Jackson County Opinions...

APRIL 30, 2003

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
April 30, 2003

‘Security’ In The Future Of
Bass Fishing
As a bass fisherman, I can't wait for the Bear Creek Reservoir to be open and to yield some of the "trophy" bass for which it is managed. Right now, because of national security, it is closed.
Officials are concerned al-Qaeda will attack our water treatment plant, possibly by crashing john boats into the intake tower, or will destroy the lake by slipping in a hyacinth plant, the aquatic equivalent of kudzu. Hence, the need for a security plan.
Here's how I see a fishing trip to the reservoir looking at this time next year.
Security: Please pass through this metal detector: Sorry, your boat failed.
Angler: It's made out of aluminum, for crying out loud.
Security: Tell it to Mr. Ashcroft.
Angler: Who's that?
Security: Open that cooler please. What's this?
Angler: Beer.
Security (expressing disbelief): It's 7:00 a.m. Who drinks beer at 7:00 a.m.?
Angler (equally disbelieving): You don't fish much, do you?
Security: I'll have to confiscate this for analysis by the Security team. Open that suitcase, please.
Angler: That's a tackle box.
Security: Sure. I see a lot of sharp, pointy, dangerous looking things. Remove them.
Angler: Those are hooks. You can't catch fish without them!
Security: They'll have to go to the Security center too. And what are these rubbery things?
Angler: Plastic worms. You put hooks in them to catch fish.
Security: Could be C-4. Remember, no sharp, pointy things allowed.
Angler: Why is that dog sniffing my shorts?
Security: Just a routine check for explosives. Whoa! Down Killer! Sometimes he gets a little excited.
Security (holding up a buzz bait): What's this device?
Angler: It's a lure. Big bass love them.
Security: Don't lie. It'll only get you in trouble.
Angler: Seriously, it's a lure. It doesn't look like anything a bass would eat, sound like anything a bass would eat or feel like anything a bass would eat, but bass attack them.
Security: Sir, use of the word "attack" is strictly prohibited. Just a friendly warning this time. Next time, I'll have to arrest you. And (holding up a fat deep-diving plug), what is this?
Angler: %#@$. It's a Bomber-A.
Security: Step aside. Heinrich, take this man to the command center for further questioning.
Angler (nervously): What’s this room?
Security No. 2: Nothing to worry about as long as you have nothing to hide. Have you traded sex for drugs or explosives with anyone from Iraq or France since Sept. 11, 2001?
Angler: WHAT?
Security No. 2: Drop your pants. This search is authoized by the Department of Homeland Security. Now where did I put my forceps?
Angler: Come to think of it, I should go home and cut the grass.
Security No. 2: So, you don’t want to fish? What are your intentions?
Angler: Can I have my beer back?
Security No 2: You have the right to remain silent ...

The Jackson Herald
April 30, 2003

Time for serious
talk about a new jail
One of the more serious casualties from the war over a proposed new courthouse is the lack of serious discussion about a new county jail.
As the photographs on this page make clear, there is a desperate need for a new jail facility.
That need really goes back over a decade. To accommodate growth, the county jail was moved from downtown Jefferson to the old county work camp buildings. A new county work camp had been built and the old facility was retrofitted for a new county jail.
But that facility has been something of a mess from the start. The old work camp was built in the era of Georgia “chain gangs” and was never designed to accommodate the layout or needs of a county jail.
Last year, the Jackson County Grand Jury called for a new county jail. That wasn’t the first time this need had been aired, but it was one of the strongest calls for an updated facility.
But because of the political atmosphere surrounding the debate over a new courthouse, the need for a new jail has taken a backseat. While there is no doubt Jackson County needs more space for its judicial and administrative offices, that need doesn’t compare to the crush at the jail and the multitude of problems in the current jail building.
So why isn’t a new jail being seriously planned? Put simply, politics. The county can ill-afford to build both a new jail and a new courthouse at the same time. But because county political leaders have invested so much ego in the controversial courthouse project, they have not fully addressed the need for a new jail.
But we believe building a new jail should be the top priority, even if it means delaying a new courthouse for a few more years.

While county officials have spent thousands of dollars on new furniture for administrative offices, they have ignored the crush of office space for county deputies and investigators.
While county officials have spent thousands of dollars for new administrative computers, they have left a computer at the jail sitting on a milk crate to escape rain-induced floods.
While county officials have spent millions of dollars for 160 acres on which to build a courthouse, they have failed to keep a dry roof over the jail.
County leaders have, in short, ignored or just given lip-service to problems at the jail while at the same time making sure their offices and their needs are being met in the grandest manner possible.
And it’s costing Jackson County thousands and thousands of dollars. Because of the lack of space, Jackson County has to pay other jail facilities to house our prisoners. That is a direct cost both in fees to those other jails and in deputies’ time to transport those prisoners.
The cost in inefficiencies and in security risks cannot be measured, but we believe it is also significant.
We realize some county leaders say they know all these things and are “planning” for a new jail. And to be fair, county leaders have toured the old jail and discussed the need for an updated facility. At least one member of the BOC wants a new jail to be on a SPLOST vote in 2004.
But given the checkered history of the current board of commissioners, it’s difficult to tell if those discussions are sincere, or are just a “show” to appease Sheriff Stan Evans.
It will be difficult to pay for a new jail and a new courthouse at the same time, even with SPLOST funds.
We believe it’s time for a serious discussion about the need for a new jail and for that need to rise to the top of the priority list.

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The Commerce News
April 30, 2003

Courthouse Design Not
A Compelling Issue
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners has taken its design for a proposed new courthouse out to a round of meetings in the four districts. The presentation includes an explanation of the building timeline that includes the design process, an explanation of how the space will be divided and even an explanation of how the commissioners hope to fund it.
The design of the courthouse is important, but the turnout at Monday’s meeting in Commerce demonstrated very little interest from the public. Aside from county officials, reporters and people associated with the project, the number of citizens who took time to attend could be counted on one hand.
That’s not because people are disinterested in the courthouse. It’s because their focus is in the location – the controversial and remote Darnell Road site. How compelling an issue is the design when the project is consigned to such a bizarre location? Throughout the entire process, the commissioners have stubbornly insisted that Darnell Road and only Darnell Road is suitable for a new government complex. The courthouse is merely the first county facility to be moved out of Jefferson to the “campus”; once it is on the ground, the county will continue to move other county services to the complex as funding is available.
The commissioners can say what they want, but the heart of the vaunted “campus complex” idea is the dilution of the influence Jefferson has in county government. Voters in Commerce have bemoaned that influence for years, both justly and unjustly, but even Commerce residents abhor the politics of this situation. This city embraced downtown redevelopment as a crucial long-term issue. To see the county government deliberately taking action to hurt another city – even our rival Jefferson - doesn’t sit well.
So, while the design of a future courthouse is critical, it is not as important as building a courthouse for all the people. The primary purpose of this plan is to do harm to one community. That flaw will always make this project an albatross.

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