News from Banks County...

JULY 9, 2003


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OPINIONS
Phillip Sartain
A bad rap
Someone suggested to me recently that my columns always end up blaming all my problems on my wife and children.

Rochelle Beckstine
Vacation time makes home pure paradise
There’s nothing like a week’s vacation to make home pure paradise. My small family boarded a plane Reno, Nevada-bound last Sunday where we landed without mishap and then drove onto South Lake Tahoe, which may be the most beautiful lake in the world. Freezing cold, but pretty.


SPORTS

‘Tuners Gone Wild’ event set
Atlanta Dragway will host a “Tuners Gone Wild” event this weekend at the track. Friday’s pre-party will include a test and tune from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. plus dance music and a foam party until 1 a.m.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
BOC sued over $25 million ‘debt’
Citizens’ lawsuit demands halt to lease-purchase deal to fund courthouse
Just hours before county officials were scheduled to finalize financing $25 million for a new courthouse, a group of 26 citizens filed suit in Jackson County Superior Court claiming the action would be unconstitutional.

Commerce Passes City, School Budgets
The Commerce City Council passed two major spending bills Monday night.
The first was the final draft of its 2003-04 budget. The total of $27,859,850 is up by more than $8 million over actual spending in the just-completed fiscal year.

Wanda David, Clay Dale named by BOC to water board
In a move that would rival a soap-opera plot, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners named Wanda David and Clay Dale to the county’s water and sewer authority last week. The action ousted members Keith Ariail and Tom Crow, both of whom had earlier this year helped successfully fight an attempt by the BOC to take over the authority.

Crowd blasts financing plan at Fri. hearing
It was standing room only at a meeting Friday morning as some 115 Jackson Countians attended a public hearing called by the board of commissioners to receive input on financing a new courthouse.

Waddell’s Ex-Girlfriend Replaces Ariail
On Water And Sewerage Authority
JEFFERSON -- The Jackson County Board of Commission-ers named Wanda David and Clay Dale to serve on the county water and sewerage authority Friday.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Planners approve Hwy. 98 subdivision
Plans for a major subdivision just outside the city limits of Danielsville received the full support of the planning commission at Tuesday night’s public hearing.

BOC waiting for budget requests
from 11 departments
Madison County department heads were asked to submit their budget requests to the commissioners’ office by July 1, but county clerk Morris Fortson reported Monday that 11 departments still had not turned in the requested paperwork.

Two killed in Tuesday accident
Two people were killed in a three-car accident on Colbert-Danielsville Road Tuesday afternoon.

Hull city council approves
purchase of computer equipment
The city of Hull approved the purchase of new computer software and equipment for city clerk Janet Seagraves at Monday night’s council meeting.

Planning commission chairman resigns
For the second time in less than a year the planning and zoning commission will need to select a new chairman.

Crack cocaine seized from Comer couple
Authorities seized 114 crack rocks, with an estimated street value of $20 apiece, from a couple at 124 Flint Street in Comer Friday.

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JAMIESON SPEAKS AT BANKS CROSSING

Rep. Jeanette Jamieson was the keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony marking the completion of a beautification project at Banks Crossing. Jamieson said she is pleased with the results of the project. She added that another asset to be added at the site should be a convention center.

School board not backing down
A meeting with architect Steve Hill Thursday did little to settle the Banks County school board’s concerns about a mix-up on the middle school soil erosion plans.
The board recently learned that the plans were initially sent to the wrong agency, the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) rather than the Soil Conversation Service (SCS). Once the mistake was discovered, the SCS finally got the plans and has mandated nearly $30,000 in additional site work that the EPD didn’t require.
In a meeting over a week ago, the board asked civil engineer Paul Boyer for specific information relating to the soil erosion plans, including a letter he claimed to have from the SCS telling him initially that the matter was to be handled by the EPD. He agreed to provide that letter to the BOE.
But when Hill, who sub-contracted Boyer, met with the board Thursday to provide the requested information, the initial letter specifically asked for was not among the packet provided to board members.
“He said he’d have the letter here tonight,” chairman Bo Garrison said. “It’s not here. I knew it wouldn’t be here. There’s no such letter out there.”
Hill defended Boyer saying he didn’t deliberately submit the plans to the wrong agency but did so based on “information he got from different sources on the project.”
The board suggested bringing in all parties involved, including Hill, Boyer, the SCS, the EPD and county commission chairman Kenneth Brady, to try and resolve the issue.
Hill said he had suggested the same type meeting when the problem first arose but was turned down by another agency.
“This is the biggest riddle in construction I’ve dealt with,” he said. “We just don’t have problems like this.”
Hill went on to apologize that the letter was not the in the board’s packet of information.
“We don’t promise something and not deliver,” he said.
Hill also told the board that since he hired the civil engineers, he would follow through with Boyer and the firm, saying he’d “take care of the issue.”
Hill added that “they’ve got deep pockets,” implying the engineering firm would finance the nearly $30,000 mistake.
Tommy Wiley of Charles Black Construction did point out at a previous meeting however that the additional work would have been required if the plans had been submitted to the correct agency initially.
No meeting date has been set on a gathering of school officials and others involved in the submittal of the soil erosion plans to discuss the issue further.
OTHER BUSINESS
Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board:
•approved the hiring of Susan Bertrang, eight grade language arts teacher at BCMS; Angela Lingerfelt, counselor, BCUES; and Anna Terrell, Title I part-time, BCUES.
•approved the varsity and JV cheerleaders requests to hold a car was during pre-planning at BCPS, BCES, BCMS, BCUES and BCHS, and to hold a car wash August 9 at Wal-Mart.
•approved the BCHS athletic department’s request to sell tickets for coupons at local restaurants from August 15 to September 18.
•approved BCES to conduct yearbook sales September 1 through May 25.
•approved BCES to have fall and spring school pictures August 7 through May 1.
•approved BCES to sell orders for cookie dough.
•approved the work day calendar for the coming year for administrative and maintenance staff.
•learned American Pest Control has all the proper certification to be the system’s pest control company.
•met for one hour and five minutes behind closed doors to discuss future real estate acquisition, pending litigation and personnel.
•learned estimates are underway on possibly expanding the track at the new athletic complex from six to eight lanes to allow Banks County to host state events. Paving of the six-lane track has started.


Lula, Gillsville present SPLOST project requests
The City of Lula and the City of Gillsville presented their proposed projects to be funded by the 2004-09 special purpose local option sales tax at a meeting of the Joint Municipal Association hosted by the Lula city council last Tuesday,
Gillsville Mayor Larry Poole asked the Hall County Board of Commissioners to consider funding $297,500 in needed projects.
Poole said: “We’ve thought about this and these are the things we need for our town.”
He said $75,000 is needed for road improvements and resurfacing.
“$50,000 will go to improve Highway 52 as it comes into town,”
he said. “It’s a bad curve and to me it’s a public safety issue. The DOT will be funding part of that project. We also have a number of streets in need of resurfacing and repair.”
He also requested $35,000 to expand the water distribution system.
Some $57,500 was requested for improvements to the community center and the park and the installation of a walking trail for the residents.
“What you have here in Lula (speaking about the Railroad Depot) is great,” he said. “We would like to have something like this. Our building serves a need in our community. We have family gatherings, meetings, parties. It needs a lot of work. We have been asked to put in a walking trail around the park. Many of our residents like to walk. The trouble is on some of the roads you have dogs and it’s just dangerous walking the road.”
He also asked for $130,000 to help renovate the historic buildings in town, one of which is planned to serve as the much-needed city hall. The buildings were sold to the city some time ago to preserve the history of the town, he said.
“We’re proud to have those buildings,” he said. “We have already been approached by businesses wishing to locate in two of the buildings. That helps the economy of our town. All these things help our town and the county.”
LULA REQUEST
Lula City Council turned in projects totalling $2.7 million.
Turner said street maintenance and a new bridge to cross the railroad tracks are estimated at $750,000.
“The bridge is essential for emergency services to access the city and it will be safer for school buses,” he said.
Water and sewer projects totaled $1.75 million and included a new water tank and expansion of the sewage treatment plant.
“We’re growing and we need the additional water storage and sewer capacity,” he said.
Some $100,000 was requested for a sheriff’s precinct and teen center. Another $100,000 was requested for a new downtown park and sidewalks.
“These are all things we need,” Turner said.
Other city councils turned in requests, that combined, totaled nearly $57 million.
No decisions concerning the cities requests were made at the meeting. A decision is expected to come at a BOC meeting later this month.
However, Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Gary Gibbs and assistant county administrator Phil Sutton were adamant during the county’s presentation about using SPLOST funds to build the new jail and provide for other pubic safety services improvements, at a cost that could go as high as $80 million. The new jail takes the largest portion, perhaps as much as $57 million. Some $16 million is slated for a new emergency services communications digital, trunked network to replace the current radio frequency transmission system. Two new precincts for the northern and southern end of the county are estimated at $1.5 million. Fire Stations #2, #5 and #16 are planned for relocation to better cover the county at a cost of $6.3 million.
Gibbs said those projects would be done even if there had to be a raise in property taxes.
He added all of the projects requested by the cities are worthy of funding. But, the drop in sales tax revenues over the past two years made the board more cautious in the estimation of how much money will be generated through SPLOST V and so the projects approved will be limited. Sutton estimated $133 million to $158 million could be generated.
With half that sum deducted for the county’s jail and public safety projects, it doesn’t leave much for the cities, if, in fact, any of those projects are given priority over other county needs that include road improvements, landfill expansion, parks and libraries.


Burning ban remains in effect for area counties until September 30
The Georgia Forestry Commission ban on open burning remains through September 30 in Banks, Jackson and Madison counties.
They are among 32 counties surrounding Atlanta that will be affected by the Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division rules for air quality control.
The EPD prohibits outdoor burning in those counties with some exceptions.
Exceptions will include prescribed burning of forest understory and agricultural burning, but exceptions will require a burn permit from the Georgia Forestry Commission.
To get a burn permit for the exceptions, Banks County residents may call 1-800-634-8521 and Jackson and Madison County residents may call 542-6880.
The EPD can levy a fine of up to $25,000 for violations of the burning restrictions.



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Development authority signs contract to sell land to Garrison
The Banks County Development Authority has signed a contract to sell a two acre tract of land in the Banks Crossing Industrial Park.
Bo Garrison plans to buy the land for $15,000 per acre for his commercial laundry business. The contract on the land bordering the county’s water plant gives Garrison the option to buy before August 25.
He also put up $5,000 of earnest money that will stay with the development authority should he decide not to purchase.
As a stipulation to the contract, Garrison will also have to finish the front of his building with brick or an equivalent brick substitute product.
The county will get $10,000 per acre for the land the development authority sells. The rest goes into the authority’s hands.
DA board member Sam McDuffie said he would contact a surveyor to have the land surveyed as well as a plot adjacent to it that the DA has for sale.
The county also has a tract in the same area being used for the construction of the new Banks Crossing fire station.
The development authority hopes to have some of the dirt that will be cut off of that tract spread onto its lot and possibly onto the lot Garrison plans to purchase.
Moving the dirt will give the development authority a more attractive piece of property to sell.
DA chairman Jack Banks also reported that the road to connect Industrial Boulevard to Hwy. 59 “should be coming soon” and the plans are in the hands of the state DOT. He said the state has assured him that funding is available for the road.
RECREATION
DEPARTMENT BUILDING
At its meeting Thursday, the development authority also agreed to enter a contract with the county to secure funding for the new recreation department building planned at the county farm.
The county will transfer the land to the authority, which will secure funding for the building’s construction either through a loan or bonds at no cost to the development authority.
In return, the authority will either have a lease or installment sale agreement with the county to pay the monthly financing costs.
Once paid in full, ownership of the building and land reverts back to the county.
Voters last year approved a sales tax referendum that included an allotment of the tax funds for the building of the recreation center.
In order to save building costs, the county opted at its meeting a week ago to go ahead and begin construction using the DA as the financing tool.
Revenue generated from the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) will be used to reimburse the county for payment of the new facility.


Impact fees lowered by Baldwin council
At Monday’s meeting, the Baldwin City Council lowered the impact fees for new development.
The city had been charging $2,500 for any new sewer tap-ons to help pay for costs of sewer expansion. With approval of the second reading of the amendment, that fee was lowered to $1,150 per housing unit.
The council also approved the second reading of the reconnection fee ordinance, which requires a deposit of $100 for city customers that have their water shut off for non-payment. The deposit will be refunded if the customer pays the bill on time for six consecutive months.
Reed said the deposit might also be used to pay for damaged meter boxes.
In other business, the council:
•approved the payment of invoices on the wastewater treatment plant as follows: Rindt-McDuff, $10,781 and $9,725; and Summit Pipeline, $5,941.
•approved sending bills totalling $10,791 to Lee Arrendale Correctional Institution for the prison construction and installation of a pump station and flow meter.