News from Banks County...

JUNE 23, 2004


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OPINIONS
Angela Gary
Fan club party fun in Nashville
Phil Vassar was laid-back and full of his usual energy at his fan club party held recently in Nashville as he performed some of his old hits and new songs and met with fans for photos and autographs. Dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and flip flops, he talked about his new album, late night wake-ups with the new baby and his busy touring schedule.

Rochelle Beckstine
Gas guzzler sales down
The sales of gas guzzling sport utility vehicles has suffered and many in the car industry think rising gas prices may be to blame. To quote Bart Simpson, “Duh, man.” (I hope they didn’t pay too many people to come to that conclusion.)


SPORTS
‘Night of Fire’ planned for Saturday at Atlanta Dragway
One of the biggest events of the drag racing season is upon the Atlanta Dragway as the 18th annual “Night of Fire” is set for this Saturday at the NHRA-sanctioned dragstrip in Banks Crossing near Commerce.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
Weather Holds, Festival Comes Off Smoothly
Hot and sticky weather may have hurt the turnout, but the threat of rain never materialized, and the 2004 City Lights Concert and Festival came off without a hitch Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Saverne Rucker-Varnum named to water authority
A Jefferson woman who teaches school in Clarke County was appointed to replace Dean Stringer on the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
The race for the chairman’s seat
Candidates speak at Tuesday forum
It wasn't standing room only, but there was quite a crowd at the Chamber of Commerce's second political forum held Tuesday night, this time at the Madison County High School performing arts theater.

Colbert festival set for July 3
The city of Colbert will hold its 35th Annual Independence Day Celebration on Saturday, July 3 from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Call Colbert City Hall at 788-2311 for more details.

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Looked over crockery and jugs

Birch Cannon, Lexington, S.C., and Mary Norris, Cleveland, looked over the folk pottery of Homer potter Steve Turpin at the fourth annual Northeast Georgia Folk Potters Festival held Saturday at Banks County High School. Some 38 folk potters had their wares on exhibit. (See story and additional photos in this weeks Banks County News.)


Board of education adopts 13.75 millage rate
Up by 1.5 mills; citizens plead for smaller increase
Citizens of Banks County pled with members of the board of education to reduce a proposed 1.5 millage rate increase at the final public hearing held Monday night. The 13.75 millage rate was adopted by the board at a meeting called after the public hearing.
Weldon Mintz, Verlon Brock and Harold Ivey spoke in opposition to the millage rate increase for 2004.
“We thought the 1.5 mill increase would mean $150, not $60 like ya’ll are saying,” Ivey said.
Mike Beasley explained how he arrived at the projected $60 increase for every $100,000 worth of assessed property value. He said taxes are only paid on 40 percent of the assessed value and that he did his calculations off of those numbers.
“If it is $150, we will be back,” Ivey said. “I want to commend the two of you who didn’t want to go this far with it, that’s a lot of money.”
Mintz was also concerned about how much money the 1.5 mill increase would equate to.
“They (Banks County Board of Commissioners) say .18 mills was an $18 increase and yours at 1.5 would be $150,” he said.
“A lot of us guys are barely struggling by out there and we can work in a little bit here and there, but like ya’ll we have to pay for increased fuel and groceries, but one big jump at one time, it takes a pretty big lick out of a small man’s budget,” Mintz said.
Mintz asked if the school was anticipating a surplus at the end of the year. Beasley said the surplus would be around $1.8 million.
“How much could you knock off to even the strain of it?” asked Mintz.
Superintendent Chris Erwin mentioned state austerity reductions, which equal $1.3 million over the past three years.
“There is no way to cut this any kind of way, that is a big jump?” Mintz continued. “I’ve noticed a lot of building in Banks County and it looks like our tax base is expanding quite a bit.”
Members of the board said with growth comes an increased need for services, including schools.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I don’t really want to go any where else,” Mintz said. “I don’t fault anyone for coming to Banks County because it is the best place to be, but I’d like to keep the taxes down.”
Brock wanted to know why the BOE went outside the county to hire a superintendent, last year.
“Do we not have anybody qualified in Banks County who could be the school superintendent, did we have to go outside the county?” Brock questioned. “Usually people living in the county will do more for the county than people not living here, I’m not saying I have a problem with Mr. Erwin.”
Members of the BOE answered the questions.
“The answer is no, but we were looking for the best qualified person to put in that position,” said Ron Gardiner
Ben Ramsey said Erwin is moving to Banks County.
“I’m excited that our new superintendent is starting to build a house in Banks County,” Ramsey said.
“Mr. Erwin has two children in our school system, he uprooted his whole family to come here,” said Bo Garrison.
Then, Brock questioned the increase in the millage rate.
“I was looking back and I noticed two-thirds of my taxes were for the schools, I don’t see these kinds of increases in what I do and I think it should be lower than what it is,” Brock continued.
A presentation given by Mike Beasley highlighted increases in expenses and decreases in revenues the school system is likely to experience in the coming year. State cuts in funding, the rising cost of fuel, salary increases, new teachers, a 21 percent increase in property insurance and an eight percent increase in student population since the 1999-2000 school year were mentioned among others.
Erwin said the school system has already borrowed over one mill to pay bills while waiting on the tax digest to be completed and tax bills to be sent out.
The 13.75 millage rate was approved by a majority vote. Neal Brown, Ron Gardiner and Johnny Williams voted in favor of the increased millage rate. Bo Garrison and Ben Ramsey voted in opposition.
“I feel like it was a little much and I feel like our senior citizens living on fixed incomes cannot handle it right now,” Garrison said later, explaining his decision. “They couldn’t tell me what programs would be cut (without the increase).”
When the millage rate was first discussed, Garrison and Ramsey made a motion to approve a .75 millage rate increase following discussion about an ucoming county reassessment.
“I went from a .5 mills increase to .75 mills increase and wanted to wait and see how the assessment comes out four months from now,” Garrison said. “I’m worried they won’t roll it back like they should when it comes in.”
Garrison said the rate increase was based, in part, on unknown future costs to the system, including 2005 austerity reductions.
“You can’t look ahead,” Garrison said. “Our state revuenue is up four percent, I don’t see austerity reductions at $500,000 for 2005.”


Motorcyclist seriously injured in wreck Sat.
Charles Rodney Francis, Gillsville, was seriously injured in a wreck Saturday at the intersection of West Ridgeway Road and Faulkner Road.
Francis left Atlanta Dragway where he works for EKG Security to get lunch and was returning when he was reportedly struck by a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am driven by Evan Bryan Crawford, Commerce, as it made a left turn off West Ridgeway onto Faulkner.
Francis was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, according to a report from the Georgia State Patrol. Crawford was not injured.
Francis’s uncle, Charlie Neidler said: “They had to remove a portion of his skull due to the swelling of the brain. He has two broken arms, a broken leg, damage to his colon.”
He has been on 100 percent life support since they brought him in.
“We’re all praying for him. He has four children ages 5, 8, 9 and 13. Today (June 22) is his birthday. He’s 33.”
Craig Armstrong, general manager of Atlanta Dragway said: “This is so tragic. He has a young wife and four children. We’re all praying for him and thinking about his family. I cannot imagine what they are going through.”
Francis’s supervisor, Gary Stewart, said: “Rodney works for us part-time and we just really met at the Southern Nationals. He’s been a good employee.”
Stewart went to visit him at the hospital and said the mood was somber.
Francis’s mother, Lois Rouse, Statham, tearfully said: “I’m not going to give up on him. I can’t. He’s my only child. I haven’t left his side since the helicopter brought him in and I’m not going to.”
“He hasn’t regained concsiousness or opened his eyes,” she said. “The doctors are saying he has major brain damage. He has to make it. We’re praying so hard that he will make it, that he will wake up. If anyone out there has a miracle, please pull it out. He needs one.”
Rouse also said she wants Crawford to realize the devestation he caused in their family.
“One stupid mistake is all it can take to ruin another’s life,” she said. “He needs to know what he’s done.”
Francis remains in intensive care in critical condition under careful watch by his family and medical staff at Grady Memorial Hospital.
The family will be setting up a fund for medical bills and for the family.

Commissioners to meet Thurs.
The Banks County Board of Commissioners will hold a work session meeting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 24, in the conference room of the courthouse in Homer.
Items to be discussed include: 2005 budget, soil and erosion sedimentation, Baldwin fire protection, Tates Creek fire protection, I.W. Davis prison detail, tax assessors capital funds transfer and personnel technician.

 


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Homer plans town meeting for Tues.
The Homer City Council will hold a town meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 29, at the historic courthouse.
The $500,000 Georgia Department of Transportation T-grant for the streetscape project will be discussed.
The public is invited. For more information, call 677-3510.



Lula adopts state watering guidelines
The Lula City Council adopted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources guidelines for watering effective July 1.
At Monday’s meeting, city manager Dennis Bergin said the city would follow the state rules of odd/even watering days.
The DNR has advised a “non-drought” schedule for now due to the heavy rains. Under that level, odd numbered addresses are allowed outdoor water use on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; even numbered addresses can water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Under level 1, outdoor watering will follow the odd/even schedule, but will be limited to the hours between 4 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 10 a.m.
Level 2 allows for watering on odd/even days only between the hours of midnight and 10 a.m. Washing sidewalks, gutters, streets and driveways is prohibited.
Level 3 permits odd-numbered addresses to water only on Sundays and even-numbered only on Saturdays. The hours of permitted watering are from midnight to 10 a.m. Washing sidewalks, gutters, streets and driveways is prohibited, as is filling swimming pools. The regulation will not apply to irrigation of outdoor food gardens.
For further information, contact city hall.


The Banks County News wins 13 state press association awards
Takes second place in general excellence
The Banks County News won 13 awards in the Georgia Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, including second place for general excellence.
The awards include first place for hard news writing, sports column, serious column and lifestyle coverage.
The first place for hard news writing was for a series written by Adam Fouche on methamphetamine.
“Well-written,” the judge wrote. “Thorough coverage.”
Fouche also won the first place sports column award.
“Nice use of humor and a wide variety of topics,” the judge wrote. “Fishing column especially strong and descriptive. Loved the string of factors for the right setting for a specific lure.”
Shar Porier won the first place serious column award for a column on the death of her mother.
“A deeply moving remembrance of mom on the night she died,” the judge wrote. “It takes nerve to write about so difficult a moment. Maybe the best personal writing in the entire contest. Unassuming and very real. It’s what a great column should be.”
As for the lifestyle coverage, the judge wrote: “This is a nice colorful package.”
SECOND PLACE
The News also won second place for business coverage, religious coverage, editorial writing, headline writing, hard news writing and sports pages.
The religious coverage award was for articles written by Porier on the annual Sunday School celebration and an account of local assistance to a Vermont church.
As for the editorials written by editor Angela Gary, the judge wrote: “I like the informal friendly language in one case, the hold-no-punches verbiage in the others.”
The headlines that led to the award for headline writing included: “Talking Trash” and “It’s down to three.”
As for the sports section award for the pages written and compiled by Fouche, the judge wrote: “This was this close to first. Great page one layout. Good stories and depth and plenty of information.”
THIRD PLACE
The News also won third place for layout and design and sports writing by Fouche.
On the layout, the judge wrote: “Fairly good package throughout. Flags on obits a good idea, nice touch. Good photos and front. Separation of stories, elements on front makes it easy for the reader.”
As for Fouches’ win for sports writing, the judge wrote: “Excellent topics. Solid writing.”
In all, MainStreet Newspaper publications won 34 awards in the state newspaper contest.
The Jackson Herald won nine awards; The Commerce News won five awards; and The Madison County Journal won seven awards, including third place for general excellence.
The awards were presented at the annual GPA banquet Friday night at the Westin Resort in Savannah.