News from Madison County...

FEBRUARY 12, 2003


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillespie
Rush to judgment
We are already hearing from the conspiracy theorists about the Columbia crash. They note that the crash was three days after the anniversary of the Challenger explosion and that Israel’s first astronaut was on board. They immediately declared the disaster to be the work of Muslim terrorists.

Margie Richards
Georgia guidestones
Out in a field off Hwy. 77 in Elbert County stands a bunch of granite stones.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Another year in the books
With two more wins than it had last season and a year’s worth of AAAA battles under its belt, the Raiders’ inaugural season in a new classification came to a close Tuesday night with a 47-40 loss to Rockdale County.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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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The Madison County Journal
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SPECIAL TIMES

Madison County Special Needs Preschool teacher Laurie Tweedell spends an affectionate moment with Wesley Williams, 4. Also pictured is Allison Butcher, 3.

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.
“Sometimes even doctors don’t seem to be aware that they can refer patients to the school system for evaluation,” Wildes said.
Wildes is coordinator of the Madison County Special Needs Preschool, a division of the county school system that provides evaluation and help for children ages three to five who have some type of developmental delay.
“The goal of the Madison County Preschool Program is to provide early intervention to students in need before they enter kindergarten,” Wildes said.
This year, over 50 children ages three to five are receiving free services through the school system, including speech and language therapy, vision and hearing services and other therapy, all as part of an early intervention program for developmental delays.
“Help (for any child) is just a phone call away,” Wildes said. “A full evaluation of a child is free through us and is part of the federally mandated Individuals with Disabilities Act...there is no need to pay anyone to have a child screened for suspected developmental problems.”
“That’s our job, to find these children and assess them in order to meet their education needs - before they enter kindergarten,” Wildes emphasized. “We’re an extension of the school system’s special education program.”
“Early intervention is very powerful - often children who receive this early care don’t need to continue in special education courses once they’re in school,” she added. And for those who do, there are definite advantages to receiving extra attention so early on.
CHILD FIND
The school system gets referrals from many different sources through a process called “Child Find.” One of the primary ways that the school system receives referrals is through Babies Can’t Wait, an agency which serves children ages birth - three with special needs. Others are referred by their parents, doctors, day cares, preschools or Head Start.
Through the Child Find process, the preschool education program uses a variety of methods to identify and evaluate children with possible disabilities, including an annual, free county-wide screening for children ages six months to five years that includes all areas of development.
The pre-school program also conducts a mass speech and language skills screening of all children enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs, Head Start and all major day care facilities in the county.
Once a child is referred, the staff interviews the parents to find out their needs and concerns first. A home visit may be scheduled to observe the child in their home environment.
If a developmental delay is suspected, a pre-school staff member will evaluate the child and set written goals to help get that child to the next level of development.
“First of all, it’s important to find out where that child is, and compare that to where they ought to be for a child of their age,” Wildes said.
And she admits it’s often difficult for the pre-school to keep its identity separate from that of other programs such as Head Start and Pre-K.
“We go where the children are,” she said, adding that those whose needs dictate it can come to small group classes at the special needs pre-school building in Colbert, that’s located in a small brick building adjacent to Head Start and Helping Hands Clothes Closet.
There you will find small classes of eight children or so per three instructors.
The school has one full time instructor, one part time instructor, two para-professionals, and two speech therapists on site.
“It’s very hands-on,” Wildes said.
In other cases, Wildes visits children in their homes or at Head Start, Pre-K, or their day care facilities to work with them one on one and to provide support to their teachers and parents.
“Don’t wait if you think your child might have a problem - the sooner it’s identified the better,” Wildes said. “We can screen for any disability and provide a full, comprehensive evaluation...We may see a child many times observing them in their home and/or school setting before making any evaluation.”
Screenings for developmental delays or problems is simple, Wildes said. Parents will be asked about their child’s development, particularly any problems they have noticed and the child’s hearing and vision will be tested.
Afterwards, the child will participate in several simple activities to determine their level of development - both physically and mentally.
Call Mary Wildes at 788-3428 with any concerns about a pre-school child of any age.


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.
Their decisions to resign leaves only Mayor B.W. Hutchins and his wife, council woman Rebecca Hutchins, as council members.
Councilman Mark Cronic resigned at the end of 2001, and despite several calls for a special election, his position has not been filled.
Murray and Hill expressed their regret at leaving their posts, citing “personal reasons” for their decisions.
Murray, who has served on the council for over 15 years, said he’s enjoyed “every moment” of his service.
“I’ve always tried to do what’s right for the people of Hull,” he said.
The council then voted to call for a special election, set for March 18, in an attempt to fill the vacant posts.
Cronic’s vacated post will expire on Dec. 31, 2004; Hill’s post will expire on Dec. 31, 2003; and Murray’s post will expire on Dec. 31, 2004.
Those wishing to qualify for the council positions must live inside the city limits of Hull and must qualify from Feb. 26 - 28, 2003, during the hours of 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. each day by calling city clerk Janet Seagraves at 542-6583. The qualifying fee is $15.
Mandatory qualifying dates, times and fees are set by Georgia’s Municipal Election Code.
City attorney Pat Graham said the two remaining members will still be able to meet and conduct business, such as administering budget funds, but can’t vote on new items, such as ordinances.
Any new council members will be sworn in at the council’s regular April business meeting.


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.
Dorothy Lois Schreck of Hudson River Church Road was arrested on Feb. 6 and charged with 27 felony counts of theft by deception, 11 felony counts of first degree forgery and five misdemeanor counts of theft by deception.
According to Athens-Clarke County detective Beverly Russell, another “10 to 15” theft by deception and forgery charges were filed Tuesday in the case and more may follow.
Schreck, who was employed as a secretary for Athens Regional Foundation Director Helene Schwartz, allegedly turned in fabricated funding requests to the hospital’s finance office and embezzled an estimated $85,000 to $100,000 between 1999 and 2002.
Schreck, who was employed with the Athens office of the American Cancer Society when she was arrested, is being held in the Clarke County jail on a $101,000 bond, though the bond figure may increase as more charges are filed, Russell said.
The detective said that police are still meeting with hospital department heads, trying to determine which check requests handled by Schreck were legitimate and which were fraudulent.


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.
Jai’s Country Corner on Hwy. 106 South was hit twice, and both times the front glass doors were broken out to gain entry.
The first burglary occurred Wednesday, Feb. 5, at approximately 3 a.m. Deputies were alerted to the crime by the store’s alarm. Approximately $1,300 in money and consumable goods (cigarettes, rolling papers, etc.) were taken.
The store was burglarized again on Monday, Feb. 10 around 4 a.m. This time approximately $2,000 in consumable goods were reportedly stolen.
Nearby Diamond Hill Grocery on Hwy. 29 South was burglarized on Thursday, Feb. 6, also by breaking the glass on the front door.
Approximately 189 cartons of cigarettes and several boxes of cigars, valued at a total of $5,300 were reportedly stolen.
No arrests had been made in the incidents as of press time.

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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.


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.
Partisan politics, then, seem far out of place in a judge’s world of ethics, right?
That’s been the general answer in Georgia in recent years as judges’ races have been made non-partisan.
All except the probate and magistrate races.
But that will soon change in Madison County.
Rice, who was re-elected to his four-year post in November, and Probate Judge Donald “Hoppy” Royston, whose term will be up in two years, appeared before county commissioners Monday night hoping to take the partisan politics out of their campaigns. They sought a resolution from the commissioners to make their posts non-partisan.
County commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the resolution, with Bill Taylor voting “no.” Taylor and commissioner Bruce Scogin had voted in favor of postponing the vote to study the matter, but Melvin Drake, Mike Youngblood and Johnny Fitzpatrick voted against the delay.
Royston said local legislators wanted a resolution from the board as soon as possible so that it could be included with similar requests from surrounding counties during this legislative session.
COUNTY EQUIPMENT
ON PRIVATE PROPERTY?
As Monday’s one-hour meeting drew to a close, county commissioner Drake told chairman Wesley Nash that he received four complaints that county equipment had been used recently on private property on Della Slayton Road.
Nash said that the county tries to stay off private property, but that veering onto private property is sometimes inevitable. He said that 90 percent of the work done recently on Della Slayton Road was performed on county-owned property.
“We try to do our best to stay off private property,” said Nash. “But there are instances where we have gotten on it for taking banks down for safety purposes.”
One audience member said Nash has shown a lack of consistency on the matter of the county maintaining private drives.
“If you’re going to do for one, I think you need to do for another,” he said.
Nash had no response to the comment, then asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting.
TEMPORARY RV PARK
In a separate matter Monday, the commissioners agreed to let Mike Hix operate a temporary RV park on his property at Paoli Junction, provided that no more than 12 RVs park on the property. Hix said traveling construction workers have been living in the RVs while they are helping install a seven-mile pipeline to Bowman in Elbert County for Transco Williams Gas Pipeline. The job is expected to be completed in April or May. Several people spoke in favor of the temporary RV park, saying that the employees have been well-behaved and have benefited local businesses.
RECREATION CONTRACT
Recreation director Dick Perpall appeared before the commissioners Monday to let them know that the recreation board will meet next week with the Madison County Little League and Madison County Youth Association to establish contracts on the use of recreation facilities. Perpall said such contracts used to be in place and that they help establish clear guidelines on what is expected from those who use the facilities and those who maintain them. Perpall said that the contracts will help eliminate conflict and improve communication.
“We’re just striving to make communication lines better,” said Perpall.
Commissioners Youngblood and Taylor said Perpall should have presented the matter to the recreation board before appearing before the BOC.
“I’d like it to be discussed with the recreation board before it even comes to us,” said Youngblood.
Perpall said he was just trying to keep the BOC informed about the possibility of establishing contracts.
“I just wanted y’all to be aware of this,” he said.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the board tabled a decision on naming an architect for the new health department building. The BOC received a booklet from E-911 director David Camp detailing 911 activities in Madison County over the past three months. That booklet is available for free at the 911 office on Waggoner Lane in Danielsville.
The board passed a resolution supporting the Comer Better Hometown Program, which is focused on revitalizing the downtown business district.
The commissioners named zoning administrator Kim Butler, county planner Jay Baker and zoning adviser Leo Smith as the first members of a county board that will review any conservation subdivision plans proposed by developers.