News from Madison County...

JUNE 11, 2003


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillespie
Federal gov’t favors big
business over ‘We the People’
Well, folks, the federal government is at it again. They have just made a major ruling that favors big business at the expense of “We the People.” The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to allow even more consolidation in the media. Now one company can own TV stations that reach 45 percent of our population. Major media companies can now operate a newspaper and TV stations in the same city. This action paves the way for all media to be in the hands of a few giant companies.

Margie Richards
Lo siento, no hablo espanol
I put the small translation guide in my back pocket and boarded the plane to Mexico.
I was not on the run.
I was on my honeymoon. And I would greet the Spanish speakers with a smile and a “Como estas?,” replying that I was “muy bien, gracias” and on my “luna de miel con mi mujer.”


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Madison Co. placed in 8-AAAA again
In all likelihood, Madison County will remain in AAAA for at least two more years as the school has been placed in Region 8-AAAA again for 2004-2006 in the Georgia High School Association’s recent proposed realignment.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
County BOE looking at 1-2 mill increase
Move would be 5.5% to 11.5% tax hike
Faced with continuing state cutbacks, the Jackson County Board of Education is looking at a one to two mill tax hike this year to keep the school system in the black.

$27.5 Million Gas Costs, Capital Expenditures Inflate 2003-04 City Budget
Major capital projects and increased anticipated costs for natural gas next winter pushed the city of Commerce's fiscal year 2003-04 budget to $27.5 million.

Jefferson denies rezoning for apartments
A rezoning request to locate a 160-unit apartment complex on Danielsville Street was denied by the Jefferson City Council Monday night.
In a 3-1 vote, the council denied the request from Janice Wilbanks to rezone 19.819 acres from R-2 to R-M for the project.

Large subdivision plan pulled in Braselton
A rezoning request that would have brought a 526-home subdivision in West Jackson has been withdrawn by the applicant, Braselton officials said this week.

$8.7 Million School Budget To Provide Little Cushion In 03-04
Commerce school superintendent Larry White anticipates little cushion in an $8.7 million budget for the 2003-2004 school year, which calls for an approximate one percent increase in spending over last year.

Nicholson’s budget up 18%
With the construction of a new city hall on the way next year, the city of Nicholson expects an 18 percent spending increase in 2003-2004 over what it budgeted last year.

‘Very large’ industrial project looking at county
Local residents could be learning about another major industrial development in the near future, several county officials said last week.
During a meeting of county and municipal leaders on Thursday, several officials boasted of potential industrial projects that will bring both jobs and money to Jackson County.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Tax assessors: County needs re-evaluation

Banks County’s property assessment situation was getting critical.
Assessments are out of line. The state has started imposing penalties. And the county has lost thousands of dollars in potential revenue over the past year because it isn’t collecting the proper amount of tax.

Trial gets under way this week for 2002 murder
The trial of a Banks County man charged with the 2002 murder of a Cornelia businessman continued Wednesday after one of the suspects struck a deal with the district attorney's office and agreed to testify.
Patrick Henry Cagle, 30, Alto, and Thomas Harold Pruitt, 36, Gainesville, were charged in the April 30, 2002, murder of Phillip "Bobby" Fain, 61, Cornelia.

New Baldwin city budget shows town in the black
The Baldwin City Council held the first reading of the city’s 2003-04 budget at Monday’s meeting and for the first time in a few years, the city is in the black.

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The Madison County Journal
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Veterans honored

Veteran W.C. Moncus, and his wife Virginia, of Danielsville, were on hand for the ceremony. Veteran John Thomas, also of Danielsville, was unable to attend.

Citizens urge BOC to implement animal control
Those who feel threatened by animals on the loose in Madison County could eventually have more than the gun in their home to protect them.
Though commisioners took no action on animal control Monday, more than one BOC member agreed with concerned citizens that something needs to be established to help deal with animal problems in the county.
But BOC members said implementing animal control laws and officers can’t be done overnight. There are financial challenges that accompany such a step, said commissioner Bruce Scogin.
“It’s not that the board doesn’t care,” said Scogin, responding to one citizen, who said the BOC seems unconcerned with animal control issues. “It just takes time to get things done. I assure you. We will look into this and do whatever we can.”
Several residents stepped up to the podium to tell commissioners that animal control laws and officers are needed in this county.
Danny Andrews of Hull said he doesn’t feel it’s right for citizens to impose their own vigilante justice on dogs that threaten people or other animals. He said he lost three cats over the past few months to neighborhood dogs.
“If I had shot those dogs last Saturday, if I had done that, they could have turned around and sued me, though their animal came on my property,” he said. “You’re turning people like me into outlaws (by not having animal control). Because by state law, unless you catch an animal in the act, you’re opening yourself up to a lawsuit.”
Commissioner Bill Taylor said he had received complaints that Andrews’ dogs had been out of control. Taylor told him to “practice what you preach.”
Neighbors of the Andrews also spoke up at the meeting, saying they felt threatened by the dogs. But Andrews and his wife Gloria, a veterinarian, said their dogs are highly trained and that the pets visit local classrooms and pose no danger to their neighbors.
Others spoke up about other situations that warrant the need for animal control in the county.
Several residents of Norwood Lane spoke about a neighbor that keeps pitbulls and holds dog fights on his property. They said the man fails to feed the dogs and that the animals pose a danger to kids in the area.
“If y’all can’t do something about it, I’ll show you what a 38 will do to them,” one resident said. “Is that what you want for us — to start toting guns?”
Hoke Strickland took the podium, asking commissioners if they could afford to throw away cash in the same fashion as farmers who lose money whenever their cows or goats are killed by packs of dogs.
“Have y’all got $500, $750, $1,000 y’all can stick in a hole and burn?” Strickland asked commissioners. “That’s what these cattle farmers are dealing with....They can’t do nothing, but if I go and shoot a dog, I get in trouble. Is that fair?”
Veterinarian Paula Loniak said she has lived in several areas of the country and can’t believe that Madison County does not have animal control. She said the county shouldn’t argue about whether animal control is needed, but focus instead on how to implement it. She suggested having licensing fees for dogs and having lower fees for spayed and neutered dogs.
“I think we are way in the Dark Ages,” said Loniak. “This is a no brainer. We need animal control.”
Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter director Sara Mathews also urged the commissioners to implement animal control. She said that she receives calls everyday from people seeking someone to help with an animal problem. She said she feels frustrated continually explaining that the shelter is a dropoff point and is not funded or staffed to be an animal recovery service.
Sheriff Clayton Lowe said his department receives animal complaints on a daily basis, but that the sheriff’s office is not staffed to handle all of the animal calls. He said the department must have more resources to deal with animal control.
“I realize we have an animal control problem,” said Lowe. “But we also have a significant people control problem...We’re stretched thin just dealing with the people without dealing with the dogs. It will take at least three to four people to answer (animal) calls if you’re going to do it 24/7.”
Commission chairman Wesley Nash, who has been widely criticized in recent weeks for not being open to the idea of animal control in the county, said he would be willing to embrace animal control if it is done right. He said an animal control ordinance must “have some teeth” in it and not be a “namby pamby” law that proves ineffectual.
“Any restrictions can be a two-edged sword,” said Nash. “You can slash with it, but it can come back too far and whack your nose off.”
Nash said he fears an animal control law could be abused by those who don’t like their neighbors and decide to call dog control on their neighbors’ animal out of spite. He also said the county should impose a stiff fine for “bailing” a dog out of the shelter after it’s been picked up by dog control. Without this, he said, a person who fails to restrain his dog may simply pick up the dog over and over again, failing to change his ways. A $500 fine, Nash said, would get the attention of the irresponsible pet owner.
“If you do it (impose animal control), do it with backbone,” he said.
Nash added that if animal control is implemented, citizens shouldn’t whine when their dog “Fifi” is picked up by dog control because it was roaming around the neighborhood.
Commissioner Mike Youngblood agreed, saying that people should realize that animal control wouldn’t just affect the “bad dogs,” that people’s household pets could be picked up if they are loose in the neighborhood.
But the commissioner said he does favor an animal control ordinance.
“I think all of us realize we have a problem, and a good starting point is an ordinance,” said Youngblood.
Scogin said he thinks something should be done. After commissioners were asked by one citizen how they would respond if a child was maimed to death by an animal in a county without animal control, Scogin said he would “be heartbroken.” But he said ultimate responsibility over pets comes down to pet owners.
“An ordinance does not take the place of owner responsibility,” he said.


Tobacco ban may be imposed at rec. dept.
Keep tobacco products away from county kids.
That’s the message one local mother pushed Monday to county commissioners, urging the group to ban tobacco products from the county recreation department.
Keribeth Pruett said she wants tobacco products prohibited from all areas of the recreation parks, not just the current ban on use in the bleachers.
Pruett said smokers stand next to the bleachers and blow smoke that is breathed in by kids. She noted that using tobacco products in the presence of children sets a bad example and that the long association between spit tobacco and baseball needs to be broken.
Commissioner Mike Youngblood also spoke of the need to do something to address smoking at the park. He said adults sit behind the backstops at the park and smoke cigars, with the smoke drifting out onto the field.
No action was taken Monday, but the commissioners agreed to have the county recreation advisory board draft a policy on prohibiting smoking at the park.
Recreation director Dick Perpall said the county needs “to make a move” to prohibit tobacco use at the park, but he added that smokers have rights too and that perhaps they could be confined to the parking lot.
But Pruett said that the ban should be on the entire park, including the parking lot. She said she did not want kids to have to run through the parking lot holding their breath to avoid the smoke.
REZONING APPROVED
Also Monday, the board unanimously agreed to approved a rezoning request for a car lot on Hwy. 29. The application was from Calvin Loggins for property owners Joe and Mike Alewine, seeking rezoning of 4.37 acres on Hwy. 29 from A-1 to R-R and B-2.
DFACS FUNDING INCREASED
The commissioners agreed to increase county funding for the Madison County Department of Family and Childrens Services by $2,000 during the next fiscal year. DFACS director Rick Chamberlain told the BOC that there was an increase in the number of children in the legal custody of DFACS over the past year. Chamberlain did not seek an increase in funding for the next fiscal year, but he said the agency may need additional funding in the future. Commissioner Bruce Scogin suggested that the county increase DFACS funding for the next fiscal year from $12,770 to $14,770 and the board approved the proposal.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other matters Monday, the commissioners approved preliminary blueprints for the new county health center. Chairman Nash reported that the county made $21,331 from a recent sale of surplus government equipment, while Sheriff Clayton Lowe said his department brought in approximately $9,000 from the sale of surplus sheriff’s department items. The commissioners approved increases in evironmental impact fees. The BOC also approved the hiring of Dana Parr as a part-time paramedic with the county EMS.


Madison County releases info. on lawsuits, pending litigation
Madison County attorney Mike Pruett submitted on May 28 a summary of the county government’s pending and potential litigation to the county’s auditing firm, Tredwell, Tamplin and Company.
The Madison County Journal recently requested and received a copy of that report from the county commissioners’ office.
Here is a look at what that report included:
•Oakland Estates L.P. vs. Madison County, filed in the Superior Court of Madison County:
This is a constitutional challenge to a denial of an application for rezoning submitted by Oakland Estates L.P. The action seeks rezoning of the property but no monetary damages. Depositions have been taken of the two principals of Oakland Estates L.P.: one of the two expert witnesses hired by Oakland Estates, one of two expert witnesses hired by the county, and the county’s planning and zoning director. The parties have stipulated to a bench trial of the matter.
•Keith R. Hodapp vs. the Madison County Board of Commissioners, filed in the Superior Court of Madison County:
This case regards a filing for garnishment of wages against a county employee...“This appears to be a relatively simple and minor matter that has been made complicated by multiple and improper filings by the pro se plaintiff,” wrote Pruett. “There appears to be little or no liability exposure for the county.” The attorney added that the matter can be cleared up with a hearing before a judge to “unravel the morass of paper that has been filed.”
•William Glenn McLeod vs. Clayton Lowe, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia:
This is a suit brought by a former detainee in the Madison County Jail, alleging denial of medical care. The case is being defended by the law firm of Hall, Booth, Smith and Slover of Atlanta, pursuant to the county’s liability insurance policy with St. Paul. That firm has filed a motion for judgment on behalf of the defendants and “we feel confident that it will be granted,” wrote Pruett.
•Daniel Jack Davis vs. Donald G. Carr, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.
This suit stems from an incident that occurred in the fall of 2000, in which deputies attempted to enforce the noise ordinance at a large party at which a musical group provided live entertainment. The noise was not abated after numerous warnings. A man was taken into custody and filed suit for false arrest. The case is being defended by the law firm of Hall, Booth, Smith and Slover of Atlanta, pursuant to the county’s liability insurance policy with St. Paul. A motion for summary judgment has been filed and “we have confidence that it will be granted,” said Pruett.
•Nettie Mozell Gosnell vs. Michelle Strickland, filed in the Superior Court of Madison County:
This dispute actually does not involve Madison County or any of its officials at all, other than in a nominal capacity. It is a lawsuit between private parties concerning a conveyence of land. Part of the relief sought is cancellation of a deed, and the Clerk of Superior Court, Michelle Strickland, was named as a defendant only so that the court would have jurisdiction to order her to cancel the deed, if that is the result. All parties agree that the county has no stake in the matter. “We have not participated in the case in any active way and are simply awaiting the final order of the court, with which Ms. Strickland will certainly comply,” wrote Pruett.
•Possible litigation in connection with jail construction:
Madison County began construction on a new jail and sheriff’s office in early 2001. The general contractor was Boatwright Construction; the bonding agency was Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company and the architects were Piper O’Brien, Herr Architects. The contract called for the completion of the jail by Dec. 26, 2001. But the job was plagued by defective work and delays. Finally, on March 18, 2002, upon the recommendation and certification of the architect, the county terminated Boatwright’s contract and made demand upon Atlantic Mutual to finish the job, pursuant to its obligations under the bond. The project is now near completion. As to be expected, Boatwright threatened litigation, but no suit has been filed, nor has any communication been received from Boatwright in many months. Pruett said the county has closely monitored this situation for some period of time and has acted at every step in accordance with the recommendations of the architect, the independent construction consulting firm that the county retained for assistance and the attorney specializing in construction law, whom the county also retained to represent it in this matter. “Whether any suit is filed remains to be seen, but if so, the county would certainly expect to prevail,” wrote Pruett.
•Potential litigation with the sheriff’s department incident:
On March 28 a deputy of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department became involved in an altercation with a subject in custody, culminating with the deputy slapping the subject. The deputy was terminated as a result of the incident. No litigation has been filed or threatened; however, an open records act request concerning the incident was received, and “out of an abundance of caution, the incident has been reported to the county’s insurance carrier, St. Paul,” wrote Pruett.
•Threatened litigation from Evariste and Elizabeth Faucher:
In November of 2002, the Fauchers, through their attorney, threatened litigation concerning a road crew’s clearing of brush and timber on an easement across their property. The particular property is subject to an easement to a private cemetery located on the Faucher’s property, for the use of the family members of deceased persons interned there. “The county does on occasion perform services such as this in connection with cemeteries,” wrote Pruett. “And the county’s actions in this instance drew attention only because of a history of longstanding animosity, including litigation between the Fauchers and the easement holders.” The county reported the claim to St. Paul, but denied liability, and no communication from the Fauchers has been received by the county since Dec. 31, 2002.
•David C. Hilley vs. Dennis L. Harbison, filed in the Superior Court of Madison County:
This is a lawsuit arising out of a deputy sheriff motor vehicle in collision with the plaintiff’s, while the deputy was en route to an emergency call. The suit is being defended by Hall, Booth, Smith and Slover. The parties are engaged in settlement negotiations, wrote Pruett.

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To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.


Local veterans honored by postal service
Two county veterans were honored in a ceremony last Thursday at the Danielsville Post office.
The ceremony was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service and the Purple Heart Association of Athens to unveil the Purple Heart definitive postage stamp, which honors veterans who are recipients of the Purple Heart.
The new 37 cent stamp is part of the postal service’s 2003 stamp program, which celebrates people, events and the history of the United States, according to a press release.
Veteran W.C. Moncus, and his wife Virginia, of Danielsville, were on hand for the ceremony. Veteran John Thomas, also of Danielsville, was unable to attend.
Mr. Moncus is a Korean War veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart in January, 1951 and is also a retired postal employee.
Mr. Thomas served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and was awarded the Purple Heart in February, 1965.
“This new stamp honors the sacrifices of the brave men and women who were wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military. When you use this stamp I hope it will remind all of you of the courage of the men and women like Mr. Thomas and Mr. Moncus and the price they’ve paid so that all of us can enjoy living in this great country,” Debbie Lombardo, acting Danielsville Postmaster said during the presentation.


Murder trial set to begin Monday
A Madison County jury will decide the fate next week of an Athens man accused of the September 2002 murder of Willie Frank Smith.
Henry McKinsy Bolton, Jr., 33, of Old Church Road, Athens, who was arrested and charged with the Sept. 14 shooting death of Smith, will stand trial beginning with jury selection Monday, according to Northern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Bob Lavender.
The 46-year-old victim was found lying beside his car on Helican Springs Road early on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 15. Officials believe he was killed sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight the previous evening.
Authorities acknowledged that the victim was shot to death, but declined to release further details of the shooting or a possible motive for the crime. They do believe, however, that the victim and the suspect knew each other.
The Madison County Sheriff’s office, in conjunction with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, made the arrest Sept. 24, at Bolton’s home on Old Church Road “without incident.”


BOC upholds Temple’s firing
Eric Temple will not be rehired as Madison County’s assistant EMS director, commissioners voted Monday.
Temple was fired from the EMS post after testing positive for cocaine use on two drug tests.
A grievance committee of two department heads and three county employees voted 4-1 last week to uphold the firing of Temple. And commissioners voted 5-0 Monday to stand behind the grievance committee’s finding.
The vote followed a 40-minute closed door meeting with commissioners and county attorney Mike Pruett in the commission chairman’s office.
Temple’s attorney, Dean Clark, addressed the commissioners before the closed door meeting, asking the board to consider the fact that Temple’s drug problem was not discovered through an arbitrary test but through a voluntary admission of his drug troubles by Temple to his boss, Dwayne Patton — who was on a scheduled vacation this week and was not at the Monday meeting.
Clark said the first positive finding should not be used against Temple because it was done voluntarily and as a result of him seeking help for his problem.
Two positive results on drug tests lead to dismissal from county employment, but Clark said that in counting the first test against Temple, the BOC will send the message to other county employees who might be battling a drug addiction that they should not seek help for their problem by confiding in their boss.
“In this situation, when an employee voluntarily comes forward, that first test shouldn’t count to the second cut off test,” said Clark. “There is no evidence that Mr. Temple used drugs while on the job or subjected anyone to any harm.”
Temple, who had been employed by the county since 1994, took the podium to address the commissioners, saying that he does not excuse his behavior. But he said he still has the support of many people and that whether the board voted to reinstate him or not he still feels he did the right thing in coming forward with his problem and seeking outside help.
Commissioner Mike Youngblood praised Temple as a paramedic, saying that he has known Temple for eight or nine years and that he has always been someone who could be counted on to do a stellar job.
“As a first responder with the fire department, when I went on a call and I saw Eric come through the door, I knew there was a guy that could handle the situation,” said Youngblood, addressing Temple. “I want you to know, that regardless of the outcome tonight, you are a top notch paramedic.”
Robert Lowery, who was appointed by the commissioners to serve on a regional board dealing with addictive diseases, said he felt the board had two choices, to take the easy “self righteous” route, or to “do what you know is right” and give Temple a second chance. He said Temple took an enormous step in admitting his problem and that he shouldn’t be punished for that.
“If you terminate him, the message you send is don’t seek treatment, because you’ll be fire,” said Lowery. “This encourages people to keep their secret.”
Pruett did address the board in the open session Monday, but he said last week that the county “simply cannot have somebody in a leadership position while he’s testing positive (for drug abuse) during his recovery period.”