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JUNE 30, 2004


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OPINIONS
Shar Porier
$363 million???
Federal employees got a day off in honor of former President Ronald Reagan at a cost to us taxpayers of $363 million. $363 million!!!
Who would have thought one day could cost so much money.
I wonder if he would have thought it appropriate to spend that much money with a trade deficit in the trillions of dollars.

Jana Mitcham
The rise and fall and rise of the small town
I was reading a book recently that touched on the demise of a small rural Southern town in the early 1970s when “Bargain City” built on its outskirts. One by one, the long-time merchants were forced to shut down, unable to compete with the mass of merchandise and lower prices available at the “superstore.”


SPORTS
All-stars forfeit second game due to weather
The Banks County 13 and 14 year-old fast-pitch all-star team fell to White County and forfeited a game against Union County in last week’s tournament held at the Commerce Recreation Department American Veterans Memorial Park.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
Fletcher looking at paying fine for allegations
State ethics commission hearing scheduled four days before primary election
With a state ethics hearing looming just days before the July 20th election, Jackson County Board of Commissioners chairman Harold Fletcher said this week he’s ready to pay a fine and get the issue settled.

Freedom Festival ahead Sat. in Jefferson
Events to kick off with farmers’ market, end with music, fireworks
A full day of activities is planned for Saturday as Jefferson celebrates Independence Day.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Tick-borne disease fatal to area cats
Sara Mathews was devastated three years ago when all of her cats either died or disappeared.
Mathews, who lives in neighboring Oglethorpe County and is now director of the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter, believes all eight of her pet cats died of the disease cytauxzoonosis (pronounced cy-tox-zoa-no-sis).

BOE approves 5% budget increase
Madison County’s Board of Education approved a budget Tuesday night for the 2004-05 school year that totals approximately $34.6 million — up almost five percent from last year’s $33 million budget.

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BUILDING FAILS INSPECTION

All of the bricks were torn off the front of the new Banks County Fire Department last week. Instead of re-installing a brick front, the contractor has decided to use stucco on the front of the building. Originally, bids were submitted using brick paneling across the front.


Building fails inspection
All of the bricks were torn off the front of the new Banks County Fire Department last week and tossed into a dumpster after the building failed an inspection. The fire station is located on Industrial Drive at Banks Crossing.
Members of the Banks County Board of Commissioners, fire chief Perry Dalton and engineer Andy Waldrop inspected the building.
Poor workmanship was the cause of the destruction, according to Dalton.
“We inspected them real close,” Dalton said. “There weren’t many tie-downs installed and the ones that were weren’t attached correctly.”
Harold Gerrin Construction was awarded the contract on building the new fire station. He hired David Hunter as a subcontractor to lay the bricks at the fire station.
Michael Fischer, county administrative officer, said the quality of the job was the problem.
“It’s not what we’re looking for,” said Fischer. “We told them to remove the brick. We all agreed the quality was not good.”
Fischer said the construction mix-up will not cost Banks County anything. The general contractor, Gerrin, will be responsible for the additional costs, he said.
Instead of re-installing a brick front, the contractor has decided to use stucco on the front of the building. Originally, bids were submitted using brick paneling across the front.


Commissioners adopt $9.8 million budget for 2005
The Banks County Board of Commissioners has adopted a $9.8 million budget for the 2005 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2004.
The BOC held a public hearing on June 17. No citizens came to the 9 a.m. meeting. The budget was adopted, leaving $100,000 in contingency after all other expenditures are taken out.
Also at the meeting, the BOC approved a soil, erosion and sedimentation ordinance that was tabled at a June 8 meeting. If the ordinance had not been adopted by July 1, issuing authority for permits would have gone back to the Environmental Protection Division.
“I don’t think we really want the EPD to come in and do this for us,” said BOC chairman Kenneth Brady.
Pat Westmoreland said he was concerned about the timeliness.
“The time element outweighs anything else that may be detrimental,” he said. “It would take the state two months, it only takes about 30 days in the county, that is the main reason I’d like to adopt.”
Rickey Cain abstained from voting.
In other business at the meeting:
•the BOC discussed the funding of the tax assessors re-evaluation plans. They agreed to a request from the tax assessors’ office to allocate funding left in the capital account on June 30 towards the re-evaluation.
•the I.W. Davis prison detail contract was discussed. Nine prisoners, who are supervised by a guard, work for the county doing maintenance on roads and grounds nearly everyday of the year. The contract costs the county $35,700, which pays the guards’ salary.
•a lease program for new cars for the Banks County Sheriff’s Office was discussed. According to Cain, the lease program will get the sheriff’s office six new cars over the next two years. The program will cost $48,000 a year for three years with a $1 buy-out option at the end of the three years. Money has already been budgeted for the new vehicles. Cain said the sheriff’s office has 13 cars each with over 100,000 miles. The board unanimously approved the lease program.
•a discussion was held on hiring an administrative clerk to assist Erin Decker and Regina Gailey in the commissioners’ office. Brady said the two are overwhelmed and need some assistance. The responsibilities of the new employee will include personnel management and payroll, among other duties. The commissioners designated $20,000 for an annual salary. Commissioners agreed that Gailey should interview applicants and hire the individual she feels is best for the job. She asked that Michael Fischer be allowed to assist in the search.


Inpatient revenue up at BJC Medical Center, authority reports
When BJC Medical Center general surgeon Keith Ash asks for a new piece of equipment, he usually gets it, and for good reason. He’s generating a ton of money for the medical center.
According to Bill Williams, chief financial officer, gross inpatient revenue at BJC was up $61,000 this May over last, while gross outpatient revenue was up by $470,000, much of it related to surgery..
“All together, revenues were about $531,000 greater than the prior year for one month,” Williams said. “Most of that was related to surgical procedures, but that also includes Dr. Davis and one or two others.”
Those numbers are what BJC Medical Center collects. Ash’s services (and those of other doctors) are billed separately.
Surgical-related revenues are helping BJC beat its budget projection of an operating loss of $415,000 for the fiscal year ending today (June 30). While the final numbers are not yet in, Williams says the hospital will probably wind up “very close to breaking even,” but with a small loss.
“The budget for the current year was a $415,000 loss. We will do significantly better than that,” he predicted.
Largely due to the increase in surgical activity – which also provides collateral revenue via admissions, room and board revenue, lab and X-ray costs – Williams proposed a budget projecting $108,000 in revenue over expenditures for the upcoming year at Monday night’s meeting of the BJC Medical Center Authority.
The budget calls for $22.5 million in operating revenue based on patient revenue of $37.4 million, minus $15.5 million in “deductions” for bad debt, contractual discounts and indigent care.
“Things are definitely on an upward trend. We may even beat that budget,” Williams said, looking toward the 2004-05 fiscal year. “We expect revenue to be eight to 10 percent higher than this year and expenses up four to six percent.”
The increased surgical activity does have costs, of course. For example, the hospital has added five additional people, bought a lot of equipment and had to increase supplies.
The budget also calls for $526,000 in capital expenditures, much of it related to surgical needs, but some also for the X-ray and two or three other departments. The authority approved nearly $200,000 of that Monday night, including $25,500 for a portable X-ray unit, $37,520 for an operating room table sized for obese patients, and two anesthesia machines at $66,327 apiece.
The budget is based on an overall growth of three percent, Williams told the authority – but with a greater increase in the surgical area.
“I want to commend Bill and Jim and the staff for the work they put in on this budget,” said authority member Jimmy Hooper. “I feel better about this budget than any budget we’ve done.”
Administrator Jim Yarborough said department heads were “more heavily involved” in the budget than they have been in the past.
“They stepped up and did a good job,” he stated.
In other business, the authority:
•at Williams’ recommendation, approved a contract with Quorum Health Resources to do a coding and compliance audit in which it will pull 90 records a quarter “to make sure we are coding correctly and, more importantly, make sure we’re getting paid properly. The fee is $2,600 per quarter.
•approved emergency room privileges to Dr. Syed Rivzi.
•at Yarborough’s recommendation, approved $70,000 to assist Lanier Tech with a three-year nurses’ training program in Jackson County. Yarborough said the course would focus on geriatric care.
•amended its discount policy to reflect the fact that doctors and families, staff members and authority members get discounts in health insurance and Wellness Center memberships.
•learned that the sale of the practice operated by Dr. Beth Sullivan is almost complete.
•was warned by Yarborough that due to state cutbacks, the waiting time in the emergency room for state mental health assessments may grow longer. The firm handling the assessments for BJC has discontinued the service; BJC is talking with two other companies about providing the service. There remains a question about whether the hospital will be reimbursed for those costs.
•heard Williams report that the medical center’s reimbursement from the Indigent Care Trust Fund arrived – but was substantially lower than expected.


BCN deadlines moved up
The ad and news deadlines for the July 7 issue of The Banks County News have been moved up because of the Independence Day holiday.
The deadline for classified and display ads will be at noon on Friday, July 2.
The news deadline will be at 5 p.m. on Friday.
The News office in Homer will be closed on Monday, July 5, in observance of the holiday.

 


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Fourth of July celebration set Sun. in Homer
Fireworks planned
The skies over Homer will again light up with the multi-colored bursts that mark the celebration of Independence Day.
On July 4th, at “dark-30,” the fireworks show will begin in the field on Highway 51 South across from the Banks County Middle School, according to Cliff Hill Jr., fire chief of the Homer Volunteer Fire Department.
The fire department held fund-raisers to pay for the show. The Town of Homer also contributes to the annual event.


Fire contracts get approval
The Banks County Board of Commissioners approved two fire contracts, one for the city of Baldwin and one for Tates Creek Fire Department, in a called meeting last week.
The contracts include coverage changes and changes in budgets. Both contracts will go into effect on July 1.
Banks County fire chief Perry Dalton said opening more stations will lower ISO ratings and lower the cost of insurance for Banks County citizens.
“If we didn’t have 10 firehouses, everyone would pay double,” he said. “No one (in Banks County) is unprotected.”
Banks County is planning to run a two-man, 12-hour medic shift out of the Hollingsworth Station on Old Highway 441 North.
Two weeks ago, the Baldwin City Council discussed the proposed fire coverage changes. Dalton said his department would handle fire calls on all of the side roads off of Highway 105 North up to Harmony Church Road. The county 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 will still cover residences on Highway 105 North up to Crump Road, Cash Road and Broad River Road. The change will mean a $9,400 loss to the Baldwin fire department budget. Baldwin will be awarded $17,465 for fire protection.
The Tates Creek Fire Department was budgeted at $3,000 for the 2005 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Fire protection will not change under the Tates Creek Fire Department.

Advance voting ahead July 12-16
Banks County voters who would like to cast their ballot before the July 20 election may do so one week in advance.
A new state law allows voters to cast a ballot Monday through Friday of the week immediately prior to the election date. This means voting will be available July 12-16. Ballots will be cast at the voter registration office, located at the county courthouse in Homer.


Chamber to host a ‘Meet the Candidates’
The Banks County Chamber of Commerce is holding a “Meet the Candidates” session on Sunday, July 11, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the cafeteria of Banks County High School.
All candidates and residents are invited to attend.