News from Jackson County...

MAY 26, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Jefferson City pool to remain closed this summer
When the Jefferson City Council slashed $383,722 from its proposed 2004 budget in October, one of the more recognizable changes the move would spawn had months before it would begin to be noticed by most.

Blood For Golf
Sandy Creek Offering Free
Greens Fees For Blood Donation
If golf is in your blood, then you’ll have a chance to give some of it this weekend.

A solid spring
Following highest spring turnout in Brock era, Panthers ready for summer
If football is, as many say, a “numbers game,” then Jackson County can consider its program well on the path toward success.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Sewer issues
Illegal dumping causes problems at Baldwin’s treatment plant
Someone has apparently been illegally dumping some nasty stuff in Baldwin’s sewer system and it’s causing problems at the wastewater treatment plant.

A Day at the Fort coming up Saturday
A Day at the Fort will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 29, at Fort Hollingsworth/White House


News from
MADISON
COUNTY
MCHS seniors reflect on high school days
See The Journal’s special graduation section and a full page of MCHS commencement pictures in this weeks Madison County Journal.
Kevin Cash remembered how an enormous tarp covered with soap and water is loads of fun for high school seniors, how taking a teacher’s car and skipping school to get barbecue is “the best, if you don’t get caught” and how one woman can amazingly make 1,870,655 copies for a high school in one year.

Speeders beware:
Speeding motorists on Madison County roads now face a greater possibility of being ticketed.
County commissioners approved a resolution Monday to allow the use of radar guns on county roads. Radar has already been allowed on state highways within the county.

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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Jefferson, Georgia
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JHS CLASS OF 2004

Members of the Jefferson High School class of 2004 turned their tassels and tossed their caps Friday evening. For the story and more photos see this weeks Jackson Herald.


Republican chairman demands ‘retraction’
Oppenheimer sends certified letter to newspaper as precursor to lawsuit
Jackson County Republican Party Chairman David Oppenheimer demanded this week that a retraction be made by The Jackson Herald over an April 28 story concerning his refusal to release the names of Jackson County GOP candidates who had qualified for office.
Oppenheimer made his demand in a certified letter to newspaper editor Mike Buffington on May 25.
Buffington said the letter was apparently a precursor to a lawsuit that Oppenheimer intends to file against the newspaper.
“It’s clear to me that Mr. Oppenheimer’s letter is nothing more than political harassment during an election season,” Buffington said. “This letter is an attempt to silence us because we have voiced disagreement with his political allies on the board of commissioners.”
Oppenheimer has been a vocal supporter of the incumbent county board of commissioners and has defended that board’s attempts to take over the county water authority and to finance a new courthouse without voter approval. Columns and editorials written by Buffington have been critical of those BOC actions.
DENIED ACCESS
During the week of qualifying in late April, The Herald attempted to get the names of candidates who had qualified for office on the Republican ticket, but Oppenheimer refused to give a Herald reporter access. One of the reasons Oppenheimer gave at the time was that he didn’t like Buffington.
“The names of candidates who qualified for office are public records,” Buffington said. “Mr. Oppenheimer, in his role as Republican Party chairman, was the custodian of those records during qualifying and was carrying out a public function, and thus came under the Georgia Open Records Law.”
Buffington said that under the law, officials sometimes have three days following a request to decide if a record is an open record or to find the records in question.
“But there is no question that these are indeed public records,” Buffington said. “Mr. Oppenheimer knew that and he didn’t need three days to figure that out when we asked to see them. His sole motive in denying access to the records was to prevent us from having the names to publish. It was nothing more than political pettiness on his part.”
Buffington said that on the advice of the newspaper’s attorney, no retraction would be forthcoming.
“We stand by our story,” he said. “Furthermore, we will continue to aggressively report on the actions of our local public officials. That is our role as a community newspaper and we will not waver in that commitment to our readers.”

Oppenheimer letter to editor
“Dear Sir:
“Pursuant to Georgia Code 51-5-11, I hearby request satisfactory retraction of the false accusations and malicious misrepresentation of the facts, (GA Code 51-5-2, 51-5-4), concerning the qualifying of Republican candidates stated in The Jackson Herald on April 28th, 2004.
“These points should be included in the retraction:
“1) David Oppenheimer, as Chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party or individually, is not a public official,
“2) Correction of all quotes attributed to David Oppenheimer,
“3) Qualifying documents are not public record until filed with election officials,
“4) No qualifying took place at the home of David Oppenheimer,
“5) David Oppenheimer, as Chairman of the Jackson County Republican party, broke no laws of the State of Georgia or The United States of America in his actions.
“I hope that further recourse in this matter will not be necessary.
“Sincerely,
David Oppenheimer”


Crow steps down as chamber chairman
Bailey to serve remainder of year
Tom Crow has resigned as chairman of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce.
Jimmy Bailey, who served as chairman last year, has agreed to step forward and serve the remainder of his term.
The matter was discussed at the chamber board of directors lunch meeting Friday in Commerce. Crow wasn’t present and a reason was not given for his resignation. He is running for the District 1 seat on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
In other business at the meeting, BOC chairman Harold Fletcher offered the chamber a 5,000-square-foot office space in the old Bi-Lo building in Commerce. The county is purchasing the shopping center for the Lanier Tech expansion. No action was taken, but Bailey said the chamber board would discuss the offer further.
Also at the meeting:
•Scott Martin, chairman of the economic committee, spoke on the developers day planned June 8. This will be a bus tour through the county with a lunch planned in Commerce. All board members were invited to the noon lunch at the Commerce Civic Center.
•Martin also reported that he has received positive impact on the visit county leaders recently made to the state department of industry, trade and tourism. “They really appreciate us being there,” he said. “It keeps Jackson County’s name out there.”
•Jim Shaw gave an update on the Leadership Jackson effort. The chamber has received 43 nominees and plans to select approximately 20 people to participate.
•Beverly Guthrie reported on the recent awards banquet. “We had some outstanding recipients,” she said. “It was good to make the public aware of them.”
•Guthrie also reported that 22 new members were gained during the recent membership drive. All those who volunteered during the drive will receive a gift certificate.
•Guthrie said the new “12 at 12” program has been successful. Twelve chamber members are invited to a noon lunch meeting to discuss issues relevant to their business.
•chamber president Pepe Cummings said the Partners in Education program has been successful this school year.
•Dave Vebrock was named to serve on the chamber board of directors. He replaces Ed Mathison.
•Bailey reported that the executive committee of the board of directors met prior to the lunch and reviewed Cummings’ job performance. “We’re very pleased with Pepe,” he said.
•Cummings introduced Linda Foster, the new managing members services staff member.
•Cummings said the first phase of the strategic planning project has been completed. This stage involved collecting information from community leaders in a group setting. The second phase will be one-on-one interviews with 30 business leaders. A retreat will wrap up the project.


Russell to direct Pendergrass’ new planning department
Council to name zoning board in June
Rob Russell is probably one of the few planning officials in Georgia that can legally wear a gun on his belt.
As planning supervisor and police chief of Pendergrass, Russell’s duties have expanded since the city unexpectedly withdrew from the Quad Cities Planning Commission last month. He recently completed law school.
On Tuesday, Russell provided a brief overview of the massive ordinances that the city council must approve for Pendergrass to officially begin its own planning department.
Among the largest of the ordinances that the city council held its first reading for is the development regulation code, which outlines standards of everything from road specifications to sidewalk requirements in new projects.
“Basically, everything, but the house,” Russell said of the “very intensive” proposed code.
He said the proposed ordinance has been in the works for six months and is more restrictive than Jackson County’s unified development code.
Another ordinance will establish the city’s new zoning board to hear planning requests. The move would create a three-person zoning board that the city council is expected to appoint at its June meeting. The city already has two requests for new subdivisions that could bring more than 500 additional rooftops to Pendergrass.
The city council also held the first reading of a proposed landscape, tree and buffer ordinance; a flood ordinance and a stream buffer protection ordinance. The first reading of a proposed fee change for city permits wasn’t held, since the document wasn’t complete.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the Pendergrass City Council:
• learned city hall and the library will be closed on Monday for Memorial Day.
• learned that Georgia Power has completed an audit of the city’s streetlight locations and will submit the report to the city this week. The city has 83 streetlights and is paying $625 a month for them. City officials didn’t know where all of the lights were located.
• learned repairs to the roof of city hall have been completed and new benches in the city park have been placed.
• learned that calls for the police department have been increasing. The police department expects that call volume will increase during the summer, since school isn’t in session.
• learned the city has received thank you letters from the American Cancer Society and Jackson County Comprehensive High School band for each receiving a $250 donation from the city.


Jefferson’s rec. dept. getting ready for July 20 referendum
Funding would build phase one of recreational complex
In less than two months, Jefferson voters will make a decision on whether or not a bond referendum will be used to fund the first phase of a new recreational complex for the city. As approved at its April 12 meeting, the Jefferson City Council will have a $7 million bond referendum on the July 20 ballot for the project
With the vote ahead, members of the City of Jefferson’s recreation board met at the clubhouse for a public hearing Monday evening to begin organizing committees to get information out about the complex.
“This is the first meeting,” said Nancy Pollock. “We’re trying to get organized.”
Another meeting is scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 2, also at the club house.
LOOKING AT THE PROJECT
A colored map of the 99-acre park site master plan from the engineer’s was propped up against the wall at the club house Monday evening, with members of the recreation board pointing out the fields and areas that would be included in phase one.
Phase one of the recreational complex on Old Pendergrass and Old Swimming Pool roads will include two softball fields, four baseball fields, one regulation size football/soccer field and one multipurpose field that can also be used for two smaller 80-yard fields. A gymnasium is also included in the phase one plans, as are necessary parking areas and roads.
“We’re looking at about $5 to 7 million,” Howard Pollock said of the anticipated cost for the first phase of work.
If funding is approved, construction begins immediately and the weather is favorable, it’s possible that baseball and softball fields could be ready for practice next year, if not for game play, according to Tim Pass, a recreation board member.
Ultimately, the complex completed in two phases will encompass 99 acres, with a master plan including an aquacenter, walking trails through some 60 usable acres of greenspace, playgrounds and more.
But right now, the recreation board is focusing on phase one and the growing numbers of participants in the rec leagues.
“The number one question I’ve heard has been, ‘Are you gonna have soccer?’” Pass reported.
And H. Pollock added that the gymnasium in phase one is also an important need.
The recreation department has 36 teams this year, with 439 participants in spring baseball and softball, Jennifer Ray told the other board members.
“That’s 10 percent more than last year,” Pass said. “We’re just trying to get ready for that growth.”
For more information, contact the recreation department at 367-5116.
Getting organized:
•8 p.m. Wednesday, June 2, at the Jefferson clubhouse
The recreation board will hold its next organizational meeting next week to set up committees.
For information, contact the city’s rec. department.


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Tentative School System Budget Up 5.9 Percent
School Board Seeks 3.9 Percent Increase In Local Money
Though a new school is opening in Commerce next year, the proposed 2004-2005 school system budget shouldn’t strain local dollars.
The Commerce school board OK’d a $9.2 million tentative budget for the 2004-2005 school year at a called meeting Monday night that calls for a 5.92 percent increase in spending over last year and asks for a 3.9 percent increase in local funds.
Considering the new school, the addition of more teachers for next year and cutbacks from the state, Commerce schools superintendent Larry White said he felt satisfied with the 2004-2005 numbers.
“I thought we put together a pretty good tentative budget,” White said.
He pointed out that the 3.9 percent increase in local funds could be absorbed if there’s enough growth in the county digest. However, those figures aren’t available yet.
“If there’s any growth at all, the worst case scenario, would be maybe half a mil increase. Maybe less than that,” he said.
In revenue, the school system stands to get $379,761 more this year from the state in QBE money.
That boost was made possible thanks to an increase in the system’s FTE count by 20 as well as $824,196 received by the system through equalization which White said is significantly more money than the system had been getting in that area.
However, White points out that the school system could have doubled its increase over last year in QBE money if it weren’t for the five percent austerity cuts by the state.
The finalized budget will be voted on by the Commerce school board in June.
In other business conducted at Monday night’s called meeting, the school board:
•heard from Larry White about a project for a system-wide upgrade for its servers, switches and existing work stations. VirtuCom has quoted a price of $58,847 for the job but White would also like to get a price from CMC Consulting. White will try to set up meetings with both companies and the school board so both VirtuCom and CMC can give presentations.
•approved several personnel moves for next year. The BOE hired Lindsay Lassiter as a Social Studies teacher at Commerce High School, Antetra Pattman as an eighth grade reading teacher at Commerce Middle School and John Bell as a part-time science teacher at CHS; approved the transfer of Cheryl Chambers from media paraprofessional at CHS to special education para professional at CMS; and approved an additional responsibility supplement of $5,000 to Commerce Elementary School principal Kim Savage and a supplement of $2,000 to David Cash to supervise students at the fourth-and-fifth grade building from 7 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. each day. The board also approved more summer school and extended school year personnel.