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NOVEMBER 10, 2004


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SPORTS
Jackson County to open 2004-05 hoops season Tuesday at Flowery Branch
Believe it or not it’s time for local teams to get back on the hardwood.
Jackson County’s basketball teams will begin the 2004-05 season next week with a trip up Hwy. 29. Both the boys’ and girls’ squads head to Flowery Branch Tuesday for season openers.

Tigers Triumph
Commerce Bands Together To Pull Off Playoff Win Over Trion
It’s one thing to beat a team twice in a year. It’s quite another to win a playoff game with a freshman starting at quarterback. Commerce managed to do both this past Friday night.
With Reuben Haynes filling in under center for the injured Caleb Jordan, Commerce scaled down its game plan and emerged a winner, throwing only four passes while rushing for 224 yards in an inspired 13-7 win over Trion.

Done in by the Devils
Jefferson’s season ends in first round of playoffs. Jefferson’s football season came to an end last Friday night nearly three hours away from home.
Despite a promising start, the Dragons fell 28-14 at No. 8 Bremen in the first round of the state playoffs. The two squads were tied at 7-7 at the half, but the Blue Devils made enough plays to come out on top in the final two quarters.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Banks County to have full-time agent
After over one year of asking the University of Georgia to find the funding for a county extension agent in one of the state’s leading agricultural counties, Bob Waldorf, Stephens County extension agent, told the Banks County Board of Commissioners at a meeting held Monday that a county agent would move into the county as soon as the application process is complete.

Veterans’ Day program set Thurs. at BCMS
Banks County Middle School will hold its Veterans’ Day program on Thursday, Nov. 11, at 9 a.m., in the gym.


News from
MADISON
COUNTY
BOC to seek judge’s order on tax digest
County commissioners are tired of waiting on a tax digest. So Monday they voted to do something about it.
The board of commissioners (BOC) agreed 5-0 to seek a judge’s order giving them the right to use the 2003 tax digest —instead of the incomplete 2004 digest — as they set next year’s budget and approve tax rates. County commissioners did not set a date Monday on when they would present the request to a judge.

BOC creates new pay classification, promotes Salter
County commissioners created a new “class 14” tax appraiser III position Monday, then they promoted Mechell Salter to that classification, with pay reflecting five years experience.

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THREE CARS IMPOUNDED
Sheriff Stan Evans is shown with one of the cars used by the county marshal’s office that were impounded Monday for using blue lights, which he says is only allowed of law enforcement vehicles.

Evans impounds marshal’s cars
A two-year-old dispute between the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the county marshal’s department came to a head Monday morning when Sheriff Stan Evans impounded three vehicles belonging to the marshal’s department.
Evans said the cars were illegally outfitted to look like regular law enforcement vehicles, but that the marshal’s department is only a code enforcement agency.
“I’m not contending that the county doesn’t need an enforcement agency for its zoning ordinances,” Evans said. “I feel like they do. (But) I don’t feel like they ought to be wearing guns and badges and have blue lights and be carrying shotguns.”
Evans said he met with county officials two years ago about the issue, but that no changes were made. Following Monday’s action, Evans said that county manager Al Crace had called another meeting for Friday to discuss the issue again.
“This will be the second such meeting,” Evans said. “The first we had trying to resolve this issue was in 2002, but it was not resolved to my satisfaction. Hopefully, we can get the issue resolved on Friday. Until then, these cars will be impounded. We will wait and see.”
Evans defeated the head of the county marshal’s office, E. C. Brogan, in last week’s General Election. Brogan was reportedly in the marshal’s office Monday morning while the cars were being impounded, but he did not come outside.
Deputies confiscated the cars after making an inventory of each vehicle’s contents and photographing the inside of the vehicles. The three cars were then loaded on skid tow trucks and taken to the impound yard at the sheriff’s office complex.
“This issue has been on-going ever since (the marshal’s department) was started,” Evans said. “It was stated that they would have the same power as deputies. That’s not so. They have no authority to stop anybody or make arrests. This issue has got to be resolved. They are portrayed as something they are not. They look like law enforcement officers, but they are not. We’re not going to tolerate this anymore.”
Evans said one of his problems is that the public often believes the county marshals are his officers.
“That is my contention,” he said. “When they roll up there and they write ‘Granny’ a ticket for burning leaves, they think it’s one of my officers. They even have our insignias, or sheriff’s star, on their shirts.”


Jefferson OKs Arcade water deal
But county authority, new BOC members opposed to plan
Jefferson city officials gave final agreement Monday night to a plan being pushed by the current board of commissioners that will take away a large area of water and sewerage service from the county water authority and give it to Arcade.
The move could spark another round of intense, and complex, political fighting as the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority sees its financial stability threatened by the splintering of its service area.
This week the new chairman of the authority, Phillis Holland, sent a letter to Georgia Department of Community Affairs commissioner, Mike Beatty, asking the DCA to postpone approving the deal. She hints in the letter that the authority is prepared to litigate the matter if the agreement, known as House Bill 489, moves forward.
In addition to an impending high-stakes political brawl, giving Arcade a water and sewer service area could also mean that the way is being paved for one, or possibly two, large high-density residential developments.
‘SUMMIT MEETING’ LAST WEEK
At a meeting last week between many of the key players involved in the issue, Arcade mayor Doug Haynie insisted that the town be given a large swath of water and sewerage service territory in and around the town, including the area which includes 3,000 acres of potential development. Haynie said Arcade wants to “control its own destiny.”
On the table is a plan for a 2,000+ housing development by a group of Gwinnett County developers. Another project of a similar size on 1,300 acres is also reportedly being discussed.
But county water officials, and the three newly-elected members of the board of commissioners, told Haynie at the meeting that giving away the water service territory to Arcade would put the county’s ability to pay its water authority bond debts in jeopardy and would shift the cost of those debts to all other county water system customers. And officials said that if the county water system isn’t allowed to grow, it could mean that property taxpayers will have to ante up to help pay the debts.
Also at last week’s meeting, county school system officials expressed caution to all the parties involved about allowing high density projects, such as the ones being proposed near Arcade. School officials said they are concerned about the impact such high-density projects would have on school overcrowding.
JEFFERSON SIGNS OFF
Despite the concerns aired at last Thursday’s meeting, the Jefferson City Council gave a final sign-off to a new shared services “489” agreement Monday night. Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner attended last week’s meeting between Arcade and other officials and apparently agreed to support Arcade’s position in the matter.
The agreement, which was written by the current BOC, had been agreed to by all the county’s towns except Jefferson until Monday night. Jefferson had earlier agreed to Arcade having a service territory, but had stalled signing the final document after it was opposed by members of the county water authority and the newly-elected BOC members. Members of the incoming BOC had asked Jefferson leaders not to sign off on the deal and allow the new BOC to renegotiate the agreement after Jan. 1.
Many observers believe that Arcade service area deal is a backdoor effort by the current BOC to dismantle and weaken the county water authority, with which it has been feuding for over three years. The BOC failed to take over the authority in a legislative bid in 2002.
DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
The hard push by Arcade to have its own water and sewer service area apparently stems from the plan by a Gwinnett County development group to build a residential community on 1,300 acres known as the “old 4W farm.”
The developers have reportedly approached Arcade about the service territory, and the city recently received an annexation request. Some observers believe that the developers want to annex into Arcade to escape zoning regulations in the county, regulations which might not allow the amount of density the developers would like to have.
Arcade would like to have the tap fees and other revenue associated with water services. Although Haynie said at one point during last week’s meeting that wanting a water service area was not for city revenue, he also said several times that Arcade needed to “develop new revenue streams.”
Also apparently in the works is another planned residential community on 1,400 acres known as the “old Terry farm” which has also reportedly discussed annexing into Arcade.
OFFICIALS OPPOSED
While Arcade officials argued for a service territory, many county leaders, and soon-to-be leaders, are strongly opposed to the idea.
At last Thursday’s meeting, water authority chairman Holland and vice chairman Hunter Bicknell were cool to Haynie’s plan for Arcade to carve away service territory from the county water authority.
“If we start giving away areas of high growth, it undermines our abilities as a whole,” Bicknell argued.
Incoming county commissioners Pat Bell, Tom Crow and Jody Thompson were also cool to the idea.
Bell told Haynie that in 1999, Arcade was not interested in being in the water business, and she pointed out that as the Bear Creek Reservoir was being developed, the county tried to get local governments, including Arcade, to participate.
“Every city in the county was begged to come into Bear Creek,” she said. “We didn’t have any takers, so we (the county) went out on a limb by ourselves.”
Water officials also pointed out that the county water system has main trunk lines running through the 4-W farm property already and that it is in a position to service the area without Arcade acting as a middleman. And the county water authority already has a number of water lines in Arcade service customers.
Crow asked Haynie what Arcade will be able to do that the authority cannot do.
“I think Arcade can respond quicker,” Haynie answered.
BEYOND ARCADE
Part of issue goes beyond just Arcade. Also in the agreement are plans to take service area away from the county water system for Commerce and Braselton. And some officials believe if Arcade is given its own territory, it will open the door to Pendergrass and other towns wanting new or expanding service areas, which would in effect cannibalize the county water system and ruin it financially.
The county water system has millions of dollars in bond debts to repay, debts based on projected growth of its system over the years. If the ability to grow is taken away, officials say those debts will fall onto the shoulders of property taxpayers. All of the county water system’s debt was designed for revenue bonds, meaning the debts would be repaid from income generated by the county water system. If that system can’t repay those debts because it isn’t allowed to expand, then the debts will have to be repaid from general county taxes.
SCHOOL OFFICIALS SPEAK
While county and city officials debate cutting up the water service areas, officials from the county school system warned all the parties involved that no matter who controlled the water service, the future of the county school system was at stake.
“What I have to say, you’re not going to want to hear,” said county school superintendent Andy Byers when asked if he had any input in the discussion.
Byers warned the groups about the cost of allowing such high density projects in the county.
“I am concerned about the destiny of Jackson County as a whole,” Byers continued. He noted that the 2,000 houses in the 4W Farm development could result in 3,500 children.
“There’s no way we can build schools (for those children),” Byers warned. “We’ll have to build mobile home schools.”
Byers suggested that the water authority reserve its water and sewer treatment capacity for future industrial growth and that the county should encourage larger lots as a means of reducing the population density.
“We can very soon run out of water the way growth is going up this interstate corridor,” Byers warned.
He also spoke to the need to have a balanced tax digest and said there was no way the tax revenue from the houses proposed for such developments would fund the education of the children coming from them.
In addition, he speculated that uncontrolled and concentrated growth will erode the quality of the three school systems in the county. When it becomes impossible to adequately fund the school systems, Byers said, “the entire quality of life in Jackson County will decline. “We could have a real problem in 15 years...We can’t allow developers to come in here and develop the projects and leave us with all the problems.”


Jefferson sets millage rate, 2005 budget
The Jefferson City Council approved its 2005 budget at $4.8 million Thursday evening, after setting a 6.49 millage rate.
The council held a called meeting for the action, after having discussed the budget and millage rate at length during the previous Monday’s work session.
Council member Bosie Griffith asked city manager David Clabo if the figures had changed any since Monday and Clabo said the overall budget had not, but that a requested part-time person had been “pulled” from the Crawford W. Long Museum, which changed “those numbers down a little.”
The council had previously discussed the need for a full-time museum director, as well as a full-time Better Hometown Jefferson manager, rather than have that be one combined position.
“Are we absolutely sure we need a full-time downtown development authority (director)?” Griffith asked.
Mayor Jim Joiner and Clabo agreed that the position is needed.
“We’re not adding any employees,” Joiner explained. “The museum assistant will be elevated to director.”
Instead of granting two half-time persons to help with the museum, the council has agreed on one half-time person instead.
Steve Kinney, C.D. Kidd III, Griffith and Marcia Moon unanimously approved the millage rate and budget. Philip Thompson was unable to attend the called meeting.


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After Two Decades, DOT Awards Bid For First Half Of
U.S. 441 Widening Project Between Athens, Commerce
GAINESVILLE — The Georgia Department of Transportation has awarded a $21.6 million contract to widen U.S. 441 from Nicholson to the Clarke County line.
The E. R. Snell Company will begin this winter the 7-mile project to widen U.S. 441 to four lanes with a median. A second phase, widening the highway from Nicholson north to the Commerce bypass, will be awarded soon.
Construction of the first phase is expected to take three years.
According to the DOT, construction will start with grading for the “new lanes,” which means there will be little disruption to motorists. Once the new lanes are built, traffic will be shifted to them so the contractor can upgrade the existing lanes.
The widening project has been on the DOT’s horizon for two decades, during which time the project has been scheduled, moved back, moved forward and rescheduled and re-routed numerous times. Last year the DOT finally began clearing buildings off the new right of way.


BOE looks at ’05-’06 calendar
Few acceleration days proposed for county
If the proposed 2005-06 calendar is approved in December, Jackson County students will start school on August 5 next year and will wrap up the 2005-06 year on May 24. In between would be 180 school days and 27 vacation days.
What Jackson County students and parents wouldn’t see as many of in the coming school year under the proposed calendar would be acceleration days, typically set in October and February for students who need extra attention. Instead, after-school attention would be more prevalent, school officials say, with the ongoing mentoring effort hopefully helping students to make more gains than a week here and there.
“After school on a weekly basis all year long works better than a week for acceleration,” said superintendent Andy Byers. “The 20 extra day money can be used for after school, Saturday (school) and summer school.”
The Jackson County Board of Education discussed its 2005-06 proposed calendar at a work session Thursday night, but voted Monday night to postpone a decision until December.
Also noted on the proposed calendar are numerous testing dates — Georgia High School Graduation Test dates scattered throughout the year; End of Course Tests at the end of each semester; fifth and eighth grade writing tests in January; CRCT throughout the month of April; and advanced placement exams in May.
Dr. Keith Everson, director of administrative services, explained that the proposed calendar was worked around test dates.
Teachers would begin pre-planning on August 1, before students arrived August 5. Rather than a week in October, students would have two days off, with one of the days set aside for staff development.
The proposed calendar includes three days of holidays at Thanksgiving and two weeks at Christmas.
Instead of a week in February, students would see three holidays, and would have a week off in April for spring break. One and two-day vacation days are scattered through September, January and March, as well.

 

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