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JUNE 30, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
CHS Softball Program Using Summer To Gear Up For Fast-Pitch Transition
Commerce softball will get a facelift in August when the school plays its first fast-pitch game as a varsity softball program and the impending change-over is making for quite a busy summer.

The scramble for state
Seven Jackson County and Jefferson all-star teams have punched their tickets to state tournaments while others are making pushes to join them.
In all, 11 local teams were still involved in some form of all-star competition of press time.

Etheridge Sweeps Twin 25’s at Lanier National Speedway
Defending track champion Richey Etheridge of Flowery Branch enjoyed one of the biggest moments of his career Saturday evening after winning both segments of the Pro Late Model 25-lap features at Lanier National Speedway.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


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.

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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FIREFIGHTERS Ready for fireworks

The Jefferson Fire Department is getting ready for Saturday night’s fireworks display. Chief Don Elrod (L), shown here with David Wilbanks (C), Bobby Chaisson (R) and just a couple of the mortars built by the firefighters, said the show will begin in Jefferson at 9:30 p.m. and will last about 30 minutes. This year’s display, funded at some $4,800 by the city through the fire department’s budget, is the 15th consecutive one put on by the fire department . The show will include more than 450 shells of varying sizes from three inches to six inches. The firefighters pre-load smaller shells into the mortars, then reload with larger shells as they go.


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.
The July 3 events in Jefferson will kick off with a Better Hometown Jefferson farmers’ market from 8 a.m. to noon on the square.
Fresh, locally-grown vegetables and other food items, such as homemade bread and cinnamon rolls, will be available until noon, or until the vendors sell out.
“This is an excellent fund-raiser for individuals, church groups or civic organizations,” said Better Hometown manager Donna Butler.
Spaces are free, but registration is required. Contact Butler at 367-5307.
WWII PROGRAM
“The Well-Armed Soldier: Firearms and Uniforms from the WWII Collection of Thomas Walker” will be presented at the Crawford W. Long Museum from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday.
Local collector Thomas Walker will share his knowledge and give a demonstration of World War II firearms and uniforms and will be available to answer questions.
“The Museum will be open extended hours during the Freedom Festival, and Mr. Walker will not only provide visitors with an interesting and educational outreach highlighting our current exhibition honoring WWII and Korean veterans, but he’ll also give adults, particularly fathers and grandfathers, a cool place to be while their little ones are having fun on the square,” Butler said.
FREEDOM FESTIVAL
The Jefferson Area Business Association (JABA) Freedom Festival will open at 6:30 p.m. and will include over 25 vendors, booths and activities, including “Kiddieland,” the fire department auxiliary barbecue and fried apple pies, ponies, a slide, a train, a mechanical bull, a dunking booth, a pie-throwing booth, “History Trivia Fun,” children’s patriotic crafts, a moonwalk, an American Legion American flag giveaway and lots of other activities for the entire family, Butler said.
Tickets will be available for “Kiddieland” and children’s activities at five for $1.
Music will be provided by “The Fabulous, Famous Georgians.” The band, which encourages dancing, plays a variety of musical styles and will perform a short patriotic medley during the fireworks.
The square will be closed off from parking at 4 p.m. All cars must be moved at that time or be towed at the owner’s expense. Parking will be available at the courthouse, the Jefferson Civic Center and area churches.


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.
Fletcher confirmed Wednesday that he’s reconsidering a previous settlement offer to pay a $7,400 fine to the state ethics commission concerning 74 counts of violations.
The move is a departure from his earlier position in May when he rejected the state commission’s offer of a fine in return for pleading guilty to the ethics violations.
The ethics commission alleges that Fletcher violated 74 counts of the Ethics in Government Act between 2000 and 2004 for failing to disclose his interest in several businesses and properties.
If Fletcher pays the fine, the state ethics commission won’t hold a formal hearing on the allegations, which is currently slated to be held Friday, July 16, at the State Capitol building in Atlanta.
Phillip Davis, the Pendergrass man who filed the initial allegations against Fletcher, said Wednesday that he believes the state ethics commission shouldn’t settle the case. Davis also contends that Fletcher intentionally failed to disclose his holdings.
When asked why he’s now considering paying the fine that he once rejected, Fletcher said the allegations don’t need to distract people from other issues in Jackson County.
“Well, I just feel like it’s best to get it behind us,” he said.
Although Fletcher admits that he failed to properly file the disclosure statements, he contends the move stems from a misunderstanding of the law.
Fletcher said he wasn’t aware that he must disclose holdings by his self-directed IRA account.


Advance voting ahead July 12-16
Jackson 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 Jefferson.


Council meetings changed due to July 4 holiday
Several town councils have changed their regularly scheduled meeting of the month because of the July 4 holiday, which is observed on Monday.
The Jefferson City Council will hold its work session at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 12, at the clubhouse. The regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 19, at the clubhouse. The council usually meets on the first and third Monday of each month.
The Nicholson City Council has changed its July meeting to 7 p.m. on Monday, July 12. The council usually meets on the first Monday of each month.
The Maysville City Council has changed its July meeting to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, July 12. The council usually meets on the first Monday of each month.
The Commerce City Council has canceled its July 5 work session and not re-scheduled it. The regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 12. The council usually meets on the first and second Monday of each month.
The Hoschton City Council has not changed its meeting schedule for July. The work session will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 1, at city hall. The regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 5, at city hall.


Holly Springs industrial rezoning gets OK
A rezoning request for an industrial development on Holly Springs Road was approved by the Jackson County Planning Commission Thursday.
The planners approved the request from Billy Norris for a land use map amendment from urban residential to industrial workplace for property on Holly Springs Road.
Norris said the plans call for locating an industrial park with 8 to 10 buildings on the site, for a total of three million square feet of industrial space. The developer added that it would be mostly distribution businesses because of the limited sewer capacity on the site.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will take action on this request and other recommendations of the planning commission when it meets at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 19, at the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the planning commission:
•approved a request from Carl Skelton for a land use map amendment from residential growth areas to rural places for property on Skelton Road. Attorney John Stell spoke on this request and there was no opposition. Stell said Skelton wants to place a mobile home on the property and live in it and care for his parents.
•approved a request from Danny Brannon to rezone five acres on Lanier Road from A-2 to R-1 and M-H in order to subdivide the property.
•approved a request from Greg Reidling to rezone six acres on Whitney Road from A-2 to R-1 to subdivide the property. Reidling said he plans to locate two homes on the property.
•approved a request from Gary Gilbert to rezone one acre on Hwy. 330 from A-1 to NRC for commercial use. Charles Russell spoke on his concerns about the request. He supports the continued use of the current business but said that he would be opposed to some other uses allowed under the NRC zoning.
•approved a request from Karen Durkee for a special use permit for 11 acres on South Apple Valley Road to locate a guest house.
•tabled a request from James McElroy to rezone seven acres on Hwy. 330 from A-2 to R-1 to subdivide the land into a three-lot single-family subdivision. The application was tabled at McElroy’s request.
•tabled a request from Charles Shepherd to rezone 60 acres on Skelton Road from A-2 to R-1 to locate a 77-lot subdivision. The application was tabled at Shepherd’s request.


Water authority proceeds with Wayne Poultry Road water line
The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority took action in a called meeting Thursday morning to proceed with a project to relocate water lines on Wayne Poultry Road and Stockton Farm Road for the MACI/Toyota project.
The existing 12-inch water line along Wayne Poultry Road and Stockton Farm Road is needed to allow these roads to be expanded to accommodate the wider intersection being proposed on Possum Creek Road.
The estimated engineering cost is $19,745 and the estimated construction cost is $93,382. Water authority chairman Warren Walker said he had discussed the project with county manager Al Crace, who said the board of commissioners would provide these funds.
The project calls for 1,200 feet of water line on Wayne Poultry Road and 550 feet of water line on Stockton Farm Road to be moved.
The vote taken by the authority at Thursday’s meeting was for Prime Engineering to proceed with the design. Engineer Rob Macpherson also gave an overview of the project. It is expected to take two weeks for the survey and design. The plans will then be submitted to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and Jackson County for review. Prime Engineering will then seek three bids for the project. Construction is expected to take three weeks.
In other business at Thursday’s meeting:
•the authority agreed for attorney Julius Hulsey, who recently resigned, to complete work on three on-going lawsuits. The lawsuits were forwarded to the county attorney, but since the work is 90 percent complete, Hulsey was asked to complete the work.
•the authority discussed problems with hydrants being damaged. Paul Mimms was asked to look into this and make a recommendation back to the authority on what needs to be done to handle this problem.
•Mimms reported that the authority had 50 new customers in April and 70 in May.
•Macpherson reported that Dale Construction has completed the water line installation on State Route 15 for the SPLOST V project. He said the project should be completed within 30 days.
•Walker presented a plaque to manager Jerry Waddell in appreciation for his service.


Newspaper deadlines moved up
The ad and news deadlines for the July 7 issue of The Jackson Herald 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 Herald office in Jefferson will be closed on Monday, July 5, in observance of the holiday.

Braselton festival schedule announced
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.
On Friday, booths will open at 4 p.m. and “Full House” will be in concert at 7 p.m. The concert ends at 10 p.m. and booths will close at the same time.
On Saturday, booths will open at 10 a.m. and a history display opens at 11 a.m. April Williams will be in concert from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the “Duncan Creek Band” will perform from 2-5 p.m. “Risky Business” will perform at 7 p.m. The concert ends at 10 p.m. and booths will close at the same time.
On Sunday, at 2 p.m., a parade will start, booths will open, a historic display will open and “Elvis and the Blue Suede Band” will be in concert. Fireworks will begin at dusk at Chateau Elan.
The parade will feature NASCAR driver Buckshot Jones as the parade marshal.
Limited booth and parade space is available.
For more information, call Danielle Austin, at (706) 654-3915 or e-mail csmith@braselton.net


Michael A. Carroll
For Jackson County
Superior Court 2004

VOTE JULY 20
in the
Republican Primary!

CarrollforClerk@alltel.net


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Surgeon Helps Bottom Line At
Medical Center
Most Of FY ‘04 Deficit Eliminated; ‘05 May End With Hospital In The Black
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 revenue 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 to BJC 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.