News from Banks County...

OCTOBER 30, 2002


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OPINIONS

Phillip Sartain
Guy stuff

They found me. Not only that but they sent me a catalogue. I really thought that I had done a better job of hiding my weakness. But I shouldn’t really be surprised. It only makes sense that the Gadget Nation would be able to identify one of their own.

Rochelle Beckstine
Christmas just 56 days away
Does that give anyone else heart palpitations? I have a list two and a half pages long of things I need to literally sit down and make between now and Christmas Eve. I need divine intervention.

Frank Gillespie
The flag question won’t go away
The flag question will not go away. Two political stories last week brought it back into play.

Angela Gary
A night of blues
Willie Kent started out singing in his church choir in Mississippi. Now, he sings the blues a couple of times a week in clubs in Chicago.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Banks on the road to battle GAC Spartans
Banks County will have its hands full this week.
The Leopards travel to Norcross Friday to take on the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans (7-1, 5-1), one of the top teams in the region.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
BOC nixes study of alternative courthouse site
Despite a week of intense negotiations, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to not study a second site offered for a new county courthouse.

Braselton hit with another lawsuit
A development company that didn’t get the rezoning and annexation request it sought from Braselton is suing the town for its recent zoning decision.

Election coming up Tuesday
New electronic voting machines to be used
Jackson County voters will join people across Georgia who go to the polls on Tuesday by casting their ballot electronically for the first time.

In Under Budget
Aldridge,Inc. Wins $6.54 Million Contract To Build New Commerce Middle SchoolConstruction on the first new Commerce City School System school since 1974 should commence next month and the contract goes to a company owned by a local man.

Bypass to open Nov. 6
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.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
New districts, new machines
New districts, new machines — Tuesday’s elections will feature both.
Voters across Georgia will see democracy meet the computer age Tuesday as new electronic voting machines are put in use.

BOC turns down rec director’s request for equipment
Madison County commissioners turned down recreation director Dick Perpall’s request Monday to purchase equipment to help maintain the Colbert City Park, which the county has agreed to supervise for at least one year.

Leaders hope voters say ‘yes, yes, yes’ to Freeport
Madison County business leaders hope voters say “yes, yes, yes” to the three “special election” questions on the county’s Nov. 5 ballot.

No action taken by BOC on conservation
subdivision proposal
A solid step to keep the county green?
Or a possible way for the county to lose another form of green — money?
County leaders and concerned citizens hashed out the pros and possible cons of conservation subdivisions Monday.

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HORSE AND RIDER COSTUME COMPETITION

Two-year-old Bailey Carpenter, Gainesville, watched the horse and rider costume competition at the Banks County Horse Association show held Saturday at the Banks County Horse Arena.

Electronic election starts Tuesday
County voters will get their first real-time glimpse at the state’s new electronic voting machines in an election that could change some of the county’s leadership Tuesday.
Three local contested races are on the ballot, including two commissioner seats and a board of education post.
Voters will also decide on a state Senate District 47 candidate. (See pages 6A and 7A for complete candidate coverage.)
Polling precincts will look a little different as voters head out this year.
For the first time statewide, all precincts will be equipped with the new electronic voting machines.
“I think it’s going to go real well,” said election superintendent Judge Betty Thomas of the new machines. “I’m excited and looking forward to it.”
Banks County will have between two and four machines in each of the county’s 13 precincts. Thomas said support staff from the machines’ manufacturer will be on hand before, during and after the election to help with vote counting and any technical problems.
Some discussion statewide has focused on potential anxiety with elderly voters using the machines. However, Thomas said she doesn’t foresee that as a problem in Banks County.
“I’ve not seen that to be true in our demonstrations,” she said. “They’ve been real positive and enthusiastic about using it.”
Thomas said poll workers can assist voters with putting their ballot card into the machines.
However, any voter who wants assistance while actually voting must bring someone with them to help and must fill out a form at the precinct.
Thomas said poll workers can’t assist once the ballot comes up on the screen.
“We’ve tried to get people educated,” she said. “I don’t expect much of a difference in turnout.”
Thomas added that the machines were used in Hall County during the primaries in August.
“Reports were very positive,” she said. “We’re doing everything on our end to make this successful.”


Maysville moves closer to final budget
The Maysville City Council has churned out what will likely be its final budget for next year.
The council verbally agreed on pay raises and a water and sewer rate increase during a work session Monday, though no decisions are final until an official vote is taken. The council will likely revisit the matter at Monday’s regular meeting.
At its last budget meeting earlier this month, the council tentatively agreed on a three-percent pay increase for all non-salaried employees, which would exclude city clerk Lois Harper, police chief Ricky Armour and water department head Ralph Sailors.
The council also tentatively agreed at that time to make Sailors a salaried employee, cutting out his overtime and increasing his salary to a $13.50 per hour rate.
Monday, the council talked of doing away with its decisions earlier this month, cutting out pay raises all together for all city employees to lower budget costs. The plan would also knock Sailors back down to a $13.09 per hour pay rate, though he would stay as a salaried employee without overtime.
Mayor Richard Pressley proposed a plan to give all city employees a three-percent raise, including the three supervisors. Pressley pointed out that the raises would only cost the city between $5,500 and $6,000.
Both Scott Harper and Marion Jarrett opposed the plan. Jarrett thought a two-percent raise would be more in line with a cost of living increase.
Harper said he was concerned about the city trying to cut its budget and give raises at the same time.
“I think everybody makes pretty decent money now,” he said.
Andrew Strickland spoke in favor of the raises, saying the city had always given a cost of living raise. He also said the three percent would not “break” the city.
Andy Martin said he was in favor of the increase as well.
Pressley, acting as the tie breaker on the matter, told the council the raise was a way of telling the employees that “we appreciate your work.” He leaned in favor of the raises.
Though no action was official taken, the council agreed to go along with the majority decision to give all employees the three-percent raise.
The increase puts the city clerk at $11.58 per hour, the water department head at $13.48 per hour and the police chief at $17.97 per hour.
In another matter, the council reaffirmed an agreement it made last month on water and sewer rates.
The council will not increase the base rate for customers who use no more than the minimum amount of water each month. However, for those who use more than the 2,000 gallon minimum, the council unofficially agreed to raise rates 50 cents per 1,000 gallon above the minimum.
The increase, the council said, was necessary to offset water and sewer costs.
The council also agreed to a $14,500 fire contract with the Maysville Fire District for fire protection on the Banks County side of the city. The city will finance the contract with the property tax it collects from the special fire district it created last year.
The city budget will pick up the shortfall between the contract the and taxes that are collected.


Wellness Wednesday’ to end in December
On Wednesday Dec. 18, BJC Medical Center will hold its final weekly “Wellness Wednesday” program. The low-cost health screening has been a weekly staple at the hospital since 1986.
By a unanimous vote of the BJC Medical Center Authority Monday night, the program was folded into its Wellness Center, an exercise/rehabilitation facility just up Hospital Road from the medical center.
Simply put, that means the low-cost blood screenings and wellness checks will be available only through membership in the Wellness Center, although the facility will continue to market it to industries and large businesses.
Neither the authority members nor the hospital administration discussed the issue at Monday’s meeting. But Tuesday morning, assistant administrator Oscar Weinmeister said the move was financially driven.
“We had so many people from outside of the area, from all over northeast Georgia and from South Carolina, coming in and taking advantage of the low-cost tests,” he said. “This, in part, will help keep people from outside of the area from taking advantage of the screenings.”
In addition to offering the program to its Wellness Center members and to industries, Weinmeister said BJC Medical Center will have “periodic announced screenings that will not be advertised beyond Banks and Jackson counties” but which will be available to the public.
The program, used by 30-50 people a week (to 100 in its early years) offers cholesterol screening for $5, blood sugar screening for $10, blood pressure checks, and a wellness profile for $20, that covers the cholesterol and blood sugar screenings, plus checks for triglycerides, electrolytes, kidney and liver function and counts of white blood cells and hemoglobin.
“It was used as a public relations tool to get people to come to the hospital to see we’re here and how it looks,” noted Henry Slocum, who ran the program since its inception.
“Also, we have a lot of diabetics who don’t know they’re diabetics and this has been good for them,” he said. “We’ve seen a tremendous number of people. It’s been good for the doctors’ offices because the patient walked in the door with the information in their hand and the doctors knew what to do.”


BOC approves jail grading bid
At a special called meeting Friday, the Banks County Board of Commissioners approved Charles Sullivan Construction’s $78,495 bid for grading work at the new jail site at the county farm.
The bid was the lowest of three bids submitted to the county.



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Baldwin City Council discusses Chattahoochee pumping station
The Baldwin City Council again heard from Joe Cogbill about the noise coming from the water pumping station along the Chattahoochee River.
He told council members at Monday’s meeting that most of the noise comes from the middle pump, which he claimed runs at around 97 decibels.
Cogbill suggested enclosing the station to reduce the noise level as well as protect the equipment from the weather and vandals. He also suggested using a paneled wall construction sprayed with sound insulation. The panels could be built so that if one of the pumps needed repair, a portion of the wall and the roof could be lifted and set aside, he said.
Cogbill said he had gotten estimates for the soundproofing at $16,000. Jim Holloway, plant manager, said it would cost closer to $30,000 to fix the walls and sound proof them. He suggested the walls be removed and Leyland Cyprus trees be planted in a staggered pattern around the site to help control the noise.
Holloway said the current walls around the plant were made of the wrong material and that they amplify the noise.
Mayor Mark Reed said the pumps were designed to run outdoors. He went along with removing the walls and planting the trees. But since trees would not be able to be planted on the riverside, he suggested a wall be erected facing the river to stop the noise.
Council member Ray Holcomb said he knows a place where the five- to six-foot trees could be purchased.
The council also discussed placing a gate across the road to keep people away from the plants.
Reed said Jack Benjamin, who purchased acreage adjoining the water plant, has complained that lots are selling because of the water plant.
Council member Mitchell Gailey said: “The water plant was there when he purchased the land. The plant has been there for years. I don’t see why we have go through all this to solve the problem. I’m not going to go along with it. I will go along with the tree planting and resetting the wall to face the river.
Holcomb agreed with Gailey but said the safety issue really needs to be addressed.
The council discussed the problem with fencing in the small 100-foot by 100-foot lot. If the land is fenced, there’s not enough room to get maintenance vehicles down in the plant area, officials said.
Holloway said he had looked for the markers designating the lot’s boundaries and suggested the markers had been moved. He said Benjamin had surveyed the land and moved the markers to align with the survey.
Holcomb said the city should have the lot surveyed again to be sure it fell in line with the city’s plat.
Benjamin requested in a letter to the city council that they consider giving up the easement rights across his property and use a different entrance. Reed said that wouldn’t be possible since the city’s main water line goes up the existing road as well as the power line to the plant.
However, he said: “We need to be good neighbors. In that natural setting, the pump station may not appear appealing. The trees may help it look more natural.”
Council member Robert Bohannon said with all the issues that need addressing at the plant, the council should resolve them according to their priority. No final decision was made, but Holcomb was given the go ahead to price the trees.
In other business, the council:
•briefly discussed adjustments to the bills of two water customers. They will look at the requests at the next work session.
•approved taking out a three-year loan of $79,000 with Habersham Bank to refund property taxes paid by Banks Baldwin residents.
•approved a $1,762 invoice for an appraisal of the sewer system.
•approved taking liability insurance for the city through GMA. Reed said the insurance had gone up 30-percent from last year.
•held the first reading of the ordinance to increase the city’s fee from $25 to $40 on license fees for insurers.
•new Police Chief Lamar Clark said he had hired five people to fill open slots on the Baldwin Police Department. Those hired were: Don Ford, Ronald Martin, Tony Brown, Matt Waller and Rebecca Seymour. Clark said he had one more slot to fill. The council approved the hiring.
•fire chief Joe Roy said deputy fire chief Gary Pollard had resigned and was going to work for the Banks County Fire Department. Roy said he filled one of the two firefighter slots open by hiring Jeremy Mitchell. He said he was not going to fill the deputy chief’s job at this time. The council approved the new hiring and the resignation.
•the council voted unanimously to close the public meeting and enter closed session to discuss “personnel and pending litigation.”