News from Jackson County...

SEPTEMBER 24, 2003


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The Road Gets Tougher
Tigers Must Regroup Quickly To Face No. 1 Lincoln Co.
It shouldn’t take Commerce long to get over its four-touchdown loss to Morgan County this past Friday night.

Lady Dragons in a groove
The Jefferson slow-pitch softball team continued to impress last week, earning three wins against rival competition from Jackson County, improving their record to 16-4.

Winless Panthers still causing plenty of headaches
Region title contender Salem presents plenty of obstacles; Seminoles coach says he’s weary of upset on Friday


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY

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.

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.


Neighborhood 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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ARTWORK AT BOYS & GIRLS CLUB

These young local artists painted this colorful design on the deck at the Jackson County Boys & Girls Club facility as an after-school art project. The Boys & Girls Club, which is located on Gordon Street, Jefferson, held an open house and ribbon-cutting last week.

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.
Judge Carlisle Overstreet of Augusta ruled on Friday in favor of the BOC’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit over the financing of a new courthouse. But the citizen’s group has vowed to continue the fight and appeal the ruling.
“Naturally, we’re disappointed in the decision,” said Tim Venable, chairman of Concerned Citizens of Jackson County. “But we’re not discouraged. We still believe in the rightness of our cause and that’s why we’ve decided to appeal. I will ask all Jackson Countians to stand with us and continue to support us through what could be a lengthy appeal process. Our voice and our stand for good, open and ethical government and our constitutional rights will continue.”
BOC chairman Harold Fletcher called the ruling a “victory for the people” of the county.
“It vindicates our position that we’ve said all along that this was a frivolous lawsuit,” Fletcher said. “We would certainly hope with the completeness of the ruling that those involved would take a serious look at the situation and would cease from proceeding with this.”
Fletcher said the county would defend any appeal of the ruling.
“We said from the get-go that we would vigorously defend this position,” he said. “We have done so. We will vigorously defend any appeals.”
He said that any money the county would have to spend on an appeal could be spent for “something more productive.”
Fletcher said that now that the judge has ruled, the county plans to move forward with the construction of the courthouse.
“The courthouse is needed,” he said. “This is a perfectly legal method for providing for it. This BOC has taken upon itself the responsibility of delivering to the people of the county what is needed to provide the quality and level of service people deserve.”
SUIT FILED OVER FINANCING
The citizens group filed the lawsuit against the BOC, alleging that the plan to finance the courthouse through a lease purchase agreement with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia was unconstitutional.
In his ruling, Judge Overstreet said: “Although the lease purchase agreements...are financing arrangements and create year-to-year debt, they are not the kind of debt regulated by the Georgia Constitution. The ‘debt’ referred to in the Constitution has a special, limited meaning. It only refers to those kind of debts that obligate the city or county to commit tax revenues which will have to be raised in future years because these are the kinds of ‘public extravagance which was likely to bring them to bankruptcy.’”
The judge also addressed the citizen’s contention that they have a right to vote on the financing.
“The board of commissioners, who were duly-elected by the citizens of Jackson County, therefore, now have the authority to enter into the lease agreement upon a majority vote of the commissioners,” the judge said. “Consequently, petitions have not been denied any due process nor the right to vote.”


Speeding tickets in Arcade get GSP’s attention
The Georgia State Patrol is reviewing City of Arcade speeding tickets and related records for 2002 and 2003 in an investigation of a complaint that the city is a “speed trap.”
A GSP investigator first visited Arcade on September 9 to get records of speeding tickets and budget information for last year and to date for 2003.
“The GSP has been investigating a complaint for about two weeks,” said police chief Dennis Bell. “We’re fully cooperating...If they get a call, they’ve got to go check it out.”
A spokesperson with the Georgia State Patrol investigations office said simply that an investigation is underway but did not wish to reveal any further information.
Chief Bell said that the GSP is looking at tickets issued for those exceeding the speed limit by 17 miles per hour and less.
“Anything 18 and over they don’t really look at because (the speed) is so high,” he added.
During the investigation, the GSP will look at revenue brought in for the tickets issued for speeding at 17 mph and less over the speed limit.
“They’ll put the figures together and get back to us,” Chief Bell said. “There is a limit. I know when you reach 30 to 35 percent (of the budget coming from speeding tickets) you have to be careful. Ours was less than five percent for this year so far for 17 and under.”
The speed limit in Arcade varies from 45 to 55 mph on the bypass and on Hwy. 82 and is 45 mph on old Hwy. 129. Chief Bell disagreed with the idea that the City of Arcade is a speed trap — identified when police vehicles are hidden from view or when the speed limit isn’t clearly marked — saying that the city has two new cars with bar lights for visibility, and “there are not many places we can get in the bushes along here without getting stuck.”
The Arcade police officers “may hit 20 to 25 (citations) a day, with all tickets together, and probably give 15 to 20 warnings,” Chief Bell said.
The options, generally at the officer’s discretion, are to give a verbal warning, a written warning with no fine or a regular citation, he said, although if someone is in a medical emergency, “we won’t keep you.”
“By state law, we have to give 10 (mph) over,” he explained. “We still get some at 20 (mph), and some 30 (mph), over the speed limit. It’s a big problem.”
On a related matter, those traffic stops on the bypass have resulted in more drug-related cases, as well.
“We’ve probably doubled our drug cases on traffic stops,” Chief Bell said. “What we’ve been getting lately is going from Athens to Gainesville — a lot of marijuana, methamphetamines and “ice,” and prescription pills.’
Chief Bell added that he generally tells officers not to stop drivers unless they are exceeding the speed limit by 18 mph and over, but, as an exception, “you can get a ticket for going too fast for conditions.”
The police chief said he began “beefing up” traffice enforcement several years ago when a young girl was struck and killed while waiting for the school bus.
“We’ve had a child run over here and we do what we’ve got to to slow them down,” he added. “We haven’t had as many wrecks since we started traffice enforcement.”
This is not the first time the police department has been investigated.
“We got investigated four or five years ago for a similar thing and got cleared,” Chief Bell said. “We knew what was coming so we had everything ready for them.”
Chief Bell said it would probably be another couple of weeks before he hears the results of the investigation.
“It takes a long time to crunch those numbers,” he said.


Sales tax investigation:$120,887 found in ‘misdirected’ funds
Ringing cash registers at the Tanger Outlet Center haven’t exactly brought the additional sales tax revenue Jackson County officials had anticipated.
And now they have proof county projects are being underfunded due to “misdirected” sales tax funds.
Rachel O’Connor, who has been investigating just where sales tax funds are headed, told county and city leaders last week that $120,887 of funds hasn’t been going to Jackson County. Sales tax revenue helps many county projects, such as school construction.
Three years ago, a similar investigation found nearly $700,000 of sales tax funds not going to Jackson County.
One of the biggest problems is that many merchants don’t realize the Tanger Outlet Center at Banks Crossing is located in two counties, O’Connor said. Tanger I is located in Banks County, while Tanger II is anchored in Jackson County.
When one business relocates to the other county, sometimes they haven’t redirected their sales tax funds to the proper county, O’Connor said.
“I’ve had a lot of discussions with people trying to convince them they’re in Jackson County,” she said.
And sales tax funds haven’t just been going to Banks County, O’Connor said. Some funds have been sent to MARTA, and Dawson and Whitfield counties.
Calculation errors have also accounted for some of the problems. The stores found not directing their sales tax funds to the proper county have corrected their accounting procedures, she said.
Since the “sales tax recovery project” began in June, 52 stores contacted at the Tanger Outlet Center have reported their sales tax sales to Jackson County officials. A total of 82 stores that are currently opened or have closed since January 2000 were contacted by county officials.
The investigation will continue this month with officials expecting to contact the Georgia Department of Revenue in October to ask for compensation for the errors that have occurred.
Harold Fletcher, chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, pointed out this is the first “sales tax recovery project” in the county and that other locations will be investigated after the Tanger Outlet Center.


Planners: Braselton to have 10,300 citizens by 2023
Braselton is set for a “whopping big” population increase over the next 20 years, a planning expert said last week.
By 2023, the town is expected to hit 10,300 residents. The 2000 Census reported Braselton had 1,206 citizens.
“And there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve already plotted those lots,” Joe Tichy, special projects coordinator for the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center told officials during a public hearing on the town’s comprehensive plan.
Braselton is one town that has grown tremendously since 1990, RDC planners say. The town now spans four counties and projected population numbers don’t include the possibility of future annexations.
Subdivisions, which might account for much of Braselton’s growth, could determine the town’s community relations, Tichy said.
But unless Braselton shifts to become a retirement community, the town will largely include middle-aged residents looking for jobs, he added. The median age among residents in 2000 was 39.5 years, but planners expect that number to increase to 46 years.
And as the town welcomes more “higher end” subdivisions, the level of education among its residents is also improving, Tichy said.
“Braselton is better educated than (those) in the region, the state and the United States,” he said. More than 30 percent of Braselton residents in 2000 have a college degree, compared to 29 percent in the nation and 17 percent in Georgia.
At $39,135, Braselton’s per capita income in 1999 is higher than the state’s figure, which is $21,154.
And most of those working residents empty the town’s streets every day for employment elsewhere, said Chris Ulmer, a planner for the RDC. Ninety percent of Braselton’s residents commute elsewhere, despite having 2,000 jobs available within town limits. Just 23 people live and work in Braselton, according to the 2000 Census.
Tying Braselton’s economic development and historical preservation is important to keeping the “small town legacy,” said Burke Walker, a preservation planner for the RDC.
Seventeen “culturally significant landmarks” in Braselton were identified for the 20-year plan and more than 50 have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, Walker said. The historical element is key to the town’s effort to revitalize downtown, he added.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs will review Braselton’s comprehensive plan for 60 days, before the town council adopts it by the end of the year.
For more information, visit www.negrdc.org.

 

 


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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.
Brown, 55, had not been feeling well, a family member said, and had gone to the Public Safety Complex that day to have his blood pressure taken by J.C. Crocker, rescue chief.
“He was having some pain that day, but there was nothing to indicate a heart attack,” said his brother-in-law Bobby Redmon. “He had J.C. check his blood pressure, but by then he had already had the heart attack.”
At about 9:30, Brown lost consciousness. Eric Sailors, a neighbor, was the first to respond and found no heart beat.
Sailors performed CPR until the paramedics arrived and took over. Brown was taken to BJC Medical Center then transported by helicopter to Crawford W. Long Hospital.
The prospects are grim because of the lengthy time in which Brown’s brain went without oxygen. Tests reportedly detected a minimal amount of brain activity.
Brown has served on the city council since 1989 and qualified last week to seek re-election for another four-year term. He has no opposition.
He is a member of the Commerce Fire Department, Commerce Rescue Unit, is a member, deacon and Sunday school teacher at Mount Olive Baptist Church, a Gideon, a Mason and life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He is a past president of the Commerce Booster Club. He is employed by the Athens Post Office and is the owner of Sam Brown Landscaping. He is a Vietnam veteran.
ERIC REDMON
Brown is the uncle of Eric Redmon, who continues to recover from a June accident that left him in a coma for weeks, and Eric’s father, who is Bobby Redmon, said the news is better on that front.
“Eric’s coming along really, really well,” he reported. “He’s making great progress. He has a long way to go, but his mobility is coming back.”
Eric has become something of a community cause. Several fund-raisers have been held to help recover some of the extensive costs the family has incurred. The extent of support surprised the family, Redmon said – and it is helping Eric recover.
“Bringing him home was the key to it,” Bobby Redmon said. “When we got him home, his friends could come by to see him. Every day at 3:00 he just lights up because he knows his friends are coming by. The support has been just incredible; I never would have imagined it.”


Fletcher says no decision yet on location of North Jackson ambulance station
Jackson County Board of Commission chairman Harold Fletcher said this week that no decision has been made on where a new EMS station will be located in the North Jackson area.
The BOC agreed at a meeting last week to locate the fifth EMS station, which will be equipped with an ambulance and a full-time staff, in North Jackson because of the number of calls from that area.
The BOC discussed at that meeting locating the station in the Plainview area. The county has also received an offer from the City of Pendergrass to house the EMS station in its new police department (see page 7A).
It will take at least three months to get an ambulance for the station so the county has some time to make a final decision on the location, Fletcher added.
The action came after a presentation from Dwain Smith and Tommy Kesler on the long-range master plan for county-wide emergency management services. The plan calls for two new stations to be built in North and South Jackson in 2003-2004 with the addition of two new ambulances. The cost of this would be $870,000, not including the cost of facilities or land acquisition.
The EMS plan also recommends that the following be done over the next five years: Build a new station in the Nicholson area; relocate the West Jackson station to Hwy. 60 and Hwy. 124; relocate the hospital-based unit to Hwy. 98; and establish a regular ambulance replacement program.