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JANUARY 14, 2004


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OPINIONS
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SPORTS

CHS Hoops Teams Both Go ...
Three-For-Three
Boys Rattle Off A Trio Of Close Victories; Move to 4-7
If winning cures all ills then Commerce got a needed triple shot of the antibiotic this past week with three-straight triumphs.

Plenty of balance
Spread out scoring attack continues to pace Lady Panthers
The Jackson County girls are preparing for perhaps their most important stretch of games this season coming up in the next week.

Next five games crucial for Jefferson boys
It’s a pretty good sign when the biggest complaint a coach has about his team is that they are winning by too much. Such is the case with head coach Bolling DuBose and his No. 8 ranked Jefferson boys.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
BCMS may be ready in August
BOE hears construction, technology update
Work is continuing on the new Banks County Middle School and the board of education hopes students can fill the classrooms this August.
In a construction update given at Monday’s BOE meeting, officials reported that the new middle school seems to be on track for the next school year.

BOC approves Tanger advertising co-op program
County’s cost for second year of participation will be $25,000
The Banks County Board of Commissioners decided Friday to participate in the Banks-Jackson-Georgia Department of Industry Tourism and Trade-Tanger advertising co-op program for the second year.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Red hats required
Madison County Senior Center members join group for fun-loving, hat-wearing women
Four ladies, dressed in glowing purple and varying styles of flamboyant red hats were busy at the Senior Center last Friday afternoon making plans for their own local chapter of the “Red Hat Society.”

Talking educationState school supt. speaks at Republican breakfast
State school superintendent Kathy Cox described efforts to improve graduation rates, school attendance and the state’s core curriculum in a speech to Madison County educators and Republican activists in Danielsville Saturday morning.

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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BASELINE DRIVE

Jackson County guard Brooke Hughes, right, drives by Madison County’s Jessica Grainger on Tuesday night in Danielsville. The Lady Panthers came away with a 44-35 win in the game. See this weeks Jackson Herald for more local basketball coverage.


Sikes seeks EPD permit for garbage transfer station
Residents concerned, mayor says he was unaware of plans
Arcade business owner Joe Sikes is applying for an EPD permit for a garbage transfer station to be located at his property on Rock Forge Road, but the news came as a surprise to area residents and city officials who just learned about the plan on Monday.
City leaders said the project can’t be done, but according to Sikes and to an environtmental specialist with the EPD, Sikes can seek a permit to that effect. As of Tuesday, the EPD had not issued Sikes a permit and, in fact, hadn’t fully processed the request, but from the EPD’s standpoint, a permit by rule is a possibility for such a project, and does not require city approval.
Residents of White Oak Subdivision who originally thought Sikes was putting in “just a building,” said they found out earlier this week that the grading Sikes has been doing is for a concrete pad and retaining walls to serve as a garbage transfer station, for trash to be brought in and stored until truckloads are taken to a landfill.
The residents said they heard Sikes would be taking garbage in from R&W Sanitation, one of the facets of Joes Sikes Oil Company. They began calling the EPD office in Athens to find out more and then a group appeared at the Arcade City Council meeting Monday night to see if the project could be stopped.
“That’s pretty much news to me,” Mayor Doug Haynie responded when citizens told him that Sikes had contacted the EPD months ago. “He has made no application with the City of Arcade.”
Residents in the area — who are wary after a battle over a proposed landfill in Arcade in the 1990s — said they felt Sikes was “sneaking it in” because no one in the residential area had heard of Sikes’ plans. They said that they fought the “last landfill,” and that they would fight against the transfer station, that they didn’t want to live near a “dump” and that they were concerned about the odors associated with the station, particularly in the summer.
“It cannot be done — it is not zoned for that,” the mayor said. “And he doesn’t have a building permit.”
Haynie told the city clerk and council that they would need to contact the Quad Cities Planning Commission and have an inspector visit the site.
SIKES COMMENTS
When contacted Tuesday for comment, Sikes said that he has not yet begun building the actual structure for the station, and that he will need to renew a building permit he got in 2002.


Judge to speak at MLK Jr. birthday event on Sunday
Jackson County will hold its 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration at 4 p.m. Sunday, January 18, at the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation auditorium, Jefferson.
The MLK choir will present a mini-gospel music concert at 3:30 p.m.
The keynote speaker will be Athens-Clarke County Magistrate Court Judge Patricia Barron.
Several governmental officials and citizens will participate, and awards will be presented to citizens from throughout Northeast Georgia.
The celebration is sponsored by the Jackson County MLK Commem-oration Birthday Council.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
A native of Atlanta, Judge Barron now calls Athens her home.
She received a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., in 1979 and a bachelor’s of arts degree in political science from Mercer University in Macon, in 1976.
Judge Barron worked as an attorney with Georgia Legal Services for 20 years, in legal services offices throughout the state; as a staff attorney in Americus, Sumter County, 1979-1984; as a supervising attorney in Douglas County from 1984-1989; and as managing attorney in Gainesville and Athens, 1989-1999.
She also worked for the University of Georgia School of Law for two years as director of the Family Violence Clinic, where she trained law students to represent domestic violence victims in obtaining protectiev orders from the court.
In February 2001, Judge Barron was sworn in as Associate Magistrate Court Judge for Athens-Clarke County. In August 2002, she was promoted to the position of Chief Magistrate Court Judge. She presides over criminal cases involving theft and physical violence, as well as civil cases involving lawsuits over consumer debts, housing evictions or construction contracts gone bad.
Judge Barron is the first, and, currently, only African American Chief Magistrate Judge in Northeast Georgia.
She is a member of Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Athens, where she serves as president of the Pastor’s Aid Board.
Judge Barron enjoys reading and traveling.


Budget, education, water resources to be big issues
Nicholson Water Authority seeks local legislation, Rep. Elrod says
The budget, education and water resources are expected to again be the main topics this session, according to legislators representing Jackson County in the state capitol.
The session got under way on Monday with two representatives, Chris Elrod, District 25, and Warren Massey, District 24, and three senators, Brian Kemp, District 46, Ralph Hudgens, District 47, and Casey Cagle, District 49, serving Jackson County.
“The big issues on the agenda will be much the same as last session—the budget, education and water resources,” Rep. Elrod said Monday. “However, I think we will definitely see movement on HOPE and illegal aliens as well.”
Sen. Kemp said the budget will be the number one issue on the agenda for state legislators.
“We face very difficult choices with the budget,” he said. “We just don’t have a lot of options. We will be working to make sure we are prioritizing and trying to protect the services we are supposed to be doing and continue to trim and reorganize and do a better job of taking care of those needs.
As for the Hope scholarship, Kemp said he has been on the study committee working on that for five months.
“We feel like they are good recommendations,” he said. “We have good bipartisan support from the members of the committee. My goal is to continue to move those through the legislature in a non-partisan manner and just do what is right.”
Elrod has only received requests on a couple of local bills, including one from the Nicholson Water Authority to change its legislation to provide for board appointments by the City of Nicholson and the water authority, rather than the Grand Jury.
“This will ensure continuity,” Elrod said. “The Grand Jury usually requires extra time on these appointments because it does not know the candidates. Obviously, the authority and city will know each candidate very well.”
Elrod said a couple of cities and perhaps Jackson County will need reapportionment bills to correct district deviations due to population growth.
“These have been mentioned to me but are still in the hands of the respective local governments and the reapportionment office,” he said.
Sen. Kemp said he heard talk last year about a new jail and he would be open to talking with local officials about that.
“We’re open to working with them on that,” he said. “We feel like it would be a good thing but I haven’t heard anything for sure.”
As far as legislation, Elrod and Sen. Kemp have been discussing a bill to streamline information flowing to the General Assembly.
Under current law, departments are required to report annually to the General Assembly. Elrod said the departments have been doing this by sending massive amounts of paper.
“Many of these reports are mailed,” he said. “My intention would be to change the law to require that these reports be made available to the legislators on an as-requested basis. Another alternative I have considered is making these reports web-based or requiring that they be electronically transmitted. I believe that this will save the state tens of thousands of dollars in printing and postage costs each year.”
Sen. Kemp said he also has legislation or studies on early learning and Pre-K, water conservation and protection for locally-funded reservoirs that he would like to see move


Walker to chair water authority
With long-time chairman Elton Collins due to be replaced in June, the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority elevated vice chairman Warren Walker to the top post last Thursday night.
Walker, appointed by Commissioner Emil Beshara in 2002, represents the West Jackson area on the board. Collins served a nine-year stint starting in 1989 and was reappointed to the board in 2000. He was named chairman in June, 2001.
Collins has grown weary of the constant pressure exerted on the board by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. Though he and BOC Chairman Harold Fletcher have sparred over a number of issues, Fletcher has reportedly said he would nominate Collins for re-election this summer when his current term expires.
“I told Mr. Fletcher I would not be re-appointed,” Collins said Monday night, after which he made the motion to elect Walker as chairman.
When the vote was held, Collins, Dean Stringer and Walker voted for the motion, while members Clay Dale and Wanda David voted against it. The votes fell the same way when Walker nominated Stringer for vice chairman. Dale was elected treasurer and staff member Lisa Ledford was re-elected recording secretary, both by unanimous votes, to round out the slate of officers.
The split vote represents the politics of the authority. Collins, Walker and Stringer have resisted attempts by the board of commissioners to exert more control over the authority – even up to taking over its day-to-day responsibilities – over the past year. Dale and David, both elected by the commissioners to the board last summer, are considered allies of the BOC’s attempt to gain control.
The commissioners are expected to gain the upper hand this summer when Collins is replaced.
Most recently, the board of commissioners has pressed the authority to join it in a “needs assessment” of the water authority’s operations and finances. By the 3-2 vote, the authority has refused, with Collins terming the move a “witch hunt” and pointing out that the BOC will gain its control in June at which time it can do as it pleases.
The first casualty of the new appointment is expected to be Jerry Waddell, the authority’s manager, whom the commissioners have been anxious to fire ever since they took office.
Walker remains a champion of the authority’s quasi-independence from the board of commissioners. He has been outspoken in opposition to what he sees as the board of commissioners’ attempt to take over the authority.
BUDGET SPLIT
The authority split along the same lines in approving the $5.96 million 2004 operating budget.
Neither Dale nor David spoke out against the document Thursday, but when it was first presented in December, David sharply criticized it. One of her primary objections was that the budget calls for selling 40 percent more water, but the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority budget projects Jackson County getting only 12 percent more water during 2004 than in 2003.
“He can’t buy 40 percent if you’re only selling 12,” she declared.
David also complained in November that a quarter of the budget was in contingency funds and the lack of a line item for depreciation. In the version Waddell presented Thursday, the budget contained only $440,159 earmarked for contingencies but added $650,000 for depreciation and $463,131 for capital reserves. The total dollar amount did not change.
Through 11 months of 2003, the water authority sold just shy of $800,000 worth of water. The 2004 budget projects sales of $2.2 million. That hope for a 50-percent increase (but only a 10 percent increase in sales budgeted last year) is based on two factors: almost 650 more water customers now than at the beginning of 2003 and the fact that an unusually wet spring and summer depressed 2003 water sales.
The budget also projects $1.688 million in sewer tap fees for 2004, compared to $52,500 in tap fees actually collected through November of 2003. In fact, while the 2003 budget predicted total revenues of $4.5 million, actual revenues through November amounted to only $1.9 million.
Expenses, fortunately, were similarly short of 2003 budget projections. “Cost of sales,” projected at almost $1.5 million, stood at $639,000 after 11 months of the year. Total expenses were running at 42 percent of budget after 11 months.


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In The Red
City $1.4 Million In Red But Catching Up Quickly
Commerce City Manager Clarence Bryant warned the city council Monday night not to be too worried over the fact that the city ended 2003 $1.4 million in the hole.
“There are three or four reasons for that,” he said.
More importantly, Bryant assured the council that by the next meeting, that debt would be gone and the city once again operating in the black.
Of the shortfall, some $660,000 represents uncollected ad valorem taxes and another $150,000 is owed the General Fund from other accounts, Bryant told the “old” city council in its last item before the “new” city council was sworn in.
In addition, the Electric Fund is in the black $8,261. Being in the black is a good thing, but “normally, it’s $225,000 in the black at this time, so it gives you an idea of how the sales of electricity have been affected,” Bryant said.
Likewise, the Water and Sewer Fund is down – by $496,000, most of which will be repaid through reimbursements from its GEFA loan financing the construction of the waste treatment plant.
“It looks a little scary, but it should balance by the next meeting,” Bryant told the council.
The financial report caught no one by surprise. The city has been operating in the red since last summer when sales of both water and electricity were way off due to a wet and cool summer.
Bryant didn’t mention it Monday, but part of the cash flow challenge is the funding of the Commerce City School System in advance of tax collections. Before the city collected its first dollar of ad valorem taxes, it had paid out $1 million to the school system.
In response to a question from Councilman Donald Wilson about how the tax collections are proceeding, City Clerk Shirley Willis said, “We collected $95,000 today and we have collected $1 million in taxes so far.”


Most county offices up for re-election
It’s a major election year in Jackson County and most local seats are up for re-election.
Three of the five seats on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners will be on the ballot. They include: District 1, held by Stacey Britt; District 2, held by Sammy Thomason; and chairman, held by Harold Fletcher.
Other positions to be on the ballot, along with the current person in office, include: sheriff, Stan Evans; tax commissioner, Don Elrod; probate court judge, Margaret Deadwyler; magistrate judge, Billy Chandler; clerk of courts, Reba Parks; district attorney, Tim Madison; Superior Court judges, David Motes, Joe Booth and Robert Adamson; State Court judge, Jerry Gray; coroner, Keith Whitfield; State Court solicitor, Don Moore; surveyor, Al Venable; District 1, county board of education, Stephanie Kitchens; and District 4, county board of education, Ed Tolbert.
The two state representative seats covering Jackson County, now held by Chris Elrod, District 25, and Warren Massey, District 24, and the three senate seats, held by Brian Kemp, District 46, Ralph Hudgens, District 47, and Casey Cagle, District 49, will also be on the ballot this year.
Qualifying will be from 9 a.m. on Monday, April 26, through noon on Friday, April 30.
The election schedule for the year is as follows: March 2, presidential preference; July 20, primary election; Aug. 10, primary run-off; Nov. 2, general election; and Nov. 23, general run-off.
One change in how elections are handled this year is that anyone may cast a ballot during the one-week period before an election. In the past, absentee ballots were only used by those with medical concerns or other valid reasons to be out of the voter’s precinct. Now, anyone may cast a ballot during this one-week period.
In the March 2 presidential preference election, voters may go to the courthouse Monday through Friday, Feb. 23-27, and cast a ballot.