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JANUARY 21, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Wanted: Scoring Consistency
Tigers Search For Ways To Boost Scoring
The way Commerce Tiger basketball coach Rex Gregg sees it, the Tigers can beat most of the teams on their schedule if they show some scoring consistency.

Lady Panthers rout Clarke, remain tied for first place
It appears the Jackson County girls are beginning to peak at the right time of year, head coach Chad Pittman just hopes it’s not too soon.
Tuesday night the Lady Panthers manhandled rival Clarke Central 55-27 at The Pit, and in so doing captured their fifth consecutive victory.

No. 5 Dragons still perfect in region this year
The Jefferson boys’ basketball team is threatening to run the table on the rest of Region 8-A.
Tuesday night the No. 5 Dragons (15-4, 5-0 in 8-A North) won for the 11th time in as many region games


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Baldwin makes plans to tackle water loss
Baldiwn leaders are taking steps to get to the bottom of water loss in the town.
Water loss, or unaccounted water, is a growing problem across the country, Bud Reed, of Flow Metrix, said at a meeting in Baldwin last Thursday.

Lula council looks at minimum lot size changes
The Lula city council is talking about changing the minimum lot sizes required for future development.


News from
MADISON COUNTY

‘Second mama’
Jeanelle Moore recalls 26 years of operating daycare in Colbert
Days at Miss Jeanelle’s Day Care Center in Colbert may be over now, but three generations or so of folks in the community will never forget their days there under the watchful and loving eye of ‘Miss’ Jeanelle.

Planners deny dog kennel expansion
County planners gave owners of an upscale pet boarding facility the message that they need to relocate their business if they want to expand their operations.

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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In praise and celebration

AT 20TH ANNUAL MLK EVENT
The 20th annual Jackson County Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Birthday Celebration was held Sunday at Jackson EMC. Praise, singing and scripture punctuated the event. For more photos and the story, see this weeks Jackson Herald.


BOC to seek $20 million bond for road projects
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to request a $20 million bond financing package to finance several large road projects in the county. The request will be made to the county industrial development authority, which is authorized to issue bonds for economic development infrastructure and projects.
The BOC first discussed the road projects at a called meeting Friday afternoon. The action Monday didn’t specifiy what roads would be built or improved. Action on that would come after the IDA approves the bonds.
At Friday’s meeting, the BOC discussed several roads that might be funded with the project, including: Steven B. Tanger Boulevard extension, $820,000; Concord Road/Possum Creek Road, $9.4 million; Progress Road 2, $1.4 million; Bana Road, $1 million; Zion Church Road, $2.2 million; Wayne Poultry Road, $3.4 million; and Braselton Parkway access, $400,000.
Although not discussed, there is some speculation that the road to the new Jackson County courthouse site might also be included in the financing package.
RANDOLPH VOTING PRECINCT
In other business Friday, the BOC heard a proposal from commissioner Emil Beshara to use West Jackson Middle School as the voting precinct for Randolph District. The BOC voted on this Monday night and agreed to ask the Justice Department to approve the change.
Beshara has met with superintendent Andy Byers to discuss the idea and said the superintendent agreed to it. Beshara referred to the current facility being used in Randolph District as a “pile of cinder block.”
“Randolph is a booming precinct and the facility is inadequate,” he said.
REDISTRICTING
Also at Friday’s meeting, the BOC discussed local legislation needs the county may have during the current General Assembly session. County manager Al Crace said reapportionment for the board of commissioners is needed due to changes in the population. He said it would not be a major change but only be a “fine-tuning.” Crace agreed to move forward with seeking a reapportionment.


Sewer plant to cost city more money
State fines, delays, additional costs hit Hoschton project
All isn’t well for Hoschton’s plans to provide more sewage service.
The city faces mounting state fines, the wastewater treatment plant expansion project is months behind schedule and could affect the city’s growth, and another $1 million has been added to the project’s price tag. It’s a dire situation that the Hoschton City Council took a hard look at during a called meeting on Tuesday.
Topping the list of concerns is the project’s construction price tag — which has grown from $2.2 million to $3.2 million.
Higher-than-expected equipment costs and additional regulations from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division are the key factors for the higher price tag, said city engineer Charlie Armentrout.
Hoschton’s wastewater treatment plant now handles 100,000 gallons of sewage a day. The expansion project, which has been in the works for two years, will bring capacity to 500,000 gallons a day. The plant will need to be expanded in five years to handle one million a day.
Armentrout initially estimated the project would cost $2.2 million, but the lowest of 16 bids the city received was $3.6 million. The city will trim 13 percent from the project and submit plans to the lowest bidder, P.F. Moon and Co., Inc., for $3.2 million, he said.
After months of delay, the EPD approved the expansion project in December, Armentrout said.
“By selecting the low bid, we have to come up with more money,” said council member Ben Davis.
The Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) granted a $2 million loan to the city last year for the project — the council will now ask for an additional $1 million loan.
A decision from the council to seek another $1 million loan was needed Tuesday night, in order to be heard by GEFA officials next week, Armentrout said.
Council member Brian Boehmer said he understood the urgency of the called meeting, but thought the council needed to hear from the public before taking on more debt.
“I have a fundamental problem with passing something like this during a called meeting,” he said.
“The citizens of Hoschton will go to sleep tonight and wake up with a $1 million debt,” Boehmer added. He later abstained from voting on the issue. For the rest of this story see this weeks Jackson Herald.


Sheriff again asks for employees, jail
Sheriff Stan Evans again appeared before the Jackson County Board of Commissioners last week asking for additional employees and a new jail.
Sheriff Evans outlined the increase in crime over the past several years at a called BOC meeting Friday afternoon. He spoke for more than an hour as a video presentation with statistics was shown.
The BOC again agreed to form a committee to look into the need for a new jail. The board had agreed to do this several months ago, but no further action has been taken.
On Monday, the BOC officially voted to form a nine-member committee to look into the need for a jail and present a proposal on how to proceed. The BOC also agreed to seek requests for qualifications from jail architects.
At Friday’s work session, Evans spoke on the overcrowding conditions at the jail and the number of inmates being housed at other jails, at a great cost to the county. He said there were 146 inmates in the jail on Friday and the facility had an average of 125. By Monday night, there were 160 inmates at the jail.
PERSONNEL REQUEST
The BOC didn’t take any action on the request for additional employees at the sheriff’s office. But staff members were asked to get the cost it would be to approve one or two additional staff member sper month for the sheriff’s office for the remainder of this year.
Two months ago, the BOC approved four additional employees for the sheriff’s office.
During his presentation on Friday, Evans said the “immediate needs” include: four jailers, 16 patrol officers, two investigators, one training officer, one dispatcher, four clerks and one support commander. Evans said this doesn’t include the additional personnel that will be needed at the new courthouse. County officials estimate that will require six employees.
There was some discussion on how much it would cost the county to add the new positions. It was estimated that it would cost $1 million in salaries and $400,000 for vehicles. County leaders said this would be a one and half mill tax increase.
Commissioner Emil Beshara asked the sheriff how he would defend such an increase to taxpayers. Evans said that as long as more people are coming into the county, through the residential growth, that the schools and jails would be hit.
“As long as we’re having the growth that we are having and all these people coming in and all these houses being built, we’re going to have problems like this,” Evans said. “Public safety and schools are going to be the first two that are hit. You’re either going to have to stop it (growth) from coming in or you’re going to have to make those people pay for coming in or you’re going to have to make everybody pay...This is what it is going to take to get the job done.”
Beshara said the problem is not a new one and that has “been laying smoldering for a decade or more.”
Beshara also asked whether the state sheriff’s association could do a study on the personnel needs for the county.
“We’re drowning,” the sheriff said. “Studies and surveys are fine...but I need something now. I know it’s a lot of money, but this problem hasn’t blossomed overnight.”


Scott Martin re-appointed to IDA Mon.
Scott Martin was re-appointed in a unanimous vote by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners on Monday night to serve another five-year term on the industrial development authority. Martin is chairman of the group.
BOC chairman Harold Fletcher made the motion that Martin be named and discussed the several-weeks delay in making the appointment. Fletcher said he delayed making a recommendation on the appointment until concerns by City of Commerce officials could be answered.
“Over the last few months, there has consistently been concerns expressed by the City of Commerce in regards to the IDA and the chamber and other issues and that they were feeling that they were not being treated properly,” he said. “This has led me to the point that I was concerned...It has gotten to the point that the City of Commerce was even talking about the possibility of starting their own IDA. I think that we all recognize that a united effort is something we desire. “
Fletcher said he discussed this issue with Martin. He said Martin asked that the appointment be delayed until he had discussed these concerns with the City of Commerce leadership.
“That was the reason that we delayed this, because Scott wanted the opportunity to sit down with the various leaders of Commerce,” Fletcher said.
Martin, a resident of Commerce and marketing employee at Jackson Electric Membership Corporation, was at the meeting and said that he and Fletcher had discussed these issues.
“Harold and I did talk before the holidays and we wanted to make sure everybody felt comfortable,” he said.
Martin said he looks forward to working with the BOC and appreciates the “vote of confidence.” He also thanked county staff members for providing assistance to the IDA during the year, including clerk Ericka Johnson and county manager Al Crace.
Fletcher also addressed an editorial in last week’s The Commerce News indicating that Martin would not be re-appointed.
“It was rather interesting this past week to pick up our local tabloid and see that Mr. Thomason and I were going to appoint someone else to that job simply because we don’t like Pepe Cummings,” he said. “Scott and I and Pepe and I get a great deal of humor out of that as we meet and discuss the various issues.”


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Rezoning Proposed For 8 Acres For Houses
The Commerce Planning Commission will have only one item on its agenda at Monday night’s 7:00 meeting at the Commerce Civic Center.
Barry Lord is requesting the rezoning of 8.2 acres on Williford Street from R-2 to R-3 for the construction of 18 to 21 single-family, site-built homes.
The change, if approved by the planning commission and the Commerce City Council, will enable Lord to build more houses. The R-2 minimum lot size is 21,780 square feet; the R-3 minimum size is 12,500 square feet.
The change would produce the possibility of putting nearly 3.5 houses to the acre as opposed to two houses to the acre as it is currently zoned.
The city council will act on the planning commission’s recommendation at its Monday, Feb. 9 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center.


High speed chase ends in fatality Mon. on Hwy. 441
A high speed chase that ended in a wreck Monday in the Banks Crossing area led to the death of a former Jackson County resident.
Killed in the wreck was Mattie Lou Hix, 70, of Winder, formerly of the Brockton community in Jackson County. Her husband, William Franklin Hix was injured in the crash and taken to Athens Regional Medical Center.
Charged in the wreck was Carson Chandler Bolt, 35, South Carolina. He was charged with various traffic violations by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and other charges are pending in Banks County where the crash occurred. Bolt will also face charges in Gwinnett County.
The chase began in Gwinnett County, but Gwinnett officers disengaged and notified Jackson County officers to watch for the SUV Bolt was driving along I-85.
Several motorists reportedly called the Jackson County 911 center about a vehicle driving dangerously along I-85, including being on the median and in the emergency lane. Soon after, he was spotted by a Jackson County deputy and a chase ensued.
Bolt exited the interstate at Hwy. 441 where he first headed South toward Commerce. He then turned around in the Wal-Mart parking lot and went North on Hwy. 441 through the traffic-dense Banks Crossing area.
After traveling North for a mile, crossing I-85 in the process, Bolt again turned the car around and headed South back toward I-85. The Hix vehicle was reportedly turning into the Race Trac service station when Bolt’s SUV hit the car, killing Mrs. Hix on impact.
“It is a very congested area (Banks Crossing) and we were trying to use caution,” Major David Cochran of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said. “But he had no regard to anyone. You take considerations. You have to use ‘due regard.’ That is our primary focus in public safety. If they are trying to get away, they are going to do it at all cost. It’s always been an issue with law enforcement.”
The suspect was reportedly wanted on fraud charges in North Carolina and South Carolina.


Arcade garbage transfer station plan hits a snag
Building permit on hold with QCPC
Plans for a garbage transfer station on Rock Forge Road in Arcade hit a snag this week when officials determined that zoning for the property doesn’t allow for such a use.
That issue now leaves the future of the proposed project in limbo, pending a legal clarification of Arcade’s zoning procedures.
Last week, several Arcade residents spoke at a city council meeting in opposition to the proposal by former mayor Joe Sikes to locate a garbage transfer facility on part of his property.
Sikes applied last Thursday with the Quad Cities Planning Commission for a building permit for the station. But the existing light industrial zoning for the area does not include a garbage transfer station as a permitted use.
Gina Mitsdarffer, planning director for QCPC, said that the application is on hold while she awaits a return call from Arcade’s attorney to determine the next step.
Sikes proposed a 4,800-square-foot building to contain the garbage, which he said will be transported in from his business, R&W Sanitation. Sikes said last week that R&W Sanitation handles some 15 tons of waste a day, which he said “will be put into a compactor, then pushed into an enclosed trailer and sealed off.”
Sikes has also been in the process of applying with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for a permit to build the garbage transfer station.