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MARCH 10, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
A Break From Region
CHS Baseball Team Awaits Three
Non-Region Foes
If the diamond Tigers have some wrinkles to iron out, now’s the time to do it when the games don’t count against them.

Dragons eyeing state track title
When your school hosts the Georgia Olympics state meet each year for track and field, as Jefferson does, you know there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the sport. But this year there’s even more of a reason for Jefferson supporters to anticipate the upcoming season.

Panthers set to open home season, renew rivalry with Dragons
The Jackson County baseball team has been regrouping for the past week and a half in preparation for their first home game of the season, which begins Friday against Buford at 5:30 p.m. That will be followed by a renewal of one of the more interesting rivalries around when the Panthers take on Jefferson on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Horace Jackson Field.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
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. The proposal, which is scheduled to be decided at the March 16 meeting of the board of education, calls for redrawing school district lines in an effort to balance out the student population between Madison County’s five elementary schools.

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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TALKING ABOUT CAREERS

Ginger Marshall of nBank discusses opportunities available in her field with Jefferson Middle School student Nicole Thrasher.

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.
Speaking with a wide array of business representatives — from firefighters to manufacturers, and artists to health care providers — eighth graders are finding out how to follow a career path.
“Some of these jobs I never knew about,” said Nicole Thrasher, a student at Jefferson Middle School. She’s now interested in nursing, thanks to the career fair, she added.
The second annual Jackson County career fair was held Friday at the Gordon Street Center. And for the first time, middle school students from all three school systems in the county participated in the event.
Shane Chaisson, an organizer of the event, said holding the joint career fair allows the school systems to share the resources offered in the county.
“We’re going to the same well, in terms of businesses,” she said of the estimated 90-plus organizations that registered to help speak to students at the event.
But the career fair doesn’t just focus on professional life after high school — it’s also intended to introduce middle school students to courses and clubs offered in high school.
“Oftentimes, students come to high school and have no idea about what they’re interested in or which way they want to go,” said Chris Edwards, who teaches careers at Jackson County Comprehensive High School. “So we felt like this would help to better prepare them for their choices when they get to high school.”
And with help from the career fair, entering high school freshman can pinpoint their academic career with targeted courses, said Dena Carter, a youth apprenticeship coordinator for Northeast Georgia RESA. If a student finds they’re interested in nursing, they can start to take health-care related courses in high school.
Another benefit of the career fair is the one-on-one discussions students have with business representatives, Edwards said.
“I can teach them about careers all day long, but when they get here and they’re actually able to see someone in that career, they take that to heart a little more,” she said.
Chelsey Farmer, a freshman who participated in last year’s career fair, said she discovered that she enjoys floral design and has enhanced her skills in that area. She recently won second place for floral design in a regional vocational competition.
East Jackson Middle School students Katie Bradley and Brittany Robinett said they found interest in becoming artists.
Commerce Middle School student Anthony Brock said he’s now interested in joining Caterpillar or the state arboretum — both businesses featured at the career fair.
Each of the estimated 800 students was required to ask at least two questions from a minimum of 10 presenters and visit the academic booths. They received a daily grade for their experience at the career fair.
All middle schools in Jackson County participated in the event.


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.
The city council agreed Monday night to hire Bill Ross and Associates to conduct an impact fee study and develop an ordinance for the town. The city council would have to vote on the ordinance before impact fees are implemented. If the council approves impact fees, Jefferson will be the first government in the county to use them.
Ross’ fee is $18,200 and it will come from the city’s contingency fund.
Ross spoke at Monday’s meeting and said it will take eight to nine months to complete the project. The council encouraged him to begin work immediately.
Ross said the first step will be to meet with city leaders to get the plans for the future. A citizens’ committee will also be formed to provide input during the process. It will be comprised of seven members, with a requirement that three be from the building/real estate community. Several public hearings will be held as the ordinance is being developed.
Ross said the second phase will be to calculate what the impact fees will be.
“The fee has to be fair,” he said. “If it’s not, the court will throw it out.”


Man shoots wife, himself Fri. in Arcade
Couple had history of domestic disputes
A Watkinsville man reportedly shot and killed his wife and then himself early Friday morning in Arcade.
The Arcade Police Department was called to the Trotter’s Circle residence around 6 a.m. Friday. There, officers found the bodies of Darlene Merritt, 38, Jefferson, and Richard Michael Merritt, 45.
Arcade police chief Dennis Bell said Mr. Merritt apparently shot his wife, who had a temporary restraining order against him, and then himself.
The couple was found in a horse stable behind the residence. Family members, who first called law enforcement officers to the scene, were inside the nearby home.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assisting in investigating the incident. Mike Ayers, assistant agent in charge of the GBI office in Athens, said the Merritts both died as a result of gunshot wounds. He added that the investigation is on-going.
Chief Dennis Bell said the couple had a history of domestic dispute reports and had reportedly been separated. He added that Mrs. Merritt had an active restraining order against her husband.
Bell said he was called to the scene around 6 a.m. Friday. He was told that there had been a shooting and that family members were still in the residence. Bell said he called in the state SWAT team and the GBI to ask that agents be sent in. He also called the school system to make sure no buses went on the road.
“The school system really worried me because they have a lot of kids over there,” Bell said.
Bell called the situation a “nightmare.”
“It was a pitiful site,” he said. “When I got there, it was still dark and we had to figure out right quick what to do. We didn’t know if the shooter was dead or still alive...It’s a delicate situation. It was a very open area. You have to look at safety issues. My main concern was getting the people out of the trailer. “
Mrs. Merritt was a native of Neubrucke, Germany, and had been employed with the Clarke County School System for 14 years.
Mr. Merritt had lived in Watkinsville for one month, but prior to that, he lived in Arcade for four years. He was a heavy equipment operator.


Mayor breaks tie in split vote to OK extended quarry hours
In a 3-2 vote, the Jefferson City Council approved a request Monday night from Martin Marietta rock quarry to extend the hours of its operation on Academy Church Road.
Council members C.D. Kidd III and Marcia Moon voted in favor of the request, while Steve Kinney and Bosie Griffith voted against it. Mayor Jim Joiner broke the tie by voting in favor of the request. Councilman Philip Thompson recused himself from the vote and left the room for the discussion.
The approval came with nine conditions, including the following:
•operation of the primary and secondary crushing facilities at the plant would be limited to the hours between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
•pit trucks would only operate between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
•blasting operations will be conducted in accordance with existing procedures, which normally take place about mid-day. No blasting will be conducted after 3 p.m.
•non-crushing related activities, such as maintenance and shipping activities, will be allowed to operate for the full 24 hours. According to city leaders, these activities are “benign and do not produce substantial noise as demonstrated by a noise study.”
•before any extended operation, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., the 50 acre bream (buffer) shall be erected and completed.
•all Martin Marietta equipment and vehicles must be equipped with strobe lights for operation after dusk.
•all on-site and off-site seismographic tests are to be reported to the city manager on a quarterly basis.
•a seismographic site monitoring must take place 24 hours.
•notification must be given to all property owners that adjoin the quarry for extended operation for large contracts.
The request from the company had been to extend the hours of operation from 12 hours a day to 18 hours a day. The request was for the rock quarry to be in operation from 6 a.m. to midnight daily. In December, the company had requested it be allowed to go to a 24-hour a day operation. These plans were changed to the latest proposal after initial citizen opposition.



IDA committee to study bond documents for road projects
As a follow-up to a recent meeting with the Jackson County Board of Commissioners on $18 million in bond financing for county road projects, the Industrial Development Authority established a committee Friday to review any intergovernmental agreements and related bond documents. IDA members Jim Dove and Jim Shaw were voted to serve on the committee during the called meeting.
“We need to form a committee to report back,” explained IDA chairman Scott Martin. “You would spend a couple of weeks poring through (the documents) and jot down items of interest to us.”
In February, the IDA and BOC held a joint meeting to establish the IDA as a bond financing vehicle for the BOC’s road projects. The IDA will not be financially responsible for the seven connector road projects, which span across the county and are intended to promote industrial and economic development.
County manager Al Crace reported to the IDA on the progress thus far, saying that the bond document, bond resolution and intergovernmental resolution drafts have been forwarded.
“The document development is coming along very well,” he said. “It’s pretty well drafted and all financial statements are pretty much put together.”
Crace explained that the bond documents will eventually be drawn up into an SEC bond offering to be rated.
“Our goal is to try to get finished in April,” he said. “We are ahead of schedule...I think by early April, this will all be set and then we’ll get into project planning — which roads come first.”
Because the process to set up the bond financing has moved so quickly thus far, it may not be necessary for the county to seek temporary financing on the road projects, Crace said.
He explained that the work roads to serve the MACI/Toyota project in North Jackson — probably the first on the list of road needs — will be “in-kind” work, meaning that county equipment and people will be used, rather than contractors. Work on the new four-lane Concord Road, Possum Creek Road and Wayne Poultry Road account for about a two-thirds of the projected $18 million and will be utilized for MACI.
The other roads listed in the project include: Steven B. Tanger Blvd. Extension, Progress Road 2, Bana Road, Zion Church Road and Braselton Parkway Access.
“The board is authorized to get a line of credit, but we may not need it,” Crace said.
Because of Friday’s called meeting, the IDA agreed to not meet at its regularly scheduled time on March 12, but, rather, to consider a March 19 meeting.
In other business, Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce president Pepe Cummings told the IDA that the chamber will host a series of strategic planning sessions on April 13 and 14 involving several county groups, including the IDA and the BOC.


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Bana Rd. Sewer Line Put Out For Bid
$1.5 Million Project Would Serve I-85 Interchange, Progress Road
The city of Commerce began advertising for bids this week to run sewer lines to a proposed industrial site along Interstate 85 at the Maysville Road exit.
In addition to opening up the Bana Road site to development, the project will provide sewer access along the east (Commerce) side of Interstate 85 from the Banks County line south to Maysville Road. It would also serve the entire Maysville Road interchange and adjacent land.
The estimated $1.5 million project calls for 15,000 feet of 10-inch pipe, 10,500 feet of eight-inch pipe and an 88-horsepower pump station.
The impetus for the project is the proposed development of the 500-acre “Commerce Distribution Center,” an industrial park targeting the distribution business. It is on the yet-to-be-built Bana Road which parallels I-85 on the west side from the Maysville Road to Hurricane Shoals and would reportedly begin with a large spec building.
City Manager Clarence Bryant said the developer will be responsible for getting wastes up to the Maysville Road.
The Bana Road site was the focus of efforts to land the “Project Lincoln” distribution center, that turned out to be a Walgreens project, which ultimately located in Spartanburg. Had Walgreens selected the site, virtually all of the infrastructure would have been funded through grants and partnerships. Even without the industry, however, Commerce will not have to fund the project alone.
Jackson County will pay for half up to $1 million of the city’s sewer-related cost under an agreement struck in the 1990s when the “shared tax district” along I-85 from Banks Crossing to Maysville Road was created. The county has also agreed to finish Bana Road as part of an $18 million bond program financed through the Industrial Development Authority.
ANOTHER PROJECT
At Monday night’s city council meeting, Bryant indicated that the owner of a large tract across I-85 from Bana Road also hopes to develop it in the near future.
“Sewer capacity is going to be an issue,” Bryant warned, suggesting that the city may want to reserve sewer capacity for that project “or look at building another wastewater plant somewhere on the North Oconee River.”
The city is currently about 30 percent into the construction of a new wastewater plant on the north side of town that will double the city’s treatment capacity to 2.1 million gallons per day. That will cost more than $9 million.


Bicycle, pedestrian plan topic for RDC
The Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center has planned a meeting in Jefferson to discuss a proposed regional bicycle and pedestrian plan.
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 25, at the Jefferson clubhouse. Similar meetings will be held in Covington and Athens. The RDC, in coordination with the Georgia Department of Transportation, is in the process of creating the regional bicycle and pedestrian plan.
The public is invited to provide “input, goals and objectives.”


Jefferson approves rezoning for
two ‘conservation subdivisions’
Two developers got the go-ahead Monday night to move forward with their plans to locate “conservation subdivisions” in the City of Jefferson.
In a unanimous vote, the city council approved a request 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. The four tracts were rezoned to R-1 residential conservation.
The approval came with the condition that all lots have access to the greenspace area and that the flood plain area not be “cut or filled.”
In the other request, the council voted 4-1 to approve a request from Tim Wilbanks to rezone 55 acres on Old Pendergrass Road from A-G to R-1 for a 100-lot conservation subdivision. Councilman C.D. Kidd III, Steve Kinney, Philip Thompson and Marcia Moon voted in favor of this, while Bosie Griffith voted against it.
The approval came with several conditions, including that a vegetated buffer be located along Old Pendergrass Road in front of the development and a six-foot wide sidewalk must be on the subdivision side of the vegetative buffer.
The guidelines for conservation subdivisions require that 40 percent of the property in a conservation subdivision be open space.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other planning and zoning business, the council:
•unanimously approved a request from Gary Morgan to rezone 0.532 acre at 168 Elm Street from M-1 to R-1 to locate a single family residence. Morgan spoke on the request at the work session last week and said he plans to sell the property to someone interested in constructing a home on it.
•unanimously approved a request from Marcia Bryan to annex 79.42 acres along the Middle Oconee River and part of the proposed Bryan farm development into the city.