News from Jackson County...

OCTOBER 30, 2002


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page

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

Commerce Looks To Take Care Of Business Against Lowly Towns County
One mis-step this season was enough for Commerce Tiger head coach Steve Savage and his team to stomach. They’re certainly not in the mood for another.

Cross country Panthers battle region
Daniel Elder qualified for the state meet in Carrollton on Nov. 9 by virtue of his third-place finish at the Region 8-AAAA meet in Conyers last Saturday. Elder crossed the finish line with a time of 17:35 to lead the Panthers. He was the only JCCHS team member to qualify for state.

Late Redskin rally dooms Dragons
For nearly the entire game last Friday, Jefferson battled host Social Circle in an old-fashioned, grind’em out affair plagued by turnovers and scarce on points. That is, until the final 2:30 when things became decidedly more interesting than they had been before.


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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

Maysville moves closer to final budget
The Maysville City Council has churned out what will likely be its final budget for next year.

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.

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.

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.

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Library sing-along

Librarians and library staff from across the state attended a “Silly Songbook” workshop held Thursday at the Jefferson Public Library by musician, author and storyteller Esther Nelson, shown playing the piano. The workshop was held twice during the day for those interested in children’s programming, with some 100 in attendance.


UPDATE 11/06/02
Elrod upsets Bell in House race
In a close race, Jefferson attorney Chris Elrod (R) defeated incumbent Pat Bell (D) for the District 25 House of Representatives seat. Elrod had 50 percent of the vote, while Bell had 47.
As voters used the computerized voting machines for the first time, Elrod had 4,412 votes, while Bell had 4,352-a difference of only 60 votes. The seat covers a portion of Jackson County and three precincts in Barrow County.
Bell carried Jackson County 3,556-3,499, but the Barrow County precincts gave Elrod the edge.
Late Tuesday night, court officials predicted that there was a 52 percent voter turnout, much higher than the 20 percent that voted in the primary election.
See this week's newspapers for complete election results.


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.
The vote came after a sometimes heated discussion over studying a 200-acre site north of Jefferson between Hwy. 129 and the Jefferson bypass. The landowner had agreed to donate 25 acres of the site to the county with that property forming a 400-ft. corridor along Hwy. 129 with an understanding that no jail facility would be built on that particular strip. Behind that strip, the county could buy up to 175 additional acres with no restrictions.
But led by chairman Harold Fletcher, who cast the tie-breaking vote, the board turned down the offer, refusing to take a 90-day option on the site and declining to include it in a courthouse site study. Joining Fletcher in voting down the matter were commissioners Sammy Thomason and Tony Beatty. All three had earlier voted to purchase property on Darnell Road for a new courthouse. Voting in favor of studying the site were commissioners Stacey Britt and Emil Beshara.
HEATED EXCHANGE
Fletcher said he wouldn’t vote in favor of studying the site since the landowner had put restrictions on the donated 25 acres. But that led to a heated exchange between Britt and Fletcher, with Britt charging that the chairman was “nit-picking” as an excuse to kill the proposal.
“Gentleman, I have a problem with any restrictions whatsoever with any property that would be attained by this board,” Fletcher said. “I think it would cause us a delay with the analysis, it causes us to second guess or try to guess where this (the restricted property) is possibly going to be.”
Britt said there would be no “second guessing.”
“It is not tied down, Stacey,” Fletcher said.
Britt said: “I’m telling you they will agree to put it (the restriction) on the old 129...If you get property donated to you, there’s always going to be restrictions.”
Fletcher said: “They are, in essence, not donating, per se, Stacey. They are selling the property at $15,000 an acre. This is a ploy to try to get some tax advantages. They are trying to sell 200 acres for $15,000 an acre.”
Britt responded: “All we are asking, Harold, is to look at the site. We’re not offering to buy it.”
Fletcher: “I’m saying if we analyze the site, we analyze both sites unencumbered with no restrictions whatsoever...”
Britt said the 25 acres “doesn’t mean anything” and there aren’t any plans to put a jail on the site at this time. He said that would be at least “10 years down the road.”
“You’re just trying to pull that out and throw water on the deal,” Britt said.
Before the vote was taken, Fletcher again said he has a problem with the restrictions.
“I have a real problem when it comes to buying property and someone putting arbitrary restrictions on it,” he said.
Britt said: “You’re looking...You’re nit-picking that agreement looking for a way not to analyze that site.”
Fletcher said: “I’m not looking for a way. I’m looking at you and telling you that the only problem I have with doing any analysis is an arbitrary restriction placed on part of that property.”
Britt said he “didn’t have time to argue” with Fletcher about it and was ready to make a motion to take the option on the property.
Beshara said he is opposed to the county government purchasing property with restrictions on it, but that the 25 acres would be donated.
“That is the only way I can justify any restrictions at all,” he said.
Thomason said: “I have a problem with paying $3 million for property that does have some restrictions on it. Furthermore, having to build a road adjoining private property with it not part of the $3 million we have to pay for the property. I still have a problem with a location that is not central in Jackson County. I also have a problem with a location that does not put all of Jackson County’s services and departments in one location. We still have a number of departments that are located adjoining the Darnell Road on our existing County Farm facility...I don’t favor spending additional money to do the analysis.”
Beshara said the analysis would cost approximately $25,000 to $30,000.
“We didn’t spend $25,000 to $30,000 analyzing that site (Darnell),” Britt said. “It is prudent of us to do this analysis. I don’t know if it’s right...Most governments analyze a site before they purchase the property. We just decided to buy it without analyzing it.”


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.
Mulberry River Associates, LLP filed a lawsuit on Oct. 8 in Barrow County Superior Court claiming a September decision by the Braselton Town Council for its property has resulted in a “substantial” economic loss.
The company says that by not approving its rezoning request for 61.89 acres on Hwy. 211 and Liberty Church Road from agricultural to Planned Unit Development (PUD), an estimated $3.2 million was lost by the developers.
The plans called for 185 homes on 39.04 acres, along with nearly 140,000 square feet of commercial development on Hwy. 211.
In August, the Braselton Planning Commission heard a recommendation by McFarland-Dyer and Associates to deny the rezoning request, as submitted for PUD by Mulberry River Associates. Instead, the recommendation offered approval for R-1, single-family residential district, with conditions.
The town planning commission then recommended additional conditions, including adding an amenities center and providing landscaped buffers along Hwy. 211 and Liberty Church Road. The conditions also further limited the number of homes per an acre.
“These additional conditions severely impaired and limited (Mulberry River Associates) ability to develop the property for any economical use to an even greater detriment and extent than the classification and conditions as recommended by McFarland-Dyer and Associates,” the suit reads.
Following a unanimous vote of recommendation from the town planning commission, the developers then told Braselton officials the request, as amended from the planners, would result in the loss of millions of dollars, if approved by the town council.
The Braselton Town Council then voted to approve the R-1 rezoning for the property in September. Council member Elise Cotter abstained from voting.
The lawsuit contends that compared to other projects along Hwy. 211, the proposed development would have been similar to other nearby uses approved near Chateau Elan.
And while the lawsuit further states that the property isn’t completely without use, it would have been more valuable if the property was rezoned to PUD.
“There is no benefit to the public from the restrictions of the Subject Property as contained in the existing zoning classifications which approaches the resulting detriment suffered by (Mulberry River Associates),” the suit reads.
Another item the lawsuit debates is the validity of the public hearings conducted by the Town of Braselton.
According the lawsuit, since those persons speaking in opposition to the request didn’t disclose if they were influenced by campaign contributions or other gifts, the public hearings and subsequent vote by the town council are tainted and should be declared null and void.
Three people spoke against the request during the planning commission hearing and one at the town council meeting. All completed a form requiring their name, street address, campaign contributions and position of the request. No one spoke in favor of the plans.
Mulberry River Associates first submitted a rezoning and annexation request for the property to PUD in March 2001. Braselton’s planning officer recommended approval of the request, but the company either asked the request to be tabled over the past year or changed its plans, town clerk Jennifer Scott said.
The development company then resubmitted its request in July 2002.
During the July town council meeting, a representative for Mulberry River Associates submitted a letter that objected to the proposed plans from the Braselton Land Use Plan Advisory Committee. The committee recommended medium-density residential for the property.
The lawsuit contends that by not following the plaintiff’s request to change the future land use plan, the town acted in a discriminative and unconstitutional manner.
The Mulberry River Associates lawsuit marks the third lawsuit filed against Braselton within a year.
The town recently settled a lawsuit with Barrow County over a zoning decision for the Strickland River Farms property on Hwy. 211.
A lawsuit with the City of Gainesville dealing with the Georgia Service Delivery Strategy Act is still awaiting a verdict from Jackson County Superior Court Judge David Motes. A decision in that case was expected by Oct. 4, but as of press time, no decision has been made.


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.
In a called meeting last Thursday night, the Commerce Board of Education awarded the contract for the new 600-student Commerce Middle School to Aldridge Inc., whose base bid of $6,186,000 was lowest by a scant $31,000 among nine bidders.
Nathan Baxter of Commerce is president of Aldridge Inc., which is also building East Jackson Elementary School just out Waterworks Road.
But the reason school superintendent Larry White was smiling last Thursday was that the bids were low enough to allow the Commerce Board of Education to include six additional classrooms to bring the school to its designed capacity of 600 students and to provide all of the "alternatives" included in the bid package.
When all the alternatives are included (six classrooms, a bus canopy, an upgrade to preferred hardware), the bid total came to $6,546,600. The bid price includes grading, during which 400,000 cubic yards of earth must be moved.
Contracts for paving (the low bid for which was $133,514) and data networking (the low bid for which was $47,106) will be worked out independently, White said.
"We started out with an estimate of $6,945,000. We are basically at the place of the original estimate, but we got six additional classrooms," noted the system's architect, Greg Smith.
The project will also require a sewer lift station and acceleration-deceleration lanes on Georgia 15, plus there is a $900,000 expected cost for equipment and furnishings, $392,000 for contingencies and $559,000 for engineering and architect's fees. The base bid includes a $55,000 allowance for rock on the site, some of which could be saved if the contractor encounters no problems.
White was pleased with the entire bid, but particularly with the system's ability to move on the six additional classrooms.
"That's $48,000 per classroom," he pointed out. "The last time we built classrooms at the middle school, they were right at $100,000 apiece. It would cost us twice that much to build them later."
SCHEDULE
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the project will be hitting the target completion date of Dec. 15, 2003, which for all practical purposes allows 13 months for construction.
"It's a tough time to be coming out of the ground," conceded Smith in a reference to the approaching winter.
Funding for the school comes from $3,076,000 in state facilities money and $5.5 million from a bond sold against future proceeds of the special purpose local option sales tax for education.
The good bid prices give the school board some hope that once the middle school is built there will be money left over for other capital improvements. According to the system's SPLOST plan, those include a new central office facility (located at the middle school site), an addition to the high school gym for practice facilities for the cheerleading and wrestling programs, improvements in the concession stand and rest rooms at Tiger Stadium and improvements in heating and air conditioning systems.


Halloween Walk set Thursday
The annual Halloween Walk will be held Thursday in downtown Jefferson.
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.
The Jefferson Area Business Association sponsors the event.


Pendergrass names first policeman
Rob Russell has been named Pendergrass’ first police officer for the town’s effort to start a police department.
Russell, a former patrol officer for the Arcade Police Department, is the first officer hired for the new department, which is expected to start operating early next year. He is also a former community affairs officer for the Jefferson Police Department and is pursing his law degree.
During a called meeting on Monday and its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Pendergrass City Council further continued to piece together its police department.
Russell reported on Tuesday that the town has purchased two police vehicles—a 1999 vehicle used by the Rome Police Department and a 2000 vehicle formerly used as a patrol car. By purchasing the vehicles used, Russell said Pendergrass spent a quarter of the money it would have used if the vehicles were purchased new.
On Monday, the council held the first reading of four ordinances it needed to launch the police department.
A meeting was called for Monday since the town’s charter states the city council cannot vote on an ordinance the same night it is proposed, explained city attorney Walter Harvey.
The Pendergrass City Council had previously voted to start the police department, but it also needed to do so through ordinances, Harvey said.
The first such ordinance established the town’s police department and delegated authority to the mayor to hire staff and purchase equipment.
A second ordinance adopted the Georgia Uniform Rules of the Road, which regulates traffic on Pendergrass’ public streets and outlines certain fines. A third ordinance established the posted speed limits for the town.
Finally, the city council voted to start a municipal court to uphold fines to violators.
“If you’ve got a police department, you’ve got ordinances to enforce and you’ve got to have a (municipal) court,” Harvey said.
Pendergrass’ municipal court will meet at least once a month and will have a judge who is in good standing with the State Bar of Georgia, the ordinance says. The salary of the judge will be determined by the mayor and council.

Mayor Monk Tolbert wasn’t present for Tuesday’s regular meeting.


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See Galilee Preschool Flyer


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.
The new electronic voting machines will be used state-wide in Tuesday’s General Election.
In Jackson County, voters will be selecting 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, Suellen Simmons, Jefferson (D) will face L.S. Casey Cagle, Gainesville (R).
HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION
A special election will also be held Tuesday on homestead exemption.
Voters will be asked to vote yes or no on providing an additional $20,000 homestead exemption from the school property taxes for people age 65 and older whose net income, excluding certain retirement income, does not exceed $18,000. A $10,000 homestead exemption is already allowed for those age 62 and older.
HOSCHTON ELECTION
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.


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.
“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.
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.


Police To Offer Kids’
ID Kits During
Trick-Or-Treat Thursday
The annual Downtown Trick-or-Treat Thursday evening will give area children a chance to load up on candy and their parents an opportunity to help police find them if they're ever missing.
The Commerce Business Association hosts its annual Downtown Trick-Or-Treat from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m.
The Halloween observation brings upwards of 2,000 children, most of them in some sort of costume, into town for 90 minutes of candy collecting from local merchants. Participants include not only downtown merchants, but also other businesses who come into town, set up booths and give away candy.
This year, the Commerce Police Department will add a new twist.
It will set up in front of the Downtown Development Authority office on South Elm Streets and implement a "child identification program" for interested parents.
Essentially, police will fingerprint kids on a card that will be given to parents, who will also be asked to fill out other identifying information, according to Police Chief John W. Gaissert.
"Then we will ask them to keep it in a secure place in case they need it," Gaissert said. "I would also recommend taking a lock of hair or something from which DNA analysis can be made."
The program is under the department's Operation Safe Streets. The package includes safety tips for children, parents and community, a place to put the child's photo (which should be updated annually), pertinent information on the child and a fingerprint card.
"Our goal is to further improve the security of our community and the safety of our children," Gaissert stated.
Co-sponsors are the CABA and the J.M. Huber Corp.
Prior to the downtown event, the Commerce Public Library will host a children's Halloween party, which starts at 3:30.