News from Banks County...

SEPTEMBER 10, 2003


Banks County
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OPINIONS

Phillip Sartain
Slap happy
Say good-bye to summer and good riddance for all I care. For the record, I’m not a summer person. Being cooked bacon crisp during the Dog Days is bad enough.

Rochelle Beckstine
Security weighs heavily on liberty
“Most people want security in this world, not liberty.” -H.L. Mencken
Forty-five days after the Twin Towers fell, President Bush signed the Patriot Act into law.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Lady Leopards pushing on
Banks trying to get wins through tough fast-pitch stretch
With games coming up that the Lady Leopards have a shot at winning, they are focusing on one thing — making less mistakes.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
BOC Ok’s new county code, land use plan
After more than two years of meetings and work, the new county unified development code and land use plan and map have been approved by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
The BOC approved the updates when it met Monday. The plan only affects unincorporated areas of the county.

No decision yet in BOC lawsuit
Jefferson wades into courthouse fray
It could be several more weeks before a visiting Superior Court judge hands down a decision in the high-profile lawsuit against the Jackson County Board of Commissioners over the financing of a new courthouse.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
City of Comer searches for new police chief
The City of Comer has started the search for a new police chief, voting to advertise for a replacement for Chief Barry Reed who left two weeks ago for a position with the Elbert County Sheriff’s Department.
The council, which made the decision following a closed session Tuesday night, had come under criticism for not acting from at least two prominent citizens.

Felton to speak at United Way Kickoff
New Georgia men’s basketball coach Dennis Felton will be the guest speaker at Madison County’s 2003-2004 United Way Campaign Kickoff set for Thursday, Sept. 18, at 7:30 a.m. at Williams Transco on Transco Road off Hwy. 98 between Danielsville and Comer.

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Autumn Leaf Pageant

Buttoned up the dress. Rylee Meadows, 9-months-old, got buttoned up by her grandmother, Brenda Meadows, for the Baby Miss Autumn Leaf Pageant. See more photos in this weeks Banks County News.

County SAT scores drop one point
System working on initiatives for score improvement
The Banks County school system got mixed results when its SAT scores for last year arrived.
Verbal performance in 2003 was better than a year ago while math scores on the test dropped.
The system reports a total score on the test designed mostly for college-bound high school students of 960, down one point from the 2002 total.
Verbal scores however rose one point to 483. Math scores fell two points to 477.
Local school officials are hoping that a new instruction model adopted for this year will improve the scores.
High school level initiatives — including SAT prep classes, honors courses and eventually AP classes — are also underway and in further development to help those that will take the test in the future.
“Long term, we are looking at how we can challenge our best kids and raise the scores at that end of the spectrum,” high school principal Art Wheaton said.
He pointed to the planned addition of school-day SAT prep classes and current work to help students in after school remediation.
Banks County’s scores are still 24 points below the state average, while the state ranks last in the nation.
But on the bright side for local high school test takers, Banks County students are still doing much better than in other rural areas of the state.
Rural students in Georgia have an average total score of 939, 21 points lower than Banks County.
Assistant superintendent and curriculum director Donna Reed said the system continues to stress reading and math skills in the younger grades, programs that should help students exceed as they move into high school and begin taking the SAT.
“Our kids are learning to read a lot earlier and that impacts everything,” Reed said.
Despite this year’s one-point decrease in test scores, Banks’ average total score stands 101 points higher than the total in 2000.


Industrial Park Drive extension could be close to reality
The construction of a connector road from Banks Crossing to Hwy. 59 that has been talked about for years could be closer to fruition.
The Banks County commissioners decided Monday morning to propose an agreement to the owners of the property the road will run through. The agreement would require the landowners to sell their property for a reasonable value to any commercial or industrial interest for the area, instead of holding onto the land and waiting for adjacent property near the road to develop.
Should the landowners agree to the stipulation and the dedication of a 100-foot right of way, the county could soon contract with the state department of transportation for more than $100,000 in state assistance to construct the nearly two-thirds mile stretch of road.
Development authority chairman Jack Banks said the property owners wanted a stipulation attached to the right of way deed that the project be completed within a 12 month period, barring any inclement weather, or the right of way be forfeited.
BOC chairman Kenneth Brady said in the beginning of the meeting he is personally against the project, referencing a previous agreement between the county and the landowners.
Nearly 10 years ago, the landowners gave the county a strip of land through the property for the construction of a waterline to the south end of the county. In exchange, the county was supposed to build the road to Hwy. 59 and would even get an option on the frontage property.
That agreement has long since expired, though the waterline has been constructed. No road was ever built and the option on the land has been taken away.
The development authority has in the past year tried to renew efforts to honor the agreement and construct the road.
But should the county refuse to build the road, it would likely be forced to spend around $150,000 to remove the waterline.
Regardless, Brady said he is against the county financing a project that would benefit one person. He also said he felt the county was being “held hostage” on the issue.
Commissioner Pat Westmoreland stepped in and said he too was against a project that would bring personal gain to just one person.
But development authority member Sam McDuffie brought up the possibility of developing an agreement with the landowners to ensure the land would be sold if any reasonable offer is made, instead of holding onto the land to wait for property values to rise.
Westmoreland and commissioner Rickey Cain then said they would support the project if such an agreement with the landowners could be reached.
If the county can reach an agreement with the landowners, the project could happen rather quickly. Plans have already been completed and the DOT has allotted money for the road’s construction.


BOE gets clarification on busing of younger students
A controversial decision to stop busing Banks County’s pre-K and Head Start children got a lot clearer in the past week.
The Banks County school board received information during meetings Thursday and Monday that spelled out the reasons the system has stopped the busing of the younger children.
A new federal law that will take effect on January 1, 2004, requires any buses that transport children on the Head Start level be equipped with special seats and also an extra adult monitor. Many school systems have thus decided to drop the service because of the expense to equip bus fleets.
The law does not specifically apply to pre-K children. But Ninth District Opportunity, the agency that oversees the pre-K and Head Start program in Banks and 19 other counties, decided to lump the two programs together.
In a letter to Banks County transportation director Dennis Marlow, Ninth District Head Start and pre-K director Patsy Thomas said the district was going to stop busing the two groups of students effective July 2003.
All of the 19 other schools in the district have also stopped the busing of those students because of the financial burden to specially equip bus fleets.
According to the letter, Dawson County, with a school system similar in size to Banks’, estimated the first-year costs of equipping buses at $200,000. Cost afterwards would run near $100,000 per year.
Some parents in Banks County have expressed concern over the ending of the busing program. But Marlow has said several times the system can’t afford to make the required changes to keep busing the kids.
School board chairman Bo Garrison also pointed out at Thursday’s BOE work session that the decision was not made at the system level. It was, he said, a decision handed down from district personnel.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business at Thursday’s work session, the BOE:
•met behind closed doors for just under an hour to discuss personnel and confidential student information.
•approved the hiring of the following: David C. Ayers and Jessie F. Westbrooks, bus monitors; Tabitha Baker and Randy Krumnow, bus drivers; Denise Shubert, cafeteria worker at BCMS; and Carol Carter, paraprofessional at BCMS.
•approved the following resignations: Dale Ballenger, bus monitor; Coy Marlow, bus driver; and Betty Ivie, cafeteria worker at BCPS.
•approved the following list of substitute teachers: Donna Clark, Rebecca Dale, Linda Elliott, Laurie Erwin, Kristina Escoe, Alisha Farr, Patricia Garrett, Kathleen Gossett, Amy O’Kelley, Kelly Patterson, Stefanie Patton, Luanne Pendley, Amy Richey, Penny Rockett and Hilda Smith.
•learned the state has received the system’s appeal of its AYP report status and will make a ruling within the next 30 days.


It’s official!
Banks Crossing name on record
Though the Hwy. 441 and I-85 interchange has been known as Banks Crossing for years, the area’s name wasn’t official. That changed Tuesday night.
The Banks County commissioners voted to officially name the unincorporated area as Banks Crossing.
Now, the state Department of Transportation will likely erect signs at both sides of Hwy. 441 designating it as unincorporated Banks Crossing.
All three commissioners agreed that the official naming was necessary and unanimously approved Rickey Cain’s motion on the name designation.
Commissioner Pat Westmoreland introduced the matter after discussion he has undergone with the Banks County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Tuesday’s decision will not change any official addresses or postal designations for the area.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the BOC:
•approved Joe and Cindy Tu’s rezoning of 256 acres on Hwy. 441 from agricultural to commercial agriculture to build four breeder houses. The Baptist minister said the land will one day become a ministry area.
•approved a $34,617 I.W. Davis contract to pay for a correctional officer to supervise a prison work detail in the county.
•renewed the local public transportation contract with the DOT and agreed to use $4,300 to share the costs of a new van with the state. The state will contribute close to $40,000 for the van.
•approved the $9,795 purchase of fire department breathing apparatuses out of sales tax money to replace aging equipment.
•met behind closed doors for 10 minutes to discuss a land acquisition issue relating to the expansion of the sewage system. No action was taken.
•learned the county needs to appoint a replacement to the Georgia Mountain Community Service Board.
•heard from Jim Ruetten about getting the Crystal Lake Subdivision Road designated as a county road. He said only two rights-of-way deeds are needed to have the county take over the road. He requested help in securing those rights-of-way.



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School system working on positive public relations
The Banks County School System has put one of its employees in charge of its public relations in the hopes of spreading information about the county’s schools.
Anna Barnett spoke before the board of education Monday night to highlight some of the initiatives she has started.
Barnett presented a new brochure about the school system that will be distributed to anyone needing information about the system. Officials will also forward copies to the chamber of commerce for distribution.
The brochure provides up-to-date enrollment data and principal contact information for each of the county’s five schools. It also highlights some of the educational programs underway and the construction projects that have just ended and are still in progress.
In addition, the brochure provides information about the number of faculty and staff employed at the various schools and central office.
Barnett added that she was working with teachers in each school to gather information for newspaper publication.
OTHER ACTION
At Monday’s meeting, the board also:
•learned that work on the new middle school was progressing rapidly, with more than two-thirds of the concrete already poured and 65 percent of the steel already erected.
•recognized the following faculty members for volunteering to help with this year’s new teacher induction program: Donna Reed, assistant superintendent; Pam Strickland, gifted and special education director; Janice Allen, BCPS and BCES teacher; Matthew Cooper, BCMS assistant principal; Linda Hawks, BCPS; Susan Oliver, BCHS teacher; and Susie Osborn, central office.
•approved Pritchett Tire and Alignment as the system’s tire provider.
•approved the following facilities use requests: Banks County Recreation Department to use the BCMS field at various specified dates in September and October for games and practices; and Piedmont College to use a BCHS classroom for graduate level teacher classes.
•approved the following field trip requests from the BCMS FFA: junior beef futurity on July 15-17 in Perry; chapter officer leadership at the Georgia FFA Camp on July 27-29 in Covington; the Georgia Fair on October 2-5 in Perry; the Georgia FFA Camp on December 5-6 in Covington; Carroll County agricultural event on January 16-17 and April 9-10 in Carrollton; Georgia National Livestock show on February 25-28 in Perry; and the north region FFA rally on May 7-8 in Covington.
•approved the following project requests: BCHS FCCLA to collect Tanger receipts between July 1 and September 2 as a fund-raiser; BCHS CBI seniors for a bake sale the last 10 minutes of the lunch period to finance field trips; BCHS FBLA to sell logo socks at sporting events to raise funds to participate in region, state and national competition; and the BCHS special education department to sell baked goods and crafts at the end of lunch periods to finance several events.
•learned the system has a new ID badge production machine to help create security badges to identify student, faculty and staff. Technology director Karl McElwain said the machine also allows the capability to add barcodes and magnetic strips to cards.
•learned school enrollment stands as follows: 391 at BCPS with a 94 percent attendance rate; 391 at BCES with a 94 percent attendance rate; 419 at BCUES with a 95 percent attendence rate; 646 at BCMS with a 96 percent attendance rate; and 662 at BCHS with an 89 percent attendance rate. Total school enrollment is at 2,509.
•learned the transportation department 32 buses with 37 staff members and runs 2,140 miles per school day.
•learned the lunch rooms serve 3,292 meals per day with 31 employees. Participate rates at the schools are: 88 percent at BCPS; 91 percent at BCES; 80 percent at BCMS; and 79 percent at BCHS.
•learned each school lunchroom got a 100 on their health score ratings.