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MARCH 17, 2004


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OPINIONS
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SPORTS
CHS Netters Await Matches With Social Circle, ACS
If history is any indicator, both Commerce boys’ and girls’ tennis teams are eying good opportunities to nab sub-region wins as they’ll take on Social Circle Thursday on the road at 4 p.m.

Back in the swing of things
Dragon bats help spur three wins in last four games played
There’s nothing like a winning streak to cure all.
The Jefferson baseball team responded with three consecutive wins following a rough 1-2 opening to the season and, despite dropping a game Tuesday night, is now 4-3 overall on the season.

Rivalry weekend lies ahead for Diamond Cats
Five-game homestand begins Fri. vs. Madison, followed by rematch with Dragons on Sat.
Now a good two weeks into the schedule, the Jackson County baseball team is finding out what it is going to take to win on the diamond this season, but so far the process has been a difficult one.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
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.

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.

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PARADISE PLAQUE GOES UP

Joe Savage, City of Jefferson street department, put up a historic marker in the Paradise African Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery this week. The church’s cemetery has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

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.
Sen. Hudgens, who said he plans to seek re-election, said the new map will have him representing a lot more of new people.
“They are not strangers to me,” he said. “I know lots of folks in Barrow County. I will have all of Barrow County and most of Walton County.”
Hudgens will also serve all of Madison County except for one precinct, which will be in the district represented by Sen. Brian Kemp.
“Anything they did to my district, it had to be better,” Sen. Hudgens said. “I represented five whole counties and parts of 11 others. Now, I’ll have one whole county and parts of four others.”
Hudgens said some of the precincts in Jackson County are split, which he has discussed with the reapportionment office.
“They are looking at this,” he said. “It’s not easy to handle split precincts.”
Sen. Kemp’s area, District 45, would no longer be in Jackson County. His district will cover Oglethorpe, Oconee and Clarke counties and one precinct in Madison County.
“I think the court drawn maps are what we’ve been asking for for the most part,” he said. “They are fair and square districts. I enjoyed serving Jackson County but I felt like it was ridiculous for the county to be served by three senators. I think it is the best think to try and get counties together. I thing it will be good for Georgia.”
Kemp said he plans to seek re-election.
HOUSE CHANGES
As for the House of Representatives, the majority of Jackson County would continue to be in District 25, now served by Rep. Chris Elrod. A portion of the county, on the eastern end, would be in District 78.
District 24, now served by Rep. Warren Massey, would no longer be in Jackson County.
The new map will reportedly be used this election year but may be changed again next year.


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.
The BOC agreed Monday night to hire Nelsnick Enterprise Inc., Athens, to provide the services. The project will take approximately three months and the company will be paid $60 per hour, for a maximum of $27,000. The money will come from the county’s contingency fund.
The BOC has asked the company to analyze the “revenues, expenditures, budget planning, budget practices and other standard operating procedures” of the county water and sewerage authority.
According to the “scope of service,” “The primary focus will be on the separation, tracking and reporting of the annual operating program for the sale of water and sewer services from the capital construction program to assure the proper allocation of costs and to minimize the commingling of annual operating funds and capital construction funds.”
Commissioner Tony Beatty asked about the company’s experience in this type of work. County manager Al Crace said they have done similar projects for Gainesville, Athens and other governments in North Georgia.
Commissioner Stacey Britt asked if the water authority would provide the records needed for the study. County manager Al Crace said things are in a “bit of a disarray” at the authority and it may be difficult to get the records. He added that the BOC could file a Georgia Open Records request to get the information. He added that the authority’s attorney would have an obligation to provide the documents if an open records request is filed.
Crace added that he is not optimistic that the records would be provided freely and said some of the board members of the water authority are not given financial records and other information.
Crace agreed to send the water authority a letter confirming that the project is under way and to remind them that they can participate at any time. The authority was given an opportunity to participate in the project earlier but declined to do so.
‘RANT’ FROM BESHARA
Also at the meeting, Beshara gave what he called a “general rant” about recent news articles about the BOC and water authority. He said there have been several recent articles about the conflict between the two groups and they don’t tell the “real story” about what is going on.
Beshara said that the most recent conflict has arisen because the water authority has informed the BOC that it can not pay the payments on the Bear Creek Reservoir, in the amount of some $170,000,” Beshara said. Beshara said water authority superintendent Jerry Waddell told county finance director John Hulsey that the water authority didn’t have the money to make the payments.
“When this board questioned that, the water authority changed the story to they just wanted to not make the payment for the first three months of ‘04 and then catch it all up in May or June, just like last year,” Beshara said. “The people of Jackson County deserve to know that this is a different situation from last year.
“Last year, the water authority and then-chairman Elton Collins decided not to make the payments on Bear Creek because they felt this board was harassing them. This year, they say they can not make the payments because they don’t have the money. Last year was because we were harassing them. This year is because they don’t have the money. But now they are saying it’s just like last year.
“It might be the case that in 2003 the water authority didn’t have the money but chose to take that opportunity to somehow publicly slam this board and divert the attention from that the fact that operations were not getting enough revenue to make the payments. There is more to the story than what you read in the newspaper. If you want to know the real truth, look at the books of the authority. Don’t read The Jackson Herald and believe what they print as the truth..You are the taxpayers...Y’all deserve to know the truth.”


Rezoning for 400-plus homes in Pendergrass gets OK
City calls for 44 conditions on project, QCPC calls for eight
A rezoning request that could bring some 420 homes to 130 acres in Pendergrass got approval with eight conditions Tuesday night from the Quad Cities Planning Commission. Following the QCPC recommendation, the Pendergrass City Council voted to approve the rezoning via a variance during a called meeting Tuesday evening. The city set 44 conditions to the project, including some that involved providing services for Pendergrass.
The development proposed by Talmo Developers LLC would be located on two tracts — a 100-acre one and a 30-acre one — on John B. Brooks Road and State Hwy. 332. The QCPC granted the rezoning from M-1 to R-1 with conditions related to water and sewer, sidewalks, sodded yards, house sizes, tennis courts/clubhouse and a homeowners’ association for a single-family, site-built home subdivision. The homes proposed would be in the $120,000 to $160,000 price range, with minimum size requirements of 1,600 square feet for one story and 1,800 square feet for a two stories.
According to Mark Tolbert, the Pendergrass representative on QCPC, the city council was calling for 44 different conditions on the project, and had produced a resolution for a variance to the R-1 zoning. While some of the conditions the city was seeking involved stipulations about house size and two-car garages, others involved grading and clearing services and sidewalk repairs for city property.
“Are you asking the planning commission to make this part of its recommendation?” QCPC chairman Larry Benton asked Tolbert. “Some things I don’t think we can do; it would sort of overstep our boundaries...Like number 44 – I don’t see how the planning commission can require a developer to clear an area for the City of Pendergrass. I think some of these are between the city and the developer and a homeowners’ association.”
There was no opposition to the request, and Tolbert made a motion to recommend the rezoning. It was approved unanimously and Tolbert and the developers left the QCPC to attend the Pendergrass meeting.
OTHER QCPC ACTION
In other business, the QCPC:
•approved Faye Griffin’s request to rezone 2.08 acres at 582 B. Whitfield Road from M-H to R-1 to divide the property into two tracts for two site-built single-family homes. The matter will come before Arcade City Council at a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 12, followed by a voting session at 7 p.m.
•approved Ron Pirkle’s request to rezone 0.507 acres located on Hwy. 15 from R-2 to C-2 for office/retail space. The area, at the junction of Hwys. 15 and 82, is already being developed for a car wash and convenience store. The matter will come before Jefferson City Council during its work session at 6 p.m. Monday, April 12, at the club house.
•approved Gerald A. Mitton’s request to rezone 1.0 acre on Business Hwy. 129 from R-3 to C-2 to be sold later for commercial business. The matter will come before the Jefferson City Council at its April 12 work session.
•held a work session to continue discussion of the QCPC Land Use Management Code.


QCPC sets tree replacement guides for new developments
Larger parking lots will have islands
In an effort to keep some tree canopy intact and to discourage clear-cutting, the Quad Cities Planning Commission is establishing a tree replacement procedure for new developments, stating that one tree will be planted for every one that is removed in the land clearing process.
Jerry Weitz, the consultant who has been developing a cohesive Land Use Management Code with QCPC, told the group Tuesday night that there are two extremes for a tree protection ordinance — “absolutely nothing to an ordinance that requires a full-fledged arborist on staff....We’ve fallen somewhere in between with an ordinance that is reasonably easy to administer.”
The new tree protection ordinance will apply to new developments of five acres or more, but not to detached, single-family residences, Weitz said.
A tree survey will be required early in the process of approving a development and Weitz said “tree save” areas can be established on plats.
QCPC member Nancy Pollock cautioned that “unless someone knows up front that a tree is protected, I don’t think we can tell someone they can’t cut a tree on their own property.”
“Most people wouldn’t think to ask,” added Gina Mitsdarffer, QCPC zoning administrator. But she said that for new developments, a tree survey will be part of the process; more “credit” for tree density will be given for larger trees, thus potentially encouraging the developer to leave existing trees.
For developments that will required tree replacement, the QCPC discussed having replacement options for public lands, such as parks, as well as on private land that is permanently protected through a conservation easement, so that if there are too many trees to replace on a developer’s property, the trees can be located elsewhere.
“This (ordinance) would require a one-to-one replacement of trees taken out,” Weitz said. “But if a whole site is wooded, (a developer) may have to take out so many trees it is not possible to have a one-to-one replacement.”
Also under the ordinance, new parking areas with more than 10 spaces will be required to have an island with a tree every 10 spaces in a row.
“That’s a big addition to quality in my mind,” Weitz said. “You don’t have just a sea of asphalt.”
The chapter in the LUMC on tree protection includes a list of acceptable trees and vegetation to be used in new developments.
“My concern is about just having a wall of Leyland Cypresses and no mix of vegetation,” Mitsdarffer said of developments that will have to be planted.
Weitz said that the evergreens, while they don’t have to be required, do grow quickly to screen incompatible land uses.
Barbara Johnson, a member of the county’s greenspace committee, said that she would like to see more specifications for uses of native mixes.
She added that she would like to see QCPC “extend the applicability of this (ordinance). It doesn’t take many large developments to cut away the tree canopy.” And Johnson added that in some cases, as happened recently at a Jefferson business, a single owner can cut down a lot of trees.
“Having nothing and going to something is better than nothing at all,” Mitsdarffer said of the QCPC’s addition of a tree protection ordinance.
QCPC member John Swaim added: “We can go back and add some teeth if we see some areas are being manipulated.”
AGRICULTURAL USES EXEMPT
While agricultural and horticultural uses, such as planting and harvesting pine trees or cutting trees to expand a pasture area, are exempt from the regulations, Weitz emphasized that a person cannot clear-cut an area obstensibly for agricultural use to bypass the tree replacement requirements and then seek to develop the acreage almost immediately.
“If they say they are clear-cutting for forestry, but then come back and want to develop it, they will have to wait a while,” Weitz said.
Unless the area is replanted, clear-cut acreage for forestry or other such uses cannot be developed for two years under the regulations.


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1862 Tombstone Holds A ‘Murder’ Mystery
Employees of the Commerce Public Works Department have a mystery on their hands – kind of a murder mystery.
Cutting brush under the Georgia Power right of way at the corner of North Broad Street and Orchard Circle, Timmy Anglin and Ralph Smith came across a grave marker lying on its side.
“J.S. Smith, born in Rabun County, Sept. 17, 1862. Murdered in Hall County Jail July 14, 1879,” the marker reads. On the front of the 10-inch by 10-inch by 40-inch marker are what appear to be grains of wheat. Etched on the other three sides, barely visible, are flowers, and there is a poem on one side.
“We don’t know what it is doing here. Was this a cemetery?” Anglin asks.
It could be. Nearby is another grave marker, partly destroyed by previous mowing possibly. It advises that it is the marker of “Infant of Mr. and Mrs. Frnak (sic) El ...” the rest of the line chipped away. The date is 1926.
Also, there are other pieces of stone that could signify grave markers, but none readily visible that are cut rock or etched rock.
Anglin has known about the first marker for 15 years, having run across it on another brush-cutting visit. At that time, he says, it was right up under the Georgia Power tower supporting the transmission lines. This time, it was 10 feet away.
“I turned it over to Daniel Strickland (late department head) and I thought he’d taken care of it,” Anglin reported.
Anglin and Smith took the markers to the city shop; Anglin said he plans to check local sources – and then Hall County, to see what records might exist of the man allegedly murdered in the Hall County Jail.
“That doesn’t mean he was a prisoner. He could have been a deputy,” Anglin points out.


Smith to retire
EMS director to step down after 30 years
EMS Director Dwain Smith announced his retirement at the Jackson County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night.
Dwain is retiring after serving the county for 30 years. He began working with the county in 1974 as civil defense director. His last day on the job will be Friday, May 14.
“I plan to purse other goals, spend time with family and take the opportunity to catch up on some things I previously did not have time to do,” Smith said at the BOC meeting Monday.
BOC chairman Harold Fletcher thanked Smith for the job he has done for the citizens of Jackson County. The crowd gathered for the BOC meeting gave Smith a standing ovation during Fletcher’s remarks.
“We’ve come a long way,” Fletcher said. “...We’ve expanded from three locations to the five locations to more adequately provide for the needs of the citizens of this county. As you travel throughout the state, you will find right quickly that Jackson County’s EMS is highly rated. It’s one of the best in the state. A lot of that goes to you (Smith) for your contribution and service to this county.”


Subdivision, land development code review ahead Tues.
The Quad Cities Planning Commission will hold another work session at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 23, at the Jefferson clubhouse to continue review of a draft Land Use Management Code.
Subdivision and land development regulations will be the primary topic for the meeting, said consultant Jerry Weitz, adding that Lee Walton will also present information at the meeting. Planning boards and commissions and their regulation will also be discussed.
If the QCPC does not complete its LUMC review Tuesday night, it will meet again March 30.