News from Madison County...

OCTOBER 29, 2003


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillespie
Why there is distrust of government schools
When Madison County High School principal Wayne McIntosh addressed the Board of Education about the problem of dropouts earlier this month, he suggested that there may be a cultural component to the problem. I think he is correct.

Margie Richards
Spooky stories and other stuff
My friends, Shirley and Virginia, and I took our annual fall trip to the mountains last weekend, this time staying with friends in Tennessee for a couple of days.


SPORTS
Next up: Goliath
Madison Co. faces Buford and its 37 consecutive wins
It’s a forgone conclusion that Madison County is playing the best school in Class AA Friday night.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Residency issues rock Lula election
Ostrander withdraws, Moore questioned
Rumors about residency issues of two Lula city council seat candidates were put to rest at the political forum held Thursday night.
Ward 1 candidate incumbent Mike Ostrander withdrew from the Ward 1 race via a letter.

Alto, Lula elections ahead Tuesday
Registered voters in Alto and Lula will be heading to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballot in several council seat races.

News from
JACKSON COUNTY
Tax rates climb across county
BOC sets tax rates
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners set its 2003 county tax rate and various fire district tax rates at a called meeting last Friday morning.

5 City Races To Be Decided In Tuesday Election
Next Tuesday’s municipal elections in Commerce stand to be confusing for voters. Not only will there be a regular election for city and school board slots, but there will also be a special election on a separate ballot and wholesale changes in the city council voting districts.

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Commissioners Mike Youngblood (left) and Melvin Drake (right) voted against denying a rezoning for a proposed Hwy. 98 shopping center. Pictured in front of them is a map with pins representing the household of each person who signed a petition against the development.

Shopping center plans axed
BOC votes 3-2 to turn down Hwy. 98 proposal
A planned shopping center off Hwy. 98 near the county industrial park was shot down by county commissioners Monday night.
The Madison County BOC voted 3-2 to deny a request by John Purcell, representing land owner Barbarianne Gaulding-Russell, to rezone a 30-acre parcel on Hwy. 98 from A-1 to B-2 for a planned shopping center.
Bill Taylor, Johnny Fitzpatrick and Bruce Scogin voted to deny the request, while Mike Youngblood and Melvin Drake voted against denial.
The vote followed about an hour of public discussion on the proposal with four people speaking in favor of the shopping center and nine taking the podium to oppose the development.
Purcell said that he intended to establish a quality commercial development that would benefit the county by bringing in more tax revenue and jobs. Purcell, who noted that he will soon be moving to a house near the planned shopping center, contended that the proposal is in an appropriate area, pointing out that Madico Industrial Park is caddy-cornered from the property and that Paoli Junction is across the road.
County industrial authority members seemed to be overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal at their meeting last week, with the IDA verbally agreeing to provide water to the development from Madico Park if needed.
Along those lines, Russell noted that “increased growth should occur in those areas with the infrastructure to accommodate growth.”
Russell said the 30-acre rezoning would leave a large, 130-acre buffer to surrounding agricultural land. She said the development would provide needed tax revenue without compromising the county’s rural character.
County resident Doug Epps reiterated the point, taking the podium to remind commissioners of the need for more tax revenue in the county.
“We need it (the shopping center) and I’d like to see each one of you (commissioners) go for it,” said Epps.
But a number of residents in the area disagreed with the proposed locale. Bobby Clements spoke of a petition signed by those opposed to the development. And a map with pins representing the household of each petition signee was placed on the commissioners’ table to show widespread disapproval of the proposal.
Clements told commissioners that the proposal is the right idea, just the wrong place.
“We don’t oppose commercial development...but this growth should be limited to places that are desirable according to the land use map,” said Clements, noting that growth areas include the Hwy. 72 and Hwy. 29 corridors.
Judy Parham of Lowe Road said county leaders should beware of forsaking years of land use planning for the promise of future tax dollars.
“Will we let a developer come in here and throw around money and smooth talk about being a local resident and convince us to forsake the very plan we have spent countless hours and dollars defending and which is meant to protect us against uncontrolled growth?” Parham asked the commissioners. “Will not approval of this application set a precedent which tells every other developer that Madison County will approve any business application — no matter where it is located — for the enticement of possible future sales tax revenue? Do we want a reputation with this developer — and the countless who will follow — that we are an easy mark and will roll on our own land use plan?”
Frances Chapman of Clements Road said she and her husband moved from Athens to Madison County because of the beauty of the rural land. She said they do not want “industrial-type growth infringing on the lifestyle of family, livestock and farming of the people on Clements Road.”
“There is an industrial park on the opposite side of Hwy. 98 already zoned for this type of growth, as well as the edges of our county at major crossroads, as cited on our land use map,” said Chapman. “A much better use of the land would be for continued large agricultural use or even division for homes on small farms. That type of development would fit into place much more appropriately with the surrounding homes and farms within a fair radius of this site.”
Hoke Strickland of Comer Road told commissioners that they better beware of lawsuits if they approve the development without conforming to the land use plan, then try to deny any business development elsewhere in the county.
Ginni Edwards of Kings Ferry Road noted that the city of Comer is being revitalized with business development. She said it’s important for the county to maintain the integrity of its land use plan and for county residents to support existing businesses in the county, even if that means giving up some convenience and making longer drives.
Commissioner Scogin was the only board member to speak up after the comments from the public.
“After listening to all those folks speak their mind, I have mixed emotions,” said Scogin. “I thank those of you — both pro and con — for your comments...I move that we deny this rezone request.”
The BOC then voted 3-2 to approve Scogin’s motion.


Radio upgrade could include state backing
Madison County will upgrade its emergency communications with approximately $500,000 in sales tax funds, but exactly how that money is used may not be decided for several months.
County 911 director David Camp told commissioners Monday that the county may be able to play a key role in a Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s (GEMA) implementation of a state radio “trunking system.” But the county will probably not know if it qualifies for the system until February.
If the county becomes part of the GEMA system, it would be part of a sophisticated radio system that has broad range. Camp told commissioners that the WNGC tower in Neese could serve as the center of a “trunking” communications system for a multi-county area in north Georgia.
Under a trunking system, communications can be separated into “talk routes,” meaning that response outfits, such as a fire department, could communicate on the radios, hearing only the emergency at hand and not the general radio communication.
The higher-frequency trunking systems are seen as more reliable, with a broader range than standard systems.
“It’s (the trunking system) a better technology than what we’re working with,” Camp told the commissioners. “But it’s much more expensive.”
The 911 director told the BOC that if the county qualifies for the trunking system, then the state will cover much of the expense, but he noted that matching funds would be expected from the county, meaning that the $500,000 in projected sales tax revenues for radio upgrades would go toward the trunking system.
County leaders will continue to plan communication system upgrades under both scenarios — with state assistance or without. Camp said he is negotiating with tower owners on access prices for the county for future upgrades.

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To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.


More money approved for new county jail
County commissioners tagged another $26,000 for the new county jail Monday night, on top of an earlier $100,000 boost in the jail budget earlier this month.
The most recent expenses included approximately $12,000 in inmate medical costs, $12,000 in housing prisoners in jails in neighboring counties and $1,000 in overtime expenses.
On Oct. 13, the BOC approved over $100,000 in budget amendments to cover jail expenses, with a majority of the expense going toward housing-out costs.
The most recent jail expenditures leave approximately $39,000 in the county’s reserve funds for 2003, according to county clerk Morris Fortson, who noted that the jail is failing to turn in its expenses in a timely fashion and creating bookkeeping difficulties in the process.
County commissioners showed obvious concern about additional jail expenses and the dwindling county contingency fund.
“Do you foresee them (the jail) eating up the contingencies before the year is out?” commissioner Bruce Scogin asked Fortson, who replied that, yes, he did.
“I foresee this being on the agenda every meeting (for the rest of this year),” said Fortson.
Sheriff Clayton Lowe, who oversees the jail, was not at the meeting Monday night. He said Tuesday that the additional expenses of the jail should not catch anyone off guard.
“I don’t think it should be any surprise,” said Lowe. “It shouldn’t be news to anybody that it costs more to run a jail that houses 60 inmates versus one that houses 15.”
Lowe said the shortfall in jail funds ultimately stems from poor planning by the commissioners during budget time last year. But Fortson said Tuesday that the board simply went by the figures
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.