News from Banks County...

APRIL 14, 2004

Banks County

Banks County

Banks County

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Angela Gary
Lots to do this spring, summer
Spring has just arrived and I’m already busy making plans for trips and concerts. When the weather warms up, I’m ready to head to an outdoor concert or other fun outing.

Shar Porier
How do you decide ‘enough is enough?

Sexual harassment. Who’d have thought such a thing could still happen? It’s deja-vu for me. I’ve been there, as have many, many women, faced with the question of what to do. It’s a difficult situation and unless you’ve been there, you can’t imagine the turmoil.

Banks County hosting all but one match in April
Hammer’s Glen is home to the Banks County Club Leopards and the course for this year’s region tourney, which will be held April 26.

News from
Pat Bell to run for chairman of BOC
Former state representative will run as Republican candidate
Pat Bell has announced her intentions to run for chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. She will run as a Republican and likely face incumbent chairman Harold Fletcher in the July balloting.

JCWSA opposes HB 489 ‘erosion of service area’
The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority voted 3-1 Thursday night to issue a notice of its opposition to the erosion of its service area under House Bill 489 service delivery negotiations.

News from
Let’s play ball!
Opening day of youth baseball, softball set for Saturday
Have the gloves been broken in?
Have the eyes been trained to watch the ball meet the bat?
Are infielders dreaming of diving backhanded grabs in the dirt?
Let’s hope, yes, to all of the above.

Madison County BOC adds member to tax board
Tax assessor chairman, chief appraiser write letters to the editor concerning ongoing conflict.
Madison County commissioners added a member to the county board of assessors following a brief closed meeting Monday.
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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Making Space

Fourteen-month-old Alyssa Bogus makes more room in her basket by pulling out the grass at the egg hunt Sunday in Homer. The Garrison Family egg hunt is a tradition that was started by business man O.S. Garrison 45 years ago. His grandson,Mack Garrison, now carries on the tradition. “It was his way of paying back the community, giving back to the people of Banks County,” M. Garrison said about his grandfather. “We’re at 45, now I’m hoping for 50.” For additional photos see this weeks Banks County News.

Road named for Garrison
DOT honors Buster Garrison at ceremony Mon. in Homer
The Homer Bypass in Banks County was officially dedicated by the Georgia Department of Transportation on Monday as the M.E. ‘Buster’ Garrison Bypass.
A large crowd of family and friends attended the special ceremony, with several speaking on the late Buster Garrison. State transportation board member Steve Reynolds, a native of Banks County and long-time friend of Garrison, hosted the dedication. Several others spoke on Garrison’s commitment and service to Banks County.
Among those who spoke was Homer city clerk Carol Ayers.
“I have known Buster all of my life,” she said. “After becoming city clerk, we became very close. He loved his family and he loved Homer. When I think of Buster, I think of his words ‘remember when.’”
Garrison served as the Homer mayor for 38 years and was in the lumber business. He played a pivotal role in the formation of the Banks County Public Library, as well as helping to establish the Herbert Garrison Civic Center in honor of his late brother. He also served on the BJC Hospital Authority, the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Banks County Clean and Beautiful Commission.
Garrison was also the long-time host of the “World’s Largest Easter Egg Hunt” in Homer which was in the Guinness Book of World Records. He was also recipient of the Banks County “Good Citizen” award and was named an honorary and life-time member of the Banks County Chamber of Commerce and was recognized by Gov. Zell Miller for his public service.
The portion of the road that was named in honor of Garrison is State Route 15/U.S. 441 beginning at County Road 7 and ending at County Road 105. District engineer Todd Long said the $41 million road improvement program is one of the biggest projects in Northeast Georgia. The project will complete the widening of Hwy. 441 through Banks County.
“Right now, we are paving near the intersection with State Route 51,” Long said.
Plans are to open the bypass by late summer.

BOC begins budget hearings
Staff, computers and cars among
items department heads request
The Banks County Board of Commissioners began budget hearings this week and met with some of the department heads to hear their needs in the coming year.
The county is on a calendar year, which begins on July 1. Final action on the budget is expected by mid-June.
The BOC met with nine department heads Monday. Plans were to finish the budget hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week but the remaining sessions were postponed. A new schedule has not been set yet.
A brief outline on the discussion held with the department heads include:
Clerk of courts Tim Harper asked that a part-time employee be changed to full-time status. The BOC agreed and asked if the person would help fill in for other departments who have people out for vacation and illness. Harper agreed.
Harper also requested $4,600 for deed, plat and minute books to last for one year and a shelf system. He added that space is limited in his office and some documents are being moved to other storage areas.
The BOC briefly discussed a proposal to remodel the old jail after the new facility is opened and use it for office space. The commissioner’s office is one that was discussed as possibly being moved to the renovated jail. There has been no official action on this. It is just one option the BOC is considering to help the space problem at the courthouse.
“Space is a problem for everybody,” Harper said. “It isn’t something we can change overnight...I have the last deed book on the shelf that I have room for. Something has to be done.”
BOC chairman Kenneth Brady said: “We are busting at the seams. I realize that.”
There was also some discussion on why the clerk of court budget had a listing for both office expenses and supplies. The board agreed to combine these two under one line item on the budget.
The clerk of court budget is proposed at $179,533, which is up $16,000 over last year’s budget. The majority of that would be in salary and benefits, officials said.
Probate court judge Betty Thomas discussed several salary changes, including one increase that would put an employee slightly over the pay scale for her position. Thomas said the time of service an employee has worked for the county should be considered.
There was also some discussion on the four elections set for the coming year, which will lead to increases in the probate budget. Thomas had requested three new voting machines, but the BOC asked if she could purchase one next year and then add the others in the next two years. She agreed but pointed out that there is currently no back-up voting machine and that two voting districts need a new one.
Senior Citizen’s Center director Janet Galloway spoke on the request for her department, which includes a new dish washer.
On Monday morning, the board also discussed the BOC/courthouse budget. It was reported that the auditor has requested that the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau budget be moved to a separate line item on the budget. Commissioner Pat Westmoreland asked whether the county has a contract with the CVB. He asked that it be reviewed and a meeting be set up with the various parties to discuss it. The board members also said they haven’t received a monthly financial statement, as they had requested, from the CVB in several months.
On a related matter, Westmoreland said the money for the marketing program at the Tanger Outlet Center should come from the CVB funds, since the Banks Crossing area would benefit from the program.
There was also some discussion on the new pay scale. All department heads have been asked to base their recommendations for raises on the new pay scale. For example, those whose salary is far below their set pay scale can get up to a seven percent raise. Those who are already above their set pay scale would get one percent, or maybe even no raise, until their salary is in line with their set rate.
“When you deviate from it, you might as well throw it out the door,” Brady said. “...Budgets are hard. If anyone thinks they’re not, they need to come stand in our shoes...You have to make decisions and you know somebody is going to get mad at you.”
In other business, it was reported that the unemployment tax has increased from $15,000 to $60,000.
“When the states make cuts, the counties get hit,” Brady said.
Tax commissioner Margaret Ausburn asked for a computer and to be hooked up to the network. Digests have to be electronically transmitted to the state office. Brady suggested she use the money left over from this year’s budget to fund the new equipment. Brady commented that she held the budget down, allowing her to do things this year.
Brady asked about the status on the overdue tax bills, so that the county and the school system can set the millage rates. Ausburn said she anticipates bills going out in May. Residents will be allowed 60 days to pay the bills.
Chamber of commerce director Rick Billingslea and president Tammy Kennedy asked for an increase of $5,000 in funding for the 2005 fiscal year.
“Hold some fund-raisers to supplement the hard-earned tax dollars, we can’t pick-up what the state cuts out,” Brady said. “Tax payers won’t stand for it.”
Billingslea said the fund-raiser from last year didn’t do well and cost the chamber to record a $10,000 deficit. He said the group is currently working on a county map and plans to raise money at the Heritage Days festival.
“We are trying to offer good services to the community,” Billingslea said.
Brady said chambers in surrounding counties don’t receive the same support from the county.
Billingslea said the city of Homer was looking to help with the funding.
Kennedy, director of the adult literacy center, also spoke on the budget for the center. The budget came in the same as the previous year at $2,000. Kennedy said she wants to use the money from the previous year to buy some books for instruction.
District attorney Tim Madison said small salary increases from a pay schedule study based on experience levels were included in the budget. Madison said Barrow and Jackson counties are already adjusted on schedule. Madison cut down the educational/ professional development budget by $500. The total budget is up $7,000.
Director Deidra Moore spoke on the E-911-EMA budget request. She has two big items she wants to complete. One is a communication officer-secretary to help her accomplish the day to day operations of the center. She will offer it in-house first and wants someone who is certified and has had necessary training.
Secondly, Moore wants a used vehicle for the department. Her current vehicle had 193,000 miles before the odometer stopped working. She budgeted $20,000 for the vehicle, which she hopes will have four-wheel-drive. The commissioners said they could get her one for around $16,000 but left the budget the same.
Moore removed $5,000 from her budget that was allocated for grant expenses. Her total budget was down more than 11 percent.
The E-911/ EMA budget pulls from dedicated funds from land line and cell phone fees.
The budget hearing with the tax assessors, Connie Garrison, Nancy Sims and Len Dalton, was the only one of the nine already completed that was not held on Monday. It was held during a called BOC meeting on April 7.
The proposed budget includes $500 for vehicle repairs for a Yukon and Jeep Cherokee. Garrison said she needs a gas card for the Jeep Cherokee. A photographer currently working on last year’s digest uses one of the vehicles as transportation to allow him to take pictures. She said he should be finished in May and that the vehicle will be freed up then, but that she needs a vehicle now to allow one person to ride the roads and pick up properties.
“We need a person able to be in the county, picking up properties weekly,” she said. “What has happened is, we have a digest due now and we know penalties are coming October 1, I want accessibility so we don’t have to sit.”
Brady said the tax assessors can use his county vehicle.
“I’ll leave it here in the morning and you can have it,” he said. “We’re trying to fulfill every request, we don’t want to prevent the tax assessors from anything. I hope I have shown you that we do support you.”
Garrison said she also needs a new full-time employee to start immediately. Chairman Brady, along with commissioners Westmoreland and Rickey Cain, looked at the current budget and said there is funding and told her to hire someone as a full-time temporary employee. They said the decision to make that person permanent or not will come later.
The remaining departments to meet with the BOC in budget hearings include: building inspection, planning and enforcement, coroner, utilities, extension service, registrar, EMS, magistrate court, recycling, road, recreation, sheriff, public health, the department of family and children services, mental health and library.


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Qualifying coming up for county offices
Dates set April 26-30
Qualifying for several Banks County offices will be held from 9 a.m. on Monday, April 26, through noon on Friday, April 30.
Seats to be filled on the Banks County Board of Education include: Post 1, currently held by Neal Brown; Post 2, held by Ron Gardiner; and Post 4, held by John Williams. The qualifying fee for Post 1 is $64.50 and the fee for posts two and four is $60.
Other offices and qualifying fees are as follows: board of commission chairman, $1,080; clerk of superior court, $1,233.65; tax commissioner, $1,113.01; probate judge, $1,095.36; sheriff, $1,432.26; chief magistrate, $1,095.36; coroner, $72; and county surveyor, $18.
Qualifying for all candidates will be done in the office of probate judge Betty Thomas. For additional information, call Thomas at 677-6250 or Billy Sears at 677-3210.
The primary and non-partisan election is set for Tuesday, July 20, and if a run-off is necessary, it will be held on Aug. 10. The General Election will be Nov. 2, with the run-off scheduled for Nov. 23.

Fire training tower to open with ceremony
Baldwin Fire Chief Joe Roy has announced the commemoration and opening of the four-story training tower at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 17.
The schedule includes the recognition of state officials, including Rep. Jeanette Jamieson, who helped provide funds, and appreciation to all the businesses who donated materials.
The department will also put on a demonstration of the tower’s potential to train firefighters in many aspects of their job, including high angle rescue.

Banks adult learning center hit by budget cuts
The Banks County Adult Learning Center recently recieved notice that the annual budget would be cut in half.
Tammy Kennedy, center director, said the cuts will mean the center will be open only part-time.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” Kennedy said. “I haven’t given up yet. Our enrollment is right at 100 students of all ages. They have been working so hard to get their GEDs. I’m just afraid of what might happen if the center is open only during such limited hours. It could discourage them.”
Kennedy has called upon Rep. Jeanette Jamieson with the hope that she might be able to help with the state adult learning office to provide funding to keep the center open full-time. The budget directive came from the region’s adult learning office in Hall County.
For more information, contact Kennedy at 677-4302.

Hammer’s Glen owners seek annexation
The owners of Hammer’s Glen Golf Course want all of their property to be in the city limits of Homer.
Butch Hansen and Glen Hammer, who purchased Scales Creek Golf Course in the fall of 2003, have requested that 193.54 acres at the course be annexed into the town limits. They spoke on the request and plans for the golf course at the city council meeting Tuesday night. The Homer council will set a public hearing on the annexation request and vote on it in the next few months.
“We want this to prosper,” Hammer said. “We don’t want to be considered outsiders.”
He said improvements at the course have included redoing the bunkers and “rolling and filling” the greens.
“We will have the finest golf course in North Georgia over the next six months to one year,” he said.
Their goal is to host the Georgia PGA championship. Future plans also include building a clubhouse that can be used for social events.
Hammer also said the use of the course has increased from an average of 15 rounds per day to 75 rounds per day.
A residential subdivision is also being developed at the site and plans for the first home are already under way. Glen said he has also been contacted by a company that wants to provide sewer to the area. He said he would provide more information to the town on this as he gets it.
Mayor Doug Cheek said: “You’re an asset to the community. We look forward to seeing things grow out there.”
In other business at the meeting:
•Mayor Cheek reported that progress is moving forward on the road improvement project for Thompson Street. The town has all of the rights-of-way needed except for four sites and they are working on acquiring these.
•the mayor also reported that the town has received a $500,000 grant to be used for downtown improvements, including sidewalks and a streetscape. He said the town is looking for other grants to assist with this project.
•it was reported that the “working drawings” for the new city hall should be available by the next council meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 11, at city hall.