News from Madison County...

FEBRUARY 25, 2004


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OPINIONS
Farnk Gillespie
Remember, marriage is a religious ceremony
“Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.” Marriage Service #1 from the Star Book for Ministers.

Zach Mitcham
Negotiating water line should be done in the open
Representatives from a pipeline company and our local government gathered around the big table in the austere, old courthouse last week to talk real business.


SPORTS
Twice as nice
Arnold top dog again in 189-lb. classification with second-straight title
Madison County wrestling coach Steve Mason can distinctly recall his first meeting with Mark Arnold two years ago.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
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
JACKSON COUNTY
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.

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.

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County commission chairman Wesley Nash (right) looks over the shoulder of county clerk Morris Fortson before the BOC meeting Monday night at a map on the laptop computer of county planner Matt Miller (seated). Also pictured (standing) is county information technology director Gary Venable.

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.
A large crowd packed into the government complex meeting room Monday night with hopes of keeping the long-time links alive.
And they left with smiles and congratulations after the board voted 5-0 to turn down a request by Sunrise owner John Byram to rezone 134.02 acres on Colbert-Danielsville Road from A-2 (agricultural) to R-1 (residential) for a 77-lot subdivision, with tracts ranging from one to six acres.
Approval of the request would have allowed Byram to replace fairways with driveways and turn putting greens into backyards in the next six months to a year.
The BOC rejection of Byram’s plans came a week after the planning commission’s 5-2 recommendation of approval of the proposal. (The denial marks the seventh time in the past eight months that the BOC has reversed a significant zoning board decision.)
While those wanting to keep the course open won a victory Monday, the board action could set the stage for a legal battle. Byram’s attorney, Victor Johnson, reminded BOC members that three out of the past four major subdivisions approved recently by the county commissioners followed lawsuits.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.


‘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.
“I didn’t know much about it, except that both my aunts, who never married, were teachers at the school at one time,” Fortson, who now owns the land the school sits on, remembers.
Fortson and others came to share some of their memories with members of the Madison County Historical Foundation and the Comer Historical Society when they met at the Comer Woman’s Club on Feb. 15.
“It (the old school) was a vital part of the community at that time, particularly the colored community,” Fortson said.
In 1953, Fortson’s grandfather acquired the school building and the 32 acres that surround it. Recently, the family sold several acres of the property to Habitat for Humanity for future habitat homes and have now turned their attention to the old school building.
A HISTORY LESSON
The old school opened early in the last century and closed in the mid-1950s, when Madison County schools, like other school systems across the state, were consolidated.
For the black students of the county, the closing of the old school meant going to a newer, yet still segregated school on Hwy. 72 between Comer and Colbert.
The old school sat empty for a few years until one of Fortson’s aunts partially restored it for use as an apartment building for a while.
Later on in the mid-1970s, it’s auditorium was used for auctions on Friday and Saturday nights.
As Fortson grew up he attended the Madison County school system and later college, not thinking much about the old building that sat deteriorating on his family’s property — until about a year ago.
“I went out there one day to look around and thought ‘this is a pretty good old building, still structurally sound and it just seemed a shame to let it fall down,’” he said.
He approached his church, Springfield Baptist, about restoring the building and using it as a community center.
“I thought maybe it could be used as a gathering place for everyone in the community — not just those in the church,” he said.
About the same time, Pat Reed, president of the Comer Historical Society, was also taking a look at the old building and was intrigued by its history in the community.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.


New system will provide better public access to info.
Check out the Glynn County government web site — www.glynncounty.org/
That’s what the technical team of Gary Venable, county information technology director, and Matt Miller, county planner, have in mind for Madison County.
With a new, internal web server, the county will be able to dramatically upgrade its information services for both county employees and residents.
The new system, when it is eventually up and running, will allow the general public to view a wide array of information about Madison County on the web, including detailed map information now only available at county offices.
Commissioners seemed weary-eyed but impressed as Venable and Miller spoke of an email/website/GIS server during the tail end of a marathon four-hour and forty-five minute meeting Monday night.
The board unanimously approved $30,350 for technical upgrades, that will include a Dell server, an Esri GIS mapping system and a projector system that will allow maps to be on display at commissioners’ meetings — as seen Monday night. The system will also improve employee email services, reducing junk mail to county computers.
Venable said that with the new system, the county will save approximately $15,000 in annual mapping costs.
However, he cautioned that revamping the web site with numerous options for browsers is not an overnight endeavor and will take some time to implement.
Madison County’s government website is www.madisonco.us


Voters to go to polls Tues. for presidential primary
Madison 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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To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.


Newspaper excluded from meeting regarding water contamination
See editorial Page
Two members of the county industrial authority met with several representatives from Colonial Pipeline in the old county courthouse Thursday morning to discuss placing a water line in the Colbert Grove Church Road area where petroleum has contaminated deep well drinking water.
But a reporter who showed up to follow the proceedings was told he must leave by county commission chairman Wesley Nash and industrial authority attorney Victor Johnson.
Johnson said the meeting was not subject to state open meetings laws because only two IDA members — Nash and chairman Tom Joiner — were present. (A quorum of three members would have required the IDA to give public notice of the meeting and allow the public to attend.) While other appointed IDA members were not on hand, former industrial authority chairman John Scoggins, the IDA attorney Johnson, authority secretary Marvin White and IDA utilities director Tyson Culberson were present.
The county chairman and the IDA attorney told the reporter that he could not attend the meeting. However, the IDA scheduled a public meeting for 8 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the contamination matter, minus Colonial representatives (see story above).
Thursday’s meeting was related to a contamination issue that came to light nearly a decade ago. Colonial Pipeline began testing residential wells near its booster station just south of Danielsville in December of 1994 after finding petroleum products in the on-site water well.
There was talk of a link between sickness in the area and contaminants from the Colonial petroleum spill — benzene, which was found in residential well water, can cause leukemia. Ultimately, the company bought property from a number of residents in the area.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.