News from Banks County...

NOVEMBER 27, 2002


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OPINIONS
Angela Gary
What happened to Thanksgiving?
Christmas trees are already up in most stores and many homes. Holiday music is blaring from the radios and offices. Some red and green Christmas clothing can even be spotted in the crowds at the mall.

Rochelle Beckstine
New threat closes schools across the nation
Students won’t be praying for snow or ice this winter. They’ll be praying for something else entirely. Something that can close schools for a month or more.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Leopards hope inside game pays off big
If there’s one thing the Leopards have going for them this year, it’s definitely size.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Math continues to be CRCT weakness
Students in the Jefferson and Jackson County school systems mostly continued to improve their reading and language arts scores last year, but had decidedly mixed results in their math efforts.

Automotive company relocating to Braselton
Year One of Atlanta is relocating its automotive restoration and performance parts company to Braselton.

City Utility Systems Post $2.6 Million Profit
Commerce's utility departments produced a $2.6 million profit during the 2001-02 fiscal year, according to the city audit.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
BOC O.K.’s conservation subdivisions
There’s been a lot of talk about conservation subdivisions.
But on Monday, county commissioners took action, approving a zoning ordinance amendment that will soon open the door for a new type of subdivision in the county. Leaders hope the move will help Madison County maintain its rural character.

Madison County couple shares their experiences in adoption, foster care
For Tim and Sondra Fountain, opening their home to children is what they have been “called to do.”

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COURTHOUSE SECURITY

Ann Lewallen, Banks County employee, passes through the metal detector recently installed at the Banks County courthouse. The security was ordered by Superior Court Judge Robert Adamson. People coming to the courthouse must now enter only through one of the main doors to the courthouse on Yonah-Homer Road and pass through the detector. Deputy James Savage, who was on duty last Thursday, said so far no one has been stopped for carrying a weapon.

Banks, Jackson get $26,400 for advertisinga
A “co-op” grant of $26,400 from the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism was awarded in September to the Banks and Jackson County Chambers of Commerce and Tanger Factory Outlet stores to be used for advertising to promote the Banks Crossing area.
The ad campaign could mean a $1.4 million boom to sagging businesses at Banks Crossing, according to predictions by Mark Valentine, general manger of the Tanger One and Two Factory Outlet Malls. The two counties could end up with $43,000 from local option sales tax, he estimates.
Valentine hopes the campaign will reach over 25 million travelers across the southeast. He also estimates 150,000 phone calls and Banks County website visitors. The result he hopes for, as stated in the grant, is to “achieve 6,250 visitors.”
The grant, written by Valentine, came as a surprise, however, to the board members of the Banks County Chamber as was evidenced in the November 14 board meeting.
At that meeting, Chamber president James Dumas said Valentine had tried to pursue the grant with the Banks County Convention and Visitors Bureau, but the CVB hadn’t been incorporated long enough to meet the 18 months-in-business criteria. So, Dumas said he made an “executive decision” to sign the grant August 15, with Valentine as the project manager, in order to meet a deadline.
“I am totally responsible for this, whether good or bad,” he said. “It was one of those things. It had to be signed and Mark had to get it to Atlanta.”
Board member Leslie George asked if it was part of the sum that the Banks County Board of Commissioners had dedicated for Tanger advertising. The BOC had agreed to commit $25,000 to the Banks Crossing ad campaign to Tanger earlier this year. Jackson County BOC contributed $12,500 to the campaign. Those funds, totalling $37,500 are to be matched by Tanger. Dumas replied the grant funds are different.
“It’s our state tax dollars coming back to us,” he said. “That seems to me to be what we’re supposed to do, promote business in Banks County, so, I went ahead and signed it on behalf of the chamber.”
George then asked: “Did we take on an obligation or is the chamber just the entity to get the grant?”
Dumas said he wasn’t sure of the details.
George then asked: “What are the funds to be used for? Is there a stipulation for administrative costs?”
Dumas said the grant was for printed advertising.
“Calls have to come in to the lead entity, the chamber,” he said. “So, we’re using our 800 number. My personal feeling is that this should have been a CVB thing, it’s more of their thing. But they couldn’t. So we did.”
The chamber’s 1-800 phone number is being used as the information line in the advertising campaign, as is the county website. That did not sit well with some of the board members.
Board member Lisa McClure asked who would be paying for the 800 number. While some board members did not object to helping get the grant, the costs involved in returning long distance phone calls, handling mail-out information, tracking the inquiries (mandatory in the grant) and time involved for Chamber executive director Carole Moores did cause some anxiety.
George said: “We can’t have Carole taking up her time with this.”
Dumas said: “Mark may have put in administrative costs. If it’s in there, we can tap into that.”
George responded: “Most grant writers know to put that in. If you’re not a grant writer, you wouldn’t know to add in administrative costs.”
Dumas said Valentine wanted the chamber to take the calls and keep the records. He suggested Moores forward requests to Tanger for mail-out information.
The board members asked to see a copy of the grant, but a copy was not available at the time.
“My position is that this is the right thing to do,” Dumas said. “We’re helping promote business and people coming to Banks Crossing. The concept is we’re not advertising Tanger, we’re advertising Banks Crossing. The grant money is not being given to promote Tanger.”
George suggested getting help from the Banks Crossing businesses, restaurants, hotels and motels.
“We could request that they have someone donate some of their time to help man this phone,” she said. “That’s only fair. We’re generating business for them. It’s fine if Carole only gets five or six calls a day, but if it’s 50 or 60, we can’t afford for her time to be used in that way.”
Board member Steve Chambers said: “I see this as a chamber function. But where I have a problem is we’re paying for it. Are they [the Banks Crossing businesses] all members? Their memberships would help off-set some of these costs. They need to be able to assist us in some way.”
McClure said: “We need to figure this out.”
Dumas replied: “We need to do this. If we can’t afford it, we need to get out of the chamber business.”
The board then discussed ways to handle the phone calls by setting up a specific ring for the 800 number, changing phone companies, adding voice mail or asking the county to take over the phone bill. It was also suggested that senior citizens be asked to volunteer a few hours a week. Another suggestion was made that since the chamber would be working in CVB territory—tourism—the chamber should be allocated some of the CVB funds.
The grant, according to Molly Gilbert, of the state agency, is a co-op grant administrator program and does not include any administration, communication or mail-out costs. The entity (the chamber) is supposed to have the financial capability of absorbing those costs. she added.
The co-op project was one of 40 awarded by the GDITT, according to a newsletter put out by Tanger. The Banks Crossing ad campaign now totals $101,400. Banks County contributed $25,000; Jackson County $12,500; the GDITT grant $26,400; and Tanger Inc. $37,500. Ads have already been placed in Southern Living Magazine, AAA Go Magazine (serving the Carolinas) and Georgia On My Mind. Three billboards to be placed southbound along I-85 from the Carolina border are in the production phase, as are brochures and rack cards for welcome centers.


Minor fire breaks out at Kentucky Fried Chicken
A fire that started in one of the fryers was reported at Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant at Banks Crossing Wednesday morning.
KFC manager Nanette Hiter said she saw smoke and flames coming from around seams at the back of a pressurized deep fryer after it had been turned on to fry a batch of chicken.
“We had just put the first batch in when smoke started pouring out of it,” she said. “I grabbed a fire extinguisher and attempted to put the fire out.”
Buddy Cromer was the first firefighter on the scene and he finished extinguishing the fire.
District Battalion Chief Greg Turk said the source of the fire appeared to be in the electrical wiring. Grease residue had provided fuel for the fire.
The restaurant was closed until the fire extinguishing system was recharged and inspected.


Kids’ photos taken through December 2
The annual children’s Christmas section will be published in The Jackson Herald, The Commerce News and The Banks County News on Wednesday, December 18. The newspapers will accept photographs of children age 8 years and younger through 5 p.m. Monday, December 2, to be published in the section.
The child must live in Banks or Jackson county; photos of grandchildren will be accepted only if the child resides with the grandparents in one of those counties.
Photos must include the following information, along with the photo, to be published: the child’s first and last name and age, as well as the parents’ names, their city of residence and phone number. Black and white or color photos can be used, but no Polaroids or photographs printed out from a computer onto laser paper will be accepted.
The photos may be dropped off or mailed to any of the newspaper offices. They may also be emailed to news@mainstreetnews.com as a .jpeg or .tiff file.


Homer plans holiday celebration
The Town of Homer will hold a Christmas celebration at 6 p.m. on Monday, December 2.
The celebration will be held at the Banks County Historical courthouse. Carolers from various Homer churches will sing, said town clerk Carol Ayers.
For more information, call Homer Town Hall at 677-3510.



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Arsonist’s conviction overturned
A man convicted of setting the 1998 fire that killed Banks County firefighter Loy Williams Jr. won his appeal in a federal court last week.
Jay Scott Ballinger pled guilty in April 2001 to burning five churches in Georgia, including the New Salem United Methodist Church in Banks County.
Ballinger was convicted under a federal law charging his religious arsons affected interstate commerce. Ballinger challenged the constitutionality of the law in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Though the court agreed that the law was Constitutional, the judges ruled 2-1 Thursday that the law should not have been applied in Ballinger’s case and thus overturned his conviction.
Two of the federal judges found that Ballinger’s actions did not have substantial impact on interstate commerce.
However, Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall disagreed, saying “his acts of arson did substantially affect interstate commerce.”
Ballinger had already been convicted in November 2000 on 26 arson charges in seven different states. He was sentenced to 42 years in prison in that case.
Last week’s ruling won’t affect the 2000 conviction but only overturns the government’s case against Ballinger relating to the Georgia fires.
However, federal prosecutors may pursue a new case against Ballinger for the Georgia arsons.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, who had not fully examined the ruling, said on Monday that his office “will be seeking other legal opportunities in that case.”
Banks County District Attorney Tim Madison also said he plans to pursue an indictment against Ballinger for the fire that killed Williams.
Madison said Tuesday that he had spoken with members of the slain firefighter's family and he promised to prosecute the case, no matter how difficult it might be.
"The problem is getting federal witnesses from Indiana and Maryland," he said. "I hope the feds will cooperate with us."
Madison said the statute of limitations has run out on the other five fires Ballinger is accused of setting in Georgia, but it has not on the Banks County fire because a murder was involved.


DFACS sees drop in child abuse cases
For the first time in months, the Banks County Department of Family and Children Services saw a reduction in reported cases of child abuse.
Director Renota Free presented the child protective services report to the board members last Wednesday.
Staff members have been actively investigating 60 or more cases per month. In October, that load dropped to 54. Of those, 18 were new referrals, eight for physical abuse, one for emotional abuse and nine for neglect. Some 22 investigations remained pending at the beginning of the month.
Information obtained during the investigation of those 40 cases show two of the new referrals were screened out; 10 cases remain pending; one was substantiated and opened; two were substantiated and closed; and 21 were unsubstantiated and closed. Six cases were transferred to other counties when the families moved.
Some 14 cases remain on-going as staff members work with families to overcome the problems.
Three cases of adult abuse were closed when investigations proved no abuse was involved. One case is pending and three are ongoing.
Some 32 children are in legal custody. Five are from other counties.
Though abuse cases were down, five more Banks County families enrolled in the food stamp program, increasing the number to 387, at a cost of $67,137.
Temporary assistance to needy families also continues to rise at a cost of $10,096, up $2,000 over last year.
DFACS requested $1,072 from the county for child welfare services, emergency assistance funds and board member fees.