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SEPTEMBER 8, 2004


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OPINIONS
Shar Porier
What has happened to the press?
Once, not too long ago, Americans had the right to free speech, to a free press.
If there was something fishy going on, there were reporters who took the initiative to pursue those hunches and come up with the truth.

Angela Gary
A hurricane I’ll never forget
One place you never want to be is in the path of a hurricane. Reports of the destruction Hurricane Frances is causing throughout Florida reminds me of a scary vacation I had in Daytona Beach more than 10 years ago.


SPORTS
Commerce, Banks County to meet in Homer Friday
Banks County will host the Commerce Tigers Friday night for the 23rd meeting between the two teams in the past 34 years.
Geographically closer than any other two teams on the respective schedules, Banks County and Commerce have a rivalry etched in time. Although the two compete in different classifications, the Leopards play 8-AA and Commerce plays an 8-A schedule, hundreds of fans fill the stands to see who will win the ball game.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
Commissioners adopt tentative 2005 budget
No tax hike in plans, but no funds allocated for new courthouse lease payment
The proposed 2005 Jackson County budget may be more notable for what it doesn’t have as for what it does include.

Jefferson ties for top system SAT scores
JCCHS also shows increases in scores
With a score of 1077, the Jefferson City School system tied with Oconee County for the top system SAT score in the state. The top 10 list was posted on the Georgia Department of Education website. Jefferson High School was also named as one of the top 10 schools for math scores. With a score of 560, JHS ranked eighth in the state.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Medical Mission
Local effort focuses on doctors in need in Iraq
Light bulbs, lead pencils, oxygen and medical journals.
These things may not appear to have much in common, but for the citizens of Iraq they all represented things in short supply during sanctions imposed by the United Nations following the Gulf War in 1992.

Fitzpatrick retires after nearly 30 years
Last week Margie Fitzpatrick ended more than a quarter century of working with handicapped adults in the community.
Fitzpatrick had worked for Advantage Behavioral Health Systems for 28 years and eight months to be exact when she retired last Tuesday.

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Final plat approved for Morgan Manor

The Banks County Planning Commission approved the final plat for the first curb and gutter development in Banks County Tuesday night. Tim Brooks, applicant, discusses Morgan Manor and a future development with the planning commission during the meeting. Brooks also proposed a 120-lot development to the commission Tuesday night. Pictured sitting are: (L-R) Joe Barefoot, Ed Lindorme, Alicia Andrews, Sammy Reece, Harold Ivey and Keith Covington. The board approved Morgan Manor, but sent the rezoning application to the board of commissioners without a recommendation.


Proposed subdivision sparks dispute
Planners take no action on Brooks’ request
A rezoning application brought before the Banks County Planning Commission Tuesday night by Tim Brooks erupted into public dispute.
Brooks filed an application with the county to rezone 159 acres on Hebron Road from Agricultural Rural Residential to Single Family Residential for the placement of 120 houses. Brooks said he plans to build “a quality development” on the property with curbs and gutters.
“There are some folks who want to live in residential areas,” he said.
Planning commission member Ed Lindorme recommended approval of the rezoning request, but no one seconded the motion. The planning commission passed the application on to the Banks County Board of Commissioners without a recommendation.
The BOC will consider the request and those listed below when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the courthouse in Homer.
At the planning meeting, Brooks said the subdivision would have both “starter homes,” which will cost between $130,000 and $140,000, and “upgrade homes,” costing over $160,000. He said the multi-million dollar project will take over two years to complete.
Ricky Simmons, Wright Mill Road resident and adjoining property owner, said the development will impact wetlands that line the property.
“There is a state and federal wetland that joins that piece of property and I’m concerned about the run-off going into that wetland,” Simmons said.
Planning Commission chairman Harold Ivey said an environmental impact study would have to be completed before construction could begin.
Martha Threatt questioned the board about the impact a subdivision of that size would have on the school system.
Members of the planning commission informed Threatt they were not allowed, by law, to consider impacts on the school system, however, planning commission member Joe Barefoot said an estimate on the amount of children living in a development that size would mean eight classrooms and four buses.
Other Banks County citizens questioned the lot sizes allowed on residential land.
Lindorme said: “We try to keep the lot size as big as we can, to improve the quality of life for those who live there, not to limit the number of people.”
Another resident asked about traffic, safety and enforcement. He said Banks County didn’t have enough law enforcement officers to enforce speed limits on the roads.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other action, the planning commission recommended:
•approval for a conditional use application from National Wireless Construction to build a 260-foot telecommunications tower at the intersection of Partain Road and Bruce Kesler Road. Applicant Jim Doss said an eight foot fence would be constructed around the tower and, if it fell, it would not fall on any adjoining property. .
•approval for a conditional use application from Lightnin’ RV Sales and Service LLC for a recreational vehicle sales facility at 30600 U.S. Highway 441, South. Applicant Tommy Allen said he will lease the site, the vacant lot where the old Chevron station was located near the I-85 interchange, for six months with hopes of securing a larger site nearby for the location of a larger sales and service facility.
•approval for a conditional use application from Robert Evans for a bait and tackle shop at 137 Beaulah Lane. Evans said the building would be “as small as possible.”
•approval for a conditional use application from Tim Farmer for a shop to house plumbing vehicles on Hickory Flat Drive. Farmer said the shop would be used to house three commercial vehicles for his business. No customers will be assisted at the shop.
•approved a conditional use application from Bruce L. Oye for a home based concrete business at 1520 Grove Level Road. Oye has been in business at the location for nine years and needs the conditional use permit to erect a building to store supplies and for light maintenance and clean up of his commercial vehicles. He said the building would be 60x60 foot. Oye currently has five trucks on his property.
“I want to clean it up, make it look better,” he said.
Oye has been using the yard and a gravel lot to perform maintenance, including changing the oil, on his commercial vehicles. Neighbors of Oye spoke in opposition to his request, stating his changing the oil on the property was an environmental hazard and was polluting a nearby catfish pond and stream.
“If he is polluting the water, the EPD will shut him down in a heartbeat,” said Lindorme.
Neighbor Larry Williams addressed traffic concerns.
“Sign says no thru trucks (on Magnum Bridge Road), but he goes that way anyway and I know he goes that way because I followed him a number of times as recent as last week,” Williams said.
Oye said safety concerns on other roads cause him to travel on the roads.
“I use that route for safety,” Oye said.
John Arnold shared concerns of the 48,000 pound trucks using the road on a daily basis. He said the road is too narrow and the use of the road is a safety hazard.
The board approved the request with two conditions: Oye must agree to limit the number of commercial trucks to six and must install a containment system for the oil to help protect the ground water.
•approval for a rezoning application for Cynthia Farmer to rezone 121 acres on Hickory Flat Drive from ARR, Agricultural, Rural-Residential to CAD, Commercial Agricultural District for the placement of an equestrian center. Farmer said she is relocating her equestrian center from Gwinnett County to Banks County.
“We currently live on Valley Vista Ranch in Gwinnett and I wanted to relocate to Banks County because my thought was this is still an agricultural area and I think we will fit in here,” she said. Farmer said she hopes to move within eight months.
•approval of a preliminary plat for a Class III subdivision from William Mitler to build nine homes on a tract of land on Garlum Right Road. The lot sizes range from 2.36 acres to 8.95 acres.
•approval of a final plat for Morgan Manor, developed by Tim Brooks, off of Lord Road. Twenty-five lots were approved in the development. Brooks said construction on two houses had already begun.


Building renovation costs concern Gillsville council
Will the buildings be completed before the money runs out? That’s the question the Gillsville City Council faced at Tuesday’s meeting.
The long-term downtown renovation of three former stores has been costing more than had been anticipated.
Contractors restored the exterior brick, built up and leveled the foundations, fixed roofs and provided temporary wiring. Heat/air conditioning units have been installed in two of the buildings, but there remains a lot to do.
City clerk Paula Whiting told council members Ronnie Whiting, Todd Dale and Tim House and mayor Larry Poole that $28,553 had been spent so far, though there are a number of bills still to be paid. These include the restoration of the windows and doors, floor and wall repairs and the heat/air conditioning units.
She said people have been beginning to ask when the buildings would be available to lease and how much the council is going to charge for rent.
Poole said he thought that answers would come when the project is complete.
Still, there is a greater issue the council has had to deal with, that of providing restroom facilities.
R. Whiting said he had been told by councilman Richard Ferguson, who was not present, that the sewer line had to be run on property owned by the city. Another problem arises when the system is installed.
“When the city does that, we’re in the sewage business and someone has to be appointed to operate it,” Whiting said.
The lot is too small for a septic system and Gillsville has no sewer system. The council has discussed running a line to an adjacent lot that would be suitable for the tank and required drain field. However, that comes with a price tag the council is reluctant to pay, without dipping too far into the city’s bank account. Since the city charges no city tax, all funds come through apportionments from Banks and Hall counties local option sales tax (LOST) and special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST).
Jones asked what the council would do if the buildings were finished, but not the septic system.
“There is no plan we can implement tomorrow to finish these buildings,” Poole said. “We just may not have the money. We started this with a vision and hoped to get help though grants. Some residents wanted to see the old buildings restored. We have at least stabilized and secured them from further deterioration. But, now, we may have to stop. Hold off for six months to a year. We can’t spend down all our money.”
When Dale suggested setting up port-a-potties and skipping the septic system, temporarilarily, R. Whiting replied: “We can’t rent without restrooms and water. You have to have accommodations.”
Gordon Jones told the council the Friends of Gillsville had been making headway painting the interior of the buildings. The group volunteers the time and the city buys the supplies. He said the group is ready to move on to the other buildings, but there was some furniture in one that needs to be moved or covered before they can paint.
P. Whiting said the auditors currently had all the city’s records, so she could not give an accurate accounting of where the city stands on funds or what money was still available from a grant awarded some years ago,
The council said the matter would be discussed at the work session scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 16, when hopefully, the accounting records will be available.
On another issue, the council approved a draft of a new Hall County comprehensive solid waste plan that calls for a 25 percent reduction in trash per household. Kevin McInturff, Hall County environmental engineer, presented the council with the initial draft containing state-mandated reforms and said the county is looking to improve its citizens’ recycling habits.
“The state requires the plan be updated every 10 years,” he said. “There is the need for residents to recycle to reduce per person solid waste. We’re seeing about nine pounds per person per day. So, we’re going to step up education efforts to reduce the amount of solid waste as far as the individual and look into ways industries can improve their loads.
“It’s really not fair. If I only make one bag of trash a week and someone else makes several, I have to pay the same rate. Recycling reduces bagged garbage. It costs the taxpayer $50 a year for the recycling centers. It just makes sense to use what you pay for.”
Currently, Hall County staffs several recycling sites. The cost of the manpower and maintenance comes out of tax money from the general fund. Gainesville and Oakwood offer curbside recycling, with bins to for the various materials, said McInturff.
He also said the county might go to a “pay-as-you-throw” policy to encourage recycling.
The plan also sets up staging areas in cases of emergencies where people can bring limbs or organic debris from storm damage. In Gillsville’s case, that place is the city park.
Hall County Board of Commissioners member Steve Gailey also spoke at the council meeting on a few of the new things coming up in Gainesville. One of them concerns lot size. The BOC is looking to increase lot size, set minimum square footage and quality of construction and require curb-and-gutter in all subdivisions, he said.
“Basically, what we went to a minimum lot size of one acre with public water,” he said. “For a well and septic tank, the minimum will be one-and-a-half acres. Then with public water and sewer, a minimum of one-half acre per unit. Any development has to keep with the standards of the surrounding area. Quality of development is the issue.”
He said the state is pressing for minimum lot sizes of one-and-a-half acres for any new homes with septic systems.

 


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Vendors will need permits for Gillsville festival
Vendors who want to set up a stand during the annual Hewell Pottery Turnin’ and Burnin’ Saturday, October 2, will be required to have a vendor’s license, no matter where they set up.
Members of the Gillsville City Council discussed the matter at Tuesday’s meeting.
Previously, the council was prepared to offer tables at $25 each, with a limit of two, inside the old buildings to every potter who wants to set up that day.
Councilmember Ronnie Whiting suggested the council allow vendors to set up indoors in two of the buildings currently under renovation. He thought the buildings would be far enough along by then and might encourage more interest and participation if people could see what’s being done.
Council members said there had been some complaints about the charge. To avoid paying it, some potters had decided to set up at one of the local potter’s workshops.
Whiting, however, said it didn’t matter where they set up. They would still need the permits.
Problems of potters and crafters arguing over space last year during the event caused the council to set up the policy, said councilman Todd Dale.
In previous years, vendors and potters have set up shop on the sidewalk downtown and in the parking lot on Highway 52 at no cost.


No response from Brady
Banks County Board of Commission chairman Kenneth Brady had not responded as of press time to a $1.2 million sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him.
But Brady reportedly plans to file a response to the lawsuit, which was filed on Aug. 23. Brady has 20 days to respond.
Natalie Dyer, an employee with the county board of tax assessors, alleges that Brady sexually harassed her more than five months ago. Commissioners Rickey Cain and Pat Westmoreland are also being sued for taking no action on the allegations.



Alcohol sales now require 60-40 food-alcohol ratio
Banks County businesses serving alcohol will now have to prove that 60 percent of their revenue comes from the sale of food.
The Banks County Planning Commission amended the county alcohol ordinance when it met Tuesday night.
The amendment requires a business owner to provide proof to county officials on a monthly basis that revenues generated by the business are at least 60 percent food and no more than 40 percent alcohol. If a business fails to meet revenue guidelines for three consecutive months, the business will be placed on probation. If it still doesn’t meet the requirements, the license will be suspended.
Another requirement is that these businesses can remain open until 12 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 1 a.m. on Saturdays, the doors will be locked at that time and everyone, including employees, will be out of the building 45 minutes after closing.
Other changes to the alcohol ordinance include: businesses are now permitted to sell alcohol on election days; each alcohol license (malt beverage, wine and liquor drinks) will now cost $500 each and a permit for the consumption of alcoholic drinks will cost $2,500.
The board approved the amendment changes with the condition that research be done on an item stating that no elected official or county employee may own or operate a business in the county that sells alcoholic beverages. Officials stated that this could be determined to be discrimination.
OTHER CHANGES
Other ordinances amended by the board include:
•an amendment to provide for general building heights and areas as set forth in the 2000 International Building Code. The amendment aligns the county with current state standards for buildings.
•an amendment to allow signs closer than 30 feet to any public right of way and closer than 10 feet from a property line in commercial and industrial areas.
•an amendment to reduce the required bond or letter of credit from $10,000 to $5,000 for harvesters.

Three to run for Maysville mayor
Three seek Ward 3 seat on council
Maysville’s incumbent mayor, Richard Presley, and Ward 3 councilman, Andy Martin, will both be facing opposition in the Nov. 2 city election.
Presley will be pitted against Catherine Daniel and Jerry Baker in the mayor’s race.
In the Ward 3 race, Martin will face Richard Parr and Rebecca McNeely.
In Ward 1, Ken Mize was the only one to qualify. Incumbent Andrew Strickland is not seeking re-election.
Trent Strickland was the only one to qualify for the Ward 2 council seat. Incumbent Marion Jarrett is not seeking re-election.
In Ward 4, incumbent Scott Harper was the only one to qualify.
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 2.