News from Jackson County...

MAY 7, 2003


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SPORTS

Berry takes third in region high jump; Diamond Panthers may reschedule
The jackson county boys track and field squad wrapped up their season last week at the region meet in Winder. Panther standout Terrell Berry narrowly missed out on qualifying for the state meet in Jefferson next week.

Wrapping It Up
“Playing for pride” is amongst the most tired and overused clichés, but it’s what the Tiger baseball team will be doing this week.

Still in the hunt
A TIGHT REGION 8-A race for home field advantage in the first round of the Class A state playoffs will be determined one way or another this week, with the deadline for region games to be played fast approaching.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Storm rips through county
Susan Porterfield, who lives in the small community of Harrison in northern Madison County, heard the storm coming Tuesday afternoon, but felt there was nothing she could do but stay inside her single wide mobile home.
“I heard the trailer shaking, but there was just nowhere for me to go,” Porterfield said.

Colbert issues sign moratorium
Colbert has issued a 180-day moratorium on construction of billboards pending a rewrite of the city’s zoning ordinance.

Commissioners talk roads, transportation
County commissioners talked about which county roads are most in need of work Monday, while also looking at some of the county’s broader transportation goals.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Talking Trash

Members of the Banks County Convention and Visitors Bureau want to see the abandoned service stations at Banks Crossing cleaned up.

Maysville city court looks to increase cases
After the Maysville City Council’s meeting next month, the city’s court could get a lot busier.

Storms do little damage in Banks Co.
Violent storms that ripped through Northeast Georgia Tuesday afternoon did little substantial damage in Banks County.

Rabies clinics planned Saturday
Rabies clinics will be held at seven different locations in Banks County on Saturday, May 10, with vaccinations available for $7.

BOE may hire new athletic director Thursday
After a two-and-a-half hour closed meeting Monday, the Banks County Board of Education decided to reopen applications for athletic director.

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SEEKING SAFETY

School children across Jackson County filled the hallways Tuesday afternoon during a tornado warning. Here, students at Jefferson Elementary School take cover as a dark, threatening cloud moved across the area near the school. A bus of Maysville Elementary School students on the way back from a field trip in Atlanta stopped at a school in Braselton to seek shelter until the storm passed.

Two men arrested in dispute at outlet mall
Two men were arrested last week at Tanger Outlet Mall after one led deputies on a chase and one locked himself in a bathroom for more than an hour and threatening to kill himself.
Esson Ozzie Swinton, 23, Cornelia, was charged with two counts of criminal trespass, felony obstruction of an officer, giving false information to a law enforcement officer and stalking.
James Leonard Richie, 25, was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of an officer, two counts of giving false information to a law enforcement officer.
There are also holds on both men out of Stephens County on unrelated felony charges.
David Cochran, chief investigator with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, said deputies were called to the mall around 10 a.m. by a woman who works at one of the stores. She said her ex-boyfriend was there and was harassing her.
Cochran said the deputies made contact with the ex-boyfriend, Swinton, and his friend, Richie. He said the men gave the deputies false information and ran when they tried to make an arrest.
Swinton allegedly ran into one of the stores and into a back room where two female
"He barricaded himself in a small bathroom," he said. "The two female employees were taken out of the store by the deputies. He was threatening to kill himself with a firearm he said he had."
Cochran said that after one and half to two hours of negotiations, deputies "rushed" into the bathroom and apprehended the suspect. The door had been opened during their negotiations. He didn't have a gun.
While this was taking place, deputies apprehended Richie on Steven B. Tanger Boulevard.
More than 20 officers, representing the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Banks County Sheriff's Office, Commerce and Maysville police departments and Georgia State Patrol, along with staff members from the Georgia Department of Transportation were on hand Wednesday morning during the incident.
Detective Chris Smith with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, was injured in a wreck while he was enroute to the scene of the domestic dispute. He was taken to Athens Regional Medical Center where he was listed in serious conditions.


Fletcher breaks tie in heated rezoning bid
A controversial rezoning that has apparently split a community was approved by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners Monday night in a split vote.
In a 3-2 vote, the BOC approved the request from John Bell to rezone 72 acres on Old Pendergrass Road from A-2 to R-1 to locate a subdivision.
Stacey Britt and Sammy Thomason voted in favor of the request, while Emil Beshara and Tony Beatty voted against it. Chairman Harold Fletcher broke the tie by voting in favor of the rezoning.
Thomason made the motion and he called for a minimum lot size of one acre in the development. Planning director B.R. White said on Tuesday that approximately 58 to 64 homes would be allowed under these guidelines. He said the exact number would be determined by the design of the development and the soil type on the property. Bell had asked for 69 homes to be located in the subdivision.
When Fletcher broke the tie, there was applause and a few angry comments from the crowd, including a woman who said: “There better not be any more crooked politics in this room. We’ve had it.”
Some area residents had wanted the rezoning to be for A-R rather than R-1. An A-R rezoning would have mandated larger lots.
Before voting, Fletcher said: “As a person who appreciates the constitutional right of property ownership and the enjoyment thereof, I have an understanding of the request. At the same time, I understand the concerns of the community. Situations like this call for the wisdom of Solomon and I can tell you that I do not possess that wisdom. However, there is a need to make a decision. I think one of the comments that permeates those who made the presentation in opposition was that there needs to be some compromise and the opportunity to find a better solution.”
Before this vote was taken, Beshara had made a motion that it be approved with an A-R zoning instead of the R-1 Bell had requested. This would have required one and a half acre lots and would have only allowed 36 homes on the site. Beshara said A-R is more suitable for the area because the nearby lots are larger lots. His motion failed 3-2.
At this week’s meeting, several people spoke against the request, while one man spoke in favor of it. There was applause for both those who spoke against the plan and for Bell, developer Ken Gary and the man who spoke in favor of the rezoning.
More than 125 people crowded into the State Courtroom in the Administrative Building in Jefferson with the majority being there for the discussion on the Bell request. Most left after it was heard.
Bell presented his request and said it meets all county guidelines for R-1 zoning. He said the proposal called for lot sizes ranging from three-quarters of an acre to 1 3/4-acre. The home size would be 1,700 square feet for one-story homes and 2,000 square feet for two-story homes.
“We think the subdivision is well within the guidelines,” he said. “We don’t see any reason why it should not be accepted.”
Kevin Gray, who lives on Old Pendergrass Road, spoke in support of the request and said a “nice subdivision” would be an asset for the community. He said it would be better than an industrial development on the site. He added that those who have supported Bell have been “verbally abused” by neighbors.
Denis Cote, who lives next door to Bell, spoke against the request and said his concerns include locating a high density residential development in an agricultural area. Pollution, increase in traffic and noise are among the other concerns he mentioned. He added that adjacent property has larger lots.
His wife, Marie Cote, also spoke and cautioned the commissioners that what they decided would “set the whole precedent for the neighborhood.”
Harvie Lance, who lives on Old Pendergrass Road, also spoke against the request and said he prefers larger lots and homes.
Linda Wade, who owns 15.9 acres on Old Pendergrass Road, told the commissioners that they represent “every person on the road” and “not just one individual.”
“Gentleman, you are the servants of the public,” she said. “...I’m tired, tired of people coming and running over me because they have so much more money that they can buy people, that they can do whatever they want to do.“
During the rebuttal, developer Ken Gary spoke and said the request meets all regulations of the zoning ordinance.
“We’d like to see John not be deprived of financial gain he can get by being in compliance with the R-1 zone,” he said. “If those lots are cut, John will see a substantial deduction...I feel that many of the people who are against this are seeking unjust enrichment. They want those pastoral views...Put their money where their mouth is. Let them go and buy the property...”
Beshara asked Gary to comment on the surrounding land use.
“The lots in the immediate vicinity are large lots,” he said. “They have not had access to county water...As it comes there, lot sizes are naturally going to come down.”


Commerce Surgeon A Victim Of ‘National Medical Crisis’
A nationwide medical crisis reared its head in Commerce, where it appears to be forcing a local surgeon to close his practice.
"I can't stay in. I've been priced out," said Dr. Donald McFadden, a general surgeon at BJC Medical Center for 12 years. "I'm a small-town, sole practitioner. I don't make that kind of money."
The 55-year-old physician came home from the hospital after heart bypass surgery to find a premium notice in the mail increasing his medical malpractice rate 300 percent to $65,000.
"This is happening nationwide," McFadden points out. "I was hit hard last year, but was able to survive. I can't do it again. Our legislators had a chance to do something, but they were too busy screwing around with the flag."
McFadden's premium in 2001 was "a little over $9,000," and he says he's had no significant claims against him since.
"My (insurance) company left the state. When the other companies, like St. Paul, which insures 50,000 or 60,000 doctors, got out of the market, the few that remained just went crazy," he continued.
According to McFadden, the situation is challenging doctors and hospitals in all but five states – those which have set caps on the so-called "pain and suffering" judgments from lawsuits. Similar legislation was proposed in Georgia this year, but the cap was removed.
McFadden holds but faint hope that something will happen to allow him to continue his 22-year career as a surgeon. He's not sure where his future lies.
"I've really enjoyed my time here. It's been a good place for my kids to grow up; that's really why I'm here," he said. "I came here from Albany. I don't think I could have stood for my daughters to have grown up there. This seemed like an ideal situation.
"It's kind of sad after 22 years. I told my wife, 'Now I know how a guy feels like who's worked for a company 25 or 30 years and they come by and close the plant and say you're out of a job.'"
Still recovering from surgery, McFadden tries to be upbeat.
"At my age, maybe somebody's saying, hey, I got lucky and survived a bad problem. Maybe it's time to do something else," he commented. "Coming off what I'm coming off, I try to remain calm."
"Personally speaking, this is a sad development for us here at BJC," said Oscar Weinmeister, assistant administrator. "Dr. McFadden is a good man and a good friend to everyone here, and many people around town. Medically speaking, it's a tragedy we've tried to warn people about. Dr. McFadden is also a fine surgeon, and we hope there is light at the end of this tunnel, for him and for BJC."


Plans available for road changes in Jefferson
Some major road changes are proposed for the City of Jefferson, ones that will keep the old White Bridge intact across Curry Creek, but will address the “problem” intersection at SR15 and Hwy. 335/Brockton Road.
City manager David Clabo presented a map showing the DOT’s preliminary concept layout for the SR15 Alternate during the Jefferson City Council’s work session Monday night. He explained that the DOT has requested that the city review the plans and determine what utilities would be involved.
PROPOSED CHANGES
The proposed changes call for the road leading out of Jefferson from SouthTrust Bank across the White Bridge to become a one-way street. Motorists coming off the Brockton Road will turn right before being diverted back across a bridge into town. Bridge improvements are planned for Kissimee Street.
Motorists on Hwy. 82 coming into Jefferson from Maysville will no longer yield at a “Y” fork beside the Fork in the Road convenience store and the Jefferson-Commerce Road (SR15). Instead, Hwy. 82 will be diverted across the field near the city’s water plant to a one-way street in front of the new civic center. The road will “round out” into town behind Kinney’s store and SouthTrust Bank. Motorists on Hwy. 82 who want to turn toward Commerce, instead of coming into Jefferson, will be diverted to a stop sign behind the Fork in the Road convenience store.
No time line has been given for the road changes.


Pendergrass considers youth curfew
Pendergrass parents who don’t know where their children are at night could face a fine, the city council discussed last week.
Sandy Beck presented the idea of imposing a curfew for children that could lead to parents paying fines when their children are caught wandering about city streets at night.
Beck said numerous people in her subdivision have said they’re concerned about children wandering about the city late at night, especially in the cemetery.
“These kids, they’ve got no business walking the streets at one o’ clock in the morning,” she said. “Parents have got to have these kids in or face a fine.”
Although no proposed ordinance or resolution was presented, the council discussed following Jefferson’s rules on children that are found roaming the city past midnight.
But Jefferson doesn’t have a separate ordinance for late-night child offenders, said Jefferson Police Department investigator Anthony Kelley. Jefferson just follows the existing state laws on the matter, he said.
According to Georgia law, the state defines an “unruly child” as those found wandering or loitering about in a city or any public place, Kelley said. The law applies to those under 17, from midnight to 5 a.m. Those under 17 also can’t drive from midnight to 6 a.m.
When child violators are found, Jefferson police officers often try to notify parents, Kelley said. That often solves the problem and Jefferson has seen no need to offer a separate ordinance beyond the state law, he said.
“There are laws already that delegate what kids can and can’t do at night,” explained Pendergrass attorney Walter Harvey.
The Pendergrass City Council didn’t take a vote on the matter, but is expected to present a proposal during its next monthly meeting on May 27.


Tribute to Korean War veterans set for May 17
A tribute to Korean War veterans will be held at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 17, at the Jackson County Comprehensive High School stadium.
“Please join us as we pay tribute to the sacrifices and service all veterans and their families have given this great nation,” leaders say. “We especially wish to honor and say thank you to our Korean War veterans with a special presentation during this tribute.”
The organizers also wish to recognize any World War II veteran not recognized during the May 2001 program.
Anyone with information on Korean War veterans is asked to call Amanda Hewell at the Jackson County Board of Education office at 367-5151.

 

 


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Jefferson to vote on grocery distribution center
Representatives of Aldi, Inc. are seeking rezoning and annexation approval from the Jefferson City Council for property to be developed into a 400,000-square-foot, $27 to $30 million grocery distribution center on Dry Pond and Jett Roberts roads.
The city council will vote Monday on Aldi’s rezoning requests of C-2 to M-1 for 61.37 acres on Dry Pond Road and of A-2 (county) to M-1 (city) for 18.25 acres on Jett Roberts Road. The Jett Roberts Road property also involves an annexation request.
Darren Wood of Aldi, Inc. spoke to the council at a work session Monday night about the proposal, saying if it is approved, construction on the facility could begin as soon as 2004, with a 2006 “up and running” date planned. Eventual expansions could increase the square footage to 600,000 square feet.
“It would be about a $30 million facility with 130 to 135 employees — about 80 in the warehouse and others in offices and executive positions,” Wood said. “They typically hire some local people.”
Wood said that so far there are six grocery stores in the metro Atlanta area that would be served by such a facility, but that the plan is for 55 grocery stores to be served.
“They sell the 700 most popular items found in grocery stores,” Wood explained.
Wood showed council members a photograph of a 375,000-square-foot, $30 million facility in Salisbury, N.C., similar to the one proposed for Jackson County. He also had sketches of the proposed local facility, which would have entrances off Hwy. 82/Dry Pond Road. and calls for an extension of the city’s sewage lines.
Taking the city’s watershed area regulations into account, Wood said the plans show a 23 percent impervious area and “a lot of undisturbed area around the stream.”


Junked Cars’ To
Be On Council’s
Agenda Monday
If Monday night's work session is an indicator, the removal of junked cars from Commerce yards and streets will be on the agenda when the Commerce City Council meets Monday night at 6:30 at the Commerce Civic Center.
The item first came up at the April meeting. Since then, said City Manager Clarence Bryant, he has spoken with county officials several times about how their marshals clean up junked cars – as well as perform other tasks.
"The county has agreed to give us a couple of marshals for three half days to go with our guys and maybe a police officer, and do a blitz," Bryant said. "Then they would come back again in 30 days to take action."
Commerce has an ordinance prohibiting the keeping of junked cars – defined as vehicles without tag and insurance – where they are visible from the road or from a neighbor's yard. In short, they must be in a building.
Bryant also said he has asked City Attorney John Stell to determine how the city's two code enforcement officers can be given marshal status.
According to Bryant, David Lanphear, building inspector; and Billy Vandiver, housing inspector, can do nothing about such violations except notify the police, who must make the case. Jackson County uses marshals who have POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) certification.
That would enable Lanphear and Vandiver to not only enforce the ordinance relating to junked cars, but also ordinances dealing with cleanliness of premises, illegal dumping, zoning infractions, bad checks and even the collection of delinquent taxes.
At this point, the city has not decided whether to create a special court to handle the cases, as Jackson County has done.
"They could easily come back and write a couple hundred citations in 30 days," Bryant said, referring to the blitz proposed with county assistance.
Another proposal that came up in the work session was to utilize a Commerce Police officer a half day a month in conjunction with the two code enforcement officers.
Other items on the agenda for this Monday night include:
•appointments from the council to the two joint committees agreed upon in the retreat held by the city council and the Commerce Board of Education. Hardy indicated he will appoint Archie D. Chaney and Richard Massey to the annexation committee and Bob Sosebee and Bryant to the "meet and greet" committee to promote industrial and commercial development.
•authorization of a study of the dam at the Commerce city reservoir – at no cost to the city – by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The study will cover the integrity of the dam and the damage, including life and cost, of the worst-case scenario of a dam break. The result could mean major repairs, Bryant warned, "But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
•a proposal to repair and relocate part of a sewer line crossing a private lot owned by Joyce Wood and Thomas Nicholson off Georgia 98 across from the Quality Foods shopping center. The agreement will require the owners to provide an easement.
•the first public comment on the city's FY 2003-04 budget. Bryant will hit the highlights of a $27.4 million spending plan that will likely see substantial changes before the final budget is approved in July.
•final approval of the future land use plan.