News from Banks County...

JANUARY 15, 2003


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OPINIONS

Phillip Sartain
Hitting the Wall
As a general rule, coming home from work is a good thing. After all, you get to relax and forget about the scratch and claw world of paying the bills. And that would apply to my house except for one thing—The Wall Of Chaos.

Bill Shipp
The circus is coming to town!
Ordinarily, the inauguration of the governor would be the most significant event at the end of a state election cycle. Not this time.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Banks to face Lumpkin in key subregion showdown
The upcoming games this weekend will be big for both Banks County teams for more than one reason.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Collins: BOC move a ‘power grab’Water authority members blast takeover attempt
The chairman of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority said Monday night that efforts by the county commission to take over the board were nothing but a “power grab.” That sentiment was echoed by other authority members as well in the hour-long meeting.

Britt asked for water line ‘favor’
Two officials on the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority confirmed this week that county commissioner Stacey Britt had earlier attempted to pressure the authority to run a water line for a political supporter.

Commerce Targets Entry Roads For Cleanup Effort
The city of Commerce plans to target eyesores that line the roads entering the city during the upcoming months.

Jefferson seeks meeting with BOC
The Jefferson City Council voted Monday night to deny a list of criteria offered by commissioner Emil Beshara for a study of two possible courthouse sites — one on Hwy. 129N and the other on Darnell Road — but agreed to seek a meeting with the board of commissioners to discuss other terms for an architect’s study using a neutral third party.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Paving the way
Time after time citizens approach commissioners about doing something about the awful condition of a county road.

Hull votes ‘yes’ on IDA easement
The city of Hull granted an easement to Madison County’s Industrial Authority (IDA) Monday night that will allow them to cross Glenn Carrie Road in order to connect water lines for the county’s water system.

Legal hitch sinks water, sewer development through SPLOST
County commissioners didn’t see it coming, the legal hitch that would sink their water and sewer development plans for this year’s SPLOST.

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BACK IN THE WILD

This injured Barred Owl was released back into the wild after a several week stint with a wildlife rehabilitator recovering from injuries after getting hit by a car.

Return to the wild
For the past three weeks, an injured Banks County owl has been kept under captive care with a mild concussion and left leg damage.
Tuesday, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger Winford Popphan and wildlife technician Brent Saxon released the owl at a home off Tyler Road in Hickory Flat.
The bird, a male Barred Owl, landed in a tree briefly and then flew off into the woods after its release. A nearby family, including middle school student Branson Hill who checked out of school for the event, watched the bird’s release.
Popphan said Shawn Hill, Branson’s father, found the bird injured on Hickory Flat Road in December. Popphan went and got the bird and sent it to Lauretta Dean, a wildlife rehabilitator.
Dean specializes in raptors, which are birds of prey, like owls. She also works for the DNR as a park naturalist at Amicalola Falls State Park, where she heads the bird of prey program.
Dean, a 16-year rehabilitator, nursed the owl back to health with medication and fed it a standard diet of mice and rats. The bird was also allowed to fly in a flight cage to keep its wings healthy.
Barred owls are a common species found in Northeast Georgia. Popphan said the bird has enough strength to penetrate a person’s wrist with its talons.
Barred owls and other raptors in Georgia—like hawks, eagles and ospreys—are federally-protected birds. No one, without special permits, are allowed to possess raptors—dead or alive—or even their feathers in Georgia. There are also stiff penalties for harming or killing the birds.
Wildlife rehabilitators, however, are specially-licensed to possess and care for injured wildlife.
Popphan said that anyone who comes across owls or other raptors that need assistance, or to get more information on the birds should call him at (770) 869-7705.


BOE orders state ruling on Ramsey’s status
Calling for an end to controversy surrounding newly-elected school board member Ben Ramsey’s residency status, the board of education voted 3-1 Monday to have Ramsey contact local and state officials to clear the matter up.
School board chairman Bo Garrison, vice-chair Ron Gardiner and member John Williams all voted to have the matter investigated. Neal Brown voted against the measure. Ramsey abstained.
Brown said he felt the issue had already been settled by election superintendent Judge Betty Thomas. However, Garrison said the BOE’s attorney advised the board in a letter that the matter needs clarification.
“Ethically, we can get into trouble if this isn’t resolved,” Garrison said.
According to Garrison, Ramsey must take “whatever steps necessary to resolve the issue” and “satisfy the public.” Garrison said Ramsey would have to clear his residency with Judge Thomas and also with the state attorney general’s office.
Ramsey said he would cooperate fully in the efforts to defend his residency. However, he said he felt he had already taken the necessary steps.
“I don’t know what else I have to do,” Ramsey said. “Nobody has been to my house. Nobody has called me. No board member has been to my house.
“This was investigated during the primary and nothing came of it. I don’t know what else y’all want me to do to show you and tell you where I live.”
Nearly 20 people crowded into the small BOE conference room to show their support for Ramsey. Most of them were neighbors. None of them were able to speak during the board’s discussions.
At the beginning of the BOE meeting, Andy Kitchens, who was on the agenda and who first publicly questioned Ramsey’s residency in a letter to The Banks County News, asked the board to look into the matter.
“I am appealing for y’all’s help to make sure Post 3 has equal and fair representation,” Kitchens said.
Kitchens asked for a “complete unbiased and objective investigation” to find out if “any laws or code of ethics were violated.”
He added that he had never been to a board of education meeting before Monday night’s meeting.
After the meeting, Ramsey’s opposition in the Post 3 Republican primary, Willene Boyle, told The Banks County News that she had already investigated the matter herself. She said Ramsey did live in the district.
Boyle said she met with Judge Thomas after the primary and talked about filing a formal objection to Ramsey’s residency. She said Judge Thomas informed her of the necessary steps to file a formal complaint.
Boyle left and went to Ramsey’s home and asked neighbors about whether or not he lived there.
“They said he lived with his aunt next door,” Boyle said. “We watched the house and he does live there.”
Boyle said she went back to Judge Thomas and withdrew her challenge of the election.
“That boy won the election fair and square,” Boyle said.
The school board did not give Ramsey a time frame to have the investigation completed.


Creasy, Allen honored at Chamber meeting
John Creasy and Terry Allen were honored at the Banks County Chamber of Commerce banquet Thursday night.
Creasy received the Volunteer of the Year award, while Allen received the President’s Award.
Chamber member Leslie George presented the Volunteer of the Year award to Creasy, who is the volunteer deputy chief for Banks County. She said that he provides a “tremendous talent and education to the community.” George said that Creasy’s service to the county includes training 911, fire and sheriff’s department personnel.
“If you’re ever in an emergency situation, you hope this man is in town and heeds your call,” she said.
Creasy said: “I truly enjoy giving something back to the community.”
Chamber president James Dumas said: “Thanks for all you and the firefighters do for Banks County.”
Dumas presented the first President’s Award and it went to Terry Allen, a Banks County High School graduate and football star who went on to play college and professional football. Dumas, who served as the football team chaplain when Allen was a student, spoke on some of the early BCHS games that Allen played in.
“He had a special spirit, a special determination,” Dumas said. “His senior year, he was the talk of Northeast Georgia.”
Dumas also recalled the day Allen signed a letter of intent to play college football at Clemson University. He said the ceremony was held in the BCHS gym and the student body said “T-E-R-R-Y” in unison after he signed the letter of intent.
Allen went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens and was in the Citrus Bowl. Dumas also spoke on Allen’s work with youth football camps.
“Terry, we’re proud of you,” Dumas said in presenting him with the award.
Dumas also pointed out that in television interviews, Allen is also quick to point that he is from Banks County.
“He always says Banks County, not Commerce,” Dumas said with a smile. “Thank you, for what you’ve done for Banks County and the recognition and for being a Leopard.”
Allen said Dumas was “very inspirational” to him.
“He was always there to give us encouragement,” he recalled. “I was feisty but I couldn’t be with him around. That stuck with me.”
Allen also spoke on being from a small school and meeting other football players from much larger schools.
“It doesn’t matter what school you’re from,” he said. “That tells how many students were there, not how good you play football.”
Allen said he was proud to come back to Banks County and see how it has grown.
“It means a lot to me that the people in my community respect and appreciate the things I’ve done,” he said.
MCBRIDE SPEAKS
Claude McBride, chaplain emeritus for the University of Georgia football team, was the guest speaker. He came in costume as “Happy Calhoun,” a “mountain man” he has created. He shared his humorous “mountain tales” from Possum Gap, which is deep in the mountains of Georgia. His presentation ended with a message that “You reap what you sow.”
“You’ve got to work together to make it a better community-a place your young people will want to come home to.,” McBride said. “You’ve got to be a team. You’ve got to work together to bring peace and happiness to Banks County.”


Development authority may extend Hwy. 441 sewer line
Pending an opinion from the county attorney, the Banks County Development Authority (DA) may use economic tax funds to extend a sewer line along Hwy. 441 in front of Pritchett Tire.
The DA voted unanimously last Thursday to spend close to $16,000 for the nearly 400-foot long extension if it has the ability to use the funds now. The extension will allow the new business, Pritchett Tire, to tie in to the sewage system and open up sewer availability for other projects in the works between Pritchett Tire and Boots Etc.
Before financing the project, the DA is awaiting county attorney Randall Frost’s opinion on whether or not the board can spend the funds.
Board of commission chairman Kenneth Brady said more than $700,000 sits in an account from a 0.5 mill tax levied for economic development. Frost has already said the DA is the only group with the authority to spend the funds.
However, the account may be frozen until the bond debt on the DA’s sewage system at Banks Crossing is paid off.
Frost is looking into an agreement between the BOC and the DA made several years ago when the two entities began levying the tax.
Brady said the wording of the agreement could mandate full satisfaction of the bond debt before the funds can be used for any other projects. If so, the DA will not be able to spend the money on the sewer line expansion until the sewage system is paid off in full. In that case, the DA will recommend the BOC take on the extension project.
On the other hand, the agreement could stipulate that the DA only satisfy the yearly payment on the bond debt before using any of the money. If so, the development authority will be able to use the funds for the project immediately.
Should it be able to spend the money, the DA will also likely use some of the funds to extend Industrial Boulevard to Hwy. 59.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the development authority:
•learned that the Commerce city manager will likely appear at next month’s meeting to talk about gas availability at Banks Crossing.
•learned the DA can get money from the regional advisory council to pay for a facilitator at the next public meeting the authority plans on growth in Banks County.



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BOC denies C-2 rezoning
A 60-acre tract of land on Hwy. 441 at Moss Mill Road will remain agricultural, at least for a year.
The Banks County Board of Commissioners denied a group’s request Monday to have the land rezoned from ARR to C-2 to locate a retail center in a largely residential area.
One of the developers of the project, Mike Hicks, asked the board to table the application. He said he and his associates wanted more time to develop a more specific site plan for the area and consider rezoning just a small portion.
He also said he was worried that if the application was turned down, the man he was negotiating with to buy the property from would not be able to have the property rezoned for a year.
Zoning officer Keith Covington explained that once a rezoning application for a piece of property is acted upon, the land cannot change zoning again for at least a year. However, the permitted uses and conditional uses under the zoning are allowed.
Mark Reed, the realtor for the deal, also asked the BOC to table the request to allow the developers to work with the development authority and come up with a better plan.
He said the property was perfect for commercial development.
“None of us asked for 441 to be four-laned,” Reed said. “But it can be an economic engine for the county.”
Several residents spoke against the application and asked the BOC not to table the request but to turn it down. They pointed out the planning commission’s offer last week to allow the applicants more time to work on the project.
However, Chris Thomas, another developer, told the planning commission a week ago to go ahead and send it to the BOC.
Five people spoke in opposition to the application. All but one of them also spoke at the planning commission meeting last week.
“I don’t consider commercial and industrial sites on top of me as improving my quality of life,” local resident Tim Simmons said. “I’m asking you turn this down because Hollingswoth is not a commercial area.”
Another resident that lives across the street from the property said other areas in the county were more suitable for commerce around the towns and interstate.
“I don’t think a Subway or Waffle House would be a good investment across the street from my cows,” Micky Hillard said. “I’m not against growth, but we should expand the areas that are already commercial.”
Dustin Payne said he was worried that rezoning the property would cause area land values to increase and raise tax assessments.
Planning commission chairman Harold Ivey also clarified why his group recommended denial of the project. He said the plans didn’t meet the county’s criteria and that the application wasn’t filed correctly.
He also said that intersection at Moss Mill Road was not as suitable for commercial growth as some of the other ones. Ivey specifically mentioned the Apple Pie Ridge Road intersection at Irvin’s as a better area.
Ivey also commented on Reed’s proposal that the developers work with the development authority on the project.
“They (the DA) are a board and they need to stay out of zoning and leave it to those of us in the county trying to keep the county rural,” he said.
In his rebuttal to the opposition, Hicks said he wasn’t going to push anything in an area residents didn’t want the project.
He said he only wanted to give the land back to the property owner without it being locked out of rezoning for another year.
“I’m sorry to the people of the county for causing such a hassle,” he said.