News from Banks County...

DECEMBER 11, 2002


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OPINIONS
Rochelle Beckstine
Republican majority could mean limits on rights to sue
Legal reform may be closer than we think, but don’t be surprised if it’s not called that.

Shar Porier
The best presents
While out shopping over Thanksgiving weekend, I took a breather and sat down to check off hoped-for gifts on my lists.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Bring on the Tigers
With five games behind them, both Banks County varsity basketball teams are looking at their seasons with a critical eye.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY

Commerce To Sell Old 18-Acre Reservoir Site
The City of Commerce is preparing to sell its old city reservoir.
The city council voted Monday night to authorize City Attorney John Stell to begin condemnation proceedings to give the city a 30-foot right of way into the 18-acre tract on the south side of Waterworks Road.

Byers contract extended through 2006
It looks like Jackson County School System superintendent Andy Byers will be around for a few more years.

Two men get life on rape charges
Two men were sentenced to life in Jackson County Superior Court last week in separate rape cases involving young victims.

Wrecks kill local teen, leave Fla. man injured
Two separate wrecks last week killed a local teenager and left a Florida man seriously injured.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Hull wants more sales tax funds
As future growth continues along and around four-lane Hwy. 72, Hull’s mayor and council remain hopeful they will be able to obtain more Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) funds from the county’s coffers.

City To Open Bids On Sidewalk Project Thursday
The city of Commerce will open bids at 2:00 Thursday on a long-awaited major sidewalk project.

‘Homes for the Holidays’
Pretty, gentle, Beulah has seen some hard times. Left on the side of a road with no where to turn, Beulah almost immediately suffered the loss of three of her four pups when they perished under the wheels of passing cars.

Rec board bylaws under BOC review
The Madison County Board of Commissioners met with the recreation board prior to its scheduled meeting Monday night to continue a review of the board’s bylaws.

BOC approves full-time custodian
The Madison County Board of Commissioners approved a new position Monday for a full-time custodian to maintain county property. 

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CHEERING ON THE LEOPARDS

The Banks County Middle School Leopard cheerleaders led fans in cheers during the seventh and eighth grade boys’ and girls’ basketball games last Friday. Pictured are: (L-R) Bridget Stevens, Amanda Toney, Jenna Jones, Mandy Dodd, Hailee Arro, Nicole Crawford, Brittany Barrett and Katrina Ryan.

Banks BOE to lose $297,000 in state funds
Recent state education cuts could force Banks County to dip into its reserve funds to balance out the budget this year
School superintendent Deborah White told the school board Thursday that the state cuts mean Banks will lose close to $297,000 it had budgeted this year.
A large portion of those funds financed personnel salaries. The school board may be forced to pull money from its $2.5 million reserve fund to compensate for the reduction in state money.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the board:
•heard a request from Len and Renee Dalton that the school board pay tuition for their children to go to Habersham County schools. The board told the Daltons to take their request for a fee waiver to the Habersham County school board since they were planning on moving into the county. The board asked the Daltons to approach them again if Habersham County refuses to waive the tuition.
•recognized outgoing board member Don Shubert for his 12 years of service on the BOE.
•learned that the board may have to call a special meeting to set the millage rate once the tax digest is completed this month or next.
•hired Kendra Abee as a special education paraprofessional at BCUES.
•approved Anna H. Terrel’s maternity leave request from January 7 until March 1.
•approved the following project request: BCES nutrition staff to sell cookies as a fundraiser for certification and uniforms; BCMS to sell mesh gym bags to raise money for olympic day items; BCHS physical education department to hold a lift-a-thon to raise money for the department; and BCHS Beta Club to raise funds for needy families.
•approved the following applications for facilities use: Banks County Cub Scouts to use the BCES gym for a lock-in on December 6; Banks County 4-H to use the BCHS auditorium for a talent show; Banks County school system to host the Relay for Life on May 16 or 17 to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
•tabled the following facilities use requests to obtain additional information: Canaan Baptist Church to use the BCMS gym for basketball practice and Turpin Pottery to use BCHS for a fundraiser for the flag corp and majorettes in June 2003.
•agreed to hear presentations in January from the Georgia School Board Association and Frank Keen about services each provide to conduct a search for the county’s new superintendent.
•learned the board was having to conduct more soil sample tests on the location for the septic system at the new stadium. The first samples did not meet state requirements and could result in relocation of the proposed septic system.
•learned the state department of education had approved the site selection and preliminary plan for the new middle school.
•learned Family Connections would be conducting a survey of parents of kids in grades kindergarten through three on services they would like to receive.
•learned the health department would be doing scoliosis screenings at the schools soon.
•heard a request from Marvin Gongre to hold a Bible study class at one of the schools after school for one hour, one day per week. The board will act on the request next month. The program will be voluntary and students must have parental approval to attend.


Talking security and immigration
Rep. John Linder told area residents attending the town hall meeting Saturday in Homer that the White House administration and President George Bush would be focusing more on the state of the economy and homeland security over the next year.
He spoke on reports of the weapons of mass destruction compiled by the Iraqi government and the findings of the United Nations inspections for the weapons.
“We know how many weapons he has,” said Linder, “ so we’ll know if the report is accurate.”
However, he said, this time, if the United States does take action against Hussein, it would be a less aggressive tactic to overthrow his regime.
“The population is disturbed with him and the way the economic situation is within Iraq,” Linder said. “There’s a lot of unrest. What you’ll see is more of a surgical operation rather than brute force. Our weapons are much more advanced than they were 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. We may seek to bring down the government from within.”
As for homeland security, the plan is for creating two separate divisions to handle immigration and border patrol, he said.
“The Immigration and Naturalization Service has never had leadership,” he said. “Now it’s imperative to document all immigrants and people coming here to study or work. Right now, there’s an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants in this country. Twenty-two percent of the prison population in California is made up of illegal immigrants. We need to keep track of all the people with green cards and visas. They should have to check in regularly. We want the immigrant laborers. Without them, Georgia wouldn’t be able to harvest its crops. It’s just that when they’re done, they need to go home. And there is nothing in the constitution that mandates any one born in the U.S. is automatically a U.S. citizen.”
He suggested the main border that needs to be watched is the Canadian border with its vast expanse and numerous logging roads.
“Then there’s the cargo that arrives on our shores,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of containers come to our ports and across the borders daily. Only two percent are inspected.”
He also discussed the “Fair Tax” and its lack of support previously in the Senate. He expects that to change now that Republicans are in charge.
The Fair Tax Act Linder introduced in 1999 would abolish income tax - business, corporate, and individual, as well as capital gains, gift and death taxes. His plan proposed an across-the-board national retail sales tax. Services for doctors, lawyers and dentists may also be taxed. Sales tax exemptions on prescriptions and food could be eliminated. Such exemptions place an “unfair burden on other industries,” he said.
CITIZENS ASK QUESTIONS
James Fincher, Hull, asked what was going to happen to seniors and the disabled if the exemptions are eliminated. He wanted to know why the United States could afford aid to third world countries when its own citizens were suffering and starving.
“If we can give them billions of dollars in aid, why can’t we take care of our own,” Fincher asked.
Linder replied there is too much reliance on assistance programs and that Americans should take care of their own families, including the elderly.
“We always took care of ourselves,” Linder said. “Mom worked and Dad sold cars. We never went on social programs. Neighbors and the communities should help. I’m tired of people looking to the government for help.”
Fincher replied the system was against senior citizens and the disabled in that there was no help for prescription costs and Medicaid’s income restriction made it difficult to meet daily needs. He said his prescriptions cost $1,500 a month.
Linder said he would be “wary” of starting a prescription entitlement program.
“People never spend money as wisely as when it’s their own,” he said. “We need to find a process where people spend their own money.”
He suggested raising the deductible for Social Security benefits so people would be spending more out-of-pocket money. People would not make as many doctor appointments or take as many medications if the costs became their own burdens, he added.
He also is in favor of shutting down all veterans’ hospitals and sending patients to regular doctors and hospitals for care.
“Our VA hospitals have become nothing more than nursing homes for drug abusers, alcoholics, and AIDS patients,” he said. “The system has been protected because of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion organizations protests. The system is broken and needs fixing. They’d get better care at a public hospital than they do at the VA hospitals. [The VA hospitals] are run by bureaucrats, not doctors.”
Tort reform was also discussed as Linder told the gathering to expect more lawsuits similar to the one against McDonald’s. Lawyers who built the cases against the tobacco industry, he implied, were working on such cases that could include healthcare providers, other food vendors and liquor companies. Congress was examining the idea of capping monetary awards in lawsuits, he added.



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Baldwin sets millage rate
The Baldwin City Council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the city’s millage rate, which was set at 5.25 mills, the same rate as last year.
The measure was passed at a special called meeting prior to the work session held last Thursday.
The increased property values as assessed by Habersham County allowed the city to hold the current rate, leaders said.
Banks County residents will not owe city property taxes as they are rolled back due to county local option sales tax that is given to the city.
A public hearing will be held at the next meeting Monday, December 23.


Mitchell to retire from county
Banks County extension coordinator John Mitchell is retiring after 22 years of service. A reception for Mitchell will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, December 16, at the county extension office on Evans Street in Homer.
Organizers ask that those interested in attending call 677-6230 to R.S.V.P.