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APRIL 23, 2003


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SPORTS

Vying for state
Jackson County high-jumper Crystal Yonce is no stranger to success. After all, she has qualified for state in the event each of the past two seasons. However, Tuesday’s performance may even have surprised her, as it was the first time the senior had stepped onto the stage that is the Region 8-AAAA meet.

Still Up For Grabs
The month of April hasn’t exactly been kind to the Commerce baseball team but the outfit still has hopes that it will be playing on into the month of May in the Class A state tournament.

Do or die time
WHEN THE SCHEDULES for Region 8-A were drawn up last year, little did the Jefferson baseball team know that come the final full week in April much of their hopes for a region title would rest on the fate of back-to-back trips to Athens. But such is the case this week, as the Dragons will have to head to the Classic City twice in as many days to battle their top two region foes with crucial spots in the standings riding on the each game’s results.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
‘Puppy mill’ plans thwarted
Plans for an alleged puppy mill were thwarted in Madison County Tuesday morning when code enforcement officer Jack Huff ordered a Carl Tolbert Circle landowner to remove a number of dogs and kennels from his newly purchased property.

Water system completion date pushed back again
It now looks like the county’s new water system may not be up and running until the fall.

Confederate memorial dedicated in Colbert
A monument honoring Madison County’s Confederate soldiers was unveiled in Colbert Saturday afternoon.
The ceremony, led by Frank Gillispie, adjutant of the Madison County Greys Camp 1526 Sons of Confederate Veterans, included war re-enactors and women dressed as mourning widows.

McIntosh named new MCHS principal
Current Banks County High School principal Wayne McIntosh will replace Robert Adams as Madison County High School principal.

County moves SPLOST accounts to Merchants and Farmers Bank
Over the years, the Madison County government has kept accounts at both local banks: Merchants and Farmers and Bank of Danielsville — which became CenturySouth and then BB&T.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
BOE mulls over superintendent applications

In a special called meeting Tuesday night, the Banks County school board got its first look at the applications for the new school superintendent.

Possible sewer infiltration cause found in Lula
For months, the Lula City Council and street employees have been searching for the source of rainwater infiltration into the sewer system which has led to a sewer moratorium.

DFACS has investigated 67 cases of child abuse
In the first three months of this year, the Banks County Department of Family and Children Services has investigated 67 cases of child abuse.

Banks commissioners finish final round of budget hearings
The Banks County Board of Commissioners have finished budget talks, for now.

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GOING FOR A RIDE

Jarrett Warren, a second grader at West Jackson Primary School, was brave enough to go for a ride on one of the animals at the special student day at the Great Southland Stampede Rodeo last week at the University of Georgia. Students from across Jackson County were among those attending the special presentation. The rodeo was sponsored by the UGA Block and Bridle Club and Jamie Palmer of Nicholson served as the public relations chairman for the event.

County’s Ordinance Enforcement
Could Be Model For Commerce
If the Commerce City Council is serious about enforcing its ordinances against junked or abandoned cars and cleanliness of premises, it need look no further than the Jackson County government to see how it can be done.
The Jackson County Marshal's office actively enforces the county ordinances similar to the city ordinances with which Commerce council members expressed frustration at their April 14 meeting.
Commerce has ordinances prohibiting the storage of junk cars at residences and requiring that property be kept up, but April 14, the council admitted that the city's enforcement is less than ideal.
Jackson County tackled that problem with the creation of its marshal's service, and County Manager Al Crace says he'll be happy to brief Commerce officials on how enforcement can be accomplished.
"We move about 500 vehicles a year," said Crace, referring to the work of Chief Marshal George Brogan and his staff of three (counting Brogan).
Jackson County focuses on individuals with multiple junked cars – or neighborhoods where the problem is widespread, Crace explained. Action can be initiated by one of the marshals who observes the problem or through a complaint.
A marshal – or often two marshals – will visit the offender, issue a written warning giving the property owner 90 days to remedy the situation, and inform the offender that the marshal is coming back to follow up. The marshal returns in 90 days and, if the problem is not corrected, issues a citation.
"They tell you what's wrong, then they come back and if you haven't dealt with it, they cite you," Crace explains. "If they (the offender) have failed to go through the first stage of compliance, if we have to take them to court, the message is you have to pay a fine and you still have to clean it up."
Having the property cleaned by the time the court date arrives will not mitigate the citation.
Crace stresses that the matter is one for a civil court, but has insisted that the county marshals have POST (Peace Officer Standards Training).
"They understand how to issue a citation, how to go to court and how to present the case," he says. The result is that the marshals win 90 percent of the cases when they go to court, according to Crace.
"The message is, if you're making a mess, you have to clean it up," he stated.
The county adopted a national property maintenance code early last year; it already had ordinances on abandoned vehicles.
"We're running 14 to 15 cases a day," says Brogan.
One of the biggest cases the marshal's office has worked has been at the Dixieland Motel just south of Commerce and the adjacent "Alamo" auto repair business next door, he said. At this time, the marshal's office is on its third round of citations and fines with the property owners.
"The last time, he had 500 cars in the field. He started hauling them off, got it cleaned up and then started right back letting them get in a mess again," Brogan said.
According to Crace, the marshals do not give the 90-day warning to repeat offenders. The marshals can cite them immediately and bring them to court.
A vehicle that is not licensed and insured is considered a junked vehicle, Brogan said. Commerce uses the same standard.
But some people have an attachment to their derelict vehicles.
"We have a lot of people who get upset about it," Brogan reports. "They say the car's been there 20 or 30 years, so why is someone just now coming?"
The county is not terribly strict in its enforcement. People with just one or two abandoned vehicles are not usually cited, Crace said.
"They're allowed a couple, but that's it," he said. "One guy on Ethridge Road had 50 derelict vehicles. He negotiated to keep four."
Crace's recommendation to Commerce is that it designate its municipal judge (Billy Chandler) as an administrative hearing officer for such cases and handle them in city court. The county has special court dates to resolve cases brought by the marshals.
Enforcement of property maintenance issues is handled in the same way as the junked car violations.
The marshals have other duties, notably keeping up with mobile home stickers (for payment of property taxes). Crace said the marshals have found more than 1,000 trailers that lacked current tax stickers. Marshals also work on collecting bad debts and unpaid taxes and dealing with any neighborhood nuisance issues.


BOC seeks meeting with development authority
Is another move to consolidate its power on the agenda of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners?
In a letter from BOC chairman Harold Fletcher to industrial development authority chairman Scott Martin, Fletcher hints at such an effort and asked for a meeting between the two groups.
During its meeting last week, Martin read Fletcher’s letter to the IDA board and the group said it would be open to a joint meeting in May.
The letter was apparently a follow-up from the BOC’s recent weekend “retreat” meeting during which Fletcher and commissioner Sammy Thomason voiced views that the BOC should be the “lead negotiators” on county economic development projects.
In his letter to Martin, Fletcher hints at “building a team for major projects,” apparently a reference to including members of the BOC in all negotiations with prospective industries.
Fletcher also said his board wanted to discuss ways to “encourage development throughout the county and within the various municipalities.” The comment is apparently in reference to complaints from the City of Commerce, Thomason’s home area, that the county isn’t bringing enough industry to that city.
Although the county was successful in bringing several new industries to Jackson County over the last two years, including the large Toyota project near Jefferson, friction between the BOC and others involved in industrial development efforts has grown. Members of the BOC have complained that they aren’t kept informed of economic development efforts, which is spearheaded by the IDA and the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce.
Both Fletcher and Thomason were also upset during the Toyota development when they failed in a move to have future school taxes diverted into the county budget to build roads necessary for that project. The other three BOC members refused to go along with that proposal.
Earlier this year, the BOC also failed in an attempt to takeover the county water and sewerage authority after receiving a storm of protests about the effort.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business at the meeting:
•Martin reported that the World Technology Ingredients project has “hit a snag.” He said there is a property lien on some of the land that the company is seeking to purchase. He said the attorneys are trying to take care of this so that the property purchase can proceed.
•Martin reported that several prospects are looking at the county. “Despite the slow economy, Jackson County continues to be a place that people look at,” he said.


Once Again, DOT Delays Widening
Of U.S. 441
JEFFERSON -- The long-awaited widening of U.S. 441 has been put on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit over the method by which it and other state road projects were funded.
Georgia Department of Transportation officials said at a meeting Thursday in Jefferson that the construction was to have been funded through the sale of bonds, which has become the center point of a recent lawsuit filed over the Northern Arc. The state has the money to buy all of the property it needs and it expects to continue to do so. The construction was to have been funded by the sale of the bonds, with the first ones to have been sold in August 2002. The lawsuit was heard Jan. 28, but there has been no ruling, according to the DOT.
DOT district engineer Larry Dent said the $822 million bond sale is being held up by the lawsuit. If the bond sales don't go through, he said the DOT would have to reassess all of its projects that were to be funded. He added that it would put a lot of projects on hold.
"We're in a real limbo now," he said.
The widening of U.S.. 441 is a two-phase project. One phase calls for widening the road to four lanes from the Clarke County line to Georgia 335 in Nicholson. This 6.98-mile stretch will cost $22.6 million.
The second phase would widen the road from the center of Nicholson to the Commerce Bypass. This 5.19-mile project is expected to cost $19.5 million.
Preliminary engineering and right-of-way acquisition are under way for both projects. Construction had been scheduled for 2004, but the project is on hold pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
OTHER PROJECTS
DOT officials Dent, Todd Long, Brent Cook and Teri Pope met with county and city officials Thursday to discuss road projects in Jackson County. The DOT holds a meeting annually to update officials on road projects in the county.
DOT road projects under way or planned for the county over the next three years include:
•eastbound and westbound passing lanes on Georgia 15 alternate between Commerce and Jefferson. Preliminary engineering is slated for 2006 with right-of-way acquisition and construction to follow. The total cost for this project is $211,000.
•Replacing the bridge on Georgia 11 and U.S. 129 at Allen Creek, north of Talmo. The preliminary engineering is under way and the construction is expected in 2005.
•Widening Georgia U.S. 129 from Georgia 332 in Talmo to State Route 323 in Hall County. The preliminary engineering and right of way acquisition are under way and construction is scheduled for "after 2006." The total cost is $5.6 million.
•Widening U.S. 129 from Lavender Drive in Clarke County to State Route 330 in Jackson County. Preliminary engineering and right of way acquisition are under way and construction is slated for 2005. The total cost is $11.5 million.
•Widening U.S 129 from Georgia 330 to the Jefferson bypass at County Road 104. Preliminary engineering and right of way acquisition are under way and construction will begin in 2006. The cost is $4 million.
•Bridge project at Georgia 15 alternate in Jefferson at Big Curry Creek. Preliminary engineering is under way and right-of-way acquisition and construction are set for 2006. The total cost will be $400,000. Long said the DOT is "not going to touch that bridge." He added that a meeting would be held soon to unveil the plan, which he said calls for redoing part of the intersection.
•Replace bridge at County Road 86 at Jefferson River Road and Curry Creek. Preliminary engineering is under way and construction is scheduled for 2004. The cost is $2.4 million.


BOC approves $22 million courthouse design
A $22 million design for a new courthouse was unanimously approved by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners in a called meeting Monday night.
The BOC also agreed for architects Cooper Carry to proceed with developing the project. The courthouse will be a 124,000 square foot facility with three floors.
Meanwhile, the BOC has scheduled several district meetings to present the design drawings of the facility. The meeting for districts two and four will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 28, at the Commerce Civic Center. The meeting for District 3 will be at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 29, at the Pendergrass Depot. The meeting for District 1 will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 29, at the State Courtroom in the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
At Monday’s called BOC meeting, architects from Cooper Carry presented the design, which features a central atrium. Ben Wofford described the entrance to the building, which has six white columns, as “dramatic” and “profound.”
“It will command respect and awe,” he said. “...The overall architecture is a simple, classical approach.”
Commissioner Tony Beatty asked several questions about the layout, including the space allocated for the district attorney’s office. The office is now located in 2,970 square feet of space, while 3,949 square feet has been allocated in the new facility.
Commissioner Emil Beshara asked how much money could be saved if some of the finishes were changed. Jerry Cooper said one to five percent.
Beshara also questioned how important the cupola is to the design. The atrium will be open to all three floors with the final view wrapping to a heightened cupola. Wofford said this is “very important” to the design. He said it brings the “respect to the building that it commands.”
“With the cupola, the building sets itself clearly apart from anything and everything else that will be built in the county,” he added.
ADDRESS LEADERSHIP
In a meeting with members of the 2003 class of Leadership Jackson County, several members of the BOC again addressed the courthouse issue.
“In the last two years and three months, there have been more than 200 articles in the local newspaper regarding this topic (of the courthouse),” said commission chairman Harold Fletcher. “We felt we better address it before you guys...The process started in the past administration. This board could have gone through four years and never broached the subject, but we felt we had to address it. We took it and ran with it, for better or for worse.”
Commissioner Sammy Thomason said that the current economic market is conducive to construction, and that the BOC is looking to the future with the concept of a single-site complex with room to grow. The plans that flashed up on a screen during a slide presentation showed the central courthouse building flanked by office buildings and an administrative building.
“We want most county services to be available at a single place,” Thomason said. “We hope to get into a one-stop shopping kind of government (facility) with adequate parking, close proximity to the jail and space for future growth and development. We know Jackson County is a rapidly growing area and we don’t want to box ourselves in with what we do.”
FINANCING OPTIONS AND PUBLIC INPUT
Thomason presented tax anticipation notes as a short-term approach to financing the courthouse project and SPLOST 2005 and an ACCG lease-purchase plan as mid- to long-term options.
“Everybody’s concerned about how we’re going to pay for this, and so are we,” he said. “The more palatable solution is to make payments for the courthouse through SPLOST 2005.”
Several questions from the leadership class focused on public input for funding options, including a question about which would be presented to citizens for a vote.
According to the BOC panel, the ACCG lease-purchase would be voted on by the commissioners and the SPLOST would go to the citizens for a vote. Likewise, a bond referendum would also require public vote.
One question raised was what would happen if the ACCG lease-purchase option was approved, but the SPLOST was voted down by the people. The BOC panel response was that an ad valorem tax would be used to make payments.
“There is a preconceived notion that the BOC doesn’t want to give the people a chance to have their say,” Beshara said. “There are only two options — sales tax or property tax, and sales tax always requires public input. I’m a strong advocate for using sales tax. We don’t need to spike up the property taxes and penalize the people of Jackson County. I think everyone on this board want to see the sales tax and see people have input...We are precluded by law to have a straw vote for where the courthouse ought to be and what type.”
Thomason and Fletcher added that BOC takes public input at its regular meetings and has held district meetings on the courthouse project. Thomason added that the ACCG lease-purchase option will have a public hearing.
“We meet twice a month and I haven’t heard anyone speak (on the courthouse issue),” Fletcher said. “The person who’s been the most vocal has never attended a meeting...In two years, only three people have spoken with me on it....Before you form an opinion, don’t rely on one source of information; call. Sit down with the people who are involved on a day-to-day basis.”
Another financial matter touched upon by the panel was the price of the property value for the site.
“A lot has been made of the price of the property value, but it is totally incorrect to say it is twice the market value,” Fletcher said.
He added that the BOC had obtained two appraisals — one for $11,000 per acre and one at $11,900 per acre — and purchased the property at the latter cost.
Other questions posed by the leadership class about the justice center focused on the jail and on governmental complexes in other counties.
Fletcher told the group that the current jail’s capacity is 125, and that a new jail “will have to be dealt with in the next year or so....Immediately after we get the courthouse kicked off we will sit down and look at it.”

 

 


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See Galilee Preschool Flyer


Braselton to soon see county water flowing
Jackson County water should start flowing soon to Braselton at the rate of a half million gallons per day.
The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority signed a water sales contract with Braselton Monday that manager Jerry Waddell expects to give the authority’s cash flow a shot in the arm.
The three-tier rate structure offers water at $2.60 per 1,000 gallons for the first 250,000 gallons per day; $2.50 per 1,000 gallons for the next 250,000; and $2.40 per 1,000 gallons for all water in excess of 500,000 in any given day.
“If they take 500,000 a day, that will increase our monthly sales by 15 million (gallons) a month,” Waddell said. “That’s going to help. It’s going to help a lot.”
That would generate an additional $37,500 per month to help the authority meet its expenses – including its nearly $150,000 monthly payments to retire the Bear Creek Reservoir debt.
So far this year, the authority’s net income is barely sufficient to cover that debt, mainly because water sales during the first four months of the year are poor. Once summer arrives and outdoor use of water picks up, Waddell expects the bottom line to improve accordingly.
“What kills us is that in January through April where the water sales are so low,” he notes.

“When you get into May, June and July, according to how much it rains, then sales really pick up.”


Request for 526-home
project to be heard in May
A rezoning request for a 526-home subdivision on Zion Church Road and Highway 124 will be heard by the Braselton Planning Commission on Monday, May 16, at 6 p.m.
Norcross-based Oakmont Residential, LLC asked the town planning commission to cancel Monday’s scheduled public hearing on the request.
Also at the May meeting, the planning commission will consider an annexation and rezoning request from Ruby-Forrest, Ltd. for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) in Hall County on Highway 211.
The request is seeking to annex and rezone 178 acres for a mixed-use project that would include 338 residential units and approximately 157,400 square-feet of retail/office space.
The planning commission will further consider an annexation and rezoning request by Linwood Burns for four acres, at 6025 Thompson Mill Road.
The property is currently zoned R-100 in Gwinnett County and the requested zoning with annexation is R-1 for single-family residential.


Chamber banquet set Thurs.
The Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce’s fifth annual awards banquet is planned for Thursday, April 24, at the Commerce Civic Center.
The evening will begin with the chairman’s reception and silent auction at 6 p.m., followed by the keynote address by Dr. Jeffrey Rosensweig, author, global economist and ethicist. There will be a patriotic theme.
The awards banquet is the chamber’s salute to excellence recognizing: the outstanding Large Business of the Year, Small Business of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Citizen of the Year, and William H. Booth Citizenship Award recipient. The chamber’s Leadership Jackson Class of 2003 will graduate as part of the evening’s ceremonies.


Jackson one of nation’s fastest growing
Jackson County is one of the 100 fastest growing counties in the United States, according to Census data released last week.
The county ranks 63 on the national list in terms of population percentage change from July 2001 to July 2002. Estimates now have the county at 45,374 residents, following a 4.3 percent population growth. The 2000 Census reported 41,589 residents.
Jackson County manager Al Crace said while the data is something to take pride about, county officials and residents should take a deep breath to realize the challenge now facing the county in numerous areas.
“I think a lot of people can personally feel that growth,” he said, while pointing out that schools, churches and neighborhoods have all seen their populations rise recently.
To deal with the growth, county officials are working to provide more classrooms, improve traffic on local roads and prepare the Unified Development Code (UDC) among eight zoning ordinances, Crace said.
Yet, officials are still concerned Jackson County could become the next “bedroom community.”
“Absolutely, that’s our risk,” Crace said. “You can’t just run (the county) on residential housing.”
And to balance the mix of what’s moving into Jackson County, Crace said local officials are still looking for industrial, commercial and retail opportunities to offset the tax base while planning wisely.
Despite the economic downturn and subsequent housing market lull, people are still moving to Jackson County.
Georgia’s three fastest growing counties in the U.S. (Henry, Forsyth and Newton) ranked within the top 10 are within an easy commute from Atlanta. Other U.S. counties at the top of the list are in similar proximity from a major city. Most are largely rural counties now experiencing suburban growth.
Jackson County even ranks higher than Gwinnett County in terms of population percentage growth from 2001-2002. Gwinnett County ranks 71 among 3,141 counties in the nation.