News from Jackson County...

JUNE 18, 2003

Jackson County

Jackson County
Jackson County


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Summer Baseball Team To Play For Trip To State Monday
A best-of-three series with Lumpkin County next week stands between a return trip to state for the Commerce Recreation Department’s 15-17-year-old summer baseball team.

JHS’s Keen now among Georgia’s coaching greats in GACA Hall of Fame
DALTON, GA. — Legendary Jefferson coaching icon Jack Keen was inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Saturday along with five fellow coaching greats from the state.
Keen’s career spanned 45-years, with stops at three Georgia high schools along the way.

Tourneys conclude; district preparations underway
The Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department’s Lamar Murphy Park will take center stage in the coming weeks, as the District 7 All-Star boys Little League tournaments come to Jefferson on June 25-30.

Neighborhood News...

Banks County Superior Court Judge Joe Booth declared a mistrial Friday in the murder trial of Thomas Harold Pruitt after a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case.

Madison calls for investigation on possible jury contamination
Two male jurors were removed Friday from the jury hearing the murder trial of Thomas Harold Pruitt after they admitted to having a “lengthy” conversation with two defense witnesses.

Lone citizen shows up for BOC budget hearing
One Banks County citizen attended a very brief public hearing on the proposed $8.4 million county budget Thursday.
Lou Sokowoski told commissioner Rickey Cain and BOC chairman Kenneth Brady he was very concerned with comments made about the sheriff’s office budget.

Porno in Alto
Adult books in the new Shell convenience store on Gainesville Highway in Alto has concerned some residents, some of whom spoke at the council meeting last week.

CVB announces dedication plans on Banks Crossing beautification
Plans are moving ahead for an official dedication ceremony and weekend celebration at Banks Crossing to celebrate the culmination of the beautification project that was originally started in 1997.

Neighborhood News...
Murder trial delayed due to missing witness
The trial of Henry McKinsy Bolton Jr., who is accused of killing Willie Frank Smith of Athens, has been postponed, as authorities search for a missing witness.

Planners deny residential rezoning in Harrison
Several property owners in the rural community of Harrison near Royston told the planning commission Tuesday night that they’d rather have chicken houses on neighboring property than see it split up into small tracts by a developer for a subdivision.

IDA finances tight as group awaits approval of loans for water system
Madison County Industrial Authority (IDA) members have been concerned in recent months about a shortage in funding for authority operations.

Madison Co. school SPLOST projects moving forward
Madison County school improvement projects funded with local sales tax money are underway.
Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations Mitch McGhee said all flooring work funded through the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) should be completed “within two and a half to three weeks.”
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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Todd Autry, 8, Jefferson, participated in the 4-H fishing day Saturday at Crow’s Lake in Jefferson.

BOC sets hearing on courthouse financing for July 11
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners has set a public hearing to discuss financing a new courthouse.
The hearing will be held at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 11, at the Grand Jury Room in the E-911 complex in Jefferson.
The county is working toward a lease-purchase agreement with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia for a new courthouse. The program calls for the ACCG to serve as the “third party entity,” essentially holding the title to the facility until the lease is paid off.
A final cost for the courthouse has not been given, but the BOC has approved a $22 million design. Holder Construction will present the “guaranteed maximum price” at a meeting set for 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 27, at the Grand Jury room.

‘Celebrate Braselton’ planned for July 3-4
The Town of Braselton is planning its first-ever town-sponsored July festival on July 3 and 4 in the town’s park.
The festival will include booths and a mini Braselton museum on both days, as well as a concert on the night of July 3 and a car show on July 4. There will also be a parade, with prizes awarded for the best floats, and a variety of children’s activities.
Booth registration, parade registration forms, car show information and “I Want to Help” forms are available at Town Hall.
On Thursday, July 3, the booths and historical display will open at 4 p.m. A concert will start at 7 p.m. and conclude at 10 p.m.
On Friday, July 4, the booths will open at 8 a.m. A parade will be held at 10 a.m. and the historical display and concert will start at 11 a.m.
Registration for the car show will begin at 12 p.m. with judging ending at 3 p.m. A bell ringing ceremony is set for 2 p.m. The booths will close at 8 p.m.
Town veterans are invited to serve as grand marshals and the children of any soldiers on active duty are invited to help with the parade route flag handout. For more information or to volunteer to help, contact Jennifer Scott, town manager, at 654-3915 or

City Lights To Sparkle This Weekend
Members of the Commerce Area Business Association got a final update on this week’s City Lights Festival at last Wednesday’s meeting.
Jan Nelson, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, went over the events.
The Thursday golf tournament, she said, is full with 25 teams, but up to two more may be accepted.
“We still need door prizes of at least $50 or more,” she said, adding that the committee in charge of that event is still seeking celebrity golfers.
Volunteers are still needed for the Dinner With the Stars Thursday night, featuring an Italian theme, Nelson said.
Anyone wishing to help may call Rose Richard at 335-9388.
For the Friday and Saturday downtown festival, as of last Wednesday, Nelson said she had booked nine food and 19 craft booths and was aware of two businesses (Jay’s Department Store and the Joy Shoppe) that plan to hold sidewalk sales.
“I expect to get quite a few more booths,” Nelson stated.
She offered little information on the main event – the Friday concert – but noted that the Commerce Kiwanis Club is handling the parking and could also use volunteers.
Nelson solicited volunteers for the Star Chase 5K Road Race and Fun Run planned Saturday morning.
“We need people at intersections to point the way so we don’t get any people lost,” she said.
Jimmy Waldroup asked members to purchase at $13 apiece the plaques to be given to people who show antique cars in the Cars-n-Stars Car Show on Saturday. The plaques feature a photo of the Community Bank & Trust building where Bill Anderson wrote “City Lights,” his first big hit.
“We’re hoping to have a world of cars, but we don’t know for sure how many we’ll have,” he said. “We could have 25 or we could have 200.”
The festival will close Sunday night with the “Night of Good News” free gospel concert at Spencer Park.
In a related matter, Linda Potts invited members to the official opening Friday at 11 a.m. of the “Bill Anderson Showcase” in the bank’s old board room. Anderson will be present for the event and will sign autographs, she said.
“This will continue to grow each year as he gives us more items to display,” Potts stated.
The room will also be open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday for Anderson fans to visit.
In other business at the Commerce Area Business Association meeting:
•the group agreed to hold no meeting in July.
•Susan Harper, director of the Commerce Public Library, announced that there are plans to hold a women’s tap dancing class in September. Anyone interested should contact Harper or Kim Sellers.

Chairman blasts editor
For the fifth time this year, Jackson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Harold Fletcher berated newspaper editor Mike Buffington at a public meeting.
During Monday night’s monthly BOC meeting, Fletcher berated Buffington on three occasions, although never by name. Instead, as he has done in the past, Fletcher referred to Buffington as “Shorty” and said that his only qualification to be editor is that his “Mama and Daddy gave him a job.”
In February, during the BOC’s failed attempt to take over the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, Fletcher attacked Buffington’s writing, saying he “uses rope-a-dope tricks to confuse the people of this county.”
In a number of columns and editorials in The Jackson Herald, Buffington has been critical of the Fletcher administration’s handling of several controversial issues, including efforts to build a new courthouse, the 2001 takeover of the former city-county planning commission, and the 2003 effort to take over the water authority.
At this week’s meeting, Fletcher first criticized Buffington during auditor Duane Schlereth’s presentation of the 2002 audit.
“Duane, you are a CPA. You are an expert in fiscal affairs. You are a person who puts themselves out as an expert to the general public as being an expert. I’m trying to establish that you are eminently qualified in your field. As such, I ask you a question.
“....Contrast you with someone else. Someone whose only claim to his position to be able to criticize is that his Mama and Daddy gave him a job. If he makes a statement that this is the ‘most wasteful, spend-thrift commission that this county has ever seen,’ we would have to theorize that that person had some agenda that is not based on fact...”
Fletcher again criticized Buffington’s editorials when it came time to make appointments to several boards. He quoted an editorial recently written about upcoming appointments to be made by the BOC.
“In our local paper, on May 28, we had some comments on ‘The BOC is looking for a few good puppets. If you are a wishy-washy individual who likes being a puppet for other people, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners wants you.’
“These comments, quite frankly, are an affront to and a slap in the face to the fine men and women who currently serve as well as those who will serve in the future on these boards, authorities and commissions. Coming from the person that they did, we’re not surprised. It is yet another example of how low this individual will go in his pursuit.’”
Fletcher then read a quote from President Andrew Jackson that “one of the greatest potential threats to a free society is a fool with a printing press.”
“Maybe Old Hickory knew our friend, Shorty,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher’s last comments directed at Buffington Monday came at the end of the meeting during the time set aside for chairman’s comments. Fletcher spoke on the courthouse effort and responded to Buffington’s opinion that the proposed financing is not “constitutional.”
Fletcher said that since 1989, when the law was changed allowing the Association County Commissioners of Georgia to assist counties, more than one-half billion dollars in similar county projects have been funded across the state.
“This consists of everything from courthouses to automobiles,” he said. “This has been going on since 1989. I feel certain that if this were unconstitutional some smart lawyer would have already pursued this. I’m sure that there have been others that have questioned this that are far smarter than those who are currently questioning it.”
Fletcher also compared the courthouse project to several recent actions by the City of Jefferson.
“In June of 2002, the City of Jefferson purchased the Wilkins Building for $850,000. They borrowed $1 million at that time. In December of that same year, they transferred ownership of that facility to their own public building authority and took back a lease purchase option that will allow them, at the end of that period, to purchase that building for $10. At the time this transfer was made, there was a security deed given by the Jefferson Public Building Authority to the tune of $2 million. As I’ve said, this arrangement allows a lease-purchase for funding of that facility.
“You may say that sounds familiar. Well, that is exactly what the county board of commissioners is proposing to do, only we are going to be doing it with the ACCG. (It’s) an almost identical funding mechanism. The City of Jefferson has already done this.”
Fletcher also said that the City of Jefferson recently purchased 100 acres of land with a similar deal.
“Both of those projects were done without any public meetings or any allowance for any input during public hearings. They were voted on simply by the council and mayor. I think it might be appropriate that I say at this time that I fully concur with what the City of Jefferson did. I think they were very far-sighted in financially having pursued this. I commend them and congratulate them on their willingness to do this.
“I simply raise this as an example that what this board is doing is consistent with what others have already done. And to say to anyone who raises the question of constitutionality that there are tremendous precedent not only in this county, but in other counties.”

County Water Authority Unhappy About $24 Million Debt On Its Audit
JEFFERSON — Members of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority didn’t seem pleased on Thursday to see the $24 million debt for the Bear Creek Reservoir placed on their audit, despite agreeing to the move three months ago.
The Bear Creek Reservoir, which provides a water supply reservoir and water treatment plant in South Jackson, is shared among Barrow, Oconee, Athens-Clarke and Jackson counties. The Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority, the managing board of the reservoir, issued bonds for the project, of which Jackson County must pay more than 41 percent of the project.
And even though the Jackson County Board of Commissioners has the legal authority to pay the bonds, the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority placed the debt and asset of the project on its 2002 audit.
“I guess that’s going to have to grow on me a little bit,” said authority chairman Elton Collins. “I just don’t understand putting that debt on our balance sheet when it’s not our obligation. It’s like me putting my laundry on your balance sheet.”
“It just looks like, to me, a distortion of the presentation of the financial statement,” he added.
The JCSWA plans on paying for the reservoir through water sales. If it doesn’t have enough funds through water sales to meet the debt payments, the county commissioners are then obligated to pay the debt.
By leaving the $24 million debt payment off the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority’s audit, it would appear the agency is making too much money, explained Durane Schlereth of the auditing firm Bates, Carter and Co.
The measure was also a matter of matching revenue and expense, despite who has which legal obligations for the Bear Creek Reservoir, Schlereth said.
“It has caused me some hesitation, too, because of that very question,” he said.
State officials were also contacted on the issue, Schlereth said, because of the precedence of financing the project. Jackson County plans on paying for the reservoir, which began providing water last year, until 2027.
“It is unusual,” he said. “And we are treading on ground that’s not hard and fast.”
“If we don’t show it, what kind of picture are we showing,” Schlereth questioned.
The authority approved the presented audit, without amending it. Bates, Carter and Co. issued a “clean opinion” of the audit, Schlereth said.
Another item audit discussed on Thursday was the operating income of the authority, which ended 2002 in the black.
The authority reported an operating revenue of $2.52 million last year, while operating expenses totaled $2.23 million. A $290,492 surplus was accounted for last year. In 2001, the authority had $1.49 million in operating revenue and $1.71 in operating expenses, according to the audit.
In other business, the Jackson County Water and Sewage Authority:
• approved a 10-year maintenance contract with Utility Service Holding Co., Inc. for the county’s five water tanks for $853,000. Bluegreen Communities will pay a one-time $60,000 fee to have the exterior of the Hwy. 124 water tank painted with the Traditions of Braselton logo.
• learned the projected revenue from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) is $175,149 less than expected through April. Collins said retail sales are lagging and may be pointed to more customers headed to the Mall of Georgia in Gwinnett County than heading further north to the Tanger Outlet Center in Banks Crossing.
• learned the Jackson County Water and Sewage Authority is now the largest water provider in the county with 3,386 customers.



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Jackson ends 2002 in the black
Owing largely to a large tax hike in late 2001, the Jackson County government ended 2002 in the black.
During the year, the county took in $31.7 million and spent $29.3 million, not including funds for the airport authority and health department.
Public safety continued to dominate the largest share of county expenses at $9.4 million. Capital outlay projects also accounted for a large share of the expenses in 2002 at $4 million for the year.
One of the fastest growing parts of the county government in 2002 was for “general government” expenses, which for the first time topped the amount spent in Jackson County on public works, usually the second largest area of county expenses. In 2002, expenses for the general government grew to $3.5 million, up from $2.7 million the year before.
The general government category includes the office of county manager, county finance, human resources, county commissioners, board of appraisers, tax commissioner, board of registrars, courthouse, purchasing, protective inspection, planning and zoning, maintenance, administration building, county agent, economic development and several smaller expenses.
During the year, the county manager’s office expenses went from $129,700 in 2001 to $206,900 in 2002. In the same period, the county finance department went from $239,100 to $326,500 while commissioner expenses went from $467,500 to $529,600.
But the largest departmental jump was in planning and zoning where expenses went from $152,000 in 2001 to $306,100 last year.
In public safety, a large impact on the audit was pay increases for employees at the county jail and sheriff’s office.

BOC postpones appointing water authority members
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners postponed action Monday night on appointing two people to serve on the county water and sewerage authority.
The terms of Tom Crow, who represents District 1 (Jefferson area), and Keith Ariail, who represents District 2 (Commerce area), end on June 30.
Commissioners Sammy Thomason and Stacey Britt both asked that the BOC wait to fill these vacancies until the next meeting, which will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 7, at the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
There have been strong indications that both Crow and Ariail will be booted off the water authority and replaced by members who would agree to the BOC having more control over the operations of the authority. Several members of the BOC have wanted to move the day-to-day operations of the authority to a county department under the county manager, in the process firing water superintendent Jerry Waddell, a former county commission chairman.
Early this year, the BOC attempted to take over the water authority, but failed when state leaders refused to change the authority’s charter. Both Crow and Ariail were critical of the takeover effort, which was led by Britt and commissioner Emil Beshara.
At Monday’s meeting, Beshara asked when authority chairman Elton Collin’s term would be up. It will end on June 30, 2004.
“That’s all I wanted to know,” Beshara said.

Freedom Festival set June 28 in Jefferson
The Jefferson Area Business Association will hold its annual Fourth of July celebration on June 28.
Called the Freedom Festival, the event in downtown Jefferson will feature a street dance and games for children, a band, fireworks and various vendors.
JABA and Jefferson Better Hometown will sponsor a “decorate your business” contest as the Freedom Festival approaches. Local businesses are asked to decorate in red, white and blue. Judging will be held Friday, June 27. The winners will be announced during the festival on Saturday, June 28.
For more information on the contest, contact Donna Butler at 367-5307.