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MARCH 17, 2004


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OPINIONS
Angela Gary
Passing on a loveof country music
I love country music. I grew up on rock and roll and have ticket stubs from Prince and INXS concerts from the 1980s. But something changed as I got older. I found myself tuning in to Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley more and more often.

Editorial
Time to move on
It’s time for the Banks County Board of Commissioners to forget about their differences and move forward.
An effort to change the form of government to a county administrator format was voted down by a majority of the voters in the recent election. There has been talk of holding another election with yet another proposed change. This isn’t the answer.


SPORTS
Tennis season-opener
The Banks County tennis teams traveled to Dawsonville Thursday for the season-opener.
Lady Leopard netters won as a team, 4-1. The boys’ lost 3-2.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
Re-drawing the lines
New district maps bring changes for Jackson County
Three federal judges issued new state district maps this week leading to changes for the representation for Jackson County.
Most of Jackson County will now be covered by District 47, which is now served by Sen. Ralph Hudgens. Portions of the northern and western portions of Jackson County would be in District 46, the area now represented by Sen. Casey Cagle.

BOC consultant to analyze water authority
Beshara ‘rants’ about news coverage of issue
A consultant has been hired by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners to look into the overall operation of the county water and sewerage authority.


News from
MADISON
Ayers named ‘Citizen of the Year’
See ‘In honor of Mr. Jere Ayers’ on Page 4A of this weeks Madison County Journal.
Long-time Madison County newspaperman Mr. Jere Ayers was recognized this month as the Rotary Club’s “Citizen of the Year.”
Mr. Ayers, who celebrated his 90th birthday March 5, is owner of Madison County Newspapers, which includes The Comer News and The Danielsville Monitor.

IDA plans to finalize Colonial contract Monday
The Industrial Authority hopes to have a nearly $1 million contract signed with Colonial Pipeline Monday morning, a contract they hope will not only provide water to a contaminated zone in the Colbert Grove Church Road area, but propel the IDA into a major expansion of county water services.

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Home destroyed in Sunday blaze

Banks County firefighters worked the hot spots after extinguishing a fire Sunday morning at the Butler residence on Borders Road. Firefighters from Districts 3, 2 and 5 were called to the scene to put out the blaze. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Information obtained from the Butlers by fire department officials indicate it was possible the fire started with a space heater in one of the bedrooms. The parents were awakened by their seven-year-old daughter and all escaped the intense heat and smoke without injury. The family’s dachshund and a kitten died in the fire.


BOC sued over methadone clinic
Citing discrimination against disabled people, Sylvanus Memorial Treatment Centers Inc. has filed a lawsuit against the Banks County Board of Commission chairman Kenneth Brady, commissioners Pat Westmoreland and Rickey Cain and zoning administrator Keith Covington for denying a request to open a methadone treatment center in the county’s industrial park.
The suit states the corporation planned to open the “Robert W. Dail Memorial Treatment Center” on Industrial Boulevard to provide treatment for an estimated 300 individuals addicted to opiate-type narcotics. The clinic would have provided methadone, a synthetic opioid, used to treat addiction. The clinic in the county is deemed necessary for the treatment of one John Doe, a Banks County resident, according to the lawsuit.
The suit, filed February 12, claims Sylvanus leased two acres of property and a building at 230 Industrial Park Drive, zoned C-2 (general commercial), from property owner Lamar Hendricks in August.
According to the planning commission office, representatives of Sylvanus came and requested an occupancy permit. It was then discovered the corporation did not have a permit for the renovations. The occupancy permit was denied.
Upon further investigation, Covington found the business would have to apply for a conditional use permit since the current zoning did not include a clinic in C-2 permitted uses. Covington informed the representatives of the problem.
An application for the permit and the necessary letter of intent describing the business purpose was submitted to the planning office and the permit was recommended for approval in November by the planning commission, according to minutes from that meeting.
However, when the matter was brought to the floor of the BOC meeting in December, the conditional use permit was tabled pending further investigation. Minutes of that meeting show Sheriff Charles Chapman, Carmen Adams, district attorney’s office, investigator Kyle Bryant and Ed Lindorme, planning commission board member, spoke against granting the permit.
Lindorme said had he known the intended use of the clinic, the planning commission might have made a different recommendation.
Also in attendance was planning commission board chairman Harold Ivey who said he stood by the planning commission’s decision.
The suit claims the corporation invested $73,000 in the property and “has suffered and will continue to suffer a substantial detriment.” Money has been paid out for state and federal licensing fees, security, administrative and personnel salaries and wages, remodeling and rent.
Attorney David Jones, who represented Sylvanus at the board of commissioners’ meeting, said there was no legal reason to deny the application and that addicted people coming to the clinic are disabled and therefore entitled to every right under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
At the January meeting, the issue was again discussed and a vote was taken. The conditional use was denied by the commissioners.
Attorney Thomas T. Tate states in the suit that the county is discriminating against disabled people by denying the clinic’s permit and license. People who are addicted to opioids are “substantially limited” in major life activities and, so, are “disabled” and have rights under the law that allows access to support and treatment services, he said.
“Defendant Banks County’s actions in denying plaintiff Sylvanus’s permit application and business license application have deprived and limited, and will continue to deprive and limit, disabled persons, such as John Doe, access to treatment and rehabilitation in Banks County, in violation of the Americans With Disability Act and other laws,” he said.
Tate requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction be granted Sylvanus to operate until a final hearing by the federal and state courts. Further, he said county officials abused their discretion and failed to proceed in the manner required by law.
The corporation is seeking monetary compensation for legal fees, interest and any other costs the court may impose.
John Doe and Lamar Hendricks are also participants in the suit.
County officials were unable to comment on the suit on advisement by the county attorney, Randall Frost. Sylvanus attorneys also declined comment.

Development Authorty wants to work more closely with BOC
Problems with fund disbursement and utter confusion over several construction items happening in the county caused the Banks County Development Authority to commit to working more closely with the commissioners in the future.
The first thing the Development Authority addressed at a meeting Thursday morning was credits on Feb. 20 to the monthly statement, credits that reconcile discrepancies addressed at last month’s meeting.
The board was credited $4,928.57 for the Tanger outlet center ad-co-op.
They were given two credits in the amount of $833.33 for payments. The same day $500 was deducted for the Chamber of Commerce Red Carpet tour, which will be held in April.
“Puts it back where it needs to be, where it is supposed to be,” said Jack Banks.
The Development Authority disscussed asking the Banks County Board of Commissioners to set aside funding to be deposited in a separate development authority account. Currently, funding that is set aside for the Development Authority is held in a general fund account.
“Right now, our money is in your general fund and you have given us $15,000, we have to run everything through you, before whatever, and the thing is, if our money had been somewhere else there wouldn’t have been checks written out of it,” said Jack Banks Development Authority chairman.
Pat Westmoreland, BOC member, was present for the meeting and he commented on the issue.
“I don’t have a big problem with putting that into an account as long as we get an itemized report on what is spent, that way we can say ‘yeah that money was spent wisely’ because to the taxpayers we are accountable for that $15,000,” said Westmoreland.
Banks said he didn’t have a problem with showing the BOC where money was spent.
“We don’t want to spend it if we don’t spend it wisely,” Banks said.
Westmoreland said he would like to see copies of all invoices to accompany the bank statements.
The board also discussed preparing a budget for the upcoming year.
“We never know what we will spend money on,” Banks said.
Westmoreland asked the Development Authority for a budget or a plan.
“Whether you spend it or not, you need some type of planning for the coming year,” he said.
Westmoreland left shortly after the meeting began.
ON WORKING
WITH COMMISSIONERS
“I know that it is county money, used as the county commissioners see fit., I don’t have an issue with that, I guess. Why aren’t we all together talking about those issues? Maybe someone on the board does know, but I have not heard anything. All I know is what I’ve read in the paper,” said board member Sam McDuffie. “A major role of this board is to work on infrastructure and move industries into those locations. So why don’t we hear about those things.”
Banks agreed: “Unless we’re invited in, we’re kinda on the outside looking in and finding information on what is going on.”
Jimmy Morrison also commented on the issue.
“You know when I get informed of stuff most of the time is after our meeting when I read it in the paper,” he said.
McDuffie said: “My point was, I hope this next year will involve proactive planning on both sides so that this board and the commission come together and let’s try to help this county in any way we can.”
Horace Campbell asked: “Are you suggesting we nominate someone to attend all of the board of commissioners’ meetings?”
McDuffie said: “We’ve all got to get on the same page, work together for the community. We shouldn’t have to go to the meetings to find out what’s going on. If they are doing something that involves us, they should come to us and if we are doing something that involves them, we need to let them know.”
“You need to attend the next meeting and express that,” Campbell said.

 


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Lula hires a city manager
The Lula City Council recently hired Dennis Bergin to the new position of city manager.
Bergin, who lives in White County, comes to Lula with experience in both city and county government.
He served as city manager of Flowery Branch and was employed with the White County Board of Commissioners, the state board of health and the Georgia Mountains Rural Development Center.
The Lula City Council held a special called meeting on Friday, March 5, and discussed Bergin’s application and references, which were found to be favorable.
Bergin’s salary was set at $40,000 per year, which Mayor Milton Turner said was $10,000 to $20,000 less than the amounts other cities were paying for a city manager.
Bergin said: “This is a great community. A neat place. I’m looking forward to serving the council and residents of Lula.”


Blood drive set at courthouse
A LIFESouth blood drive is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 30, at the Banks County courthouse.
The county courthouse is located at 144 Yonah-Homer Road, Homer.


Leadership Banks planned
Leadership Banks, a program handled by the Fannin Institute at the University of Georgia, is starting a program in Banks County.
Rick Billingslea, Banks County Chamber of Commerce director, asked the Development Authority at a meeting Thursday morning to nominate people who have an interest in the community for participation in the program.
The board chose to nominate: Deidra Moore, Willa Bell Rucker, Jimmy Morrison and Sam McDuffie.
McDuffie said he participated in a similar program a few years ago.
“I know what we went through would be beneficial to everyone in this room,” he said. “It takes time, but I learned more about county functions in that time.”
The Leadership Banks program will meet in the evening on April 15 and all day on April 24. Then the group will meet the third Thursday of each month for 10 months, according to Billingslea.
The program is funded through a government grant. The class will complete a project and once one group graduates the program is run by the alumni, according to Billingslea.
McDuffie said Jackson County has a similar program where all members must be nominated and that in Gwinnett there is a three- year waiting list for the program.