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DECEMBER 11, 2002


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page

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.

Frank Gillespie
Time for column
on chicken manure
I have been writing this column for 16 years now. In that time, I have never before found it necessary to address the subject of chicken manure. But the time has come to do so.


SPORTS

Lady Tigers To Face Banks County Program Under New Leadership
When Commerce’s girls face long-time rival Banks County Saturday night, there will definitely be a sense of a “changing of the guard.”

Lady Panthers remain hot
LATE LAST MONTH following the team’s first three games, Jackson County basketball coach Chad Pittman looked out on the floor and saw a winless and frustrated basketball team, but one that he felt was gradually making progress and coming together as a team.

Dragons remain dominant, prep for road tests this week
JUST A WEEK or so removed from another jarring sport—of the gridiron variety—and with few preparation days under their belts, nearly three-fourths of Jefferson’s wrestling team traded in their helmets for headgear last week—and it’s safe to say the transition went smoothly.


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.

‘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. 


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY

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

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.

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.

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MAN PULLED FROM CRASH

A Florida man was seriously burned in this wreck on I-85 near the Maysville-Commerce exit last week.

Byers contract extended through 2006
It looks like Jackson County School System superintendent Andy Byers will be around for a few more years.
The board of education voted Monday night to extend his contract for an additional three years, until June 30, 2006.
Following an evaluation in a closed-door meeting, Byers was awarded the contract extension by the BOE for an amount that has yet to be determined.
Byers has been superintendent since October, 1993, and his current contract, which was to run through June 30, 2003, was for $131,184.
According to Byers, he will not see a significant salary increase, due largely to concerns with the current economic climate.
“It will be in line with what other superintendents in the area are making,” he said.
Byers noted the cooperation he and the board have shared over the past nine years.
“I’ve enjoyed working with this school system and this board,” he said. “It’s a team effort between myself and the board and I look forward to working with them further in the future.”
The BOE will also continue with its current leadership in 2003 as chairman Kathy Wilbanks was unanimously re-elected, along with current vice-chairman Ed Tolbert.
In other business Monday, the board approved:

•the retirement of long-time Maysville Elementary School principal Pat Miller, effective at the end of the current school year.
•Byers’ recommendation of keeping the current meeting dates and times for 2003. Currently meetings are held at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month in the JCCHS media center and work sessions are held on the Thursday prior to the second Monday at 6 p.m. of each month in the Jackson County board of education central office.
•the 2003-04 school calendar was tabled until next month’s meeting.


•the following resignations: Jennifer Mason, special education paraprofessional, BES; Debra Gaillard, bus driver, MES; Mary Lou Cox, custodian, WJMS; Marie Grant, migrant aide, system; and Maria Sanders, food service cashier, EJMS.
•the following people for employment: Michelle Saucier, bus driver, MES; Lindy Holt, special education teacher, EJMS; Emily Cook, kindergarten teacher, WJP; Sonya Kay Wallace, reading aide, BES; Janice Bartlett, special education paraprofessional, WJP; Lisa Robinson, title paraprofessional, WJMS; Elizabeth Sampson-Rembe, media/technology paraprofessional, WJP; and Kimberly Chastine, kindergarten paraprofessional, WJP.
•the following transfers: Chuck Butler, Health/P.E. teacher, WJMS to EJMS; Jennifer Norris, principal, BES to principal, EJES (effective next school year; Karen Johnson, kindergarten paraprofessional, WJP to special education paraprofessional, NJES; Chris Parker, Title I/EIP teacher, SJES (part-time to full-time)


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. The city needs the access so it can sell the property, which will be done by bids at some later point.
The condemnation action is against property owner Kathryn Marlow, whose farm surrounds the lake, estimated at 10 acres. It seeks access up the old road bed used by the city to service the concrete dam on Turkey Creek back when the lake was the city's source of water. At that time, water was pumped from the North Oconee River on Georgia 15A to the reservoir. A water treatment plant was located on the opposite side of Waterworks Road a little closer to town.
The bulk of the remainder of the property is wetlands and officials say there is but a single site suitable for the construction of a house on the entire tract.
Once the procedure is filed, a "special master" will be appointed to determine the value of the condemned parcel. The owner has the option of appealing that decision to the Superior Court of Jackson County.
"It may never get that far. We may be able to negotiate something," Stell noted.
The city and Marlow have had preliminary discussions, but the access offered by the owner did not suit the city. The city's proposed access would cut the Marlow property in two, officials note.


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.
Rodney Leon Patrick was sentenced to two life sentences and 20 years in jail for the charge. He had at first pled not guilty and the jury trial began on Monday morning. District attorney Tim Madison said Patrick changed his plea after the victim testified. Madison added that Patrick should spend the rest of his life behind bars because he has nine prior felony convictions.
Patrick raped a 15-year-old girl that he kidnapped from the roadside in Commerce on a Sunday afternoon in May 2001. He didn’t know the girl.
Madison said the girl had gone to the Quality Foods shopping center to use the telephone and was walking along the street when Patrick abducted her.
“He abducted her off of the street and carried her back into the woods off of Hardman Orchard Road and sexually assaulted her,” Madison said.
Madison said the victim had a good description of the man who raped her, but she didn’t know his name. He said law enforcement officers got a break in the case one year later year when he turned up in a statewide database that has DNA profiles on convicted felons. A search warrant was issued and a blood sample was taken. Madison said it matched the DNA taken with the rape kit at the time of the crime.
“He was put in a line up and she positively identified him right away,” Madison said. “She described a bulldog tattoo on his chest. They did a search warrant on his body and photographed that bulldog tattoo. We had a really, really strong case.”
Madison said Patrick had nine prior convictions, ranging from burglary to drug offenses to firearm possession.
“In his case, he’ll never get out,” Madison said. “The parole guidelines are on a fourth conviction of a felony, they serve every single day of that. So he should serve the rest of his natural life in prison.”
In the second rape case, a Jackson County jury found a man guilty of raping a 9-year-old girl. Patrick Maurice Lay was given one life sentence for rape, cruelty to children and aggravated child molestation.
Madison said Lay knew the victim. He added that Lay had been drinking and went into the girl’s room during the night and sexually assaulted her.
“She got on the stand and made a real strong witness,” he said.
Madison said Lay should also serve the rest of his life in jail because he has three prior felony convictions.
“The board of pardons and parole should never let him out,” he said.
His prior convictions are burglary and theft by receiving.


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.
"I've had a lot of calls from people interested in seeing the plans," said City Manager Clarence Bryant at Monday night's meeting of the Commerce City Council.
The project, funded largely by a federal Department of Transportation grant, is estimated at $972,445 in the city's budget to cover the construction of two stretches of sidewalk plus some drainage improvements.
Essentially, the project will create a sidewalk going out Waterworks Road from Willoughby Homes to Minish Drive, up Minish Drive to Commerce Elementary School, continue on Lakeview Drive past Commerce High School to the Jefferson Road. A second part of the project involves a sidewalk and ditch work from the Bi-Lo Shopping Center out Homer Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
In other business at a brief meeting, the council reappointed Bryant to represent the city four more years on the Jackson County Airport Authority, reappointed Barry Lord to two more years as the Ward 3 representative on the Zoning Board of Appeals and nominated Rick Massey, John Long and James Wofford for the BJC Medical Center Authority seat now held by Massey. The authority will make the final selection.
The filling of Allen Lacey's Ward 4 position on the Zoning Board of Appeals was tabled until Councilman Bob Sosebee can contact Lacey to see if he is willing to serve another term.
As expected, the council opted to contract with Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Programs, a Florida company, for a prevention and testing program. For about $950 per year, the city gets lower cost drug tests ($31 apiece), plus materials and instruction for department heads on what to look for in their employees, according to Bryant.
The move requires the city to change its policy from testing certain employees connected with the gas department (under federal law) only when there is an accident, during pre-employment or when there is a suspicion. Now all city employees, including the elected officials, are subject to the tests.
But another decision made Monday night will allow city employees to count unpaid sick leave and up to three years of military service toward retirement. No one is sure how many employees will be affected, but at least three councilmen (Sam Brown, Riley Harris and Richard Massey) and Bryant will also benefit for their military service.
The council also:
•approved Christmas holidays from noon Dec. 23 through Dec. 25. Jan. 2 will also be a city holiday.
•approved a $16,000 amendment to the Recreation Department's budget to replace lights on two tennis courts at Veterans Memorial Park and to provide additional lighting for the city pool and a nearby parking area. The money will come from special purpose local option sales tax revenue set aside for recreation.
•approved (for the second time) the "short term program of work" required by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in conjunction with the comprehensive plan.
•heard that while the city is $275,824 in the red through November, "it is in pretty good shape going into the tax collection season," according to Bryant, who noted that at this time last year the city was $500,000 in the red. Nonetheless, Bryant said he would meet with department heads to discuss any line items where expenditures have surpassed 50 percent of budget.
•authorized Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. to sign for the release of funds from the sale of three parcels of land for back taxes. In cases where the sale yielded more money than the taxes owed, someone (a lien holder or the property owner) will be able to collect the difference.
•learned from Bryant that before the city can begin its community development block grant project in the Bennett Street-Cross Street area a new state policy requires it first to offer to buy all easements before offering property owners the option of donating the easements.
•heard Bryant report that another seven to eight full days of hauling dirt off site are needed in the dirt removal project at the site of the new waste treatment plant. Recent rains have slowed the project.

 

 


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Wrecks kill local teen, leave Fla. man injured
Two separate wrecks last week killed a local teenager and left a Florida man seriously injured.
15-year-old Devin Blake Cronic, a freshman at Jackson County Comprehensive High School, died Friday after sustaining injuries in a one-car accident on Jackson Trail Road.
According to state highway patrol officials, a GMC Sonoma was traveling west on Jackson Trail Road when the driver lost control in a curve. The vehicle overturned ejecting Cronic.
Another passenger in the vehicle, 16-year-old Matt Myers, Hoschton, and the driver, whose name was not released, suffered minor injuries. They were treated at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and were released.
The name of the 16-year-old driver was not released due to further investigation and possible pending charges, said officials.
Thursday afternoon, Albert Glen Herring, 55, Florida, was burned over 75 percent of his body in a fiery wreck on I-85 near the Maysville-Commerce exit.
State highway patrol officials said Herring was traveling north on I-85 and changed lanes. Apparently, he lost control of his tractor trailer and careened off the roadway crashing through a stand of trees. The tractor trailer jack-knifed and overturned, dislodging the cab. Officials said fuel ignited catching the cab on fire while Herring was trapped inside. A Georgia Power crew managed to pull Herring from the burning cab. Herring was air-lifted to the burn unit at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

As of press time, Herring was reported to be in critical condition.


Tax rates up 8% over last year
Maysville the highest tax district in Jackson County
The overall property tax rates in Jackson County climbed by an average of eight percent this year, not counting tax hikes due to reassessments on individual pieces of property.
Because of its many independent fire districts, three school systems and nine incorporated towns, Jackson County’s property tax system is among the most complex in the state. The highest tax district in the county is inside the city of Maysville where residents pay a combined 31.08 mills. Jefferson residents are the second highest at 30.53 mills.
The lowest tax rate is in the City of Commerce where residents pay 27.42 mills. That town’s city budget has a low millage rate because of its independent city utility system that supplements city government expenses.


Arcade cautions about speeding on bypass
Local law enforcement officers are clocking speeding vehicles at 85 miles per hour, even 100 miles per hour, on the newly-opened Damon J. Gause Bypass — and come January, they will be able to do something about it.
Arcade Police Chief Dennis Bell reported to the Arcade City Council Monday night that in the first or second week of January, the bypass will be “opened up” for local law enforcement to give citations to speeding motorists. In the meantime, the Arcade officers are “cracking down” on stop sign violations on the bypass, he said.
“Knock on wood, we haven’t had an accident yet,” Bell said.
But he added that the Georgia State Patrol has clocked drivers at speeds of 100 mph on the bypass, and that he and his officers have clocked drivers going over 80 mph coming over the hill to the red light into the Arcade stretch of the road.
“A lot of people don’t know it, but from Arcade Park Road, south to before Hwy. 82, (the speed limit) slows down to 45 mph before the light,” Bell cautioned. “Those big tractor trailers can’t stop like a car.”
In the future, it might be helpful to have a lighted sign or some sort of indicator letting people know they need to slow down for the red lights and stop signs, Bell and council members suggested, with Bell saying that the white lines painted on the pavement as a warning are difficult for motorists to see.