News from Madison County...

JANUARY 8, 2003


Madison County
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OPINIONS

Frank Gillespie
Rednecks are safe to insult
Those who make a derisive statement about black people, American Indians, Asians, or most other racial or ethnic groups are immediately attacked as a racist with threats and demands that they resign from some office, pay reparations or otherwise accept punishment. Those who insult Southern rednecks are praised, rewarded and promoted.

Margie Richards
Creeped out in the surveillance age
“Your middle name is ‘Buchanan’ right?”
A co-worker responded “yes” with a look of confusion.
I pointed to his name on the computer screen.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Heading into the subregion stretch
By all accounts, Madison County has taken small, but positive strides on the court this year.
At 5-8, the team has equaled its win total from last year, already claimed a Region 8-AAAA win in its first year in a new classification and in a real morale-builder, claimed a holiday tournament title last week.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
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.

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.

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.

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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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AT THE NEW JAIL

Site manager David Tolar (L) of Nicholson Professional Consulting watches his construction team Monday.

Jail expansion won’t be on 2003 SPLOST
ail expansion won’t be one of the projects proposed on the 2003 sales tax referendum.
Instead, commissioners want to use the lion’s share of sales tax revenue over the next five years for road improvements, as well as water and sewer development.
County commissioners met again Monday to discuss how to spend an anticipated $9.5 million in revenue over the next five years if voters renew a special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) on March 18.
The BOC will meet again today (Wednesday) at 6 p.m. to discuss SPLOST spending and vote Monday, Jan. 13, on what to put on the referendum.
Expanding the new jail was a focus of commissioners during initial discussions of SPLOST projects, but chairman Wesley Nash suggested Monday that the BOC scrap plans to add on to the new jail and focus instead on roads and water and sewer development.
Nash said the new jail will total “about 75 beds,” with 64 beds in the cell portion of the building and others located in the jail’s booking area.
“I think we’ll have enough beds for five years,” said Nash.
Other commissioners agreed with putting off jail expansion at least until 2008. Though commissioner Bruce Scogin said he didn’t think the jail would be sufficient for the next five years, he agreed that if the board wanted to wait on expansion, he’d go along with putting it off.
ROAD IMPROVEMENTS, THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY
While the jail was a focus of discussion, the commissioners agreed that the number one priority of the board is road improvements. And commissioners said they want to spend millions over the next five years to upgrade county roads.
“I’d like to see a minimum of $5.5 million for roads and bridges,” said Scogin, regarding SPLOST spending.
Nash, who said he receives more calls about roads than anything else, said he’d prefer not to set a specific figure on spending for roads because revenues could total more than the projected $9.5 million over the next five years. A cap, he said, might mean that the county would miss out on additional funding. The chairman said he’d rather decide a dollar figure for other SPLOST projects and leave the remaining funds dedicated to roads, which is what commissioners did in 1998, when approximately half of the anticipated $6 million in SPLOST funds was tagged for roads.

The lone citizen in attendance, Larry Stewart, took the podium Monday, agreeing with commissioners that the bulk of SPLOST money should go to roads and water and sewer development.
“If you put options out there for the public to vote on, I believe roads and bridges are going to be number one,” said Stewart, who added that developing infrastructure to help attract businesses to the county will help offset the tax burden on property owners.
WATER AND SEWER
DEVELOPMENT
Nash said development of infrastructure will only enhance the long-term economic welfare of the county.
“To me, it (water and sewer development) means more options for sales to move in to the county,” said Nash. “That’s why Oconee has Wal Mart and Lowe’s, because they provided infrastructure for that stuff.”
Nash suggested that the commissioners designate $3 million to the water and sewer development in high growth areas of the county. And the board seemed agreeable to the figure, though no official vote was taken.
“We need to get some commercial stuff in here and offset the burden on taxpayers,” said Nash.
EMS, DEPUTY
STATION IN HULL
County commissioner Mike Youngblood cited statistics showing that medical calls in the Hull area have risen drastically in recent years. He said that a joint EMS and sheriff’s station near the Hull-Sanford school would “serve the county well.”
“It’s unreal the way it’s growing (the number of medical calls),” said Youngblood.
Nash agreed to contact the school system to discuss a possible land purchase for such a station.
And the board agreed to tag $300,000 for establishment of a new EMS/sheriff’s station. Scogin asked that the board designate $300,000 instead of a suggested $250,000 so that an ambulance could also be purchased.
COMMUNICATIONS IMPROVEMENTS
The BOC also heard from 911 director David Camp, who proposed approximately $487,000 in communications improvements for the county. He suggested the county establish a centralized transmitter tower site, perhaps on land near the new jail off Hwy. 98. Other suggestions included five remote voting receiver sites to relay transmissions back to the central tower, a 50-foot tower at the 911 center, generators and new handheld radio equipment.
Nash suggested looking into the possibility of getting “800 megahertz” radios, noting that many businesses are moving to such equipment.
The board agreed to meet with Camp again Wednesday to discuss his proposals and to hear about what radio equipment county fire departments may need.
Board members said they will also discuss possible recreation proposals for SPLOST during that meeting.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business Monday, the board met briefly with Alltel representatives to discuss installing a digital phone network in all county offices. Nash said he believed the new network would prove effective and save the county money. The board will consider the matter again during its regular meeting Monday.


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.
David Tolar of Nicholson Professional Consulting, Inc. said Monday that the project is progressing on schedule and should be completed by the end of March or beginning of April.
Nicholson Professional Consulting, Inc. was hired by Atlantic Mutual, the surety agency for the county’s jail project, to correct construction problems by Boatwright Construction, the original jail builders, and to complete unfinished work.
The county commissioners fired Boatwright Construction last year after an independent inspection firm found numerous construction flaws.
Tolar said his company is pretty much finished with correcting the problems.
“We’re virtually done with remediation,” said Tolar.
BOC chairman Wesley Nash addressed the jail project during Monday’s commissioners’ meeting.
“I know the public is disappointed in how the jail has moved,” said Nash. “But I think we’ve done the right thing in making them build what they’re supposed to build.”


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?
The county government is developing a Madison County government web site at www.madisonco.us/
The web site includes information and a photo of each county commissioner, departmental directions, a calendar, job listings, events and news, agendas and minutes, frequently asked questions, various forms and permits, information about Madison County and related links.


Ila council votes ‘no’ on speed breakers
There will be no speed breakers installed around Ila Elementary School.
That was the decision of Ila’s city council members Monday night after councilman Terry Freeman reported that he had received several negative comments about them from residents and that the board of education would be unable to help with funding the installation of the breakers.
In a separate matter, the council heard from attorney Pat Graham that the board of commissioners declined to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Ila to handle zoning matters inside the city limits, unless the city revamps its zoning ordinances to comply with county zoning ordinances. However, county officials did agree to handle building inspections for Ila.
The council voted to have Graham rework the agreement to include only building inspections at this time and to continue to handle zoning matters on their own.
In other business, the council:
•set city appointments for 2003 as follows: mayor pro-tem - Don Freeman; city clerk - Susan Steed; city attorney - Pat Graham; banking services - BB&T; water department - Troy Butler.
•set city department heads for 2003 as follows: water department - Troy Butler and Terry Freeman; streets - Don Freeman, Nathaniel Hobbs and Terry Freeman; fire - Mike Coile and Terry Freeman; public safety - Troy Butler and Nathaniel Hobbs.

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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.


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.
Carithers will work 32 hours per week at a rate of $12 per hour.
Police chief Joe Merk will continue at 40 hours per week.
The council voted to amend their budget to cover Carither’s salary, moving $12,000 from the water department’s contingency fund, which currently contains a balance of $27,700, to the police payroll budget.
The council decided to utilize the contingency funds already on hand instead of taking monies from the anticipated revenues in this year’s water budget.
“Then six months down the road we’ll better know where we are,” Mayor Glenn Cross said.
In other business, the council:
•voted to amend the water rates so that those who use more than 35,000 gallons per month will pay an additional $8 per thousand gallons used. The current ordinance allows up to 50,000 gallons per month before the additional $8 rate applies. The new rate will go into effect beginning in February.
•selected councilwoman Nina Hitchcock to serve as mayor pro-tem for another year.
•heard from city employee Jerry Riley that council members “might be getting phone calls” about flowers and vases removed from graves in the city cemetery. Riley said all items removed from grave sites had not been thrown away but were placed by the fence.
•heard from Mayor Cross that there has been no word on grant monies for the water and sewer system. Cross said he hoped to have something on the matter by the next meeting.
•heard from city attorney Victor Johnson that the city’s policy for paid leave for military personnel is “not enforceable” because it conflicts with state and federal policy concerning service in the active reserves. City policy allows 14 days paid leave, while state policy allows for 18 days paid leave for all but temporary employees.


Man killed in Neese-Commerce Road accident
A Colbert man was killed in an early morning accident on Neese-Commerce Road just south of Planter Gunnell Road Saturday.
Edward Matthew Tate, 27, died when Tonya Minish, 21, Commerce, lost control of a 1999 Nissan Maxima. The vehicle overturned and struck a tree at approximately 2:05 a.m., according to the Athens Post of the Georgia State Patrol.
Minish was treated and released from a local hospital. Passenger Jeremy Minish, 21, Hull, — no relation to the driver — was seriously injured in the accident.
According to the state patrol, neither of the two male passengers, who were both thrown from the vehicle, were wearing seat belts.
Charges are still pending. A wreck reconstruction team has been assigned to the investigation.