News from Madison County...

JANUARY 15, 2003


Madison County
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OPINIONS

Frank Gillespie
Children need a basic knowledge of history
Nearly every pundit’s list of things for our new governor to do includes re-reforming education. I agree with the idea, but not necessarily with the extent of the reforms.

Zach Mitcham
The year of SPLOST
Most call it “splost,” as in “lost.”
Some call it “spee lost.”
Others call it “splost,” as in “toast.”
I’ve even heard it called “splosh,” as in “oh my gosh.”


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Looking for a fast start
A bad start off the line in a foot race will inevitably cost you at the finish and the same mentality holds true on the basketball court.


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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY

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.

Creasy, Allen honored at Chamber meeting
John Creasy and Terry Allen were honored at the Banks County Chamber of Commerce banquet Thursday night.

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NEESE-COMMERCE ROAD

Pictured is Neese-Commerce Road at its intersection with Rogers Church Road. Neese-Commerce Road is in the first phase of a road-widening project. The road has long been considered dangerous due to its narrowness and steep drop offs in areas.

Paving the way
Time after time citizens approach commissioners about doing something about the awful condition of a county road.
More often than not, the residents turn away, disappointed to learn that funding just isn’t available to deal with their problem.
County commissioners did something Monday to change that — at least to some extent.
The board agreed to tag an estimated $8.37 million in sales tax revenues over the next five years for upgrading county roads.
Of course, voters must first vote “yes” on a March 18 special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) referendum, which would designate one cent of every dollar spent in the county to improvement projects over the next five years.
The board, which anticipates $9.5 million in SPLOST revenue over the next five years, also agreed Monday to designate $630,000 in SPLOST funds for a new EMS and sheriff’s station in the Hull area and $500,000 for communications upgrades. These projects total $1,130,000. The remaining funds, estimated at $8.37 million, will be used for road projects.
If approved by voters, the SPLOST funds could help pay for paving, resurfacing, road widening and road redesigns.
Commissioners have not determined what roads would be addressed first if the SPLOST is approved.
SPLOST TALKS
While the board finalized the SPLOST projects Monday, the group met twice last week to discuss the proposals.
On Wednesday, the BOC met with 911 director David Camp to talk about communications improvements for the county. Camp suggested that the county focus on upgrading its current communications system, which is also used in most surrounding counties. But chairman Wesley Nash proposed changing to a more “state of the art” communications system like the one used in Clarke County.
The BOC did not decide which system would be more appropriate for Madison County, but the group agreed that either system will require about $500,000 over the next five years to ensure adequate public safety communications.
Last week, the board agreed to designate $300,000 for the proposed EMS/sheriff’s station in Hull. But the board increased that number Monday to $630,000 after commissioner Bruce Scogin asked for more funds for patrol cars for the sheriff’s department and commissioner Mike Youngblood pointed out that the sheriff’s office is in need of a new fingerprinting machine.
Also Monday, the board heard from Steve Sorrells, who read a letter from Comer mayor William Burroughs asking for consideration of SPLOST funding for the city of Comer as it tries to revitalize its downtown area.
County attorney Mike Pruett and Sorrells disagreed on whether SPLOST money could be used on city streets, with Pruett saying they couldn’t and Sorrells saying they could.
Colbert mayor John Waggoner also asked the board whether SPLOST funding could be used for economic development.
The BOC had considered tagging $3 million in SPLOST funds for water and sewer development in the county’s high growth areas, but that plan was scrapped this past week. (See related story, above, right).
SCHOOL SPLOST
The county school system is also planning a SPLOST referendum on March 18. The BOE finalized its plans for SPLOST projects in November.


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.
IDA chairman Ed Brown attended the council meeting to present the request for an easement that allows engineers Carter and Sloope to bore under Glenn Carrie Road just behind the Golden Pantry. This will allow the new water line extension from the back up well just east of Hull at James Holcomb Road to be connected to established water lines that run along Glenn Carrie Road.
The Glenn Carrie Road water lines are part of those currently owned by Athens-Clarke County. The IDA plans to purchase the lines by June 1 as part of an agreement with ACC.
The easement will facilitate the connection of the back up well and the main well behind Hull-Sanford Elementary School.
City attorney Pat Graham will draw up the easement, which calls for IDA engineers to bore under the highway, instead of cutting the pavement to make way for the water line.
Mayor B.W. Hutchins insisted on this procedure to avoid leaving uneven pavement where the water line crosses.
Brown told the council that the IDA had already received rights-of-way easements from the DOT and from CSX railroad and that work was progressing. He also reported on the progress of the back up well, saying it has been rehabilitated.
“The well has just over 100 gallons per minute and only one part per million iron content...It will cost very little to treat for iron,” Brown said.
Brown also told the council that the IDA intends to retain enough right-of-way around the well to erect a water tower at some point in the future, adding that the water system was vital to attracting more businesses into the county.
“We want to get the water system done before we focus on a business park,” Brown emphasized, referring to the 30 acres on Hwy. 72 recommended for a business/light industrial park by a study committee last year.
In a separate matter, the council discussed the 2003 proposed budget, which contains revenues and expenditures in the amount of $41,105. This includes a five percent increase over last year’s budget of $39,263. The city’s main source of income is from LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) funds ($30,000 annually), followed by franchise and insurance premium taxes at $4,500 and $3,000, respectively.
The council will hold a 30-minute public hearing for citizen input on the proposed budget on Monday, Feb. 10, at 6:30 p.m. just prior to the regular council meeting.
In other business, the council:
•voted to raise Janet Clerk’s salary from $1,500 per year to $2,500 per year following a five-minute closed session. The money for the raise will come from the $11,907 originally budgeted for miscellaneous funds for 2003.
•discussed holding a special election in March to fill a council seat that has remained vacant for the past year. The council is expected to issue a call for an election and set qualifying fees and dates at their February council meeting.


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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.


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.
With the sales tax referendum coming up in March, the commissioners tentatively agreed last week to tag $3 million for water and sewer development.
But they approved a SPLOST list Monday with no funds set aside for water and sewer development. Instead, most of the money that would have gone for infrastructure will go toward road improvements. The commissioners also agreed to increase SPLOST funding for EMS and law enforcement.
The hitch in the water/sewer development plans was revealed to commissioners this past Wednesday. County attorney Mike Pruett informed the board that the county must have an established intergovernmental agreement with a city or water authority before SPLOST funds could legally be tagged for water or sewer infrastructure.
Also, in order to meet advertising requirements for a March 18 referendum, the commissioners had to approve the SPLOST projects list at their Monday, Jan. 13, meeting.
An intergovernmental agreement could not be established in time to move forward with a March 18 sales tax referendum. And delaying a SPLOST referendum until June would mean the county could face a three-month lapse in sales tax funding between the expiration of the old SPLOST, approved in 1998, and the start of a 2003 SPLOST.
Commissioner Bruce Scogin apologized to the audience at Monday’s meeting for the misunderstanding that left the water and sewer development off the 2003 SPLOST, noting that the commissioners had not anticipated the contractual problem on infrastructure development and that the board faced a tight timetable on getting a SPLOST referendum on a March ballot.