News from Madison County...

JULY 30, 2003


Madison County
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OPINIONS

Frank Gillespie
Teen rebellions have gone about as far as they can go
They think I am too old to understand. Well, let me tell you that teenage fads are older than I, and that is going back a while. The problem is that each generation has to outdo the previous one, and the choices are becoming absurd.

Zach Mitcham
In newspapers, ‘dummy’ is a verb
And no, I don’t mean it’s a work motto, such as, “I’m gonna dummy up this story real good” or “you need to dummy down that sentence.”


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Raider softball team finalizing rosters; getting ready for practice
Making cuts — it’s the uglier side of coaching but a deed that has to be done in order to get a season on the move.
Raider head softball coach Doug Kesler said Tuesday night that all cuts would be finalized by Wednesday morning during the last leg of tryouts so that the rosters would be set in time to start practice that afternoon.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Judge seals recusal order in courthouse suit
Judge Overstreet from Augusta to hear case
Legal maneuvering in the high-profile lawsuit against the Jackson County Board of Commissioners over financing plans for a new courthouse heated up this week after the presiding judge sealed the local judges’ recusal order and

Planning Panel Turns Down Two Rezoning Requests
City Council To Make Final
Decision On R-3 Requests Aug. 11
Two developers hoping to annex land into Commerce for subdivisions totaling more than 400 houses left Monday night's meeting of the Commerce Planning Commission unhappy.

BJC Medical Center Now Under QHR


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
‘The drug of choice’
Methamphetamine use continues to climb in rural areas
Imagine ingesting a drug made of little more than cold medicine, battery acid, fertilizer and drain cleaner, manufactured in a drug dealer’s kitchen.

Judge denies motion to throw out Cagle’s plea
Superior Court Judge Joe Booth denied the state’s motion last week to have Patrick Henry Cagle Jr.’s guilty plea in the murder death of Bobby Fain thrown out.

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Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter board member Jeff Clarke dressed for his role as “barkini” master of ceremonies, complete with dog bone bow tie, at Saturday’s fund-raiser at Watson Mill State Park. After rain disrupted the beginning of the barkini contest, Clarke announced the event would then be a “wet t-shirt contest” for the pooches.

BOC shoots down subdivision plans
Albert Sanders got a unanimous vote from the zoning board earlier this month in favor of his planned 30-lot subdivision off Hwy. 98 near Danielsville. But county commissioners voted exactly the opposite way Monday.
The BOC denied Sanders’ request Monday to rezone his 40.2-acre parcel on Hwy. 98 East next to Lord and Stephens Funeral Home to R-1 (single family residential, one-acre minimum with a community water system) for a subdivision with plans for 30 homes. Sanders said approximately 16 acres of the 40-acre tract is already zoned residential.
County commissioner Bruce Scogin made the motion for denial, noting that the proposal was very similar to a rezoning request months ago in Colbert for a 70-lot subdivision on 100 acres. That request was denied by the commissioners on the recommendation of the zoning board. The applicants later sued the county and the settlement allowed homes to be placed on 1.5-acre lots in the subdivision.
Scogin told planning commission chairman Bill Holloway that the zoning board was not being consistent in how it handled requests, saying that the two situations were similar.
“I agree in concept that this is what we need to be doing, allowing one-acre tracts around cities,” said Scogin. “But if we can’t allow it in Colbert, it shouldn’t be allowed here.”
Scogin asked Holloway to explain when the planning and zoning board “had a change of heart” on allowing such requests.
Holloway said the two requests were not identical, noting that the Sanders proposal is better-suited to the surrounding area and more in line with the county’s comprehensive land use plan than the previous Colbert subdivision request. He also said the issue of how water would be provided to Sanders’ subdivision has been resolved. (Sanders said Georgia Water Well Company has agreed to install a well for the subdivision.) Holloway said that the issue of how water would have been provided to the Colbert subdivision had not been resolved at the time of the rezoning request.
Scogin made a motion for denial, which was seconded by Bill Taylor.
After more discussion, commissioner Johnny Fitzpatrick asked Sanders if he would be willing to increase lot sizes to 1.5 acres. Sanders said he would if he had no other choice.
The board then voted 4-0 to approve the motion for denial — commissioner Mike Youngblood was not in attendance.


Citizens, leaders talk about animal control
Twenty or so residents showed up at a county commission work session Tuesday night to hear their elected officials discuss what to do about the issue of animal control in Madison County.
Commissioners and citizens alike seemed to agree on one thing — that an effective animal control ordinance — and/or a leash law — needs to incorporate stiff fines and penalties that will encourage pet owners to take responsibility for their animals.
Commissioner Bruce Scogin called for the work session last month after Hull resident Danny Andrews and a number of other residents came to a commission meeting to voice their problems with nuisance animals and concerns about animal cruelty.
Scogin said he had found a “dangerous dog policy” adopted by the county in 1989, but feels the policy, which includes detailed procedures and penalties for dealing with dangerous dogs, is not a workable document. The policy was written to be enforced by the county marshal, who resigned shortly after the policy was adopted.
“I don’t know exactly what we need, but we need something better than this,” he said.
“I called this work session to maybe come up with some ideas about what to do and maybe listen to the public and their ideas.”
“And I do want it noted that anything we do is going to cost some money to taxpayers,” he continued, adding that a recent animal control ordinance adopted in Jackson County carried a budget of $80,000 for the first year, which included the cost of a vehicle, a full-time employee and training.
Scogin also said he wasn’t sure if Madison County was “totally ready” for a very detailed ordinance, suggesting instead that some type of simple leash law might suffice.
Commissioner Mike Youngblood agreed with the latter idea, saying he felt a leash law with fees and fines was a good “first step” toward animal control.
“Unless you get into people’s pocketbooks you’re not going to do any good...maybe put up some signs around the county, such as those about littering, and establish fees and fines, get the sheriff’s office to enforce it and the magistrate court to issue the fines,” Youngblood said. “I think a leash law is a very good idea for starters.”
After the board’s discussion, chairman Wesley Nash opened the floor to public comment, invoking the “three minute rule” for each speaker.
Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter director Sara Mathews presented some statistics to the commissioners — saying the shelter, which is a drop off facility only, has taken in 1,738 dogs and cats since it opened last December. Of those, 1,412 have come from Madison County residents. The shelter has adopted out 408 animals, while another 712 have been euthanized. Another 608 have either been sent out to rescue groups, have died at the shelter, have been reclaimed by their owners, or are still in residence at the shelter.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal


Civic-minded citizen Smith focuses on preserving county’s character
“This beautiful county – I don’t want people 20 years from now to look back and say they wish someone had done something to preserve what we have here.” — Leo Smith.
Massachusetts-born Leo Smith has certainly come a long way since coming to Madison County, especially for a man who confesses he didn’t know what the term “yonder way” meant when he first moved here.
“Learning how to navigate around here and understanding directions for geographical locations were a challenge, at first,” Leo admits.
“I’ll never forget the puzzled look on his face when he came home one day after a trip to Danielsville and asked me ‘what does yonder way mean?’” his Georgia-born wife Joyce remembers, laughing. “That was worth a million dollars.”
“Now I don’t have a problem, I just look the way they point and go that way until I stop,” he said.
But there’s another phrase that Leo has had no problem understanding, and valuing, since his move here, and that’s the term “rural character.”
After almost thirty years of calling this area home, Leo, 73, wants to leave a legacy of helping to maintain some of that character for those who will be calling it home many years from now.
“This beautiful county — I don’t want people 20 years from now to look back and say they wish someone had done something to preserve what we have here,” Leo says as he stands on his deck overlooking the rolling countryside of trees and pasture land that surround his home in the Sanford community.
To that end, Leo took a substantial part in creating the county’s original zoning ordinance in 1992, and served as chairman of the first planning and zoning commission from 1993 to 1995.
“A number of people were beginning to feel we needed to develop zoning regulations to get some control over future growth in the county and to provide people with an opportunity to know what would happen to the land around them in the future,” Leo said of his reasons for getting involved.
“Some think zoning restricts their rights — when in fact it gives them more; they have an opportunity to speak about an issue where they live and at the same time, to find out more information about what’s going on in their neighborhood,” he added.
And while Leo knows zoning certainly isn’t an answer to all the county’s problems, he feels it is working.
“A lot of people who objected to zoning in the beginning have since taken advantage of the process to come to the hearings and speak out on issues in their community,” he said.
Leo is quick to give credit to his friend and mentor, the late Dewey “Doc” Power, a long time teacher and active community member, for his part in helping the zoning process along.
“He helped me immeasurably. Doc believed in zoning and Doc believed in me,” he said.
Both men knew that if Madison County was ever to have a zoning ordinance it had to have the support of the farming community.
To that end, Leo made plans to speak to Farm Bureau members, most of whom are farmers, and took Doc along with him.
“He basically told those folks that they could believe what I told them, that I wouldn’t lie to them,” Leo said. “As an outsider, and a Yankee, that was invaluable. As a result, I was able to gain a lot of insight and information from them as well as gain at least their tacit approval.”
The job of actually drafting the original zoning ordinance was also an admittedly daunting task.
“We had 10,000 to 11,000 parcels of land, based on tax maps of the county, to go by,” he remembers. “We decided early on that we weren’t going to draw circles — that we were going to go by single lots instead of ‘district zoning.’”
And the committee wanted to get every resident involved in the process by having them take a look at the resulting map and speak up about any changes they wanted.
“We talked about it in the newspapers, on radio and had four public hearings to try to iron it all out,” Leo said. As a result, there were 150 or so changes made to the map by the board of commissioners.
“We had only eight or nine requests for changes that just couldn’t be made to fit the area where the lot was located,” Leo said, such as a commercial zone for someone who wanted to establish a future business out in the middle of a farming area.
The zoning ordinance was finally adopted in November, 1993.
“No body will ever know how many hours he put into that project,” Joyce said.
These days, Leo serves as chairman of a zoning committee that works with the planning and zoning commission . For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal

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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.


Board discusses ‘zero tolerance’ drug policy
County commissioners considered the adoption of a “zero tolerance” drug policy for county personnel at a Tuesday evening work session at the county complex.
“The biggest thing is whether this board is satisfied with zero tolerance on drug use, and if so, are you committed to move forward with this,” BOC chairman Wesley Nash said.
In addition to zero tolerance, commissioners are also considering the implementation of random drug-testing for all county employees.
Random drug testing is required by the county’s workers compensation policy, according to county clerk Morris Fortson.
Currently, county personnel policy allows an employee with a positive drug test to have a chance for rehabilitation and the opportunity for further drug testing, as in the case of former assistant emergency services director Eric Temple.
Temple was suspended after he tested positive for drugs, but then dismissed a few days later after he tested positive for cocaine a second time.
If zero tolerance is adopted, a confirmed positive drug test would be grounds for “immediate dismissal” from a county job.
County personnel director Connie Benge presented commissioners with a copy of Oconee County’s drug policy, which allows zero tolerance for drugs.
“I think we can incorporate (this policy) nicely into Madison County’s personnel policy,” Benge said.
Results of drug testing would remain confidential, only becoming public, as in the case of Temple, if an employee protested their termination.
“If it goes to that step, it becomes public — it has to. State law requires that the board must hear any evidence in such a case in open session,” county attorney Mike Pruett said.
As to random drug testing, commissioner Mike Youngblood suggested that a base line drug test of all county employees be done once personnel policy revisions are adopted.
Benge recommended all the commissioners go for a drug test in order to see what the process is like.
Commissioner Bruce Scogin agreed, suggesting that BOC members be the first to take the test.
“County residents deserve better,” Scogin said. “We are responsible to the taxpayers who pay the county employee salaries and it (personnel policy) falls on our shoulders.”
Youngblood added: “The quicker they (employees) know we’re not going to tolerate it, the better.”
In another personnel matter, commissioner Youngblood suggested that all department heads, or their assistants be required to be present at BOC meetings when a matter concerning their department is to be discussed.
“If there’s a problem, or an issue to be discussed they (department head) need to be here,” Youngblood said. “That way we can go straight to the source if we have questions.”
The BOC will discuss personnel policy revisions further at their next regular business meeting on Monday, Aug. 11.