News from Banks County...

JUNE 16, 2004

Banks County

Banks County

Banks County

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Phillip Sartain
The dating shirt game
My daughters are getting older. And they’re just starting to recognize boys as something less than creatures from outer space. That’s why I decided to have a preliminary father-daughter talk with them. And for some reason, I decided to tell them about my “Date Shirt.”

Jana Adams
‘Whooshed’ in the garden...
...and other territorial skirmishes
I’m growing my first vegetable garden this year. It’s a small one, and I talk about it far more than anyone who isn’t growing their own garden wants to hear, but I’ve been pleased and proud that my work has paid off and something other than weeds has sprouted.

Blaze Turner takes first place in So-Hi motocross series
Blaze Turner clenched the first place championship in the 4-6 year old 50CC class on his #7 KTM in the So-Hi Motocross Series. Blaze is currently running in the Bremen/Calhoun Maxis Supercross series.

News from
Fletcher, Bell face off at first political forum
Roads, water authority among debated topics
In their first face-off of the political season, the two Republican candidates running for chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners met in Hoschton Tuesday night to debate some hot local issues.

Second political forum ahead Tues. at JEMC
A political forum for candidates in the July 20 election has been set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22, at the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation auditorium in Jefferson.

News from
Assessor’s conflict takes ugly turn
BOC chairman proposes lie detectors amid allegations of records tampering
Talk about lie detectors, office break-ins, property record tampering — Monday’s county commissioners meeting had all three.
The conflict between the commission chairman’s office and the tax assessor’s department has been a lengthy ordeal, a hostile dilemma.
And it just got a lot uglier.

Friends and family ready for Westbrook’s homecoming
Ex-Raider star to start against Braves in Atlanta this weekend
This Fathers’ Day weekend will be only the second time Cauthen Westbrook has made a visit to Turner Field for a Braves’ game.
It’s safe to say this trip will be quite different since he’ll be pretty familiar with the visiting starting pitcher.
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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At the hearing

Verlon Brock, Troy Williams, Henry Yarbor and Weldon Mintz (L-R) were present at the final county millage rate public hearing held Thursday night at the Banks County courthouse.

County commissioners adopt 8.279 millage rate
The Banks County Board of Commissioners adopted the 2003 millage rate after the third public hearing held Thursday night in the conference room at the Banks County courthouse.
The county adopted 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 for 2003. BOC chairman Brady said taxpayers are only paying a portion of the budget, the 2003 budget was set at $8.4 million last year. He said it was in large part due to the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) that rolled the rate back 5.529 mills. He said without LOST, the millage rate would have been 13.808.
“Other revenues are helping everyone in Banks County, we really can’t complain, we are lucky to have all this other income,” Brady said.
Several people were in attendance to voice their opinion about the increase. Troy Williams, Henry Yarbor, Verlon Brock, Harold Ivey and Weldon Mintz were all present.
Yarbor said he didn’t care about the budgets in other counties, after Brady commented on Gwinnett County’s budget.
“They ain’t done nothing for me with this water department,” Yarbor said. “I ain’t happy with this at all, I only have water half of the time.”
Yarbor said the city water he receives from Baldwin is dirty most of the time and has caused him to replace his refrigerator and washing machine on several occasions.
“If I can get a decent price for my place, I’m leaving Banks County,” he said. “At my age I shouldn’t be paying school tax.”
Brady asked him where he would go if he left. He replied: “It doesn’t matter and I’m gonna rent so I don’t have to pay property taxes when it goes up and down every year.”
Brock wanted to know why his taxes have increased every year.
“I built my house in 1995 and every year either the milage rate or the value goes up,” he said. “Does no one around here know how to tighten their belt like I have to at home.”
Brock questioned the practice of deputies at the sheriff’s office running their vehicles all day and then driving them home at night. He said he worked at the Alto prison for a number of years and always drove his own vehicle, even when he was on-call. Brady said the sheriff is responsible for his own budget.
“It’s gotten to where no one listens to the citizens,” Brock said. “I’m getting the run around, no one is listening to me. When I started I paid $500, now I’m paying $650. This going up on the taxes every year has to stop.”
Yarbor asked the commissioners why they didn’t lower the budget.
“When they ask, can’t you squeeze them any more?” he questioned.
Brady said it wasn’t that easy to do and then rose to his feet. Brady dropped the 2004 budget to the ground, picked up the top page of a 31 page budget and walked out of the room, he kept walking until the document stretched across the room and out the door. Then he listed the departments off one-by-one.
“Not a citizen showed up and sat in these meetings, we went through every department’s budget line-by-line, but nobody had enough care, I guess, to come in and sit down and ask the department heads or elected officials, ‘why is your budget so high’,” Brady said in an elevated voice.
Yarbor commented: “That’s where we let you down, but you are supposed to cut it down, you are an elected official.”

DA looks at land tract combinations
Development authority continues to look
into combining land to attract new businesses
The Banks County Development Authority is continuing to look into combining several tracts of land that could be used to recruit businesses to locate in the Hwy. 441 area.
The matter was discussed at a DA meeting Thursday at the Banks County courthouse in Homer. DA chairman Jack Banks said he met with Floyd Baldwin from the Norton Agency to see if properties surrounding the one-acre tract the board of commissioners signed over to the DA in April could be assembled together for the project. Sam McDuffie expressed concern over the Realtor involvement.
“I’m not sure if by doing it that way we won’t be handling it wrong,” McDuffie said. “If we have four or five Realtors trying to assemble, people will thing the property will sell for a fortune.”
McDuffie suggested the board try to assemble the land on their own, suggesting the board try to assemble the one-acre tract with access to Hwy. 441 with a 28-acre tract located behind the property.
“That tract will make or break our project - we need each other,” he continued.
He said he received a call from a Realtor wanting to do background checks on the property.
“Once this thing starts fueling, it will get out of control,” McDuffie said.
Banks said he was meeting with the GA EMC on June 22 to discuss the project.
“This is one of our best sources of information,” he said.
The board decided to nominate Sam McDuffie to work with the property owner with the 28 acres located behind the existing acre.
“We’ve got the key with access to the road and they have the acres,” Banks said.
Later in the meeting, McDuffie brought the issue up again hoping to schedule another meeting next week.
“This is our third meeting since we got the property and we are no closer, he said. “”Next week, we ought to have another meeting and the next week,. Why are we not all meeting on the 22? What happens if we don’t all meet, then we have to meet again.”
Banks said the best shot is to work with the GA EMC.
“They can market the property and then put the deal together,” he said.
No additional meeting was scheduled.
A large portion of the meeting Thursday morning was spent discussing financial issues and treasury responsibilities, including a mileage reimbursement request from commissioner Pat Westmoreland.
Westmoreland attended the Georgia Academy of Economic Development and turned in a $50.40 reimbursement request for 168 miles traveled at .30 cents a mile.
Treasurer Sam McDuffie said he brought the issue before the board because he wasn’t sure about the policy.
Jack Banks asked the board who had turned in their mileage reimbursement from attending the same meeting, no one had.
“We’re setting a precedent,” he said. “I would think if you are doing something on behalf of the DA, we ought to pay the expenses incurred, but it ought to be pre-approved before you do it.”
Banks said the group discussed expenses previously and said it would reimburse expenses, but questioned whether Westmoreland’s attendance was for the board.
“If I have lunch with someone for the DA and pay, that’s a legal expenses,” Banks said.
Wayne Abernathy said: “I think we need some kind of policy, so you know in advance if you will be reimbursed, but I don’t want to cut the hand that feeds us.”
McDuffie still had questions about why the DA was responsible for the expense.
“My thought was, there is an economic fund and we get $15,000 out of a large amount of money, why take if out of the $15,000, why not take it out of the big pot. But, if we need money later on, they will give it to us later,” McDuffie said. “You shouldn’t be able to just hand a bill and say ‘take it out of that account’, that’s not the way it works.”
Banks said he hadn’t thought about paying anything like this, but if someone incurs expenses they should be reimbursed.
“Just pay the damn thing,” said DA member Horace Campbell.
Abernathy said anything the commissioners do should come out of their budget. The board decided to pay the $50.40 reimbursement request.
“Make sure he gets that check, sign it in capitol letters,” Banks said. “He spent the money, pay the man.”
After the decision to pay the request McDuffie raised questions about the current treasury system, stating it would make it easier if Erin Decker would serve as secretary and treasurer since she is in a central location.
“I don’t know, it makes it cumbersome, either Erin should be the treasurer or I should sign the checks,” he said. “Make it a little easier for me, I don’t want to come over here and have to find out what she wrote a check for.”
Campbell suggested McDuffie and Decker get together before the meeting to discuss what checks had been written.
“As long as I don’t have to chase stuff down, it is a non-paying job.”
Also discussed at the meeting:
•Banks said he had spoken to several real estate agents who are looking to locate apartments across the street from the dragstrip. Rick Billingslea said there are liability issues for the dragstrip and the county for putting a complex there. Jimmy Morrison said people build apartment complexes next to airports.

BOE to meet in Savannah this week
The Banks County Board of Education will hold two called meetings this week in Savannah.
The BOE will meet at 9 a.m. on Thursday and Friday at the conference room of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Two West Bay Street, Savannah. New construction will be discussed.
The board members will be in Savannah attending Georgia School Board Association training.


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No opposition to BOE millage rate
Public hearing held; another set for Mon.
After two public hearings have been held, the Banks County Board of Education has yet to hear any citizens speak in opposition to the proposed millage rate.
The third and final public hearing on the 1.5 mills increase will be held Monday, June 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the BOE office.
After speaking in opposition to the .183 mill increase at the final public hearing for the board of commissioners, Troy Williams, Henry Yarbor, Weldon Mintz, Harold Ivey and Verlon Brock came to the first BOE hearing Thursday. The two hearings were scheduled at the same time Thursday and the men arrived at the BOE office around 7 p.m. Apparently, the hearing was over by the time they arrived. The men stayed for the BOE work session until they were dismissed one hour and 30 minutes into the meeting when BOE chairman Neal Brown told the group the millage rate would not be discussed again until Monday night. No citizens showed up for the Monday night hearing.
Although no citizens were present, superintendent Chris Erwin gave a presentation to the BOE members on reasons for the increase in the millage rate. He stated decreasing revenues, state austerity reductions in particular, are one cause for the increase. The state has cut the budget for the past three years for a total of $1,237,138.
“We are continuously asked to do more with less,” Erwin said.
A state-mandated two percent salary increase, increasing benefits, inflation, increasing number of teachers and an increased Hispanic student population were among other reasons mentioned. He said the Hispanic student population has increased 115 percent in Banks County and that this group of students is the most costly to educate due to additional resources needed.
According to Erwin, the cost of educating one student for one year is $1,985. He said at the current rate, 12.25 mills, it takes a piece of property valued at $405,100 to support one student.

Proposed fire coverage area causes concerns
Baldwin Fire Chief Joe Roy told members of the city council at a meeting this week that the fire service contract area with Banks County had been changed.
Roy said Banks County is planning to run a two-man, 12-hour medic shift out of the Hollingsworth Station on Old Highway 441 North. The crew would be assisted by volunteer firefighters and paid personnel from District 2 station 210 at the intersection of Rock Springs Road and Mt. Sinai Road.
Banks County Fire Chief Perry Dalton said his department would handle fire calls on all the side roads off Highway 105 North up to Harmony Church Road. The coverage includes Deercrest Road, Simmons Road, Otis Brown Road, Otis Brown Lane, Otis Brown Drive, Foster Road, Ferguson Road, Cotton Tail Drive, Cotton Tail Lane, Trotters Glen, Harmony Church Road, Carnes Circle and Andrews Road.
Baldwin would still cover residences on Highway 105 North up to Crump Road, Cash Road and Broad River Road.
The change means a $9,400 loss to the Baldwin fire department’s budget.
Roy said the city could still seek subscribers for city fire protection. So if any resident is not comfortable with the move to Banks County, they would be allowed to choose which department they prefer. There was some discussion about the service delivery area that Banks had taken over from Baldwin.
Mayor Mark Reed said it didn’t make much sense to have Baldwin service Hwy. 105 and not the populated roads off Hwy. 105.
He asked: “Do the residents in that area know about this? Do they have any concerns?”
Roy said he did not know.
Councilman Robert Bohannon offered a positive outlook, that the reduced area would reduce costs.