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MARCH 5, 2003


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OPINIONS
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SPORTS

Panthers expect to need scoring this year
Each time the Jackson County boys soccer team takes the field this spring they will need to find a way to reach the back of the net. That’s the outlook the squad will be taking following several changes that have left the team far from the 10-4-3 squad that was so successful in 8-AAA a season ago.

Diamond Tigers Continue To Ready Themselves For Region Play
The Commerce baseball team will have the rest of this week to shift personnel around and finalize its offensive and defensively lineups before opening region play Tuesday against Towns County.

Fourth-quarter blues bite Dragons in state tourney
ROME, GA — For about three fourths of last Friday’s second-round state tournament game against Temple, the Jefferson boys were the best team on the basketball court and then, suddenly their youth seemed to catch up to them.


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.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Ashley Gowder named as BCHS ‘STAR Student’

Banks County High School has named its top student for the current school year.

Government change moving forward
The commissioners have gotten the ball rolling on a plan to change Banks County’s form of government.

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.

Banks BOC meeting turns ugly
A meeting about a proposed form of government change turned into a political trial last week.

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‘Read Across America Day’ at SJES

Schools and libraries across the nation celebrated “Read Across America Day” Monday, with activities commemorating Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Lisa Delgado, media specialist at South Jackson Elementary School, dressed as the “Cat in the Hat” and read Dr. Seuss books to second graders in Marlena Meehan’s class. See the school pages for more on local reading events.

Building authority bill on tap
Legislation would allow BOC to finance large projects without voter approval
A piece of local legislation about to be dropped into the Georgia House of Representatives could have a huge impact on Jackson County taxpayers.
Rep. Chris Elrod said this week that he was about ready to put in legislation to create a Jackson County Building Authority. Such an authority would allow the Jackson County Board of Commissioners to borrow an unlimited amount of money for public building projects, such as the proposed new courthouse.
Rep. Elrod had been absent from the General Assembly this session after having been called for military duty. He has since been released from the military call-up and was in the General Assembly this week.
Before the advent of building authorities in the 1990s, local governments had to have large capital projects approved by voters, either with a bond referendum or a sales tax vote. But building authorities allow a “backdoor” method for governments to borrow large sums of money without having to ask for taxpayer approval.
If created, the building authority would be one of only 17 in the state of Georgia. The City of Jefferson created a similar building authority in 1999, although it has not yet been used by the city for a project.
The clock began running on the building authority this week after Elrod published the mandatory legal notice announcing the intent to introduce such legislation. The earliest the bill can be put into the House will be next Monday, but current plans call for the Georgia General Assembly to take a two or three week recess after Thursday. There are about 15 days left in the legislative session.

OTHER BILLS
In addition to the proposal to create a county building authority, Rep. Elrod has also announced plans to introduce several other bills for the Jackson county BOC:
• to amend the Jackson County Airport Authority to give the BOC more control over that authority’s board of directors and to take the operations of the airport into direct control of the BOC.
• to make six public offices in Jackson County non-partisan elections. The six offices are: Clerk of Court, Tax Commissioner, Coroner, Surveyor, Magistrate Judge and Probate Judge.


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.
In addition, fines of almost $200,000 have been levied against Crystle Springs Nursing Home, a 70-bed facility, since a complaint-based inspection in October turned up numerous "deficiencies," according to David Dunbar of the Office of Regulatory Services in the Georgia Department of Human Resources.
The administrator of the nursing home said all of the deficiencies will be resolved by the deadline.
"Everything looks great. Almost all the tags are cleared," said Teresa Dale, who was made administrator in November.
The state imposed $5,000-a-day fines beginning Nov. 8, Dunbar said, after a follow-up visit to the October inspection "found some very serious problems, 90-something pages of deficiencies.
"At that point, the deficiencies were serious enough that we felt it represented an immediate and serious threat to resident health and safety," Dunbar continued.
It reduced the fines to $1,000 a day Nov. 26 because management had made sufficient progress at eliminating the more serious deficiencies. The facility continues to be fined $1,000 per day.
Yet another follow-up visit Feb. 19 found that while officials of the nursing home had made some progress, "they still had compliance problems," Dunbar said.
"Actually, we had reduced it to 11 issues," Dale said. "We are correcting them by submitting a plan of corrections. We've got quality assurance systems in place."
Each of those 11 issues, however, may involve more than one resident. One, relating to bathing, involved 16.
Until the issues are resolved, the facility is prohibited from being reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid for any new patients admitted. Statewide, those programs account for 85 percent of nursing home residents.
Under federal law, a medical facility will be terminated from Medicare and Medicaid programs if it has been out of compliance for six months. According to Dunbar, the clock for Crystle Springs has been ticking since Oct. 4.
At one point, the department had listed 92 pages of deficiencies. The Feb. 19 inspection resulted in 25 pages of deficiencies, and Crystle Springs has until Friday to submit the plan of correction.
Copies of the 92-page report were not immediately available, but deficiencies from the Feb. 19 inspection include failure to provide or failure to document physical therapy, baths and proper diets; weight loss deemed too rapid, failure to report injuries or significant changes in medical conditions. None of the issues in the Feb. 19 report were deemed to result in actual harm, but the report said several "had the potential for more than minimal harm."
Crystle Springs' director of nursing and assistant director of nursing resigned last Friday. They were replaced by Monday, according to Dale, who said she had met with the resident families over the matter.
"We have every confidence that we will meet the deadline. We met with the resident families. It was very positive," she said. "We have every confidence that everything is going to be fine."


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?
Concerned that the city is nearing its capacity on water and sewage, the Jefferson City Council talked about options for expansion during a planning retreat last Saturday.
While much of the discussion centered around limiting existing use for industrial and commercial development and backing away from residential growth, city manager David Clabo raised another point related to the Central City treatment plant’s dwindling sewage capacity.
“There’s a question just over the ridge, and it is with Central City and capacity and the courthouse,” Clabo said.
“Right now, we don’t have it,” responded city attorney Ronnie Hopkins.
Because Darnell Road is in the Jefferson service area, the county cannot tap into the county water authority’s sewerage plant without the city’s permission.
The sewage plant has a 500,000 gallons per day (gpd) capacity and is using 336,000 gpd. In addition to the 164,000 gpd remaining capacity, there is also an option of 100,000 gallons of capacity from the county water and sewerage authority.
As the council reviewed a 2002 report on the wastewater treatment facilities submitted by engineer Jerry Hood, council member Bosie Griffith suggested “we’re going to have to look at a time when we save sewage and water capacity for commercial and industrial use.”
“I think we’re about at that point,” said Mayor Jim Joiner. “We’ve set aside 40 percent of the remaining capacity for commercial use and we’ve about reached that point.”
In looking at the city’s options, Clabo reported that the Central City plant is “expanded to the max,” so the city will either have to look at a spray field or at mechanical treatment.
The city also has a wastewater treatment plant at Interstate 85, which has a 280,000 gpd capacity; the December flow at that plant, the highest for 2002, was 108,600 gpd, according to Hood’s report, leaving 171,400 gpd.
The council also discussed an agreement Jefferson has with the county water and sewerage authority for use at the I-85 plant. “We need to get ourselves up to par (at I-85) so we can be able to expand very quickly,” Clabo said.
Council member Steve Kinney added: “We ought to be able to expand I-85 by a couple hundred thousand pretty easily.”


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.
Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. sent a letter Feb. 10 to Harold Fletcher, chairman of the board of commissioners, seeking the change.
"The city of Commerce hereby requests that all SPLOST funds, including those that are being transferred to the county water and sewer authority, be maintained and distributed by the Jackson County government as requested by law," Hardy wrote. "The city does not want any of its water and sewer SPLOST funds co-mingled with outer municipal or county funds now being held by the county's water and sewer authority. The uncertainty of who's (sic) and what funds will be used to pay for the authority's debt makes us feel uneasy about which funds might be used.”
City Manager Al Crace has asked the water and sewerage authority for "a copy of any agreements or documents re-garding the handling or distribution of the current SPLOST water funds from Jackson Coun-ty to the municipalities and the Jackson County Water and Sewage Authority." In a letter to Jerry Waddell, manager of the authority, Crace stated "Our attorney has requested that my office search the minutes and contract files for relevant records. Our initial search did not reveal an agreement that describes the current procedure."
If Commerce has concerns about its 13.6911 percent of funds under the authority's management, they have not been raised in a public meeting.
However, City Manager Clarence Bryant has complained in the past about delays between when the authority gets its SPLOST check from the state each month and when the city's share is distributed to its escrow account. The city manager has expressed the view that the time differential has cost Commerce interest it might have earned with a more prompt disbursement.
Currently, Jackson County receives the monthly check from the Department of Revenue and forwards the water and sewer portion to the authority, which distributes it to the municipalities' escrow funds. Only the cities may use the money in their accounts.


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.
The map, which will be heard by the full state Senate, calls for Jackson County to move from the 9th U.S. Congressional district to the 10th district.
Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-9) would no longer serve Jackson County. Instead, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-10) would serve the county in the re-drawn district.
“(Rep. Norwood) would hate to lose Jackson County, obviously,” said Duke Hipp, a spokesperson for the congressman.
But it won’t be the first time Rep. Norwood hasn’t been representing Jackson County as a congressman. He first represented the county during his first term in 1995, when Jackson County was under the 10th district. It was moved to the 11th district for the 1996 election.
The current map, which was passed by Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, had “some things that were out of line,” Hipp said.
Thirty-four counties are split under the current congressional map and 22 counties have two or more representatives, explained Candice Gunn, Jackson County Republican Party chairperson.
“The map we’re living under makes no sense,” she said Monday.
Following a Senate committee meeting on Tuesday, however, the latest Republican-proposed map sets 43 of the state’s 159 counties to be divided among one or more representatives.
At the same time, the state’s current map is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. The state legislative redistricting office said a new map won’t be affected by a decision in that case. Either way, the process in approving a new map is still a long route for now.
As for Jackson County Republicans, they say they don’t mind having Rep. Norwood or Rep. Deal as the county’s congressman, as long as the new map increases minority voting power and draws clearer voting lines for communities.
“We admire both Rep. Deal and Rep. Norwood as great Republicans with strong conservative values,” Gunn said.
After being heard by the full state Senate, the proposed map will go back to the House before being submitted to the U.S. Justice Department for review.


County looking at beer and wine sales
An ordinance permitting packaged beer and wine sales in unincorporated Jackson County could soon come before the commissioners.
The board of commissioners agreed Monday night to have county attorney Daniel Haygood begin working on such an ordinance.
Commissioner Emil Beshara said he wanted to have an ordinance by the board’s next meeting later this month. However, Haygood said too many questions needed to be answered before drafting the ordinance.
He agreed to send each commissioner a memo to find out how the ordinance should be written, including what type of stores can sell alcohol, the fees for a license and whether consumption on premises should be allowed.
The ordinance will not include liquor sales, which would have to be approved in a county-wide referendum.
The decision to work on an ordinance came after convenience store owner Clay Dale pleaded with the board that he be allowed to sell beer and wine.
Dale explained that no cities will annex his Hwy. 124 store and that to be competitive, he needed to sell beer.
He also asked each commissioner whether or not he was against beer sales in the convenience store. Each commissioner said he was not.
“If you’re not opposed to it, that means you’re for it,” Dale said.
Dale added that he had been before the BOC 10 times, including three trips before the current board of commissioners.
“I’m coming for the last time,” he said.

 

 


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See Galilee Preschool Flyer


Sales team formed to market water
A sales team has been formed to promote the sale of county water.
Warren Walker, Jerry Waddell and Paul Mims will represent the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority on the sales team. Dan Gunnells will represent the private sector. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will have one member, who hasn’t been appointed yet.
Walker will serve as chairman of the sales team. The group will meet at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 5, at the water and sewerage authority office in Jefferson.
The team is an outgrowth of complaints by the BOC that the water and sewerage authority had not done enough to sell water to new customers. That complaint was one of several aired by BOC members last month in a move to take over the water authority. That effort failed following an outcry by citizens who demanded that the water authority remain independent.


Developer withdraws Talmo subdivision plans
A developer who submitted a proposal for Talmo’s latest subdivision has withdrawn his site plans.
The developer, who was set to build homes on more than 47 acres on Mountain Creek Church Road, withdrew his plans on Feb. 28. A public hearing to review the site plan that included 38 homes and 4.7 acres of greenspace was set to be reviewed Tuesday.
Talmo Mayor Larry Joe Wood said the developer decided not to purchase the property from Eric Pennington and Rob Joyce.
Without a public hearing, Tuesday’s meeting was a brief one for the city council.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the Talmo City Council:
• approved text changes to the city’s zoning ordinance, including a definition of greenspace, the requirement of streetlights and developer maintenance for all new subdivisions and two options for minimum lot sizes in R-1 and R-2 zoning districts. All three changes were recommended for approval by the Quad Cities Planning Commission.
• heard from council member Trapper Brissey, who said he is investigating “all options” available through the Quad Cities Planning Commission and city attorney Ronnie Hopkins about repairing running water on Ronnie Gee’s property.
• heard from Wood, who said Pendergrass hasn’t formed its committee yet for a joint city effort to re-name old Hwy. 129. The cities plan to hold an essay contest with North Jackson Elementary School students by the end of April to re-name the highway. City officials will also have to ensure new 911 addresses haven’t been issued to residents along old Hwy. 129.
• learned Talmo and Pendergrass are still working on forming a joint police department. No new information was available.
• learned 33 books were checked out last month at the city library and 44 people visited the facility.


Field construction still permitted at Hoschton
Despite the city council’s stern warning last week, construction on Hoschton’s ball fields hasn’t been ordered to a halt.
Soil erosion supposedly coming from the site was the center of a discussion last week in which the council said the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department (JCPRD) needed to fix the problem and that work may be halted. The city and county have a 10-year lease agreement for the ball fields, which are undergoing major construction.
Mayor Billy Holder and representatives from JCPRD and the environmental protection division (EPD) visited the site on Friday, said city clerk Cindy Edge.
The EPD “pointed out several areas that needed attention,” but that Hoschton hasn’t heard back from the officials if any additional action is needed, she said.
Construction on the site is still permitted, she added.
No discussion about the construction site was held when the city council met on Monday.