News from Madison County...

JUNE 25, 2003


Madison County
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OPINIONS
Frank Gillespie
Reduce taxes and strip away gov’t programs
The President’s tax cut is set to take effect in a few days. The Democrats are crying about the unfairness of the tax. They issue their usual cry that the tax favors the rich, that there is nothing in it for the nation’s poor.

Margie Richards
The bad rap on ‘the environmentalist’
Say “environmentalist” and many conjure the image of a scraggly haired man, with sandals, some weed, a peace pipe and the lack of a good job.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

McCain takes sixth in 144-player field at Georgia State Jr. Championship
Macon’s Idle Hour Golf Club might be becoming Seth McCain’s home course away from home.
After winning his first event of the year there back in January, the Comer teen fired a 68 on the course on the final day of the Georgia State Junior Championship to finish sixth out of a 144 person field this past Wednesday.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Citizens plan BOC suit
Five Jackson County citizens announced plans this week to sue the board of commissioners unless it allows citizens to vote on the financing of the proposed new courthouse.

OUCH!
Low Bid For New Commerce Sewer Plant
20% Over EstimateAfter years of preparation, the bids for Commerce's new sewer plant came in last Thursday.
They were high. More than 20 percent over the engineer's estimate for the 2.1 million-gallon-per-day treatment plant.

Excerpts from notice given to BOC Tues.
“This letter shall serve as an ante-litem notice to Jackson County, Georgia and to you as its governing body in compliance with O.C.G.A. 36-11-1 and all other applicable law, of my clients’ intention to bring suit against Jackson County should you fail to cease and desist from proceeding further with your illegal and unconstitutional plan to deprive the voters of Jackson County, Georgia of their constitutional right to vote on the new debt which you are planning to incur and assume in order to construct a new proposed Jackson County Courthouse....”

BJC Authority Considers Hiring Management
Firm; Decision To Be Made Monday Night
Nine members of the BJC Medical Center Authority will decide Monday night whether to enter a five-year management contract with Quorum Health Resources.

Herald wins 9 state press awards
The Jackson Herald won nine awards in the Georgia Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest, including first place for the best editorial page among large weekly newspapers in the state.

Weekend festival set
Pony rides, a mechanical bull, a folk art exhibit, bluegrass music and numerous other activities will be featured at the Freedom Festival coming up Saturday in Jefferson.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Hands of the potter

The third annual Potters Festival held last Saturday in Homer was called a “huge success” by organizer and well-known potter Steve Turpin.
“This was a great show,” Turpin said. “We had people from all over the country here.”

Gillsville council works to meet restoration grant deadline
The Gillsville City Council is working hard to meet a deadline for a grant that could help restore the historic buildings downtown.
Council member Ronnie Whiting said at last week’s work session the grant application was due on July 11. The grants are awarded for $20,000 to $40,000.

BOC to buy new ambulance with SPLOST
Banks County EMS will soon have a new ambulance on the road.
The commissioners agreed Thursday to chief Perry Dalton’s request to buy a new med unit to replace one of the county’s aging vehicles.

Developers, come to Baldwin
In an effort to stir development, the Baldwin City Council has unanimously agreed to reduce impact fees from $2,500 to $1,150 per new residence or new business.

Homer fireworks planned July 4
The Homer Volunteer Fire Department will be sponsoring the annual July 4 fireworks display.

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The Madison County Journal
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Summertime fun

Annie Chambers, 8, Heyleigh Almand, 3, and Devin Almand, 6, play in the water at Watson’s Mill Park Monday.

Schools back on solid fiscal footing
While other school systems around the state are struggling financially, the Madison County schools’ dark days of severe fiscal frustrations now appear more a remembrance than reality.
After two years of steep property tax increases, Madison County had a slight rollback in its tax rate last year and school leaders expect to keep the tax rate fairly steady this year.
Superintendent Keith Cowne said he expects this year’s tax rate — or millage rate — will be within a few hundredths of a point above or below last year’s rate, depending on final tax digest figures for this year, which show the county’s total taxable land value.
“We’ll be close,” said Cowne, meaning that this year’s rate will resemble last year’s.
Madison County’s school board will pass the 2003-2004 fiscal year budget Thursday, up approximately nine percent from this year’s figure, from $30.3 million to $33 million. The BOE will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday in the high school media center, then meet at 6:30 p.m. to pass the budget.
School leaders anticipate approximately $7.4 million in local revenues from property taxes in 2003-2004, up from $7.2 million in 2002-2003 and $22.3 million in state funds, up from $21.5 this year.
Though state funding will increase, Cowne noted that the county school system actually qualified for an additional $600,000, according to the schools’ Full-Time Equivalency (FTE) count of students. But that additional funding was lost amid state budget cuts this year.
The new budget will include no across-the-board teacher salary increases as seen in recent years. Cowne noted that last year’s 3.5 percent increase, though mandated by the state, included no state funding for the raises.
However, the budget does address several needs, such as funding for a school nurse position at the middle school. The high school now remains the only county school without a nurse. Cowne said the school board plans to eventually create a nurse position there as well.
The budget will allow for the hiring of an additional art teacher, meaning that Colbert and Hull-Sanford Elementary schools will now share music and art teachers, while Danielsville and Ila Elementary schools will do the same. Comer Elementary School already has both a music and an art teacher.
Cowne said the budget also provides for the hiring of five additional school bus drivers.
“We’re pleased that we will be able to continue to improve services without any substantial increase in taxes,” said Cowne.
The superintendent noted that the school system expects a surplus of some $3 million at the end of the next fiscal year, up from approximately $2 million this year and $800,000 last year.
“We’re happy that we’ll be able to have that ending balance,” said Cowne. “That will give us some flexibility. We have a lot of projects going on. And we will have the option of using some of that money if we need it.”
The county school board has faced dire financial times in recent years, having to borrow money and increase the tax rate by some five mills over a two-year span.
Cowne said the financial turnaround has been a “combination of things.” He noted that the system has qualified for several hundred thousand dollars in grant funds by requiring middle school teacher certification like most other school systems. He said the county school system has qualified for more “equalization” funds, which he explained “level the playing field” between poorer and richer systems.
Cowne said the school board has been involved throughout the budget process, showing “good stewardship.” School board members have been criticized in years past for not taking an active role in budgeting.
“We’ve tried to be prudent,” said Cowne. “We’ve tried to look for ways to spend money that will eventually save money.”


BOC agrees to hire six new jailers
Madison County’s jail staff will increase from 12 to 18 when the new jail opens this summer.
Sheriff Clayton Lowe told commissioners Monday that a larger jail will require more personnel and the BOC voted to add six jailers and a part-time cook.
Lowe said the new jail will require a “four-post” staff, with four jailers to be on the job during three shifts each day. He said one jailer will work the central control room of the jail, one will work in the control tower, one will “roam” the cell areas and one will handle booking.
The total cost of the additional jail staff will be approximately $63,675 for the rest of 2003.
Lowe said the new personnel will participate in a special two-week basic training for jailers taught by the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association in early August in Madison County. The jailers will then be taught specifics about the Madison County jail, such as “what button does what,” Lowe said.
The sheriff said the jail should be able to expand in years to come to 120 beds without increasing its jail staff. He said a 120-bed jail could also be served by a “four-post” jail staff.
County commissioners also approved more equipment for the jail Monday, such as two copying machines, including one color copier, and a soap dispensing machine for the kitchen dishwasher.
Commission chairman Wesley Nash said the jail “is really coming along,” noting that filing cabinets were installed Monday and that sod work outside of the jail is complete. He said two truck loads of furniture for the administrative portion of the jail are due in next week.
Madison County commissioners plan to hold an “open house” for the new jail next week, Friday through Sunday, July 4-6, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.
In a related matter Monday, the commissioners agreed to allow Lowe to lease a new patrol car with funds from a recent county surplus sale. Lowe reported that his department is still in need of five new patrol cars.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other matters Monday, the commissioners passed a resolution that will allow Jackson EMC and Georgia Power to provide information to the county about mobile home utility connections. This will help the county track down delinquent taxpayers.
The commissioners agreed to hold a work session at 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 29, in the county government complex meeting room to discuss amending the personnel policy and animal control.
The board agreed to allow the Victim’s Assistance Program to use the Strickland House off Hwy. 98 as an office.
The commissioners approved the promotion of Joshua Smith and Gregory Barnes from part-time to full-time emergency medical technicians.
The board did not approve a request by EMS director Dwayne Patton to reclassify the assistant director’s position to a higher paid, 40-hour a week position that doesn’t include additional hours as a paramedic. The board suggested that the EMS consider establishing shift supervisors at its stations.
On a related note, personnel coordinator Connie Benge said she is seeking input from commissioners, department heads and employees on an overall update to the employee classification system.
The board also approved a $1,900 purchase of an icemaker for the senior center.


Madison County Journal wins 10 state awards
The Madison County Journal won 10 awards in the Georgia Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest, including a second place award for general excellence.
The staff won first place awards for lifestyle coverage and sports section. Zach Mitcham also won a first place award for serious column.
The staff won second place awards for newspaper promotion and religion coverage. Margie Richards also won a second place award for feature writing and Mitcham won a second place for sports column.
Ben Munro won a third place award for sports column. The Journal also won a third place award for business coverage.
MainStreet Newspapers, which includes The Madison County Journal, The Jackson Herald, The Commerce News and The Banks County News, won a total of 35 awards in the state newspaper contest.
The awards were presented at the Georgia Press Convention held over the weekend in Panama City Beach, Fla.

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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.


Colbert preparing for July 4 celebration
The city of Colbert is preparing for its 34th annual Fourth of July celebration next Friday.
The day will begin with Colbert’s Canna Run, a five K and one-mile race. Registration will be at 6:30 a.m. at Colbert Elementary School. The five K run will be at 7:30 a.m. and the one mile race begins at 8:30 a.m.
The big parade will be at 10 a.m. Barbarianne Gaulding-Russell will be the Grand Marshal. The Parade Master of ceremonies will be WNGC’s Morning Show crew, Tim Cacciarelli and Shana Vaughn with Roscoe. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Following the parade and opening ceremonies, a live show emceed by “Crazy Old Roscoe Pucannon” will begin, along with the renowned Colbert barbecue lunch.
Performers scheduled to appear under the big oak trees include Danny Anthony, Double Shot, The Songsters, Brandy Rock Mountain, Doris Aldrich and others. The show will feature bluegrass, gospel, country and “everything in between,” organizers said.
A large group of arts, crafts and food concessions will be featured with many other exhibits. Some Colbert history will be featured and the earliest known home in the city, a log cabin built in the 1800s, will be open. Also, the Colbert Museum in the Old Seaboard Depot will be on exhibit.
Colbert officials would also like to honor any service person from Madison County who was called to military service during the Iraq conflict. Anyone who served in the war or with a relative in the conflict can contact city hall at 788-2311.
MORE ABOUT THE GRAND MARSHALL
This year’s Grand Marshall, Barbarianne Gaulding-Russell grew up and spent most of her adult life in Colbert. She was instrumental in the forming of Colbert’s Independence Day celebration and has served as president of the Colbert Improvement Club.
She was chairperson for the first seven years and has been in charge of arts and crafts exhibits for the past 27 years.
Organizers said Russell has spent “untold hours toward the betterment of her community.”