News from Banks County...

MARCH 19, 2003


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OPINIONS
Rochelle Beckstine

Freedom of speech with no repercussions
Every human being should have the right to voice their opinion without repercussions. That is one of the founding principles of our country.

Shar Porier
Do we need a county administrator?
There’s been fussing from one end of the county to the other over the past two weeks. A rift has developed in the board of commissioners, and that same rift has spread to Banks County residents.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Soccer teams to face Union at home Friday
Soccer comes back to Banks County this week.
The boys and girls soccer team hosts only their second home match of the season Friday, this time with Union County.
The teams saw good fan support at their last home match in February, and they hope for the same this week.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
County employees prepare for war
With war with Iraq just hours away, employees at the Jackson County Correctional Institute began making ribbons to honor their fellow co-workers stationed literally on the brink of conflict.

Oft-Delayed Road Project Supposed To Begin Monday
The long-delayed and often-postponed resurfacing of Broad and Elm streets in Commerce is back on the calendar, according to the Department of Transportation.

Failed audits could cost Braselton in grant funds
Braselton’s failed attempts to submit its audits for the past five years on time to a state department is costing the town any state grants it applies for.

Concert Lineup To Be Announced Monday
Country music legend Bill Anderson will announce Monday the lineup for the musical events of the June 19-22 City Lights Festival, including the headliner of the 2003 City Lights Concert.

Another takeover?
Taking control of Jackson County’s economic development efforts could be the next move in the works by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. And like several other actions by the board to consolidate control over county operations, this effort is likely to generate a lot of controversy in the coming weeks.

Employee raises get BOC vote of approval after all
County employees will be getting a raise after all.
On Monday, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved a two-percent cost of living raise for county employees. The board also approved up to an additional two-percent merit raise.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
‘Yes, Yes’
Madison County will receive approximately $19 million in sales tax revenue over the next five years, thanks to voters' overwhelming support of two sales tax renewals Tuesday.

Hull residents elect three new council members
Residents of Hull chose three new council members to fill vacant seats at the city's council table Tuesday.

IDA awards contracts for Hull water system expansion projects
The county industrial authority approved two construction contracts for the Hull water system Monday.

Resident remembers long ago days at Harrison School
Nellie Sue Parham King remembers her school days at Harrison School in northern Madison County during the 1920s and 30s very well.

Zoning board stalls plans for repair shop on Loop Road
County planners put the brakes on plans for a transmission shop on Loop Road, just off Hwy. 98, at Tuesday night’s planning and zoning public hearings.

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‘LITTLE ELVIS’ TOOK THE STAGE

Five-year-old Christian Parson took the stage as “Little Elvis” during the Gene Watson concert Saturday night at Banks County High School. The band boosters hold the fund-raiser annually. It also features a car show.

Commerce: We can get gas to Martin Bridge
If the right industrial customer wants to build at Martin Bridge, Banks County might not have to worry about natural gas availability there. Commerce will take care of it.
“If a customer develops, we will examine that,” Commerce gas department head Jim Eubanks said. “We are in the business of selling gas to make a profit.”
Eubanks, who spoke before the development authority last week, said the city does not have gas currently available in the Martin Bridge area. However, he explained that the city could make gas available to a customer who would use enough gas over a seven to 10-year period to justify the costs of running the gas line.
Eubanks added that when one customer locates on a line, two or three other customers will move to the same area.
Commerce currently has gas availability near the Hwy. 59 and Hwy. 441 intersection, but not enough pressure to serve a high-capacity customer.
But Eubanks said city officials are working on a prospect that could be five years away from development that may possibly locate a facility along the Hwy. 441 bypass in Commerce.
That customer would require a high pressure gas line that would be run from the city’s feed at Mayer Chevrolet along the bypass. That line could potentially open up more possibilities at Martin Bridge Road.
The development authority asked Eubanks to project what size customer would be needed to justify the expense of running a line to Martin Bridge. He agreed to “run the numbers” and get the information back to the development authority.
Eubanks also said the city was more than willing to work with Banks County, since development in the Banks Crossing area would benefit all interested parties.
“We’re neighbors, and whether it (development) falls on the Banks County side or the Jackson County side, if it brings in jobs, we all benefit,” Eubanks said.
Eubanks added that Banks Crossing has access to natural gas.
“Most of our commercial customers are at Banks Crossing,” Eubanks said.
However, the gas lines the city has in place in the area couldn’t handle a customer with an extremely high load.
“If we got the prospect of a major industrial customer, we have the capability of extending a high pressure main to Banks Crossing to serve any size industrial customer,” Eubanks said.
The county also has natural gas availability along the railroad in western Banks County from Atlanta Gas Light.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the development authority:
•agreed to be part of a “strategy for Banks County” meeting that is under development to bring in the major county groups and cities to talk about growth in Banks County. No date or other details have been set for that meeting.
•learned that a group will give a presentation at the April 10 meeting on a joint private-public sewage treatment facility.


Baldwin woman dies in two-vehicle wreck
A Baldwin woman died and eight people were injured in a two-vehicle accident early Thursday morning at the intersection of Hwy. 441 and Thompson Street in Homer.
Delores Hernandez, 71, was in the front passenger seat of the car, the point of impact of the two vehicles. She was pronounced dead from critical injuries sustained in the crash at BJC Medical Center shortly after 8 a.m.
According to the Georgia State Patrol report, Samantha Miller, 37, Baldwin, attempted to turn left onto Thompson Street into oncoming traffic and was struck on the passenger side by a 1988 Dodge van driven by Sao Heu, Commerce.
Banks County Fire and EMS crews worked to free Hernandez, Miller and 17-year-old Diedra Ayers trapped in the twisted wreckage using extrication equipment.
Deputy Fire Chief John Creasy said initially they intended to transport Hernandez to an Atlanta hospital via Emory Life Flight. However, though paramedics did their best, her condition worsened and she went into cardiac arrest eliminating the possibility of helicopter transport.
The medics from Life Flight rode with the Banks EMT crew to help continue life saving efforts while on the way to BJC.
Officials said Miller and Ayers sustained injuries and were transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.
Hue and five children, aged 9 to 14, were also transported to BJC, where they were treated and released.
The state patrol officials said no one involved in the accident was wearing a seat belt.


Alto looks at collecting past due water bills
The Alto Town Council discussed ways to collect past due water bills, including holding property owners who rent out housing responsible.
At last week’s meeting, mayor Carolyn Gulley asked town attorney Jim Acrey if there is a way to hold owners responsible for the bills of their tenants.
Acrey responded that it depends on whom the city dealt with when water was turned on at a residence. He did not see the town being able to collect from the homeowner.
Councilwoman Susan Wade said she thought the property owners could take it out of the security deposit when someone leased a residence.
She also suggested charging renters a higher deposit to put the town in a better position to recoup any losses.
Councilwoman Audrey Turner suggested the city turn off water after two months of non-payment. But Wade countered with a $50 limit before cutting water off, then upped it to $75.
Wade then made a motion to cut off any resident’s water that had accrued a past due bill of $75, with the stipulation that the payment would have to be in full and reconnect fees paid before water was turned back on.
The council approved the motion.
In other water-related business, the council voted to raise commercial water rates to $2.50 per 1,000 gallons.
Alto has had to purchase water from Demorest on occasion to handle the load of Mount Vernon Mills, Synthetic Industries, Lee Arrendale Correctional Institute and two chicken farms.
The town pays $2.75 per 1,000 gallons during those times of need. To make up the difference the council decided to raise the fees.
The rate increase goes into effect April 1.
The council also discussed the new well and questioned Gulley about when it would be on line. Precision Planning drilled the 600-foot well in September on state-owned land leased to the town.
At that time, Gulley had said the well would be up and running by the end of November.
Now that four more months have passed, the council asked Acrey what they could do to get the company working on bringing the well on line.
According to Acrey, who had not seen the contract prior to the signing, the town has no footing to push for a quick end result. The language in the contract left open some doors.
“This is not a pro-Alto contract,” he said. “It says the company ‘expects’ to start when the contract is signed. It doesn’t say it will. It also says they can negotiate price increases if the job is not completed by December 31, 2002.”
Gulley replied she had been “promised” by Precision that it would not cost more than the original contract specified and would be on line by the end of March.



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Harper leading water department
The man that helped build Banks County’s water system has returned to run the department.
Gary Harper resumed duties as water department head in late January, just two months after announcing his resignation.
“I started the system from the ground floor and I felt like something was missing,” Harper said. “I just wanted to come back to Banks County.”
Banks County commission chairman Kenneth Brady announced in early November that Harper would be leaving to accept a higher paying job in Gilmer County.
Brady said Tuesday that Harper called him earlier this year and asked if he could return to the position in Banks County.
“I told him to come on back,” Brady said.
Brady added that Harper was re-hired at the same salary that he was receiving when he left the position.
“He came back just like he had never left,” Brady said.
During Harper’s tenure, the Banks County Mountain Creek water treatment facility received top honors from the state as water plant of the year two years in a row.