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FEBRUARY 4, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Looking For Momentum
CHS Seeks A Late Surge Before Upcoming Region 8-A Tournament
As a general rule, coaches like to avoid using “loss” and “positive” in the same breath.

Ready for region
Lady Dragons to face Commerce on Tues. in 8-A tourney
The Jefferson girls will head to the Region 8-A tournament next week in Hiawassee as the third seed from the North subregion.

Lady Panthers end three-game losing skid
Leadership led the way for Jackson County, fittingly enough, on senior night Tuesday, as the Lady Panthers came out hard and ran away from Madison County en route to a 46-29 win.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


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.

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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Two Die In Wednesday Wreck

Two Commerce residents were killed Wednesday afternoon in a head-on collision on Georgia 98 just east of Blacks Creek Church Road. According to the Georgia State Patrol, a 1989 Chevrolet Caprice driven by Hazel Joyce Cooksey, 68, was headed east when it veered across the centerline, striking a 2001 Chrysler Town and Country driven by Lisa Elizabeth Thompson, 38, of Nicholson. Mrs. Cooksey died in the crash, as did front seat passenger Lewis Gee, 74. Mrs. Cooksey's husband, Norman, was seriously injured and was taken by helicopter to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Mrs. Thompson and her 11-year-old daughter, Hailey, were treated at BJC Medical Center but were not seriously injured. The wreck occurred at about 3:15.



FIRE DAMAGES PLAINVIEW HOME

The residence of Adam and Lisa Jones in the Plainview community was heavily damaged by a fire that broke out Monday morning in a wall adjacent to the heater. Firemen from the Plainview, North Jackson and Jackson County Correctional Institute fire departments responded to the 9:15 a.m. blaze.


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.
The city is still owed about half of the 2002 charges and in the $100,000-range each from Mission Foods and Seydel for 2003 surcharges. At Monday night’s meeting — during which neither industry was mentioned by name — the Jefferson City Council discussed tacking the surcharges onto the water bill each month the industries are out of compliance for biological oxygen demand (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS), rather than sending periodic notices. The surcharges come into play because of the cost to the city for treating the higher BOD and TSS levels associated with flour, vegetable oils, starches and other such materials.
During city engineer Jerry Hood’s report Monday night, the city council learned that the two industries are still frequently out of compliance with their wastewater treatment levels — “they are out more than they are in,” one member noted — which, in turn, occasionally puts the city in non-compliance with the EPD and can cost thousands of dollars in treatments at the Walnut Fork/I-85 plant. Council members agreed that an ordinance is in place that would allow them to add surcharges to the monthly bills each time the industries are in violation.
The discussion came about with a proposal from Hood that his engineering firm, EMI, conduct weekly tests from the city’s newly-equipped wastewater lab and train city staff as well. The services, if approved, will add $3,600 to the city’s sewer budget.
“The lab has started up and is well-equipped,” Hood said. “Right now, you spend $900 a month for outside lab work. EMI proposes to run lab tests once a week and train the city people. You now test once a month....You could take advantage of the equipment you have and start looking at in-house staff.”
City council member Philip Thompson pointed out that the city had budgeted for another employee for such work.
“Maybe we could go ahead and get someone training,” he said.
“But in the meantime, we’ll have testing right now and won’t wait to have a new person trained,” Mayor Jim Joiner said of EMI’s proposal.
As for whether or not the I-85 industries are in compliance, “if we are going to start talking weekly tests, there can be no argument,” Thompson said.
City manager David Clabo told the council that the problem has stemmed from the sampling frequency, or infrequency.
“That’s where we are getting the argument,” he said. “With a grab sample once a month, they can say, ‘We are in compliance the other 29 days.’”
Hood told the council that he has met with representatives from both Mission Foods and Seydel on what they owe the city for 2002 and 2003, and that they are willing to work with the city.
“They are aware that the city is expecting to be paid and that an amount will be added monthly,” he said. “They understand they are causing the city to be out of compliance and to spend extra thousands of dollars at the plant.”
“They are aware of the fines,” Mayor Joiner said. “From this point forward, we do (surcharges) on a monthly basis.”
The council members agreed for Clabo to keep them updated on any progress in payment of outstanding surcharges.


Citizens voice concerns about Louisiana Pacific
Nearly 60 concerned citizens showed up for a public information hearing Monday night to voice their displeasure about Louisiana Pacific’s application for environmental permit changes.
If approved by the state Environmental Protection Division, the “significant modifications” permit will allow the plant, located off Highway 441 in Jackson County, to increase its production rate of oriented strand board (OSB). But, in so doing, it will increase emissions of particulate matter, volatile organic compound, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and phenol — in all, totalling more than 100 tons annually.
The increased permit limits would mean the plant would still be considered a “minor” air polluter, according to the EPD. Still, the concerns were enough for Louisiana Pacific, which has had a lengthy history of poor environmental compliance, to form a community advisory council with neighbors in the area.
Louisiana Pacific representatives repeatedly responded with reassurances that all regulations would be met and asserted that the company’s poor environmental record in the past has since been corrected.
“We go above and beyond compliance standards,” David Harvey, the company’s director of environmental affairs told those in attendance at the meeting held at the Athens-Clarke County Public Library.
“As a corporation, as an operator…we’re committed to operating within our permit limits,” he asserted. “We want to be a good neighbor and we generally think we are a good neighbor.”
Harvey and others on the seven-member panel made up of Louisiana Pacific and EPD officials fielded questions for more than half of the scheduled two-hour meeting.
The most common concern was regarding the noise that many said has been a problem at the plant. Other worries centered around traffic problems, air quality in the area, how the increase in emissions might affect the water supply in the area, as well as how the emissions would affect the natural environment at nearby Sandy Creek Nature Park.
Although not overly complimentary of Louisiana Pacific’s record, EPD officials did confirm that the plant currently meets emissions permit standards. Regarding the noise though, EPD officials said they cannot regulate noise control, which is handled by local ordinances.
The only compound asked to be released that the EPD considers a hazardous air pollutant was phenol, which they anticipate will increase 30 percent. The only carcinogen in the plant’s emissions - formaldehyde - won’t increase, according to the company.
“The bottom line is the culture within (Louisiana Pacific) had to change,” Harvey said about earlier problems. “We were not a very good environmental performer, and that’s very clear.”
In 1991, the company was fined $250,000 and required to install equipment to bring the facility back into compliance. In 1993, Louisiana Pacific was penalized $11 million following a lawsuit by the EPA, other violations resulting in fines were also handed out to the company in 1992, 1997, and as recent at November of 2001, when they were required to pay an $8,000 penalty. In all, Louisiana Pacific has been fined at least six times since 1990 because of failure to comply with standards.
‘’We were not a very good environmental performer, that’s an understatement,’’ Harvey admitted.
Nearby resident Ron Bridgers was one that questioned the panel. He asked: “Would you want to live in that area and raise your children in that area?” He then asked where Louisiana Pacific ranks nationally on such matters.
Harvey responded adamantly: “We’re the best.”
Another local resident, Mary Leuzinger, voiced concerns about the noise, among other things.
“We need a response on noise, and there has not been one,” she said.
At least one concerned citizen was angered that there was not a information meeting or public hearing planned to be held in Jackson County, since the plant is located there.
Louisiana Pacific officials responded by stating that the meetings scheduled were to be in Athens because that is where the majority of the hearing requests came from.
Another EPD public hearing about the permit application will be held Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. in the training room of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department on Lexington Road.


Talmo to buy city hall, names new city clerk
City hall would mark town’s first city-owned building
For the first time in Talmo’s 83-year-old history, city officials are hoping the tiny town will have its first piece of real estate soon.
The Talmo City Council voted Tuesday night to place a 30-day contract for appraisals on an historical home for a possible city hall.
The house, located on A.J. Irvin Road, is dated to the early 1900s and is possibly the town’s second-oldest home. Resting on 2.5 acres in the city’s downtown, the two-story house has enough room to house a city hall, parking lot and recreational area, said mayor Larry Joe Wood.
Since the mid-1990s, the city council has been meeting in the Old Store, which is owned by Wayne and Jill Miller. Mrs. Miller is a council member. If Talmo is able to purchase the house for a proposed city hall, it would mark the first city-owned building for the town of 477 residents.
City officials plan to seek financing and grants for the proposed city hall, Wood said. Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds will be used for the recreational area.
Council member Myra McEver recused herself from the vote since she is related to Wiley McEver, who currently owns the house. The vote followed a 20-minute closed-door meeting to discuss the city hall property and personnel matters.
And sitting in the city hall will be Talmo’s new city clerk, Debra L. Fontaine.
The Talmo resident replaces former city clerk Dana Kinney, who resigned in January. Fontaine will start her new position on Monday, Feb. 9, Wood said.
She’ll work 20 hours a week, and will be paid $8 an hour during a 90-day training period and $10 an hour afterwards.
Council member Michael “Trapper” Brissey said the city received “several highly qualified candidates” for the position.
“It spoke (well) of the city of Talmo that we could get these type of applicants,” he said. “The good news is we had several qualified candidates; the bad news is, of course, we can only pick one.”
The resumes of the other candidates will remain on file with city officials, Wood said.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the Talmo City Council:
•decided to accept an annexation request from R.H. McEver III for 1.39 acres on Hwy. 332, next to the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority water tank. The Quad Cities Planning Commission doesn’t have to hear the request, since it doesn’t involve rezoning, Wood said. The property is now zoned A-2. Jackson County officials will be notified of the annexation request and the Talmo City Council will make a final decision next month. Council member McEver recused herself from the vote.
•learned the city may have an interested person to fill a temporary vacancy in the library in late March or early April. Librarian Jennifer Sosebee will be on maternity leave at that time.
•learned 53 books were checked out at the city library last month.


Will alcohol sales help fund Hoschton’s sewer plant?
City council considers additional revenue source
With city coffers emptying, Hoschton officials are wondering if alcohol sales will help serve the cash-strapped city.
On Thursday, council member Brian Boehmer brought up the idea of asking Hoschton’s residents if establishments should be allowed to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits. He also brought up the notion in August.
This time, however, the city is facing a sewer plant expansion project that was recently slapped with an additional $1 million price tag.
“We’re taking on some large debts right now for capital improvement (projects),” Boehmer said. “I know we’re trying to avoid some of these things hitting the residents, but that potential is out there that something could hit them, if the amount of money that we need doesn’t come in.”
Although details of a proposed beer, wine and distilled spirits ordinance aren’t available, council members said they’d advocate for certain restrictions, such as limiting hours of serving times and linking alcohol sales to food sales.
“Anytime that we mention the subject of beer and wine, I feel like I have to throw in the phrase, ‘with conditions,’” said council member Deborah Donaldson.
Boehmer said he’d want a “town hall meeting” for Hoschton residents to voice their opinions about the proposed move. The public meeting could be held in March or April, he said.
City attorney Thomas Mitchell said the decision to allow package sales can only be placed on the ballot after a petition has been signed. The question of whether liquor-by-the-drink sales will be permitted can be called by the city council for a referendum, he said.
The city council doesn’t have to hold a referendum on whether to allow beer and wine sales, Mitchell said.
Depending on when a possible vote could be taken, the city will have to advertise for the referendum one to two months prior to the event, he said.
Boehmer said placing the request on ballots for November’s presidential election could bring a more representative crowd from the city.
But Donaldson cautioned that waiting until the fall could weaken the city’s chance of getting more revenue and it could also hurt several developers.
John Purcell, who is building a mixed-use project on Hwy. 53 and Hwy. 332, asked the council to consider allowing businesses to serve beer, wine and possibly liquor-by-the-drink.
Several potential restaurants have been interested in the site, but they can’t serve alcohol under the city’s ordinances. A Chinese restaurant based in Oakwood is one of the potential businesses interested in the project that would like to sell beer and wine, according to a letter to Purcell.
No existing restaurants in the city have requested to sell alcohol, Boehmer said.
Boehmer said he hopes city residents will begin discussing the “thorny issue” and tell council members about their opinions.
“This is more of a bedroom community and people may not want bars established,” he said.
Council member Ben Davis said if the proposal was placed before the council now, he’d abstain from voting.
“But what I would support is a referendum for mixed-drink sales so the citizens can vote on it, and that would get beer and wine by default,” he added. “But I don’t think it’s right for the six people on this council to make this decision.”
And a deciding factor in the proposal could be the line some residents see between beer and wine versus distilled spirits.
“We may find that the city is fine with beer and wine, but (with) distilled liquor they’re opposed to,” Boehmer said.
Boehmer said one local grocery store owner told him that allowing him to sell package beer and wine could bring $80,000-$100,000 in city taxes. The city doesn’t have a property tax.
Two weeks ago, council members wrangled with the question of how to pay for the wastewater treatment plant expansion project, after its cost jumped from $2.2 million to $3.2 million.
City officials were told by state authorities that they must have the plant operating by the end of the year, or face mounting fines.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Jackson Herald.


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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.
A “Quality Growth Resource Team” will be in Commerce through Thursday afternoon, taking input from citizens and trying to find common ground.
It will be a challenge.
“What is quality growth?” asked Attica Woodruff, regional representative for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Office of Quality Growth. “As many people as there are in the room, there are that many opinions of what is quality growth.”
Events of the night appeared to bear out her statement.
The consultants, all considered experts in a variety of fields, will look at zoning, planning and land use, will sift through citizen’s comments seeking areas where there is a consensus and by March 8 will present a “draft report,” after which the group will accept comments for about a month before producing a “final report” and hosting a workshop to go over it.
The two-hour session opened with a ranking in order of importance of eight “local issues” identified prior to the team visit through conversations with local officials.
Using electronic voting devices, the 60 local citizens (including city officials, business people, members of the planning commission, school board, chamber of commerce and downtown development authority), ranked economic development as its top priority, followed by improving the appearance of “strip commercial corridors” and “improving coordination with the county government on development controls and economic development.”
That led to responses to four open-ended questions which were typed onto laptop computers and viewed on a large screen. Here, participants were able to list issues, concerns and areas they thought should be addressed to make Commerce a better place to live.
No issue was left un-mentioned. Many people declared that Commerce had too many “starter” homes; others decried the lack of the same. Respondents wanted more traffic enforcement, rail service to Lula, more downtown parking, and an East Jackson Industrial Park. Liquor by the drink and the need for local restaurants were reoccurring themes, as were economic development in general, housing and improving the “gateway corridors” that connect Commerce to I-85 or the bypass. Respondents bemoaned vacant shopping centers, the destruction of historic sites and the loss of textile jobs. They expressed a desire for “nicer” subdivisions, more greenspace and the “redevelopment” of older shopping areas. Suggestions ranged from merging the school districts to moving the railroad.
When asked about other communities that would “be a good model for Commerce,” responses ranged from Jefferson and Winder, to Helen, Hendersonville, NC, and communities in Illinois and California.
Prior to the 6:30 meeting, the resource team, accompanied by city officials, took a bus tour from the Toyota complex below town, around the bypass, across Progress Road to Bana Road, over to the new middle school site and the existing city school campus before stopping for dinner at the Harbor House Inn.


Supreme Court hearing set Tues. for courthouse
The Supreme Court of Georgia will hear arguments Tuesday in the lawsuit filed by a group of Jackson County citizens over the proposed financing by the board of commissioners for a new courthouse.
The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the Supreme Court, located in the Judicial Building across from the capitol in Atlanta. The hearing will be open to the public.
“We’ve always felt very strongly about our case,” said Wycliffe Orr Jr., the Gainesville attorney representing Concerned Citizens of Jackson County. “We’ve always felt we were correct in our position and we will be urging that to the Supreme Court of Georgia. We will have the opportunity to answer their questions and to more fully explain our position, as will the attorneys for the county.”
Attorneys for both sides will present their argument before the Supreme Court, but it may take several months before a ruling is given, according to Orr.
“The court may have questions,” he said. “Sometimes, there is questions and answers between the justices and the lawyers.”
Concerned Citizens of Jackson County filed the lawsuit in 2003 over the BOC’s plan to finance the new courthouse through a lease purchase agreement with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. A visiting judge ruled against the citizen’s group in mid-summer and their attorney, Wycliffe Orr Jr. of Gainesville filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the financing has gone through and construction is under way at the courthouse site on Darnell Road.