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MARCH 10, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jana Mitcham
A lifelong love of reading
In the past week, area schools and libraries have been celebrating Dr. Seuss’ 100th birthday (March 2), as well as reading in general for “Read Across America.”

Phillip Sartain
The untold pain of comb loss
In case you somehow missed it, over the years my once brilliant choice of column topics has somehow boiled down to nothing more than the trivial and mundane concerns of my daily life. It’s boring. And it’s pitiful. Like this column — the one about losing my comb.


SPORTS
Top at the tourney
Two finish in top three at 20-school tourney
Banks County Leopard golfers played in a 20-school 18-hole tournament Saturday at Apple Mountain Resort and Golf Club in Clarkesville.
Leopard golfers play again Thursday at Chateau Elan against Buford and at Kingwood Tuesday, March 16, against Rabun County.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
Career options
Eighth graders from all three school systems attend career fair Friday
Still more than four years shy of graduating from high school, middle school students are at work now planning for their future careers.

Jefferson moves on impact fees
Jefferson hires consultant to study impact fees, develop an ordinance
The City of Jefferson is taking the first step in bringing impact fees to the town.


News from
MADISON
Major water expansion planned
$1.7 million project would include approx. $950,000 from pipeline company that contaminated Colbert Grove areaA petroleum company that contaminated deep-well, drinking water in the Colbert Grove Church Road area is expected to contribute $950,000 to provide a water line to 85 households in a contaminant zone off Hwy. 29 just south of Danielsville.

Parents upset over proposed student transfers
Several parents, some in tears, made it clear that they opposed moving their young children to new schools next fall.
Meetings were held in each affected school over the past week.

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OPPOSED TO SECOND VOTE ON GOVERNMENT CHANGE

Banks County resident Emily Calhoun opposed the idea of a second vote on the change of government issue. Banks County voters chose last week, by a narrow margin, to keep the commissioners’ form of government, rather than a county manager.


Citizens angry on comments on another county government vote
‘The people have spoken’
Banks County citizens concerned that another vote will be held on changing the form of goverment filled the board of commission meeting room Tuesday night to air their concerns.
Citizens are concerned about the possibility of finding the same issue voted on last week, changing the form of government to a county administrator, on the ballot in July. Last week’s vote was 1,005 against the new form of government and 902 votes for the county administrator. After the election, commissioners Rickey Cain and Pat Westmoreland commented that another election might be held calling for a change to five commissioners instead of three and hiring a county manager.
At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, Cain questioned the presence of “change in form of government: being listed on the agenda. Westmoreland said he asked for it to be listed, but later asked that it be removed and it wasn’t.
Emily Calhoun addressed the board about the matter: “I understand you all are asking Jeanette Jamieson to arrange a second vote on the county administrator matter. I am opposed to a second vote at this time, we shouldn’t have to vote twice in one year on the same item.”
Calhoun questioned the board on other items as well.
“I am representing Keep Banks Rural and we are opposed to the financing of the new county administrator,” she added.
Calhoun asked the board to explain its reasoning in developing the new position, saying the change would add another layer of government between the citizens and the county government.
“We are looking for a more qualified person,” said Westmoreland. “We want someone qualified in establishing budgets, grant writing and someone to oversee all county employees. We don’t have the expertise in-house to do that (research and write grants).”
Buddy Queen also addressed the board about the possibility of a new vote.
“We spoke to Jeanette Jamieson’s secretary and she said you called and asked that she push it through by July,” he said.
Cain corrected Queen saying he asked Jamieson if the issue could be put on the ballot in July.
“It could have been voted on in November, but it doesn’t change for four years,” said Cain.
After a lengthy discussion between citizens, commissioners, lawyers and other county employees, the board said it didn’t think the issue would be on the July or November ballot.
Queen also questioned the authority of the board, acting in the absence of BOC chairman Kenneth Brady who was sick with kidney stones, according to his wife Dianne Brady.
“We believe this meeting is null and void,” Queen said. “According to the charter, you have to elect a vice-chair prior to a meeting (to act in the chairman’s absence) and you didn’t follow procedure.”
Bill Blalock, acting as county attorney, said: “ a procedural issue does not stop business.”
Mrs. Brady also commented on the issue.
“You didn’t get what you (Cain and Westmoreland) wanted the first time so now you are trying to do it again,” she said. “I can speak for him (K. Brady), and he has changed his mind (about supporting the new form of government.”
Harold Ivey added: “I think you need to wait a few years to bring this back up again. You are basically telling the voters their votes don’t count.”
SUBDIVISION DISCUSSION
In other business, Joseph Holcomb asked the board to accept the second phase of the Buckeye Trails subdivision and to maintain the road.
“I’m a taxpayer in Banks County and I have to suffer because the county doesn’t want it,” he said. “The developer pulled out of the subdivision and I’ve been asking for this for two years. We’re suffering because proper guidelines were not in place when the subdivision was built. We shouldn’t have to suffer and bear the burden of fixing the road.”
Ivey said he thought the county attorney had filed suit against the developer.
“There was no road inspector when the subdivision was built, now, we require a civil engineer to inspect roads.”
The board recommended the matter be taken up with chairman Brady and that he take the necessary steps.
“It’s going back on the residents and we’re not at fault,” Holcomb added. “How can you say you can’t take it because it (the ordinance) wasn’t followed, when you say you didn’t have anyone to enforce it.”
Westmoreland said: “Personally, I agree with you. But, I can’t make personal decisions when we make decisions for the entire county.”

Controversy erupts over Alto pay raise
Three Alto city employees will receive a $1 an hour cost-of-living raise, though not without some controversy.
Council members Donald Wade and Patricia Barlo-Ivry voted in opposition to the motion at Tuesday’s city council meeting due to allegations of employees forging time cards and complaints of seeing employees at Wal-Mart and in and around Cornelia in city vehicles during working hours.
Wade said he did not think two of the men deserved a raise because they did not complete and pass water operator training and obtain a water operator certification license, a requirement of taking the jobs.
“They were supposed to have a water license within one year of being hired,” He said. “It’s a state requirement. I also see them up in Cornelia all the time.”
Wade also alleged the men were getting too much overtime – “10, 20, 30 hours [a pay period].”
City clerk Penny Rogers, who signs off on the time cards said she was unaware of any wrong doing. She also said she was unaware of the men having overtime other than during the ice storm in January and even then it was not that many hours.
Councilman John Closs asked the pertinence of overtime in determining a cost-of-living raise.
“This seems like you’re punishing them for not getting their licenses,” he said. “I think they’re worth it. Every time I see them, they’re working.”
Councilman Phil Lomax added: “We call them out in the middle of the night, in the early hours of the morning. They do a lot.”
Wade wanted to go into a closed session to discuss the men and analyze their time cards.
However, city attorney Jim Acrey advised the council against such an action.
“You can only go into executive session if you are going to be talking about an employee’s performance in particular,” the attorney said. “If you need to gather evidence, like the time cards, that has to be done in public. Then you can take it to executive session. If someone has been falsifying records, I am not sure why an executive session would be called.”
Barlo-Ivry made a motion to enter executive session to discuss personnel, which Wade seconded, but the motion was defeated with Gary Terrill, Closs and Lomax voting in opposition.
Acrey advised the council to notify him of any future possible subjects to be conducted in executive session.
“I need to know in advance what you are planning to do,” he said. “I have to have affidavits ready for you to sign if you decide to call a closed session.”


Baldwin City Council shuts down Travel Inn due to violations
The Travel Inn in Baldwin has been ordered to be closed by the Baldwin City Council.
The council suspended the occupancy permit of owner Ernie Desai at Thursday’s work session due to code violations and the business failing to meet the state’s definition of a motel.
Desai admitted he rents rooms by the week to displaced and transient residents of the area. The people living at the motel use the motel address as their home address.
Maria Wargovich, department of public health, told the council the definition of a motel/hotel is a place with two or more rooms that house tourists and travelers whose addresses are somewhere else other than where they are staying that night.
Under those criteria, the Travel Inn was deemed not a motel, but a boarding house by the council and, as such, does not meet zoning specifications.
Council member Ray Holcomb said: “You’re not running a motel. You don’t meet the criteria of a motel. I’m tired of hearing all this. If you are going to run a motel, clean it up and do it right.”
City attorney David Syfan told the council: “For the past six or seven years, we have been hearing the same things, the same violations. This appears to be an unsafe structure that could cause harm. You can condemn it or shut it down until it comes into compliance with the city ordinance.”
Holcomb said: “There are so many violations, I say shut it down until everything has been done.”
Desai said he couldn’t afford to shut it down. He claimed all the violations found in an inspection last month had been taken care of by Gailey Electric.
County inspector Rual Broadway said: “I spoke with the electrician who worked on the wiring and he told me he just hooked up the receptacles to out-of-code lines. He said there was no grounding wire to connect to. The buildings would have to be torn apart to replace the old wiring which is 50 to 60 years old. Somebody could die there. There isn’t a ground fault receptacle in the place that works.”
Betty Harper, city manager, said no electrical permit had been issued for the property, as is required. When work has been completed, it is supposed to be inspected to determine the work was done properly and to code. With no permit, and no inspection report, the council had no evidence the extensive wiring problems had been corrected.
Wargovich said: “We have been inspecting the Travel Inn for six-and-a-half years. In that time, there have been 11 unstaisfactory inspections. The buildings are old and not up to code. We have consistently found bug infestations, dirty linens, numerous and dangerous electrical violations. He cleans it up, but when we go back to check, the same problems exist.”
The motel has been shut down twice over the past six years, once in 1999 and again in March 2002. The 2002 inspection revealed 64 code violations, ranging from lack of ground-fault receptacles in bathrooms to a leaking roof. An inspection done in December by Broadway and Baldwin fire chief Joe Roy revealed 39 code violations. Most were sub-standard electrical issues.
Broadway said in regard to the February findings: “There are a lot of problems, structural safety issues, electrical issues. When we went into the attic, we found what may be asbestos. In one of the rooms, there was ceiling damage and the material, if it is asbestos, is dropping into the room. That presents a health hazard. It’s dangerus and need to be removed by a certified specialist.”
Roy showed the council a baggie cointaining what apperared to be asbestos and said he was sending it off for testing.
Councilman Robert Bohannon said he could not in clear conscience allow people to live in such unsafe conditions. He agreed it should be closed until the rooms were brought up to code.
Desai insisted all the violations cited in February had been corrected and told the council to inspect it again.
Mayor Mark Reed replied: “If we go up there and find the same violations, we’ll fine you $1,000 per violation.”
The council told Desai to tell his tenants to find other accommodations since they would no longer be permitted to stay there.
Councilman Jeff Bohannon said: “We have worked with you for years. We hear the same story time after time. This time things are going to be different if you want to stay in business.”

 


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Alto residents put council on the ‘hot seat’
Frustrated to the point of tears, Alto resident Margaret Beaupre railed the city council Tuesday for failing to clean up the town.
“I have been coming here for two-and-a-half years complaining about the same things,” she said. “I don’t want to wait [any more]. I’m tired of fighting with you. You can’t do one thing I have asked. I’m tired of living in filth. A city as small as this is shouldn’t be this bad.”
Mayor Audrey Turner said certified letters had been sent out to the owners on a complied list of the worst properties. The letter sent to the property owners said: “It has been brought to our attention that you have old cars in your yard. Being within the city limits, we have ordinances that ban excessive trash, old cars, debris and unkept yards. We are also asking you to clean up your yard to keep down a health hazard to the citizens of Alto. Old cars sitting can contaminate wells or become a refuge for rodents and snakes. You need to clean up your yard within two weeks to avoid a fine. We can fine you up to $350 for the violation…”
The council plans to continue alerting property owners who are in violation of the ordinance.
Councilwoman Patricia-Barlo-Ivry said there are other places in the city in need of clean up.
Also venting some anger was resident Carolyn Cabe who took issue with the council telling anyone to clean up when the city shop grounds are littered with trash and junk equipment.
“We’re not in a restricted area,” she said. “Some of us dry clothes in our yards. We don’t all have dryers. I have old cars in my yard and I’m not going to get rid of them. I’m all for cleaning up the town, but before you tell us to clean up, clean up your own messes.”
Cabe also complained about the trash that blows out of the garbage truck on pick-up days that litter the streets and about cut trees dumped in ditches.
Then, she took out a mason jar of lightly-tinted brown water and asked the council if they’d like to take a drink of it. The water came from her home and the problem has been on-going for six years.
Councilman Donald Wade, the only one who took Cabe up on the offer to take a drink, said the tint was from manganese in the water. He added that the council had discussed installing a filtration system at all the wells.
Turner said the state was going to require a filtration on systems and they would be looking into the cost.
Wade suggested Cabe add a filtration system in her home. She relied that she had already done so.
“The water better clean-up or I’ll be here griping again,” she said.
Wade suggested the city set up a regular schedule of flushing lines to get settled minerals and sediment out of the water lines.
Councilman Phil Lomax said: “There are some preventive maintenance measures we can take. If the lines aren’t flushed regularly, sediment and minerals settle and collect on the walls of the pipe. Flushing the lines will help, but I’m not sure we can stop the build-up completely.”
In other business, the council:
•approved the installation of a street light on Cook Street.
•awarded a bid for a well house, pump and materials for the Gilstrap Road well at a cost of $99,500.
•approved the purchase of a new backhoe and tractor at a cost of $12,250. The council plans to look into the possibility of using Alto’s share of Habersham County special local option sales tax for the purchase.


Rep. Jamieson votes ‘no’ on gay marriages amendment
Defends vote and introduces another bill to address issueRep. Jeanette Jamieson has defended her “No” vote on an amendment to ban gay marriages and introduced her own proposed bill on the issue that she says will accomplish more than the original bill.
Jamieson said that the bill she voted against, SR 595, contains two parts and the question of whether or not same-sex marriages will be addressed in the constitution is only one part. She said that other language in the bill would immediately throw the bill into a court challenge.
Rep. Larry Walker sponsored an amendment, which would correct the language in the original bill, and leave intact the question of same-sex marriage. Jamieson voted for the correction, but sponsors of SR 595 did not.
In voting against SR 595, Jamieson expressed concern that the bill would be struck down by the court and, in the process, the state would lose the law which has been in effect for many years. The current law in Georgia prohibits same-sex marriages and this must be protected, Jamieson said.
“This is not San Francisco or Massachusetts,” she said. “This is Georgia. Under no circumstance can we jeopardize the current law that has never been questioned or challenged by any court. Hopefully, the damaging language will be removed and we can give the people of Georgia a good bill.”
On Thursday, Jamieson introduced her bill proposing a ban on gay marriages.
“For the 20 years that I have been privileged to serve in the Georgia house, I have never intentionally misled my constituents about a bill or how I vote,” Jamieson said. “I certainly am not going to start now.”