News from Madison County...

NOVEMBER 27, 2002


Madison County
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OPINIONS

Frank Gillespie
Perdue should reduce number of state offices
So, Sonny Perdue has asked all state department heads to submit their resignations and reapply for their jobs. I can buy that. As a new governor, with a new party in charge, it makes sense that he would want to put in new department heads. What surprises me, sort of, is the number of people involved.

Zach Mitcham
BOC did the right thing on conservation subdivisions
Talk of “sprawl” sounds like a B horror flick, “The Blob” perhaps, a shapeless mass enveloping a region in unsightliness as mass


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Raiders perfect after two contests
It remains to be seen how life in Region 8-AAAA will treat the Raiders, but Madison County has flexed its muscle outside league play early on.


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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.

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FAMILY TIME

Tim and Sondra Fountain enjoy some quality time with their children, Samantha (L), 6, and Hope, 5, at the Madison County Library recently.

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.
The conservation subdivision option will be available for developers once commissioners O.K. the county’s subdivision regulations, which they are expected to do in coming weeks.
The new type of subdivision allows developers to place homes on small lots if they keep at least half of the development protected as “green space.”
Seven people took the podium Monday to support the proposal, while two citizens spoke in opposition.
One opponent of the plan, developer Gerry Burdette, presented to the commissioners a petition of local developers against the proposed subdivision option.
Burdette said the commissioners’ focus on conservation subdivisions is misdirected, maintaining that the BOC should direct its energy to the county’s current subdivision laws, which he said need revision to allow for smaller lots.
“I don’t think Madison County needs to worry about conservation subdivisions because we don’t even have traditional subdivisions with smaller lots,” said Burdette. “It’s something we (developers) don’t feel is necessary.”
Burdette said he fears county planners will use the conservation subdivision option as a political strong arm tactic by making it difficult for developers to get approval of traditional subdivisions, steering them instead to conservation subdivisions.
“It is indirect intimidation,” Burdette said.
County resident Jim Warren also spoke against approving the conservation proposal Monday, saying it needs more work before it can be O.K.’d.
But a majority of those taking the podium said the county would greatly benefit from conservation subdivisions. The conservation option, they said, would help the area maintain its natural beauty.
Zoning adviser Leo Smith urged the BOC to approve the amendment that would pave the way for the conservation option. He addressed Burdette’s statement that current subdivision regulations are poorly done.
“I don’t think a good reason to turn down a new style subdivision is because of a problem with the old style,” said Smith.
Smith said county citizens have long expressed a desire to maintain the rural character of the county and that conservation subdivisions are a good way to do that.
County planner Jay Baker said the new option will help protect the county from “sprawl.”
County resident Dudley Hartel said that metro Atlanta waited too long to take action against “sprawl” and he urged the board not to make the same mistake by delaying the option of conservation subdivisions.
Commissioner Johnny Fitzpatrick agreed with Hartel’s sentiment.
“I’d rather be too early than too late (on conservation subdivisions),” said Fitzpatrick.


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.”
And you have to look no further than their daughters Samantha, 6, and Hope, 5, to know why they feel this way.
The girls, both kindergartners at Danielsville Elementary this year, started out as foster children in the Fountains home.
Tim and Sondra provide a much needed service in Madison County - they are known as a “foster/adoptive” home.
Their daughters came to them when they were infants.
“We got Samantha, our first foster child, when she was just two days old and adopted her at 18 months,” Tim said.
They waited for their second foster child, five-month-old Hope, for two and a half years. The Fountains adopted her at age three.
“We gave Samantha her name, but Hope came to us with her name and it fit her perfectly, so we never changed it,” Tim said.
Since then, the family has also been home to eight other foster children of various ages.
At the present time, they are fostering an 18 month old.
“It’s very rewarding, but sometimes it’s also very hard,” Tim said.
Sondra agreed, citing two children they recently had in their home for some time. “It was hard to let them go,” she said.
But both agree they wouldn’t trade the things they’ve learned and the experiences they’ve had, even if they are sometimes painful ones.
“We feel we’re providing a safe, loving place for the children who come to us. Some are abused, some can’t understand why they’re there,” Tim said. “This is what God has led us to do.”
High school sweethearts, the two married in their mid-twenties. Their first experience with fostering came when they began taking care of a 14-year-old boy who was both mentally and physically challenged. Each week they traveled to Winder where the boy lived, staying with him and caring for him during the week and coming home on weekends. The child had been institutionalized previously and the Fountains hoped to adopt him. Those plans fell through however and shortly thereafter they got a call from Donna Gordon at Madison County DFACS asking them to foster an infant - who turned out to be their daughter Samantha.
While caring for the teenage boy, the Fountains had gone through the required foster training in preparation for fostering and/or adoption.
“The process for fostering and adopting children is pretty much the same,” Tim said. “There’s forms to fill out, a criminal background check and physicals are done and then there is a training process (called M.A.P.P.),” Tim said. “They (DFACS) just want to make sure you’re able to provide a stable home and environment for any children that come to you.”
Those that go through the program can be known as one of several types of homes: foster, foster/adopt, or as a home looking to adopt, particularly if they are interested in older children.
“There is a desperate need for adoptive and foster homes for older children,” Tim emphasized. “After about age five it becomes increasingly hard to find a permanent home for a child that needs to be adopted.”
Tim said current research shows there are 150,000 children - mostly older or with special needs - who are waiting for someone to adopt them.
For the Fountains, it is clear their lives are all about children - their own, as well as others.
Fountain, who is currently enrolled in classes at Emmanuel College to become a special education teacher, fashions his class schedule around their two daughters.
“I’m in class when they’re in class and I take them and pick them up every day,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sondra works at Madison County Headstart and also attends school at Emmanuel, working on her degree in early childhood education.
When they have foster children, as currently with the 18 month old, they amend their schedules as needed. DFACS provides funds for day care, medical and other needs of foster children.
“We need many more foster homes in this area,” Sondra said, pointing out that not only local children are provided homes in the county, sometimes there is a need to foster children from another area for safety reasons, or because there are no homes available in the area they are from.
“While they (foster children) are with us we try to show them what a real family unit is like,” Sondra said. “Things like ‘you go to bed at nine, take a bath each day, eat supper together,’ things they may not have ever experienced.”
As for their daughters, the Fountains feel it is a learning experience for them as well.
“We want them to know what it is like to help others, to be responsible and to know they’re not the only ones with needs,” Sondra said.
And Tim and Sondra don’t rule out adopting more children in the future, particularly once they finish their college course work.
The Fountains wish more people could experience the satisfaction and the joy they have gained from their experience in adoption and in foster care.
“It’s the greatest, most selfless thing you can do,” Sondra said.
“You just have to be willing to open your homes and hearts - and know that sometimes it hurts,” Tim said.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. For more information on adoption or foster care, contact Shea Squier of the Madison County Dept. of Family and Children Services at 706-795-2128.


EMS will have to wait on ambulance purchase
Madison County’s EMS has five “good” ambulances and one secondary emergency vehicle that leaders call “dangerous” due to its top-heaviness.
On Monday, the BOC narrowly denied the leasing of a new ambulance amid budgetary concerns.
Commissioner Mike Youngblood made the motion in favor of leasing an approximately $97,000 ambulance. Melvin Drake voted with Youngblood for the ambulance. But commissioners Bill Taylor, Johnny Fitzpatrick and Bruce Scogin voted against the purchase, citing a need for fairness to other department heads who also requested big-ticket items for their departments in 2003.
Madison County’s budget for next year is tight. Consider that the BOC gave a flat “no” to some $850,000 in requested equipment purchases due to limited funding for next year.
The new jail has to be furnished next year. And leaders say reserve money better be available in the budget for that.
Chairman Wesley Nash said that approving an ambulance purchase for the EMS after issuing a blanket “no” to all department equipment or “capital outlay requests” would open a “can of worms.”
“My problem is we asked all the department heads to bite the bullet on this (capital outlay requests),” said Nash. “This is a second out ambulance (meaning it is only called out if the first one is not available). If this were a first out ambulance I’d be right with you (Youngblood).”
But Youngblood said Monday that the new ambulance purchase should “be on board before anything else.” He said that the county should phase out its last “air ride” ambulance, which has high suspension and is “dangerous,” he said. Youngblood added that the county has more money in contingencies than originally anticipated and he believed the board should move forward with the purchase.


SPLOST proposals to be discussed
County commissioners agreed Monday to meet at 7 p.m., Dec. 16, in the conference room of the county government complex to discuss possible special purpose local option sales tax projects.
The one-cent sales tax for county government improvement projects will come up for renewal in a March referendum. The last SPLOST approved in 1998 helped fund the new jail, the E-911 system, the recreation department and road improvements. The school board will also seek renewal of a separate one-cent tax for school improvements in March.


Send us your kids pics
The Madison County Journal will print photos of Madison County children ages 8-and-under free of charge in our Dec. 18 Kids’ Christmas Edition.
Please include the following information on the back of the photo: the child’s full name, age, hometown, as well as the names of his or her parent or parents.
The deadline for submitting photos is Dec. 2. Pictures can be mailed to us at P.O. Box 658, Danielsville, Ga. 30633 or dropped off at The Journal office, located across from the county government complex on Hwy. 29 in Danielsville. If the office is closed, photos can be left in the drop-slot beneath the window to the right of our front door.

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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.


Madison Co. grandmother wins coveted EAGLE award
It’s never too late to start over, just ask Jewell Church, 65, grandmother of eight.
Laid off from her job at Superior Pants in Athens, Jewell has been working at least 20 hours a week for the past ten months to complete her high school education by obtaining her GED.
And Jewell has been receiving all the study help she needs from Michelle Whitlow, director of the Madison County Adult Learning Center in Comer and from Joanne Sloterbeck, a retired teacher who also helps at the center part time.
Whitlow currently has 84 students of all ages (anyone 16 or older is eligible) working toward their GED or to just to obtain a little help with basic math, writing or computer skills.
And Jewell recently received a special honor in relation to her hard work - she became an Exceptional Adult Georgian in Literacy Education (EAGLE) award winner in the student category for the counties served by Athens Technical College.
The awards program is designed to recognize and honor those students who have demonstrated superior achievement in adult literacy classes and programs. Winners go on to represent the adult literacy programs as spokespersons.
This is the second EAGLE award winner for the local learning center in as many years. Last year, Michael Powell, of Comer, won the award, going on to become the state EAGLE award winner.
To prepare for the competition, Church had to develop and present a speech about the benefits of adult education and answer questions posed to her by a panel of judges.
Whitlow says Jewell practiced her speech — often giving it before other students at the center for their critique and advice.
For additional help at home, she had to look no further than her granddaughter, Katie Kesler, who quizzed her from a list of pre-determined questions and helped her perfect her speech.
“She’s really been an encouragement and an inspiration to me,” Jewell said.
And it’s not only Katie, but her whole family, including husband Clem, who have supported her in getting the work done.
“I just went in before the judges and told my life history, from my heart,” Jewell said of winning the competition. “I cried when Michelle told me I had won.”
Now Jewell is busy preparing for the state competition in January as well as continuing to work on her GED, having already passed most areas of the five part test.
“I want to win (state EAGLE competition), if nothing else, for Michelle,” Jewell said. “But it’s great just to get to go and compete. It’s a great program.”
“She’s the cream of the crop,” Michelle says of her student. “She’s made great strides and is willing to face challenges with a positive attitude and get something good out of the experience.”
FARM GIRL
Jewell grew up on a farm in Oklahoma, one of six children and the oldest girl in the family.
“A ninth grade education was thought to be good enough at that time, and besides I had to help with the other children, work the fields during harvest and it was too hard to get to school anyway in the winter,” Jewell remembers.
“My dad had no formal education - he signed his name with an ‘X,’” she said.
Now after 50 years, Jewell said she is glad - and proud - to find herself back in the classroom.
“I always loved school and wanted to go back,” she said.
As to her future plans - those are wide open.
“I may go on to college, substitute at an elementary school, I just don’t know right now,” she said. “Whatever I do, I want to work with children to help keep them in school.”
“After all, as I’ve learned, when one door closes, another opens,” she added.
The Madison County Adult Learning Center is located in the old train depot building on Spring Circle in Comer and is open Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. and Friday 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Evening classes are also held Mondays and Thursdays from 4 - 7 p.m. For more information call the Center at 706-783-5308.