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DECEMBER 17, 2003


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Rough start has Panthers still winless this season
It hasn’t been the way first-year head coach Richard Crumley envisioned the start of his career at Jackson County, but all things considered he knew turning around a struggling Panther basketball program would not happen overnight.

2004 Football Schedule To Feature Clash With Trion, Saturday Game
There will be only two new foes on Commerce’s 2004 schedule, but they might be the two games that raise the most eyebrows — one because of the caliber of opponent the Tigers will play and the other because it won’t be played on a Friday.

Dragons at Star’s Mill this weekend
It’s been a practice of the Jefferson wrestling team to take on the best squads in the state with regularity each season, regardless of classification or rank. Such will be the case once again this weekend when the Dragons travel to Starr’s Mill for a tournament full of larger schools.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Planners threaten proposed Lula subdivision
If plans proceed with a 74-lot subdivision on unpaved Barefoot Road in Lula, the developers of the project might find themselves in a legal battle - with the Banks County Planning Commission.

Early deadlines set for next issue
The Banks County News has early deadlines for next week’s issue due to Christmas.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Luminarias set for Sat.
The 19th annual Luminarias and Live Nativity will be held Saturday, Dec. 20, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Booger Hill and Moon’s Grove Roads in Danielsville.

Counselors talk about keeping kids in school
Madison County High School’s counseling team outlined current and proposed programs to assist incoming freshmen adjust to high school life at the December board of education meeting Tuesday night.

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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LIGHT A CANDLE...IN HONOR AND MEMORY

The American Cancer Society held a festival of luminarias at the courthouse lawn Thursday night, lighting candles in memory of loved ones lost to cancer and in honor of survivors. Seethis weeks Jackson Herald for more photos.

JHS cafeteria to be expanded for auditorium, BOE says
The Jefferson Board of Education plans to expand the cafeteria at Jefferson High School to serve as an auditorium for the school.
The plan, tenatively scheduled to begin in February, is the latest version of some major upgrades set for the school.
The new auditorium plan is for the back wall of the current cafeteria to be taken out and a stage added on to the back of the building. That would be both the most cost effective and reasonable plan to sign off on, explained Superintendent Dr. John Jackson.
“Cost is always the primary concern,” he said Monday.
In addition to the “cafetorium,” renovations are planned for the front of the building to repair and reconfigure some exterior damage and deterioration that has occurred over the years. Most of the buildings that are planned for exterior renovation have experienced deterioration to the point where safety has become a concern, Jackson said.
Also planned is a project to reshape the current media center/auditorium. That will have to wait, however, until the work on the cafetorium is complete.
A previous plan that called for the City of Jefferson and the board of education to jointly build a new auditorium for both school and community use appears to no longer be an option. That plan, which called for a more upscale building, had a projected price tag of $2.1 million, a figure that Jackson stated is well above the plan the board is considering currently.
The board expects to hear back from architect Craig Buckley in the coming week’s with an official estimate of the cost.
In other BOE business Thursday:
•it was reported that 41.6 percent of the fiscal year is complete and some 5.1 percent of local revenue has been received by the school system.
•the board’s SPLOST balance was reported at $736,775 following sizable collections the last two months.
•after up-keep work was done on several of the school system’s buses, Jackson noted that the program which is budgeted each year by the state for local system’s transportation costs is vastly under what the actual need is. Said Jackson to the board: “What it’s costing to run these buses and what the state gives us is really putting a strain on our budget, but you already know that.”


Flu shots are no longer available
Health department, BJC Medical Center are out of the vaccination
Still hoping there’s time to get your flu vaccination? Well, it’s too late, according to some local health officials.
Jackson County’s two health departments no longer have the flu vaccine available, amid the national shortage of the preventive shot. The BJC Medical Center also distributed its final shot last week.
The Jefferson Health Clinic ran out of the flu vaccine on Dec. 8, and the Commerce Health Clinic gave its remaining shots Dec. 5 for adults and Dec. 8 for children.
Seven hundred shots were given in Jefferson this year, an increase of 200 vaccinations from last season, said Rhiannon Patrick, a spokeswoman for the Northeast Health District.
But in Commerce, less vaccine was ordered this flu season, Patrick said. Still, 560 adults and 20 children were given the flu shot.
The BJC Medical Center experienced a flood of people getting the flu shot last week, as 400 vaccinations were given Monday through Wednesday.
Despite the local shortage, the health clinics have been handling the situation well, Patrick said.
“It seems like it’s been pretty orderly,” Patrick said of those customers who have been turned away at the local health clinics.
“Unfortunately there’s nowhere else to refer them to,” she said. “It’s a national problem.”
With about 25 percent of its inpatients with the flu last Thursday, the BJC Medical Center is reporting an exceptionally high number of patients with the flu this year. The hospital typically has 15 flu cases a year, but last week had about 10 inpatients being treated for the flu.
“We have a number of people who have the flu,” said Oscar Weinmeister, assistant administrator for the BJC Medical Center in Commerce. “This is definitely the worst year for the flu in the four-and-a-half years I’ve been here.”
In fact, he says, some hospitals across Georgia are experiencing extremely high emergency room visits with patients reporting flu-like symptoms. Some metro Atlanta hospitals are even operating on disaster-level management and Weinmeister is expecting the flu’s effects to continue.
About 30 percent of the BJC Medical Center’s emergency room visits last week were related to the flu, Weinmeister said.
The Northeast Health District, which covers a 10-county area near Athens, is advising residents to take other preventive measures from getting the flu.
Residents should wash their hands more frequently, cover their mouth when sneezing or coughing, and stay home from work or school if they have flu-like symptoms, Patrick said.
The Northeast Health District ordered 13,000 flu shots for the season, an increase from last year, she said.
The health district didn’t order FluMist, a live form of the virus taken nasally, since the drug is more expensive, Patrick said. FluMist can cost up to $60.


Pendergrass ‘04 budget depends on fine income
Pendergrass expects to get 59 percent of its revenue next year from city court fines.
The Pendergrass City Council held a public hearing Monday to present its proposed 2004 budget of $448,467 — a 42 percent increase from last year’s overall budget. The 2003 budget was $314,600.
A large chunk of revenue for next year’s budget will come from city court fines issued from charges filed by the town’s new police department.
Officials expect to raise $265,000, or 59 percent of the budget’s revenue through court fines. Last year, the city budgeted only $100,000 from fines.
Pendergrass is the second Jackson County town that expects to raise a large percent of its budget from court fines. The Arcade City Council has budgeted 69 percent of its 2004 revenue to come from court fines.
Overall, the Pendergrass police department marks the single, largest expense for Pendergrass with $155,000 earmarked for salaries. The city has four full-time officers and two part-time officers. Other departmental expenses are mixed in with other line items, so the exact cost of the department is difficult to determine based on the budget sheets.
More than $20,000 is proposed for the city’s police and street department vehicles for gas.
The city’s new street department, which started this year, will receive $25,000 of the budget for one worker’s salary.
Among its expected revenue for the city is a $53,400 Cops Grant for the police department. Pendergrass officials also hope to see $35,000 in income from beer and wine taxes, and a two percent increase of sales tax revenue to $26,000.
The Pendergrass City Council will vote on the proposed 2004 budget on Tuesday, Dec. 30, at 6:30 p.m.


Sheriff’s office to get more space, staff
Crime load is up in county, sheriff reports to commissioners
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to fund four new positions for the sheriff’s office Monday night after hearing a plea from the sheriff about the operation of his department.
The BOC also agreed to a request from Sheriff Stan Evans to locate a temporary facility adjacent to the criminal investigation building to house the patrol and clerical operations.
Sheriff Evans said the crime load has increased in the past few years and he has not received any additional personnel since 1999. He said the department needs 16 additional patrol officers, two investigators, eight jailers and two clerks. Evans said he requested additional officers during the budget process, but his concerns were not addressed by the county staff.
“Additional personnel are needed for the sheriff’s office to fulfill our duties,” he said. “Investigations are going unfinished, documentation and the bare essentials of good record-keeping are going undone. Officers can’t patrol and serve court papers because they’re running from one call to another.”
Evans said there is only one patrol officer in each of the county’s four zones during each shift. He said this should be doubled immediately.
The sheriff also pointed out that he has asked for two years for a temporary building to be placed adjacent to the criminal investigation building.
“We literally have employees walking over one another for lack of space in our jail facility,” he said. “This is an emergency, as I have implied before. I need something done and I need it done now...The people of Jackson County demand and they deserve the very best law enforcement that can be provided.”


JCCHS choral group leaves Wed. for Vienna
After eight months of fund-raising, practice and anticipation, the Jackson County Comprehensive High School Advanced Choral Ensemble – 21 students accompanied by 22 chaperones – left today (Wednesday) for a five-day trip to Vienna, Austria.
Last spring, after director Todd Chandler submitted an audition tape, the ensemble was invited by the Vienna Department of Cultural Affairs to participate in the 2003 Advent Sing. Since that time, the ensemble has performed 30 times to raise approximately $32,000 for the trip.
“The kids are bursting at the seams right now,” said Chandler on Friday. He added that all were healthy (no flu) as departure neared.


Early deadlines set for Christmas week issue
The Jackson Herald will have early deadlines for next week’s issue due to the Christmas holiday.
The deadline for classified advertisements will be at noon on Friday, Dec. 19, while the display advertisement deadline will be 3 p.m. The deadline for news, including church and social announcements, will be at 5 p.m. on Friday.
The Christmas issue will be on the news stands on Tuesday, Dec. 23. Mailed subscriptions will also be sent to the post office one day ahead of the regular schedule.
The Herald office will be closed on Thursday, Dec. 25, for Christmas Day.


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So Far, So Good On Junked Car
Removal Work
Public Understanding,
Police Officer Reports
Commerce’s effort to rid its residential neighborhoods of junked vehicles is moving along slowly but well, says the man given the responsibility of enforcing the city’s cleanliness of premises ordinance.
Sgt. Al Figueroa has been temporarily assigned to City Hall to go street-by-street through town to notify owners of such vehicles that they must remove them or otherwise bring their yards into conformance with the ordinance.
“I have yet to find somebody just totally averse to the request,” Figueroa said. “They do mumble that ‘it’s my car and my yard’ but I tell them the city ordinance passed in 1995 requires the yard to be devoid of junked cars.”
To date, Figueroa has issued notices to the owners of 151 cars, and he figures he has covered less than a third of the town.
The notices give property owners 10 days to comply with the ordinance. That means they can have the vehicle removed, put it under a shelter or in a garage, or purchase a license and insurance for the vehicle.
Starting east of Broad Street, Figueroa has worked the areas of Cotton, Shankle, Spring Street up to State Street and is in the Hill Street, Duncan Street, Duncan Circle and MLK areas this week.
Figueroa was chosen for the job because of his personality and communication skills, and that choice appears to be paying off.
“Since I have pretty good rapport with people, I’m getting a good reaction. They’re glad it’s happening, glad it’s going on,” he said.
Figueroa is careful not to tamper with people’s feelings. Many of the vehicles hold sentimental value, which he tries to respect.
“We’re not here to destroy people’s belongings by asking them to remove vehicles off the property,” he says. “I will work with anybody.”
“I had one gentleman who told me ‘I got that when my mother passed away and I’m not getting rid of it.’ I told him I didn’t want him to get rid of it, just bring it up to code. He got a tag and insurance for it.”
The most vehicles in one yard so far has been eight. That owner, said Figueroa, has already removed half of the vehicles, so he gave him an extension to get rid of the rest.
The word is getting around that the city is finally enforcing its ordinance, and some people are moving their vehicles in advance of Figueroa’s visit.
“I have driven through town and seen cars I would normally cite, and by the time I get to that block, they say ‘I knew you were coming and we took care of it,’” Figueroa said.
When inspecting a yard that appears to be in violation, Figueroa issues a site inspection telling the owner he or she is in violation of the city code section. The report describes the vehicle. He also leaves a copy of the code section and, if the owner is present, explains it to her or him. If not, he leaves the copy in the mailbox or on the door. Eleven days later he checks to see if the situation has been cleared up.
“I am getting a lot of good response,” the officer said. “People are cleaning up their yards and moving their cars and making the city look a lot better.”
The original plan was to keep Figueroa on the job through December, but Figueroa says he will not have completed the sweep of the whole town by then.
“Maybe they’ll give me an extension,” he said.


JMS drug rumors are ‘unfounded,’ police chief says
Jefferson police chief Darren Glenn said this week that rumors about drug problems at Jefferson Middle School are not true.
When contacted about the rumors, Glenn said that there has only been one drug incident reported at the school. He said a student was suspended after he said he had drugs at the school. The police chief said drugs were never found on the student, who has since returned to class.
“There have been no instances of drug use at the middle school, whatsoever,” Glenn said Monday. “There is no story even to write about. There has not been anybody even arrested at the school.”
There have been rumors that there was a drug overdose at the school and that an ambulance was called to the school. Glenn said this is not true.