News from Madison County...

SEPTEMBER 15, 2004

Madison County

Madison County

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Frank Gillispie
Pink Pistols unite gays with guns
Here is a news item that has been ignored by the major media. The Pink Pistols have endorsed Michael Badnarik for President of the United States of America.
“What’s that,” you say? “Who is Michael Badnarik and who or what are the Pink Pistols?

Margie Richards
Time again for ‘shadowland’
I’m not sure when it happened, but something “shifted” a few days ago.
I guess I first noticed it right after Frances blew her wet breath on us, scattering the first significant leaves off the trees, most of them still fully green, some with a few brown spots.

Changing sides
Owens trying to beat Heritage program he helped turn around
If you want an example of familiarity breeding a desire to win, look no further than the Raiders’ electric brother tandem of Marcus and Metric Shivers says Randell Owens.

News from
BOC approves zoning for 120-lot subdivision
Countians filled the courthouse Tuesday night for the Banks County Board of Commissioners meeting to hear the outcome of a rezoning request that left the planning commission without a recommendation last week.

Student enrollment up seven percent
With the first month of school completed, student enrollment is up almost seven percent at Banks County schools.
The increased student population was discussed at the board of education meeting Monday night.

News from
White To Return
School Superintendent Rescinds Resignation, Gets 3-Year Contract Larry White’s retirement is now on hold for at least three years.

$70 million school bond vote ahead Tues.
Advance voting is under way this week
Some Jackson County voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of a $70 million school bond referendum.
The Madison County Journal
Danielsville, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056

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Eyes on Ivan
Storm headed west of us, but rain expected
Early predictions had northeast Georgia in the direct path of Hurricane Ivan, but the worst weather appears to be headed west.
Nevertheless, all eyes are still on Ivan this week as New Orleans prepares for the brunt of the blast, with people fleeing in droves, fearing monstrous winds and catastrophic flooding.
Meanwhile, skies over Madison County were gray Wednesday morning, with heavy precipitation in the forecast for the Athens area from Ivan.
According to Wednesday morning, heavy rain and wind are anticipated for the Athens area Thursday and Friday, with 100 percent chance of rain both days. Few showers are expected Saturday, with a 30 percent chance of rain. Sunday’s forecast is “mostly cloudy” with a 20 percent chance of rain, followed by a 40 percent chance of rain Monday and a 30 percent chance of precipitation Tuesday.
Though it appears northeast Georgia will be spared from the direct path of the hurricane, local officials are keeping an eye on the storm.
“We’re just watching it now,” said Madison County 911 director David Camp Wednesday morning. “According to the latest weather reports, it looks like flooding is going to hit west of us. But, of course, that’s subject to change, just like everything about this hurricane.”
According to the Wednesday New York Times, Hurricane Ivan has killed at least 68 people in its slow trek across Grenada, Jamaica, Grand Cayman Island and Cuba, and is expected to make landfall early Thursday somewhere between Grand Isle, La., and Apalachicola, Fla.
Ivan is the third hurricane to hit the U.S. over the past month.

What’s in the numbers?
Budget talks begin amid many uncertainties
Will county use 2003 or 2004 digest?
With the county’s total land value — its tax digest — still undetermined for 2004, county commissioners will begin talking about the 2005 budget Tuesday night.
These talks come amid a highly contentious BOC chairman’s race and at a time when obvious uncertainties are troubling to county taxpayers.
These questions have yet to be resolved:
1.) Will taxes go up for individual county property owners this year? And if so, by how much?
2.) Exactly when will property owners receive their tax bills?
3.) Will a new 2004 tax digest be approved or will the county have to use last year’s digest due to ongoing appeals of land value assessments?
Whatever happens, the ongoing tension between the county tax assessors and the county commissioners will undoubtedly influence the 2005 budget process.
And that process got rolling Monday, as county clerk Morris Fortson told the BOC that he received budget requests from county department heads and that he developed a preliminary budget with projected revenues for 2005 based on last year’s digest.
He used last year’s digest because the 2004 county digest has yet to be approved. That approval has been delayed as the board of assessors hears numerous appeals of tax assessment notices from property owners who felt their property values were unfairly increased.
Chairman Wesley Nash noted Monday night that he has already received his tax bill on some property he owns in Oglethorpe County, noting that Madison County is way behind the game in terms of getting tax bills out and tax revenues in. And he said the board of assessors needs to get on the ball and finish up with appeals or the county could be in really bad financial shape.
“There’s a good chance we’ll have to go to the bank and borrow money because we don’t have a digest,” said Nash. “I’m concerned about what we’re going to do to finish this up....We’re just not in good shape folks.”
Nash has been outspoken in saying that current problems are the fruit of poor management by the county’s chief appraiser and the board of assessors. He said the assessors have done an inadequate job in recent years and that an appraiser IV needs to be hired to oversee the department, claiming this step would be the most obvious fix.
The BOC also agreed Monday night to get the ball rolling on a vast overhaul of the board of assessors. They agreed to seek a judge’s opinion on the legality of ousting three of four members of the board of assessors, including assessors chairman John Bellew, who is challenging Nash for the BOC chairman’s seat in November (see related story to the right).
Bellew, who was not at the meeting Monday, said Tuesday that he feels the digest can be completed by mid October.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Jouranl.

Assessor overhaul?
BOC may fire 3 of 4 members on board of assessors
After months of controversy, county commissioners may soon get rid of three of the four members of the county board of tax assessors.
The Madison County Board of Commissioners met in closed session for an hour Monday night, then agreed to have county attorney Mike Pruett seek an opinion from a superior court judge on whether the BOC can legally fire assessor chairman John Bellew, Gerald Coutant and John Mallonee from the board of assessors.
The BOC intends to keep its most recent appointee, Samantha Garland, on the board.
County commissioner Bruce Scogin made the motion to seek the recommendation from the judge. It was not a formal vote for firing, but it was a step toward dismissal.
Scogin was the only commissioner to speak on the matter Monday, saying that dismissals would be appropriate after a pattern of poor performance from the board of assessors. He noted that the state performance review conducted in May of this year revealed deficiencies in the operations and methods of the tax appraiser staff, which the board of assessors oversees. He added that Bellew’s allegations of tampering with property records by county employees were proven false by a GBI investigation.
Scogin also made a motion that the BOC officially clear the names of Mechell Salter, an appraiser who was fired earlier this year by the board of assessors, and county technology director Gary Venable. Both were subjects of tampering allegations, but none of those allegations were backed up by the GBI. And the board agreed Monday to wipe their personnel files clean of any reference of what were determined to be unfounded allegations.
The board also agreed to reverse what Scogin called “the unjustified and illegal firing” of Salter by the board of assessors.
Bellew, who is challenging incumbent BOC chairman Wesley Nash for his seat Nov. 2, was not at the meeting Monday, but he said Tuesday that he would follow whatever the BOC says. He added that he’d like the judge to consider “all the problems” — not just the question of whether the BOC can fire the board of assessors, but also, who is responsible for hiring and firing in the tax assessor’s department?
“They’re the boss,” said Bellew of the BOC. “I don’t have a problem with having a judge decide. If they (BOC) want to replace me, that’s fine. But we should also ask if they’ll get a ruling on who hires and fires (in the assessor’s department). Why not straighten that whole thing out?”

Madison County SAT scores on the rise
Sixty-six college prep students at Madison County High School exceeded the national average score on the SAT — 1,044 to 1,026, and fared significantly better than last year’s MCHS test takers.
The 2004 college prep students averaged 529 on the verbal portion of the test and 515 on the math. This 1,044 total topped the MCHS college prep scores of 2003 by 41 points.
Meanwhile, 2004 MCHS vocational students fared better than the 2003 test takers. The 24 vocational students who took the most-recent test averaged 850 (433 verbal, 417 math), compared to the average of 16 vocational MCHS students in 2003 of 752 (391 verbal, 361 math).
Overall, 90 MCHS students averaged 992 (503 verbal, 489 math) in 2004. The MCHS average exceeded the state average of 987 (494 verbal, 493 math) and topped the MCHS 2003 overall average of 950 by 42 points.

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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.

Rec. expansion map presented
to Madison County commissioners
Madison County leaders intend to expand the main recreation park on Hwy. 98 in upcoming years.
But until more money is available to cover the cost of grading the hilly terrain, the expansion will be limited to a walking trail, a retention pond and a gravel parking lot, and not planned baseball and soccer fields.
Recreation director Dick Perpall presented county commissioners with a schematic drawing of the planned recreation expansion. And the board approved the design plan.
“There’s a lot of potential there,” said Perpall of the 32 acres for recreation expansion. “But we’re going to have to SPLOST (raise revenue through sales taxes) or something to get those fields in...This is a start.”
The next special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) vote is expected in 2008, when the current five-year, one-cent tax passed last year expires.

Monday night wreck claims two lives
A three-vehicle accident on Holly Creek Church Road Monday night resulted in two fatalities, according to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
According to reports, Russell Epps, 32, Comer, who was driving a van, ran off the roadway, then overcorrected and crossed the centerline. His vehicle then struck both a pickup truck and a car following the truck head on.
Epps died at the scene and the driver of the truck, who was airlifted to an Atlanta hospital, reportedly died from his injuries Tuesday morning. As of press time, the Georgia State Patrol had not released the identity of the second fatality.
A woman and a 3-year-old child, reported to be the family of the man in the pickup truck, were taken to Athens Regional Medical Center with unspecified injuries.
No further information was available from the Georgia State Patrol as of press time.