News from Jackson County...

JULY 23, 2003


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OPINIONS
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SPORTS

Back To The Grind
With seven weeks of practice ahead of his team before its opener, Commerce head football coach Steve Savage said his group has ample time to prepare itself for the 2003 season.
The team officially kicked off its summer workouts this past Monday night with its annual “open house” and were set to hold practice in shorts and helmets Tuesday and Wednesday.

A work in progress
Despite a nearly five week delay that has hampered construction on a new fieldhouse for the athletic department at Jackson County Comprehensive High School, planners say that because of timely and arduous work in the past several weeks the project is nearing completion and could be ready for use in time for the Panther football team’s home opener.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Days gone by

“I’ve been coming to the Sunday School celebrations since before I knew it was a Sunday school celebration,” said 89-year-old Thomas Wilson.
“One year, a car came by and the driver asked what was happening and why all the people were gathered,” he said. “We kids just said it was a celebration. We didn’t know.”

Lula council to change variance procedures
At the behest of councilman Mordecai Wilson, the members of the Lula City Council agreed Monday to look into changing the process for granting variances to the zoning ordinance.

Schedule given for celebration
The 126th annual Sunday School Celebration is planned from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, at Veterans Park in Homer.

Moore finds old city charter, presents to Lula council
Lula resident Bobbie Moore surprised the members of the Lula City Council by presenting them with the original charter of the former City of Bellton, dated October 7, 1879.

Alto to hold public hearing on zoning
The Town of Alto will hold a public hearing for the purpose of receiving comments on the proposed zoning procedures, zoning ordinance and zoning map at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 12, at city hall.


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY

Show and Tell
The tale of the old cannon on the courthouse square in Danielsville was just one of a number of local stories shared at a “show and tell” session of the Madison County Heritage Foundation held at the Madison County Library Sunday afternoon.

BOE hears report on SPLOST projects
A timetable for completing SPLOST-funded construction on the Madison County school system was released at the board of education meeting Tuesday night.

Industrial park still planned by IDA off Hwy. 72
An industrial park may still be in the works on James Holcomb Road off Hwy. 72 near Hull.
The county industrial development authority (IDA) agreed Monday night to seek rezoning of 33.4 acres off Hwy. 72 from residential to industrial classification. The IDA will present the rezoning request to both the county zoning board and county commissioners perhaps as early as August. But no hearing dates have been set.

Armed robbery reported at Hwy. 72 convenience store
The Golden Pantry on Hwy. 72 in Hull was reportedly robbed at gunpoint around 2 a.m. last Sunday morning.
According to the incident report on file at the sheriff’s office this week, a black male entered the store and robbed the two clerks “under the threat of a weapon.”

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STORM DAMAGE

Heavy winds and rain rolled through Jackson County late Monday evening leaving trees down and storm damage in its path. Rachel Botts, 10, is shown looking at her trampoline, which was carried by heavy winds from the front yard into the back yard. Her father, Ken, is shown looking on. The family lives at Whipporwill Farm on Plainview Road. The heavy winds also tore the door off of their barn (shown in the background).

$22 million price tag
Holder Construction Company presented the final maximum price for a new courthouse facility at a called meeting of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners Monday afternoon.
The maximum price of $22 million does not include finishing the third floor of courtrooms in the facility. It also does not include the cupola that some people felt was too elaborate for the county’s judicial facility. Instead, the facility will have a skylight.
The $22 million also does not include the cost to provide roads and the parking lot paving. The county will be responsible for these costs.
Members of the BOC hope enough money is left in the contingency fund to finish the courtrooms on the third floor. The contingency fund includes $1.6 million, which may be used to finish these courtrooms if it is not needed for other unexpected expenses. Officials estimate that it would cost $370,000 to finish the third floor.
Bill Headley, project director, Holder Construction presented the finance report at a brief called meeting. BOC chairman Harold Fletcher and commissioner Sammy Thomason were the only elected officials present. Commissioner Emil Beshara did arrive at the close of the meeting. Tony Beatty and Stacey Britt weren’t present.
Headley also presented a project schedule with the construction start date set for Aug. 11. This is when the grading will begin. It is expected to be complete by early October. The county already has the grading permits needed for the project, according to county manager Al Crace.
Other dates listed on the schedule include: Oct. 27, foundation walls to be complete; Feb. 2, 2004, building structure “top out”; March 23, 2004, building temporary dry-in complete; September 2004, building substantially complete; fall 2004, final completion and occupancy.
No action was taken by the BOC Monday but Headley said Holder is ready to sign the guaranteed maximum price agreement. He added that the $22 million price is good for 30 days.


Rezoning Requests Could Lead To 600 More Residences
The Commerce Planning Commis-sion will consider requests Monday night that could result in the addition of nearly 640 residential units.
The planning commission meets at 7:00 at the Commerce Civic Center. It makes recommendations on zoning and land use to the Commerce City Council. Any recommendations made Monday will be taken up by the city council at its Aug. 11 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center.
Vans Clinkscales seeks rezoning for annexation of 176 acres off Traynham Road and Jefferson Road. According to David Lanphear, code enforcement officer, Mrs. Clinkscales plans to sell the property to a developer who needs an R-3 zoning classification to build about 400 houses.
Andy Barnett will be back before the planning commission seeking rezoning for annexation of 30 acres off W.E. King Road. Barnett had proposed a 45-lot R-3 subdivision, but at its June meeting, the planning commission asked him to consider an alternative that would allow some “cluster” housing in exchange for more greenspace.
The third request is from Daniel Wilson and Chad Black. According to Lanphear, the two are negotiating to buy Southern Oaks Subdivision, a 201-lot mobile home subdivision on Mount Olive Road.
“It’s an approved mobile home subdivision, but with that (R-5) zoning, they could build 201 houses,” Lanphear said.
They could also install 201 mobile homes or sell lots for 201 mobile homes. It is not clear exactly what Wilson and Black want to do with the property.


Citizens plan rally Thurs.
Concerned Citizens of Jackson County has planned another rally to gain support in its lawsuit against the board of commissioners over the financing of a new courthouse.
The rally will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 24, at the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation auditorium in Jefferson.
Tim Venable, chairman of the citizen’s group, said an update on the lawsuit will be given, as well as information on the need for “support, enthusiasm and financial support” from people across Jackson County. He said the group has already collected the signatures of hundreds of people who support their effort.
The county has filed a response to the lawsuit, saying it is without merit, and asking for a summary judgment.
A court date has not been set for the first hearing but is expected to be scheduled after a judge has been appointed.
“(The) respondents deny that the proposed lease agreement constitutes ‘debt’ which would require voter approval or that the cited case has any relevance to the issues in this lawsuit,” the response reads. “...”The respondents specifically deny that any conduct for which the county or the individual respondents are chargeable is in violation of the constitution or any law of the state of Georgia. In further answer and defense, respondents state the proposed lease agreement is expressly authorized by the laws of Georgia.”
For more information on e citizens group, call (706) 367-5654, (706) 757-2471 or (706) 552-3295.


CMS Builders Take Rain in Stride, Says
Superintendent
Rains continue to dampen the construction site at the new Commerce Middle School but that hasn’t stopped workers from marching forward with the project.
Commerce schools’ superintendent Larry White told school board members at Monday night’s board of education meeting that all foundations have been poured at the site and that steel for roof support is being installed which will allow “lightweight concrete” subcontractors to be on site within the next few weeks to start roofing.
Workers made the progress despite enduring 25 days of rain last month according to White.
“They’ve done extremely well considering (the rain),” he said. “That really makes havoc when trying to lay blocks for foundations.”
White speculates that the project should be finished by early spring.
“If I was predicting, I’d say middle to late March,” he explained.
If there’s been one lasting problem with the rain, though, it’s been erosion as the large volumes of water have created a gully at the back portion of the site.
“The engineer is still working on that,” he said.
BUDGET NOW OFFICIAL
The Commerce BOE’s $8.7 million budget for the 2003-2004 school year is now official after the BOE approved the spending bill Monday night.
The budget, which received approval from the city council last Monday night, will call for an $84,137 increase in local tax funds.
The spending bill, which Commerce Superintendent Larry White described as “tight” at last month’s BOE meeting, was passed a month late this year because the school board didn’t receive its allotment sheets on time, slowing the budget process.
As a result, the BOE had to approve a special spending resolution last month to allow it to use its 2003-2004 funds in June.
In other business conducted Monday night, the school board:
•heard from White that the school system’s 2002 audit went smoothly.
“We’re lucky to have the equity we have after a tough year,” White said.
•had its second reading and approval of a policy that will allow middle school and high school students to use cellular phones or pagers for emergency situations with prior approval from administrators.
•reappointed Hilda Hill to the Jackson County Board of Library Trustees.
•met in closed session for 15 minutes and upon returning approved the hiring of Sandra Richey as food service manager at Commerce Middle School for 2003-2004; the leave of absence of Thelma Denton, food service assistant at Commerce High School; the resignation of Terresa Shubert, special education teacher at Commerce Middle School; and the termination of Regina Bush, custodian at Commerce Elementary School.
•approved its employee computer plan purchase for next year.
•approved a $457 change order at the site of the new Commerce Middle School for a floor drain in the janitor’s clo
set.


BOC sitting on key water document
The political tug-of-war between the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and the county water and sewerage authority is apparently holding up the adoption of a key document necessary to serve a major new industry.
During Thursday night’s water authority meeting, member Warren Walker asked about the status of the county’s wastewater treatment plans for the Toyota/MACI project along I-85 near Jefferson.
Walker was told that the permit to treat 500,000 gallons per day for the project had not been granted and was being held up by the BOC.
At issue is a county watershed assessment report that must be approved by the BOC before the permit will be granted.
Water manager Jerry Waddell said that the report was forwarded to the county four months ago, along with a request for BOC action, but that no action had been taken.
“We need to upgrade this plant if we are going to serve MACI,” said Waddell.
Engineer Mary Kay Jackson told the JCWSA that construction can proceed on the expansion for the 500,000 gallons per day capacity, but “we can’t actually start processing until it is approved.”
Walker commented that one commissioner had said “he can’t accept” the watershed assessment.
“But I don’t know where we go from there,” he added. “I appreciate your (Waddell) writing that letter.”
The BOC has been in a heated political battle with the authority for several months. In February, the BOC attempted a takeover of the authority that was met with a firestorm of controversy and public outcry.
Last week, the BOC replaced two members of the authority with two new members, one of whom was Wanda David, the ex-girlfriend of Waddell. That move was reportedly an effort to pressure Waddell to resign.


New JCWSA members attend first meeting
Despite the political tensions surrounding the new member appointments by the board of commissioners to the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, Thurs-day’s water authority meeting proceeded without incident.
Chairman Elton Collins presided at the short, but civil, meeting, and welcomed new members Wanda David and Clay Dale to the board.
He said that outgoing members Keith Ariail and Tom Crowe would be recognized for their service at a later date.

 

 


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Beshara to call for vote on beer and wine at Aug. 4 meeting
Commissioner Emil Beshara plans to call for a vote at the Aug. 4 board of commissioners meeting on allowing the sale of beer and wine in unincorporated areas of the county.
A public hearing on the matter was held at Monday night’s BOC meeting with several people speaking in opposition to Beshara’s plans. No one spoke in favor of it, although Beshara did read excerpts from a letter he said he received from a county woman who is in favor of the move.
Beshara has said at earlier meetings that he has been approached by people from all areas of the county who support the plan. The only people who have spoken at recent BOC meetings in favor of such a move are Clay Dale, who owns a convenience store in West Jackson, and Mark Valentine, general manager of Tanger Factory Outlet Center. Dale was appointed by the BOC last week to serve on the county water and sewerage authority.
Beshara’s proposal would require that any convenience stores that sell wine and beer receive at least 70 percent of its revenue from other sources. The ordinance would also require restaurants that offer wine and beer get at least 50 percent of its revenue from other sources. Beshara said these restrictions would ensure that a package store or bar doesn’t open in unincorporated areas.
“I don’t want to see bars in Jackson County,” he said. “I don’t want to see beer stores on every corner.”
The ordinance does not address the sale of liquor, which would have to be approved by voters in a referendum. The BOC does have the authority to approve the sale of beer and wine without a referendum being held.
At Monday’s meeting, Kenneth Sizemore, pastor of Center Grove United Methodist Church, Pendergrass, was among those speaking in opposition to the sale of beer and wine. He presented statistics on alcohol-related fatalities, health risks due to alcohol use and death rates of alcohol-related illnesses. Sizemore said the most alarming statistic he found is that 405 out of 1,000 hospital patients are related to alcohol abuse.
Sizemore said he realizes that people can go to other counties and towns to purchase alcohol.
“But why in the world do we want to make this even more convenient for the residents of Jackson County?” he asked.
Sizemore said he also counsels people who have abused alcohol and understands the impact it has on their lives.
“I see the devastation on a weekly basis that alcohol does to our families,” he said. “It breaks my heart.”
Matthew McCoy, Gillsville, spoke on the impact alcohol abuse has on young people. He said statistics show that 50 percent of eighth graders have used alcohol, while 70 percent of 10th graders and 79 percent of seniors have taken their first drink of an alcoholic beverage.
“You see things from a different perspective when you see the impact,” he said. “...Let’s not make these numbers go up anymore.”
Angeline Scarborough, Center, also spoke against the sale of beer and wine in unincoporated areas. She said that while politicians may point to the tax dollars that beer and wine will generate, it will also lead to the increase in funds needed for law enforcement.
“It’s not cost effective if you look at the big picture,” she said. “It is costly.”
Scarborough also said she is concerned that approving this would be “one step away” from allowing the sale of liquor by the drink.
“It’s another step,” she said. “It’s a spiral...You are visionaries. You need to look at the big picture. Look at the future...The cost will not balance out.”
Beshara responded that the 21st amendment allows the sale of beer and wine.
“Prohibition ended a long time ago everywhere else but Jackson County,” he said.
He also said that 43 businesses in the county, that are located in city limits, already allow the sale of beer and wine.