News from Banks County...

MARCH 26, 2003


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OPINIONS
Angela Gary

What are protesters accomplishing?
I was driving through Athens late Monday evening when I saw a small group of protesters to the Middle East conflict in front of the arches at the University of Georgia.

Phillip Sartain
A pest in my nest
The day just started out bad. I was extremely busy with work and things weren’t going my way. On top of everything else, there was a giant blowfly slowly circling the stratosphere of my office. In other words, there was a pest in my nest.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Diamond Leopards start region play this week
After a week of non-competitive action, the Diamond Leopards are about to get into the thick of the region schedule.
“It’s important that we get some region wins early,” coach Mike Williams said.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Courthouse Plan Calls For Grand Architecture
While they don't know how much it will cost yet, the county commissioners do know one thing about the proposed courthouse—it'll be the most "majestic" building in Jackson County.

School Board, City Council Head To Hiawassee For Retreat
The Commerce Board of Education and Commerce City Council will travel to Hiawassee this weekend in the hopes of forging a partnership to deal with the city's future.

‘Pro troops’ rally planned in Braselton
A “pro troops” rally will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in downtown Braselton.

War Hits Close To Home For Family Of Marine Combat Engineer
The Iraq War hits close to home for Keith and Sandy Massey of Commerce.
Their son, Kyle, is a combat engineer with the Seventh Regimental Combat Team of the First Marine Division. It's an occupation that, while making the family proud, also puts Kyle on the front lines.

Commerce shooting Wed. injures minister
A Wednesday morning shooting in Commerce apparently left a local minister seriously wounded.

County ranks fourth in conservation use
Jackson County is ranked fourth in the state in the amount of local tax dollars lost due to the conservation use program. That is according to the Georgia Department of Revenue ranking for 2001.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
War on our minds
For Pepper Jones, the war in Iraq is a family matter.
Her “little” brother, George Thompson, Jr., a career member of the National Guard, is currently stationed at Fort Benning awaiting orders to ship out in the next few weeks.

BOC focuses on furnishing new jail
With Madison County’s jail expected to open this summer, county leaders are focused on more than just construction work.

Couple charged with robbery of elderly woman
The sheriff’s office arrested two people Monday for allegedly robbing an elderly woman last week.

Commissioners approve Brickyard Road rezoning
Commissioners approved a request by Ken and Dale Ross to rezone two lots to provide homes for family members Monday. The action followed a large show of support from the Ross’s neighbors at the meeting.

Woman charged with car-jacking
A 23-year-old homeless woman was arrested last week on multiple charges, including armed robbery, car jacking and aggravated assault.

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CLEANING DEBRIS

DOT worker Robert Chappell works to wrap a chain around a huge log clogging up the bridge on Hwy. 441 between Captain D’s and the Waffle House. Heavy rains and floodwaters Thursday morning washed debris down the creek that got caught up at the small bridge.

UPDATE 03-31-03
Lawsuit filed against Banks County school board
A Toccoa Christian organization has filed suit against the Banks County Board of Education alledging violation of their First Amendment rights.
The Child Evangelism Fellowship of Northeast Georgia out of Toccoa requested late last year to hold a weekly Good News Club to "build character and strength in the moral and spiritual growth of children."
In January of this year, the Banks County BOE denied the request 3-2, siting concerns that allowed the group to meet would open up the school to other groups.
The Liberty Counsel, an Orlando organization representing the Child Evangelism Fellowship, contends the denial violates the group's right to equal access and free speech.
Monday morning, U.S. District Court Judge William O'Kelley postponed a ruling on a temporary restraining order that would allow the group to immediately begin meeting in the school pending the outcome of a later hearing.
Judge O'Kelley said he would give attorney's for the group and the school board until Wednesday morning to work out the access disagreement without legal litigation.
Should the two groups not reach an agreement, the restraining order will take effect Wednesday for up to 10 days until the judge sets a hearing on the matter.
If the two groups do reach an agreement, Liberty Counsel attorney Erik Stanley said Monday morning he will continue with the lawsuit to hold the board accountable for denying the Christian group access and to work on several faults in the board's facilities use policy.


‘Water, water everywhere’
Heavy rains and high waters flooded a portion of Banks Crossing and left some campers stranded last Thursday morning.
Early Thursday morning, the rising waters trapped several campers at The Pottery campground. Rescue personnel were able to free the victims without major injuries (see separate story on page 2A).
The flood also pushed enough water through Banks Crossing to damage The Pottery’s greenhouse, spilling mud and gravel into the Commerce Factory Stores parking lot.
Hwy. 441 was shut down for nearly three hours after about two feet of water covered the road just in front of Shoney’s.
The flood also did slight damage at Zaxby’s. Manager Sandra Heard said water came into the restaurant and went down drains in the floor, leaving mud inside the store. She also said mud had to be cleaned from the parking lot. Zaxby’s lost about 30 minutes of business because of the flood, she said.
“It was a mess,” Heard said.
Pottery CEO Sandy Spurlock said the Pottery’s campground remains closed as crews work to clean up the damage there. He also said the greenhouse was open for business though repairs are still underway. Spurlock didn’t have any estimates on the damage costs.
Officials are still debating the exact cause of the flood. According to a DOT press release, a dam on a small creek behind the Pottery broke during the heavy rains Thursday morning.
However, a retention pond behind the store appeared intact late Thursday morning. Spurlock said nothing on The Pottery’s property gave way and that the retention pond held, though water could have and probably did run over the top of the pond.
“It had to be something above just rainwater,” Spurlock said Thursday. “We should have been able to handle the rain.”
Some officials have also speculated that drains across the road from The Pottery may have clogged, causing the water to back up and force it out of the normal water channels.
Spurlock said an official with the Pottery’s insurance company would be investigating the flood soon to pinpoint an exact cause.
By 7 a.m. Thursday morning, Hwy. 441 was reopened to traffic as the water began to recede.
DOT officials worked for much of the morning clearing out debris from a creek that runs under Hwy. 441 between Captain D’s and the Waffle House to allow water to flow more freely.
Though the area had dried out by Thursday evening, mud remained in several parking lots as evidence of the rushing waters.


Commerce watershed closed
A popular fishing spot in southern Banks County has been closed indefinitely.
On Friday, the city of Commerce put up gates blocking access to the reservoir at both entrances off Grove Level Road as a homeland security precaution.
“It was done in accordance with homeland security guidelines because we are in a ‘Code Orange,’” Commerce water and sewer director Bryan Harbin said.
A recent mandate from the state’s homeland security department has forced agencies to limit access to some public infrastructure systems, including drinking water reservoirs and water treatment facilities.
The watershed will remain closed until the terror alert drops below “Code Orange.”
Harbin said officials from the city of Commerce, as well as local law enforcement agencies are beefing up patrols around the lake to catch anyone in the area for any reason.
Harbin said anyone trespassing around the lake will be questioned.
Banks County Sheriff Charles Chapman said his office will make extra patrols in the area and will check into any suspicious activity around the lake.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger Winford Popphan said he would also be patrolling the area more aggressively. He said anyone caught at the lake could face criminal charges.
“If you are out fishing, you are fishing without permission and you can be charged,” he said. “Anyone caught fishing, boating or doing other activities can also be charged with criminal trespass.”
No other lakes in Banks County have been affected by the change in the terror alert. Banks County’s drinking reservoir north of Homer already has limited access since all the land around it is privately owned.
Commission chairman Kenneth Brady said no extra limitations were needed, but he did say the county was limiting access at the water treatment facility.


Baldwin names Betty Harper as city manager
Baldwin city clerk Betty Harper was officially appointed Monday night to the position of city manager.
After a discussion at last week’s work session, the council decided to promote her to the position.
Mayor Mark Reed said Harper was already doing 90-percent of the duties expected of a city manager.
“It’s time she was recognized and given a raise,” he said.
Harper will still perform the tasks of city clerk.
She said: “There’s not a whole lot of difference between what I do now and what the job description of a city manager does.”
Mayor Mark Reed said: “She’s done a great job and I’m sure she will continue to do a great job. We have confidence in her.”
Harper will make $34,100 per year.
She has been with the city for three years, starting as assistant city clerk.
She was promoted to city clerk when Stacey Jacobs resigned the position in March of last year.



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A whiz at business math
Jessica Lewis has done a first for Banks County FBLA students.
The junior finished high enough in state FBLA competitions to move to nationals, representing Georgia in the business math category.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Lewis said. “I’m very proud.”
Lewis will be one of two FBLA representatives in business math from the state of Georgia. She finished second on the state level recently to earn the trip to Dallas, Texas, June 22-27.
“I’m just proud of her,” Banks County FBLA sponsor Kathy Cobb said. “She’s been real outstanding in FBLA.”
Lewis has been a member of the Banks County chapter of the club since her freshman year. This year, she is the project chair for the club. She was the club’s parliamentarian last year. After school, she said she plans to possibly start her own business, putting her business math skills to work.
Lewis originally competed at region with two other club members in multimedia. Lewis, Siobian Jackson and Melinda Burnette earned a bid to state competition in that area.
Cobb said she learned just before the state competition that anyone entering the multimedia would be allowed to compete in another area as well. Since Lewis has always been good at math, Cobb talked with her and she agreed to enter the business math competition at the last minute.
Cobb gave Lewis several sample tests to study and look over before the competition. Business math involves interest calculations, percentages, figuring wages and other such functions.
“I threw the tests in the back of my car,” Lewis joked.
Cobb said Lewis probably would have gotten first had she studied the practice tests. But she still placed second out of more than 100 competitors, scoring 82 percent out of 100 questions correct. Lewis didn’t answer eight questions on the test because she ran out of time.
After the tests have been scored, the top 10 finishers are called up to the state to learn how they placed in the business math category.
Lewis said she kept standing waiting for her name to be called as they called out places beginning at 10. As the announcement of first and second place neared, Cobb said Lewis got excited.
“Her eyes got big,” Cobb said. “She was shocked.”
Cobb said the FBLA is looking for donations to help the pay the nearly $2,300 bill to get Lewis and Cobb to the national competitions. Cobb has to go with her in order for her to compete.
The club may also try to hold fund-raisers to help finance the trip. Cobb said that anyone wanting to make a donation to help can contact her at the high school at 706-677-2221.