News from Jackson County...

JULY 2, 2003


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A complete history of Jackson County, Georgia from 1796 to the present. Written in narrative style for easy reading. Includes material not found in other books about Jackson County.

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SPORTS

State Awaits
The Commerce 14-and-under boys’ all-star baseball team punched its ticket to Adel July 9-12 for the state tournament after picking up three straight wins this past week in taking the district championship in Cleveland.

Jefferson 9-10 team wins district title; Jackson Co. squads move on to state
After a feverish few days of action at Lamar Murphy Park in Jefferson, three local teams extended their postseason lives a bit further and assured themselves that baseball will be played in July.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
BCHS, BCPS principals hired

The Banks County Board of Education filled two of its administrative positions last week.
Former Jefferson High School principal Art Wheaton was tapped to be the new principal at the high school.

Piping mad over water
Trotters Glen resident George Payne spoke at the Baldwin City Council meeting on behalf of the residents of the subdivision and voiced his concerns over the low water pressure and questionable water quality being provided to them through the city’s system.

Rep. Jamieson to speak at dedication
Rep. Jeanette Jamieson will cut the ribbon and serve as the keynote speaker at the Banks Crossing beautification project dedication ceremony planned by the Banks County Convention and Visitors Bureau on Thursday, July 10.

Scoreboard, fencing going up at athletic complex
With the new high school athletic complex taking shape, workers are ready to begin installing some of the auxiliary items associated with the facility.

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


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
Pomp, parade, patriotism....
The city of Colbert is preparing for its 34th annual Fourth of July celebration this 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.

Bank robber remains at large
A man who robbed the Danielsville branch of Merchants and Farmers Bank on Monday remains on the loose.

Shelter holds open house; debuts spay/neuter clinic
Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter staff, volunteers and board members celebrated their first six months of operation last weekend with an open house that included a barbecue lunch, games, a raffle, face painting, and an agility course. The steady stream of visitors to the shelter were able to tour the facility and see the many animals available for adoption.

Two charged with seven Madison Co. burglaries
Two people have been arrested in connection with burglaries of four convenience stores and three elementary schools in Madison County.

IDA approves bids for Hwy. 29 project
The county industrial authority last week approved low bidder E.R. Snell Construction Company to install acceleration and deceleration lanes for Alewine Development on Hwy. 29 just north of the Hwy. 29 - Glenn Carrie Road intersection.

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FIREWORKS LIGHT UP SKY

The Jefferson Fire Department set off fireworks Saturday evening in Jefferson as part of the town’s “Freedom Festival.” Mark Howington, Jefferson, holds his daughter, Abbie, 2, while they watch the night sky. See page 1C for more photos from the festival.

UPDATE 07-07-03
More than 200 attend citizen's rally
"You do not meddle with multi-million dollar projects without drawing return fire," advised Wycliffe Orr Jr. last Thursday as he rallied his clients toward a suit against the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. "And return fire has been drawn."
More than 230 people turned out on the evening before July 4 —a date referenced several times during the one-hour meeting — and appeared enthusiastic about call to arms over the county's plan to finance its proposed new courthouse.
If anyone was intimidated by the threat of countersuit issued for the county last week, there was no sign of it Thursday night in a rally viewed as the first step in what could be a long process.
Orr is counsel for "Concerned Citizens of Jackson County," which as of last Thursday was five individuals who have provided legal notice of their intent to sue Jackson County for not letting citizens vote on the financing of the new courthouse.
The commissioners will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. Friday morning in the E-911 office, a legal requirement before they can embark on the $25 million lease-purchase proposal with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG).
Concerned Citizens is challenging the move, arguing that it is a circumvision of the constitutional requirement that any new debt be approved by voters. That mechanism, provided for by general statute in the 1980s, is used by countless city and county governments to buy everything from police cars to computers.
"The real issue here is whether or not what the commissioners (are doing) constitutes debt within the meaning of the Constitution of the state of Georgia, or whether or not it is a legitimate use of a statute passed by the legislature in the 1980s. The contention legally is that this is, in reality, debt," Orr stated.
Orr will argue in court that the statute "was not intended to allow local government to do an end run around the voters of things that are going to obligate them to the tune of millions of dollars."
"It is debt, pure and simple," the attorney stated. He quoted from the proposed county lease a statement that the document "is not a true lease."
"It is plain, old unvarnished debt," he declared, terming the county's proposed lease agreement "legal fiction that is not what it says it is, a bit of Alice in Wonderland."
A victory could have statewide ramifications since local governments routinely use the lease-purchase mechanism just like Jackson County proposes.
"By fighting the fight, you may indeed be leading the fight for other people all around the state who have not yet stood up to fight the attempt," Orr stated. "You may be helping people from all over the state. You may draw support from unexpected places. It is a privilege to be part of this effort at democracy and we relish the fight."


Accident Victim Fights For Recovery
"Pray for Eric," advise simple black and white signs posted in strategic locations all over Commerce.
And people have responded, says Bobby Redmon, father of Eric, 16, who has been in a coma since the evening of June 12 following a one-car wreck on Georgia 326 near the WJJC Radio tower.
The upcoming junior at Commerce High School suffered a serious head injury, a ruptured spleen, punctured lung, fractured vertebrae and a badly sprained ankle. He was air lifted to Grady Memorial Hospital and on Monday was transferred to Scottish Rite Hospital, where he is likely to stay for some time.
But the prognosis is promising.
"They say Eric has the ability with his youth and the injury to make a complete recovery," his father said. "Then in the next sentence they tell you each head injury is different, so don't get your hopes up."
Redmon and his wife Angie have been in Atlanta with their son since the accident and while the whole thing has been a horrible experience, Redmon says the support from friends and family in Commerce has "made all the difference in the world."
"The people at Grady could not believe the amount of support we're getting from a small town 70 miles to the north, the number of people driving in to see him," Redmon stated. "A friend created a website (www.ericredmon.com) to keep people posted; we put updates on it daily. The support has been really good. We've had lots of response and friends leaving messages. It's been really nice to know that. Angie and I have really been blessed by small-town Commerce, Geor-gia."
Now, the focus is on bringing Eric, who played football, golf and wrestled at CHS, out of the medically-induced coma. The three-to-four-day process started Monday. He's off the ventilator and the Scottish Rite staff is weaning him from the tracheal tube.
From time to time, Eric has appeared to be aware of his surroundings, squeezing a hand or blinking.
"The doctors tell us there are stages of consciousness. He's not in a coma anymore. He's at a stage of consciousness that is not totally conscious," his father said. "We just don't know how long it will take him to come around. They say there is the possibility we'll be at Scottish Rite in rehab two months."
STILL A MYSTERY
What happened remains a mystery. There were no witnesses to the wreck, but the Georgia State Patrol has placed the time of the accident at about 7:00 to 7:15 – during or shortly after a downpour.
There were no skid marks on the road and Eric was found about 30 feet from his 1997 Ford Explorer.
"We have no idea what happened."
That remains a moot point; the focus is on recovery, and Redmon believes support from the community will be a factor.
He doesn't know who put up the "Pray for Eric" signs.
"We've got a lot of friends around Commerce that have been praying – and making phone calls and visiting. I think that's the difference so far," he said.


Shared service talks grinding along, but little progress made
Efforts to move forward on the mandated renegotiation of government shared service agreements are grinding too slowly for some county officials.
Monday was the fourth time officials have met to discuss updating the current contracts, but so far little tangible work has been accomplished.
That lack of progress led Jackson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Harold Fletcher to comment on why the county had taken the lead in getting the talks started.
“Somebody has to start something and we took it upon ourselves to do that,” he said, while adding the county wants to have full participation from all nine municipalities in the process.
County and city leaders have less than three months to hammer out details in the agreement, which will address everything from annexation requests to fire protection services and business licensing.
“We’re on a very short time frame,” Fletcher said. “We’ve got to get some of this done soon.”
The effort to renegotiate the existing shared service agreements is required by state law and covers some 23 services covered by contracts between the county and city governments.
The service agreements outline territories where individual local governments provide services, such as for water, sewer, fire protection, etc.
Some of the discussions this year are expected to be contentious as some local governments have indicated their desire to expand service into territory currently served by another jurisdiction.
STRUCTURE DISCUSSED
To do that, the county is following a proposal from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government that calls for a steering committee to vote on proposals from seven work teams.
The steering committee will consist of 20 members with 10 voting and 10 alternate members. Two elected officials from the nine cities and two representatives from the county government will serve on the steering committee.
The steering committee will meet at the Gordon Street Center on Tuesday, July 8, at 5 p.m.
Making recommendations to the steering committee will be seven work teams, each assigned with a specific area of government to discuss. Each work team will have 24 members, two from each government and other “interested parties.” The “interested parties” could include the sheriff, school boards, chamber of commerce and water authorities.
If there is a disagreement over a proposal between two work teams, the issue would go to a conference committee to be resolved.
GOVERNMENT ACTION REQUIRED
Once an issue has been hashed out by the work teams and steering committee, it will then go back to the 10 governments (county and nine towns) for final action.
Both the county government and City of Jefferson must agree to each agreement, thus giving those two agencies “veto” power over the final language. In addition, four additional city governments must agree to the terms of the service agreement.
If a service agreement is not agreed to by those governments, the issue will be sent back to the steering committee for reconsideration and revamping.
WATER, ANNEXATIONS TO
BE KEY DISCUSSION
Although not discussed during Monday’s meeting, the discussion over water service areas and potential annexations near Commerce are expected to be a key part of the upcoming discussions. Commerce leaders have indicated a desire to annex a large industrial tract and provide services to it. But the tract is currently in the county water system’s service area. Moreover, any annexation could affect the county school system’s tax base.


Medical Center To Enter Management
Contract With QHR
Facing another year of operating deficits, the BJC Medical Center Authority voted Monday night to negotiate a three-year contract with Quorum Health Resources (QHR) to provide management services for its hospital and nursing home.
The target date is July 15.
QHR has "conservatively projected" an improvement in the facility's cash position of $1.36 million after just one year and $4.3 million over five years through a combination of better purchasing and better management.
That sounded good to the authority, but at the insistence of Banks County member Jimmy Hooper, the authority agreed to negotiate with QHR for a series of performance "benchmarks" against which QHR will be judged between its second and third years of the contract so the authority can get out after just three years if QHR does not come through.
Chairman Charles Blair appointed Dr. S.J. Shirley, finance chairman, to chair a committee to work out the details with QHR. Hooper, Howard Smith and Blair will round out the committee.
The medical center's budget for 2003-04 – without either QHR's fee or efficiencies figured in – projects a $415,000 operating deficit. That led Blair to question chief financial officer Tommy Patey about whether the facility has the cash flow to support the first-year payment to QHR, which is expected to be $227,000 to $247,000.
Patey gave a qualified "yes," noting savings to be expected in purchasing through QHR's network, some cost savings because existing consulting services will be made unnecessary with QHR on board and savings to be realized from the refinancing of hospital bonds.
Several authority members pointed out that QHR, while offering expertise and purchasing savings, will only make recommendations to the authority, and some of those recommendations may pose difficulties.
"There will be some tough decisions that this authority is going to have to make in the next 90 days," Blair warned.
Hooper agreed, but made it clear where he plans to stand.
"I'm going to be all aboard," he declared. "We'd be fools (after paying the QHR fee) not to take their advice."
"I'm sorry we're in this position," he said. "The people in my county are going to look at me and ask why we're in this position and I don't know that I have an answer."
In their sales presentation a week earlier, QHR officials used ratios between various functions to demonstrate where money could be saved. For example, they showed that salaries at BJC Hospital equal 51.54 percent of net revenue, whereas the average among QHR hospitals is 43.17 percent. Meeting that average, they said, would provide up to $1.6 million in savings. Supporting that premise, QHR reported that the hospital has 6.4 full-time employees for every occupied hospital bed. The industry average is 4.01.
Improving those ratios suggests either a reduction in staff, an increase in net revenue or some combination of the two to produce the "enhanced productivity" that would generate the $1.6 million savings. However, QHR officials conceded that the presence of 167-bed BJC Nursing Home adjacent to the hospital was not figured into the staffing projections.
Other projected savings point less to staff reductions than to more efficient operations. Better collection procedures are projected to provide a one-time improvement of $647,000. The reduction of bad debt offers a potential of $170,000 per year in savings. Better purchasing contracts and management of inventory is projected to save $435,000 annually.
Interim administrator Wes Oswald, an employee of QHR, offered another reason for the authority to go with QHR – it's ability to support a new CEO.
"I can't imagine going anywhere as a stand-alone CEO in this day and age," he said. "It would be difficult for BJC to get an experienced CEO able to manage in a matter equivalent to Quorum ... The CEOs that would apply would be young and inexperienced. Can you expect that kind of person to meet the challenges you have here?"
"If they just save us the fee, it is still good to have the backup," noted member Don Brown.

 

 


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See Galilee Preschool Flyer

Body found in North Jackson
The body of a black female was found near a mailbox at the intersection of Holly Springs Road and Hwy. 346 around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 25.
The woman has been identified as Anita Kay Johnson, 41, of Griffin.
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office chief investigator David Cochran said the body was sent to the state crime lab for an autopsy and the cause of death was found to be “blunt force trauma to the head and upper extremities of the body.”
He said that the preliminary investigation indicates that the woman was thrown from a vehicle.
“The investigation is continuing on that,” he said. “It does not appear that she was struck by the vehicle.”
Cochran said the sheriff’s office is looking for a 1970 to 1979 model red Ford pick-up with two black males.
“They are not suspects,” he added. “We just want to interview them. She was seen getting in this vehicle in the Commerce area prior to her being found.”
Cochran said the sheriff’s office has also been attempting to find Johnson’s family members to notify them but that none have been found.
“We are still trying to contact some family,” he said. “We don’t know if she has any family. None has been found but she has been positively identified.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 367-8718.


JH office
to be closed Friday
The Jackson Herald office will be closed on Friday in observance of the July 4 holiday.
The office will open on its regular schedule at 8:30 a.m. on Monday.