News from Banks County...

SEPTEMBER 24, 2003


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OPINIONS
Angela Gary
Isn’t a coin toss sacred in sports?
If you look at our sports section this week, you should see my photo at the top of the pigskin pickers.

Rochelle Beckstine
Kid Internet-it’s out there
Who needs PC games when, with a little surfing, you can find kid internet sites that offer just as much?


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Big plays hurt
Leopards give up big plays in loss
Looking at the stats from Friday’s game, it’s hard to understand that Banks County lost 41-21 to Wesleyan.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Judge rules in BOC’s favor in courthouse lawsuit
Citizens to appeal
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners won the first round in a battle with a group of citizens who filed a lawsuit over the proposed financing for a new courthouse.

Sam Brown Critical After Heart Attack
Commerce Ward 3 city councilman Sam Brown is in a coma and unresponsive at Crawford W. Long Hospital in Atlanta following a major heart attack at his home last Thursday night.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Fair continues through Saturday
The 55th annual Madison County Fair is being held nightly through Sept. 27 at the Comer Fairgrounds, opening each evening at 6 p.m.

Shelter seeks more funding
Director tells BOC the facility could face shut down next year
The Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter is in danger of shutting its doors sometime next year unless it finds more money to cover expenses.

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Rec department staff gets ready for trail opening

The staff of the Banks County Recreation Department was working steadily last week getting the new fitness trail near the horse arena ready for the grand opening Saturday, September 27. The bridge was built by Robert Norman, Phillip Cronic and Kenny Crumley. Pictured are: (L-R) Crumley, Kim McEntire, Tommy Wilson, Trey Donaldson, recreation department

Half-mile fitness trail to open Saturday
Dedication ceremony planned at horse arena on county farm
Banks County residents will soon have one more reason to visit the county farm land near the horse arena.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 27, and the public is invited to attend and walk the new half-mile fitness trail, said Robin Trotter, Family Connections director.
“We will also have a mini-health fair that morning,” Trotter said. “Life South will be on hand for people who want to donate blood. They are going to be testing people for percentage of body fat. We hope to be able to check cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
“We’ll have free water bottles, power drinks, granola bars and apples. Those who donate blood will receive a T-shirt,” she added.
Trey Donaldson, Banks County Parks and Recreation director, said the project had taken several months to complete.
“We had a lot of clearing to do down here,” he said. “We still have a lot of clearing to do. The walk covers a half of a mile and winds along the river. Walkers get a little sun and then the cool shade.”
Benches have been placed along the trail for walkers to stop and rest while enjoying the beauty of the land and the shade from huge hickory and oak trees.
There are also exercise stations along the trail where walkers can do stretching exercises while they take a breather, he said.
“It’s less monotonous to walk down here than on a track,” he said. “The stations help break up the walk and make it more fun.”
Trotter wrote the grant and the county was awarded $14,700 for the trail. A small amount of money came out of the parks and recreation budget, said Donaldson.
“Robin was the backbone of this project,” he said. “She was the driving force behind it all. She knew what an asset it would be to the health of the community.”
The money went for more than just the trail. Picnic tables, benches, two pavilions, grills and metal trash containers add to the recreation aspect of walking.
Donaldson said Jesse Major, an Eagle Scout at Banks County High School, took the exercise stations on as his scout project.
“I was real pleased with his work,” he said. “He really got into this. The stations will have instructions pertaining to the exercise. It’s an overall effort to improve fitness no matter what level of physical activity one can do.”
As he walked toward a small bridge built over a drainage creek near one side of the track, he said it was built, under budget, by parks and recreation employees Phillip Cronic, Kenny Crumley and Robert Norton.
“People have already begun coming here to walk,” he said. “We see them every day we’re down here. That makes us feel like we’re doing something worthwhile and that people appreciate it and take advantage of it. Hopefully, more people will come and use it to improve their health.”


Let the paving begin
Concrete planned to go down this week on Hwy. 441 Homer bypass
Progress on the Hwy. 441 Homer bypass could soon begin progressing rapidly.
The state department of transportation plans for the concrete paving of the 6.2 mile stretch of four-lane highway to start this week.
“Concrete paving is pretty intense,” said DOT spokesman Bert Brantley. “It takes a while to get done but when it gets done, it’s down for years.”
Brantley said he hopes for the paving to be finished by late fall, barring any further weather delays. No date on the final completion has been set.
The $41.3 million project was originally slated for a May 2003 completion date. But unusually wet weather caused the DOT to grant a project extension to contractor Jones Brothers until October.
Because of continued wet weather this summer, the DOT will likely grant another extension to the contractor, Brantley said.
The state and the contractor have made steps to get the project rolling quicker.
The large amount of rainfall kept the soil underneath from drying out enough to finish work on the road bed. Therefore, the two groups decided to put down a special material, geotextile, to give the road’s base more support.
The material, a synthetic fabric, looks similar to a waffle and lessens the need for extra-firm soil. The DOT doesn’t normally use the product but decided to in Banks County to get the project moving. The state and the contractor will split the extra cost to put down the geotextile.
“We both wanted to put it down to get some progress on the project,” Brantley said.
The material and the base have already been laid for most all of the road. Now, concrete paving will begin.
Brantley said the DOT decided to go with concrete on the project because it lasts longer than asphalt and requires less maintenance. Workers can also do the concrete paving in the cold weather, unlike asphalt.
The Hwy. 441 Homer bypass project started in April 2000. The highway, which has costs $6.7 million per mile to build, includes eight double bridges.
The high cost of the road, Brantley said, results from the unusual number of bridges on such a short stretch of road.
“It’s a product of the environment,” Brantley said.
The Homer bypass is part of a state-wide project to four-lane several highways through the entire state, including Hwy. 441.
Once the Homer bypass gets finished, it will be similar to the Hwy. 129 bypass around Jefferson, only shorter, more expensive and with more bridges.
The Homer project will make Hwy. 441 a four-lane road in it’s entirety through Banks County.


Cornelia Airport expansion causes concern in Baldwin
The expansion of a runway at the Cornelia Airport that will bury a 300-foot section of Baldwin’s sewer lines up to 90 feet below ground has city officials concerned.
In a report given at Monday’s meeting, Fred Hawkins, city engineer, said the engineering recommendations made by his firm had been largely ignored.
“When they started this project two years ago, we reviewed the drawings and made our written comments,” he said. “We asked that the sewer line be placed in a casing to protect it. We asked that they install a larger line to withstand the pressure. According to their engineering plans, the line is supposed to be secure up to a depth of 81 feet with a type 5 bedding (granular stone) compacted 90 percent. We don’t know if the compaction has been done to specifications. We also asked to have three drainage boxes installed. They installed two.”
Mayor Mark Reed asked: “Did they just disregard our suggestions?”
Hawkins replied: “Yes, so it appears. We didn’t even get a final set of plans to look over.”
Hawkins was most concerned with the size of the pipe being able to withstand the stress of 81 or more feet of rock and dirt, the maximum pressure for that type of pipe, and the concrete runway.
Charles Sullivan Construction Company was hired as the contractor for the project which then hired Griffin Brothers to install the pipe, he said.
Sullivan representatives have said the pipe as installed will withstand the pressure, Hawkins noted.
However, Hawkins explained that a crucial “lamp” test had not been done on the line. The test is used to show the levelness of the pipe installation. If light is blocked, there is a problem and the pipe is out of line.
“That line will fail,” he said. “If it is not kept to 81 feet in depth, it will fail. If it has not been compacted properly, it will fail.”
He said Sullivan Construction contends permission was obtained and that two city employees came out to observe the installation.
Hawkins asked: “How did they do this without the city’s permission?”
Reed said the city does not accept lines that have not been approved. But, he added, the county may have given approval, since the airport does not lie within Baldwin’s city limits.
City manager Betty Harper has been in touch with Habersham County Manager Bill Shanahan about who is responsible for the line if something goes wrong. She indicated the problem would be Baldwin’s since the city provides sewer in that area.
Hawkins suggested the council request the contractor or pipe manufacturer provide a five-year warranty to cover any costs associated with a failure.
City attorney David Syfan said the city could hold the contractor to the buildings codes even though the property is not located within the city’s boundaries, as was done in a recent Georgia Supreme Court case.
“We can make them comply with our building codes,” he said.
Hawkins suggested the council do something before the line fails and causes a spill and a fine from the environmental protection division.
Hawkins estimated the cost of repairing the sewer line, should it fail, at $45,000.



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Sheriff, school officials counting
on bypass
Once work wraps up on the Homer bypass, it will complete the four-laning of Hwy. 441 through Banks County.
And some local officials are counting on that project getting done.
“Getting the road completed is essential,” said Banks County school superintendent Chris Erwin.
The school system needs the highway as an access point to its new middle school quickly going up right along the edge of the bypass.
The new highway will provide a quick route for buses and parents from both the south and north ends of the county to access the middle school.
Erwin also pointed out that the “well planned out” road will offer a much safer entrance to the school.
Construction officials expect work on the school to finish in July. The bypass should be done well before that time.
Sheriff Charles Chapman also depends on completion of the bypass for the opening of the new jail next year.
“If they get the jail done on schedule, it will be extremely important that the road be finished,” he said.
Currently, work on the jail project has fallen about three weeks behind, thanks in part to unusually wet weather this summer.
Chapman said when concrete paving starts on the northbound lanes of the bypass in front of the jail access road, the entrance will be shut off and construction will be halted for about three more weeks.
Chapman added that he was looking forward to the opening of the bypass. He said it will alleviate the large amount of through traffic in Homer during the morning and afternoon hours and will improve response times of sheriff’s deputies.