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JUNE 23, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Winning While School’s Out
Commerce Summer Ball Team Runs Record To 15-1
The summer baseball season isn’t about padding the win column but it makes for a nice little bonus if you do.

Otis Brooks takes first victory on asphalt
Chuck Cooper grabs Sportsman win
BROOKS TAKES FIRST CAREER ASPHALT WIN
Drivers and crew members from several divisions surrounded victory lane Friday night at Peach State Speedway as they eagerly waited to congratulate Jefferson’s Otis Brooks who took his first-ever win on asphalt. After competing successfully on local dirt tracks early in his career, Brooks began racing on asphalt in the late 1980’s.

Jefferson hosting 9-10 district play
A pair of Jefferson all star baseball teams are in the midst of district tournaments, with a berth in state play on the line this week.
The Jefferson recreation department is hosting the Georgia Parks and Recreation District 7 Tournament for 9-and-10 year-old boys.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
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.

Homer plans town meeting for Tues.
The Homer City Council will hold a town meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.


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.

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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COWBOY AT THE LIBRARY

Cowboy storyteller Calvin Sims of Story Tellers Ranch presented some “Wild West” stories at the Jefferson Public Library Thursday afternoon. He also brought along his horse, Cisco, to meet children at the summer reading program. Preston Cochran, 3, is shown giving Cisco a pat. See this weeks Jackson Herald for more information on summer reading programs coming up at the Jefferson library and other libraries in the county.

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.
The board of commissioners agreed to a recommendation by commissioner Tony Beatty Monday night to name Saverne Rucker-Varnum to the authority.
Beatty, Emil Beshara and Sammy Thomason voted in favor of the appointment. Stacey Britt abstained from voting.
Beatty said Varnum has a degree in “economics and marketing” and has plans on how to help the authority increase its water sales. Varnum’s resume lists her college degree in “home economics fashion marketing.”
Varnum is a graduate of Jefferson High School and a former flower shop owner. She is a teacher at Fourth Street Elementary School in Athens where she has been employed since 2001. She has also taught for the Jackson and Barrow county school systems.
Beatty offered thanks to Stringer for serving but said the job had been more work than he promised when he asked him to serve more than three years ago.
“I would like to thank Mr. Dean Stringer for his service on that board,” Beatty said. “When I talked to Dean three years ago, I mentioned that all the projects were set and the funding was coming in from the SPLOST and there shouldn’t be a lot to do. Wrong thing to tell him. There has been a lot of controversy and he’s been tied up with a lot of work. Dean has a couple of extra jobs. He’s a part-time fireman...He’s also rescue chief at South Jackson Fire Department...”
Varnum does not live in Beatty’s BOC district. She lives in District 1, which is served by Stacey Britt. The BOC usually appoints members to boards and authorities from within their own district.


Orr files motion in courthouse case
Wyc Orr, the attorney for the citizens’ group that filed a lawsuit over the financing of the new courthouse, has filed a “motion for reconsideration” with the Supreme Court of Georgia.
“If the opinion does not damage our state constitution by setting a terribly lax and casual tone toward constitutional protection afforded Georgia’s citizens, in particular the crucial voting franchise, and by adopting an equally blasé attitude regarding the candor owed this court, then there are no peaches in Georgia,” Orr wrote. “It is shocking and disappointing for this court, the keeper of the flame of lawyer professionalism and adherence to the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct, to so lightly consider the message sent by such a holding. Has the court fully considered the full implications of this language and holding?”
Orr concluded by stating: “There are times when it is better to be on the losing side than the winning side. To date, this is such a case.”


New ambulance awaits permanent home
County officials working on fifth ambulance station in Plainview
Jackson County’s newest ambulance arrived more than six months ago — but it hasn’t been put to full use, yet.
Instead, the ambulance has been sitting in a Jefferson emergency services bay while county officials try to settle land issues for a new ambulance station in Plainview.
County manager Al Crace said the new ambulance is being used as a second back-up unit for emergency services — but sources report the fully-equipped ambulance hasn’t been used in months.
Crace said commissioners have a multi-pronged program to bring greater ambulance service throughout Jackson County, but have been addressing “lots of issues elsewhere” in the meantime.
“We bought the ambulance, we engaged the architects and we’re working on getting the land,” he said Tuesday.
The new ambulance — which was purchased as part of a package deal when an existing ambulance received a new chaise — came to Jackson County sometime around January, Crace said. The commissioners planned to purchase the new ambulance around June, but purchased it earlier when they received a 10-15 percent savings as part of a package deal.
A new ambulance with standard emergency equipment costs about $120,000, he said. Jackson County officials are trying to equip each ambulance with identical equipment.
“We were lucky and we got a good price on the ambulance,” Crace said. “And we’re very appreciative of that.”
Plans call for a new ambulance station to be built near the Plainview Fire Department, located on Hwy. 82 and Plainview Road. The new facility would mark the fifth ambulance station in Jackson County; other stations are located in West Jackson, Jefferson, Commerce and Nicholson. A long-term plan calls for a sixth station to be located in South Jackson.
Crace said county officials have been meeting with members of the Plainview Fire Department to discuss temporary housing for the new ambulance.
“Once we have a temporary housing site worked out, then we’ll hire staff,” Crace said.
As for a permanent ambulance station in Plainview, the construction process is being held up by a missing title from when the proposed site was once a school, he added.
Precision Planning is now preparing architectural designs of the proposed Plainview station, along with a new station for West Jackson that will be located near the intersection of Hwy. 124 and Hwy. 60, Crace said. Currently, the county leases an ambulance bay from the West Jackson Fire Department, which is located between downtown Hoschton and Braselton.
County officials hope to place an ambulance within five minutes of 95 percent of residents in the event of an emergency.
“Our coverage pattern is based on the American Heart Association,” Crace said. “(Firefighters’) coverage is based on ISO rating standards.”
A long-range master plan of county emergency services completed last year identified the Plainview area — which serves Pendergrass, Talmo and Maysville — with the greatest immediate need for ambulance service.
On Monday, commissioners donated a surplus 1990 ambulance to the City of Pendergrass. The city had once offered to donate to county commissioners a bay at its police station for an ambulance.
And while the city offered a good deal, moving the new ambulance to Pendergrass didn’t fit the county’s coverage plan, Crace said.
“You’d lose 40 percent of your investment,” he said, while adding Pendergrass overlaps another service area by 40 percent.
Arcade is the next city slated to receive a used ambulance, when one becomes available, Crace said.


BOC chairman’s candidates bring ‘fireworks’ to forum
The chairman’s race for the Jackson County Board of Commissioners created the most fireworks at a political forum Tuesday night in Jefferson.
More than 200 people crowded into the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation auditorium in Jefferson for the forum, which was sponsored by the chamber of commerce and the farm bureau.
It appeared to be an anti-incumbent crowd with the audience snickering, laughing and making comments during remarks by BOC chairman Harold Fletcher and District 2 commissioner Sammy Thomason. Remarks from BOC chairman candidates Roy Grubbs and Pat Bell brought laughter and applause from the crowd.
Fletcher and Bell, both Republicans, will be on the July 20 ballot. The winner of that race will face Democrat Roy Grubbs in November.
Several recent controversial issues, including the construction of Concord Road for the MACI/Toyota project, the courthouse and the budget were addressed by the candidates.
“Today, we find our county under a cloud of negativity and mistrust,” Bell said in her opening remarks. “A credibility problem fueled by the elimination of citizen input, power grabbing and wasteful spending. All of this effects economic development and growth. We must restore credibility beginning with the building of Concord Road. I will build Concord Road. This is important because economic development effects everyone.”
Grubbs said his interests are the same as those of voters.
“I will start by pouring over the books to find waste,” he said. “I’m sure I can hold your taxes where they are by simply eliminating excessive spending..By my estimation, this $96,000 Jerry Waddell thing has cost each of the 41,589 men, women and children in this county $2.31. That is $9.24 for an average family of four. I still don’t see why Mr. Fletcher felt this was necessary.”
Fletcher spoke on his 12 years as a member of the BOC and almost four years as chairman.
“Jackson County is in the process of growing and growing tremendously. We haven’t seen anything yet...There is tremendous opportunity for any citizen that wants to come and live in Jackson County.”
WATER AUTHORITY
The candidates were asked whether the water authority should be under the control of the BOC, which has been a controversial issue for several months.
“Number one, the water authority was set up to get water to the people of this county,” Bell said. “...The reason to have a water authority is to keep politics out of where lines are run. This is imperative.”
Fletcher said: “During the last administration, there was an attempt to politicize the process by entering into 50-year contracts for the sole purpose of giving the outgoing county commissioner a job...I feel this should be an independent board. Over the next few months, we will see a return to that situation.”
Grubbs said: “I think it should be under loose control. That authority needs independence so it shouldn’t get involved in politics.”
CONTROLLING TAXES
The increase in the millage rate over the past four years was addressed and the candidates were asked how they would control it.
Fletcher: “In December of 2000, the outgoing board of commissioners did something that no other board in the history of Jackson County did. It did not do anything to the expense side of the budget, but it dramatically cut the revenue side. Thus, creating a five and half million deficit...As a consequence of that, we see that the millage rate today is 1.17 mills higher than it was during the previous four years.”
Bell said: “I served on that board. At the end of that year, we had a seven million dollar surplus. We gave you back four million dollars of your money. Surplus money, money that wasn’t needed, should go back to the citizens. We left three million for the new board, plus Georgia Power, Havertys and Mayfield were coming on line to pay taxes. That board make it through that year just fine, just like we did. I don’t think you can sit up here and citizens me, Mr. Fletcher, for giving people their money back.”
Grubbs said: “Three years ago, right after you guys were elected, my taxes nearly tripled. The reason it is so high is we are looking at things backwards. We need to see how much money we have and then make that stretch.”
COURTHOUSE
The candidates also addressed the site selection and financing of the new courthouse.
“Everything about the way the courthouse was handled was inappropriate and insulting,” Grubbs said, which brought applause from the audience. “It may have been legal, but it was not right.”
Bell said: “We had a perfectly good courthouse committee that did a lot of work for two solid years. It was not smart to throw out their work.”
She said a bond referendum vote would have been the lowest method of financing the courthouse.
Fletcher defended the actions of the BOC on this project, saying that 12 public hearings were held.
“We financed it in a manner which was legal,” he said.
DISTRICT ELECTIONS
The candidates were asked whether district elections are working for the county.
“It is working out tremendously well,” Fletcher said. “We have the opportunity to elect a representative that lives, works and knows the community.”
Grubbs and Bell didn’t’ agree with this.
“Each of you should have the opportunity to vote for the majority of commissioners,” Grubbs said.
Bell said: “When this legislation came about, I was against not being to able to vote for commissioners across the board. I wanted the district. I wanted people to live in the district. I wanted them to run county-wide. It has further divided the county. It does not give you but two votes on that board. The commissioner in District 1 spends your money just like the commissioner in District 2 does.”
COMPETITIVE BIDS
Another question was whether the county should take bids for all construction costs.
“I think that is pretty open and shut,” Grubbs said. “Yes, you should take three bids. That is standard operating procedure.”
Bell said: “I agree. How can you do business if you don’t put out bids.”
Fletcher said: “I’m certainly glad the other two candidates agree that we are doing the right thing.” This brought loud boos and laughter from the crowd.
PARTY-SWITCHING
The candidates were also questioned on switching parties.
Bell, who ran previously as a Democrat said: “When I got to Atlanta and I was working in the House of Representatives, it seemed to me I just didn’t fit the thinking of a lot of people down there. I am conservative. I have always been a conservative. I don’t think you can be a democrat and be a conservative in this state unless you are Zell Miller. I’m conservative first, period. The nearest thing to that is Republican.”
Fletcher said: “I’m not one who switched. I am still a Republican. I have been for the past three and a half years, and I plan to be for the right of my life.”
Grubbs said: “Don’t you just love these trick answers. He didn’t switch until four years ago...Is this what you really want leading you. This brought loud laugher and cheers from the audience.
Grubbs said he has been a Republican all of his life and ran for BOC chairman earlier as a Republican.
“I was proud to be a Republican and it was really hard for me to change,” he said. “I called our local Republican chairman and he told me the party was going to be backing Harold 100 percent. Then I found out Pat is now a Republican. I said I must now be a Democrat. Just call me Zell.”
CLOSING REMARKS
In his closing remarks, Grubbs said it is time to “stop playing musical chairs” and make a change in county government.
“It is time to start looking forward,” he said. “Leadership of the commission is critical in changing the direction...Together we can break the old cycle and take Jackson County forward to a new beginning. Both of my opponents sat on the old commission...As long as we keep playing musical chairs, things won’t change.”
Bell said she would be a uniter, not a divider.
“I know how to put the right people together to get a job done,” he said. “I will spend your tax money wisely with accountably. You will know what your government is doing. County employees, on all levels, will not be intimated or harassed. The retirement plan will stay in place...Together, we will restore credibility, honesty, integrity and ethics to our government.”
In his remarks, Fletcher said he has been a Republican for “quite longer” than Grubbs said.
“One other correction I would like to make is that not one cent of the Jerry Waddell situation came from county tax funds. All of that came from the water fund.”


Michael A. Carroll
For Jackson County
Superior Court 2004

VOTE JULY 20
in the
Republican Primary!

CarrollforClerk@alltel.net


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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.
Any profits will go toward the fund to build the Bill Anderson Center for the Performing Arts, but the music was the payoff at the festival. From the Dinner with the Stars Thursday night to the concert on Friday, country music fans got a close-up view and lots of great memories of singers Bill Anderson, Darryl Worley, Mel Tillis, newcomer Candi Carpenter, Jack Greene, Jan Howard, Con Hunley and comedian Dick Hardwick Jr.


MACI road project manager, steering committee named
Following controversy over the delay in the construction of Concord Road for the MACI/Toyota development, the board of commissioners has named a project manager and steering committee to oversee the project.
The BOC agreed Monday night to hire Precision Planning for the project management, engineering schedules and servies and related matters for the Concord Road and Possum Creek Road construction.
A steering committee, led by commissioner Emil Beshara, is also in place to meet with Toyota officials for progress reports on the project. Jim Shaw and John Buchanan, members of the county industrial development authority, are also members of this commitee. The IDA has been critical in the delay of the road project.


The Herald wins nine state awards
The Jackson Herald won nine awards in the Georgia Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.
The awards include first place for religion coverage, feature photography and sports section.
The feature photo win was for the “Perfectly Polished” photograph taken by Yve Assad at a Jefferson fifth grade social dance.
“This is the cliché moment of the typical social,” the judge wrote. “The story is told in the faces and body language.”
As for the religion coverage, the judges wrote: “Head and shoulders above others in division.” The entries included religious features written by staff members.
“I didn’t see this section won first last year until I had chosen it this year, but I see why,” the judge wrote of the sports section written and compiled by Allen Luton. “Terrific look and layout, solid photography and tremendous depth. A clear winner!”
SECOND PLACE
The Herald also won second place for feature writing for articles written by Jana Adams Mitcham on the space shuttle Columbia remembered, the Canine Assistants program and Jefferson Mud Turtles, and feature photograph for a playground scene taken by Assad.
“Good content, nice storytelling,” the judge wrote of Mitcham’s features. “Enjoyed the read.”
As for the playground photo, the judge wrote: “Nice face, good clean composition. Vibrant colors.”
THIRD PLACE
The Herald also won third place for business coverage articles by Angela Gary, humorous columns by Virgil Adams, a sports photo by Assad and editorial writing.
“Some solid industrial strength reporting and writing on Valley Fresh and Michigan Automotive Compressor,” the judges wrote on Gary’s business articles.
As for Adams’ column, “The Mother of All Yard Sales,” the judge wrote: “Down-to-earth humor that appeals to all ages and offers light-hearted but valid observations.”
In all, MainStreet Newspaper publications won 34 awards in the state newspaper contest. The Banks County News won 13 awards, including second place for general excellence; 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