News from Madison County...

JUNE 30, 2004


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillispie
What makes a comment a racial slur?
What makes a comment a racial slur? Is a comment by a member of one racial group a slur while the same or a similar comment by another is “nothing?”
This question comes as a result of a heated argument between a NAACP official and a city council leader in Yonkers, New York.

Margie Richards
Monkey tales
One of the many good things about friends you’ve known for a long time is that it kind of frees you up to be as silly as you want to be and just have a good time.


SPORTS
Putting the pieces together
Raider basketball team starts rebuilding process with summer basketball slate
The Raider basketball team is having to rebuild after a 16-9 breakthrough season last year under head coach Steve Crouse and what better time to sort things out than when school’s out, the coach said.


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
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.
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.

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PREVENTION KEY TO AVOIDING VIRUS

Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter (MOAS) technician Brooke Adams applies a strong topical tick and flea preventative to Emily, one of the shelter’s “kitty ambassadors.” Veterinarians say prevention is the best way to avoid the deadly cytauxzoon parasite which is transmitted by infected ticks. Photo courtesy of MOAS.

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).
She can’t be sure, because she was able to find only two of them — one dead and the other dying. In both cases tests revealed that the cats had fallen ill of the tick-borne disease, which kills them in rapid fashion by destroying their red blood cells.
“I’d never heard of it before,” Mathews said. “And what’s more, I treated all my cats for fleas and ticks.”
But since her own experience she says she has heard more and more about it.
“The most important thing is to get your pet to the vet immediately if you suspect this disease,” she said.
The cytauxzoon parasite causing the disease is carried from bobcats, which some believe have grown in numbers in recent years, to domestic cats by ticks. Once infected, cats fall ill quickly within a few days to a couple of weeks.
Once considered rare, local veterinarians are seeing an alarming rise in documented cases in the last three years.
“It’s probably always been around,” Dr. Allene Phillips of Madison Animal Hospital just outside Danielsville said. “Cats get sick with it so fast that most people in these rural areas just think their outside cats have gone off to die, gotten killed somehow, or were stolen.”
Bobcats are known as the reservoir carriers of the disease, according to Dr. Leslie Hart of Comer Veterinary Clinic, which means they may suffer little to no ill effects from being carriers of the parasite.
But ticks which have been attached to an infected bobcat can then pass on the disease to a domestic cat, where it proves fatal without treatment.
“The most noticeable symptoms are that the cat won’t eat or drink and is very hot to the touch, indicating a high fever,” Dr. Phillips said.
Other symptoms may be jaundice, extreme fatigue and rapid weight loss, Dr. Michelle Haag of Commerce Veterinary Hospital, added.
But all three veterinarians agree that prevention is the best protection against the disease and they recommend using a strong topical anti-tick, anti-flea agent safe for cats such as Frontline Plus Top Spot.
Although ticks may still bite the cat after it’s been treated with Frontline, the ticks will fall off and die quickly, giving the insect less time to pass along any diseases it may be carrying.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal


In pursuit of the truth
A long-awaited state report on the county tax assessor’s office is expected to be in the hands of the county government today (Wednesday). Meanwhile, a new investigation has been launched in the ongoing controversy between two county offices.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation van has been parked outside of the county government complex in recent days, with investigator Terry Cooper inside interviewing employees and looking at computers in the commissioners’ office and the tax assessor’s department.
Cooper declined to comment Monday on what he has found.
But Sheriff Clayton Lowe said the GBI will release a written report sometime soon, detailing its findings.
Lowe called the GBI after both BOC chairman Wesley Nash and tax board of assessor’s chairman John Bellew contacted him June 15, the day after a contentious BOC meeting in which Bellew alleged that someone had tampered with property records on county computers.
Bellew, one of four Democrats who is seeking the BOC chairman’s seat this election year, told commissioners June 14 that someone tampered with the property records of his brother, Delmar “J.R.” Bellew, between 10:09 and 10:10 a.m. on the morning of May 19, changing the value of his property from $92,630 to $2.
Lowe said the GBI is looking into Bellew’s allegations.
“They’re taking a thorough look at it,” said Lowe. “We want to know for sure what happened.”
Meanwhile, county clerk Morris Fortson said Tuesday that he spoke with an official with the state Department of Revenue, who told him that a report on the three-day investigation of the assessor’s office in May by a three-person committee should be released to county commissioners Wednesday.
A copy of that report was not available as of press time.


BOC lifts lot size restriction on planned development
The planned Tumbling Creek Subdivision near the intersection of Hwy. 72 and Hwy. 172 could now have as many as 93 homes, instead of the previously proposed 55.
The county board of commissioners voted 3-1 Monday — with Mike Youngblood providing the only “no” vote (Melvin Drake was not in attendance) — to lift a minimum lot-size requirement of 1.5 acres on the planned subdivision.
Eliminating the condition means that developers can place homes on lots as small as .75 acres in the subdivision.
Attorney Victor Johnson, representing property owners Harold Gaulding, Stephen Fennel and Sonny Dinsmore, appeared before commissioners Monday to seek the removal of the 1.5-acre restriction.
Johnson said there is an “existing trend in the area for smaller lots” and that allowing three-quarter acre lots is actually the type of measure that helps reduce sprawl, essentially maintaining that large lot requirements do not allow for a healthy concentration of growth. The attorney noted that Census figures show a steady trend of growth in the county and that people are moving here “whether residents like it or not.” He added that growth should be directed toward areas with available water services and highway access, such as the planned Tumbling Creek Subdivision.
Following Johnson, two people spoke in favor of lifting the restrictions, while no one opposed the request.
Commissioner Bruce Scogin made the motion to lift the 1.5-acre lot restriction, saying that he felt smaller lots in the Tumbling Creek development were appropriate. He said growth in Madison County should occur around towns, where infrastructure is available. But he added that he won’t support dense growth in agricultural areas, such as along a planned water line route along Hwy. 172.
“I will not support dense growth subdivisions down the 172 corridor,” he said.


Rezoning approved for Hwy. 29 subdivision
County commissioners approved a rezoning for a 26-lot subdivision on Hwy. 29 South at Joe Graham Road Monday night.
John West, representing Dearing Development for property owner Melba Bryant, requested 29.59 acres on Hwy. 29 be rezoned from A-2 (agricultural) to R-1 (residential, 3/4 acre minimum with community water).
West said the property is in a high density area and that he doesn’t feel the subdivision “will negatively impact anybody.”
Three members of the Bryant family spoke in favor of the rezoning, saying that the subdivision will provide “affordable housing for young couples.”
For the rest of this sory see this weeks Madison County Journal.

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To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.


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.
No tax rate increase is planned to cover school expenses, with the school system tax rate expected to stay at 16.72 mills. While the tax rate will remain steady, property owners could see an increase in their tax bill due to a projected 29 percent increase in the county tax digest. According to state law, tax levying boards must hold public hearings if they choose not to roll back their tax rate in proportion with tax digest growth.
The BOE is expected to hold those mandatory hearings after the tax digest is finalized and before the millage rate is officially approved.
Though Madison County and other school systems face many education mandates, funding from the state has dwindled in recent years.
Assistant Superintendent Allen McCannon said Monday that the state has cut approximately $1.3 million in funding for county schools over the past two years, the “equivalent of about three mills.”
However, he said the school system has absorbed the hit fairly well. The board expects to end the current year with a balance of $3.2 million.
“We’re holding the line, which I think is very good,” said McCannon.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.


Colbert Independence Day festival set for Sat.
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.
An agenda of events is as follows:
•6:30 a.m. - Registration for the 17th Annual Colbert Canna Run 5K and One Mile Fun Run begins at Colbert Elementary School (look for the signs), which is located on Hwy. 72 one-half mile from the Depot. The 5k begins promptly at 8 a.m. followed by the One Mile Fun Run at 9 a.m. Call for registration forms, prices and details.
•8:30 a.m. - Parade participants should meet in the staging area located in the open area next to the old Colbert Elementary School off Colbert- Danielsville Road.
•10 a.m.- Parade begins.
•12 noon - Barbecue sponsored by the Colbert Lions Club.
There will be booths set up across from the post office with food and arts and crafts vendors, along with activities for both children and adults.
Call Colbert City Hall at 788-2311 for more details.