News from Jackson County...

OCTOBER 27, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Panthers hope to play role of spoiler Friday vs. Glads
Jackson County win would eliminate Clarke Central from state playoff contention
If Jackson County head coach Brent Brock is worried about his team’s latest defeat to region champion Salem, he sure doesn’t show it much.

A season of firsts
Inaugural Jefferson
fast-pitch team finishes one game shy of Elite Eight appearance
A 17-win season, beating the No. 1 ranked team in the state, and reaching the final round of the state sectionals were all worthy accomplishments for the Jefferson fast-pitch team this past season.

A Hometown Hoop Dream
Former CHS Hoopster Traveling The Country, Playing Basketball
Bobby Patman Jr. might be a small town Commerce kid at heart, but there’s no telling what big city you’ll find him in these days.
But if you do locate him, chances are he’ll have a basketball in his hand.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Voters are lining up
Three county races on the ballot
Voters in Jackson County were already lined up this week for early balloting in one of the most talked about election years in history.
Drawn by a hotly-contested presidential race between Republican President George W. Bush and challenger Democrat John Kerry, a large turnout of voters is expected for early voting the rest of this week and on election day next Tuesday.

Walker resigns
Water chairman steps down following ‘racial’ remark flak
The chairman of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority resigned Friday at a meeting he called for that purpose. Warren Walker resigned his position – but not from the authority – in the aftermath of a “racial” remark he made following Wednesday’s meeting that led new member Saverne Rucker Varnum to vacate the building.


News from
MADISON
COUNTY
It’s Time to Choose
Historic Election of 2004 includes several local seats up for grabs
Voter turnout at 850 as of Wed. morning
It’s finally time for all finger pointing to turn to the touch screen.
In fact, voters are already inserting their electronic ballots into the computers at the county complex this week, getting their Georgia Peach “I voted” stickers before the official election day arrives Tuesday.

Local leaders say Freeport
necessary to bring business to county
County leaders are encouraging citizens to vote “yes” on part two and three of the Freeport initiative on the ballot Nov. 2.
Chamber of Commerce officials say Freeport is important because it encourages expansion of existing businesses and attracts new businesses and tax revenues from these businesses will in turn help pay for classrooms, roads and fire stations.

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The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
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Billy Joe Grizzle
Charged with murder and kidnapping

Braselton woman stabbed to death in home
Victim's daughter bound with duct tape, escapes
A Braselton woman was found stabbed to death in her Ednaville Road home early Thursday morning and a suspect was arrested an hour after the incident.
According to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Billy Joe Grizzle, 36, forced his way into the home of Rebecca Lynn Gooch, 33, around 6:30 a.m. on Thursday.
The two were "acquaintances from years past and were apparently in an ongoing dispute of some sort," according to a press release.
Officials believe Grizzle stabbed Gooch multiple times in the presence of her two children, ages two and 12.
The 12-year-old daughter was bound with duct tape and placed in the suspect's vehicle, where she escaped when the suspect returned to the mobile home. She ran through a wooded area to the house of a next door neighbor, who happened to be a Jackson County sheriff's deputy.
The off-duty officer called for assistance and went next door to discover Gooch lying on the kitchen floor and a two-year-old daughter in a crib in the living room. The suspect was gone at the time the deputy arrived at the scene and he took the toddler to his residence.
After interviewing the 12-year-old, deputies traveled with the girl to Hall County, where she directed them to the suspect's Benefield Road residence.
Grizzle was taken into custody at 7:40 a.m. at his house.
"We feel like we have the right man," sheriff Stan Evans said Thursday afternoon.
Jackson County authorities remained on the scene of the crime and Grizzle's Hall County residence well past midnight on Thursday.
Grizzle remains in the Jackson County Jail and is being held without bond. He was charged early Friday morning with murder and kidnapping. More charges will follow, authorities said.



 

AND THE VOTING BEGINS

The old Jackson County courthouse in Jefferson was crowded Wednesday morning with voters who were taking advantage of the advanced voting option. More on advanced voting and the Tuesday polls in the weeks Jackson Herald and Commerce News.

Voters are lining up
Three county races on the ballot
Voters in Jackson County were already lined up this week for early balloting in one of the most talked about election years in history.
Drawn by a hotly-contested presidential race between Republican President George W. Bush and challenger Democrat John Kerry, a large turnout of voters is expected for early voting the rest of this week and on election day next Tuesday.
As of noon Wednesday, 1,100 voters had already cast a ballot in Jackson County. The wait for many was as long as one hour and the hallways of the old courthouse were filled with people of all ages waiting to cast their ballot.
Locally, three county-wide races are on the ballot. Incumbent Sheriff Stan Evans (R) is facing E.C. Brogan (D). Republican Pat Bell is facing Democrat Roy Grubbs for chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. Bell defeated incumbent BOC chairman Harold Fletcher in the July Republican Primary.
The only other local race is for coroner, where long-time incumbent Keith Whitfield (R) is facing Sammy Qualls (D).
DISTRICT & CITY RACES
In the City of Maysville, the mayor’s race and the Ward 3 council seat will be on the ballot. Those running for mayor are incumbent Richard Presley, Catherine Daniel and Jerry Baker. Those running for Ward 3 include incumbent Andy Martin, Richard Parr and Rebecca McNeely.
In West Jackson, three candidates are running for the Post 4 seat on the fire department board of directors. They are: Terrell Gunter, Edward Knopick and Marty Robinson. There are also three candidates, Elizabeth Ash, Joel Keith and Phil McDaniel, for Post 5 on the fire board.
The Jackson County School System will have a referendum on eliminating term limits for board of education members (see separate story in election section).
NATIONAL, STATE RACES
Also on the ballot in national and state contests are the 9th District U.S. Representative race, where incumbent Charlie Norwood (R) is facing Bob Ellis (D).
In the U.S. Senate race, Johnny Isakson (R), Denise L. Majette (D) and Allen Bukley (Liberatarian) are on the ballot.
Two state races will be on the ballot. Three candidates, incumbent Robert “Bobby” Baker Jr. (R), Mac Barber (D), and Jalynn Ynn Hudnall (L) are in the Georgia Public Service Commission race.
Three candidates, Debra Barnes, Howard Mead and Mike Sheffield, are running for Judge of the Court of Appeals.
CONSTITUTIONAL
AMENDMENT
Voters will also be asked to decide two constitutional amendments. They are:
•Shall the constitution be amended so as to provide that this state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman?
•Shall the constitution be amended so as to provide that the supreme court shall have jurisdiction and authority to answer questions of law from any state appellate or federal district or appellate court?


Walker resigns
Water chairman steps down following ‘racial’ remark flak
The chairman of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority resigned Friday at a meeting he called for that purpose. Warren Walker resigned his position – but not from the authority – in the aftermath of a “racial” remark he made following Wednesday’s meeting that led new member Saverne Rucker Varnum to vacate the building.
New appointee Phillis Holland, who had been elected vice chairman just last Wednesday, was unanimously elevated to chairman, while Hunter Bicknell was named vice chairman and Varnum treasurer. All votes were unanimous.
The 26-minute meeting Wednesday progressed smoothly and efficiently through a short agenda (see separate story), and then Walker adjourned it. That’s when things went downhill.
Saying he was going home to eat a supper of fried chicken and watermelon, Walker commented that “I know I’m the wrong color.”
Varnum is the first black person to serve on the authority. After informing Walker that “not all African Americans like fried chicken and watermelon,” she promptly left the building while staff and other authority members sat in stunned silence. Interim manager Paul Mims followed Varnum into the parking lot in an attempt to apologize. Holland spoke to her briefly, telling her that Walker’s comments did not reflect the feeling of the authority. After others in the room made Walker realize the effect of his words, the chairman went outside, found Varnum at her vehicle and apologized, he said. Varnum reportedly replied, “apology accepted.”
Member Wanda David was enraged by Walker’s comment, calling it “inappropriate,” and adding that “I have a lawsuit if I want one.”
On Friday, David made a motion to go into a closed-door session to discuss “potential litigation,” a move the other members rejected. She explained later that she was not referring to a potential suit by Varnum, but by others who might see Walker’s remark and believe they were being discriminated against.
“We’ve had black individuals asking for water,” she explained. “Racist comments could create a feeling they were denied service because of their race.”
Asked after Friday’s meeting if she intended to pursue litigation, Varnum smiled slightly and shrugged her shoulders, making no comment.
Varnum and David are friends, but David said, “I do not know what her plans are.”
This is not the first bone of contention between Varnum and Walker. The chairman refused to allow Varnum to assume her seat on the authority after she was appointed by Commissioner Tony Beatty to the seat formerly held by Dean Stringer on the grounds that Stringer’s term had not yet expired. Walker took the same position with Bicknell, who was appointed to replace Elton Collins, and his position at the time was backed by an opinion from the authority’s attorney that the terms of Collins and Stringer did not expire until October.
The board’s attorney, Julius Hulsey, was appraised of the situation early Thursday morning and called the comments “regrettable.” He also said the authority did not have any liability regarding the comment because Walker’s statement was an act “outside the scope of (his) authority.” He also pointed out that Walker’s statement “was not condoned by any member of the authority.”
BESHARA CALLS FOR RESIGNATION
Jackson County Board of Commissioner Emil Beshara, who appointed Walker to the water authority, has called for him to resign from the board.
“The impact of allowing one who has expressed such a discriminatory view point to continue to serve on the authority could also be devastating to the economic development efforts of our county,” said Beshara in part of his statement. “I call for his immediate resignation from the Jackson County Water and Sewer Authority.”


Kubota to locate in Jefferson
First phase of $65 million facility to bring 500 jobs
Kubota Manufacturing of America officials announced Friday that they will be locating a $65-million tractor manufacturing facility in Jefferson.
The company will locate a 400,000 square foot facility on 88 acres on Hog Mountain Road. The company already has a plant in Gainesville, and leaders say the additional facility is needed in Jackson County due to “unprecedented growth, increased customer demand and a dynamic market.”
“The outsized success of KMA has been made possible by our employees, so we look forward to continuing to grow with them in our existing and new facilities,” said KMA president John Shiraishi. “With this new facility, we will make great strides in serving our customers while creating new opportunities for our employees.”
The new facility will manufacture loaders and backhoes for tractors and is expected to produce 70,000 implements per year. Construction of the new facility is set to begin next month, with the goal of starting production in the fall of 2005.
Approximately 500 employees are expected to start working at the facility in stages beginning in the summer of 2005 through the summer of 2006.
The announcement was made Friday at a called meeting of the Jefferson Development Authority, which approved a $65 million inducement bond resolution to pave the way for the project. The agreement also calls for the authority to acquire the site and lease it to Kubota.
“Thanks for the exciting news you bring us today...It’s quite an honor to have such a prestigious neighbor.”
Laura Vandiver, human resources senior manager for Kubota, Gainesville, spoke on the history of the company, which opened a 70,000 square foot facility in Hall County in 1989 with 30 employees. That facility is now 615,000 square feet with 1,500 employees.
“We welcome you to Jefferson,” Mayor Jim Joiner said. “We look forward to you being here.”
Kubota manufactures and assembles Kubota lawn tractors, zero-turn mowers, sub-compact tractors, utility vehicles, loaders, backhoes and other implements for tractors. Kubota Manufacturing of America was formed in 1988 as Kubota’s North American manufacturing base. Today, more than one-third of all Kubota branded equipment sold in the United States is manufactured or assembled by the 1,500 employees at its 151-acre Gainesville facility.
Those attending the development authority meeting were: development authority members Elizabeth Lay, Gus Johnson, Roy Stowe and Bond, Joiner, Jefferson city manager David Clabo and chamber of commerce president Pepe Cummings, as well as seven representatives of Kubota.


Halloween events ahead Thurs.-Sat.
Jefferson, Pendergrass, Commerce announce activities
YoungSTers need to get their costumes ready because Halloween events are planned in Jefferson, Pendergrass and Commerce this week.
The annual Halloween Walk will be held in Jefferson Thursday, Oct. 28, in the downtown area. Participating area merchants will provide treats for children ages 12 and under from 4 to 6 p.m.
Area business owners are also encouraged to decorate the fronts of their businesses and to wear costumes for the event.
The Jefferson Area Business Association sponsors the event each year.
Also in Jefferson, a “Haints and History Ghost Walk” will be held for ages 10 and up at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, beginning at the CWL Museum. (See 4C for more details.)
The Commerce Area Business Association will hold its annual Downtown Trick-or-Treat Friday, Oct. 29, from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
As in the past two years, the Commerce Police Department will offer free child ID kits and will fingerprint children for parents who request it.
Trick-or-treaters in Pendergrass will have a chance to get treats from the city hall, library and police department on Saturday, Oct. 30, from 6:30-9 p.m.
City officials will also be offering hay rides for the annual event. For information, call Becky Davis, at the Pendergrass Police Department, at (706) 693-2386.


Airport authority and BOC approve $2.6 million loan
Emory Flight hangar, t-hangars among projects
The Jackson County Airport Authority and the Board of Commissioners agreed in called meetings Thursday to borrow $2.6 million for a five-year airport expansion project.
The airport authority first met Thursday afternoon and unanimously approved the $2.6 million bond financing for several projects. The BOC then held a brief called meeting and signed off on the financing.
The authority and BOC also approved a bid from RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) Centura with a 2.4 percent variable rate. Other bids came from Freedom Bank, Regions Bank, Bank of America, Wachovia, NBank and Community Bank and Trust.
Under the proposed agreement, the airport authority will serve as “conduit” for the money, while the county will assume payment responsibility. In the event of loan default, an ad valorem tax will be set to make the payments.
EXPANSION PROJECTS
The proposed airport projects will include an Emory Flight hangar, two T-hangars and infrastructure.
Airport manager Andy Newton spoke on the projects and said they would bring in revenue to cover the costs. Emory Flight has already provided $30,000 for the project. The county’s investment will be $675,000, including $526,776 for a building; $30,000 for the building interior; $20,000 for a helo pad; and $30,000 for engineering services.
The lease for the Emory Flight hangar is $3,350 a month, or $804,000 over 20 years. Newton projected $300,000 in aircraft taxes over 20 years, as well.
The 13,000 square foot hangar and office facility will serve as the headquarters for this aero medical service business. Emory Flight has agreed to base several aircraft and service crews in the county on a full-time basis. The facility will serve as the company’s main repair and training operation for their southern and eastern region.
The structure will consist of a 10,000 square foot hangar and 3,000 square foot attached office and crew quarters. An apron and lighted helicopter landing pad is included in the plans.
The project also includes the construction of two t-hangars. Newton said he already has a list of 25 people waiting to rent space in the two T-hangars that will be constructed. The anticipated cost for that project is also $675,000.
The two hangars will have 24 spaces available for rent. Netwon said the leases will bring in $6,000 a month.
The $2.6 million will also go toward area grading, land purchase, runway extension and other infrastructure improvements.
The budget includes $449,500 for area grading, with 95 percent to be reimbursed with federal funding and 2.5 percent with state funding. Jackson County’s portion of the grading cost will be $11,237.
The runway extension is budgeted at $450,000, with 95 percent to be federal funding and 2.5 percent state funding. Jackson County’s cost for this project will be $11,250.
The budget also includes $350,500 for land purchase, with 95 percent to be federal funding and 2.5 percent state money. The county’s portion will be $8,762.


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Stage Set For City To Annex Industrial Site
Over the objections of neighbors who live outside the city of Commerce, the Commerce Planning Commission paved the way Monday night for the annexation of a 368-acre industrial park just above Interstate 85.
The group voted unanimously to recommend that the land, owned by Republic Property Company, be rezoned from R-4 in Jackson County to M-2 in the city. The Commerce City Council is expected to accept that recommendation at its Nov. 8 meeting, which will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center.
Jerry Daws, who will develop the property for the owners, told the planning commission that he envisions creating five million square feet of warehouse and light industrial buildings, with a five to 10-year build-out.
The site is located on the future Bana Road (see separate story) and is considered a prime industrial site, but residents of Edwin Reynolds Road, which cuts across the back of the site, were not impressed.
Carl Oster of Gainesville, who has a friend who lives on the site; and Keith Hankins and David Marlow, residents of the road, were among those who spoke in opposition to the rezoning and the development in general.
Hankins questioned the proximity of one of the buildings – right across the street from his house, while Marlow expressed concerns about pollution and noise and the effects on his cattle farm.
In response, Daws stated that in the 20 years his company has been in the development business, it has never been cited for pollution or noise.
“We create slopes to buffer, we plant trees to buffer,” he said. “As we go into building this out, we will take into consideration the impact (on surrounding property).”
He also assured the group that the 18-wheel trucks servicing companies such as UPS, Federal Express, Dunkin’ Donuts and others would enter and leave the property by the Maysville Road and not via Wheeler Cemetery Road and Georgia 82 spur.
Daws projected that warehouse jobs would pay $11 to $12 per hour.
Early in the discussion, Daws said he hoped road improvements would start “after the first of the year” at which time the company would begin marketing the lots.
“Is this the payback road from Waddell to Short?” asked Chairman Greg Perry, explaining, “‘If you elect me, I’ll pave your road.’”
“Not that I am aware of,” Daws responded.
Daws told the group that his company builds 2.5 to three million square feet per year of warehouse space. It has 6.5 million in Gwinnett, Fulton and Clayton counties.
“We see Commerce as truly being the next distribution hub in the Southeast,” he advised.
Joe Leffew made the motion to recommend that the property be rezoned to M-2 and annexed. It passed unanimously.
The panel also voted unanimously to recommend the rezoning to M-2 and annexation of 35.872 adjacent acres at the request of the estate of Marthella Gordon Hagan. The tract is located on Bana Road midway between Georgia 98 and Georgia 82 spur, said Lee Hagan.
The rezoning and annexation of a third tract, 43.2 acres owned by Terry and Sherry Kennedy and located between Bana Road and Interstate 85 was tabled because the planning commission did not have a plat of the entire property.


Hall DA looking at Britt case
Hall County District Attorney Jason Deal has been named to look into allegations that Jackson County Board of Commissioners member Stacey Britt stole water from the county water authority.
Jackson County officials, including sheriff Stan Evans and district attorney Tim Madison, forwarded the case on to state officials because of a possible conflict of interest. The case was then assigned to Deal, who said Monday that he expects to have a resolution by the end of the year.
Britt was billed $4,320 to cover the water he allegedly stole from the county water authority, which includes a penalty for tampering with the line and a charge for replacing a meter.
County work crews discovered an unauthorized meter on a new water line feeding water into Britt’s cattle barn earlier this year.

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Homer, Georgia
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