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JUNE 9, 2004


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OPINIONS
Angela Gary
Two kinds of vacations
There are two kinds of vacations. You can go on a trip that involves racing from one event to the next or you can plan a trip that involves long naps in the sun and leisurely strolls along the beach.

Rochelle Beckstine
Time to tackle Alzheimer’s
As the nation mourns the death of President Reagan, the public, and the media in particular, are taking a closer look at the debilitating disease that killed him: Alzheimer’s.
We can create babies in petri dishes and clone sheep, but doctors still don’t know much about Alzheimer’s disease.


SPORTS
Construction under way of recreation center, tennis courts
Banks County Recreation Department planning to add several new programs once facilities open
Two new gymnasiums and four tennis courts are currently under construction at the Banks County Recreation Department complex, located on Thompson Street.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
3rd Graders Excel On Critical CRCT Exam
Commerce Elementary School third graders did extremely well on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) that play a role in determining advancement into the fourth grade.

Waddell paid $96,000 to leave
BOC, JCWSA approve termination contract
After three-and-a-half-years of political controversy, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners finally succeeded in getting rid of Jerry Waddell as county water superintendent. But it cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 for them to remove Waddell from his position.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Road widening — a distant possibility
But no immediate plans on the table for widening Hwy. 29
Hwy. 29 might be widened one day in Madison County through Danielsville.
It might not.

Explosive growth expected for Comer
If current trends continue, Comer’s population can double in the next five years, according to the city’s zoning administrator Gerald Kemp.
The city council approved preliminary plats for two proposed subdivisions at its scheduled meeting Tuesday night. Royal Oaks Subdivision near the junction of Brickyard Road and Hwy. 98 will contain 68 lots.

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At the Rodeo

Skyler Brown, 2, caught a large bream at the kid’s fishing rodeo held at Hammer’s Glen Golf Course Saturday. Earlier in the morning, Brown caught the first catfish of the day. See page this weeks Banks County news for more photos.


BOC loses methadone clinic lawsuit on zoning
To appeal ruling
The Banks County Board of Commissioners lost the lawsuit Sylvanus Memorial Treatment Center filed against it for the zoning decision that denied the company’s request to locate a methadone treatment center in the county’s industrial park.
The county plans to appeal the ruling. The BOC met in closed session 45 minutes last week and agreed to proceed with the appeal.
Sylvanus sought a conditional use permit in order to locate the “Robert W. Dail Memorial Treatment Center” on Industrial Boulevard to provide treatment for an estimated 300 people addicted to opiate-type narcotics. The clinic in the county is deemed necessary for the treatment of “John Doe,” a Banks County resident, according to the lawsuit.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Gainesville Division, ruled in favor of Sylvanus, granting a permanant injunction, commanding the county to issue the necessary permits, the conditional use permit and the business license.
Sylvanus Memorial Treatment Centers Inc. and “John Doe,” filed the complaint on February 12, 2004, taking action under the Americans with Diabilities Act (ADA) Title II and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Potential clients of Sylvanus are drug addicts, who are considered persons with a disability under the ADA.
The parties stipulated at a hearing held April 16, that addiction to opiate-type drugs is an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activites. Sylvanus, as a treatment center, says they require potential clients to provide evidence of at least one year of narcotics addiction before they are admitted to the program.
“The court finds that Banks County’s application of its zoning laws in this case to be unconstitutional and in violation of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act,” the court ruled. “Therefore, the court hereby enjoins and restrains the defendants, their agents, employees, attorneys and those persons in active concert or participation with them who have notice or knowledge of this order, from applying or enforcing the Banks County zoning regulations or other rules in such manner as to preclude or prevent the plaintiff from operating a methadone treatment center at 232 Industrial Park Drive in Banks County, Georgia.”
The court granted Doe’s motion to proceed anonymously. The plaintiffs argue that because there are only 15,000 people in Banks County and because of the stigma attached to being a recovering drug addict, Doe should be allowed to proceed anonymously. The court said: “while those seeking treatment for drug addiction may not be a stigma in some societies, it certainly is in others and it appears that Banks County is one of those communities in which it is a stigma,” before granting the motion to proceed anonymously.
The defendants allege that their actions were taken for the public health, safety, morality and welfare of the county’s citizens.
Robin Rathbun, secretary of the corporation seeking to open the clinic, testified at the April 16 hearing. She said that she has personally seen how methadone maintance treatment (MMT) can make a difference in helping a recovering addict.
“MMT is rigorous, and since patients cannot usually drive, traveling to and from a clinic is one of the most difficult aspects of gettig treatment,” Rathbun testified.
She said Doe currently travels more than 50 miles to a treatment center in Athens. She said people are being harmed by not recieving treatment in Banks County, according to the court transcript.
The founders of Sylvanus looked at where there was the greatest need for a treatment center and what would be the most convienct location for potential patients, accoding to Rathbun’s testimony.
To open the clinic, the plantiffs filed the necessary applications with the state and federal agencies that regulate methadone treatment clinincs, leased a building in Banks County, applied for a business license with the county, made a few changes to the building’s interior so that the physical structure could accomodate the patients need for privacy, and arranged for the necessary staff, according to Rathbun’s testimony.
Dr. Gene Barum, a doctor at Alliance Recovery Center, Decatur, said there are 15 methadone treatment centers in metro Atlanta, two clinics in Athens, one in Ringgold and one in Cartersville. He said if an addict is deprived for as little time as a few hours, withdrawal symptoms include gastrointestinal problems, vomiting, tremors, dialated pupils, runny eyes, profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat and elevated blood pressure. He also said if addicts don’t recieve treatment, they often have problens with the law; overdose on narcotics; get into dangerous situations beccuase of drugs; spend all of their money on drugs; have difficulty working due to fear of withdrawal; and have difficulty caring for themselves and children, providing a strong link between addiction and child neglect or abuse.
“Methadone maintance becomes virtually a life-long treatment,” according to his testimony.
SOUGHT BUSINESS LICENSE
On September 3, 2003, the plantiffs attempted to obtain a business license from Banks County. Keith Covington, county marshal, reviews business licenses for Banks County. He told the plantiffs they had to first obtain a conditional use permit, then they needed a certificate of occupancy from the building department, and then they could get the license.
On September 23, the plantiffs applied for a conditional use permit.
Covington recommended approval to the commissioners because the use was in conformity with the county’s land use plan as a C-2 conditional use.
Covington said Tony Vento, couty building inspector, addressed parking considerations when he issues a certificate of occupancy.
At the November 4, 2003 meeting of the zoning and planning commission, the commission recommended approval after asking a few questions about the program.
The board of commissioners met on November 11, 2003. One of the topics discussed at the meeting was the methadone treatment center. Comments were made in opposition to the center that specifically addressed the nature of the methadone treatment. At the hearing, the plantiffs’ attorney advised the board that the Americcans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covered the plantiffs and those they would be treating. The topic was tabled for further investigation, no vote was taken.
The commissioners met again on December 9, 2003. They denied the conditional use permit. Brady cited traffic and parking concerns as reasons for denying the permit during a deposition on March 31, 2004. Brady testified that there is currently “minimal traffic on the road, although the county intends to take action which will increase the traffic soon. The county is constructing an EMS station and fire department facility (on Industrial Drive), it will eventually put in a traffic signal.”
The plantiff’s alleged that the denial was based on unfounded fears and stereotypes of persons with disablilities. The defendants argued that if the other potential clients are persons with disabilites, they had no actual or constructive knowledge of their disabilites before they denied the permit.
Commissioner Rickey Cain said in a depostion on March 31, that he recieves lots of calls from voters about various issues and that he probably recieved calls over the methadone treatment clinic.
The plantiffs argue that discrimination was a motivating or significant factor in denying the conditional use permit or even requiring a permit to be obtained before getting a business license. Banks County issued business licenses to three medically-related businesses without requiring them to obtain a conditonal use permit, according to reports. Covington said that he should have but did not require them to obtian a permit. He said that he should but did not require a permit for both Elite Physical Therapy and CoCo Health Spa.
According to the court transcript, this was the only conditional use permit denied by the board of commissioners in the past five years. The plantiffs allege that this limits disabled persons’ access to programs and services in Banks County in addition to limiting the availabilty of treatment for narcotics addictions.
Because the county classified the center as a medical facility, the plantiffs would still be required to apply for a condional use permit to operate the MMT center. In Banks County, both C-1 and C-2 zoning districts require medical or health care facilites to obtain a CUP.



Tax bills finally near for 2003?
Final public hearing on tax rate set for Thurs.
After months of delays and waiting, Banks County property owners may soon get a tax bill — for 2003.
The third and final public hearing on Banks County’s proposed 2003 tax rate will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room at the courthouse. After that, the county may be able to move forward in billing for 2003 taxes.
Late last year, Banks County property owners were offered the option to voluntarily pay their taxes before December 31, according to tax commissioner Margaret Ausburn. The county has collected just $472,000 in 2003 taxes. Ausburn said those who paid voluntarily will be billed for the difference, or refunded what is owed.
The Banks County Board of Commissioners is proposing a net four percent increase in county taxes for 2003, a .183 mill increase. The increase equates to an $18 increase for $100,000 in assessed value. The county stands to collect $2.7 million in property taxes.
LAST WEEK
While only sheriff Charles Chapman attended last Thursday morning’s hearing, several people attended the evening hearing. Bobby Parker, Della Wiles, Jim Wiles, Allen Venable and Dianne Brady were present.
“We don’t like having increases, but our services are requiring this increase,” said Kenneth Brady, BOC chairman.
County resident Bobby Parker said, “I’m satisfied, that’s kind of a small increase.”
Brady said the millage rate in Banks County is the 11th lowest out of Georgia’s 159 counties, as of 2003.
But not everyone was happy with the increase.
“We have 95 acres and four poultry houses, so this is a big increase for us,” J.Wiles said.
Brady said the commissioners tried to keep the rate as low as possible.
“We are trying to hold it down as much as possible, be assured of that,” he said. “We don’t want to pay them and we know you don’t, but we need the money to offer the services. If you want less services we can drop it down, if you want more, it’s gonna cost you.”
J.Wiles questioned the board on the delay of the tax bills, fearing that Banks County citizens will have two tax bills due in one year. Brady said personnel issues caused the tax assessors to fall behind.
“They’ve worked hard,” Brady said about the tax assessors. “They hired additional staff and finally got us a digest. They worked a lot of overtime and a lot of Saturdays.”
Brady said he didn’t think the county would be in the same position next year.
“The Department of Revenue said they were not giving any extensions this year, the 2004 digest must be in by August,” Brady said.

 


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Commissioners still discussing county agent option
The Banks County Board of Commissioners met with a representative from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service Thursday to once again discuss the opportunity of having a county agent placed in the county.
Beverly Sparks, northeast district extension head for the extension service, told the commissioners the extension service doesn’t have the funding to hire any additional agents.
“I wish I had better news, but Banks County is a priority to me,” Sparks said.
Sparks said she has to wait for a position to open and then move it to Banks County.
“I will try to fill Banks County as quickly as I can and it will take re-shuffling our resources,” she said. “What is very important to us is that when a position becomes available we have the county money available when we need it.”
Commissioner Pat Westmoreland said the county will have the money available.
Sparks brought a map indicating where resources are currently concentrated throughout the state (shown below). The map shows that only 43 counties are operating with the assistance of a family and consumer science agent. A larger majority of counties still have 4-H agents, Banks County is one of them. The largest concentration is in agricultural and natural resources agents, there are 270 agents across the state. Georgia has 159 counties, some have two or three agents working in one county, 23 counties don’t have an agent at all and Banks County is included in this group.
“If one county can have three (Mitchell County has three agents) we should get one,” Westmoreland said.
Sparks agreed and said she would work to fill the vacancy.
“You expect something from us and we need to deliver,” she said. “It is a state-wide problem.”
Brady said: “What I don’t understand is how some of the bedroom communities have agents and we have a multi-million dollar agriculture industry, they have an agent helping them to fertilize their grass and they aren’t even grazing cattle. We are trying to feed America.”
Rickey Cain said the county just needed some help.
Brady mentioned soliciting the help of elected officials to fill the county agent position in the county.
“We need all the citizens of Banks County to call their representatives, since politics play a big role in where agents are placed,” Brady said. “We have a lot invested in agriculture in this county and I feel surely that they can get this done.”
To contact your elected officials, call Jeannette Jamieson at (404) 656-0202 or (406) 868-1168. Call Ralph Hudgens at (706) 783-2405 or email him at ralphhudgens@aol.com. Or call the governor at (404) 652-7003.


Maysville council appoints election
superintendent
The Maysville City Council unanimously voted Monday night to appoint Smith Pounds as election superintendent for the November election.
Sue Mealor and Linda Sailors were appointed as assistants.
City elections will take place on November 2.
Qualifying begins on August 30 and ends at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, September 3.

Ralph Reed to speak to local Republicans Sat.
Ralph Reed will speak to the Banks County Republican Party at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 12, at Shoney’s restaurant located off of I-85 on Hwy. 441.
Reed is the chairman of the Southeast Region for the re-election campaign of president George W. Bush.
He will be discussing the accomplishments of the current administration as well as their plans for the future. Reed grew up in Toccoa.
All registered voters are invited to attend, Republican Party leaders say.