News from Banks County...

OCTOBER 1, 2003


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OPINIONS
Kerri Graffius
Taking the plunge — literally
As I watched the sky one Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but think what my mother had said just the week prior: Only two things fall from the sky — bird poop and fools.

Angela Gary
Afternoon of fashion and tea; night at the theater
If you’ve read my column before, you know I love to travel. I enjoy the culture I find in big cities and small towns across the country.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Into a cat fight
Leopards, Cats to showdown at Apalachee
The Leopards could look at Friday’s game as winnable. But after a 2-0 region start, Apalachee comes to the game with a lot of confidence.

 


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Big changes ahead in Pendergrass?
Two subdivision requests call for 600-plus housesAbout 400 people call Pendergrass home, according to the 2000 Census. But if plans for two residential projects are approved, the North Jackson city could welcome more than 600 new houses.

Brown’s Council Seat To Be Filled
In Nov. 4 Election
Long-Time Ward 3 Councilman Died On Friday, September 26
Following the death last Friday morning of long-time Ward 3 city councilman Sam Brown, Commerce will hold a special election concurrent with the Nov. 4 general election to fill the Ward 3 seat.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Tax time on the way
Madison County BOC to set rates at Monday meeting
The nip is back in the air, the chill that brings thoughts of coats, cold hands around a warm drink, Christmas...and tax season.
Yes, it’s nearly that time again.

Local program helps those struggling to learn English
Enrique Bautista, 29, works on a farm in Colbert, taking care of cows and doing any other farm work he is assigned. Bautista is a Mexican native who has lived in this country for the past three years, and like many who have immigrated to the United States, he has had a difficult time learning English.

 

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FRONT ENTRANCE

Parents will have a covered awning at the new middle school to drop off and pick up children. Once completed, the area above will be the entrance for the school and will include several offices. The wall extending to the left will be part of the sixth grade wing.

A new place to learn
New middle school centered around students
When Banks County’s new middle school opens next year, students will find a vastly different learning system.
The building has more classrooms. The school incorporates more technology. And the view out the back of the building will create a peaceful learning environment.
“It will be so much more conducive to today’s child and to learning,” superintendent Chris Erwin said. “The community ought to be excited to have a building like this.”
Because of unusually wet weather, construction on the sales tax-funded building has been running a little behind, foreman Stacey Allison said.
“We’re slowly catching up,” he added.
Most of the concrete has been poured and crews have hung much of the steel on the sides and roof of the building. Outside block walls are also going up quickly. The building should be weathered in early next year.
Officials with both the school system and the builder are hoping to get the project done in July, just in time for an early-August school start.
Teachers will need adequate time to move supplies and stock the new building and also become familiar with its layout before children arrive.
Should any construction delays come up, Erwin said the system might consider altering the school start date to get the new building finished.
“You can get a lot done in eight to 10 days,” he said.
Erwin indicated that the system will look at other options if necessary next fall, among them include moving into the new building later in the school year during a break period.
Since the kitchen will be among the last phase of the project, students and teachers could move into the school and have meals cooked at the old middle school and then brought to the new one.
But if construction continues without major problems, the system would likely be able to open the school on schedule.
BUILDING FEATURES
One of the most noticeable features of the new building will be its incorporation of technology.
The current middle school, built prior to the personal computer age, has been retrofitted to handle computer networks. In many cases, that means wires were run overhead through the ceiling.
The new school has three large computer rooms built in. Each wing, or grade, will get one computer lab. The labs are constructed in somewhat of a semicircle to allow one teacher to monitor all computer screens from the front of the room. The labs also overlook a pristine, foothills forest area.
The schools media center and an art lab will share an outdoor patio. That patio will overlook the same pristine foothills as the computer labs, creating a scene conducive to reading and offering inspiration to those in art class.
The middle school has three wings, separated into the three grade levels. The sixth grade wing will sit alone on one side of the building.
The seventh grade and eighth grade will occupy the two-story side of the school. The seventh grade gets the bottom floor while the eighth grade gets the top.
Banks County Middle School will include a new gym, furnished with goals and bleachers and set up to allow volleyball play. Around the gym will be coaches rooms, locker rooms and PE rooms.
Agricultural students won’t be left out in the new school. The building will include a facility for those classes at one end of the school.
And throughout the building, architects have incorporated skylights into the hallways to bring in natural light from outside.
The new school has a total of 56 classrooms, including the ISS room, computer labs, art room, band room, PE rooms and the science labs.
The building also has four teacher work rooms, though Erwin said only one will function as a work room when the school opens. The others can be used as classrooms in the future if needed.
ON THE OUTSIDE
A major emphasis on the outside of the building has been on safety.
“It’s a thought out plan for proper transportation and drop off and pick up of students,” Erwin said.
The school will have two entrances, one for parents and one for buses. The two entrances will both lead to the front of the school, just in different places. The entrances include a large amount of stack space for buses and parents to wait in.
The building will also have a covered area for parents to pull under while picking up students.
Farther out in front of the school will be a large flat field. That area will likely be developed into a baseball or softball field in the future.
ROOM TO GROW
The new middle school can handle 900 kids when it opens next year. Erwin said he expects about 700 to actual enter the school when the doors open.
As Banks County continues to grow, the building will be able to take on another 200 kids as is. Allison pointed out that the building was designed to allow for future expansion onto the three wings.
Erwin said his personal philosophy in education was to keep the student bodies in schools relatively low, between 1,000 and 1,200 kids.
“When you get much larger than that, it’s time to build another school,” he said.
Erwin pointed to larger schools with 3,000 kids where most teachers don’t even know each other. That won’t be the case when the new Banks County Middle School opens next year.
“When we move over here, the teachers will all know each other,” he said. “That gives more of a family appeal and that’s important in education.”


Baldwin, Demorest to continue water plant negotiations
With one water plant meeting behind them, the Baldwin and Demorest city councils have agreed on one thing so far — to continue working together on issues surrounding the plant.
The two groups will meet again on Tuesday, October 14, at 6 p.m. in Demorest to discuss the issue further.
Demorest and Baldwin officials are hoping to formulate a plan at that meeting for a future partnership over use of Baldwin’s water plant. They will then take that plan to the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to seek additional capacity at the plant and increase water withdrawal from the Chattahoochee River.
Baldwin mayor Mark Reed said he has met with the EPD and was refused any additional withdrawal at the plant. Demorest officials tell a different story.
Malcolm Hunnicut, Demorest mayor, said he and other city leaders met with the EPD the day after Reed’s meeting. He said the EPD indicated that if the two cities could work together better, the division would be more receptive to requests for additional water.
Baldwin currently owns the plant and uses about 25 percent of the water for itself. Demorest buys 75 percent of the plant’s water from Baldwin at a rate of $0.98 per 1,000 gallons.
The city of Baldwin needs Demorest as a customer to help pay for debt on the water plant. Demorest needs the water from Baldwin. And both cities see the need for an increase in water availability to handle the rapid growth in Habersham County.
But according to auditor Beth Grimes, the water price needs to increase to $1.27 per 1,000 gallons in order to properly fund the plant, including establishing an account to help defer depreciation costs.
The two cities will consider several options for the plant during the weeks leading up to the October 14 meeting.
One option will leave the agreement as it currently stands with an increase in the price both cities pay for water from the plant.
The two may also consider joining forces and merging the water departments from the two cities under one water director.
Before the next meeting, officials from both cities will develop a plan for the water plant’s future. Once Baldwin and Demorest agree on a plan, they’ll then approach the EPD together once more.

New half-mile fitness trail open at county farm horse arena
Ribbon cutting ceremony held Saturday
Banks County residents and officials gathered Saturday morning for the ribbon cutting of a new fitness trail in Homer.
The paved half-mile track features five exercise stations, benches, a covered pavilion, grills and picnic tables. It was funded with a $14.5 million grant from the District 2 Public Health Board.
“It means a lot to us,” recreation direction Trey Donaldson said to the crowd gathered near the trail Saturday. “A lot of people worked hard to get this going. We appreciate the support of everyone.”
He named the county officials and citizens who worked together on the project, including Family Connections coordinator Robin Trotter, who he said was the “back bone” of the effort.
The trail is located adjacent to the horse arena in Homer, below the recreation department office and fields.
The hours of operation are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset daily.
After the yellow ribbon was cut, the crowd joined together to make the first lap around the trail, which goes over a wooden bridge and along a scenic riverside. Donaldson stopped at each of the five stations and demonstrated the stretching, flexibility, agility and muscular strength exercises. The exercise stations were placed along the trail by Jesse Major, an Eagle Scout at Banks County High School.
After the first lap, Ronald Parson of the Lee Arrendale Correctional Institute in Alto and Scottie Abercrom of Phillips State Prison in Buford gave a demonstration with the canine unit, which included a drug dog and a bloodhound used for tracking.
The morning festivities at the trail also included refreshments, a body fat check and a blood drive.
Those who attended received free water bottles, power drinks, granola bars and fruit.

 

 



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Debate ahead in Lula
Candidates in the November 4 city election in Lula have been invited to participate in a candidate debate.
The debate will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at city hall, located at 6055 Main Street.
The candidates are: Mike Ostrander and Larry Shuler, Ward 1; and Perry Bridgeman, Clyde Moore and Greg Smith, Ward 4.
For more information, call (770) 532-6206.


Industrial building authority holds first meeting
The newly-formed Banks County Industrial Building Authority named its leader during the group’s first meeting last week.
Wayne Abernathy was elected as chairman. Erin Decker will serve as secretary. The authority also authorized both Abernathy and Decker to sign legal documents for the group.
At the meeting, the authority voted to allow its ex-officio members, the Homer mayor and board of commissioners chairman, to vote.
In the building authority’s first real vote, it approved a measure to seek bonds for the financing of the new recreation department building.
The county will lease the building from the authority.
The lease payments will be used to make the payments on the bond debt.
The county funds for the project will come from sales tax revenue.


Chamber plans night at Atlanta Dragway
The Jackson and Banks County chambers of commerce will hold a “Business After Hours” at the Atlanta Dragway, Banks Crossing, on Thursday, October 9.
Chamber members are encouraged to bring their families and have a “fun night at the Dragway.”
Those who plan to drive have to be over age 18. An admission fee of $5 per person will be charged at the gate.
The race will be for “street legal vehicles” and electric go carts will not be allowed.
The deadline for signing up to drive is Monday, October 6.
The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. and racing will get under way at 6 p.m. A barbecue meal will be served.