News from Banks County...

MAY 28, 2003

Banks County


Banks County

Banks County

among all
Georgia weekly newspapers
by the Georgia Press Association

June 29, 2001

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Angela Gary
Special memories
to treasure
I was there on the first day of school this year, her senior year. She didn’t know I was coming but I left home early and got there in time to get a photograph of her leaving for the big day. I took her the first graduation gift she would get—a stuffed animal wearing a graduation cap.

Adam Fouche
Fortunes for graduates
Imagine, young graduate, this newspaper as a large oriental meal.
Whether it be sweet and sour chicken, happy family or kung po king prawn doesn’t really matter. But just imagine The Banks County News as your favorite dish.


BCHS Spring Athletic Awards
Banks County High School and the All-Sports Booster Club handed out spring athletic awards Thursday night.
Those who received awards included:

Neighboorhood News ..
Planning board approves Holiday Cemetery Rd. homes
A Jackson County developer got the go-ahead Thursday night to locate a subdivision on Holiday Cemetery Road, but it will not have as many homes in it as he had hoped for.

Odd-Even Water Restrictions Begin Here On Sunday
In spite of an annoying abundance of rainfall in Georgia this month, starting Sunday, new state-wide water restrictions go into effect.

BOC to meet with courthouse architect Fri.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will meet with courthouse architects Friday.

New ‘shared services’ talks could spark controversy
In what could be the first round of some serious local government infighting, the county government and nine municipalities are set to meet next week to discuss updating the local “shared services” agreement.

10th annual Relay for Life ahead
The 10th annual American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Jackson County will kick off at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Peach State Speedway, with activities continuing throughout the night.

State water limits to take effect June 1
Beginning June 1, residents on county and city water systems statewide will have new voluntary water restrictions to abide by, despite the record amounts of rain recently.

TOO WET: Like The Drought, Rainfall Causes Problems
Who would have thought a year ago that we'd be complaining about having too much rain?

Memorial celebration set Thursday
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners and the City of Commerce will hold a Memorial Week celebration on Thursday, May 29.

Neighboorhood News ..
Class of 2003 says goodbye to MCHS
The red graduation caps were finally flung into the air in the Athens Classic Center Friday, marking the end of the high school journey for the Madison County Class of 2003.

Jail open house set for July 4 weekend
Madison County residents will be able to look inside the new county jail this Independence Day weekend with the freedom of no cell door clicking shut behind them.

BOE hires construction firm
County school board members hired Charles Black Construction Company as the school system’s management firm on sales tax funded construction projects Thursday.
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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New Banks County school superintendent Chris Erwin (right) talks with BCMS principal Gloria Gabriel during a meet and greet school board cookout at the high school.

A ‘super’ pick
After a six month long search, Banks County has a new school superintendent.
The school board voted Tuesday morning to hire Christopher Bell Erwin to fill the position to be vacated by retiring superintendent Deborah White.
“I am excited,” Erwin said after the meeting Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to building on the good things Deborah has done and I’ve got some new ideas I’m looking to implement here in Banks County.”
The school unanimously agreed upon the hiring. However, board members John Williams and Neal Brown could not be at the meeting. Williams was tending to an illness in his family.
Brown wasn’t there due to a miscommunication about the announcement of the meeting. At the BOE cookout later that day, Brown said he fully supported the decision and didn’t intentionally miss the meeting.
Erwin said the Banks County school system has made strides in the recent past and he hopes to continue to move the system forward with its new building projects. He also anticipates a smooth transition into his new role with the current administration and has plans to meet with White to go over several issues.
Board chairman Bo Garrison said Erwin will work out a two week notice and likely sign a contract on June 9 or 10. Garrison added that the board was happy with how White has been handling the superintendent search process.
“She’s held herself very professionally over the last six months,” Garrison said. “We have high respect for her.”
The school system employees got a chance to meet Erwin Tuesday afternoon during the board of education cookout at the high school. Hundreds of school system employees filled the high school lunchroom for a formal introduction to their new boss.
He spoke briefly about his excitement to be in a school system he saw going in the right direction. Erwin also fielded questions, telling the employees he plans to move his family to the county.
He comes to Banks County from Carroll County, where he is principal of Central High School.
A native of Savannah and graduate of Stone Mountain High School, he holds a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from the University of Georgia and an education specialist degree in school administration.
He has graduated from the superintendent professional development program and has been a principal at the middle and high school level.
Erwin was also an assistant middle school principal and has taught at the high school and junior high school levels.
His resume lists him as a former football, basketball and golf coach, as well as athletic director at Stockbridge High School in Henry County. Erwin was also chairperson of the fine arts department at the school.
Erwin has a wife and two children, one 14 and one 10-years-old. His son will be entering the ninth grade and his daughter will be a sixth grader.
He said both of his children will be moving in the school system.
“I’m looking forward to having them over here,” he said.
Erwin’s wife works in the medical field and will be trying to get a job in the area, he said.

Trim Time
After examining initial projected revenues, the board of commissioners is seeking more expense cuts to make up for nearly $700,000 to balance next year’s budget.
During budget work sessions in April and earlier this month, total expenses were estimated at about $8.5 million. But so far, revenues have been projected at only $7.8 million, though some revenue projections are only preliminary and could increase as the budget adoption draws nearer.
The board could potentially raise alcohol license fees and permit and building fees to a level similar to surrounding counties, a move that would increase cash flow.
But for the time being, commissioners are demanding more budget cuts from department heads. The board met twice last week to discuss the budget and were scheduled to meet on Wednesday morning this week to hopefully produce a proposed budget for fiscal year 2004, which begins on July 1, 2003.
Following is a summary of several of the departments discussed:
During most years, counties must give a cost of living salary increase to elected county officials—commissioners, judges, sheriff, etc.—equal to the amount the General Assembly gives state employees.
But since the state legislature didn’t give state employees a raise due to budget shortfalls, county officials in Banks County won’t be getting an increase either. It will, however, only have a minor impact on the county budget.
Several other department heads volunteered to forego a raise this year in order to help with an already tight budget.
Fire chief Perry Dalton, zoning officer Keith Covington and building inspector Tony Vento all have said they don’t want a salary increase for the coming budget year.
The commissioners decided to cut the new paving line item in the roads and bridges budget by $50,000. The county will use sales tax revenue to supplement that budget if necessary.
After discussions with chief appraiser Connie Garrison on the need for a county land value reassessment, the commissioners decided to add $60,000 to her budget to begin the reassessment process.
Commissioner Pat Westmoreland said delaying the process would likely force the county into paying fines greater than the cost of the reassessment. Garrison said she would begin seeking bids on the work.
The board also agreed to allow her an additional clerk. She said she would begin advertising and interviewing applicants for that position.
The commissioners sliced the probate court’s requested budget by about $12,000.
The board cut requested funds for poll workers, though they’ll still get a requested salary increase, and funds for ballot costs.
Much to probate judge Betty Thomas’ protest, they also decreased her office expense budget from $13,000 to $10,000.
Due to health problems with a part-time worker, the board decided to leave out that employee’s salary within the probation department. The move will allow that department to break even with expenditures and revenue.
The commissioner made it clear that they did not eliminate the part-time worker’s position. Instead, if the work is able to return to work, she will be relocated to a different county department.
The change trimmed that budget by about $10,000.
The commissioners decreased the magistrate court budget request by just $400, cutting all those funds from travel expenses.
Only $500 in travel expenses was taken out of the superior court clerk’s budget, leaving a total budget request of $159,631.
Initially, the commissioner discussed possibly eliminating funds Sheriff Charles Chapman had allocated for employees.
But commissioner Rickey Cain said the extra employees were likely planned for the new jail, which is slated to open late this year and will require more staff to man it than at the current facility. He also said the county needed the additional road deputies that were added into the budget.
Westmoreland said the budget was probably padded by about $100,000 and suggested slicing five percent off the budget’s bottom line and let Chapman decided where the cuts would come.
The commissioners agreed to decrease his budget by five percent, dropping it to $1,426,327, which is down from a requested $1,501,397.
The board cut about $2,300 from the planning and enforcement department’s requested budget.
The decreases came in travel expenses and gas and oil costs.
The building inspector’s budget dropped about $9,000 after Friday’s work session.
The BOC cut telephone costs, office expenses, travel expenses, education costs, vehicle maintenance and the costs for a new assistant.
The only cut in the extension service’s budget came in education costs, which dropped only $800.
While the commissioners have yet to discuss budget cuts for the fire and EMS department, chief Dalton appeared before them Wednesday asking for changes in the department’s salary scale.
He said some employees weren’t classified under the county’s new salary scale and he suggested possible classification ranges for those employees.
He also asked that the county’s six paramedics be reclassified in order to keep their salaries competitive with surrounding counties.
“If we don’t do something with the salaries based on other counties, we’re going to be paying time and half for what we do have,” Dalton said. “That will be more than paying the current positions what is fair.
Dalton said the EMS department only puts one paramedic on each advanced life support ambulance along with an EMT. He also said a salary increase would keep Banks County from becoming a training ground for paramedics to get a career jump to other counties.
“With these changes, we could compete with the counties drawing our paramedics,” he said.
The commissioners agreed to look at the request and briefly discussed the possibility of increasing ambulance fees to be more in-line with other similar agencies.
Westmoreland also suggested purchasing another ambulance to cut down on maintenance costs.

Statewide voluntary water restrictions take effect June 1
Beginning June 1, residents on county and city water systems statewide will have new voluntary water restrictions to abide by, despite the record amounts of rain recently.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the agency that issued the restrictions, will make them mandatory after a brief implementation period.
The DNR has not released the date when the restrictions will become mandatory.
The restrictions, which are effective year round, establish an odd-even schedule for outdoor watering.
Residents with an odd-numbered address will be able to water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Those with even-numbered addresses may water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Residents can use water outdoors anytime during the 24-hour period of their water use day.
The restrictions do not apply to those who get their water from a well at their home.
The state board of natural resources adopted the statewide drought management plan in late March to help prevent problems in recent years with low lake levels and water shortages.
To learn more about proper outdoor watering techniques, visit

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County looks at plan to put more water in northwest
The Banks County Board of Commissioners is considering a plan to boost the county’s water system in northwestern Banks County.
Engineer Ben Turnipseed told the board Wednesday morning that of the proposed water system projects, improvements along Yonah-Homer Road are the top priority.
The plans include the construction of a 500,000 gallon ground storage tank at Wilson Shoals Wildlife Management Area, an elevated tank near Synthetic Industries, a booster pump station and water distribution system improvements along Yonah-Homer Road. The estimated cost for the project is $941,000.
Turnipseed said the improvements will help reduce the stress of the system in the area during peak times and give the county the ability to run water lines to customers in that area who do not have water availability.
With the plans before them, commissioners are now looking at ways to fund the project.
The county could pull resources from its special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) account to fund the project. The county dedicated a proposed $5 million in the last SPLOST to go to water improvements.
Turnipseed also told board members about a $2.8 million rural development loan, to be paid over 40 years at 4.65 percent interest.
That loan would finance the project and help pay for an additional $9.8 million in water system improvements recommended over the next several years.
Should the county apply for the loan, it may have to raise its water rates by a small amount. According to the terminology of the loan, the county has to either raise rates enough to finance the loan repayment or pick up enough customers before construction is completed to finance the debt payments.
Should the commissioners decide to increase water rates, the hike would likely only affect customers who use more than the 2,000 gallons per month minimum.
Commissioners were adamant about not putting more financial strain on low income residents who use less than the minimum amount of water per month.
The board will likely meet again soon to discuss and vote on possible funding measures for the Yonah-Homer improvements.
Some of the other projects Turnipseed has recommended to improve the water system include the construction of storage tanks off Bennett Road, Fort Lamar Road and Carson Segars Road for roughly $1.1 million.
He has also suggested the construction of a reservoir and water treatment plant off the Hudson River at the county farm at a $4.6 million costs.
There are also plans to increase the Mt. Creek water treatment plant’s capacity from one million gallons per day (mgd) to 1.75 mgd at a cost of $1.7 million. In addition, the future projects include $534,000 for system improvements along I-85, Webbs Creeks Road and Wilson Bridge Road.
The county continues to work to get additional land at Atlanta Dragway for another sprayfield to increase sewage capacity.
Turnipseed told the board Wednesday the county is in danger of losing access to a UDSA grant to fund the project if it doesn’t act on the project soon.
Commission chairman Kenneth Brady said attorneys for Atlanta Dragway are still reviewing lease documents on the land, which has stalled the project for months. He agreed to contact general manager Craig Armstrong and send a letter to the track asking for a letter of intent on the lease to allow county attorney Randall Frost to begin preliminary work on the project and satisfy the USDA.
The county has a meeting slated for Wednesday, June 11, at 2 p.m. with USDA to discuss the project.