News from Madison County...

MARCH 17, 2004


Madison County
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OPINIONS
Farnk Gillespie
How can a tag be ‘too patriotic?’
A small group of people who identify themselves as environmentalists are objecting to a new Georgia tag.
The state has included a specialty tag to support non game endangered species. The tag depicts a bald eagle in front of the U.S. Flag. The environmentalists object to the flag, they say, because it is too patriotic!

Zach Mitcham
In honor of Mr. Jere Ayers
Mr. Jere Ayers just turned 90.
But he is by no means retired from being a fixture in this community. The long-time newspaperman is at commissioners’ meetings, at civic club events, at most any newsworthy event in this county.


SPORTS
Tough course awaits Raider golfers at Warrior Invitational
MCHS downs Elbert County by 27 strokes Thursday
The Raider golf team will tackle one of the most challenging courses it will see this year when it takes part in the 32-team Warrior Invitational at Skitt Mountain Saturday.


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
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.

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The Madison County Journal
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Mr. Jere Ayers, owner of The Danielsville Monitor and The Comer News, takes his hat off for a photograph on the porch of his Danielsville office Monday afternoon. Mr. Ayers was recently recognized as the Rotary Club’s “Citizen of the Year.”

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.
The well-known newspaperman was born in 1914 and his parents bought the paper in 1915. He was born the third of four children, with two older brothers and a younger sister.
Mr. Ayers graduated with a BA from Mercer University in 1936 and went on to earn a law degree from the University of Georgia, but instead of taking the bar exam, he enlisted in the Navy in 1942. He was stationed in Bermuda and Queensland, Australia.
His time in the Navy gave him the opportunity to go back to school, all expenses paid. He decided to go back to UGA and study journalism. During all of this, he helped his family with the newspaper and was very active in the Madison County community.
In 1952, he was elected to public office and served as a state representative from 1953 to 1956. Afterwards, he focused on the newspaper.
But he has had many interests in his life. For instance, he has faithfully served in his church, Meadow Baptist, his entire life. In his younger years, he learned to play the violin. And in 1940, he became a Justice of the Peace.
He has been a charter club member in several organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Madison County Rotary Club. He has also been recognized for being a member of the Free Masons and Comer Lions Club for over 50 years.
Mr. Ayers has received countless awards for his own works and the support his paper has given the community. For instance, he was named “Rotarian of the Year” in 2000 and 2002.
Editor’s note: Most of this story was originally printed in an article by Jennifer Lester on the front page of last week’s Comer News and Danielsville Monitor. The photo of Mr. Ayers in his Navy uniform also comes courtesy of The Comer News and Danielsville Monitor.


Drawing new lines
New maps split Madison Co. into two House, two Senate districts
Three federal judges issued new state district maps this week, leading to changes in representation for Madison County.
The new maps will be used in this year’s elections, but could be changed yet again during next year’s legislative session.
In the senate, all of Madison County, except for one precinct, will be covered by District 47, which is now served by Sen. Ralph Hudgens. With the changes, Sen. Brian Kemp, District 45, would represent only one precinct in Madison County.
Sen. Hudgens, who said he plans to seek re-election, said the new map will have him representing many 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...Anything they did to my district, it had to be better. I represented five whole counties and parts of 11 others. Now, I’ll have one whole county and parts of four others.”
Sen. Kemp’s district will cover Oglethorpe, Oconee and Clarke counties and the 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 think it is the best thing to try and get counties together. I think it will be good for Georgia.”
Kemp said he plans to seek re-election.
As for the House of Representatives, the majority of Madison County is in District 78, which is now served by Rep. Tom McCall. The northern portion of the county will also be in District 23, now served by Rep. Alan Powell.
District 76, represented by Bob Smith, will no longer include Madison County.


Second Fortson murder trial set to start Monday
A mistake in the jury selection process has given convicted killer Tracy Lea Fortson a new trial. Because of the amount of publicity surrounding the original trial, the new effort has been moved to Effingham County beginning this Monday, March 22.
In July 2001, a Madison County jury took three hours of deliberation to convict Fortson of murdering her boyfriend, Doug Benton, and hiding his body in a horse trough filled with concrete. Fortson was sentenced to life in prison.
In October of last year the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that an error in the jury selection process denied Fortson a fair trial and ordered that a new trial be conducted. The error occurred when Judge Lindsay Tise agreed to remove a juror from the trial. When the list of jurors was presented to attorneys for final strikes, the juror was still on the list and defense attorney Tom Camp used one of his strikes to remove her.
Benton was last seen alive at his Colbert home on June 5, 2000. He was reported missing by neighbors who realized that his exotic birds had not been given food and water. Several birds were already dead.
Two weeks later the manager of a large farm in rural Oglethorpe County went into an area of the farm preserved for hunting to retrieve his daughters damaged four wheeler. While there, he noticed sunlight reflecting off a metal object in the woods. He investigated the light and found a new, six-foot horse watering trough filled with concrete. When the trough was opened, Benton’s body was found.
Investigators quickly established that Benton’s girlfriend, Tracy Fortson had purchased a new horse trough, bags of Quick Crete and a shower curtain similar to those used to conceal the body. Fortson is a body builder, avid hunter and a former deputy sheriff..
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.


School district changes put on hold
Plans to alter Madison County’s school districts have been put on hold for at least one year.
The board of education voted Tuesday night to accept the recommendation of school superintendent Keith Cowne that the plan be tabled until next fall’s attendance figures are available.
“I am impressed with the sincerity of the concerns expressed by parents,” Cowne said.
Parents of affected students filed approximately 40 statements with the board, with all but a few expressing their concerns about the plan. Among the concerns they expressed were disruption of their students educational environment, after school problems, increased travel time and a fear that continuing growth in the county will require another round of changes in the near future.
No changes will be made for the next school year. Attendance figures this fall will be compared to current figures to get a better view of growth patterns in the county. The problem of imbalance in the schools will be reviewed for the 2005-2006 year.
Three parents who had been scheduled to speak at the Tuesday board meeting withdrew from the agenda once the announcement had been made.
PRINCIPAL TRANSFERS
In a separate matter, two parents opposed the transfer of Hull-Sanford Elementary School assistant principal Lynne Jeffers. They expressed the love their children have for Ms. Jeffers and reminded the board that Ms. Brenda Moon, Hull-Sanford’s principal, is retiring and that the transfer of Ms. Jeffers would result in a completely new administration at the school.
HONORING MR. BRAMLETT
In other actions, a committee of the MCHS Class of 1956 presented plans to the board to build a monument to Madison County High School’s first principal, D.W. Bramlett, at the new athletic complex. They suggested that the complex be named for Mr. Bramlett who died earlier this year.
PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS
Also Tuesday, the board agreed to accept offers to buy two unneeded tracts of school property at appraised values. Merchants and Farmers Bank offered to buy school property bordering Hwy. 98 in Ila, and the board of commissioners offered to purchase two acres adjacent to Hull-Sanford school for a new EMS station.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the board voted to modify the school calendar by not making up two days missed due to bad weather. They approved a letter opposing making Hope Thompson Road a one-way street. They put two policy revisions on the table for a required 30-day review and approved six variance requests.
They approved several routine personnel recommendations, but took no action on selecting a new head varsity football coach and two new principals, one at Colbert Elementary School and one at the middle school. The board expects to have a called meeting within the next two weeks to consider these positions.

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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.


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.
IDA secretary Marvin White passed out a proposed contract with Colonial during the IDA’s regular meeting Monday night. White declined to provide a copy of the proposed contract to The Journal.
White told IDA members that the contract “needs some additions and changes worked out” with Colonial before being signed and he encouraged members to look it over before a called meeting Monday morning to review it.
The IDA will meet at 8 a.m. Monday in the Chamber office in the old courthouse to make a decision on the contract.
Colonial 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.
And a little over a week ago the Authority approved an approximate 12-mile water line route that they contend will lay the infrastructure for future growth, improve fire protection services for many county residents and essentially form a link of 12-inch water lines between Madico Park, Colbert and Danielsville systems.
The total estimated cost of the project is $1.7 million, with Colonial Pipeline’s anticipated $950,000 payment on the project being more than half the cost to fund it.
In a separate matter Monday, the IDA tabled a decision on whether to accept the cost of upgrading a 1,500-foot water line from Hwy. 72 to the entrance to South Creek Subdivision (formerly named Spratlin Mill Estates) on Spratlin Mill Road.
The board members plan to meet to discuss the matter again during their called meeting Monday morning.
The board decided to postpone a decision on accepting the proposal until they receive a cost comparison price for PVC pipe for a portion of the line.
While developers Ross Kesterson and Carl Beavers have the responsibility of paying for a standard six-inch line from the county’s water system to their subdivision, the IDA
.For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.