News from Jackson County...

AUGUST 6, 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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OPINIONS
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SPORTS

First preseason scrimmage for JHS set for Friday
After nearly two weeks of steady play in pads the Jefferson football team will shift into another preseason gear come Friday when Greene County comes to town for the first of two scrimmages against opposing teams this preseason.

Toughing It Out
Tigers Remain A Spirited Group In Summer Practice Coach Says
It’s safe to tay that Steve Savage has seen a summer practice or two in over three decades as a football player, assistant and head coach.

Aiming for Columbus
A talented Lady Panther squad hopes to meet their high expectations and return to the state tournament this season.
Since its inception two years ago, the Jackson County fast-pitch program has made great strides in a sport that has become evermore popular around the state of Georgia.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
A broken family
A story of abuse and neglect at the hands of alleged drug addicted parents
Editor’s Note: The following story is a continuation of a Banks County News special report about methamphetamine. A grandmother and her grandkids agreed to tell their story about how drugs affected their lives.

BOE approves tentative $23.7 million budget
Expenses get only 3.4 percent increase
The Banks County Board of Education has a tentative $23.7 million budget approved for the coming school year with no tax hike expected for landowners.


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
School is here ...already?
Students back in class, Thurs., Aug. 7
Madison County school bells will ring Thursday, the earliest start to a school year in this county.

Tax rate increase may be on horizon for IDA
Facing considerable loan costs for the Hull water system, the county industrial authority may be forced to raise the .24 tax rate it currently levies.
IDA members met Monday morning to begin hashing out the group’s 2004 budget. The board will advertise two public hearing before setting the budget, but no hearing dates have been set.

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HODGES

Life without parole given for double murder
A 25-year-old man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for the murder of a Jackson County couple.
Superior Court Judge David Motes sentenced David Hodges to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday morning after he pled guilty to the murder of Sherry and Junior Brady.
Hodges had at first pled not guilty and was slated to go to trial on Aug. 25, but he changed his plea Friday. District attorney Tim Madison planned to seek the death penalty if the case had gone to trial.
Hodges pled guilty to two counts of malice murder, burglary, robbery, arson and theft. He was represented by attorneys Walter Harvey and Chris Elrod, who were appointed by the court.
Hodges showed no emotion during the one-hour court hearing Friday morning. Motes asked him a series of questions, including whether he admitted to shooting the couple in the back of the head. Hodges said that he did.
The Bradys were found in their South Jackson home on Feb. 8, 2002, after a relative called the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office after not being able to contact the couple. They had known Hodges for three weeks prior to the murder and had given him a job with their construction company and allowed him to live in their home.
Madison said that the shooting occurred after the Bradys became “suspicious” of Hodges’ behavior and asked him to leave their home. The district attorney said Hodges went outside and got Brady’s handgun and went back inside and shot him in the back of the head. Madison said that when Mrs. Brady came into the room, Hodges pistol whipped her and then shot her in the back of the head. Hodges took a computer, a billfold and a purse and left in the Bradys’ vehicle.
Madison said that Hodges was on the run for six months and had been traced to Alabama and then Arizona before authorities caught him in California, where he was driving the Bradys’ vehicle.
Madison also commented on the couple and said they had a history of helping people in need.
“He murdered two good Samaritans,” he said.
Judge Motes asked Hodges whether he wanted to speak before the sentence was given and he said he did not. Harvey said that his client had no explanation for what he did.
“There is no explanation,” the judge said. “This is a dreadful case.”
The judge told Hodges: “You’ve shown very little remorse today and no emotion...You will not be unleashed on society but will be in prison for the rest of your life.”
Sheriff Stan Evans, along with seven deputies, three sheriff’s office investigators, two bailiffs and other court officials were present for the hearing.


BOC to spend $3 million on courthouse site work
Court date on citizens’ lawsuit set for Sept. 2
In a move that was intended to send a defiant message to opponents, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed Monday night to use up to $3 million of surplus county funds to begin foundation work on a controversial new courthouse.
The action comes as a court date of Sept. 2 was set to hear the first phase of a citizens’ lawsuit contesting the BOC’s financing plan for the courthouse project. The citizens contend that by doing a lease-purchase deal, the BOC is in violation of the Georgia Constitution.
The BOC says its actions are legal and has asked that the lawsuit be dismissed by summary judgement. The Sept. 2 hearing will reportedly deal with the summary judgement question.

MONDAY NIGHT
In spite of the lawsuit, the BOC voted 4-1 Monday night to authorize the site-grading, foundation, sub-drainage system and initial concrete framing construction for the project up to a cost of $3 million. Records show the BOC took in nearly $3 million in unspent tax funds last year.
Stacey Britt was the only commissioner to vote against the motion, saying it isn’t an appropriate action because of a lawsuit.
“We’d be acting in bad faith,” he said. “...I don’t think it’s appropriate to go on at this time.”
But commissioner Tony Beatty said that the lawsuit is over the financing of the courthouse and not whether a new facility is needed. He said a new courthouse and the site work would be needed regardless of how the financing lawsuit is settled.
Chairman Harold Fletcher, who usually doesn’t vote unless there is a tie, said he believes the BOC should pursue this in order to move as quickly as possible on the project.
“I think in order to get this done as expeditiously as possible and to curtail some of the expenses and increase cost to the county, this is the course of action we need to pursue,” he said.
Emil Beshara said: “I’m confident the lease-purchase statute is a legal mechanism to fund a courthouse.”
COST OF LAWSUIT
On another courthouse matter, Sammy Thomason said the lawsuit over the financing of the courthouse project has already cost the county $5.5 million in additional interest. He said the interest rate on July 14, the day the county had planned to finalize the financing through the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, was 4.2 percent and that it had increased to 4.9 percent by July 31.
Thomason said that would add $5.5 million in interest cost to the county.
Thomason also said that attorney fees and construction costs because of the delay will also increase the final price of the courthouse project to the taxpayers.


‘This stuff is evil’
Methamphetamine abuse hitting Jackson County hard, say officials
It’s in the schools. It’s in the hands of older drug users. And more and more, methamphetamine has become the drug of choice across the state.
Jackson County stands in the same situation, as local narcotics investigators find the drug gaining prominence daily.
The head of the county’s two-man undercover narcotics unit — whose name is being withheld to protect his identity — said that more than 80 percent of his drug cases involve meth.
Officers are finding the drug among all demographic groups and in all areas of Jackson County, including an increase use at local high schools.
“Just about everyday we have a case,” said Major David Cochran, the head of the Jackson County criminal investigation department. “It continues to be a problem.”
More and more people are smoking, snorting, eating and injecting a drug made of little more than cold medicine and any number of harmful chemicals, including battery acid, drain cleaner, fertilizer and fuel.
“HOT RAILING”
Jackson County’s lead undercover drug investigator said that when he first came to the county, he most often found the powder form of meth.
“Crank,” as it is often called, can be eaten, snorted or even melted down and injected. But more and more, users and dealers are turning to a more profitable form of the drug, crystal meth or ice.
“The crystal meth is taking over,” the investigator said. “It’s easier to make and has more profit.”
Ice, the more expensive form of methamphetamine, is most often smoked by the user in a process referred to on the street as “hot railing.”
About $100 of the drug, just a small rock, can keep a user high for three days.
And users are finding new ways to smoke crystal meth. Jackson County’s undercover drug team recounted finding creative ice pipes, including test tubes, light bulbs and even flood lights.
Users will remove the filament with a screw driver, place a rock in the bottom of a light bulb and heat it with a small butane torch, inhaling the smoke and fumes.
TWEAKING
Using methamphetamine has been known to cause a wide range of health problems, even death.
“It contains chemicals that the first time you use it may make you high and feel good,” the lead drug investigator said. “The next time it may kill you.”
Many meth users will suffer from extreme paranoia. But one of the biggest signs of a meth user is a condition sometimes called “crank bugs.”
Jackson County’s narcotics agents tell of users picking constantly at sores all over their skin.
Then, those coming off will sometimes be lethargic and often officers will raid a home and the drug users will be “so doped up they didn’t even know we (police) were there.”
Police have even found users that are bleeding in the arm from recently shooting up, leaving officers vulnerable to blood-borne diseases. Some of them will have track marks in their neck and legs from the inability to tap into arm veins.
Methamphetamine users can’t be stereotyped into one group. High school students, adults and even older people have been caught with the illegal drug.
The drug investigator said meth has become a problem at Jackson County Comprehensive High School. In fact, one of the biggest crystal meth dealers in the county was an 18-year-old in West Jackson.
Many younger girls have turned to meth as a weight loss supplement, though the dangers, including death, of using the narcotic often outweigh potential weight loss results.
Further, people on meth will often become careless. Jackson County’s drug agents say they’ve entered houses before where meth users have stored exposed needles in coke cans. Little children in the home could have easily tried to drink out of the can and get stabbed with the needles, one investigator said.
‘WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY’
The use of methamphetamine often causes addicts to turn to other crimes.
“Once they get hooked, you’re going to see them go to whatever means necessary to keep themselves supplied,” Cochran said.
For many users, that means committing theft or burglary to get items to sell for drug money.
“Our burglars are dopers and our dopers are burglars,” the lead undercover drug investigator said.
He said most criminals arrested for theft have prior drug convictions or arrests. The investigator also said those users become very dangerous.
“You don’t want to fight one,” he said. “They don’t feel any pain.”
A RECIPE FOR DISASTER
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of methamphetamine lies with its origin, the meth lab.
Labs have been known to seriously injure or kill cooks, innocent bystanders and even law enforcement personnel participating in drug raids.
“We’ve had two or three instances where we had to call in clean up crews from the state,” Cochran said, referring to finding of meth labs in Jackson County. “It’s got to where it’s a common occurrence. We’ve had to adjust ourselves to handle these situation. The chemicals involved can be very dangerous to responding officers, even if you walk into one accidentally. An officer trained for it can still be in a dangerous type situation.”
The chemicals used in meth production are very unstable, opening up a good chance of explosion. Jackson County’s lead undercover drug investigator said he’s even been hospitalized because of meth lab chemicals.
While uncovering a lab in an old chicken house in South Jackson, the agent was exposing to anhydrous ammonia fumes leaking from a storage tank. The fumes can easily burn the lungs of those exposed.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) was recently forced into retirement after getting severe burns in his lungs from the chemical.
And in Jackson County, those dangerous labs aren’t just concentrated in one neighborhood. They have been found all over Jackson County.
“And there are more we are looking at,” the undercover agent said.
(See additional story for ways to spot a meth lab.)
GET OUT OF JACKSON COUNTY
Local drug agents work extra long days with an extra heavy work load trying to rid Jackson County of meth and other illegal drugs.
“Our goal is to make it so miserable that nobody is going to want to do this in Jackson County,” the lead investigator said.
Officials are doing just that through seizures of cars and property and by Fourth Amendment searches.
Many convicted drug users are having a condition placed on their probation that includes a waiver of Fourth Amendment rights. This means an officer can search that person and his or her belongings day or night at any time during the probation period.
Drug agents have a binder in the investigations department full of more than 150 people with active Fourth Amendment waivers in Jackson County. And they are taking advantage of those probation conditions to visit convicted users and dealers to make sure they haven’t reverted to old habits.
Many of them do and a large portion of arrests are of repeat offenders. In those cases, officers have asked prosecutors to seek Fourth Amendment waivers on bond conditions to allow them to search those who are awaiting trial.
“We will come back at night and on the weekend,” the lead drug investigator said. “We don’t want you to do anymore dope in Jackson County.”
And though programs in schools like DARE (drug abuse resistance education) seek to minimize the increase in meth and other drug use in the county, officers continue to fight the battle daily.
“It’s a worse epidemic than crack,” one undercover drug agent said. “This stuff is evil.”


Britt blasts employee about ‘political’ remark
Road paving plan leads to outburst
A road resurfacing plan by the county public works director led to an angry outburst from commissioner Stacey Britt at Monday’s board of commissioners meeting.
The outburst came after Stan Brown, head of the county’s public works department, defended the process used to select which roads are to be paved and told Britt that he didn’t want road paving to be “based on politics.”
Britt first complained that he had no input into what roads would be resurfaced inside his district and questioned how Brown determined which roads needed to be paved.
Britt also said that he had not seen the list of roads from his district until the meeting.
“I don’t appreciate y’all bringing it (the list) to us and us not knowing about it,” he said. “...There are five commissioners on this board. District 1 would like to look at the roads prior to tonight. I want to be notified prior to a meeting. I don’t want to hear about it in a meeting. That is as plain as I know how to put it.”
Brown replied: “Yes sir, understood, as plain as you said it.”
Britt said the county should be able to respond to complaints from citizens about road issues.
“It looks like to me you would ask the commissioners where they are getting complaints at,” Britt told Brown. “When these people call, they’re not calling you. They’re calling us complaining. It looks like you would come to us.”
Brown said the county had to get the roads prepared in time to be done this year and the ones on the recommendation list were ones he felt could be done this year.
“We provide our professional recommendation,” Brown said. “That’s what we’ve done... As an engineer who’s got responsibility, I don’t want to see this become political. I’ve been in communities where we did that...where we resurfaced roads based on politics and complaints. We need to be in a mode where we do our paving based on...
At that point, Britt interrupted and said, “There isn’t anybody saying it should be political favors...”
“Sir, I didn’t say they did...” Brown responded.
“I don’t appreciate you saying it’s political,” said an upset Britt.
At that point, chairman Harold Fletcher beat his gavel on the table in an effort to restore order, but Britt continued.
“I’m going to say what I’m going to say,” he said. “This has happened more than once. It has happened more than once with this road department.”
“Sit back and relax,” said Fletcher. “This is a proposal.”
“I understand,” Britt said. “Obviously, it’s an engineer’s professional opinion and he thinks it’s political if a commissioner calls and asks him to put one on there. That’s what he insinuated.”
Fletcher said he didn’t hear Brown’s comments in that light.
“I would appreciate him not saying it’s political when I call and ask him to put it (a road) on there (the list),” Britt responded.
Commissioner Tony Beatty said: “I think (Brown) said he didn’t want it to get that way (political). Not that it had been.”
Brown had recommended that Ebenezer Church Road, Jackson Wood Road and Orr School Road from District 1 be resurfaced in the next year. But Britt said he had complaints about other roads in his district, including Wilhite Road, which he said should be considered for resurfacing. Wilhite Road is on the list of roads to be sent to the state for consideration to be funded through the local assistance road program.
DOESN’T READ EMAIL
Several commissioners at the meeting said they knew about the road lists from an email sent in advance of the meeting. But Britt said he didn’t want email information and that he should receive a phone call about such matters.
“Everybody knows I don’t read e-mail,” Britt said. “Everybody in this county knows that. Pick up the phone and talk to me.”
Fletcher recommended that the board hold off on voting on the list until the next meeting to give Britt time to look over the material. Commissioner Sammy Thomason suggested that work begin on the roads in District 4 since Beatty said he agreed with the roads suggested for his district.
Instead, Britt said he was ready to go ahead and vote to approve the entire recommendation from Brown since it was a “professional opinion.”
“If you’re going to vote on one of them, vote on them all,” Britt said. “Vote on District 1. I’m going to take his professional engineering opinion and that way we’ll be sure it isn’t political.”
Britt made the motion and the BOC unanimously approved the recommendation from Brown that 20 miles of roads be resurfaced in the next year.

 

 


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See Galilee Preschool Flyer


Developers May Change Annexation Requests
Commerce City Council Will Decide
On Annexation of 206 Acres Monday Night
Two zoning requests for annexation will come before the Commerce City Council Monday night. The city council meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center.
Both requests – one for R-3 zoning on 30 acres for a 45-lot subdivision and the other for R-3 zoning on 176 acres for 387 lots – come with a do-not-approve recommendation from the Commerce Planning Commission. But there were indications at Monday night's city council planning session that the developers of both properties might change their proposals enough to get city council acceptance.
Andy Barnett seeks the annexation of 30 acres off W.E. King Road. When the planning commission took up the case, member Doug Newcomer asked if Barnett would settle for R-2 zoning, which would allow fewer lots.
Barnett said at the time that he did not think he could make R-2 work, whereupon Newcomer made the motion to recommend denial of the request.
At the city council work session, however, Councilman Bob Sosebee, who works with Barnett, said he thought Barnett would be able to make R-2 work and would present that to the city council Monday.
Sosebee also indicated that the potential developers of the 176-acre tract off Traynham Road were trying to come back with a plan to seek annexation with an R-1E zoning (one-acre lots and a minimum of 2,400 square feet).
The council could approve both changes without sending them back through the planning commission.
In a related matter, the city council is expected to appoint two members to the planning commission Monday night. One position is that of Newcomer who reportedly does not want to be reappointed; the other is that of Chairman Greg Perry.
Newcomer's replacement will be made by the at-large councilmen Archie D. Chaney Jr. and Richard Massey. Perry is a Ward 4 appointment.
Also on the agenda for Monday night:
•the setting of qualifying dates for the 2003 election. Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr., councilmen Sosebee, Massey and Sam Brown are up for re-election, as are board of education members Steve Perry, Bill Davis and Dr. Paul Sargent. The qualifying period is likely to be set for Sept. 8-12.
•naming streets proposed for resurfacing by the state under the LARP program. The city typically submits two streets from each ward, and the DOT funds two or three of them. City Manager Clarence Bryant reported Monday that the 2003 LARP projects remain to be done, but that Jackson County has agreed to contract with Commerce to pave the other five streets submitted to the state last year.


Braselton OKs $18.8 million bond plan for water projects
The Braselton Town Council approved an $18.8 million bond ordinance on Monday that outlines a financing plan for its water and wastewater projects.
Gainesville bond attorney Tread Syfan told the council during a called meeting that the bond ordinance will include a maximum interest of six percent, maximum principal schedule and maximum payment schedule. The bonds, which will fund completed and proposed water and wastewater projects, will be funded entirely through service fees and not through taxpayer funds, he said.
“Based on the engineering report...and the rate structure in place and the anticipated growth in the system, we are confident the system will do that — that the system will generate the revenue and pay off the bonds,” Syfan said.
Among six construction projects, Braselton expects to spend nearly $9 million and an additional $1.1 million in project support costs. Syfan said the remaining bonds will be used to re-finance several existing water and wastewater department debt payments, including a Georgia Environmental Facilities Agency (GEFA) loan at 5.43 percent. The new bonds have a maturity date of 2026.
But, Braselton may not need $18.8 million in bonds, Syfan said. Instead, he explained that the town is looking at bonds in “the $17 million range,” depending on insurance rates. By purchasing bond insurance, the town will gain a higher credit rating and its interest rate will be lowered, he added. The town council is expected to give final approval of the bond rate by September.
Syfan said the bonds will have to be approved by a superior court judge and they expect to close on a rate on Sept. 4. Bonds could be priced and offered in late August, he said. A called meeting in late August could be held to finalize the bond process.
Some of the construction projects to be financed by the bonds include an additional holding pond and re-use water facilities. A 1.24 million-gallon-a-day wastewater treatment plant that has already completed construction will be re-financed.
The Braselton Town Council unanimously approved the bond ordinance.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the town council approved a streetlight payment request from the homeowners’ association of Clearwater, Phase I, located in Hall County. The subdivision is the first one to use a streetlight ordinance adopted by the town council last year.
Residents in the subdivision will be billed through their town water and sewage bills for a total of $359 a month for 38 streetlights throughout the neighborhood, including 14 entrance lights. Residents will be billed $4.49 a month per lot.
“It won’t cost the town anything, if they pay the utility bill,” said town manager and clerk Jennifer Scott.