News from Banks County...

AUGUST 20, 2003


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OPINIONS
Jana Mitcham
The words of worlds
I heard a radio discussion recently about how parents can be “friends” with their teenager. Or, in other words, “What to do so your teen will think you’re cool...”

Zach Mitcham
Whoomp, there’s ‘No Child Left Behind’
Like every pop song, every education reform initiative needs its hook.
I hear “No Child Left Behind” and I don’t think of kids suddenly smarter.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Lady Leopards take second
Softball team finishes runner-up in weekend tourney
Before the season began, the Banks County softball team made a goal to improve over last year.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
County goes ‘wet’ with BOC vote
Beer and wine ordinance approved
In a 3-2 vote, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners made history Monday night in voting to allow the sale of beer and wine in unincorporated areas of the county.

Braselton sued over proposed apartments
A development company that has been effectively denied its request to build 16 apartment units an acre on Ga. Hwy. 124 has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Braselton.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Planners pummel park plan
BOC to consider proposed IDA rezoning of Hwy. 72 property Monday
County planners soundly rejected the Industrial Authority’s plans to rezone a portion of the Hwy. 72 business park from A2 (agricultural) to Industrial at Tuesday night’s public hearings of the planning and zoning commission

Commissioners consider Hull, Madico EMS stations
Madison County commissioners are looking at expanding emergency medical services in the near future in the form of two new ambulance stations.

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BIG BUST

Sheriff Charles Chapman (above) kneels beside nearly $9.5 million worth of cocaine seized along I-85 in Banks County last week. A Georgia State Patrol Trooper found the cocaine packaged with watermelons (right) inside a truck after he and a Department of Motor Vehicle Safety officer stopped the truck during a safety checkpoint on the interstate at Martin Bridge Road.

Truck full of ‘coke’ found
Bust yields 210 pounds, $9.5 million in illegal narcotics
A safety checkpoint along I-85 in Banks County last week netted one of the single largest drug busts in the county’s history.
The checkpoint led to the discovery of nearly 210 pounds of cocaine found stored amongst watermelons in a refrigerated truck Thursday. The drugs have a street value once cut up and packaged of $9.5 million, Sheriff Charles Chapman said.
“That took a lot of drugs off the street,” he said of the New York-bound truck. “Over the past few years, it’s gotten to be a bigger problem. A lot of illegal drugs are transported in some of these big trucks.”
The driver of the truck, Hector Ponce, 27, Port Arthur, Texas, has been arrested and charged with trafficking cocaine in connection with the incident. He remains behind bars in the Banks County Jail waiting to post a $200,000 bond.
Chapman said deputies with the sheriff’s office and officers with the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety, Northeast Georgia Drug Task Force, Georgia State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Customs Service were conducting a periodic safety checkpoint along I-85 near Hwy. 63, the Martin Bridge Road exit.
Ponce, who was driving a large Freightliner pulling a refrigerated trailer, neared the checkpoint and acted as if he were going to exit at Hwy. 63 before pulling back onto I-85.
At that point, Chapman said, Ponce was pulled over by a DMVS officer for a safety inspection. A state trooper assisted in that traffic stop.
The driver was identified and questioned and his log book was inspected. Chapman said Ponce also produced a hand written bill of lading, a document issued for the transporting of goods. He said finding such bills of lading hand written is “unusual.”
After talking with the driver, the two officers received a consent to search the trailer, Chapman said.
The trooper then boarded the vehicle and found what appeared to be cocaine packaged among boxes of watermelons. Ponce was then apprehended as other officers arrived on the scene.
The substance tested positively as cocaine in a field test on the scene. The tractor trailer was impounded and taken to a Gainesville truck company where it was unloaded and inspected.
Inside the trailer, officers found what has been positively identified as 210 pounds of cocaine wrapped in bags among the watermelons. The cocaine was wrapped into 29 individual packages of little more than two kilos of the drug, Chapman said.
“The officers conducting the inspection did an outstanding job and are to be commended,” Chapman said. “It was a joint effort between all the agencies and it turned out to be a real good day.”
The truck, he added, had been loaded in Texas and was headed for New York state.


Development Authority set to close on first industrial lot
Board members of the Banks County Development Authority moved ahead Thursday with plans to close on five acres of land purchased by Bo Garrison for his linen service. The negotiations have gone on for over a year, but the five-acre plot has finally been surveyed and the plat recorded.
Garrison will be required to follow covenants imposed on the business property off Highway 441 at Banks Crossing that includes an exterior of brick or “brick-like” facing. The loading dock for his business will be at the rear of the building, said Jack Banks, DA chairman.
Two other lots, a 1.5 acre lot for the new Banks Crossing Fire Station and a for-sale 1.443 acre lot, are in the works to be cleared and graded along with Garrison’s. The cost would be shared by Garrison, the DA and the fire department.
There was some talk about postponing the clearing of the land until October when the burn ban is lifted. Banks County Board of Commissioner Pat Westmoreland, who attended the meeting, said there is no need to wait. There are other ways to dispose of the brush and debris, such as chipping, he pointed out.
DA board member Jerry Boling made a motion to allow Banks to find the lowest bidder on clearing and grading so the project can proceed.
The board voted to reassess the value of the remaining 12.75 acres on Industrial Park to reflect the prices of the area. Some board members thought the selling price was set too low.
Acreage along Hwy. 441 at Banks Crossing is selling for $175,000 to $300,000 per acre, according to board member Sam Reese. He said the land value should be more in line with the area price range.
Banks said Joey Wright was interested in an option on the remaining acreage on Industrial Park Blvd. Wright said he needs a 10,000 square-foot building within the next year-and-a-half and two years. He said he has no definite business planned for the building.
Board member Thomas Wilson said he is against options and said the land should be an out-right purchase.
“We don’t want someone to buy it and just sit on it,” he said. “If he wants to build something right away, fine. But, there’s no reason to not develop it.”
Banks pointed out that in the covenants of the park, a parcel of land cannot be resold without offering it back to the DA at the same price it was purchased. It would do no good for the buyer to just wait for property values to rise.
Also discussed was the new recreation building. Funding for the construction will be passing through the DA and some members said they are a bit uncomfortable with the contractor the park and recreation board had chosen. The contractor, according to Banks, subbed out all of the construction work. His concerns were with the DA being held liable with any problems.
The contractor discussed was not named. However, Banks said there had been a problem with the firm in Jackson County that had led to a court case. He said he did not want the same thing to happen to Banks County and the DA.
Board member Sam Reese said the arrangement was not uncommon and that many contractors do not do the actual construction, but use sub-contractors.
Westmoreland said the board of commissioners had accepted the park and recreation board recommendation and approved going with the contractor.
Reese added that since Michael Fischer, county financial officer, and the architectural firm had checked the contractor out there should be no cause for concern out of the ordinary.
Reese said: “There is no reason to disqualify him. He turned in the lowest bid and the bid was accepted. He will have to take a bond out on the project. To even get a bond your business has to be in good standing. We need to sign the contract.”
Tom Wilson suggested that once the county attorney has checked out the contract and the contractor, the board should hold a special called meeting to sign off officially on the contract.
In other business, the board discussed the additional .66 mile of road construction for a connector, to be called Business Park Road, from Industrial Park Boulevard to Highway 59. Right of ways from property owners have been discussed, but not secured. The county attorney has been working on the deeds. The board voted to recommend the construction of the road to the BOC. Westmoreland said the BOC could hold a special called meeting to approve the road and proceed with construction.


Qualifying for Lula council seats set
Two councilmen to seek re-election
Dawn Letson, Lula city clerk, announced the qualifying dates for the three council seats coming up in the November election at Monday’s meeting.
Qualifying begins at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, September 8 and runs through Friday, September 12, during regular business hours at city hall.
The seats are: District 1 seat, now held by Mike Ostrander; District 4 seat, held by Perry Bridgeman; and District 5 seat, held by Lamb Griffin.
The qualifying fee is $18, three-percent of the annual salary of a council member.
Griffin and Ostrander said they would run again in their districts. Bridgeman said he was not ready to make a commitment.
On a related matter, the council approved spending $1,000 for two touch-screen voting machines for the November election.



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Lula could get Hall Co. SO deputy
Thanks to Homeland Security funds, Lula may get a county satellite precinct and a deputy.
Mayor Milton Turner said he had spoken with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and found the sheriff had applied for a grant through Homeland Security to provide funding for eight new deputies.
Turner said: “We need a deputy here. There has been vandalism in the town. The juveniles that vandalized the school have been arrested.”
Turner said he was not sure if a building or an office would be required by the deputy.
On a related matter, the council also discussed going ahead with a city court.
City attorney Brad Patton said he had been contacted by Ann Bishop, Hall County magistrate court, and that she had forwarded two intergovernmental agreements that the council could use as examples.
He also suggested the council decide which ordinances that to be enforced.
The city’s ordinances may have to be brought in line with county ordinances, he said.
The maximum fines would be determined by the council, but the judge would make the call on the amount the defendants would be fined.
The city would not get any money from the fines. Instead, any money would go to the magistrate court.


Heritage Days Festival planned
Aug. 30-31at horse arena
Heritage Days will be held Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 30-31, at the Banks County Horse Arena and Park on Eaglenest Road.
The event will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 30, with a parade that goes from Banks County Middle School, along Highway 441 South to Thompson Street and on to the horse arena. Katie Harris, of the Banks Crossing Saddle Club, is the organizer of the parade which will feature horse and mule drawn buggies and wagons, other period entries and a host of floats.
The chamber is partnering with the Appalachian Heritage Guild (AHG), the Town of Homer, the Banks County Historical Society and the Banks Crossing Saddle Club to sponsor the event..
The Guild will provide demonstrations of daily tasks as they would have been done at the turn of the century. Artists of various mediums from potters to wood carvers have been invited to attend.
Old-fashioned games, such as greased pole climb, tug-of-war, watermelon eating contest, pie-eating contests for adults and children, horseshoe competition and even a “flat-iron” throw for the ladies are some of the activities planned. A rock-climbing wall will be sponsored by the AHG.
Entertainment will not be lacking. Bluegrass and country music bands are being contacted. A square dance is planned for Saturday night with the help of the Banks County Square Trackers as well as a street dance.
A gate fee of $3 per person was set with no charge for children under the age of two. County non-profit organizations have been asked to provide food and drinks for the festival and they are jumping at the chance to raise funds.
For more information about “Heritage Days,” call the chamber at 677-2108.