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OCTOBER 15, 2003


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OPINIONS

Shar Porier
The dilema
It’s so quiet. All I hear is the slow rolling of the gentle waves. Above me, the stars glisten like multi-colored diamonds on black velvet.

Our View
Shame on Alto council for breaking law
The Alto City Council blatantly violated the Georgia Open Meetings Law Monday despite a public outcry from citizens who apparently know the law better than the leaders of the town.


SPORTS
Lady Leopards’ season ends in region tournament
Banks enjoys improved fast-pitch mark in second year
Should the Banks County fast-pitch program need to look for positives from its second season, the Lady Leopards won’t have to look far.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
Jefferson expects millage rate jump
Proposed budget cuts to close swimming pool, city day camp
The Jefferson City Council slashed $421,000 from its proposed 2004 budget Monday night, including a move to close the city’s swimming pool and stop the city’s summer day camp.

School taxes are going up
Both the Jefferson and Jackson County Boards of Education raised tax rates during the past week.

News from
MADISON COUNTY
More money for county jail
BOC tags another $100,000 for operating costs
County commissioners approved the shuffling of funds in the 2003 budget Monday to cover an unexpected $103,976 in operating expenses for the new county jail.

School sports complex construction to begin soon
Weather permitting, trees may be cut down this week and work may finally begin on Madison County’s long-awaited school sports complex.
The county school board, under the direction of their construction management firm, Charles Black Construction, recently approved 18 construction contracts for the school sports complex across from the high school.

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Homecoming Celebration
BCHS HOMECOMING

Banks County High School held its 2003 homecoming events Friday night. Above, Miss Junior Kayla Duncan (left) hugs her cousin and Miss Senior Ashley Dumas. At top right, last year’s homecoming queen Ashley Campbell (right) crowned Chastico Beasley (left) as the 2003 homecoming queen. At right, the queen stands with her court. Pictured are: (L-R) Laura Williams, Miss Freshman; Kayla Duncan, Miss Junior: Chastico Beasley, homecoming queen; Ashley Dumas, Miss Senior; and Amanda Logan, Miss Sophomore.

Alto holds illegal closed meeting
Vote on loan payment illegally made behind closed doors
The Alto City Council decided to pay $200,000 on a state loan Monday night after holding an illegal closed meeting to discuss the matter.
The Georgia Open Meetings Law does not allow loans to be discussed in closed session.
The issue of the loan first arose early in the meeting when Alto resident John Closs asked the council if there would be a discussion on the $300,000 payment on the GEFA loan. Mayor Carolyn Gulley said that the council would be going into “executive session” to discuss this later in the meeting.
At 8:05 p.m., the mayor asked that everyone leave the building as the mayor and council were going into “executive session.” After 50 minutes in closed session, the meeting was opened to the public. A motion was made by Councilman Donald Wade that the town cash in bonds in the amount of $200,000 to pay on the GEFA loan at this time and, after that, pay at least $25,000 quarterly. The balance left in the bonds would be $290,000. A second was received from councilman Sharon Christmas and a unanimous vote was taken.
After the meeting adjourned, Alto resident Cathy Armour stood up and said: “It scares me to know that you people are managing this town, I just want ya’ll to know that.”
Several in the audience agreed and said the council was determined to break the town before they went out of office. Closs told the council members that they were breaking the law by making the decision to pay on the GEFA loan in a closed session.
Councilman Wade replied: “We are not breaking the law.”
After the meeting Closs also questioned taking $200,000 out of the account to the mayor and she replied: “If you would check your facts you would see that it will be put back in with franchise fees and SPLOST.”
Closs also asked the mayor if any bonds had been cashed in and was told by the clerk that two had been cashed in because they had matured and she could get a better rate on them.


BOC calls for two local referendums
County voters will have at least two referendums to consider during elections next year.
The Banks County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday night to have two items placed on the ballot.
The first will be a homestead exemption for seniors and disabled citizens from $16,000 to $20,000.
The second is a vote on changing the county’s form of government from its current state to a three-man commission board and a full-time county administrator.
Rickey Cain made the motion to approve both referendums. Pat Westmoreland seconded the motions and they were unanimously approved.
The referendums will appear on election ballots next year.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the BOC:
•approved a rezoning for Benny Brock to change 30.98 acres on Antioch Road from ARR to commercial agriculture district for two chicken houses.
•approved a conditional use permit for Terry Crocker to build a litter stack house.
•approved a conditional use permit for Michael and Debbie Poole to build two poultry houses on 30 acres of land on Silver Shoals Road.
•declared October 20-24 as Public Safety Appreciation Week in Banks County in honor of the county’s deputies, fire fighters, EMTs and E-911 operators.
•awarded the propane bid to low-bidder Amerigas for gas service at 89.9 cents per gallon.
•awarded a $286,563 low bid to Gerrin Construction for the construction of the new Banks Crossing fire station.
•agreed to pay half of the $49,900 engineering costs on the proposed work to Thompson Street. The city of Homer will pay the remaining costs. The BOC decided to leave out plans for a turning lane off of what will be the Old Hwy. 441 onto Thompson Street. The commission agreed the addition could be put into the project later on if necessary.
•appointed Robin Trotter to fill the unexpired term of Lou Sokowoski on the Georgia Mountain Community Service Board. The term expires on June 30, 2004.
•reappointed Harold Ivey to the planning commission for a four-year term.
•updated the county’s road damage ordinance to send violators to the magistrate or superior courts instead of the probate court.
•approved a resolution allowing the chairman and county attorney to seek a court order allowing the sell of car tags from January through March since the tax digest might not be approved by then.
•tabled make changes to the county’s bereavement leave policy. The changes would clarify some language in exactly how many days and employee can take for a death to specific family members. The new policy also mentions in-laws. Cain asked that he have time to review the new policy before taking a vote.
•heard from Emily Calhoun who spoke on behalf of Keep Banks Rural asking the commissioners to develop a comprehensive development plan to keep the county rural. She presented a petition of others who supported the idea.
•heard from Harold Ivey who asked the BOC to look into doing work on the only covered bridge in Banks County. Commission chairman Kenneth Brady said he would research the issue and find out whether or not the county owns the bridge and if the public can get access to it.

State election superintendent says ‘no more qualifying’ in Alto
After the Lula City Council meeting adjourned Monday night, mayor Carolyn Gulley said that according to Alto’s town charter, qualifying for the mayor’s seat could be made up to 10 days prior to the election date.
At the time, city clerk Barbara Reynolds said she did not think that would be legal.
She also pointed out that if names had to be added to the ballot, it did not give the election superintendent enough time to get them printed in time for the election on November 4.
Linda Beazley, Georgia Elections Commission superintendent, said in a phone interview Tuesday with The Banks County News that the state law would override the charter.
“There will be no more qualifying for the mayor’s seat in Alto,” she said. “Qualifying is closed. The city’s charter is null and void when it is in direct conflict with state law. They can’t go back and reopen qualifying for 10 more days. Qualifying dates are set for every municipality in the state. The dates for qualifying were September 8 through September 12. That’s it.”
Beazley also called the town attorney Jim Acrey to be sure he understands Georgia law concerning qualifying.
She said that Acrey said that he had told Gulley qualifying could not be reopened, but he was ignored.
Gulley did not qualify to seek re-election, although, she had indicated that she would do so. Audrey Turner was the only candidate to qualify for the mayor’s race.

 


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Baldwin council grants sign variance to Beef Barron restaurateur
For months, Beef Barron owner Fred Schlegel has been trying to get some help to advertise his well-known restaurant located on Old Highway 441.
Since the opening of the new Highway 441 that by-passes his establishment, he said that he has seen a drop in his business and he holds the department of transportation partly responsible for that decline.
At Thursday’s work session of the Baldwin City Council, Schlegel appealed for a variance to place a double-sided, 20- by 24-foot billboard on private property on the hill directly across from the road that runs from the new Highway 441 to the Old Highway 441 and his restaurant.
“I get a lot of complaints from travelers that we’re hard to find,” he said. “DOT would only put up that one small brown sign that is difficult to see. I’ve tried to talk to the DOT, but they won’t help.”
During Monday’s meeting, after some discussion about the city’s sign ordinance, the council approved the variance.
in other business, the council:
•discussed limiting brush pick-up due to the abuse of some residents.
•declared the city’s two dump trucks surplus and agreed to purchase another.
•agreed to have a soil conservation survey done at the new city park at a cost of $3,400.
•approved payment to Rindt-McDuff in the amount of $23,268 for engineering work done on the Anderson Billage sewer expansion.
•awarded Water Management Systems the contract on the Anderson Village sewer system expansion for $238,993.
•heard from Sentinal representatives Dwight Lomax and Steve Queen about the complaints lodged by the city auditor about the company’s collection record.


Lula council candidates to debate on October 23
Candidates running for the Lula council seats will be facing off at a debate to be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 23, at the Lula city hall.
Mayor Milton Turner said the event was sponsored by the Hall/Gainesville Chamber of Commerce.
Well-known WDUN Gainesville radio talk show host Martha Zoller is the scheduled commentator.
The candidates running for council seats are: Ward 1 – incumbent Mike Ostrander and Larry Shuler; Ward 4 – incumbent Perry Bridgeman, Clyde Moore and Greg Smith.
Incumbent Lamb Griffin will assume the Ward 5 council seat unopposed.
The election will be held Tuesday, November 4, and the elected officials will be sworn in at the January meeting.