News from Jackson County...

OCTOBER 15, 2003


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OPINIONS
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SPORTS

One win and they’re in
Victory over Heritage today will earn state tourney berth
The first 20-win season in school history, a second consecutive subregion championship, and a remarkable 17-game win streak at one point this year are all extremely impressive achievements.

Improved Indians’ size a concern for Jefferson on Friday
Jefferson travels to Towns County this Friday to meet a much improved Indian team than the one they demolished a year ago.

Looking For Redemption
Commerce Faces Athens Academy A Year After Being Upset 14-10 By The Spartans
Jeff Prickett’s renowned Commerce Tiger Yearbook counts that the school has been a victim of an upset 29 times and you don’t have to dig far back in that book to find surprise number 29.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
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.

BOC calls for two local referendums
County voters will have at least two referendums to consider during elections next year.


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.

Our Time and Place:
A History of
Jackson County, Ga

A complete history of Jackson County, Georgia from 1796 to the present. Written in narrative style for easy reading. Includes material not found in other books about Jackson County.

Order this book online

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Jefferson, Georgia
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TOURNAMENT TIME

The Jackson County fast-pitch softball team can solidify a state berth with a win today over Heritage in the Region 8-AAAA tournament in Loganville. Shown are Dianna Robinson, from left, Brandi Townsend, Shana Gibbs, Lauren Mize and Kayla McNeal during Monday’s 2-1 win over Newton. See this weeks Jackson Herald for the story.

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.
Although the council advertised an 8.60 millage rate last week, up from 5.63 mills, city leaders said they hope the final millage rate will be less than 8.6 mills. An ad placed in last week’s paper by city officials also incorrectly stated that the millage rate had been “tentatively approved.” The council has not voted on this proposal.
The budget cutting comes amid other city financial woes as the council also agreed Monday night to move up to $600,000 from the city water fund into the city general fund to cover a projected current year shortfall.
City leaders said income has been lower than projected for the year.
PUBLIC HEARINGS SET
Public hearings on the budget will be held at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday at the clubhouse. A final public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23, with a final vote on the budget and millage rate to follow at 6:30 p.m.
At Monday’s meeting, the council decided to cut the proposed employee raises of four and a half percent to two and a half percent.
“The task ahead of us is a way to figure out how to cut the millage rate,” Mayor Jim Joiner said. “...If we can, in some areas, just maintain the status quota, that would help us out.”
The council then worked from 7 to 10:30 p.m. to cut money from each department. Some of the items cut included a proposed canine unit for the police department, as well as night vision goggles and other specialized equipment.
Several proposals from new fire chief Don Elrod were also cut, including a plan to complete the upstairs at the fire station adjacent to city hall. A proposal to provide annual physicals for all the firemen was also cut.
“I beg you to remember what we’ve done in the past four years,” Joiner told Elrod. “...We don’t have the money to fulfill everyone’s wish list.”
A proposal to purchase two pieces of heavy equipment for the street department was also scrapped and the council said the equipment could be rented as needed.


School taxes are going up
Both the Jefferson and Jackson County Boards of Education raised tax rates during the past week.
The Jackson County BOE raised its rate six percent to 18.5 mills, up from 17.5 mills last year. The system’s total budget is up by $1 million over last year. The system’s bond millage rate remained the same at one mill, for a total tax rate of 19.5 mills.
The Jefferson BOE raised its tax rate 10 percent during a meeting last Thursday. The hike put the system’s millage rate at 14.25 mills, up 1.26 mills over last year.
Jefferson’s bond millage rate is 1.9 mills, unchanged from last year. That makes the system’s total tax rate 16.15 mills.
One mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in net assessed value. A $200,00 house in the Jefferson system would pay around $1,300 in school taxes while a $200,000 house in the Jackson County School System district would pay $1,560 in taxes.
Those numbers may be skewed, however, because some taxpayers receive special tax breaks based on their age and homestead exemption status.
BLAMES STATE
Leaders of both systems blamed the massive state cutback in funding for the increased local tax rates.
“It truly is sad that our governor is cutting state funds and then saying we are not meeting state mandates, thereby forcing local boards to [raise taxes] for him,” said Jackson County Superintendent Andy Byers.
In essence, said Byers, local school boards are forced into doing the “dirty work” of the governor while the economy continues to slump and state cutbacks leave programs without valuable dollars. The only result, according to Byers, is for the local systems to pick up the bill and in the case of Jackson County that meant having to raise taxes.


Pendergrass challenging candidate’s voting status
Pendergrass will hold a public hearing tonight (Wednesday) at 6 p.m., at the train depot to challenge one candidate’s qualification for a city council seat for the upcoming election.
John W. Pethel, 57, said he received a letter from city officials last week claiming he wasn’t a registered voter in Pendergrass.
“They say I’m not registered to vote, but I’ve got my voter’s registration card that says Aug. 12, 2002,” he said Tuesday.
But, records show Pethel was dropped from the city’s voter registration list in March 2003, Pendergrass city clerk Barbara Thomas said.
“You have to be a registered voter in order to run for a council post,” she said.
Pethel says once he received the letter disputing his voter registration status, he asked the city to return his $35 qualification fee for the election. He later found his voter registration card, he said.
The Church Street resident said he still wants to run for a city council seat in the Nov. 4 election.
And depending on tonight’s hearing, Pendergrass may not need to hold an election for its two open city council seats.
If the city declares Pethel an illegible candidate, the two, at-large council seats would be given to incumbent Tom Marlowe and Sandy Stowe Funderburk. Peggy Jean Hooper, another candidate, withdrew from the race in September.
Pendergrass will still hold an election to name a mayor — either incumbent Monk Tolbert or Harris Denver “Dink” Elrod.
The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 4, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.


BOC sets budget hearings for Fri.
Courthouse financing will also be discussed
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will hold two public hearings on the proposed $34.8 million budget on Friday.
The first hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in the State Courtroom in the Administrative Building in Jefferson. A second hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the same location. A third public hearing on the budget will be held at 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 24, and final action is expected at a called BOC meeting at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 24.
The BOC approved a preliminary $34.8 million budget last week. The BOC also set a tentative millage rate of 8.73 for unincorporated areas of the county and 9.74 for incorporated areas. Finance director John Hulsey said this is down slightly from last year’s rate. He added that the Harrisburg Fire Department plans a half-mill increase, which will lead to the overall millage rate rising in that district.
Tax bills are expected to be mailed out by Thursday, Nov. 6. Payments are due by Jan. 6, 2004.
The BOC will also hold a called meeting at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the county’s grand jury room to discuss courthouse financing.


Concerned Citizens plan catfish dinner fund-raiser
The Concerned Citizens of Jackson County will hold a catfish fry dinner Saturday, October 18, to benefit the group’s legal fund.
Plates at $10 each will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine, at Hurricane Shoals Park pavilion #5, off the Jefferson entrance.
The food will be prepared at the park by an Athens area restaurant.
For more information, call 367-4207.


QCPC, city leaders look at development issues
Number of homes per acre may bring differing opinions
The number of homes allowed per acre is one point that all four towns in the Quad Cities Planning Commission may not agree on.
City leaders from Arcade, Pendergrass, Talmo and Jefferson met Tuesday night with the consultant planning the single land use management plan for the Quad Cities Planning Commission. Density is the issue that most of those present felt will be the most difficult to settle.
Consultant Jerry Weitz, who is spearheading the effort, said that while the document needs to be as consistent as possible, the towns do not have to agree on every point.
“We want to see uniformity as much as possible,” he said. “There is room for differences but we want to be careful of how we deviate.”
Pendergrass officials have discussed allowing four homes per acre, while some of the other towns don’t want this much development in their communities.
More than 20 people attended the two-hour hearing Tuesday, including representatives from the historic preservation commission, the homebuilders association and residents from the four towns. The code is expected to be completed by April. A first draft will be available by January.
Pendergrass Mayor Monk Tolbert spoke on the bypass that ties the four towns together and said it should be considered in development the code.
“The bypass creates a unique opportunity for the four towns,” he said. “I think we can certainly look at the possibilities that this presents for us. I think we can certainly cash in on them and use them to the best of our ability. The bypass is ideal for retail and other businesses.”
Tolbert said the town leaders should “explore every opportunity for development” because “rooftops” or the number of homes in a community are a major issue for revenue.
Bob Bates, a long-time Pendergrass resident, said he doesn’t favor four homes per acre and smaller homes.
“Square footage of 1,200, that doesn’t make sense,” Bates said. “We don’t need any low income housing in Pendergrass.
Weitz said there is no public benefit to limiting the house size except to “exclude certain people from a community.”
Also at the meeting, Jorene Martin with The Jaeger Company spoke on historic preservation recommendations for Talmo and Pendergrass. She said potential historic districts are located in both North Jackson towns. Martin added that there is an opportunity to expand the local historic district in Jefferson.


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Hearing On Barber’s Candidacy Postponed
A hearing challenging the qualifications of J. Mac Barber to run for mayor of Commerce has been recessed so Barber and his attorney can seek alternative definitions of the word "elector" as applied by the Georgia Election Code.
The hearing, which began at 10:03 Tuesday morning, has been tentatively scheduled to reconvene Thursday at 10:00, but that is contingent upon Barber and the attorney, who was not present and whom Barber declined to name, being ready.
City Clerk Shirley Willis, who is also election superintendent, challenged Barber's candidacy when she found he was not registered to vote in Commerce at the time he filled out the qualifications affidavit. State law requires that a candidate be a "qualified elector," meaning voter, in the jurisdiction in which he seeks office at the time he or she qualifies.
City Attorney John Stell repeatedly asked Barber if he wanted to be represented by an attorney. The 86-year-old former public service commissioner and one-term mayor of Commerce declined until Stell explained that "it is a criminal offense to knowingly sign an affidavit of candidacy with a false statement in it."
"When did I do that?" Barber queried, to which Stell replied that Barber was not an eligible voter in Commerce when he signed the qualification document Sept. 12.
Barber argued that his understanding was that he had until Oct. 6 to register to vote.
Stell again asked Barber if he wanted an attorney. "The affidavit is a sworn statement that you were a registered voter when you were not," he declared.
"Are you talking about 'I am an elector?'" Barber asked after studying the documents.
"Yes," Stell replied.
"My definition of elector is a citizen of the city of Commerce. That is my interpretation of an elector," Barber commented.
"Do you want an attorney to represent you?" Stell asked again.
"Yes, but he couldn't be here today," Barber replied. "Well, I'm not afraid to go forward. Also, there may be more than one definition for elector."
Finally, Barber agreed to a recess so he can "check this out."
The would-be challenger to long-time mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. was evasive about continuing the hearing when Stell asked when it would be convenient for both Barber and his attorney, so the city attorney set a "tentative time" at Thursday at 10 a.m.
"I'll let you know," Barber promised.


More homes in the works for Pendergrass
Another 150 to 190 residences are being planned
Another large-scale residential project is being planned for Pendergrass, according to a request submitted to the Quad Cities Planning Commis-sion.
The latest request calls for 175.7 acres near North Jackson Elementary School to be rezoned from A-2 to R-1. Annexation into Pendergrass is also being sought for the property wedged between Old Gainesville Highway and the U.S. Hwy. 129 bypass.
Although the applicant doesn’t state when the property will be developed, an estimated 150-190 houses could be built on the site, said Gina Mitsdarffer, director of planning and development for Quad Cities Planning Commis-sion.
The proposed development will have septic tanks with houses on 3/4 acre minimum lot sizes. Sewer lines aren’t currently planned for the area, she said.
The Estate of R.H. McEver Sr. submitted the request in early October. Quad Cities Planning Commission member Chip McEver, who is related to those applying for the request, will not vote on the matter when it is heard Nov. 18, Mitsdarffer said.
Two other residential projects proposed for Pendergrass could bring more than 600 new houses.
Talmo Developers, LLC. submitted plans last month for a 420-lot subdivision on Hwy. 332 and John B. Brooks Road. Scott Tolbert is seeking to rezone 50 acres on Hwy. 332 and Gary Watson Road for residential use that could hold an estimated 200 houses.
Both properties are located on land near a planned sewer line that will serve the Toyota plant in North Jackson. The Quad Cities Planning Commission will hear those requests on Nov. 18.