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FEBRUARY 12, 2003


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS

Lady Panthers face win and they’re in scenario tonight for state berth
DESPITE ALL they have accomplished this year the Jackson County girls know that everything they have worked for this season comes down to a one game scenario tonight (Wednesday), with a chance to extend their year on the line.
A win against Rockdale County in their opening game of the Region 8-AAAA tournament at 6 p.m. in Covington and the team will claim a state playoff spot.

Tourney Time
Scoring eight points in the second half of your regular season finale isn’t exactly the best way to build momentum heading into the postseason.

Dragons outdual state’s best
Jefferson head wrestling coach Doug Thurmond has concerns that many of the state’s wrestling programs only wish they had — he has to keep his team focused despite their remarkable success.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
A good start
Teacher Mary Wildes is sometimes frustrated that it appears many parents don’t know about the services available to them for their pre-school age children.

BOC agrees to make judges’ races non-partisan
Judges are supposed to be impartial, not using the position for political sway.
In fact, Magistrate judge Harry Rice points out that according to judges’ code of conduct he’s not even supposed to ring a bell for the Salvation Army in front of a grocery store, because such activity could be construed as using the judge’s position to influence someone to contribute.

Hull council must fill three seats
The city of Hull now has three empty seats at its five-member council table.
Long-time councilman Ken Murray and council woman Trina Hill presented their letters of resignation at Monday night’s council meeting, effective Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Madison County woman accused of theft, forgery at Athens Regional
A 37-year-old Danielsville woman now sits in jail for allegedly embezzling money while employed at Athens Regional Medical Center.

Sheriff’s office investigates store burglaries
Three burglaries of two local convenience stores in less than a week have the Madison County Sheriff’s office suspecting the crimes are related.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Teen club shut down

A Banks Crossing teen nightclub shut its doors for the final time Saturday night.

BCHS writing scores above state average
Banks County High School has improved its writing test scores for the year.

Commissioners tweak county’s SPLOST allotments
The Banks County Board of Commissioners made minor changes to its sales tax allotments Friday in hopes of assuring the availability of funds to complete several projects.

BOC to pay off sewer bond debt
The board of commissioner’s decision to pay off the Banks Crossing sewer bond debt could result in nearly $400,000 in savings.
The BOC voted Friday to relieve the $802,200 debt. Doing so will save the county approximately $386,000 in future interest payments.

Tax bills coming soon
Banks County residents may be just a few weeks shy of getting their 2002 tax bills.

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DUAL CHAMPIONS

Jefferson’s Jeremiah Wilson, left, shown here against Landmark Christian in the state dual semifinals in Bremen last Saturday, is one of six returning individual state champions for the Dragons.

Dragon grapplers standing at the pinnacle of success
For the second consecutive season, the Jefferson wrestling program laid claim to the Class A state duals championship last Saturday, winning the title in impressive fashion and capping off an undefeated season in the state’s head-to-head team competition.
Now all that’s left is for the Dragons to defend their traditional team title, beginning this weekend at Social Circle and ending at home with the state Class A tournament Feb. 21.
Even by Jefferson’s long tradition as a wrestling powerhouse, this season has been a remarkable achievement. Not only has Jefferson been dominating in Class A, it is thought by many to be in the top three or four teams in the state regardless of classification.
Six Dragon wrestlers are returning state champions, including one, Hunter Garner, who will be vying for his fourth state championship title. Jeremy Smith will be hunting his third state title while Corey Mack, Jeremiah Wilson, Nathaniel Wilson and Forrest Garner will be shooting for their second state title.
LAST WEEKEND
Last weekend’s win was quite an accomplishment for a team that went through much of the season with a bulls-eye on its back. The Dragons have six state titles in team history and swept both the duals and traditional crowns last season.
The Dragons romped through a tough field that pitted them against two of the top three teams in the state last weekend, with the decisive win coming against No. 2 Bremen on their home mat.
Using some 22 wrestlers throughout the day, some of which were members of the program’s talented junior varsity squad, Jefferson shut out Heard County 84-0 in the opening round, cruised past No. 3 Landmark Christian 58-9 in the semifinals and held off a skillful Bremen squad 57-15 in the finals.
“I was really very, very pleased,” Jefferson head coach Doug Thurmond stated after the win. “To beat (Bremen) in the finals...I was extremely happy with our guys. I feel like Bremen would have had a chance to win the Class AA and possibly even the AAA state titles, so to beat them was big. I don’t think people realize just how good they are.”
The duals format pits teams against each other head-to-head in 14 different weight classes in a single-elimination tournament. The GHSA began using the format in 2002.
Jefferson headed into the event with the top seed in the state as well as the No.1 seed from Area 2 followed by Bremen and Landmark Christian in that order.
In the two years of duals competition, the Dragons have only lost once, a 52-10 defeat at the hands of the No. 2 Class AAAAA team in the state at the time — perennial powerhouse Parkview.
This season Jefferson avenged that defeat with a 40-21 home win on Jan. 8.
HEADING FOR STATE
This Saturday, the Dragons officially begin defense of their traditional title when they head to Social Circle for area qualifying beginning at 9 a.m. The top four teams from each area advance to the state tournament which will be held Feb. 21-22 at JHS.


Maysville Votes To Fire Its Water Superintendent
MAYSVILLE -- At a called meeting on Monday night, the Maysville City Council voted unanimously to fire the city's water superintendent, Ralph Sailors.
The council met behind closed doors for 30 minutes to discuss personnel before taking the action. It was also the topic of a closed session during last week's council meeting. No reason was given for the action.
After a motion by Marion Jarrett, the council voted to move to closed session to discuss personnel issues. Upon reopening the meeting, Andy Martin made a motion to terminate Sailors and pay any monies due to him, including accrued salary and vacation. Andrew Strickland seconded the motion. The action took effect immediately.


Authority budget plans for full Bear Creek payment BOC plans credit line to cover reservoir debt
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed to seek proposals to borrow up to $1.8 million over the next year to make the Bear Creek Reservoir debt payments.
But the action may not be needed if tentative budget numbers to be presented by the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority hold true for 2003. The authority plans to discuss its budget Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the State Courtroom of the administrative building in Jefferson.
County water manager Jerry Waddell said this week that the budget calls for the authority to have the funds to reimburse the county for the $149,000 monthly payments on the Bear Creek debt during 2003 if water sales are “normal” for the year.
Items that may help the authority meet that goal are current negotiations with the towns of Braselton and Jefferson for the purchase of Bear Creek water through the authority. Braselton currently purchases 250,000 to 1 million gallons per day from Gwinnett County and Waddell said he hopes the authority can conclude a deal to sell Braselton that water from Bear Creek.
Waddell is also negotiating with Jefferson to up its daily limit from 300,000 to 600,000 gallons per day. Jefferson used its entire daily allocation last summer during the drought and is interested in having the ability to obtain additional water during future droughts, he said.
Before January of this year, the authority had been making all Bear Creek payments from leftover SPLOST funds. The authority refused to make January’s payment because the BOC had begun a takeover effort to dismantle the operations of the water authority and change the terms of its board members.
The authority has not said if it will make the February payment. The takeover effort stalled last week when Jackson County’s state senate delegation decided not to introduce legislation to allow the takeover unless the water authority agreed to the idea.
LAST FRIDAY
Although it may not be needed, the BOC agreed in a called meeting Friday to seek proposals on a tax anticipation note to cover the reservoir payments in 2003.
Finance director John Hulsey said the BOC didn’t budget for the payments in 2003 and that the intent had been to make the payments from water sales. Hulsey added that putting the $1.8 million into the budget would put the county in the red for 2003.
The county made January’s payment of $150,000 from surplus county funds, Hulsey said.
The action on Friday to seek the proposals to borrow the money came after BOC members again slammed the county water and sewerage authority for not making the January payment. BOC chairman Harold Fletcher said the authority has $700,000 to $800,000 that could be used to make the payments. Fletcher said much of that money is leftover from a rebate the BOC passed on to the water authority from the reservoir project.
Commissioner Tony Beatty added that the water authority had agreed to use that rebate to make the reservoir payments. Beatty made a motion that the minutes from the September 2002 meeting of the BOC in which water authority chairman Collins agreed to use this rebate for the reservoir payments be forwarded to the newspaper. This motion passed unanimously.
But Waddell said Wednesday that while the authority does have around $800,000, all of the rebate money had been spent last year to make Bear Creek payments, as promised. The current balance is from water sales, not other funds. Waddell also said that the county auditor had told the authority it should keep at least $600,000 on hand in case of an emergency break-down.
FLETCHER SLAPS AUTHORITY EFFORTS
Fletcher also again ripped the water authority for its lack of sales efforts, saying the group has “no incentive to really be productive.”
Fletcher said water authority leaders have known about the Bear Creek payments for two years, but had not prepared for it.
“They have been knowing about this for the last two years and have not elected to pursue any real constructive search or pursuit of any other means by which to take care of this debt,” he said. “...The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority really has no incentive to really be productive because they realize if they are not successful, the taxpayers of Jackson County will pick up this debt anyway.”
He added that the failure of the water authority to make the January debt payment shows a “flagrant disregard” to the taxpayers of Jackson County.
Fletcher also said a comment was made during a 2000 meeting by former commissioner Pat Bell that the debt payments would be made from the sale of water. Beatty asked that a copy of the minutes from the meeting be provided to the newspaper to print.
“We can provide it, but it’s doubtful that they would publish it,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher also said that if a tax increase is necessary to make the reservoir payments, countians who don’t have access to county water would be subsidizing those who do.
Although the Bear Creek project is legally a debt by the county government and not the water authority, Fletcher said for the authority to not pay the debt would be “Enron accounting.”
“That is the case with the Jackson County Water Authority. They do not reflect the overall cost for those dollars that are needed to pay that debt. The cost that are shown on their books as costs for water does not clearly, truly and accurately reflect the cost of that water.”
JOINT MEETING CALLED FOR
Commissioner Emil Beshara made a motion Friday that the water authority and BOC hold a joint meeting or retreat.
Fletcher said he supported the idea of a joint meeting.
“We all serve the same constituents,” Fletcher said. “This is an issue that is very important to the people of this county. It is incumbent of all of us to work on a resolution to this. I feel this board has attempted throughout this entire process to advocate on behalf of the citizens of this county regardless of where they live. That has been our desire...We saw there was a problem. There is still a problem and in order for us to do this we need to sit down together and talk about it.”
Two weeks ago, the authority invited the BOC to a public meeting to discuss these issues and to allow public input. Fletcher refused to attend that meeting, as did the other BOC members with the exception of Beshara, who did participate in the meeting and spoke on behalf of the takeover effort. Some 250 citizens attended that meeting.
Collins said Wednesday he had received a letter proposing another joint meeting and that it would be discussed at Thursday night’s authority meeting.


BOC interviews contractors for courthouse
No discussion yet on financing for multi-million dollar project
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners heard from the top four companies in the running to be general contractor for the new courthouse in an all-day work session on Friday.
The companies are: Holder, Batson-Cook, Brasfield & Gorie and Turner. Each company had several representatives who spoke during their hour-long presentation.
How the county plans to pay for the project was not discussed at the meeting.
The BOC didn’t select a contractor Friday, but is expected to do discuss the matter further at the regular meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday at the State Courtroom in the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
At Friday’s work session, BOC members were presented with proposed fees from each of the companies, which range from the lowest, $1.04 million from Holder, to the highest, $1.55 million from Turner. All four companies have worked with the architects selected by the county, Cooper Carry, on numerous projects.
Mark Elliott of Cooper Carry and Wayne Wilbanks, the county’s consultant on the project, were present for Friday’s meeting, along with commissioners Tony Beatty, Sammy Thomason and Emil Beshara and BOC chairman Harold Fletcher. Commissioner Stacey Britt was not at the meeting.

 

 


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See Galilee Preschool Flyer


Payment Denied To Former
Nicholson Superintendent
NICHOLSON -- Nearly a month after the resignation of Ray Chester, the Nicholson Water Authority has voted to suspend, temporarily at least, payments to its former superintendent and his construction company.
The authority voted 2-1 last Tuesday night to halt all payments to Chester, who quit as superintendent Jan. 10 after two decades, for work pertaining to Nicholson's White Oak subdivision until an audit of the NWA has been completed.
Gene Wood and Charles Keenan voted in favor of the motion while Daniel Sailors voted against it and Clarence Shope abstained.
"We need to put it on hold to clear up any questions in our minds," Wood said.
The board voted in December to pay half of the $7,800 it then thought it owed Chester and the next half within 30 days.
The NWA paid the first installment, but chairman Tully Westmoreland told the board last Tuesday that it shouldn't go through with the second, saying that Chester and his construction company should have never been tied to White Oak subdivision through the NWA.
The chairman based his argument on the minutes of a December 2001 called meeting by the former water board which he asserts shows no evidence that the NWA ever contracted Chester Construction to install, operate and maintain the water lines.
"I don't think we need to pay out any more money to Mr. Chester or Chester Construction Company," he said.
Westmoreland said he checked with NWA attorney Peter Olsen who confirmed that a vote by the board to stop the payment was a legal move.
NWA SEEKS SECRETARY
Wishing to keep its billing in-house, the NWA announced that it wants to find a new secretary and treasurer as soon as possible.
"We need someone now," Wood said.
The water board has been without a permanent secretary since the departure of Shelby Chester who left Jan. 10.
In other business conducted Tuesday night, the board:
•passed a financial resolution that will put both Westmoreland and Wood's names on the NWA's bank accounts, bank boxes and certificate of deposit.
•agreed to pay an overdue $4,250 drinking water fee to the state.
•agreed to change the address on the signs at the city's well houses to 5460 U.S. Hwy. 441 South so customers and citizens will know who to contact in case of emergency.
•agreed to get bids on two trucks which it wishes to sell.


Chairman blasts editor for ‘rope-a-dope tricks’
Jackson County Board of Commissioners chairman Harold Fletcher again criticized Jackson Herald editor Mike Buffington during a BOC meeting last week, saying Buffington used “rope-a-dope tricks” in his writings.
Over the last few months, Fletcher has repeatedly complained during BOC meetings about media coverage of the board, with many of the comments aimed at columns and editorials written by Buffington.
In commenting to the BOC last week about the failed attempt to take over the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, Fletcher again ripped Buffington.
“We don’t need to fight it (the water authority controversy) in the newspaper because my little buddy, ‘Shorty Buffington,’ is totally biased and he is not going to print anything other than what he wants to,” Fletcher told the board.
“The sad part of this is that we have the editor of the local newspaper who uses rope-a-dope tricks to confuse the people of this county with rope-a-dope tricks laced with innuendoes, lies and half truths because he wants to paint a picture that is different from reality,” he said. “The truth is not being disseminated. These are documents that are readily, easily available. Mr. Buffington chooses to ignore and sit on his lazy rump and not get out the information that is necessary to present the proper picture.”
Buffington’s columns and editorials have been critical of the Fletcher administration’s handling of the water authority and courthouse issues.