News from Banks County...

MARCH 5, 2003


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OPINIONS
Angela Gary

A weekend with Jake
Reading the same book over and over and laughing each time as if it was the first time I had heard it.

Adam Fouche
Proposed government has too many flaws
Changing Banks County’s form of government could be a good idea, but not under the current proposal.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Big tourney coming up
If the upcoming week doesn’t get the Leopards ready for region diamond competition, nothing will.
They’ll play three games in four days against three triple-A schools. Two of those games will be on the same day.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Building authority bill on tap
Legislation would allow BOC to finance large projects without voter approval

Crystle Springs Has April 4 Deadline To Return To Compliance
A privately owned Commerce nursing home stands to lose its Medicaid and Medicare funding if it cannot meet an April 4 guideline for returning to compliance with state rules.

Sewer service not available at courthouse site
Jefferson near capacity at plant
Is the City of Jefferson setting the stage for denying sewer access to the proposed new county courthouse on Darnell Road?

City Wants SPLOST Funds Taken From Water Authority Control
JEFFERSON -- If the city of Commerce gets its way, distribution and custody of special purpose local option sales tax funds for water and sewer projects will switch from the county water and sewerage authority to the board of commissioners.

New congressional map would move Jackson County
A Republican-proposed Congressional map winding through the Georgia Legislature would move Jackson County back into the 10th district, if approved.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Two SPLOST votes drawing near
County residents will hit the polls in just 13 days to determine whether to renew five-year, one-cent sales taxes for the county government and school system.

Stick-built permits down slightly in 2002
Fewer “stick-built” homes were constructed in Madison County in 2002 than the previous year, but mobile home permits increased slightly.

Comer council approves water, sewer fees
A new water and sewage availability fee and revamped tap fees were imposed by the Comer City Council at its March meeting Tuesday night.

Madison County GOP convention set for Saturday
The Madison County Republican Party will hold its annual convention at 10 a.m. Saturday in the county government complex.

Locks
When her 6-year-old cousin Rebecca died last year of cancer, nine year old Kayla Calloway told her mom she wanted to do something in memory of her that would honor her life.

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GOWDER RECOGNIZED AS STAR STUDENT

Ashley Gowder was recognized as the 2003 STAR Student from Banks County by the Banks County Chamber of Commerce. Gowder was recognized for her scholastic, athletic and leadership abilities. Pictured are: (L-R) BCHS principal Wayne McIntosh; Keith Gowder; Ashley Gowder; COC president Jerry Boling; and counselor April Loggins.

Ashley Gowder named as BCHS ‘STAR Student’
Banks County High School has named its top student for the current school year.
Ashley Gowder was recently recognized as the Banks County High School winner of the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program.
The STAR award was presented by Banks County Chamber of Commerce president Jerry Boling. Also given to Gowder was a $500 scholarship from the chamber.
“It’s an honor to present this award to someone who has done so well scholastically,” he said.
Gowder was selected for obtaining the highest score in one sitting of the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) taken through the November test date of her senior year and for being in the top 10 percent of her class.
Her combined SAT scores were 1410.
Each winner is asked to name a STAR teacher. Gowder named her former chemistry teacher Dr. John McGarity, who inspired her.
BCHS principal Wayne McIntosh said, “In my 31 years in education, she is one of the most outstanding students I’ve seen. “
Gowder was active in sports, playing softball and tennis.
According to counselor April Loggins, Gowder was a great help in the office, even while keeping up her studies at the high school and at Gainesville College.
Keith Gowder, her father, said, “I’m extremely proud. She’s just a blessing in every way, shape and form.”
She said she plans a career as a “criminal profiler” and will study criminal justice and psychology at the University of Georgia.
“I knew I had to get a good score on the SAT to get scholarships to pay for school. The school held prep classes for three weeks on Saturdays. That helped me a lot.”
Gowder will now go on to the district competition.


Government change moving forward
The commissioners have gotten the ball rolling on a plan to change Banks County’s form of government.
The BOC voted in a called meeting Thursday to send a letter to state Representative Jeanette Jamieson asking the General Assembly to approve the new form and to give Banks County citizens the chance to vote on the matter.
The new government would include three commissioners who must qualify in different districts but would be elected county-wide. In addition, the commissioners would choose a full-time county administrator to run Banks’ day-to-day operations.
If approved by the General Assembly and the governor, a county-wide referendum for the government change could appear on a ballot as early as March 2, 2004, at the same time as the presidential preference vote. A costly special election won’t be necessary.
County voters would then have a chance to approve or strike down the change.
Commissioner Rickey Cain said he was calling for a county vote on the matter because he got elected on a platform to change the form.
“We’re not here to change the county government,” he said. “We’re here to let the people decide.”
Cain explained that a county administrator who had been educated in business and had extensive knowledge of running a county government would be more qualified than an elected commission chairman to run Banks County’s day-to-day operations.
He also said a county administrator would work under the direction of the BOC and wouldn’t have the full authority to run the government. Instead, the commissioners would set policy and make decisions and the administrator would implement and carry out those decisions.
BOC chairman Kenneth Brady, who was elected to run Banks’ day-to-day operations, expressed his continuing opposition to the change. He said after the meeting Thursday that he will not sign the letter the county is sending to Rep. Jamieson.
However, Cain said the letter need only be signed by two commissioners. Cain and commissioner Pat Westmoreland both signed the letter.
Cain added that a vote to send the letter wasn’t even necessary.
Brady stated he was against the change because he wanted to be able to vote for the county’s leader instead of letting the BOC pick one.
“I like to have a say-so in who runs Banks County,” he said. “If you don’t like him, you can vote him out.”
A room full of mostly county employees and elected officials sat in for the meeting Thursday morning. Few expressed their views on the government change, but all who spoke said letting the voters decide was the best idea.
Jack Banks came out in favor of such a government change, saying a person educated in the field could do a better job than one who wasn’t.
Bonnie Johnson expressed concerns about the BOC’s choice for a county administrator. She wanted assurance the administrator would be a good fit for Banks County.
Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to institute the change in government lies with Banks County voters. The General Assembly would have to set the date for the vote, likely during 2004.
If the voters approve the change, the new government would take Effect at the end of Brady’s term, which expires on January 1, 2005.


Banks BOC meeting turns ugly
A meeting about a proposed form of government change turned into a political trial last week.
The commissioners met Thursday to discuss sending a letter to state Representative Jeanette Jamieson calling for a county-wide referendum on a change in Banks County’s form of government (see separate story).
Half-way through, commissioner Pat Westmoreland began verbally attacking BOC chairman Kenneth Brady.
Westmoreland said the county needed a new form of government that wouldn’t mix politics with business. He proceeded to claim that Brady had authorized an enormous raise for one county employee without the board’s consent.
He also said the raise went outside a cost of living raise given to other employees and wasn’t in line with established pay-raise guidelines.
“As long as we have a guideline, one man can’t go out on his own and give a raise,” Westmoreland said.
He added that Banks County needed a county leader who didn’t play favorites.
Brady said he agreed with Westmoreland’s statements that the county needed to stick with its pay raise guidelines.
“Why was it done?” Westmoreland asked.
Brady said the BOC approved the pay raise when it voted on the current budget.
“It was in there and the whole board voted on it,” Brady said.
He also told Westmoreland to look more closely at his county budget.
The commissioners finally got the meeting back on track and later voted on a letter that will start the process for a possible government change.
Shortly after the vote, Brady asked for a motion to adjourn.
Westmoreland spoke up and said he challenges the county’s financial officer (Michael Fischer) to spend more time in his office.
He claimed Fischer wasn’t in his office enough and shouldn’t be attending meetings with Brady.
Brady came to Fischer’s defense, saying he was invited to most of the meetings he attended. He also said he took Fischer with him on trips to see the new jail progress and to meetings that involved contracts with the jail project.
However, Westmoreland continued to criticize Fischer.
Brady broke in and asked that the board not treat a county administrator like he has been treated. He said he was elected to be the BOC chairman, and as such, runs the county’s day-to-day operations.
“Ya’ll are supposed to set policy,” he said. “Not run the day-to-day operations.”
Brady claimed the commissioners try to hard to run the county instead of letting him do it.
“It bothers you that you have to answer to this board,” Westmoreland said.
Brady then again called for a motion to adjourn the meeting.
“No,” Westmoreland said.
Westmoreland proceeded to again say the financial officer needed to stay in his office and that Brady could go out to meetings on his own.
After several more comments along the same lines, the meeting was finally adjourned.



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EMS asks for phone numbers of families of elderly residents
Brad Seagraves, EMS Battalion Chief, is requesting that contact numbers of family members of elderly residents be posted in an easy to find spot.
“Often the patients can’t remember phone numbers or give us wrong numbers. They can be especially confused if they’ve just had a fall. We just want to be able to contact family members when something happens and we have to transport an elderly person to the hospital.
“It must be frightening to come home and find your grandmother gone. We go out of our way to find family members, but sometimes it’s just impossible. Posting a list will help.”
He suggested the list be placed by the telephone or posted on the refrigerator.
For more information, contact Seagraves at 677-1812.