News from Banks County...

JANUARY 22, 2003


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OPINIONS

Margie Richards
Let’s change our mindset
Admit it—we all love to complain.
And there’s something about whining about “what’s wrong with the world today,” about “people” (we never speak as if we’re part of the species during these diatribes), or about our government in particular that can really get us on a roll.

Rochelle Beckstine
The state of the world after 30 years of abortion
In 1972, the Supreme Court decided that a person’s right to privacy was implied in the Constitution when our forefathers deemed every citizen had a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Leopards, Lady Leopards headed to Dawson
The cancellation of basketball games due to wintry weather could have a big impact on Banks County come region tournament time.
A storm last week postponed one region game and a forecasted wintry blast later this week could potentially do the same.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY

MACI project endangered by takeover attempt?
Water authority moves forward with Jan. 30 public meeting
Jackson County’s largest industrial catch ever may be endangered by the attempt of the county commissioners to take over the county water and sewerage authority.

BOC takes on health dept. septic tank rules
Residential development in Jackson County could be hindered if officials from the county and local health department can’t resolve their differences regarding septic tank placement.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Brown resigns as IDA chairman
In a surprise move, Industrial Authority chairman Ed Brown announced his resignation Monday night, at the end of the IDA board’s regular monthly meeting.

School board hears tennis complaint
Madison County tennis coach Cliff Craig came under heavy criticism at the board of education meeting Tuesday night. Local attorney Lane Fitzpatrick gave board members copies of a report he said would show the coach was “dishonest and incompetent.” Fitzpatrick’s daughter is on the tennis team.

Planners split on rezoning request
The county planning commission was split 3-3 Tuesday night on a rezoning request to pave the way for a large-lot subdivision.

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LOOKING AT PIGS

Banks County teacher of the year Scott Wheatley talks with his horticulture students about quality pig showmanship during class recently.

Top Teacher
When Scott Wheatley graduated from Washington-Wilkes High School in the late 80s, he wasn’t thinking about being a teacher.
In fact, he was going to enroll at the University of Georgia with several scholarships he earned showing livestock and then go back to Wilkes County to work on his father’s farm.
But the ag education major got a chance to student teach that changed his career path.
“I had kids say I helped them continue their education,” Wheatley said. “I started thinking about why I went to college and I decided to try my hand at teaching and pass that along.”
And now, 12 years into his teaching career, Wheatley has earned the highest recognition he can achieve at the local level—being named the Banks County School System Teacher of the Year.
WHEATLEY’S CLASS
Having grown up on a farm, Wheatley’s ability to relay what he learned there seems to come naturally.
Last Thursday, he took a group of his horticulture students to the school’s top-of-the-line agriculture barn. There, he exposed them to a few basics of pig and cattle showmanship. That particular group of horticulture students may not normally deal with livestock.
Wheatley appears very proud of the barn he and his students helped build and takes the opportunity to show other students what his FFA (Future Farmers of America) students are working on.
Wheatley teaches five different classes at Banks County High School: horticulture, forestry, livestock, basic ag science and ag mechanics. His students are exposed to a wide array of skills from welding to carpentry to plant growth. And they get to work in a state-of-the-art work shop, greenhouse and barn.
And though the subjects he teaches relate primarily to agricultural sciences, the students Wheatley teaches are into more than just agriculture.
“I get a lot of college prep kids,” he said. “I have an advantage because I get to work with a wide variety of kids.”
Wheatley’s classes are a conglomerate of college-bound kids, students heading to tech school, kids who’ll go straight into the work force and some students who stay in school just because of his ag classes.
“I want to give kids a reason to stay in school and come to school,” he said.
And Wheatley said he has had the opportunity to influence some students to pursue a technical degree or to go to ABAC (Abraham-Baldwin Agricultural College). Many of those kids had never considered post-high school education.
“My goal is to have them go on to school,” he said.
HANDS-ON TEACHING
One of the bonuses for Wheatley as an ag teacher comes outside the classroom.
Unlike many of the other subject teachers in school—English or math for example—Wheatley isn’t limited to a classroom. And neither are his students.
His subject matter allows him to get his kids out of their desks and put tools in their hands.
“You get a lot of hands-on, real-world experience in these classes,” Wheatley said.
One of the most valuable skills he teaches is welding in his ag mechanics class.
“That’s the real deal,” he said.
Many of Wheatley’s students will learn the basic welding skills necessary to go on to successful and profitable welding careers. The course also allows some to exempt classes at the technical school level.
“I enjoy it,” Wheatley said. “I’m not locked down to the classroom. The kids enjoy it for that reason too.”
FOR THE KIDS
Wheatley devotes countless hours to the students he teaches, both in the classroom and as the school’s FFA sponsor.
“This is my hobby too,” Wheatley said.
Wheatley spends a lot of time outside the school day with activities relating to the FFA but says his wife is very understanding when it comes to his school work.
And though the two don’t have kids of their own, Wheatley affectionately refers to his students as his kids.
“I have 150 kids right now,” he says.
Wheatley spends many of his after-school hours checking up on “his kids” projects at their homes and spent time over the Christmas holidays taking them to livestock shows.
But despite the time-consuming nature of his job, he says it’s all worth it if he can help change a kid’s life for the better.
“I hope to motivate them with confidence and pride in themselves to continue their education or to go out—and I don’t want to make a cliché—and make a difference in the world and make a difference in themselves,” he said.
Wheatley said he also likes to go to the school’s ballgames to watch kids play. After all, a majority of the students at the school are involved in FFA.
“When I go to ballgames, I enjoy kids that have graduated coming up to talk to me,” he said. “I like to see where they are.”
And the Wilkes County native says he’s happy teaching right here in Banks County.
“I enjoy teaching ag here because the county and community is good for teaching ag,” Wheatley said. “There is a lot of community support and a lot of pitching in.”
Wheatley’s honor of being system teacher of the year also puts him in the running for state teacher of the year.
But he may have to forgo the state awards ceremony in April to take a group of his kids to a livestock show—a testament to his commitment at highlighting agriculture in Banks County.


DA can’t use tax money yet
Commission chairman Ken Brady said last week that county attorney Randall Frost has made a legal opinion on access to funds from the economic development tax—it’s frozen.
Brady said Frost has determined that an agreement set up when the county started levying the tax mandates the money be used only to pay for the development authority’s sewer system at Banks Crossing until that debt is repaid.
Two weeks ago the development authority decided it wanted to use some of the nearly $700,000 in the economic development tax fund to extend a sewage line along Hwy. 441 north from Banks Crossing.
Brady told the DA then that Frost had determined that only the authority could spend the money. However, Brady was unsure at the time whether or not the DA could spend any of the money until the sewer system was paid for in full.
With Frost’s opinion, the DA will now turn to the county to have the sewer line extended since the authority does not have the funds to do so.
Brady said Monday that he would bring the issue before the other two commissioners for a discussion at the BOC’s next meeting.
He said the line needed to be extended about 500 feet at a cost of nearly $16,000. The extension would allow Pritchett Tire, a new business at Banks Crossing, access to the line from the company’s property. The line would also serve businesses prospected for the area between Pritchett Tire and Boots Etc.


BOE pushes back millage rate vote
A technicality forcing the board of education to advertise its millage rate decrease for an additional week will push back the mailing of tax bills even further.
The BOE was set to vote on the proposed 0.05 mill tax reduction last Friday. However, the board has rescheduled the called meeting for the same date as its regular work session on February 6 at 7 p.m.
The delay forced Banks County tax commissioner Margaret Ausburn to request another extension from the state on the tax digest. The state has already granted one extension until February 1. Now, the county has until February 10 to forward the digest to the state department of revenue.
Once the state approves it, the county will have the tax bills printed and sent out to residents.
The BOE’s extension is only the latest in a string of delays that have hit the tax digest this year. The digest was already late due to problems finding a tax assessor earlier last year.



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County gets
minimal input in tax hearings
Two public hearings last week on the millage rate increase drew participation from only two citizens.
The next hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. A vote on the increase will follow.
In a morning hearing last Thursday about the 1.11 mill increase in the tax rate, Henry Banks didn’t ask any questions about the increase but said he understood it had to be done.
“You just got to do what you got to do,” Banks said. “I hate to pay taxes as much as anybody, but some things you’ve got to do.”
At the public hearing, commission chairman Ken Brady explained that the tax hike was necessary after lowering the millage rate for the past three years.
“It finally caught up with us and this is just an adjustment,” he said. “Hopefully, we won’t have to increase it again for another two or three years.”
The commissioners also tossed around an idea of instituting an amusement tax at some local entertainment venues to offset the rising costs for county services.
Commissioner Rickey Cain suggested adding a $1 or $2 fee to all tickets at the dragway. The BOC agreed to have Randall Frost look into the possibility and whether or not other businesses—like a golf course—could qualify for such a fee.
EVENING MEETING
Lou Sokowoski was the sole attendee among the snow and ice for the evening public hearing Thursday.
He questioned the commissioners about the vacancies in retail space at Banks Crossing.
“Why did 17 businesses close in Banks County and not in Jackson County?” Sokowoski asked. “Is it something Banks County is doing that Jackson County is not?
Brady explained that he understood the situation to be purely a business move on Tanger’s part. He said the Banks County Tanger building was probably paid for and that renting out that space wasn’t as high of a priority.
At the same time, he said the Jackson County Tanger probably still had debt on the facility. He told Sokowoski that Tanger likely wanted to keep occupancy high there in order to get the rent the company needed to pay off the building.
“It has nothing to do with the counties,” he said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with anything Banks County has done or anything Banks County hasn’t done. It’s a business decision.”
The BOC agreed to try and set up a meeting with Stanley Tanger, the company’s owner, to talk about Banks Crossing and its economic situation.
Sokowoski also commented on commissioner Pat Westmoreland’s statement several weeks ago challenging department heads to cut their budget by five percent.
Sokowoski said he didn’t think the fire department or sheriff’s office should reduce their budgets.
“They need all the money they can get for the protection of our county citizens,” he said.
Westmoreland explained that the five percent cuts he mentioned were not realistic but more of a goal for the department heads.
“We need to look at cutting costs without reducing services to the county,” he said. “I would like to see five percent, but I don’t think it will happen.”
Sokowoski asked what could be done to help the county’s tax situation and the declining retail economy.
Brady said a sewer system at Martin Bridge Road would make the area more attractive to prospective developers. He said the lack of sewer had put potential projects on hold in that area in the past.
“It’s just not the time yet,” Brady said. “Eventually some big project will come along and take that.”
Sokowoski also suggested making the county more attractive to retirees, a segment of the population that pays taxes but requires few services.