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State Tourney Berth Marks Remarkable Turnaround For Commerce boys
The Tiger basketball team started winter with the credo that Together Everybody Achieves More or T.E.A.M.
Those didnt turnout to be wasted words.
Jackson Co. readies for states No. 1
When the Jackson County girls basketball team started this season there was one particular goal in mind getting back to the position that they now find themselves in.
Jefferson eyeing fourth straight title
Dragons qualify 14 for state tourney this weekend
The Jefferson wrestling team will be vying for its fourth consecutive traditional state title this weekend as the school hosts the Class A State Wrestling Championships on Friday and Saturday.
Cocaine hauler found guilty
Sentenced to 25 years and $1 million fine
Hector Ponce will be spending the next 25 years of his life in a state prison for hauling 120 pounds of cocaine, worth over $5 million, in a tractor trailer load of Texas watermelons.
Lula code enforcement plans hindered
Hall County wont serve Banks County residents
Lula city attorney Brad Patton said at Mondays council meeting that Hall County rejected a proposed agreement to provide code enforcement for the entire city.
Planners support golf course rezoning
BOC to have final say on subdivision proposal Mon.
It was a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday night as Colbert area residents showed up in force at the planning and zoning commission meeting to try to stop neighboring Sunrise Golf Course from becoming a subdivision called Sunrise Meadows.
Hwy. 98 subdivision approved by zoning board, again
A Hwy. 98 subdivision got a unanimous approval for the second time from the planning a zoning commission at Tuesday nights zoning public hearings.
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JCCHS STUDENTS DONATE BLOOD
Juniors April Brock (L) and Ramsey Sinclair (R) were among the Jackson County Comprehensive High School students who donated blood Tuesday morning during the American Red Cross blood tour held at the school. Richard Voll of the American Red Cross is also shown.
Water authority ends 2003 more than $200,000 in the black
JCWSA makes all 03 reservoir payments, but water sales slow now
Maybe what you see depends on what you want to see.
As if to tell the county commissioners we told you so, the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority announced Thursday night that it ended 2003 operations with $215,000 in the black while making all 12 payments on the Bear Creek Reservoir debt. Whats more, the authority pledges to do just the same in 2004.
It was early in 2003 that the Jackson County Board of Commissioners sought to gain control over the water and sewerage authority, arguing, in part, that without its oversight, the authority would be unable to make the monthly $149,000 (since reduced to $146,000) payments, forcing the commissioners to raise taxes to cover the debt.
But Monday night, apprised by finance director John Hulsey that the authority will not make the February and March payments until April due to slow water sales just like last year the county commissioners managed their own we told you so, and renewed their allegations that the authority is mismanaged.
Commission Chairman Harold Fletcher said he isnt surprised that the water authority needs the county to make the payments.
Im disappointed and exasperated but far from being surprised, he said. Most of you will remember, I told you last year that based on their own figures they would not be able to do this. For that comment, I got criticized.
Fletcher said that until changes are made in the water authority, the county will continue to have these problems. He added that the citizens of Jackson County will have to pay the debt because the water authority has proven it can not make the payments.
The commissioners took no action on Hulseys request that the county establish a line of credit to pay the Bear Creek debt, and the commissioners stated that they want proof that the authority does not have the money to pay it. That proof, they said, should come from authority Chairman Warren Walker, not its manager, Jerry Waddell.
Waddell, who is also a former commission chairman, laughed at the idea that the county needs to establish a line of credit to pay the debt.
They have just collected all of the ad valorem (property) taxes. Theyre at the beginning of their budget, he said. I told John Hulsey we would not pay the capital payment for February and March until the water sales picked up. We did the same thing last year January, February and March were paid the first of May. We paid May and June the first of July. We made every payment last year; well make them all this year, but our water sales the first three months are flat. The sale of 900,000 gallons per day wont make that debt payment.
The mood was far different among the water and sewerage authority members at their meeting the Thursday before when Waddell presented unaudited year-end figures showing a $215,524 net income from operations. That figure was based on sales of $3.476 million, less expenses of $4.4 million.
While the authority was able to pay all of its bills, including servicing the debt, it did not put aside any money for depreciation, something member Wanda David in particular has voiced concern about. David was unable to attend Thursdays meeting, due to a conflict.
All of us know depreciation is important, said Waddell, who then stated that it is less important at this stage in the authoritys history to fund depreciation than it will be in the future.
Staying in the black was not easy, particularly considering that water sales were down during the traditional high-use months of July through October because of cool and wet weather.
We pinched every penny we could and in some months I didnt know if we could make the Bear Creek payment, Waddell said.
Elton Collins, past chairman, recalled the concerns expressed by the county commissioners about the authoritys ability to pay the reservoir debt.
I stuck my neck out and said we would make every payment, because they said we wouldnt and they said they needed to get involved in here, he said.
The authority has 3,764 customers, having added 680 since January 2003.
Also on Thursday night, the authority officially accepted the water systems in nine subdivisions, assets valued at $895,000, that were completed during 2003. Those are systems built by contractors to the authoritys specifications and then dedicated to the authority upon completion.
Thats a nice addition to our inventory, almost $1 million, courtesy of some good builders, declared Walker.
IDA to aid BOC in $18 million bond
Project to build, upgrade roads for economic development
Members of two groups key to development in Jackson County sat down together at the work table Friday morning to begin an $18 million bond funding process to expand and upgrade a network of roads deemed essential for industrial growth in the county.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners and the Jackson County Industrial Development Authority each adopted a resolution at the meeting agreeing to set the bond process in motion. The ultimate result after numerous other contracts and meetings through an intergovernmental agreement between the two bodies will be construction or upgrade of seven connector roads scattered across the county from Commerce to Jefferson to Braselton: Steven B. Tanger Blvd. Extension; Concord Road/Possum Creek Road; Progress Road 2; Bana Road; Zion Church Road; Wayne Poultry Road; and Braselton Parkway Access.
Because of an IDA constitutional amendment made back in the late 1960s, it is possible for the county to enter into a financing resolution with the IDA. While the IDA will provide the structure for the bond funding, the county will be responsible for the roads and for the payment on the bond.
County attorney Daniel Haygood assured the IDA members that such an agreement would be non-recourse and non-liable for the IDA...the county is ultimately responsible for payment on the bond.
According to county manager Al Crace, there is a one mill risk or $1.3 to $1.4 million for a tax levy.
Once the bond process is started the attorneys estimated an eight to 12-week time frame the funds would be placed in an account separate from the countys general fund, with the understanding that regular reports would be provided for both groups. When funding is established, work can begin immediately on the roads.
BOC MAKES REQUEST
BOC chairman Harold Fletcher began the discussion Friday morning at the grand jury room.
The county needs a lot of infrastructure to attract industry, he said. This is a list of roads wed like to build; the only way we can do that is through a bond issue. We are here to ask the IDA to provide the facilities (for a bond issue) so we can continue to attract industrial development.
Crace explained that while the engineers cost estimates for the road projects were developed in June of 2003 and totaled $15.01 million, the bottom line of $18.85 million requested allows a sort of cushion for increased costs since that time. Any remainder funds would be used for economic and industrial development projects, rather than for bond payment.
We wont know the final construction numbers until we get into (the work), Crace said.
He added that the county hopes to also attract additional funds, possibly from the Department of Transportation for the projects, and does not plan to utilize SPLOST funds.
When asked by IDA member Dr. Jon Milford whether or not the roads would be sufficient for the next 20 to 30 years, Crace said that while it is impossible to forecast that far in advance, the roads will open us up for possibilities....This is a big step forward.
Crace commented on how having such road funding clarified would benefit the countys marketing team in presenting locations in Jackson County to potential industrial clients.
The marketing team can compete most effectively when they can show site-ready locations, Crace said. (With road funding determined) we can show sites from one end of the county to the other with clarity.
The municipalities are working in concert with this project, Fletcher added, saying water and sewer will be available as well. Were putting together a whole package to provide for any industry wanting to come to Jackson County...Its not like were putting something out there and hoping weve already got people lined up.
Also during Fridays meeting, Richard Woodward of King and Spaulding and Haygood presented information to the IDA about financing options and explained the resolutions needed to get the process started, which Woodward said would reflect a joint desire to do this.
It sounds like a good mechanism to consider, said IDA member Jim Dove. If we sit back and wait on SPLOST funds, we will be too far behind the eight ball....(with this) wed be working globally instead of piecemeal.
Fletcher added: Its like building a house. You cant sit back and wait until you have all the money to build it.
ABOUT THE ROADS
In discussion of the roads themselves, Fletcher pointed out that about two-thirds of the projected $18 million cost is allotted roads to be utilized for the MACI/Toyota project in North Jackson; specifically, the new four-lane Concord Road, which will start behind the Quik Trip convenience store north of I-85 at the Jefferson exit, and Possum Creek Road work, together estimated to cost nearly $9.5 million, and the upgrade of Wayne Poultry Road, estimated at $3.43 million.
There will be a large amount of traffic to be generated from MACI and the other industrial park, Fletcher said. Wayne Poultry is not an industrial road.
Braseltons mayor Pat Graham was on-hand for the discussion of Zion Church Road improvements and the Braselton Parkway Access for the Georgia Distribution Center. Work at Zion Church Road is estimated to cost $2.2 million, while the Braselton Parkway Access work is projected at $400,000.
Graham pointed out that Zion Church Road is important for development in Braselton, but that the existing intersection is very unsafe. The DOT has already been looking at re-working that intersection.
Commissioner Emil Beshara reiterated that the Zion Church Road is a critical need, saying that the DOT indicates that the road should be right-turn access only.
Time is against us there, Crace said.
Graham also said that road work is needed for economic development at the Georgia Distribution Center, specifically on Jesse Cronic Road, Hwy. 53 and Hwy. 124.
The other roads in question include an extension of the Steven B. Tanger Blvd. at the Tanger Outlet over to Ridgeway Church Road, estimated to cost $820,000; Progress Road 2, which is south of Commerce from Ridgeway Church Road to Hwy. 98, including a railroad crossing, estimated to cost $1.49 million; and three-lane Bana Road, which has already been graded and will span from Hwy. 98 over to Hurricane Shoals to serve a new industrial site, estimated to cost $1.06 million.
These projects wont resolve all the problems, but they will go a long way, Fletcher said. These projects are spread all across Jackson County (and will be) an impetus to those communities to attract industry.
IDA chairman Scott Martin said: I agree with the need for these roads in all sections its a good cross-section. My understanding is that they all will begin immediately, except for the railroad aspect of Progress Road 2...We can all recognize that none of them is worth anything unless they are completed; Id like to see them all completed as soon as possible. We can reap the benefits.
Crace told the groups that once we have a reliable source of funding, we can get several firms in on this.
Crace also said that the county would commit to providing a quarterly report on the finances, as well as the progress of the projects.
As a side note, Beshara wondered whether funding for water and sewer line extensions could be included in the bond funding package, saying thats just as critical as asphalt.
Haygood said that would be a decision to make when you know how much money youve got, one that would involve another body. Martin cautioned against having too much flexibility up front in the parameters of the bond agreement.
Also at Fridays meeting, the BOC and IDA held a joint closed session for 50 minutes for discussion of land acquisition. Once the session was reopened to the public, Martin said that no action had been taken and that the discussion of the land purchase in question is not related to the roads project.
Those who attended Fridays joint meeting from the IDA included: Martin, Dr. Jon Milford, Jim Dove and Jim Shaw. The BOC was represented by Fletcher, Beshara, Dr. Sammy Thomason; Beshara pointed out that the vote to proceed with the bond resolution was with the understanding that commissioners Tony Beatty and Stacey Britt had voted in favor of that action during the previous BOC meeting.
After the closed session, the IDA reconvened for its own brief business meeting. The IDA agreed to pay its $150 dues to the chamber of commerce, as well as to renew its $5,000 contribution to the economic development fund. The IDA also agreed to pay one-third of the $6,218 bill from Georgia Trend Magazine for the ad on Jackson County; the bill will be divided three ways between the chamber, the BOC and the IDA.
Year One hosts driving course for teens, parents to learn safety skills
On this rainy and cold day Andy Byers isnt superintendent of the Jackson County School System hes just another parent taking his daughters for a driving lesson.
Along with his wife, Lucy, Byers is among nearly a dozen parents taking one Saturday to show his two daughters the essentials of safe driving skills.
I dont think you could give enough training to anyone, he said of the decision to take his daughters Emily, 17 and Rachel, 15 to a Fear This, Inc. course at Year One in Braselton.
The non-profit organization is now holding monthly eight-hour courses in Braselton for teens and parents.
Highlighting the need to educate inexperienced and often fearless teen drivers, Fear This, Inc. offers classroom training, a maintenance workshop and behind-the-wheel courses.
And its mission stems from the loss of 16 teenagers through driving accidents in metro Atlanta during a four-month period. Jackson County has also lost about 10 teenagers in driving-related accidents since 1997.
Woodrow Gaines, one of the instructors teaching young drivers for Fear This, Inc., says the program offers something that traditional drivers education classes dont provide.
We teach whats not taught at basic drivers education classes, as far as controlling the car, he said. Drivers education is just the basics, we are more advanced.
Although the Jackson County Board of Education funds a semester-long drivers education class, the program doesnt offer the advanced behind-the-wheel experience thats available through Fear This, Inc., Byers said. The school program also risks being trimmed, due to budget cuts, he added.
Fear This, Inc. courses are designed and taught by law enforcement officers. Cpl. Lane Tyson of the Gwinnett County Police Department was one of the officers helping students on Saturday.
The courses arent just designed for teenagers, theyre also intended to bring parents and students together. Parents are encouraged to be driving coaches, Gaines said. Georgia law states new drivers must have behind-the-wheel experience with adults.
When parents and students enroll for a Fear This, Inc. course, their first lesson includes a two-hour classroom session on driving laws.
A maintenance workshop explains how teens can keep their vehicles safe.
Gaines said the maintenance workshop is another element of the course that is highlighted by tragedy. One teenager lost her life when she didnt understand the importance of inflating her tires.
Because she didnt know, it took her life, Gaines said.
The course, usually about 10 students and their parents for each session, also provides five behind-the-wheel exercises that teach accident avoidance.
Perhaps the hardest exercise to maneuver is the cone course, a course designed to teach students about vehicle dynamics and the elements of turning in tight spots.
Once students and parents walk the cone course, teen drivers navigate the narrow turns with precision while instructors guide them through the challenging course. Its not uncommon to see traffic cones beneath tires or view drivers carefully making each turn.
Another exercise is the faster serpentine course, where student drivers whip around a line of cones while learning steering techniques.
The threshold breaking exercise allows teen drivers to learn how anti-lock brakes feel and to stop safely in an emergency situation, Cpl. Tyson said.
Obstacle avoidance is the key element of the evasive maneuvering exercise and the off-road recovery exercise teaches students to safely return their vehicles to the road, should something happen, he added.
You can tell a difference when they first come out, Cpl. Tyson said of the teen drivers confidence levels rising during the day-long course.
Byers said not only have his daughters learned a great deal, but hes learned a thing or two himself.
Its been a good personal experience for me, he said.
His only regret, he said, is that he wishes the course was available when his older daughter was getting her drivers license permit. His younger daughter will turn 16 in May.
Despite Emily Byers already having a drivers license, she enrolled for a Fear This, Inc. course. Likewise, 18-year-old Brian Kern said he thought he would learn more about driving from the course.
I just wanted to learn how to drive better, the Snellville Christian Academy student said.
Most of the students at the Braselton course are Jackson County residents, but Year Ones location has meant many other teen drivers from metro Atlanta have attended, Gaines said.
Byers said he recommends the course for all upcoming teen drivers and their parents.
The next course for Fear This, Inc. will be offered Saturday, March 13. Organizers are hoping the program will be available twice a month at Year One.
The course is $100 and pre-registration is required.
For more information, visit www.fearthis4life.org or call (770) 979-8869.
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Two voter precincts to be moved
Voters heading out to the polls in the Randolph and Newtown districts for the March 2 presidential preference election will have a new precinct to go to.
The Randolph voting precinct has been moved to West Jackson Middle School, located at 400 Gum Springs Church Road, off of Hwy. 124 in Jefferson.
The Newtown voting precinct has been moved to the conference room of the Harold Swindle Public Library in Nicholson.
These recommendations of the planning commission will be addressed by the Jefferson City Council at a public hearing on March 1 at 6 p.m. at the clubhouse, 302 Longview Drive, Jefferson, Ga.
QCPC approves rezoning for Subway in Arcade
A rezoning request that would lead to a Subway sandwich shop and a New Orleans style restaurant locating in Arcade was approved by the Quad Cities Planning Commission Tuesday night.
Tracey Walden asked to rezone 1.5 acres located at the corner of the Damon Gause bypass and Hwy. 82 from R-1 to B-1 for development.
The Arcade City Council will consider the request when it meets at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 8, at city hall.
At Tuesdays Quad Cities Planning Commission meeting, Walden spoke on his plans, which include locating the New Orleans style restaurant in the current building on the property and constructing another facility for the Subway shop. Walden owns the Subway in Jefferson.
Walden said the full-service restaurant would be similar to one that his brother operates in Valdosta. He said the menu would include gumbo, po boy sandwiches, low country boil and other Cajun cuisine. He added that it would be an upscale atmosphere similar to a Chiles restaurant.
QCPC member John Motley questioned whether alcohol would be served in the restaurant. Walden said it would not be served in the Subway but he would offer it in the New Orleans style restaurant.
Motley requested that there be a vegetative buffer between the two businesses, and this was made a condition of the rezoning. He also questioned the plans for the entrance to the businesses. Walden said the Georgia Department of Transportation had approved the entrance plans.
In other business at Tuesdays meeting, the QCPC:
approved a request from Gary Morgan to rezone 0.532 acres located at 168 Elm Street from M-I to R-1 to locate a single family residence.
approved a request from Tim Wilbanks to rezone 55 acres located at Old Pendergrass Road from A-G to R-1 to locate a single family residential subdivision.
approved four requests from Alex Bryan to rezone four tracts, for a total of 268 acres, on Old Swimming Pool Road to locate a 347-lot conservation subdivision. He is asking that the four tracts be rezoned to R-1 residential conservation. The approval came with a condition that the rear setback on the property along Fields Road be 30 feet instead of 20 feet. Another condition is that a vegetative buffer be planted along Old Swimming Pool Road and Fields Road
200 affordable housing units get $500,000 in federal funding
A proposed development that could bring an additional 200 affordable housing units to 54.7 acres on Hwy. 11 in Jefferson has been granted $500,000 in federal home loan assistance.
The proposed Jefferson development, Mallards Landing, is one of seven housing projects in Georgia that received grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlantas Affordable Housing Program for low- and moderate-income housing. According to a notice on AccessNorthGa.com, the Jefferson project will see $500,000 to use in the purchase of existing units and construction of 200 more affordable housing units.
The application was made by a private developer, not by the City of Jefferson.
Its not our application, but the city has to be notified, Jeffersons city manager David Clabo said. We have no objection to it.
The proposed development site is located south on Hwy. 11 toward Winder on the left just past the bridge, according to Clabo.
The property was annexed into the city several years ago as an R-3 zoning, which included multi-homes, and has access to city water and county sewer, Clabo explained.
Gina Mitsdarffer, planning director for Quad Cities Planning Commission, added that a site plan for the apartment complex was turned in some two years ago, to vest rights in the property.
Mitsdarffer said the planning department has not yet received construction plans for the project, but said the proposed breakdown of the units on the site plan is for 72 one bedroom apartments, 80 two bedroom apartments and 48 three bedroom apartments.
Three Rezonings For
Annexations To Be
Considered On Monday
The Commerce Planning Commission will consider three rezonings for annexation and will revisit a zoning request tabled from last month when it meets Monday at 7:00 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center.
David L. and Stephanie Ringo will ask the planning commission for the rezoning from A-2 in the county to R-2 in the city for 47.7 acres off Smallwood Drive. That will go along with a request by David Ringo and Dewitt Price for the same rezoning for .93 adjacent acres.
If the planning commission agrees and the Commerce City Council accepts the recommendation, the Ringos could develop a subdivision containing approximately 90 half-acre lots.
In addition, Dr. Peter Markov and Claudia Markov will ask the planning commission for a rezoning for annexation for their 5.59-acre lot from A-R in Jackson County to R1-E in the city. Several other property owners in Montgomery Shores have recently annexed into the city.
The planning commission will also revisit the request of Barry D. Lord and Billy Vandiver to rezone 8.2 acres off Williford Street from R-2 to R-3. The request, which drew opposition from neighbors, was tabled because only three of the five planning commission members were present.
Lord and Vandiver offered two scenarios for developing the property, based on whether they could get the city to forego the greenspace set-aside.
They plan a subdivision with from 19 to 21 single-family stick-built houses. If the city will relinquish the 1.65 acres normally required for greenspace, Lord and Vandiver say they will build larger houses and include sod front yards and marble or wooden foyers.
The planning commission makes recommendations to the Commerce City Council which will act on those recommendations at its March 8 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the civic center.