjacent piece of property. Beshara added that the county would have the option of extending the road on to Hwy. 129.
Crace said Tuesday that the county would now proceed with locating the courthouse on the Darnell Road site. The architects, Cooper Carry, will conduct a site evaluation and proceed with the plans.
Crace said that next week, the BOC also plans to visit the Douglas County courthouse, which was also designed by Cooper Carry.

Election looms for Nov. 5
Jackson County voters will be going to the polls on Nov. 5 to cast their ballot for several state races, including three local Senate seats and one local House of Representatives seat.
In the District 25 House of Representatives race, incumbent Pat Bell (D) faces challenger Chris Elrod (R).
Following reapportionment, three Senate seats serve portions of Jackson County. In District 46, Doug Haines, Athens, (D) will face Brian Kemp, Athens, (R). In District 47, Robert Banks, Canon, (D) will face Ralph Hudgens, Comer (R). In District 49, Sueellen Simmons, Jefferson (D) will face L.S. Casey Cagle, Gainesville (R).
The Jackson County School System has also called for a special election on Nov. 5 on homestead exemption.
Voters will be asked to vote yes or no on providing an additional $20,000 homestead exemption from the county school district property taxes for people age 65 and older whose net income, excluding certain retirement income, does not exceed $18,000.
The City of Hoschton has also called a special election for Nov. 5 to fill a vacant seat on the city council. Sandie Romer, Ronald Holcomb and Jerry R. Meyer have qualified for the council seat.
The post six city council seat was vacated in September when Genoria Bridgeman resigned from office. The term will expire in December 2003.

Political forum to be held in Hoschton
The Hoschton Women’s Civic Club will sponsor a political forum for the upcoming special election on Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 6:30 p.m.
The forum will include the three qualifiers for the Nov. 5 city council election — Sandie Romer, Ronald Holcomb and Jerry R. Meyer.
The forum will be held at the Hope Christian Worship Center, located in the Hoschton Industrial Park.
A special election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 5 at city hall to fill the post left vacant by the resignation of Genoria Bridgeman.

Halloween Walk set Oct. 31
The Jefferson Area Business Association finalized plans for the annual Halloween Walk in the downtown area.
Area children are invited to visit participating businesses in the downtown area from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31, to get treats.
A haunted house will be located at Dutch Petaler. JABA will also take photographs at Dutch Petaler and near the Crawford W. Long Museum.
A “best costume” and “best decorations” contest will be held for businesses.

Remember to turn back clocks Saturday night