News from Madison County...

JUNE 18, 2003


Madison County
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OPINIONS
Frank Gillespie
‘A change of heart in ’04, or a change of legislature in ‘05’
Just as Hamas does everything it can to block peace efforts in Israel, the Georgia Black Caucus is making every effort to prevent racial peace in Georgia. They apparently feel that the only way they can maintain political power is to keep our citizens at each other’s throats.

Margie Richards
24 years, and counting
Anyone who has read what I write for these pages knows I have written a number of times about people who are important to me.
I’ve talked a lot about my parents, both of whom are deceased, and other family members, living and deceased, who are dear to me.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Eagles soccer camp coming to Comer July 14-18
For the second year, Eagles soccer camp is branching out this year to include a week long camp in Comer for soccer players ages 3-12 July 14-18.
The 3-5 year olds will meet each evening from 7:30-8:30 p.m. for the “my first soccer camp” experience, the 6-8 year olds will meet each morning from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and the 9-12 year olds will meet each afternoon from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
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.

‘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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Freedom Festival set June 28 in Jefferson
The Jefferson Area Business Association will hold its annual Fourth of July celebration on June 28.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Deadlocked!

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.

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The Madison County Journal
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A bolt of lightning split an old oak tree in half at approximately 2:30 p.m. Monday afternoon in front of Rogers Baptist Church in Madison County. The mighty blast sent a piece of wood and bark through a window above the front, right door of the church, where it landed in the pew area.

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.
No new trial date has been set.
“We learned yesterday morning that he (the missing witness) was in Ohio,” said District Attorney Bob Lavender. “The judge said to notify him as soon as we locate him and he’ll reschedule the trial.”
Lavender said he was confident the witness will be located.
“We’ll find him,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how long it takes to find him.”
Bolton is charged with the shooting death of Smith. 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.”


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.
The planning commission agreed, unanimously voting to recommend denying a request by developer Anthony Phillips, representing property owners Norma and Willard Harrell, to rezone a 16.9-acre parcel on Rousey Duncan Road from A-1 (intensive agricultural) to R-R (rural residential, two-acre minimum) for a proposed subdivision of seven lots of two acres each.
Commission member Walter Searcy said the proposed rezoning is inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan which calls for larger tracts in that area of extreme northern Madison County.
The board of commissioners will give the final word on the matter at their regular business meeting next Monday night.
In other business, the commission:
•denied two related requests by Larry Payne for property he owns on Helican Springs Road at the Madison/Clarke County line. In the first request, the commission voted 4-2 to deny a rezoning of the 4-acre parcel from A-2 to R-1 in order to subdivide it for an existing home and a future home. In the second request, the commission voted unanimously to deny a request for an area variance for the same parcel due to inadequate road frontage.
•approved a request by Ronald Iski, representing the Curtis Dills Estate, to rezone a 1.35-acre parcel from A-1 to A-2. Iski, who is purchasing the property, wants to swap parcels with a neighboring property owner whose property is zoned A-2.
•voted 6-0 to deny a second request by Ronald Iski to rezone 6.83 acres from A-2 to R-R in order to subdivide it into two parcels of approximately 3.2 and 3.6 acres each. Iski wants to move into an older home on one parcel and deed the other to his daughter for a future home. Several neighbors showed up to protest the rezoning, saying they don’t want to see land in the area divided into smaller lots, since most live on larger tracts (five acres or more) of land.
•approved a request by Phil Munro, representing David Scogin, for a conditional use permit to operate a church on property located just off Hwy. 72 near Colbert. The property requires a conditional use permit because it is zoned A-2. Riverside Baptist Church wants to purchase 14 acres from Scogin to establish a multi-purpose building, and later a sanctuary, there.
•approved 5-1 a request by John Dobbs, representing his mother, Eula Mae Stone, to rezone a 2.62-acre portion of a 7.62-acre tract on A.C. Carey Road from A-2 to R-R. Ms. Stone lives in a manufactured home on the 2.62 acres and wishes to sell the 5-acre tract to her son. Commission member Stacee Farrell provided the lone “no” vote.
•approved 4-2 a request by Don Kesler requesting wall signs for his business larger than one square foot, provided Kesler receives written consent to the signage from property owners located within 300 feet of the signs within 30 days. Bill Holloway and Farrell voted “no” to the recommendation.
•heard that two requests by Deborah Burdette for variances on Gillispie Drive were considered withdrawn because the applicant was not present.


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.
But group chairman Tom Joiner reported Monday that “we’re not as bad in the hole as we thought we were.” IDA treasurer Bruce Azevedo told authority members Monday that the authority has enough money — approximately $45,000 in accounts and CDs — to get through the next few months as long as the group delays paying a $21,000 engineering bill to Carter and Sloope Consulting Engineers, Inc. until loans from the state for the water system upgrades in Hull are approved. (The authority has already paid approximately $30,000 in engineering fees and $11,000 in surveying costs for the Hull system.)
The IDA’s optimism, however, hinges on the authority finally getting approval of those two loans at a total of over $1 million from the state for development of the Hull water system.
The authority has applied for two loans from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA): one for $507,000 at 3.5 percent interest to purchase water lines in Hull from Athens-Clarke County. (The deadline for that purchase has been set back until Dec. 1.)
A second loan of $539,000 is also being considered. This loan is for a well pump, well house, chemical feed building and water line to connect the authority’s current system with the Athens-owned system in Hull. Much of the second loan may be “forgivable” — up to 75 percent of the loan may not have to be paid back.
Madison County Chamber of Commerce president and authority secretary Marvin White said he anticipates that the $507,000 loan will be approved when the GEFA board meets June 26. But he said he doesn’t expect the second loan to be approved by GEFA on that date.
White told authority members that Carter and Sloope had not sent GEFA and the Environmental Protection Division the information they had requested. Joiner seemed troubled by the news.
“This (information) should have been delivered (to GEFA by Carter and Sloope),” said Joiner. “We need to bring this to a head. There’s been too much of this.”
White said that once the loans are approved, construction can get under way, with an approximate completion date perhaps as early as 90 days from the start of the project. He said it’s imperative that the Hull water system project be completed well before the Dec. 1 deadline for the takeover of the Athens system in Hull. The authority has already extended the takeover deadline twice.
“We have got to have this up and running by the end of October,” said White. “We don’t need another extension on this.”
The IDA has agreed to pay approximately $6,000 in debt still owed by the city of Hull for construction of the Athens line in the city. The authority will also pay approximately $40 a day in interest to Athens until the water system purchase is finalized. This will total approximately $7,500 in interest if the actual takeover date is Dec. 1.
White said the IDA will pay back the loans at an approximate rate of $90,000 per year. Authority members passed a resolution Monday declaring that they would provide the revenue to pay back the loans. One major revenue source will be realized once the system is functional. The IDA anticipates at least 300 new water customers — including some 180 currently served by the Athens system in Hull — over the next two years once the water system expansion is completed.
White said the average monthly bill for the customers served by Athens will increase from approximately $30 to $40 per month when Madison County takes over the system in Hull. He emphasized that this includes businesses that use considerable amounts of water and doesn’t mean that citizens will necessarily see such a dramatic increase.
Another increase in revenue for the IDA may come from the Madico Park, the county’s lone industrial park off Hwy. 98. The authority recently installed water meters at the park and the group expects an increase in revenue due to a more precise billing procedure for businesses locatedthere.
Still, another revenue source for the IDA is through property taxes. The IDA levied a .24 mill tax rate this past year, a fraction of what the county government and school boards set. Though the idea of raising the tax rate was mentioned, there was no enthusiasm expressed for the notion, with Azevedo saying he thinks the authority should be able to get by without a tax rate increase.
Once the Hull system is functional, IDA members envision more than an increased revenue base.
On a large scale, the IDA’s expansion efforts in Hull are seen as vital in the county’s quest to attract businesses to the southern portion of the county. Commercial growth is viewed by many as the best way to offset the growing tax burden on county property owners.
“This (the Hull system) is a constant growth feeder,” said BOC chairman and non-voting IDA member Wesley Nash. “We’re not here to make money. We’re here to grow.”

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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.


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.” He said new floors at Danielsville Elementary School are already in place, with installation of new flooring at Comer, Colbert and Madison County Middle School set to begin this week.
County voters approved renewal of a one-cent sales tax for school improvements in March. Those funds will pay for expansion of the cafeterias at Danielsville Elementary and MCMS— along with a new walkway between those two schools and renovated locker rooms and expanded restrooms on the seventh and eighth grade halls at MCMS.
SPLOST funds will also be used for eight additional classrooms at Ila Elementary, five new classrooms and drop ceilings at Comer Elementary, five new classrooms, wiring work and an intercom system at Colbert Elementary, a 180-seat fine arts theater at the high school and a sports complex across the street from the high school, including a cross country course, a track and soccer field with bleacher seating, a baseball field, tennis courts and a practice field for the marching band.
McGhee said that “expansions” funded through SPLOST, such as the two cafeterias and the 180-seat theater, should begin within six weeks and be completed two to three months after the starting date.
He said SPLOST-funded “additions,” such as the new class wings at the elementary schools should be completed by the end of the first semester of the upcoming school year.
The sports complex is expected to be completed in February, except for those sports played on grass.
“We’re looking around mid February for the tennis courts and the track,” said McGhee. “But we probably won’t have any athletics on grass until after the summer growing season.”