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FEBRUARY 4, 2004


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OPINIONS
Rochelle Beckstine
Job rate not really rising
In President Bush’s State of the Union address last week, he stated: “Manufacturing activity is increasing. Inflation is low. Interest rates are low. Exports are growing. Productivity is high. And jobs are on the rise.”

Support Gillsville’s ‘Friends of Community’
Community leaders in Gillsville are forming a community organization to work on improvements in the town. An organizational meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the community center.


SPORTS
Lady Leopards beat Union County, 63-56
Kayla Duncan reaches 1,003 career points, her junior year
Intensity was high in the Banks County High School gymnasium Friday as Kayla Duncan set records and the Lady Leopards defeated Union County.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
I-85 industries owe for wastewater violations
Jefferson to test water weekly, add surcharges to two industries’ monthly bills Two I-85 industries owe the City of Jefferson surcharges from 2003 and part of 2002, and still reportedly remain in violation on occasion with wastewater treatment levels.

Seeking Consensus For Community Betterment
30 Consultants Query Residents On City’s Needs
Thirty consultants met with “stakeholders” in Commerce Monday night at the Commerce Civic Center to begin a process designed to come up with a consensus on a plan for community improvement.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Connected to the past
MCHS teacher shares her love of history with students
Teacher Latana Coile’s class has been given an assignment, interview someone they know, such as an older relative, for history class.

Apartment growth?
Danielsville may reduce acreage restriction on multi-family housing
Danielsville may ease off on restrictions aimed at keeping duplexes out of the city.

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Brady meets with Extension Agency

Banks County Board of Commission chariman Kenneth Brady met with the University of Georgia north Georgia extension head Dr. Beverly Sparks Thursday. They discussed the possibility of filling the vacant Banks County extension agent position, a position that has been vacant since December of 2002.


Commission chairman meets with UGA Extension Agency
Banks County Board of Commission chairman Kenneth Brady met with a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service representative in a meeting Wednesday to find out why Banks has been without an extension agent for over a year.
The county has been without a full-time agricultural county agent since John Mitchell retired at the end of the year in 2002. He has been working part-time for the county since he retired, but the county pays 100 percent of his salary.
Brady arranged a meeting with Dr. Beverly Sparks, north district extension head, and Bob Waldorf, Stephens County extension agent, hoping to get some answers on why the vacant Banks County agent position has not been filled.
“We’ve had tremendous budget cuts without directives on hiring or re-filling positions,” Sparks said. “State money will come back in July and then we will know more, but any additional cuts will take the money we could use to hire a new agent for Banks County.”
According to the tax acessor’s office, Banks County currently has 260 poultry farms that have anywhere from two to 10 houses each, which equates to $270 million worth of poultry farming in the county.
“I’m a poultry producer,” Brady said. “We need help learning UGA’s best management practices, confined feeding practices and several other programs as well as the permits we are required to earn, we don’t know where to go to get certified or how to apply.”
The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Extension Service “provides agricultural and family and consumer science agents for each of Georgia’s 159 counties. Extension agents provide a link between the university and the public. Extension agents also oversee the Georgia 4-H program that provides education and leadership training for youth,” according to the college’s profile.
Even if the state agrees to pay for a new Banks County agent, Sparks assured Brady it won’t be free for the county.
“We ask that county’s supplement the base salary of $25,000 to make the position more attractive to applicants,” Sparks said. “The minimum we would ask for would be $6,500, but some counties contribute 50 percent of the salary.”
Other than paying part of the salary, the county would be expected to pay a portion of the new employees benefits.
Banks County currently shares the services of Bob Waldorf, who works as the Stephens County extension agent. They also share their 4-H agent, Gina Gailey, with another county and pay 50 percent of the program assistant’s salary and benefits, expenses that are shared with the Banks County Board of Education.



County water rate increases gets BOC approval
The Banks County Board of Commissioners approved water rate increases at a meeting on Thursday to pay for a $2.8 million loan to be taken out to fund a new water expansion project.
The $2.8 million loan will be taken out by the county to pay for the designing and building of a booster pump station on Yonah-Homer Road, a plant modification water treatment plant on Apple Pie Ridge Road, a raw water pump on Hwy. 105 and two new water tanks.
“The primary purpose of building these new facilities is to be sure we have enough water for Banks County in the future,” said Banks County utilities director Gary Harper.
The board of commissioners approved water rate increases to re-pay the loan. In order to pay the loan back, water revenues must reach $639,000 a year. Therefore, an increase of 45 cents per thousand gallons per year for the next three years was approved. This is for all water used over the 2,000 minimum, which remains the same at $12.50 for residential users and $20 for commercial users.
The new increase will take effect July 1, 2004. Another 45 cent increase can be expected on July 1 of 2005 and 2006. Over the next three years, 2004-2006, rates will be adjusted each July 1.
Basically, the first 2,000 gallons of water will cost residents $12.50, which is what the water costs now. Commercial users will still pay $20 for their first 2,000 gallons of water. (See sidebar for the breakdown.)
PUBLIC HEARING
The Banks County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing Monday at 4 p.m. to listen to citizens’ comments and concerns surrounding the expansion project.
No citizens were present at the hearing, but Atlanta engineer Ben Turnipseed was on hand to explain more about the project.
The $2.8-million loan is part of an $11- million project that aims to supply water to most of Banks County’s citizens. Currently, there are 260 miles of roads in Banks County not served by public water. All roads northwest of Wynn Lake Road are without public water. After the booster pump station is installed on Yonah-Homer Road, obstacles surrounding the water supply and elevation, will be overcome. The Alto State Prison has contacted Banks County and expressed an interest in having the county supply the 250,000 gallons of water a day the prison currently uses.
The intent is to install more water lines off of main roads first, water lines will be run on secondary streets as funding allows.
The difference in the loan amount and the project total, $8.2 million, will be taken from special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) funds, as funding is available over the next several years.

Homestead exemption to be on March 2 ballot
Banks Countians will vote on a homestead exemption on property taxes for senior citizens and disabled people when they go to the polls on March 2.
If it passes, each Banks County resident who is age 65 or older or who is disabled would be granted an exemption from all county property taxes in the amount of $20,000 of the assessed value of that homestead. The value of the property in excess of the exempted amount would remain subject to taxation. The current exemption is $16,000.
If it passes, the exemption would be granted beginning Jan. 1, 2005.

Gillsville’s planting day is Saturday
The Gillsville Town Council has announced a work day for Saturday, February 7, at 9 a.m. to plant more trees and shrubs in the city park.
City clerk Paula Whiting said, “We hope some of our residents turn out to help us with this project.”
For more information, call Whiting at (770) 869-3827.

 


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DOT’s 25-year plan to be chamber topic
Georgia Department of Transportation officials Teri Pope, communications officer, and Brent Cook, planning and programming engineer, will be the featured speakers at the Banks County Chamber of Commerce breakfast to be held at 8 a.m. on Thursday, February 12, at the Garrison Civic Center in Homer.
Pope said the DOT is developing a 25-year plan for the future of the road systems in Banks, Jackson and Franklin counties.
“We hope to get ideas from the local residents on what they would like to see, or what they envision for the next 25 years,” said Pope.
For information on the upcoming breakfast meeting, call the chamber office at 677-2108.


A question of government
Voters to tackle county administrator issue March 2
“Shall the act be approved which changes the form of government of Banks County to three elected commissioners and a county administrator?”
This is the question that voters will have to decide when they go to the polls on Tuesday, March 2. A special election will be held in Banks County on the same day as the presidential preference election. In addition to casting their vote for a presidential candidate for their party, voters will be asked to consider a historic change to Banks County’s form of government.
The proposed change, House Bill 854, was approved by the Georgia Senate and House of Representatives last year and signed by the governor on June 4. It is now up to Banks County voters to decide whether it will officially be adopted or not.
The proposal calls for three members to be elected to the board of commissioners. They may reside anywhere within the county. At the time of qualifying for the election, each candidate shall specify whether they are seeking post 1, post 2 or post 3.
The post 1 commissioner would be elected in November 2004, with the term to begin Jan. 1, 2005. The term would end on Dec. 31, 2008.
The first members of posts 2 and 3 commissioners would be elected in November 2006, with their terms to begin Jan. 1, 2007. Those terms would end Dec. 31, 2010.
After this initial term, all members of the board would be elected at the time of the state-wide general election immediately preceding the end of their term. They would serve four-year terms.
The chairperson would be the official head of the board and would preside at all meetings. The chairperson would be named each year by a vote of the three-member BOC. The BOC members will also elect a vice chairman who would preside at meetings in the absence of the chairperson.
The chairperson would have the right to make motions and nominations but would not vote unless there is a split vote.
The salary for each of the three BOC members would be $9,600.
The legislation also calls for the BOC to hire a county administrator. The exact duties and salary of the county administrator are not given in the legislation. The only mention given on job duties are a section which states that the administrator shall also serve as the county purchasing agent.