News from Madison County...

SEPTEMBER 29, 2004


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillispie
The terrorists don’t realize just how tough we are
The terrorists don’t realize just how tough we are. America has been made powerful by adversity. We have overcome hundreds of challenges.

Margie Richards
A dog story
We found Jack, like we find most of our pets, on the side of a road somewhere.
His sad puppy face told us all we needed to know — he’d been thrown away like he was nothing.


SPORTS
Champs again
MCHS clinches sub-area title, high seed at sectionals
The sweep, the one-upmanship in the rivalry — that was all fine and good.
But when Madison County downed Jackson County in a 6-4 extra-inning affair this past Thursday night in Jefferson, the victor definitely left with the spoils.


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
JACKSON COUNTY
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.

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.

 mainstreetnews.com
The Madison County Journal
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Fall, fun and the fair

Addie Dellinger, 22 months, rides the Merry-Go-Round at the Madison County Fair in Comer Tuesday night as her dad, Bryan Dellinger, watches.

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.
The James Gang will be back in town with new rides. Unlimited rides can be purchased for $10 on Thursday night and during the Saturday matinee, and for $12 on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Prizes will be given away nightly. Winners must be present to receive their prize. Participants should deposit their ticket in the barrel under the shelter to be a part of the drawing. The drawings will be held nightly at 10 p.m. and at 3:45 on Saturday.
There will be grandstand entertainment nightly, with cattle shows on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons. The gate price is $4 for ages 6 and over. Children under 5 are admitted free. There will be a 50-cent discount on tickets for each pair of useable eyeglasses donated to the Comer Lions Club. The Saturday matinee admission is $1, with free admission for children under 15.
Grandstand show times are as follows: Southern Gospel, The Jeremy Duggins Band and the Songsters will perform Wednesday night, with the show starting at 7 p.m. A karaoke contest featuring Barry Sartain will be held Thursday night, with cash prizes for the first, second and third place finishers. The first 25 applicants will be accepted. Sign up is at 6 p.m. Country band, Renegade, will perform after the karaoke contest. A “Seven 7” show will be held Friday night at 7 p.m. featuring 60s, 70s and 80s dance music. Bluegrass band, The New Dixie Storm, will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday.


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.
First of all, a total county land value — a tax digest — must be set. And that process is ongoing. Plenty of property owners were upset about the increase in their land value assessments this year. And, according to board of assessor chairman John Bellew, some 1,400 assessment notices — about 10 percent of the total parcels of taxable land in the county —were appealed this year to the county board of assessors.
ON TARGET OR BEHIND?
Bellew said he feels the assessors can resolve enough tax notice appeals to submit this year’s tax digest by mid October. He said that if the board can get the number of unresolved appeals below five percent of total parcels in the county — approximately 700 out of the total 14,000 parcels — then the state will accept this year’s digest.
“We are still basically on target,” said Bellew. “Hopefully, by mid October, we’ll get the appeals below 700.”
But county commission chairman Wesley Nash doesn’t seem so sure.
“We’ll see on that,” said Nash when asked if he believed that the appeals process could be done by the middle of next month.
County clerk Morris Fortson said Bellew’s statement just doesn’t make sense, noting that property owners are given 21 days to appeal a second assessment notice and that completing the appeals process in Bellew’s proposed time frame is not possible.
“He keeps telling commissioners that everything is on track, but I tell them to watch what they (the assessors) are doing, don’t listen to what they say,” said Fortson.
Fortson told commissioners at a budget meeting last Tuesday in the county EMS meeting room that the assessors will be handling appeals “this time next year” at their current rate. So Fortson, who is also the county finance officer, developed a preliminary 2005 budget based on last year’s digest.
AFFECT ON
SCHOOL TAX RATES?
If a new digest is scrapped in favor of the old one, it will prove significant, not just for the BOC and its 2005 budget, but perhaps for county schools as well.
The preliminary 2004 digest showed an approximate 29 percent increase in the overall county property values. So if tax rates set by the BOC, BOE and IDA stayed the same as last year, overall tax revenue would grow significantly because of the increase in land values in 2004.
The school board, which is waiting to set its tax rate until the digest is finalized, has planned to keep its tax rate steady and use the expected digest increase to help cover an increase in local revenue needs — the schools have faced a significant slash in state funding.
Superintendent Keith Cowne said Monday that without a digest increase —meaning if last year’s digest is, in fact, used instead of a new one — the school system could be forced to raise its tax rate by about two mills, or it may dip into reserve funds to cover some costs.
A point worth noting: The school system is on a different budget cycle than the BOC and the BOE sets its fiscal-year budget in the summer, then typically approves its tax rate in the fall. For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County journal.


Madison County residents seek assistance after storm
Madison County residents affected by last week’s violent storm can still file for government financial assistance for property damage.
A temporary disaster relief center was set up in the Madison County government complex this past week, closing Monday with 33 county residents visiting the center, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public information office.
But others may still apply for aid, which could include low interest loans and grants, by calling the FEMA emergency assistance number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), which is operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Anita Westervelt, FEMA public information officer, noted that federal aid isn’t designed to take the place of insurance or return homes to a pre-damaged state. Rather, she said the assistance is offered to help people with immediate needs.
“This (assistance) is to help people get back on their feet,” said Westervelt. “We’re here to help on the road to recovery.”
A FEMA handout shows that assistance can include temporary housing for up to 18 months, with lodging or rental expenses covered for those displaced by storm damage. Homeowners can receive “up to $5,100 for repairs” or “up to $10,200 towards the purchase of a new home.” Loans through the Small Business Administration are also available to homeowners, Westervelt said.
According to the FEMA press office, as of Wednesday morning, the federal government had provided $867,930 in housing assistance funds to Georgia storm victims. Another $226,145 had been distributed to cover various expenses, such as clothing and medical needs.
Westervelt encouraged those with property damage to call the FEMA assistance number. However, she noted that those who call may need to be persistent, pointing out that the agency is swamped with calls due to extensive damage through the southeast from the recent hurricanes.
Westervelt said a FEMA damage inspector will schedule an appointment to assess damaged property within seven to 10 days. After the inspection, a homeowner may find that he’s eligible for federal aid or he may receive a loan application in the mail. Westervelt said it’s very important to fill out the loan application, noting that without that application the assistance process will come to a halt.
“Everyone needs to fill out the loan application and mail it back in,” she said


Building materials plant plans to locate in Madico Park
A large building materials plant may soon be coming to Madison County’s Madico Industrial Park.
According to Industrial Development Authority executive director Marvin White, the IDA board approved the sale of six lots in the park totaling 32.7 acres to the company in a called meeting Tuesday morning.
White said the company, who wants their identity to remain confidential until the deal is closed, could employ 30 or more people. White would not identify the company by name.
The IDA also approved the sale of two lots in the Hwy. 72 Business Park Tuesday.
EKIM International, LLC, an electronics manufacturing company, plans to build a 10,000-square-foot facility on 2.5 acres at the site that will employ 30 to 40 people, half of whom will be sales people with the other half located on site. The deal was negotiated through Century 21 Burdette Realty. Gerry Burdette, who sits on the IDA board, abstained from voting on this issue, White said.
Guest Manufacturing, currently located in Colbert, has also agreed to purchase five acres in the park in order to expand its operations.
For the rest of the story 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.


Head of the Class
A few weeks ago, The Journal featured Madison County School System’s overall “Teacher of the Year,” Ila Elementary’s Carol Perpall.
The following is a look at those educators chosen by their peers as teachers of the year from each of the county’s other schools.
And while each teacher is different, it’s clear they all have a couple of things in common: a love of teaching and a responsibility toward the students they teach each day that goes beyond that day’s curriculum.
SMILES AND HUGS
Colbert Elementary’s teacher of the year, Tammy Strickland, didn’t always know she was going to be a teacher. In fact, she started out her career in the field of banking. But after working with children in her church for a while, she went back to school for her teaching degree.
“It was always there in the back of my mind, and I finally decided to do it,” she said.
In fact, her husband, Keith, whom she met at the bank where she worked, followed her into the teaching profession a few years later. Now Keith teaches at Hull-Sanford.
This is Strickland’s second year in fourth grade teaching “everything but science;” before that she taught fifth grade for five years.
“And math is my favorite subject,” she said.
Strickland was surprised, and of course honored, to be chosen as Colbert’s teacher of the year.
And as much as she enjoys teaching, she’s concerned about children who struggle in the classroom, many because of situations at home.
“There are a lot of issues out there that can sometimes cause a lack of family support, and communication between the school and family is key...it makes a big difference in helping the child,” she said.
Strickland is proud of the support she and other faculty receive at Colbert — from the community and from the school’s numerous Partners-In-Education, who help with many school events.
“I grew up on Hwy. 72 in Colbert and this is home and it will probably always be home,” she said. “...I look forward every day to seeing the smiles on children’s faces in the mornings and giving and getting those hugs good-bye in the evening.”
MUSIC MAKER
Susan McCormick is in her fourth year of teaching music full-time at Comer Elementary.
“It’s really like being on vacation, it’s so much fun,” McCormick said. “We just have a good time dancing, singing, doing programs for the school.”
McCormick was chosen as this year’s teacher of the year at Comer and says she’s delighted with the award.
“I just couldn’t believe it and I was very honored,” she said. “It lets me know that my fellow teachers really appreciate what I do.”
McCormick teaches music class to every grade and each class has a music lesson at least once a week on a varying schedule.
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal.


Election update:
Candidates’ forum set for October 12
The Madison County Chamber of Commerce will host a political forum on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. in the high school theatre. All candidates for contested races in the county have been invited to participate. Each candidate will be given time for a short statement of their platform and the audience will have the opportunity to submit questions for candidates’ response. All interested voters are invited to attend.