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SEPTEMBER 29, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Panthers with chance to win third straight Friday
It appears Jackson County is in the mood to make some changes this year. A week after ending what had been a nearly three-year consecutive losing streak, the Panthers became the program’s first team since 1992 to pull off back-to-back wins by beating Rockdale County.

Commerce-Jefferson Set For Round Two
Tigers Go Into Game After Hardigree’s Game-Winner Vs. Towns County Thurs.
If it weren’t enough that Commerce and Jefferson were facing each other on a softball field, throw in the fact that two playoff hungry teams are crossing paths Thursday and you’ve got the potential ingredients for another pressure cooker.

Athens Academy coach questions strength of Dragon schedule, ranking
If there wasn’t all that much excitement in the Jefferson locker room surrounding this Friday’s region opener against No. 10 Athens Academy heading into this week, there certainly is now. The No. 9 Dragons (5-0) will no doubt be motivated a bit more for Friday’s clash by some post-game comments made by Spartan head coach Mike Gunn following last Friday night’s home loss to No. 6 Lincoln County in Athens.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Child abuse case numbers on the rise
92 cases investigated
The Banks County Department of Family and Children Services staff is seeing a marked increase in the number of reported cases of child abuse
Director Renota Free gave the sobering statistics at the recent board meeting. Some 31 reports of child abuse were reported in August, including six for physical abuse, three for sexual abuse, one emotional abuse and 21 for neglect.

Banks SAT scores below state average
Banks County students taking the SAT during the last school year fell slightly below the state average.
Students in Banks County averaged a 959 total score, while the state average was 987. Banks County students averaged a score of 475 in math and 484 in verbal.


News from
MADISON
COUNTY
Fair continues through Saturday
The 56th annual Madison County Agricultural Fair will continue through Saturday at the Comer Lions Club Inc. Fair Grounds off Hwy. 22, Comer.
There are rides, shows, kiddieland, games, food and exhibits.
The fair opens nightly at 6 p.m., with a Saturday matinee from noon to 4 p.m.

Digesting the tax controversy
Year-long conflict leaves taxpayers in limbo
So how much of an increase will county property owners actually see in their tax bill this year?
Well, that’s like asking how much is X plus Y?
The equation is incomplete.

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Victory, again!


TWO IN A ROW

By defeating Rockdale County, 15-12, last Friday night at Panther Stadium, the Jackson County football team won consecutive games for the first time in 12 years. Above, a rowdy group of Panther fans prepare to storm the field following a late game-winning touchdown drive. Jackson County hosts Loganville this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. during homecoming. For complete Panther football coverage see this weeks Jackson Herald.


BOC adopts $32 million budget
Millage rates set at 8.69 and 9.77
By again tapping into its dwindling reserve funds, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners added the annual lease payment on the new courthouse when it adopted its 2005 budget last week.
An earlier draft of the budget had omitted the $1.1 million lease payment.
Last Friday, the BOC unanimously approved the $32 million budget and millage rate, 9.77 in the incorporated area and 8.69 in the unincorporated area, with little discussion. Tax bills are expected to be sent out Oct. 15.
Although the BOC adopted this budget, that board will change January 1 with three new members. Many observers expect the budget to be amended by the new majority in an effort to cut county expenses and rebuild the county’s almost-depleted reserve funds.
The budget adopted last week contained no pay increases for county employees.
NO INMATE HOUSING FUNDS
While the BOC added in the lease payment, the budget still left out funds for the housing of jail inmates in other counties due to overcrowding. For 2005, that amount was expected to be $400,000 to $600,000. However, no funds were allocated to the jail budget to cover those housing costs.
Sheriff Stan Evans said he requested $600,000 to cover the cost of housing the inmates.
“We’re going to have to do it,” he said. “That is a specific need. It is not something we can handle here. We can’t keep that number of people in this run down jail that we have. We’re going to have to house them out, and they’re going to have to come up with the money somewhere...For constitutional officers like myself, the proper procedure is for us to submit the budget, and it is the commissioners’ responsibility to fund it.”
ADDITIONAL COURTHOUSE COSTS
In addition to adding the lease payment, the BOC also budgeted additional funds for utilities at the new courthouse facility and $84,500 for a Hoschton firm, J Clean, to clean the building. No bids were taken on that contract.
Previously, inmate labor had been used to clean the old courthouse, but reportedly some officials in the new facility didn’t want inmates cleaning that building.
Electricity at the new courthouse was budgeted at $100,500 for 2005 and telephone expenses at $100,000. Water and sewerage was budgeted at $25,000 and natural gas at $19,000.


County BOE term limit change to be on ballot
Voters in the Jackson County School System district will be asked when they go to the polls on Nov. 2 to consider changing the term limits for board of education members.
The BOE members are now limited to two terms in office. Three members of the five-member board, chairman Kathy Wilbanks, Tim Brooks and Jill Elliott, are currently serving their second term in office.


Autumn Leaf Festival ahead this weekend
The annual Maysville Autumn Leaf Festival will be held Friday through Sunday, with an “ole timey country fair” as the theme.
The weekend’s events will include a “Battle of the Bands” on Friday night and a street dance on Saturday night. A parade will be held Saturday morning. Craft vendors will have their wares available throughout the three-day festival. Comedian Billy Holeman will perform at various times throughout the weekend and in between bands on Sunday.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Friday
•Noon – festival opens
•5:30 p.m. – “Battle of the Bands” begins. Dance all evening to the different bands competing for cash prizes.
•7 p.m. — hayride begins
Saturday
•9 a.m. — festival opens
•10 a.m. — parade
11 a.m. — opening ceremonies, MAR-JAC chicken cook-off; trivia contest all day with $5 prizes
•Noon — Commerce School of Dance
•12:30 p.m. — Banks County cheerleaders
•12:30-2 p.m. — cake walk
•1 p.m. — “Herbie the Love Bug”
•2 p.m. — Akido of Commerce
•2:30 p.m. — Akido of Commerce Gymnastics
•3 p.m. — pie-eating contest
•3:30 p.m. — hula hoop contest
•4 p.m. — pumpkin painting contest
•5 p.m. — cake walk
•7 p.m. — hayride, street dance
•8 p.m. — rifle give-away
Sunday
•Noon-5 p.m. — Gospel and bluegrass bands perform all day, including: Midnight Praise, Heavenly Expressions, McAllister Sisters and Crystal River Bluegrass Band.


Pendergrass council member resigns
Pendergrass council member Sandy Funderburk handed city officials a letter of resignation on Wednesday afternoon, the day following the council’s regular meeting.
Funderburk, who was named to the council in an uncontested election in November 2003, didn’t offer a reason for her sudden resignation in her one-sentence letter. She couldn’t be reached for comment prior to press time.
Barbara Thomas, city clerk, said it may be too late to hold a special election this year to fill Funderburk’s post, but she and city attorney Walter Harvey are discussing the city’s options.
“He said to just take her resignation letter and there won’t be a need to have a called meeting,” Thomas said.
The city’s charter states if a council member resigns within six months of an election, a special election will be held at the next regular election, Thomas said. She added that she plans to speak with state election officials today (Wednesday) to clarify how the city should fill the council seat.


Fall break next week for area students
Fall break, or acceleration days, are ahead next week for Jackson County and Jefferson City Schools students.
Jackson County schools will have acceleration days Wednesday, October 6, through Friday, October 8, for students in need of additional instruction. Other students will have those days as holidays.
Jefferson City Schools will have fall break all week, Monday, October 4, through Friday, October 8, with remediation days available for students who need extra instruction.


Planners deny subdivision after hearing opposition
Two other requests approved Thursday
Two zoning changes for proposed subdivisions that brought opposition from area property owners were denied Thursday by the Jackson County Planning Commission, while two requests that were presented with no opposition were approved.
The planners unanimously denied a request from Diamond Developers for a land use map amendment from Rural Places to Residential Growth Areas for property located on Sheep Pasture Road and Waterworks Road. Plans call for a 142-lot residential subdivision to be located on 142 acres. Dorothy Park Swindel is the property owner.
Attorney Renee L’Eplattenier presented the plans and several area property owners spoke in opposition to the request.
Bob Head presented a petition with the names of 119 people opposed to the development. He said the property is surrounded by timber, poultry and cattle farms.
In her rebuttal comments, L’Eplattenier said the area is slated for residential growth on the land use map.
ALSO DENIED
The planners also unanimously denied a request from Wayne Frazier for a land use map amendment from Rural Places to Residential Growth Areas for property located on Jefferson River Road. Plans call for locating 171 homes on 128 acres. Several area land owners spoke in opposition to the request, including Mack Cates, who said the area should remain rural places.
“This subdivision is a prime example of people coming here out of Atlanta for quick money and then moving on,” he said. “The rural places is in keeping with the immediate area. Homes are situated on several acres.”
Planning commission member Don Segraves asked Frazier if he would consider an open space subdivision with one and half acre lots instead of three-quarter acre lots.
“The numbers don’t work,” he said. “...We’re not going to build small houses.”
APPROVED
The planners approved zoning changes for two subdivision requests, including one from Apalachee Oaks to rezone approximately 72 acres on Wehunt Road from A-2 to R-1 for a 140-lot residential subdivision. Virginia Feise is the property owner.
Mark Tolbert presented the plans and there was no opposition.
The planners also approved a request from Levko Land Development to rezone 66 acres on Hwy. 124 from A-2 to R-1 to locate a 117 single-family residential subdivision. There was also no opposition to this request.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will consider these request when it meets at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 18, at the new courthouse.

 


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City Planning Panel Shoots Down
Zoning Change For ‘Cluster’ Development
A Cumming developer’s hopes of building 134 small houses on 85.5 acres on Whitehill School Road took a beating Monday night when the Commerce Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the rezoning be denied.
The group had sought a change from A-2 to R-2.
The Commerce City Council will take up the Sierra Group’s request and the planning commission’s recommendation Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center.
What doomed the group’s request was the idea of building small houses, and its proposal to cluster them tightly to leave 40 percent of the 85.5 acres in open space didn’t help either.
Chairman Greg Perry set the tone for the evening when he pointed out that in Commerce it takes a house valued at $231,000 to provide enough property taxes to educate a single child.
“So, for every child, they (the houses) won’t pay one and the other property owners have to pick up the burden,” Perry stated. “Would that be smart on our part?”
Charles Daugherty, one of the designers, presented a brochure showing compact houses with stone or brick fronts and vinyl on three sides, that he said would sell in the “mid to upper hundreds (of thousands).” His reference to the project as “upscale” caught member Joe Leffew’s attention.
“Do you consider $200,000 upscale?” Leffew asked.
Looking at the brochure, Perry stated, “This, in my opinion, is a picture of a starter home.”
Daugherty, along with designer Brad Harris, defended the property, noting that it provided tennis courts and a pool, something they said the area does not lack. They also touted the “cluster” concept as a means of saving some of the large oak trees in the project, calling it “more environmentally friendly” than typical developments.
Vicky Kesler, who lives in Highland Estates, voiced opposition to the smaller houses, which she said are similar to the development in which she lives and where her husband “makes a living repairing these houses.” She repeatedly proposed “nicer homes on bigger lots.”
Bob Head, who lives on Whitehill School Road, reminded the panel that he’d presented a petition with 79 signatures in opposition to the project. He said that the average resident of the area owns 17 acres and charged that the developers would “go back to Cumming and leave us to clean up the mess.”
Other residents expressed concerns over the traffic and the availability of water.
In the end, Leffew made the motion to recommend denial of the request, and the group withdrew from consideration a companion zoning request to change 8.5 acres from A-2 to C-2 for commercial use at the U.S. 441 end.