News from Jackson County...

JANUARY 8, 2003

Jackson County

Jackson County
Jackson County


Our Time and Place:
A History of
Jackson County, Ga

A complete history of Jackson County, Georgia from 1796 to the present. Written in narrative style for easy reading. Includes material not found in other books about Jackson County.

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Lady Tigers Looking For Consistency
Lady Tiger head coach Don Watkins doesn’t have to offer a wordy diagnosis to assess his team’s play through eight games.

Panthers start sub-region play
When Jackson County travels to Winder-Barrow on Friday night, those in attendance can expect as intense an atmosphere as they will see this season, with the two rivals squaring off in a battle with sub-region ramifications, not to mention good old fashioned hatred.

Jefferson wrestlers set for dual with Parkview today
Something will have to give when Parkview and Stockbridge grapplers come to Jefferson today for what has the makings of an outstanding dual meet between three solid programs. The Panthers enter the JHS gymnasium with one of the state’s finest wrestling programs and a team that hopes to challenge a Jefferson squad that has yet to fall in a dual meet this season.

Neighboorhood News ..
Jail expansion won’t be on 2003 SPLOST
ail expansion won’t be one of the projects proposed on the 2003 sales tax referendum.

Danielsville hires second police officer
Danielsville doubled its police force Monday evening, hiring Marlin Carithers as an additional full time police officer after a 20 minute closed session to discuss the matter.

Construction crew expects jail to be done in April
The new county jail was expected to be completed in 2001, then in 2002.
Now, in 2003, after many months of inactivity and legal wrangling, construction of the new jail is nearing the finish line.

Madison County gov’t develops web site
Want to see the minutes of the most recent commissioners’ meeting, or see listings for available county government jobs, or look at historical Madison County maps?

Neighborhood News...

Fire guts Carson Road home

More than the sun lit up the early morning sky Tuesday as a small brick ranch home at 426 Carson Road caught fire.

County tax bills going up
Citing revenue shortfalls and a lack of growth, the Banks County Board of Commissioners voted Friday to proceed with a proposed tax increase.
The BOC approved a tax rate hike of 1.11 mills. The total millage rate, excluding the school tax, will be 8.096 mills, the highest level in at least five years.

Ramsey defends residency status
Answering accusations that he doesn’t live in the district he represents, newly-elected district 3 school board member Ben Ramsey said he’s been in that district for two years.

Former Alto mayor Stewart dies
Former Alto Mayor Grover Lee Stewart, 77, died Sunday, January 5, at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Gainesville, following a brief illness.
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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Citizens had a chance to look at a proposed land use map for Jackson County at a public hearing Tuesday night in Jefferson. Lee Wilkes is shown looking at his property.

BOC moves to take over water authority
In its boldest move yet to tighten its control over county operations, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to seek legislation this year to take over the day-to-day operations of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority. While the BOC does intend to leave the authority in place, it is also seeking to change the length of terms for authority members from five years down to one year and to have those members appointed by districts with one at-large seat.
The move pits two of the county’s most powerful public agencies against each other. At stake is the future direction of water and sewerage service in the county and who will have control over those decisions.
A little over a year ago, the BOC tightened its grip on the county zoning and planning board by abolishing it then reconstituting it and putting new members in place for one year terms.
The move on the water authority is also widely viewed in part as an effort to oust former BOC chairman Jerry Waddell from his current position as manager of the county water authority.
Just before leaving office as chairman in 2000, Waddell successfully shifted much of the control over county water and sewerage functions to the authority from the BOC. Board members have been vocal about that move and have voiced a desire on several occasions to oust Waddell and take control of the authority.
The recommendation to take control of the water board came from commissioners Emil Beshara and Stacey Britt. Beshara said the water and sewerage authority would continue to determine where new water supply lines are installed, based on community need.
Beshara said one of the reasons for this is because of concerns in the media about elected officials determining where water lines are placed.
“I don’t think there is anything anyone can say reasonably that anybody appointed to the authority would be any more impartial than someone elected to this commission,” he said. “I don’t believe anybody on this board would use their power or authority to determine where water lines go for their personal, financial gain.”
Britt added that “no one member” of the BOC could determine where a water line goes anyway because it takes three votes. He said “checks and balances” are in place to make sure one commissioner doesn’t have more influence than another.
Beshara said the initial directive of the water authority was to establish a system and that has been done. He said major lines are in place in every corner of Jackson County. He said that it is “asking too much” for appointed volunteers on the water authority to manage the day-to-day operations.
“We have a public works director who can do this,” he said.
However, members of the water authority have not asked for their duties to be taken over by the county government and several have voiced opposition to any move by the BOC to take control of the authority’s duties.
BOC chairman Harold Fletcher said he sat in the meetings in the 1980s on the legislation creating the water authority.
“It was the intent of the group at that time to have a department in county government to exercise leadership and guidance over this group. Unfortunately, the votes were not there to do this so we worked toward getting what we have now in place. I think it served its purpose...We need to take this to the next level.”
Fletcher said that across the state water service is almost exclusively provided by city and county governments.
Before the vote was taken, commissioner Sammy Thomason said: “I’m not sure I’m supportive of all the changes that have been outlined but, having not read the legislation, I can’t be sure of whether I would or not. I would support the drawing of the legislation but reserve the right to oppose the legislative changes at a future time.”

City Finds Impact Fees Looking Desirable
Encouraged by an article in Monday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Commerce officials are once again enamored with charging impact fees to developers of new subdivisions.
Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. brought the matter up at Monday night's work session, passing out copies of the article, which pointed out 14 jurisdictions that charge the fees, which help offset the cost of infrastructure needed to support growth.
"We've got five subdivisions going now," the mayor noted, later in the meeting speculating that a "second wave" of residential development is forthcoming.
"We've got to pay for this stuff, pay for the fire and EMS ... We can't pay for it with taxes," agreed Ward 3 councilman Sam Brown.
No one spoke against the idea of investigating charging the fees.
"I think we ought to start looking at impact fees," Brown declared. "It's not fair for the people who have lived here 40 years to have to pay for a project that maybe wouldn't have been needed (but for the growth)."
While no decision was made, the consensus of the group was to ask Bill Ross, a consultant quoted in the article, to meet with the council at some future point.
The mayor and council will have their "voting" meeting Monday night at 6:30 at the Commerce Civic Center, but the work session dealt little with what's on that agenda.
One item the council will address is a recommendation from the Commerce Planning Commission that Daniel Wilson be granted a zoning change from R-1 to R-3 for a tract at the end of Victoria Street where he proposes a subdivision with 10 lots.
R-1 zoning requires larger lots (fewer houses) than R-3, but this case becomes confusing because the tract was platted under an older zoning ordinance and divided into 17 lots. That means Wilson could build 17 houses without a zoning change, so by opting for rezoning at R-3, Wilson proposes a development with fewer lots.
Also Monday night, the city council will re-elect its mayor pro tem (Archie Chaney) and city attorney (John Stell). Allen Lacey will be reappointed to another term on the Board of Zoning Appeals, and the council expects to reappoint Bob Sosebee, Keith Ariail and Gerald Jordan to four-year terms on the Downtown Development Authority.
The council will also renew its decision made in September to charge companies $500 for a one-year license to put directional signs on city rights of way. The signs may only be placed from Friday afternoons to Monday mornings.
On another matter, Bryant reported that the contractor needs "two more days" to complete the removal of dirt (for the first phase) from the site of the city's new waste treatment plant. Most of the dirt is being hauled to the Commerce Board of Education's new middle school site on Jefferson Road.
"There's no telling how much it's (the proximity of the site) saved us," said Brown. "There's no telling how much it's saved the school system."
In other business, Bryant reported:
•most of the easements for the community development block grant project have been acquired and the city is starting to work on easements for its sidewalk project.
•"legal squawking" between attorneys continues in the city's move to have Pardue's Mobile Home Park brought up to code or eliminated.
•legal work also continues on condemning access to the city's 18-acre tract at its old reservoir.
•the planning commission was scheduled to have a "work session" last (Tuesday) night with a developer who proposes a subdivision restricted to senior citizens and who wants to "cluster" houses on the tract to reduce owners' yard maintenance.
•concerns over revenue from the city's water department, which is more than $100,000 down from the same point in the past fiscal year (due primarily to Jackson County having its own source of water). The concern relates to the ability of the city to make the debt service payments on the new waste treatment plant.

Beshara seeks Jefferson support for second site study
But city would have to agree to support final outcome
Commissioner Emil Beshara wants an architect’s opinions on whether or not some 200 acres owned by Jack Davidson on Hwy. 129 or the Darnell Road property already purchased by the county would be better suited for a new Jackson County courthouse.
With that in mind, he approached the Jefferson City Council Monday night to seek a city resolution in support of an architect’s study — as well as a $10,000 funding contribution for the study, which is projected to cost $20,000.
Beshara’s proposal, given in a four-point memo to Mayor Jim Joiner, also calls for the city to agree to assist in providing infrastructure for either site, saying “In the event that the 129 property is recommended by the architects, Jefferson would still assist in providing assistance to the Darnell (Road) property for whatever use it is eventually developed”; to support 2005 SPLOST funding up to 50 to 55 percent for a “central county governmental campus”; and to agree that “the recommendation of the architects is final.”
The city council will take action on such a resolution when it meets at 6 p.m. Monday at the Jefferson club house.
“I’m not asking you to give up your rights and duties,” Beshara said of the criteria that the architects’ findings would be final.
Joiner asked: “We may not like it, but we would agree to it?”
In his letter to Joiner, Beshara had written that with the council’s passing of such a resolution, “I feel confident that the comparative study we both desire will take place.”
“My proposal is to study the Hwy. 129 property, as well as the Darnell Road site, to see which is more appropriate for a new courthouse,” Beshara explained Monday night. “I feel the Davidson property has some characteristics the Darnell (Road) site doesn’t have and it would be a shame if we did not have the architects compare the two.”
Beshara said he is seeking a 60- to 90-day option on the Davidson property to allow the architects time to study the site.
“I think I could get a majority vote (with the BOC) to do it if (the council adopted the resolution),” he said. A fifth, but unwritten, point would be that both the BOC and the city council would “remain hands-off of the study.”
Beshara added: “We want to work with the City of Jefferson. We don’t want to antagonize anybody. But the county has to put a courthouse somewhere, and it has to be in the City of Jefferson.”
Why now? city council member Bosie Griffith asked Beshara.
“The Davidson property came into the picture back in September; why did it take four months (to seek a comparison)?” Griffith asked.
Beshara said the original proposal for the Davidson property was for 25 acres at Storey Lane and Hwy. 129.
“That was not enough property for a complex,” he said. “There was one motion (later) to option the property and the owner rejected it. There has been a lot of back and forth between the BOC and the property owner. It’s kind of a nebulous target we’re going at here; one problem has been the buffer (area) for a jail. We have been working at it all along, we just haven’t gotten anywhere yet.”
Beshara explained that “at this point in time” a needs assessment has been in the works for the courthouse project and “we are in the master plan process now.”
Another question posed for Beshara, this time from the mayor, was whether or not the architect for the two-site study could be counted on to be unbiased.
“I know Cooper-Carry is aware of biases...and I know there are advantages to the Davidson property (such as higher visibility) that would be favorable to architects...I’m not saying I oppose the Darnell (Road) site; it has unique characteristics. But the Davidson property has (characteristics) to be considered, too.”
Beshara acknowledged that “there have been some funds spent specifically on Darnell Road.”
Beshara’s request for the city’s support calls for Jefferson to commit to support SPLOST funding for the governmental complex.
“I expect that no more than 50 to 55 percent of the 2005 SPLOST will be required to completely fund the first phase of the project,” his memo to Joiner reads.
Monday night, Joiner asked about the total cost of the courthouse, or at least what the cost of the first phase would be.
While Beshara clarified that he didn’t speak for anyone else, he is in favor of a jail being funded along with the courthouse.
“We would have advance funding for the project with SPLOST 2005 – I believe that’s the way to go,” he said. “With the courthouse and, I hope, the sheriff’s jail...$25 million of a $50 million SPLOST would buy a lot of courthouse and jail. By the time SPLOST 2005 rolls around, we’ll already have the courthouse, so we’ll know the exact price.”
Joiner asked: “If 50 percent (of SPLOST 2005) is for the courthouse, then where would the other 50 percent be used?”
Beshara said he felt the funds should be divided among roads, water, recreation and libraries.
Jefferson’s city attorney Ronnie Hopkins added, “I hope it would be less than 50 percent for the courthouse,” clarifying that the remainder of the SPLOST funds would be divided amongst the municipalities.
“I hope it would be less than that, too, but the people of Jackson County need a courthouse,” Beshara said.
Commissioner Stacey Britt also attended the Jefferson council work session but did not speak on the courthouse matter.

Commerce’s Gamble Pays Off In Lower Natural Gas Prices
Commerce natural gas customers who read about Georgia Natural Gas and Scana increasing gas rates by 16 and 11 percent respectively need not worry about similar rate hikes in Commerce.
Although wholesale natural gas prices are up 9.7 percent, Commerce residents will actually pay less in January than they did in November and December, says City Manager Clarence Bryant.
"One reason our rates are down this month is we got a rebate back from Transco and passed $40,000 back to our customers," Bryant said.
Commerce gas customers are also protected by the city's practice of "hedging" nearly 80 percent of its gas purchase. Hedging is buying a portion of its anticipated gas load for the winter months in advance – during summer – when future prices for winter gas are typically lower. It's a gamble that gas prices will rise when winter actually occurs.
While that gamble did not pay off last year, it has benefitted Commerce gas customers in every other year, but especially in the winter of 2000-01 when market prices soared. This year, Commerce gas customers will save about $90,000, Bryant predicts.
January gas is selling at $5.09 per unit on the open market and February gas is $5.25; Commerce hedged 79 percent of its supply at $3.23 per therm, a savings of more than $2 per unit.
The city maintains a $2.75 per unit profit margin. The $8.35 per unit retail cost in January represents the market price, transportation cost and profit margin. Thus any fluctuations in the wholesale price of gas – up or down – are passed on to the retail customers.
Typically, the Gas Department is the city's most profitable utility department. Revenue from the city’s utility funds is transferred into the General Fund where it helps finance other city services, from the recreation department to the library to the police department.
The profitability of those departments is the reason that Commerce levies only one mill of property taxes for operations.
Managing the sale of gas also pays dividends. Commerce has a per day contract and if it uses more than the contract allows, it pays a stiff per-unit penalty. At times when the temperatures dip severely, Bryant keeps a close watch on consumption. If use gets close to the contract ceiling, he orders the city's interruptible customers cut off. Interruptible customers, mostly industries, get a premium rate on natural gas, in exchange for the city's ability to cut service when necessary.
If residential gas customers experience higher bills this month, it will be due to higher gas consumption, officials say. Consumers can reduce the amount of gas they use – and their bills – by implementing some or all of the following:
•Set the thermostat at 68 degrees. In addition, turning it down 10 degrees at night or when the house is unoccupied can save as much as 20 percent of heating costs. Programmable thermostats can automatically make such changes.
•Replace the filter frequently. It will make the unit more efficient and prolong the life of the furnace.
•Lower the thermostat on the water heater to about 120 degrees. Consider installing low-flow shower heads.
•Run the dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer only with full loads.



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Board acts to change airport authority
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed Monday night to seek legislation to change the terms and make-up of the county airport authority. The terms would be one-year and would be one from each district and one at-large member.
Additional proposed changes would grant the county government responsibility of the day-to-day operations of the airport.
The move came at the same time the BOC agreed to seek legislation to take control of the county water and sewerage authority.
“Such operation would provide more proactive oversight and would serve the customers of the airport in a more efficient manner,” Beshara said. “As safety and security are major issues at this facility, it is a more efficient arrangement to have the county government assume operational responsibility rather than asking authority members to meet every time any issue arises.”
Beshara said that no action would be taken without the authority members holding an open meeting and voting on every issue.
“It is better to have the authority serve in a long-range planning and general oversight capacity,” Beshara said.
The county currently provides informal day-to-day oversight of the airport.
On another matter, Beshara recommended that the planning commission meetings be held in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order.

Public hearings set on proposed county code
Several meetings will be held in the next few weeks on the proposed Unified Development Code for Jackson County.
The code has been in the works for more than one year with Bill Ross and Associates overseeing the project. Final action on the proposal by the board of commissioners is expected by June. The plans originally called for the proposal to be reviewed and approved in 45 days, however, this was changed after citizens asked for more time to review the lengthy document.
The District 3 public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13, at the Pendergrass Public Library; the District 2 meeting will be held at 6 p.m on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at the Commerce Civic Center; the District 1 meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at the Administrative Building in Jefferson; and the District 4 meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 16, at the Nicholson Public Library.
The BOC will review the public comments from these hearings at a called meeting set for 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 24. The BOC will also hold a public hearing at its Feb. 3 meeting on the proposal and adopt an interim land use map for zoning purposes. Final adoption of the code and the proposed land use map will be in June.
The proposed land use map has already been presented at two public meetings, the most recent being Tuesday night. Some 50 people attended this meeting to look at the map and see how their property is coded. The land uses listed on the map include urban residential, agriculture preservation, neighborhood village center, community village center, gateway corridor, industrial workplace and intensive industrial.
Citizens who review the map and find their property is not listed correctly may request that a change be made. Ross said his staff would keep a list of all comments and suggestions made during the review period and pass them on to the board of commissioners for consideration. The BOC will make all final decisions on the proposed map and the code. Comments may be given during the public hearings set up for next week or e-mailed to Ross at
Ross said the map will be important when zoning decisions are made. Any zoning changes made must be consistent with the adjacent land, he said.
The proposed code for Jackson County is available on the Internet.
The proposal can be found at It can be found in the planning commission section which is listed under the county government heading.
The proposed land use map is not yet online.
The code is also available in the county planning and development office. The cost for a “hard copy” is $45 and the cost for a CD-rom is $10. Copies of the proposal will also be at all of the public libraries in the county.

Authority to meet Thursday and Monday
The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority will meet two times in the next couple of days with the recent action by the board of commissioners likely to be discussed.
The regular authority meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the State Courtroom in the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
The authority will hold a called meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday at the water and sewerage office, located in the Central Jackson Industrial Park in Jefferson.
The recent action of the board of commissioners to take control of the day-to-day operations of the water and sewerage authority will likely be discussed.

Juveniles charged with PO break-in
Three juveniles were charged this week with breaking into several post office boxes at the Pendergrass Post Office.
The three were charged by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in conjunction with the Pendergrass Police Department. Investigators from both agencies charged the juveniles after investigating the crime. Seven post office boxes were broken into by the juvenile suspects.