News from Madison County...

JANUARY 1, 2003


Madison County
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Madison County H.S.
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OPINIONS

Frank Gillespie
County needs teamwork on important projects
One of my teenage friends became a great football player. You may have heard of him. His name is Frances Tarkenton. Frances had amazing talents.

Margie Richards
2002 - gone but never forgotten
Can you believe it - another year has gone by. Isn’t that what we always say? But it truly does seem like the years go by faster and faster.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Boys hoopsters cruise to win over Commerce, set to face Elbert Co., Cedar Shoals this week
It will be seen if the Raiders’ holiday preparations will result in a more productive New Year as the team will hit floor for the first time in 2003 against Elbert County Saturday and followed by the Raiders sub-region opener with Cedar Shoals which looms Tuesday.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Landing industries, seeking unity keeps Scott Martin on the run
Jackson County has a long, tainted history of sectional infighting. That’s partly due to its large size, and partly due to having a plethora of local government entities.

BOC moves forward on courthouse despite controversy
A new courthouse is something that has been needed in Jackson County for a long time. No one disputes the need for the facility. One only has to spend a little time in the courtroom or the clerk’s office to see the need for more space and a more modern facility.

Drought, Water Were Top Stories Of The Past Year
Usually when the weather dominates the news, it is the extremities of weather, storms or floods that wreak havoc with dynamic suddenness.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY

To grow or not to grow

Nineteen buildings currently sit empty at Banks Crossing—that’s 19 opportunities for additional sales tax revenue that sit unused.
Just two months ago, only 17 buildings were unoccupied, as two more restaurants have since closed their doors, falling victim to competition and a declining economy.

School system makes changes at the top
For the past several years, the upper level administration within the Banks County School System has been fairly stable.
Deborah White has been superintendent for three years. Travis Moon had been elementary school principal for 14 years.

 mainstreetnews.com
The Madison County Journal
Danielsville, Georgia
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CONSTRUCTION ORDEAL

The new Madison County jail off of Hwy. 98 has been a major headache for county leaders over the past year. The BOC fired the original construction crew for the project after numerous flaws were discovered by an independent construction assessment firm.

The industrial divide
A government purchase of land off Hwy. 72 for a proposed second county industrial park sparked months of controversy early in 2002.
The ordeal was perhaps the most notable land development conflict in the county in years and thus earned The Journal’s “Top Story of the Year for 2002.”
Now, approximately a year after the conflict started, there is no second industrial park. As the months passed in 2002, the county industrial authority’s focus on business development on the controversial property took a backseat to the less contentious, yet challenging issue of rehabilitating an old well on the property and expanding the Hull water system.
The dilemma began in early January when the Madison County Industrial Authority (IDA) announced that it had purchased approximately 80 acres on James Holcomb Road off Hwy. 72 for $425,000 to establish a “commercial/light industry park.” The IDA also announced that an old well on the property would serve as a backup well for the Hull water system.
Leaders said the establishment of a second county industrial park would “help ensure smart business growth in Madison County, while shifting the tax burden off homeowners.”
“If we are to keep our promises of better roads, better public safety, better schools and better recreation programs, we are going to have to have a source of resource other than property taxes,” said county commission chairman Wesley Nash, who is also a non-voting member of the IDA.
But many opponents of the industrial park plan said the IDA chairman John Scoggins and the IDA were underhanded in brokering the land deal, acting without public input. Late in 2001, county commissioners turned down a proposed rezoning for a cold storage facility on the property in question. Months later, the IDA purchased the land and many were upset by the action, saying it was a backdoor way for the IDA to get its wishes.
Most opposing the proposed park said they support industrial growth in the county, but disagree with the IDA’s choice of locale, saying an industrial park would be ill-suited for the residential area.
County resident Louis Steed, who was outspoken against the IDA’s land deal, said the industrial authority “violated its charter” in purchasing the land for the park. He said the framers of the IDA charter didn’t intend for the group to be a “rogue elephant...free from checks and balances.”
The anger of park opponents was at times clearly evident, particularly toward IDA chairman Scoggins and commission chairman Nash.
“Truth will reveal itself and snakes that need their head chopped off will have their heads chopped off,” said park opponent Lamar Stephens.
On Feb. 11, the BOC met in private for 90 minutes, then voted 3-2 to fire Scoggins as IDA chairman. Commissioners Mike Youngblood, Melvin Drake and Bruce Scogin voted for the ouster and Bill Taylor and Johnny Fitzpatrick opposed the move.
Some weren’t satisfied with only removing Scoggins, maintaining that the entire IDA should be removed.
But the commissioners did not fire any other IDA members. Instead the board named Ed Brown to the IDA — he was soon named the group’s chairman — and established a committee to study the feasibility of a commercial development on the land in question. The committee included local government and business leaders, as well as citizens who live near the controversial property.
In June, the committee issued a report on the property, concluding that the acreage located on the western side of James Holcomb Road (nearest to Hull) is better suited for business development. The western site consists of six lots of approximately five acres each. Recommendations for types of businesses to be located there included light manufacturing, retail, office, wholesale, public utilities, cell towers and parks.
As for the eastern portion, the committee recommended that most of this land be sold, with restrictions, for residential development.
The committee maintained that the majority of this acreage is not suitable for business development due to its topography, to previous covenants placed on three lots adjacent to James Holcomb Road and to the close proximity of neighboring residences.
The committee’s report did not eliminate the possibility of a business park development, but as the year progressed, the IDA seemed to focus more on rehabilitating the old well on the land.
IDA members and other county leaders say that developing a solid water system in the southern section of the county is a key in attracting businesses to Madison County. And establishing a second well for that system is a major piece of that puzzle. A second well in Hull was needed before the state would allow the IDA to purchase Athens water lines already in Hull. The takeover of those lines was set for Dec. 1 of 2002.
But getting the water flowing from that old well proved no easy task.
A drill bit became lodged in the old well and drillers tried to recover the lost piece of equipment to no avail for most of the summer. Finally, the bit was recovered in late August. But the delay caused by the technical snag set the development of a second well back and forced the IDA to seek postponement of the takeover of the Athens lines.
The authority is now scheduled to assume responsibility of the Athens-owned lines on June 1, 2003.


Animal shelter opens in Madison County
After years of anticipation, a Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter opened in December.
The 10,000-square foot shelter building, which is located off Colbert-Danielsville Road next to the Madison County Transfer Station, is called the “Adams Animal Sanctuary” and serves residents of both Madison and Oglethorpe counties.
“The shelter is a first step to provide humane care to stray and unwanted animals,” shelter leaders said. “For now the shelter will provide only dropoff and adoption services, as well as educational programs, but if animal control is ever implemented in the two counties, we’re ready to go.”
The facility, which is overseen by a non-profit humane society board of directors, was not built with taxpayer money, but with private donations.
But local tax dollars will be used for operating expenses on an annual basis, per an agreement with both counties. Currently, each person’s annual tax contribution is $3 per year.
Shelter officials said special considerations were given during the facility’s construction to avoiding the appearance of a “dog pound” and providing spacious enclosures for animals that are housed there.

Jail construction mired in trouble
Work finally resumed on the new county jail in October, months after commissioners booted a company for shoddy construction on the facility.
Boatwright Construction Company, the original construction management firm on the project, was fired earlier in March after an independent inspection firm found over 100 flaws in the jail’s construction, such as a failure to provide proper steel reinforcement in the cell area.
The county negotiated for months with its surety agency, Atlantic Mutual, on a remediation plan for the jail.
Finally, Nicholson Professional Consulting of Roswell set up an office on the new jail site off Hwy. 98 in early October.
The company was hired by Atlantic Mutual to oversee correction of construction problems.
No completion date has been set on the project, though the construction company has told county officials that the jail could be finished by this spring.
But many completion dates have been offered over the past two years. Meanwhile, county citizens and officials have been frustrated by the snail’s pace of the project. And many now have a “we’ll believe it when we see it” attitude regarding the jail’s completion.
Nevertheless, county commission chairman Wesley Nash has said the county won’t suffer financially from the jail dilemma, noting that the county will even recoup costs of housing out prisoners incurred during the delay.

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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.


Business faces contamination
allegations
One of Madison County's biggest businesses, Trus Joist, faced criticism this year from those who believe the company may not be acting in an environmentally responsible manner.
However, others say the company is an asset to the county and is being unfairly targeted.
Trus Joist is a parallel strand lumber (Parallam) manufacturing plant located off Hwy. 72 just east of Colbert in 1989. The plant uses Southern Yellow Pine and Poplar to produce Parallam, dry veneer, cores and chips and is one of the leading industries in the county, providing 285 jobs to area residents.
But some residents around the Colbert plant met with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division earlier this year to voice concerns about potential air and ground water contamination.
Perhaps the most outspoken Trus Joist critics have been Billy Russell and his wife, former Chamber of Commerce president, Barbarianne Gaulding-Russell, who helped bring Trus Joist to Madison County. The Russells, who live near the facility, even sold land to Trus Joist for the plant.
But the Russells now believe there is contamination coming from the plant and they fear that there is a correlation between the plant and the numerous cancer cases around the facility in recent years, including Mrs. Russell's bout with the disease.
In December, the EPD issued a letter to Trus Joist ordering the plant to stop its storm water detention pond from leaking polluted water into an adjacent stream. The letter stated that the EPD determined that there an "unpermitted discharge was occurring from the company's site."
But Trus Joist plant manager David Craft said the EPD has simply "asked us to what we have already said we would do as part of upgrading our storm water control plan."
"We have always operated within our permits and will continue to do so," Craft said.


BOC buys land to expand rec. department
Madison County purchased 31.54 acres of land this year to expand the recreation department.
The land, purchased for $172,409 from Marianna Miller, is adjacent to the recreation track and county road department.
The county paid for the purchase with special purpose local option sales tax money (SPLOST). In 1998, county voters approved up to $500,000 in sales tax funds to be used for recreation department improvements.
County leaders have yet to specify exactly how the land will be used. But they have discussed building additional soccer fields, an irrigation lake and nature trails.
In other recreation news in 2002, the county agreed to maintain the Colbert City Park for at least one year.
Also of note this past year, the commissioners issued a much-criticized reprimand in June to recreation director Dick Perpall, who they maintained was not making recreation facilities adequately accessible to the public.
But tensions seemed to ease somewhat later in the year as commissioners and recreation board members met to more clearly define the responsibilities of recreation leadership.