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JANUARY 7, 2004


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OPINIONS
Farnk Gillespie
County needs railway overpass
The United States Census Bureau has projected that Madison County’s population will double in the next 30 years. We are expected to have a population of over 50,000 people.

Zach Mitcham
BOC, zoning board divided over recent proposals
Do you get the sense that our county commissioners and zoning board aren’t on the same page? (Or perhaps more appropriately, the same map?)


SPORTS
Out-dualing the competition
Madison Co. wrestlers win Raider Duals
Steve Mason’s Raider wrestling squads have already experienced highlights at the state level in his short tenure, but what transpired at his team’s own gym this past Saturday might have more sentimental value to the coach.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Home for the holidays
Banks guardsman marries before heading to Kuwait
A Banks County woman spent the recent holidays with a whirlwind visit with her family and friends. Two days after Christmas, she got married.

Lula man charged with New Year’s murder in Gainesville
John Fitzgerald Pierce, 39, of Lula, was arrested and charged with murder by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 1.

News from
JACKSON COUNTY
It pays to be an intern in the Jackson County government.
For the second time since December, two part-time interns working at the county administrative office have been hired to fill two high-paying, but unadvertised, county administrative positions.

‘New’ Council To Be Sworn In Monday Night
There will be two city council meetings Monday night at the Commerce Civic Center.

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The Madison County Journal
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Wrestlers roll in Raider Duals

Conrad Carey (left) grapples with an opponent in the Raider Duals Saturday as the Madison County squad turned in an impressive performance on their home mat. (See this weeks Madison County Journal for coverage)

Duplexes denied in Danielsville
A planned eight-family development off Hwy. 29, north of the red light in Danielsville, was turned down by city leaders Monday.
Former Danielsville mayor Marc Perry wants to build four duplexes (or eight family units) on approximately five acres just past the BP station off Hwy. 29. He sought three actions from the city council Monday to open the door for the development: a rezoning of the property from commercial to residential, a conditional use permit to allow for a “multi-family” development and an area variance to allow more than one family dwelling per acre.
The council approved the rezoning and the conditional use requests. However, the area variance was denied. That decision, according to the city’s zoning ordinance, fell on the lap of city clerk Michelle Dills, who is designated as the city building inspector, though she has not been trained by the city for an inspector position.
No conflict of interest was pointed out during the meeting concerning Dills being called on to make the decision on the variance. However, Perry is Dills’ landlord. Perry also hired Dills when he was mayor of Danielsville.
Dills seemed clearly uncomfortable with having to make the decision on Perry’s proposal, hesitating before ultimately saying that she would follow the advice of city attorney Victor Johnson. The attorney advised Dills to turn down the variance, saying that city ordinances require one acre per family dwelling and noting that eight family units on five acres would violate the city codes.
The city council voted in recent years to require one acre per family dwelling, with the aim of keeping Danielsville from becoming “an apartment town.”
Perry said that he was told at the time of that change that he may be able to get a variance for his duplex request. The former mayor also noted that when he purchased the Hwy. 29 property around 1989 or 1990, lots could be as small as .25 acres as long as water and sewer services were available.
“That’s no longer the case,” said Johnson.
The attorney also said a variance cannot be awarded to an applicant who creates the necessity for a variance through his or her own action, noting that a person with less than one acre for a home could qualify for a variance for a single house on a small tract, but a person wanting to place an excess number of dwellings on their land is creating the conditions requiring a variance, and thus, should not be granted a variance.
“The special circumstances can’t be the result of an act of the applicant,” said Johnson.
But Perry argued that the city council — not himself — created the need for the variance with its action in recent years to require one acre per family dwelling.
Before Dills’ decision, Johnson said that both the applicant and the council could appeal Dill’s vote. The council, he said, could appeal to itself.
Mayor Glenn Cross told Perry that he could appeal the decision to the council at the council’s February meeting.
Perry seemed less than pleased with the decision.
“You seem to have an angle on whatever we want to do,” Perry told the council.
COUNCIL HIRES POLICE OFFICER
In other matters Monday, the council hired Danny Bennett as a city police officer. He will work 32 hours a week on day shifts, without health insurance or retirement, but he will get sick leave and vacation time.
Janice Merk, wife of police chief Joe Merk, addressed the council, saying she felt it was unfair that the new officer would get a day shift and her husband, a Danielsville officer for 16 years, would be stuck with a 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift.
The discussion of Mr. Merk’s job hours and performance turned somewhat heated before the police chief asked the council to meet in closed session to discuss “litigation.” They met for 20 minutes before opening the doors again. No vote was taken and there was no further discussion of the matter.
The city council will hold a called meeting to discuss “personnel” at 7 p.m., Monday, at city hall.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business Monday, the council agreed to seek price estimates on upgrading an existing water line from two-inch to six-inch pipes at the request of Pete Zorbanos, who is planning a 10-lot development off Mama B. Drive in the city. The council took no vote but seemed receptive to having the city upgrade the existing line, while Zorbanos would foot the cost of any line extension.
Also Monday, the council agreed to reduce its wellhead protection requirement to keep development at least 1,500 feet from city wells. Johnson said the wellhead protection radius is too restrictive, pointing out that such a radius encompasses a 162-acre zone. He suggested the council reduce the wellhead protection radius to 250 feet, which is in line with state EPD standards. The group approved the change, but the amendment won’t be officially adopted until next month.
The council heard from two citizens who suggested that the council consider acquiring large, rolling trash cans and making them available to citizens at a cost. They said this may help keep roaming dogs from getting into the trash of city residents.
The council also heard from Todd Higdon, one of the developers of a subdivision off Crawford W. Long Street. Higdon said that the subdivision will be named “Crawford W. Long Estates.” He added that he hopes it will be a place where people move in and stay for 20 or more years.


Switches installed to protect Ila’s water system
Ila’s water system will hopefully be a little safer from lightning damage come spring storm season.
Councilman Troy Butler told the council that new heater element relay switches have been installed on the city’s well pump, which should help save the pump from burning out in the event of another lightning strike.
The pump was destroyed twice by lightning during thunderstorms in 2003, and the council agreed last month that taking steps to avoid this problem in the future would be a top priority for this year. The council is also concerned that the city’s insurance rates may go up from filing frequent claims from the damage.
Butler recommended that the city also install an additional grounding grid to provide additional protection against lightning strikes.
In a related matter, councilman Terry Freeman reported that he had checked on the price of a backup generator and found the price to be approximately $12,500 for the size needed. The city would also need to purchase a switch for $1,300 to $1,900.
The council agreed that the benefits of having the generator were not worth the expense of the purchase.
Councilman Butler noted that a generator wouldn’t prevent a lightning strike to the pump and that the water system is generally “back on line pretty fast” after a power outage.
In another matter, the council followed the recommendation of Ila’s zoning committee that an area variance be granted to Larry Daves so that he can install a double-wide mobile home on his Ila property. The property already contains one home but Daves wants to move a mobile home onto the lot so he can assist his disabled brother, Scott Daves.
The variance included the following conditions: that the home must be at least 1,200 square feet with underpinning and front and back porches; that the lot must meet county requirements for a septic system; and that the variance will be reviewed every five years by the council to see if the need still exists. When the need no longer exists, one of the structures will be removed within the limit of 40 years from Jan. 5, 2004.
In other business:
•Mayor Mike Coile and councilmen Butler and Terry Freeman were sworn in by city attorney Pat Graham to begin their four-year terms of office.
•Butler reported that the crosswalk requested by Ila Elementary School had been installed in front of the school on Sewell Mill Road.
•Mayor Coile reported that two businesses and a vehicle have been vandalized by having their windows shot out with a pellet or BB gun recently. He asked that the council be on the lookout for any suspicious behavior.
•The council voted to have Mayor Coile send a letter to the manager of Ila’s Dollar General Store requesting that the store install a retaining wall to prevent further erosion around their construction site. Attorney Graham advised
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.

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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.


Colbert leaders sworn in for new terms
The mayor and two councilmen were sworn in for new terms at the Colbert City Council meeting Monday night.
All three were re-elected without opposition to two-year terms. Councilmen Roger Fortson and Chris Beck took the oath along with Mayor John Waggoner, who begins his 35th year as mayor of Colbert. Beck was named mayor-pro-tem, replacing Julian Davis. The office of mayor-pro-tem rotates among the four council members.
Work to clean out the old Hart building in the downtown business area is almost complete. The building, which was ruled a hazardous building, was donated to the city by the Hart family. The council is expected to decide what to do with the space at its February meeting. The city can rebuild the building and lease it out, lease the space as is allowing those leasing the structure to restore it, or sell it. Several people have reportedly expressed interest in the building.
The council voted to issue a check to the Colbert Volunteer Fire Department for $5,000. The grant was approved in the city’s budget, but a vote to expend city funds was necessary before the check could be written.
The status on the city’s grant application to make improvements to the downtown area and restore the old school as a city hall is unchanged. An answer is expected in March or April.
The Madison County Sheriff’s office issued seven traffic tickets in Colbert in November 2003. Fines totaling $570 were collected. Colbert received $285 of the amount.