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NOVEMBER 5, 2003


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OPINIONS
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SPORTS
Panthers hope to shake off heartbreak Friday at Loganville
There’s not much anyone can say to the Jackson County football team that will ease the pain following their devastating fourth quarter defeat at the hands of Habersham Central last week.

Slow-pitch seasons conclude
Jefferson bids farewell to coach, program after 23 years
Jefferson High School said good bye to a coaching legend this past weekend in Columbus at the slow-pitch state tournament.

State Champs!
CHS Downs Jefferson 6-3 In Programs’ Final
Game To Take Class A-AAAA State Championship
Commerce probably couldn’t have scripted a matchup with a more fitting opponent in a better game to close the chapter of slow-pitch softball against.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Lula incumbent ousted
Moore wins Lula seat; Closs, Lomax win in Alto council race
In city elections Tuesday, Clyde Moore won the Ward 4 council seat in Lula while in Alto, John Closs and Phil Lomax both won in their bid for open council seats.

Banks County CVB approves $124,950 2004 budget
The Banks County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau approved a $124,950 budget for 2004 that is down about $5,000 from last year.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Future Hwy. 72 road widening on hold
Two additional road widening projects for Hwy. 72 in Madison County have hit a virtual road block, at least for the immediate future.

Water for the sports complex?
Danielsville council postpones decision
See additional news from the city
of Danielsville in this weeks madison County Journal.

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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PLANT COUNTED TWICE ON TAX DIGEST

Plant Dahlberg in Center was accidentally listed twice on the county’s tax digest. Adjusting the digest accordingly creates a revenue shortfall.

Digest error slams county
$928,000 shortfall to hit county BOE
An error in the Jackson County tax digest will create a tax revenue shortfall totaling over $1.3 million. The majority of the shortfall, $928,000, will hit the Jackson County Board of Education.
County manager Al Crace reported to the board of commissioners Monday night that Plant Dahlberg in Center, which is valued at $119 million and located in the Nicholson tax district, had been inadvertently listed two times on the tax digest. That will lead to a revenue shortfall of $398,715 for the BOC, $928,749 for the Jackson County BOE and $37,000 for the Nicholson Fire Department.
While Crace said the BOC’s part of the shortfall could be handled within the current budget, BOE superintendent Andy Byers said he didn’t know how the school system would proceed.
“With our current budget, we will not be able to operate with this hit without going into deficit financing,” Byers said. “That’s something none of us can afford because it affects your bond rating... I don’t know what we will do.”
Byers said Tuesday it didn’t look like the system would be able to re-advertise and adjust the millage rate to compensate for the error. The property tax bills have also already been printed and would have to be redone.
In addition, the BOE may also get hit again from the error because it affects the state funding formula. That could slap the system with another $237,000 loss in state funding on top of the loss in local property taxes. Byers said the system was discussing the situation with state officials in an attempt to work out a solution to that part of the issue.
The system put a freeze on spending in place Tuesday and all budget items are undergoing another look to see what expenses can be delayed or cut.
Byers said the system may have no choice but to borrow money and go into deficit financing for the coming year. The digest snafu comes in a year where state cutbacks have hit all school systems hard, forcing most systems to raise their tax rates to compensate for the loss of state dollars.
BOC chairman Harold Fletcher said the mistake was “not acceptable” and asked Crace to look into what led to the error.
“We can’t afford to have this happen because it hits not only us, but it hits the school board,” Fletcher said. “We need to investigate this and determine exactly what happened and make sure this does not happen again.”
Crace said he would discuss the matter with officials in the tax commissioner’s office and tax appraiser’s offices and report back at the Nov. 17 meeting.


Tolbert wins mayor’s race in landslide
142 voters turn out in Pendgrass election
Melvin “Monk” Tolbert won’t have to worry about losing his post as mayor of Pendergrass.
The incumbent overwhelmingly beat challenger Harris Denver “Dink” Elrod in Tuesday’s election. Tolbert earned 106 votes, while Elrod received 36 votes. Pendergrass has 229 registered voters.
Elrod’s campaign revolved around controversy surrounding the city’s new police department.
Pendergrass already named incumbents Tom Marlowe and newcomer Sandy Stowe Funderburk to serve on two council seats. Peggy Jean Hooper dropped her name from the race in September and John W. Pethel was declared ineligible in October.


BOC approves resolution to set lot sizes
Health board to form committee on issue
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners again struggled with lot size requirements when it met Monday and finally approved a resolution supporting a minimum lot size of 25,500 square feet with septic tanks and public water.
Commissioner Emil Beshara has tried for several months to get his fellow BOC members to pass a resolution setting these minimum lot sizes at 21,780 square feet, which he says is the recommendation from the state. Instead, at Monday’s meeting, Stacey Britt made a motion to set the minimum lot size at 25,500 square feet. Tony Beatty and Sammy Thomason voted along with him, while Beshara voted against the motion.
“Two lots per acre in some of these outlying areas will change the dynamics of some of these rural areas,” Britt said.
Britt said the smaller lots would “open the door for master planned developments all over the county.”
“That is not appropriate,” he added.
Beshara has battled with the health board, which oversees septic tank permits, for several months. The health board has also set the lot sizes at 25,500, which Beshara said is in conflict with the 21,780 in the county code and state recommendation.
Meanwhile, more than 40 developers appeared before the Jackson County Board of Health Wednesday afternoon to ask that the 21,780 square foot lot size be adopted. Keith Hightower, president of the Jackson County Builders Association, spoke on behalf of the group and said they support the smaller lot size. He said the smaller lot size would allow for more “diversity” in developments.
The health board agreed to form a committee, comprised of its members, developers and county officials, to discuss the lot size issue.
Beshara was present for the health board meeting as the county representative. County manager Al Crace also spoke on the BOC’s lot size discussion at its meeting Monday night. Neither mentioned the 3-1 vote in favor of the 25,500 square foot lot size.
Beshara has questioned the health board’s authority in setting lot size. Tony Huff, who oversees environmental health for this district, referred to state legislature and an opinion from the attorney general that allows the local health board to set minimum lot size.
The BOC also agreed Monday to review the lot size with the health board to ensure the minimum lot size being used by the board is consistent with what is in the county’s unified development code.
On a related matter at that meeting, chairman Harold Fletcher asked Crace to look into the delay it is reportedly taking to get septic tank permits. Fletcher said he has received complaints from county residents that it is taking up to one month to get a permit.
The health board also discussed this at its meeting Wednesday. Crace said the county would track the work load and look into what can be done to help shorten the wait time for a permit.


Courthouse ceremony ahead Fri.
BOC approves $22 million as ‘guaranteed price’
A groundbreaking ceremony has been set for 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7, at the site of the new county courthouse, located off of Ga. Hwy. 82.
A reception will immediately follow at the Jackson County Senior Citizen’s Center at 219 Darnell Road. If it rains Friday, the groundbreaking ceremony will also be held at the senior center. The public is invited.
In other courthouse news, the BOC has approved a “guaranteed construction price” of $22 million from Holder Construction. Consultant Wayne Wilbanks gave a report on the finalizing of the contract and the progress made at the site at a board of commissioners’ meeting Monday night.
Wilbanks said the $22 million price includes finishing the third floor courtrooms. At one time, the BOC had discussed leaving these courtrooms unfinished for future growth. The price also includes the site work, storm water system and grading. Not included in the price are the furniture and equipment, paving and parking lot.
Commissioner Emil Beshara asked why the BOC borrowed $25 million if the final price is $22 million. County manager Al Crace said the additional $3 million would go toward purchasing furniture and fixtures and roadwork.
Wilbanks said the courthouse would be completed and occupied by October 2004. The address of the courthouse will be 5000 Jackson Parkway.


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Incumbents Sweep In City Election
Sosebee In Ward 4; Davis In BOE District 3; Perry, BOE District 4; Fitzpatrick Wins The Ward 3 City Council Seat
Incumbents were re-elected in all three of their races in Tuesday’s municipal elections in Commerce.
Ward 4 city council incumbent Bob Sosebee easily turned back challenger Neal Smith, 206-97; in school board races, incumbent Bill Davis polled 81 votes to beat challengers Barry Lord, 43, and Heidi Fields, 18, while in District 4, school board chairman Steve Perry beat Rodney Gary 160-146.
Mark Fitzpatrick received 62 votes to win the the Ward 3 seat on the city council to succeed the late Sam Brown. Paul Vickery received 51, Michael Rhoads 30 and Greg Fields four.
Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr., Ward 5 councilman Richard Massey and District 5 school board member Dr. Paul Sergent were elected without opposition. Mac Barber’s name was on the mayor’s ballot but he was disqualified; votes for Barber were not tallied.
The results are unofficial pending resolution of two “provisional votes” that will not change any of the outcomes.
Voter turnout was 40% in Ward 3 and 56% in Ward 4.


Arcade struggles to get black ink budget for 2004
Police and maintenance see cutbacks
The size of the Arcade police department is being cut from nine full-time positions to seven full-time slots plus two part-time positions. The move comes as part of an overall cost-cutting effort in the town to bring expenses down for 2004.
But even with that budget “cut,” the Arcade police department is slated to spend $30,000 more in 2004 than was budgeted for it in 2003. The APD has a total budget of $590,500, which is 69 percent of the town’s total budget of $854,600.
Overall, the Arcade buget is up one percent over the 2003 budget.
The Arcade City Council held a work session last Wednesday and again Monday night to get the tenative 2004 budget from $122,000 in the red to about $4,000 in the black.
Mayor Doug Haynie commented: “There is no fat in the budget – none.”
The proposed 2004 budget will come before the council at a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Monday and then will be up for a vote at the regular council meeting following at 7 p.m.
POLICE ITEMS
During the course of the two work sessions, the council agreed to reduce the number of police department positions from nine, including the chief, sergeant, investigator and six patrol officers, to show only four full-time patrol officers and two part-time patrol officers. Part-time officers, rather than full-time, reduces the salary for the