News from Jackson County...

JUNE 16, 2004

Jackson County

Jackson County
Jackson County

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Aikido Time
Aikido Expert Passing On Martial Arts Knowledge
Robert House went around the world to get to Broad Street in Commerce — literally.
Honing an expertise in the martial art known as Aikidio with 19 years of study and a seven-year pilgrimage to the far East during the last decade, the sensei is now passing on the knowledge of his travels here in Commerce where he’s lived with his wife and daughter since 2001.

Jefferson remains top public school in Directors Cup
Jackson County finishes in top half of Class AAAA on the strength of strong girls programs
As has been the case the last several years, Jefferson’s athletic program was once again the top public school in Class A in the recently released Georgia Athletic Directors Association’s Directors Cup standings.

Jackson County baseball coach Roberts resigns
Mark Mahoney takes over head baseball coaching reins
Jackson County head baseball coach and assistant football coach Scott Roberts is leaving the Panther athletic program to return to a position closer to home.
Monday the Jackson County Board of Education approved Roberts resignation and JCCHS athletic director Brent Brock c

News from
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.

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.

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.

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
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


® Copyright 2002
MainStreet Newspapers, Inc.
All rights reserved.
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Harold Fletcher (left) addresses a Hoschton crowd at a Tuesday night political forum as Pat Bell (right) listens. Both Republicans are running for chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. The Republican primary will be held July 20.

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.
Incumbent Harold Fletcher and challenger Pat Bell debated questions surrounding road projects to the new Toyota plant and the controversy surrounding the BOC’s relationship with the county water and sewerage authority.
Referring to the fact that the county had missed a June 1 deadline to have built two key industrial roads for a $60 million Toyota project, Bell said the impact of that failure could be “devastating to this county.”
“This road is really key to this industry coming into this county,” Bell said. “If we mess around with this industry, and something happens, it will be devastating to this county. It will create a tremendous image problem for economic development for this county.”
As part of the 2002 deal with Toyota, the county had agreed to have Possum Creek (now Valentine Parkway) widened and paved and a new road, Concord Road, built by June 1 2004.
“Where I come from, if you make a promise, you keep that promise and if you sign a contract, you keep that contract,” Bell said. “You do what you say you’re gonna do.”
She also said she helped to obtain a $1.5 million grant more than three years ago when she was a state representative for the Concord Road project.
Fletcher said that the county had begun work on Valentine Parkway and would have it completed by the end of August. As for Concord Road, he was less specific on the schedule, saying it would move forward “just as quickly as we can get the engineering completed” in time for Toyota’s schedule.
Another hot topic during the debate was the political controversy surrounding the leadership and management of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority. The BOC recently paid the authority’s manager, Jerry Waddell, nearly $100,000 to leave his position.
Fletcher said nine water and sewer projects were identified in a 2000 sales tax referendum — only five of the projects have been earmarked for completion.
“The only way that these projects can be completed and others taken on is for someone to take the initiative, take the leadership and get the money, find the money and build it in such a fashion that the revenues will pay for the retirement of those bonds,” he said.
“It’s very important that we exercise leadership in that direction and this is exactly what I intend to do in the next term,” Fletcher said.
But Bell said she “politics” should be kept out of decisions on water and sewer lines.
“The main purpose of (creating) the water authority is to keep politics out of it,” Bell said.
She said she believed the county’s water and sewerage authority is doing a “great job” at managing water from the Bear Creek Reservoir, which is located in South Jackson and provides water for four counties.

Given the recent political squabble between the BOC and other county groups, both candidates were asked how they would bring teamwork back in the county.
Bell said a sense of teamwork was in place when she previously served on the BOC.
“You have a job to do, whoever was the most qualified to do that job was the one who did that job,” she said.
Fletcher pointed out that a good example of teamwork among county officials during his past three and a half years as commission chairman was the effort to bring Haverty’s to Braselton.
“It’s been often said that anything can be accomplished if we don’t care who gets credit for it,” he said. “And I think that’s what it takes — bringing together a group of people who put the overall good of the county (and) community above their own.”
“And I think that’s we have done and we have been successful at tracking industries that we’ve been able to get with,” Fletcher added. “And I think that will continue.”
For their closing statements at the forum, both candidates summed up their leadership style and experience.
“I will restore honesty and integrity to our county government,” said Bell. She also said she will establish “an aggressive” economic development team to lower taxes.
Fletcher said county officials are already doing some of the ideas Bell mentioned in her closing statement.
“We see that there are many, many challenges,” Fletcher said. “And in order to address those challenges, we’re going to have to have people in office that are duly qualified.”
The Republican primary will be held July 20. Also running for chairman is Democrat Roy Grubbs. The Hoschton forum, however, was just for Republican candidates.
The Hoschton Women’s Civic Club, whose members monitored the timed debate, hosted the event.

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.
The Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson County Farm Bureau are sponsoring the event.
There will be a moderator from outside Jackson County who will take written questions from the audience and direct them to the candidates.

IDA ‘encouraged’ by meet with BOC
But ‘ill-advised’ ad a concern for IDA, Toyota officials
Members of the Jackson County Industrial Development Authority said Friday they were “encouraged” by the tone of a recent meeting with county officials to discuss why two industrial development roads missed a June 1 deadline. But IDA members were concerned about an “ill-advised” advertisement the Jackson County Board of Commissioners ran in response to the controversy.
The two roads, Valentine Parkway (formerly Possum Creek Road) and Concord Road, were supposed to have been completed by June 1, according to a 2002 contract the county signed with Toyota for a $60 million industrial plant. But so far, little work has been done on the roads and Toyota officials are reportedly upset about the missed deadline and the fact that county officials had misled them in a series of meetings about the real status of the projects.
The road projects have been on the back burner apparently due to political opposition from BOC chairman Harold Fletcher, who in private conversations had been critical of one of the roads because it dated back to a previous BOC chairman’s administration.
But when the BOC missed its June 1 deadline, IDA members spoke out in public about the issue, bringing the matter to a head. Members of the IDA were key players in the effort to lure the Toyota plant to Jackson County and believe that the BOC had failed to follow through with its part of the deal.
But while IDA members said Friday they are hopeful that the county would soon begin working on the roads, they expressed concern about the county’s newspaper advertisement in response to the matter. Toyota officials were reportedly very upset with the BOC over a full page advertisement in The Jackson Herald and The Commerce News last week that attempted to downplay the matter.
“I think the ad running in The Jackson Herald for the county was ill-advised,” said IDA member Jim Shaw. “The prospect (Toyota) was upset. I hope this doesn’t set us back.”
IDA chairman Scott Martin agreed that he “didn’t think the ad was appropriate.”
“I would like to clarify that the industrial development authority didn’t have any part in the ad,” he added.
At Friday’s IDA meeting, members John Buchanan and Shaw said they came away from an early-week lunch meeting with several county officials “encouraged” that all available county resources will now be aimed at getting the roads finished.
“We discussed the project and what to do now that we don’t have roads in at the original (June 1) date — what to do to get back on track,” said Shaw. “The fact of the matter is, we didn’t get them done on time. That’s been a concern for the project and for the prospect. That can’t be changed....Now we can try to get them done as expeditiously as possible.”
Shaw added that IDA members will continue to meet regularly with county officials on the progress of the roads, saying the next discussion will be on June 17, just days before Toyota officials are slated to be in the county.
“We’ll have more information to give the (Toyota),” Shaw said. “It appears to me we’re now devoting all resources available to us to get the roads done.”
Buchanan echoed that sentiment.
“It’s been a kind of rudderless project after Stan Brown left in January,” Buchanan said. “They have now hired a project manager. With us having a meeting every week or two, that should keep everyone on their toes... I came out of the meeting very encouraged.”
Both Shaw and Buchanan said they appreciated commissioner Emil Beshara’s efforts to get the projects under way and his technical expertise. Martin added that, per a phone conversation last week, “I feel Emil has a sense of urgency.”

Mayor breaks split vote
Jefferson approves courthouse annexation
In a 3-2 vote, the Jefferson City Council approved a request on Monday to annex 4.37 acres of courthouse property on Darnell Road into the city.
C.D. Kidd III and Steve Kinney voted in favor of the request, while Philip Thompson and Bosie Griffith voted against it. Mayor Jim Joiner broke the tie by voting in favor of the request. Council member Marcia Moon wasn’t present.
In voting, Mayor Joiner said that he supported locating the courthouse in the downtown area, but felt that voting “No” on the annexation wouldn’t “accomplish anything.”
“I firmly believe that (downtown) is where it should be located,” he said. “We have a nice courthouse out there that no one can see. That’s a shame and disgrace...We accomplish nothing by not voting to annex that piece of property, so I vote to annex it.”
He pointed out that the facility has already been built and the taxpayers will have to pay for it.
The request for annexation originally came from the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, but the Association County Commissioners of Georgia later sent in a request since ACCG has the title to the property through the lease-purchase agreement.
After construction of the new courthouse was already under way, it was discovered that approximately 30 percent of the building was located outside the city limits.

School systems wrestling with budgets for 2005
Tentative budgets from both the Jefferson and Jackson County school systems have been presented for discussion in recent days, but no final action has yet been taken by either system to officially set the budget or tax rates for fiscal year 2005.
In the county system, a budget of $52.4 million is expected for the year, down from the year before due to the completion of East Jackson Elementary School. But during the last year, the county system has had to use up a significant amount of its cash reserves, some $900,000, in part because of an error in last year’s county tax digest.
Already at 18.5 mills for a tax rate, superintendent Andy Byers said it was possible that the system could reach the maximum allowed tax rate of 20 mills this year.
“There’s always that chance,” he said. “If the tax digest doesn’t grow enough, then that could happen.”
Byers said the system had done some significant cutbacks last year as well as in the new budget. A number of staff positions were cut, he said.
“The next place to cut would be in physical education, art and band programs,” he said. “But our community supports and expects those programs. I don’t know what we’ll do.”
The Jefferson Board of Education discussed a $10.5 million tentative budget at its meeting Thursday, a package that was figured based on an anticipated three percent increase in the tax digest. A vote on that system’s final budget is expected next month.
“All in all, given what we’ve been through...this budget’s tight, but we didn’t put anything in here that we didn’t think we had to put in here,” Jefferson City Schools superintendent John Jackson said Thursday.
The bulk of the system’s expenditures, $7.4 million, will go toward salaries as the system plans to add four full-time and four part-time teachers next year. Full-time Spanish, kindergarten, band and special education teachers were budgeted, as were part-time Art, Drama, English, and Science instructors.
Maintenance and operations funds in the amount of $738,918 make up the second-highest expenditure in the package.
The system expects to get around $3.4 million from local property taxes, based on a three percent growth in the city’s tax digest. That digest has not yet been finalized, said officials.

Jefferson to charge $400 for new out-of-district students
Tuition set for Jefferson Elementary
Out-of-district residents whose children plan to attend Jefferson City Schools for the first time next year may have to pay a tuition fee, according to a new policy approved by the Jefferson City Board of Education last week.
The Jefferson BOE unanimously approved a policy Thursday that calls for out-of-district students who enroll in the school system in a school with an “unweighted FTE count” to have to pay $200 per semester in order to attend.
Essentially, that means that for now, only out-of-district students in grades K-5 will have to pay the tuition because only the elementary school is overcrowded, based on state guidelines. Jefferson Elementary School has 807 students in grades K-5 while the state “base-size” elementary school is 450 students.
Exempted from the new policy are out-of-district students already enrolled in the system, students of parents who own property in the City of Jefferson and who pay city property taxes, and students who are the children of employees in the city school system.
Also approved in the vote was a change to the board’s enrollment priority policy, stating that the level of performance on academic preparedness tests as prescribed by the state and Jefferson school system will also affected admittance.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about for quite some time and I guess it’s just time,” chairman Ronnie Hopkins said. “It’s a lot less than people pay for child care, and hopefully we do a much better job than that.”
The fees can be paid in the form of $400 per year, or broken down on a monthly basis, Jackson said.
“There’s probably more in here than needs to be, but we just want to make this as clear as can be,” said schools superintendent Dr. John Jackson.
School system officials plan to call those whom they anticipate the policy will affect and letters will be sent out also informing people of the change.
In addition, if the policy change causes a reduction in the number of students that come to Jefferson Elementary School next year, then an additional kindergarten position, which is tentatively budgeted, will be cut.

Fourth of July events planned
Independence Day celebrations are planned in Braselton and Jefferson.
In Jefferson, the annual Freedom Festival is being planned for July 3 by the Jefferson Area Business Association. It will be held Saturday, July 3, on the square in downtown Jefferson.
JABA members have been holding an Independence Day celebration in the downtown area, featuring fireworks and a street dance, for many years.
This year’s festivities will kick off at 6:30 p.m. with games for children and food concessions. Pony rides, a mechanical bull, slide, dunking booth and pie in the face booth are among the plans. The concessions will include ice cream, apple pies, barbecue and soft drinks.
Civic and other non-profit organizations will also have booths and offer items for sale as fund-raisers. Balloons, brooms, note cards and glow in the dark necklaces are among the items to be offered.
JABA members ask that politicians who attend not give out balloons or other promotional items that may be sold by the civic groups as fund-raisers. They may give out brochures and cards.
A street dance featuring The Georgians and a fireworks display presented by the Jefferson Fire Department are also planned for the evening.
The Town of Braselton will hold its Celebrate Braselton festival on Friday, July 2, through Sunday, July 4. The annual event will feature concerts, displays, fireworks and a parade. Most of the activities will take place at the Braselton Park, located on Harrison Street, near West Jackson Primary School. (See this weeks Jackson Herald for additional details)

Michael A. Carroll
For Jackson County
Superior Court 2004

in the
Republican Primary!

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Council Passes School Budget,
But Not City’s Spending Plan
Approval Expected At July Meeting
The Commerce City Council approved the near $2 million local budget for the Commerce City School System Monday night, but took no action on its own $34.5 million budget.
In prior years, the council has used its June meeting to approve the new fiscal year budget, then came back in July with year-end numbers from the previous fiscal year plugged in, and passed a final version.
It may have been coincidental, but close to 20 citizens turned out to “see how we are going to be spending our tax dollars for the next year.” The citizens did not speak out during the meeting, but after it was over, several lingered to grill City Manager Clarence Bryant and council members about specific spending details.
Superintendent of Schools Larry White was first on the agenda and he wasted little time on details, having spelled out the spending plan at the previous week’s work session.
The document calls for $1,994,337 in local funds, an increase of $75,000 or 3.9 percent over last year’s local appropriation.
The total school budget is $9.26 million, an increase of 6.2 percent. The bulk of that, $6.5 million, comes from state QBE funds.
“I think we’ve got a good budget in light of the austerity cuts,” White told the city council. “If it wasn’t for the austerity cuts, we’d be here asking you to roll back taxes.”
The council approved the school budget unanimously on a motion by Mayor Pro Tem Archie D. Chaney Jr.
Then Mayor Charles Hardy asked if the citizens had a spokesman who would like to address the council. Maria Smallwood obliged.
“We’re here tonight as concerned citizens of the area and we would just like to see exactly what takes place at council meetings and how we are going to be spending our tax dollars for next year,” she explained.
In reviewing the budget, Bryant noted that no changes had been made in the document since the June 7 workshop. On the spending side, he pointed out that the General Fund, comprising 12 departments, accounts for 20 percent of spending, the gas fund will require 36 percent of the budget revenue, the water and sewer system will eat up another 30 percent and the electric system will absorb 14 percent of all funds.
When Bryant asked if any council members had questions, Ward 2 Councilman Donald Wilson, representing many of the citizens in the audience, proposed that the city postpone about $60,000 in repairs planned for the city pool.
“I have to put things at my house on the back burner that I can’t afford to get done,” Wilson reasoned.
“If you consider not repairing the pool, you have to seriously consider closing it,” replied Bryant. The city manager went on to explain that the pool costs about $50,000 to operate and that the porous walls result in the loss of about a foot and a half of water every day. He also added that the cost for the repairs comes out of special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) funds that must be used on recreation.
Wilson also questioned the need for a city planner, to which Bryant said the planner was needed “two or three years ago.”
“We need some kind of professional staff to make recommendations. I think we’re all shooting in the dark sometimes” he said.
The council took no action related to Wilson’s comments.
The police department also came under Wilson’s scrutiny. When Captain Rick Darby reported on the activity of the department during the past month, Wilson complained about someone being fined $87 for running a stop sign he admitted to running frequently himself. He also advised that the department should station officers near the Ila Road intersection on the bypass instead of “checking on tourists” (running radar) on the bypass, complained about an unmarked police car he said was driving too fast at Banks Crossing, alleged that some city workers are using city vehicles to take children to school or church and complained about one city worker he said was “putting a lot of miles” on a vehicle. He provided no names, but promised to talk to Bryant about the individuals later.
In a related action, the council approved a Wilson motion to require city decals to be placed on all city vehicles except unmarked police cars – a policy already being enacted.
In other business, the council
•authorized the Downtown Development Authority to spend $30,000 to buy a parking area off View Street for off-street parking.
•accepted the Commerce Planning Commission’s recommendation to let Debbie Love develop what used to be Southern Oaks mobile home park into a development of stick-built houses on 11,000 square foot lots.
•reappointed Anne Rogers to represent the city on the Piedmont Regional Library Board for three more years.
•approved the billing and collection of city taxes by Jackson County Tax Commissioner Don Elrod at a cost of $1.50 per bill.
•authorized a loan from Community Bank & Trust of up to $250,000 at four percent for five years to pay for the new Utility and Planning Department building under construction on Homer Road.