News from Jackson County...

JANUARY 15, 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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Jackson Co. boys get monkey off their backs
Beaten. Squashed.
Whatever your verb preference, the Jackson County faithful can sleep a little bit softer now, because the goose egg in the win column is now gone.

Commerce Breaks Drought, To Face More Tough Subregion Play This Week
If there’s a silver lining for the Tigers to look for heading into this week, it’s this—they won’t enter it winless.

Dragon dominance to be tested
Thus far this season the Jefferson wrestling team has shown great resilience no matter who they have faced off against on the mat, however recent injuries, along with two important expected absences may have set the stage for the squad’s toughest challenge to date.

Neighboorhood News ..
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.

Neighborhood News...
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.

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.

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.
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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Ismeal Rucker, 8, got a boost Tuesday night when trying to make a basket at the V.S. Hughey Park in Jefferson. He hopped up on a garbage can for a little extra height.

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.
Because of the uproar over the matter, the authority will host a public hearing Thursday, January 30 at 7 p.m. in the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation auditorium in Jefferson. Citizens and state political leaders will be invited to attend.
At issue is a vote taken last week by the BOC to take away day-to-day control of the county water system and put it under the BOC and to make water authority terms just one year in length.
Monday night, water authority chairman Elton Collins said the authority was created the way it was in 1986 to keep politics out of the process of where water lines are located. He was an original member on the board when it was created.
“I think it’s worked pretty good over the past 10 or 15 years because the board has kept politics out of it,” he said. “We’ve looked at people who needed water verses people who just want water. I think what the commissioners are doing now is just trying to exercise a power grab. They seem to be power hungry — the planning commission (takeover), the airport authority (takeover) ...I think it’s the wrong thing to do.”
Collins also addressed rumors from some BOC members that he is in favor of the action to turn control of the authority over to the BOC. He said that was not the case.
“After all of the infrastructure is in and water is on every road, then it can’t be used as a political thing,” he said. “ (but) water today politically is what roads were in the ‘50s. You can take water lines and buy votes. I’m afraid that is what’s going to happen if the county takes it over. It will be manipulated to a few people in office.
“All of us know that water lines can be used to influence people and to buy votes. You can use it to a very positive political advantage... People like us, who do not run for office, can make unbiased decisions much easier.”
Collins also said that he doesn’t believe the BOC is ready to run the water department.
“They (the commissioners) have a lot of fish to fry, so to speak,” he said. “They have a lot of problems already that they need to be working on...I think this board needs to leave the water authority under the good hands it is under. I think, if we look back, this water board has done an excellent job over the past 12 to 15 years of serving the public and getting the water where it needs to be.”

Authority member Dean Stringer said he has seen how the authority works both as a citizen seeking water and as a member of the group. He said he has seen how the process works without politics being a part of it.
Collins encouraged his fellow authority members to “stay above the fray” on this matter.
“We don’t need to get ugly about it,” he said. “...We don’t need to get on their level, so to speak, and start trying to do things behind everybody’s back and behind closed doors. We need to be open and honest about what we want to do.”
Water authority member Keith Ariail also said that he believes the water authority should be protected.
“This is the authority for the people of Jackson County and we need to protect it,” he said. “It is a check and balance of government at work.”
Ariail pointed out that the current BOC has appointed three of the five members of the authority. The terms of the other two members will expire in June and he said the BOC would have the opportunity to fill those posts.
“My fellow authority members, appointed by this board of commissioners, are proof that this authority works as it is set up,” he said.
Authority member Warren Walker spoke in opposition to the one-year term limits proposed by the BOC. He said he had discussed this with one of the commissioners and still didn’t have “a good feel” as to why they want to limit the terms to one year.
Walker also said that he has felt “out of the loop” and would like more information on what is going on. He said he had asked county manager Al Crace two times that he be sent to a training class but that he hasn’t been sent yet.
“I feel like what’s going on is that the other side isn’t putting all the cards on the table.”
Collins said that longer terms would make it more likely for the members to be “independent thinkers” instead of a “puppet.”
Walker also said he asked one of the commissioners if the action was a complete take-over or if the authority would still have control of where lines go.
“From what I understand, they want them (employees) under their system and under the bidding process,” he said.
Collins said: “If it’s under the control of the county, who do you think will make decisions of where water lines go.”
Water authority member Tom Crow brought up the effort by the BOC last year to pressure the water authority to borrow up to $10 million for projects. He said that if the authority had borrowed this much money taxpayers would have to repay it because the special purpose local option sales tax revenue is down.
Keith Hayes, one of four citizens attending the meeting, spoke out in support of the water authority as it is now set up. He said the authority has put in place one of the best water systems in the state.
“Our county government is growing by leaps and bounds,” he said. “...The county has all they can handle without taking on the projects of the water authority.”
Also at the meeting, Collins questioned the impact the take-over would have on projects already in the works, including the new Toyota plant locating in the county.
“There is a lot for them to think about that I don’t believe they have thought about,” he said.

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.
So reported City Manager Clarence Bryant at Monday night's meeting of the mayor and city council.
"We are going to actively pursue cleaning up property on our entrances to town," Bryant told the council after Councilman Richard Massey had expressed a desire for the city to "actively pursue" cleaning up some of the town's most unsightly yards.
Bryant said after the meeting that one of the worst areas is the Ila Road, which is littered with vacant, dilapidated buildings.
The city's efforts to enforce its minimum housing code and cleanliness of premises ordinances will improve, Bryant suggested, now that the city's new housing inspector, Billy Vandiver, is "pretty much up to speed."
Under the ordinances, the city can force property owners to both clean up yards and to repair or tear down dilapidated buildings. A dozen or more old structures have been targeted for elimination throughout town since the city passed its minimum housing code.
In a related matter, Bryant indicated that the city will move forward on getting Pardue's Mobile Home Park declared a public nuisance so the city can force action to have it cleaned up.
Recent inspections revealed 85 code violations, many of them serious, and the city appears to have run out of patience after legal negotiating to get the matter resolved.
"We're putting it back on the front burner," he said. "If somebody wants to sue, we'll just get sued."

MLK birthday celebration ahead Sun.
The 19th annual Jackson County Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration will be held Sunday, January 19, at the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation auditorium, Jefferson.
The Jackson County MLK Choir will present a gospel music mini-concert from 3:30 to 4 p.m.
The commemoration ceremony will begin at 4 p.m.
The keynote speaker will be attorney Walter J. Rucker, Gainesville. Rucker, a native of Gainesville, is a graduate of Gainesville High School. He received a bachelor’s degree from Savannah State University and a juris doctor degree in law from the University of Georgia. His law office is located in Gainesville. He is associated with several civic organizations and his religious affiliation is non-denominational. He is married and has three children.
Several citizens from throughout northeast Georgia will receive achievement, humanitarian, community service and entrepreneurship awards. The MLK Medal of Honor will also be presented.
Former Jefferson Mayor Byrd Bruce will receive the “Citizen of the Year” award.
Greetings will be given by Mayor Jim Joiner and Piedmont Superior Court Judge Joseph H. Booth from the city and county governments.
The celebration is sponsored by the Jackson County
MLK Jr. Commemoration Birthday Council.

Historic session opens under Gold Dome
When the new Georgia legislative session kicked off this week, five elected officials were at the capitol representing Jackson County. In the past, the county has had only two or three legislators.
But last year’s redistricting split Jackson County into two state House of Representatives districts and three state Senate districts. All five slots are filled by Republicans.
In the House, newcomer Rep. Chris Elrod joins Rep. Warren Massey. Massey has served in the House before, but it will be the first time a portion of west Jackson County is included in his district. Elrod covers the remainder of the county.
Over in the Senate, Sen. Brian Kemp is the political newcomer while Sen. Ralph Hudgens has experience serving as a member of the House representing Madison County. Sen. Casey Cagle has served in the House, but has not represented Jackson County before this year.
The legislators have been in Atlanta since Monday, but the first official session was expected to be Wednesday. For the first time in over 100 years, Georgia has a Republican governor and the state Senate is also controlled by Republicans. The House remains in Democratic hands.
On Tuesday, Rep. Chris Elrod spoke on local issues that will likely be addressed this session, including a request from the county board of commissioners to take over the day-to-day operations of the water and sewerage authority.
“What I would encourage them to do is try to talk it out,” he said. “My general opinion is you need political accountability on the board. I do agree with that. I don’t necessarily think the board of commissioners is out of line saying we want more authority over this. They are the elected officials. At the end of the day, if there is not enough money, it is the county (that has to come up with it), not the water authority. There needs to be some level of accountability—even if it’s just tweaking it to give them a little more control over where the water authority is going.”
Elrod said this doesn’t have to be a major overhaul or an elimination of the water authority.
“The main thing is that I want to make sure the taxpayers are protected,” he said. “I want them to know that if there is a problem with a problem there is someone they can go to...There has to be some compromise worked out. I would rather not be thrown in the middle of a cat fight...The best thing is we get a compromise from the two groups and a joint resolution.”
Elrod said other local issues coming up include updating Braselton’s town charter, county’s request to create a building authority and Commerce City Council redistricting.
As for statewide issues, Rep. Elrod said the budget will be the biggest issue that legislators face this session. He said that there will have to be cuts but he doesn’t believe education should be cut.
“What I don’t want to see is education cut,” he said. “There is going to have to be some belt-tightening and they better tighten belts budgets in every other agency in the state before we start cutting education. That will be my position.”
The governor was expected to give a budget address to a joint session on Wednesday.
Rep. Elrod said his focus will be on education with a focus on “ways to put more money in teacher’s pockets.”
“I see education as an on-going project,” he said. “If it was something there was a quick fix, someone would have come up with a quick fix by now. It’s something we’re going to have to stay on top of. I think over time, we’ll find something that will work.”
Elrod said one key issue will be finding a better way to fund education without property taxes.
“I don’t know whether the answer is to do away with school taxes outright through a constitutional amendment and replace it with a statewide sales tax or what the answer is or don’t do away with that but authorize an additional penny or two sales tax the voters can vote in.”
Elrod said growth issues will be also be addressed during the session.
“The other issues that I see will be big will be growth, especially related to water,” he said. “I want to see something that encourages business and developers to be environmentally friendly. That is as far as I want to see that go. I don’t want to see excessive regulations that we will pick up the tab for, one way or another.”

Police chase leads to wreck Tues. night in South Jackson
Three people were injured in a two-car accident Tuesday night in Arcade after a teenager led law enforcement officers on a high-speed chase.
The Arcade Police Department stopped a 2001 Pontiac Firebird driven by Justin Lee Shuler, 19, Talking Rock, traveling south on Hwy. 129 at 10 p.m. on Tuesday. His license was checked and it came back suspended, according to the Georgia State Patrol. An altercation reportedly took place and a chase ensued.
The Firebird continued south on Hwy. 129 where the car entered a curve at a high speed and lost control, according to the GSP. The car reportedly started rotating counter-clockwise and hit a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am driven by Brian Jude Ledoux, 22, Gainesville, in the driver’s side door.
The Grand Am came to a stop off of the east shoulder of Hwy. 129, according to the report. The Firebird came to a stop on Hwy. 129.
Both drivers, as well as a passenger in Ledoux’s vehicle, Shana Stevers, 21, Flowery Branch, were taken to Athens Regional Medical Center. Shuler reportedly received serious injuries.



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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.
Two members of the authority confirmed that Britt, a developer with extensive real estate interest in the county and state, had approached them about running a water line below Arcade for a political supporter in his district.
He was reportedly told that it was not financially feasible for a water line to run on the road just for one customer, according to the authority members.
Britt reportedly told one authority member that doing favors for supporters was “the way things were done in government — you help those who help you.”
Britt has long been a critic of the water authority and at one point last year, attempted to pressure water authority chairman Elton Collins into asking for the resignations of two authority members. Collins declined to do that. Britt had wanted to oust Tom Crow and Keith Ariail from the water board.
Last week, Britt joined commissioner Emil Beshara in making a recommendation to the full board of commissioners for the BOC to take control of the water board. The recommendation would have legislation introduced to take away day-to-day operations from the authority and put that in the hands of the county. In addition, the proposal called for the terms of the authority members to be just one year in length. Britt was also a supporter of one-year terms on the county planning commission that were put in place a little over one year ago. In late 2001, the BOC abolished the county planning board and then recreated it with new members serving one-year terms.

Jefferson seeks meeting with BOC
City turns down courthouse site study proposal; wants independent architect
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.
Beshara appeared before the council at its work session on January 6, requesting that the members adopt a resolution in support of an architect’s study of the two sites, as well as to contribute $10,000 toward the $20,000 study cost. Beshara’s proposal also called for the city to agree to aid with infrastructure for either site — or both if the Hwy. 129 property were chosen for the courthouse and the Darnell Road site were used for other purposes, such as residences; support use of 50 to 55 percent of the 2005 SPLOST funds for the governmental complex; and to agree that the architect’s recommendation is final.
“Once we do this, we’re committed to the Darnell property and we’ve already sent a letter that we are opposed to it,” council member Bosie Griffith objected to approving such a resolution at Monday night’s meeting.
A main concern for the council was whether or not the architect would be an objective party in the study.
“I have a problem with us depending on a firm they have on payroll,” said Mayor Jim Joiner.
Council member Steve Kinney added: “If it was unbiased, that’d be one thing, but we don’t know....I have no problem with a third party (looking at the sites).”
“There should be a third party,” agreed council member Philip Thompson. “All they’re asking us to do is to spend $10,000 when we feel we already know the answer, if they are not willing to renegotiate their stipulations...They (Beshara and Stacey Britt) are asking us to vote on something we don’t know they (all commissioners) will approve.”
Joiner clarified that the $10,000 in question has already been promised by the city’s development authority and won’t come from city taxpayers.
“If they are earnest in their request to review (the sites) with an impartial party, it is worth it for all of Jackson County,” Thompson said. “Or is it a snowball that has gotten too big? If they truly want to investigate (both sites), I think we can reach terms...We can sit down and discuss it, see if we can come to terms and go from there.”
Council member Marcia Moon suggested that a letter be sent to the commissioners stating that while the council will not accept the terms proposed by Beshara, members are willing to sit down and negotiate.
Joiner said he “appreciated Emil and Stacey coming to talk to us and that they have interest in working on a solution.”
“We’ll put the ball in their court and see how interested they are,” he added. “Let them know we’re interested in both sites...that we propose to sit down and discuss what’s good for Jefferson, Jackson County and all citizens.”