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FEBRUARY 25, 2004

Jackson County

Jackson County

Jackson County

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One more makes it four
Six state champions help lead the way to Jefferson’s fourth-straight state title
If there were any doubts about who the best Class A wrestling team in Georgia was heading into last weekend’s traditional state championships they were certainly dispelled following the event.

Panther season ends after state tourney showing
For the Jackson County wrestling program, the future looks bright. But, last weekend at the Class AAAA state wrestling championships some growing pains still needed to be endured.

No Shocker At State
Southwest Atlanta Christian Dunks CHS In First-Round Of Class A Tourney
The “Hoosiers” sequel will have to wait.

News from
Funding talks
Development authority meets with state officials on financing
Members of the Banks County Development Authority and board of commissioners met with three state agencies on Tuesday that may prove invaluable in securing financial assistance for future development in the county.

Election ahead Tuesday
County government, homestead, presidential primary on ballot
State flag also up for vote
Banks County voters will go tto he polls on Tuesday to decide if county government will change and to pick their presidential preference.

News from
BOC says ‘No!’to replacing fairways with driveways
Sunrise Golf Course may yet fade into the sunset as its owner finds himself strapped with a massive financial failure.
But the county won’t let that course go the way of suburbia.
At least not without a fight.

‘Comer Colored School’
Comer resident Phillip Fortson grew up next door to the old school once known by locals as the Comer Colored School.
As a child, he used to run from room to room in the old abandoned building, never thinking of the historical value of the place, and how, if the walls could talk, of the stories they could tell of a time gone by.

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
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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MainStreet Newspapers, Inc.
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The Jefferson wrestling team captured the traditional Class A state crown last weekend for the fourth consecutive season. The effort was aided in large part by six individual state champions. Shown is Jefferson’s Jason Fields, right, as he is congratulated by Dragon head coach Doug Thurmond following the senior’s 152-pound state title victory. For more state championship coverage, see this weeks Jackson Herald.

War of words
Water authority fires back at BOC
The war of wordS between the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and the county water authority continued last week as the chairman of the authority strongly defended his board against BOC allegations of mismanagement.
In a letter late last week, authority chairman Warren Walker blasted BOC chairman Harold Fletcher for comments made at a recent BOC meeting in which Fletcher alleged the authority was unable to make payments on the Bear Creek Reservoir debt. Walker said Fletcher’s subsequent communication with the authority “is nothing more than grandstanding and creates a snarly and provocative atmosphere.”
Walker also said that Fletcher’s comments “demonstrates a total retraction of oneness and cooperation on your part to the citizens and to us as an independent governmental agency.”
The latest exchange between the two groups comes after a year of bitterness following an effort by the BOC to take over the authority in early 2003. The BOC failed in that effort after local legislators refused their request to change state law allowing the BOC takeover.
But since that failure, the BOC has undertaken a campaign of slamming the authority in its public comments and of replacing authority members when their terms of office come open.
At the heart of the issue is an effort by the BOC to have former commission chairman Jerry Waddell removed as water superintendent. The authority has refused to fire Waddell and has strongly defended his work. But several BOC members have called for his ouster.
In mid-2003, the BOC put Waddell’s ex-girlfriend on the water authority board in an effort to create an atmosphere that would induce Waddell to resign. At the time, Waddell and Wanda David were engaged in a bitter lawsuit over property stemming from their relationship. Waddell refused to resign even after David was named to the authority board.
The most recent war of words between the two groups came after the authority made a request that the county government cover two months Bear Creek note payments, as was done last year.
In the winter, the water authority sells less water and its cash flow tightens. Authority members say that to make those Bear Creek note payments would endanger the water system’s cash flow.
On the other hand, the county government has some $25 million in cash on hand due to property tax collections in late December and January. The authority asked that the BOC make the two note payments for February and March and that in the spring or summer when water sales increase, the authority would reimburse the BOC for those two payments.
But at last week’s BOC meeting, Fletcher blasted the authority, saying he was “exasperated.” Fletcher and other members of the BOC again indicated that as far as they are concerned, the authority is being mismanaged.

Citizens concerned about LP
Louisiana Pacific’s request for increased emissions draws crowd to hearing
More than 50 people crowded into a meeting room in Athens last week to air their concerns with the current operation of Louisiana Pacific and question the company’s application to increase its emissions.
Ron Bridgers, speaking on behalf of Citizens Concerned about Responsible Environmental Stewardship in Northeast Georgia, asked the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for an additional 120 days of review before any action is taken on the permit application. Jimmy Johnston, the EPD manager of the stationary source permitting program, made no promises, but agreed to pass the request on to the EPD’s top officials.
Louisiana Pacific has applied for a Title V significant modification permit for plant upgrades which include: Replacement of dryer burners; upgrade for forming line; rebuild of board press; improvements to the saw line and tongue and groove line; a powder resin delivery system; modification of the press room ventilation and the venting of the paint booth exhaust to the inside of the main building.
The public hearing lasted three hours with more than 15 people who live near LP, located on Hwy. 441 in Center, speaking on the application.
Bridgers was the first to speak and he had the podium for more than 20 minutes as he outlined the concerns of the citizens group, including inspections at the facility, the impact of formaldehyde, studies on ground water near the plant, existing community complaints, studies of flora and fauna near the plant and noise levels.
Bridgers also named seven people, whom he said have experienced respiratory problems or lost cattle and suspect LP’s emissions as being the cause.
“A cattlemen on Holman Road in Clarke and Jackson counties, has reported that his veterinarian suspected the cause of death of approximately three cows per year due to respiratory failure was caused by toxic emissions emitted by the facility,” he said.
EPD officials later in the meeting denied that the plant had anything to do with the cattle dying.
The citizens group threatened to take legal action or ask the U.S. EPA to intervene if its concerns are not addressed.
“Understanding that the primary goal of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is to protect citizens and natural resources from damage, your consideration of our request to allow a 120-day public input period prior to approving LP’s current application for Title V permit modification is expected,” Bridgers said.
Donald Brooks, who lives two miles northeast of LP, questioned the testing of the plant and said once a year is not enough.
“No, we don’t need to raise the levels,” he said. “We need to do something about the current levels.”
Pat Armour, who lives in Madison County, spoke on the problems with odor and noise that people who live near the plant experience. She also questioned why the monitors that test the facility are located so far from the plant.
Several people also said they smell formaldehyde in their yards. Tim Lewis said he lives two miles from the plant and can smell it in his back yard.
“They’re dumping tons of this stuff,” he said. “I don’t appreciate it...Our people in Jackson, Clarke and Madison are being poisoned and they’re being poisoned unnecessarily.”
David Harvey LP’s director of environmental affairs operations, said the levels being emitted by the company meet standards.
“We’ve proven our emissions are protective of public health and safety,” he said.
Harvey also addressed the comment about a nearby property owner who had cows to die. He said that he did “not doubt that this gentleman has had cows die but to draw the conclusion that somehow our emissions are causing them” is not true.
“I know the concentrations with which we emit couldn’t cause this,” he said. “If his cows are dying, I’m sorry his cows are dying, but we aren’t the cause.”
Johnston also addressed the numerous comments made about monitoring at the plant. He said some of the tests are done by LP, but they are conducted under specs given by the EPD and state officials observe some of the tests as they are being conducted.
One woman asked the EPD officials what the citizens could do to make the state listen to their concerns.
“Provide us evidence they are not complying,” Johnston said.
Another citizen asked the EPD officials if their man reason for holding the hearing was to issue the permit or to protect air quality. Johnson said the main goal of the EPD is to protect the environment, not to issue permits.
LP is forming an advisory committee to address concerns of area citizens. Those interested in joining are asked to call 546-8116, ext. 249.

Talmo City Council buys a new city hall
100-year-old house to cost $250,000
The Talmo City Council secured its first piece of real estate for the town on Tuesday night, when it decided to purchase a 100-year-old house for a new city hall.
Resting on a hill on A.J. Irvin Road next to Talmo Baptist Church and the CSX railroad line, the two-story house will cost $250,000.
And city officials decided to use a financing plan for the new city hall that bypasses citizens’ vote.
The city council will use a 12-month note over a projected 15-year period to fund the city hall. After making a $50,000 down payment, the city will finance $200,000 at a 2.5 percent interest rate through Regions Bank.
“You can’t obligate the city (to debt) for more than one year, so you do the note for a year and the note is paid off,” council member Dana Woods said.
With the low interest rate, the city will pay $1,140 a month for the city hall. The only problem with the 12-month note option, Woods said, is that interest rates are certain to rise in coming years.
Among the other options the city council looked at was a lease-purchase agreement — a rather controversial move in Jackson County considering a decision from the Georgia Supreme Court is pending on the new county courthouse.
A lease-purchase agreement is similar to using a 12-month note since both options bypass citizens’ vote and new financing contracts are assumed every year.
“This right here is a capital improvement . . . when you talk about this kind of money, you can’t obligate the citizens of this town longer than the 12-months, unless you do a lease-purchase (agreement) or you buy it right out,” Mayor Wood said.
Mayor Wood said he recommended the city not use a lease-purchase agreement, since the Georgia Supreme Court hasn’t issued its ruling in the Jackson County courthouse case.
Asking for Talmo citizens’ vote through a referendum was another option considered. If a referendum was called, it would cost an additional $20,000 for bond attorneys and take several months to complete, Wood said.
A final option included purchasing the house out-right with funds the city currently has available.
“We have the money in the bank to buy it out-right,” Mayor Wood said. Council member Woods, however, said the city still needs operating funds available.
“We’ve discussed this over several years and there’s nothing available,” Mayor Wood said of the Talmo’s efforts to buy a city hall. “The house is over 4,000 square-feet, it’s a big house, and I think it’ll be very conducive for what we want as far as a city hall,” he added.
Mayor Wood said other than making a bathroom handicap accessible, little major work is needed for the new city hall. The city council will tour the house on Monday, March 1, at 7 p.m. to determine other areas of improvement.
Council member Myra McEver recused herself from voting on the purchase and financing of the city hall, since she is related to the owner, Wylie McEver.

Vote ahead Tues.
Presidential primary and state flag decision at hand Tuesday
Jackson County voters will join those across the state on Tuesday in going to the polls for the presidential preference primary.
Democratic voters will have nine presidential candidates listed on their ballots. They are: Carol Mosley Braun, Wesley K. Clark, Howard Dean, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, John F. Kerry, Dennis J. Kucinich, Joe Liberman and Al Sharpton. George W. Bush is the only name listed on the Republican ballot.
Both ballots will also list two versions of the state flag and ask voters to select their preference. The two choices are the flag adopted at the 2003 session of the General Assembly or the flag adopted at the 2001 session of the General Assembly.

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Planning Panel Has To Table Re-Zoning Again
For the second time in a row, the Commerce Planning Commission lacked enough members present to conduct business.
Actually, the planning group had a quorum present at its February meeting Monday night and at its January 26 meeting, but on both occasions tabled business.
Thus Barry Lord and Billy Vandiver will have to seek a second extension on their option to purchase 8.2 acres off Williford Street, which they want rezoned from R-2 to R-3 to build a 21-lot subdivision.
At the January meeting, the three commissioners present, facing a lot of opposition from area residents, chose to table discussion until all five members were present. But when the February meeting was convened Monday night, members Mark McCannon and Kenneth Suber were absent and the first thing Chairman Greg Perry did was recuse himself from the issue, leaving the planning commission without a quorum.
Perry noted that his law firm has been retained by Lord, and that the law firm has hired Vandiver. He did not specify the nature of the business relationships.
Ironically, member Ronnie Seabolt stated that most of the opposition to the rezoning has dissolved.
“The consensus of the people I talked to who were here last time is that they are in favor of this rezoning,” he said.
That led Joe Leffew to ask Perry to not recuse himself so the group could take action. Perry asked Vandiver and Lord if they supported that move.
The two talked briefly. “Let’s wait,” said Vandiver. “That way we won’t have any trouble with anybody saying anything.”
The planning commission will meet Tuesday at 7:00 to discuss that rezoning alone.
The planning commission did manage a 3-0 vote to recommend approval of a rezoning for annexation request by Peter and Claudia Markov of a 5.59 -acre tract on Lake Vista Lane in Montgomery Shores subdivision. The Commerce City Council will make the final decision on the rezoning from A-R to R-1E at its March 8 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center.
The only other items on the agenda – a pair of rezonings for annexation off Smallwood Road – were tabled at the request of Lord, who told the planning commission that David L. Ringo had called him at the last minute to represent him on the rezoning requests, about which Lord knew very little.
“I don’t know enough about the property to make an argument for or against it,” he said.
Ringo, acting on behalf of property owner Dewitt Price, wanted to rezone .93 acres on Smallwood Drive from A-2 in the county to R-2 in the city. If that was approved, he planned to do the same thing to 47.76 adjacent acres to create a 70-lot subdivision.
Several nearby residents were present to oppose that rezoning.

Two voter precincts 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.

Details given on absentee voting
Absentee voting has not changed, according to officials. However, the state has added to the absentee choices.
Voters can still request in writing by mail or fax, a paper ballot 45 days prior to any election. As in the past, they must still meet the criteria for voting by paper ballot. This includes: you must be over 75, disabled, will be out of the precinct, are a constant care giver, are an election official, it will be a religious holiday, you will be out of the precinct due to military and/or spouse or dependent of military, or will be on duty at place of employment for the public safety. Voting using one of these reasons has not changed, leaders say.
With the state adding advanced voting, this entitles a voter to come into the voter registration office one week, Monday through Friday prior to any election and cast what will be known as an advanced vote. Advanced voting may be for any reason. Advanced voting must be on the touch screen units, and it must be in person in the voter registration office. Other than the change in this one-week of advanced voting, everything else pertaining to absentee voting remains the same.