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OCTOBER 20, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Double OT Win Sets Off Pandemonium In Jefferson
Black’s Field Goal Extends Tigers Streak To 10 Over Jefferson
With one sweep of his right leg, Dusty Black instantly became the most popular man in Commerce.

Trip Friday to North Oconee not important, coach says
Were it not for a pair of late game-winning field goals by two ranked opponents, the Jefferson football team would be preparing for first-year North Oconee this week with an unblemished record.
Instead though, the Dragons are looking to pick up their sixth out-of-region win of the season this Friday night, with a pair of devastating losses behind them.

Underdog Panthers prepare to visit first-place Salem
Seminoles boast 28 seniors, bevy of backs for Panthers to contend with
If there were any teams in Region 8-AAAA still not convinced that the Jackson County football program has made some dramatic progress in the past year, those skeptics were likely turned into believers with a glance at the region scoreboard last Friday night.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Candidates face off at forum
Banks voters test candidates on issues Tues.
More than 100 residents of Banks County came out Tuesday night to a political forum in Homer to questions candidates in the Nov. 2 election on the issues they believe are relevant to the county.

Baldwin receives grant
$140,515 to aid with industry infrastructure
Rep. Jeanette Jamieson has announced a grant in the amount of $140,515 has been awarded to the City of Baldwin.


News from
MADISON
COUNTY
What lies Beneath
A look at pipelines, problems, politics in Madison Co. and beyond
Little goats run in their fenced-in pen off Colonial Drive in Madison County, oblivious to the vast pipelines just a few feet below them — lines that carry millions of gallons of fuel to jetliners, factories and families from Texas to New Jersey.

MainStreet real estate guide inside
This issue of The Madison County Journal includes the inaugural edition of a new, local real estate guide, MainStreet Homes. The initial distribution of this guide will be over 24,000 copies, 19,000 of which will go out as paid circulation in The Jackson Herald, The Commerce News, The Banks County News and The Madison County Journal.

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POLITICAL SIGNS RESULT IN JOB LOSS

Felton Rainey is pictured with his truck, which has "Re-Elect Stan Evans Sheriff" signs in the front window. Rainey was fired from his part-time job after the landlord of Jefferson Real Deals first had him removed from the property by police because he would not remove the signs.

Man booted from business over Evans sign
A Jackson County man who worked part-time for a tenant in the Jefferson Real Deals complex was reportedly kicked out of the business last week by a Jefferson policeman because he had a sign in his car supporting incumbent sheriff Stan Evans. He was subsequently fired from working at the business.
Felton "Tommy" Rainey, who did contract work for furniture dealers Marisa and Jeff Humphries, said he was told by Real Deals owner Stan Atkins to remove an Evans sign from the window of his vehicle last Wednesday.
"He told me, 'You don't want to mess with me,'" Rainey said.
The Humphries lease space from Atkins in the building for their furniture business.
Rainey said he refused to remove the signs from his car and Atkins called the Jefferson Police Department. Rainey said he was told by a policeman to leave the building and was watched as he packed his tools and left the facility.
"I was just doing my job," he said.
Jefferson police chief Darren Glenn said the department had "no choice" in the matter.
"We were called by the property owner, and he has rights over the property," Glenn said. "Who can work there and stay there on the property is one of his rights. Whether the property owner is right or wrong, is not up to me to decide. While I may not always support the decision that is made by the property owner, I have to abide by his decision. We have to enforce it. While we may not personally agree with what he does, the property owner still has the property rights over the property."
Rainey said he was parked near Cobb Street and said he had had the Evans sign in his truck for almost two weeks before the incident occurred.
Atkins has been a vocal critic of Sheriff Evans and has signs on the Real Deals building saying, "Be stupid, Re-elect Stan Evans." He also purchased advertising on behalf of Evans' opponent.
Atkins was arrested by the Jackson County Sheriff's department four years ago after being stopped for speeding. He refused to show the deputy his license and left the scene of the stop. He was arrested a short time later at his home.
Atkins also got involved in opposing Evans in the 2000 election. Evans won re-election that year in a landslide.'AWKWARD SITUATION'
Rainey said that the Humphries fired him the day after the incident because they were told that their lease with Atkins would be in jeopardy if they didn't. The couple reportedly have a 10-year lease with Atkins.
"This puts us in an awkward situation," the Humphrieses said when contacted about the incident. "Stan (Atkins) has been a great help to us getting our business started. We owe him a lot for his friendship and business guidance. Tommy was also a great contract employee. We will really miss him. I hope Tommy and Stan can work things out."
Rainey had worked for the couple on an as-needed basis at the furniture business, doing carpentry work.
RRainey said he believes his rights have been violated and he plans to consult an attorney about the matter. The Humphries couple said this week that they don't live in Jackson County or "have any political leanings either way."
"Jeff and I don't live in this county and have no political leanings regarding the sheriff's race," Mrs. Humphries said. "Real Deals on Furniture is a 100,000 square-foot store completely separate from Stan Atkins' home décor store upstairs; he is our landlord. We employ 20+ local people and pay over $20,000 a month in local and county sales tax; this directly benefits the community. We have two young children and have invested our lives in this store. Our future completely depends on it. We love this town and don't want to be involved in anything controversial. We are truly indebted to the people of Jackson County for their support."


Chairman candidates tackle budget, courthouse issues
Mistrust in county government also a prime topicI
f there are a few things that Pat Bell and Roy Grubbs - candidates for chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners - agree on, it's that county leaders are spending too much money and citizens don't trust their current elected county leaders.
The difference between the candidates, however, is which issue must be addressed as a top priority once the new chairman takes office in January. Both addressed a standing-room only crowd at a political forum on Tuesday at the Hoschton depot.
Bell, a Republican, said if voters elect her into the chairman's post during the Nov. 2 election, she'll first address the mistrust that Jackson County residents have about the current BOC. Bell defeated incumbent Harold Fletcher during the July primary.
"I think the question tonight is, what did we learn from the July 20 vote?" she said. "I learned that the people spoke loud and clear. They want no more business as usual. They want efficient, ethical, honest government. They want to be heard and they want to make a difference. They want a fiscally, sound, stable government."
Grubbs, a Democrat, agreed that residents have lost faith in county leaders. But if elected, he promised to tackle the county budget first.
"When you start seeing your taxes go up, you don't trust the government to spend your money," he said.
Grubbs also promised that he would not raise taxes, should he become the next BOC chairman.
"We've been spending too money and getting too little for it," he said, while adding that county leaders should learn to operate within their budget. "Every time we turn around, it's spend, spend, spend."
And to generate more money for the county, Grubbs said more industrial growth - not just from the manufacturing industry - is needed for Jackson County. He added that more health care businesses should be encouraged to locate in the county.
Bell said county leaders need to balance residential growth with a more "aggressive" economic development plan that attracts more industries. She said that move would help to lower property taxes, while increasing the tax digest.
Another hot topic for the candidates was the new county courthouse, which remains a controversial topic.
Grubbs said the courthouse issue - which he said has divided county residents - has been about the commissioners denying voters a chance to voice their opinion on the matter, not the location of the judicial facility.
Grubbs proposed that if elected, he will offer residents the chance to "walk away" from the courthouse lease with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), come Dec. 31, 2005.
"I'll make a recommendation - and if that healing (among residents over the courthouse issue) hasn't occurred to my satisfaction - we'll put it on the ballot and give you the chance to vote, the vote you were denied previously," he said.
Bell said if elected, she will look at all legal aspects and address the county's indebtedness.
The candidates also discussed the possibility of a new jail.
Bell said she will speak with the sheriff about a new jail, and consider a proposed regional jail with Barrow and Oconee counties, if all of the sheriffs in the three counties agreed to the joint venture. Barrow County officials recently proposed such a move.
But, Bell warned that if a judge rules that the existing jail needs to be replaced immediately, property taxes would have to pay for the new facility.
Grubbs said a new jail might be built in phases, to control spending.
When asked if the county government should have more regulations on its spending habits, Grubbs said a change to the county charter might address the issue. Bell said the county government should follow the lead of the school systems and have more accountability for their spending.
"The bottom line is, we need to put commissioners in there that we can trust," Bell said.
The Hoschton Women's Civic Club sponsored the political forum.


County Can’t Pick Up Stray Animals
State Says County Can’t Use Commerce Vet Clinic
The Jackson County animal control department has not been able to pick up cats and dogs for several weeks after the state Department of Agriculture ruled that the Commerce facility where the animals are being taken doesn’t meet its guidelines.
The guidelines require that the businesses have an “animal shelter license” in order for stray animals to be dropped off. The Commerce Veterinary Hospital does not have this license and county manager Al Crace said the owner doesn’t intend to get one. Getting a shelter license would mean that anyone could drop off animals at the site.
Crace added that the state department didn’t find any problems with the service at the Commerce business. The license was the only issue.
Jackson County leaders have looked at several possibilities, including taking the animals to a Madison County shelter. This didn’t work out and the county is now looking at other options.
The state does allow animals to be dropped off at facilities that have a “foster home license” and this is being discussed with the owner of the Commerce business.
“We can contract with them for temporary services,” Crace said. “We would hold a license and we would declare that the animals are in a foster care facility. We would have a written contract with them.”
The animal pick up has been out of operation for over three weeks.
“We can go out and work talk with people who have complaints, but we can’t take animals,” he said. “We hope to have this all cleared up soon.”


Amendment vote to be on ballot
If approved by Jackson County voters November 2, term limits for members of the Jackson County Board of Education will be a thing of the past.
Currently, BOE members are allowed to serve two consecutive four-year terms, if re-elected. That limit was established with a constitutional amendment passed in 1980.
If approved on November 2, a new constitutional amendment would allow BOE members to seek re-election an unlimited number of times.
Three of the current BOE members, including chairman Kathy Wilbanks, Tim Brooks and Jill Elliott, are in their second terms, which will end in two years. If the constitutional amendment does not pass, these board members will not be able to run for re-election.
According to superintendent Andy Byers, the Jackson County School System may be the only school system in the state with term limits.
Byers noted the two sides of the argument about BOE term limits, saying that proponents of restricted terms argue that new members bring new ideas to the table. Others say it should be up to the voters to re-elect a member - or not - if that BOE member chooses to run again.
He added that the county BOE members who wish to hold office with the Georgia School Board Association do not serve long enough at the local level to emerge as candidates for GSBA office.
"Our board made the decision to bring this issue to the voters because of the fact that we may be the only one with limits," Byers said.


Local real estate issue inside
This issue of The Jackson Herald includes the inaugural edition of a new, local real estate guide, MainStreet Homes. The initial distribution of this guide will be over 24,000 copies, 19,000 of which will go out as paid circulation in The Jackson Herald, The Commerce News, The Banks County News and The Madison County Journal. It will be published in this newspaper on the third Wednesday of each month, will be available at local businesses and will also be viewable online at www.mainstreetnews.com.
"We developed this product for the purpose of reaching local homebuyers," said Scott Buffington, advertising director for MainStreet Newspapers. "Many real estate professionals tell us that as much as 50 to 60 percent of their homebuying prospects are local people who already live in this community, people who are wanting to move into larger homes for expanding families or to relocate to a neighboring town because of jobs or schools. We realize that there are several good real estate guides in northeast Georgia but this is the first that focuses primarily on Banks, Jackson and Madison counties."
Sales and production of MainStreet Homes are being handled by publishers Andy and Susan Forde, Braselton. They can be reached at (770) 480-9227.


Advance voting set next week
Advance voting will be underway next week and voters will be allowed to cast a ballot for the Nov. 2 General Election.
Voting will be allowed from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the voter registrars' office, located in the old courthouse in downtown Jefferson. Voters do not have to give a reason as to why they want to vote early.
ABSENTEE VOTING
Voters who meet the criteria to cast an absentee ballot may do so at any time. Absentee ballots can be cast at the voter registrars' office between regular hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The criteria for casting an absentee ballot include the voter: will be out of the precinct on the day of the election, Nov. 2; is a constant care-giver; is over age 75; is an elected official; is disabled; will be observing a religious holiday on Nov. 2; is in the military; or is a public safety officer.
BOE term limits up for vote Nov. 2


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Commissioners approve study for Commerce road
But final financing still unknown
Jackson County leaders agreed Monday night to fund an $80,000 to $90,000 engineering study for a proposed economic development road near Commerce. But it is still not clear how the roads will be financed.
While the Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved the study for the proposed Steve Reynolds Parkway at Hwy. 98 in a 3-1 vote, the financing of the road and several other proposed economic development roads is still pending approval of the industrial development authority.
The IDA had asked for some specific cost estimates before it would agree to fund an estimated $20 million in debt for several road projects. A meeting between county manager Al Crace and the IDA is scheduled next Monday to discuss some of the pending issues.
At this week's BOC meeting, Crace expressed frustration with the financing process.
"I have fooled myself a couple of times, taking a report to them based on what I perceived at one meeting and, then I get there, and find they are heading another way," Crace said. "We've been reporting to them since February."
Also Monday night, commissioner Tony Beatty said he didn't believe the county should pay the estimated for any engineering study until the IDA agreed to a bond package to finance the road project.
"I just feel like we shouldn't spend any money until the IDA decides whether they are going to help us fund this road," Beatty said.
Commissioner Sammy Thomason, who has been a supporter of the BOC building economic development roads in the Commerce area and a critic of the IDA, said the BOC could finance the road without the IDA.
"How it is funded when it is finally built is to be decided, but the IDA doesn't hold all the keys in this case," he said. "The board of commissioners could do that without going to the IDA. I don't think they can currently, but they could in the future. There are no intentions to do that, but it could be done."
Thomason said the proposed road is a "prime site" and the county needs to move forward on the project. He added that it could take as long as 18 months to get a railroad crossing permit.
"It's always presumptuous to speak for the IDA, but this needs to be high on their list of priorities," Thomason said. "That's my opinion, for all that it's worth."
The engineering study is to secure the railroad crossing permit at Hwy. 98 and the proposed Steve Reynolds Parkway and to secure the permits from the Georgia Department of Transportation for the project.
Beatty voted against funding the study, while Thomason, along with commissioners Stacey Britt and Harold Fletcher, voted in favor of it