News from Madison County...

DECEMBER 1, 2004

Madison County

Madison County

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Zach Mictcham
A look at the retail revolution
We live at a time when — as I learned this weekend — you can actually buy a small, color TV for $37 or a lawnmower for $99. But go to a ball game, or the movies, or the hospital, and watch how prices suddenly change: The cost of a soft drink swells to six times more than usual; one aspirin tablet in a hospital room suddenly costs more than a combo meal at a drive-through.

Kerri Testement
Home for the holidays
Home for the holidays takes on a different meaning when your family lives half-way across the country — and when you haven’t been “home” in a while.

Ramble on
Raiders hold off Salem, look toward Loganville
Raider head basketball coach Steve Crouse warns that he might sound like a broken record, but its only because he wants to ingrain this message into his team’s psyche:

News from
Banks County Primary School receives state honor
Reception to be held on Dec. 13
Banks County Primary School has been named a “Title I Distinguished School” by the Georgia Department of Education and state superintendent of schools Kathy Cox for the fifth consecutive year.
The announcement was made at the November meeting of the State Board of Education.

Hard times
$100,000 given in food stamps
October was a bad month for Banks families. Renota Free, director of Banks County Department of Family and Children Services, reported at the November board meeting that 456 families had received $101,084 in food stamps. The amount was an increase of more than 33 percent over last year and a record for the county.

News from
Santa’s ‘helpers’ hit stores in record numbers
Across America, the day after Thanksgiving is the day millions of Santa’s “helpers” hit the stores. In Banks County, it was no different as thousands of shoppers from across the Southeast snarled traffic and filled stores, hotels and restaurants at Banks Crossing.

New developments proposed for Pendergrass
Commercial project planned on bypass
The first planning and zoning hearing since Pendergrass withdrew from the Quad Cities Planning Commission in April brought some large requests for city officials to consider on Tuesday.
On the table for the council to discuss were three requests ranging from a large commercial development to a variance request to allow an additional mobile home on a resident’s property.
The Madison County Journal
Danielsville, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056

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Community profile

Hester Sartain has taught Sunday School at Jones Chapel Church for more than 50 years. Photo by Margie Richards

‘Lessons in faith’
For more than five decades, Hester Sartain has taught class on faith, on life
Hester Sartain remembers walking up the steps of Jones Chapel Church in the early 1950s, balancing her youngest daughter Susan on her hip, when several church leaders stopped her to ask if she would consider teaching a Sunday School class.
“I told them I would,” she remembers.
But even Sartain couldn’t imagine she’d still be teaching Sunday School at Jones Chapel more than 50 years later. Today at age 93, she’s teaching some of the grandchildren or even great-grandchildren of those in her first classes.
“I start every class the same way — with prayer,” says this veteran Sunday School teacher. “People don’t depend on prayer enough today — they just don’t understand its power in our lives.”
That’s just one of the many lessons Mrs. Sartain has worked to instill in the hundreds of sixth, seventh and eighth graders she’s worked with most often over the years.
Mrs. Sartain gives a lot of credit for her values and faith to two women who were tremendous influences in her life; her mother-in-law, Alice Bond Sartain, and her own mother, Era Fitts Carey.
“I can honestly say I love everybody,” she says. “If someone hurts me, I pray for the Lord to take away any bitterness or bad feelings, and He does....I try to live every day in obedience to God.”
“I tell them (students) every year, ‘Y’all need a young teacher,’” she said, but her students, or church leaders, don’t seem to agree. Since the death of her older sister, Allie Dudley, in 2003, Mrs. Sartain is the oldest member of Jones Chapel United Methodist Church.
Mrs. Sartain has lived in the home her husband Joe was born in for most of her own life. Parts of the home are more than 200 years old.
Her mother-in-law reared nine children there on her own after her husband passed away when she was carrying Joe. Mrs. Sartain and Joe lived with her and helped to care for her in her later years. The couple continued to live on in the family home after her mother-in-law’s death.
She and Joe were married 52 years when he passed away in 1987. Just a few months before that, Mrs. Sartain lost her own mother at age 97, known in the community as “Miss Era.”
Sartain comes from “good stock.” Her mother, Era Fitts Carey and father, Sanford Munroe Carey, reared 12 of their 13 children to adulthood in the Shiloh Community of Madison County; a remarkable feat in an age of typhoid and influenza epidemics which often robbed parents of several children at a time.
More remarkable still, Sanford and Era not only lived to ripe old ages, but each of their dozen children also lived to be elderly, living in the community they grew up in. Only three have passed away. Mrs. Sartain is the eldest survivor, and at 93 remains active in her garden, her church and with her family. In fact, sometimes she’s a little too active for her family’s liking.
“We do worry about her,” daughter Lillian Chandler said.
Sartain has three children; Joe Bond Sartain, an attorney in Gainesville, Chandler, a retired high school teacher, and Susan Young, a school counselor. She has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Her daughters gave her a walking stick to take on walks with her, but Mrs. Sartain feels it often slows her down too much.
Chandler said to get around this, her independent mother sometimes tucks the walking stick under her arm or balances it over her shoulder.
On Mrs. Sartain’s wall is one of her favorite prayers by Helen Steiner Rice, which she shares with everyone. It reads, “Good Morning God, you are ushering in another day, So here I come to ask you God, if you’ll renew me too. Forgive me the many errors that I made yesterday and let me try again, dear God. But Father, I am well aware I can’t make it on my own. So take my hand and hold it tight, for I can’t walk alone.”
“I get up every day with a prayer,” Mrs. Sartain said. “I wouldn’t be able to make it without that.”

Murder or Mistake?
Joseph Gabriel stands trial for the shooting death of Dana Brookshire
Was 25-year-old Dana Brookshire murdered, or was she the victim of a terrible accident?
That’s what a jury of 12 county residents must decide after they hear closing arguments Wednesday in the trial of Brookshire’s live-in boyfriend, Joseph Gabriel, 22, who law enforcement officials say intentionally shot and killed her in the early morning hours of Nov. 23, 2003, at their duplex apartment on Peachtree Street in Colbert.
District attorney Bob Lavender told jurors when the trial began Tuesday morning that a 911 tape, letters written by Brookshire showing a “somewhat tumultuous” relationship between the couple, evidence of spent and live ammunition located all over the apartment and “a drug addiction problem” by both of them would all help to prove the prosecution’s case for murder.
But defense attorney Michael Nation, a public defender assigned to Gabriel’s case, maintained Brookshire’s death was a “terrible, terrible tragedy,” the result of Gabriel’s being startled from sleep and on edge because of an attempted break-in which had allegedly occurred a few days earlier in the apartment next to his.
Gabriel, dressed casually in a light-colored pullover sweater, blue and white button down shirt and khaki pants, appeared composed as he faced the jury Tuesday. He turned once or twice to acknowledge several family members seated in the rows behind him, but showed very little emotion otherwise.
In his opening statement, Lavender told the jury that the couple had been dating for six to eight months and living together for little more than a week when Brookshire was killed with a single blast to the chest by a 45-caliber Ruger semi-automatic pistol. The bullet tore through her chest from right to left, coming to rest lodged just underneath the skin in her back.
“The one thing Dana Brookshire’s family had to be thankful for last Thanksgiving is that she didn’t suffer,” Lavender said.
Nation emphasized that Gabriel has never argued the fact that he shot Brookshire, but he maintains it was an accident, that he shot his girlfriend with the gun he kept by his bed after being startled from sleep by the sound of her coming back in from a night-time walk to “get some air.”
The prosecution began the process of reconstructing the scene of Brookshire’s death with expert witnesses and Madison County sheriff’s deputies who were first on the scene.
But the most dramatic moment of the trial came after lunch on Tuesday, when 911 director David Camp took the witness stand to play a tape of the 911 call placed by Gabriel at 2:40 a.m. on Sunday morning, Nov. 23.
Brookshire’s mother, Debbie Beasley, cried quietly as the tape was played, eventually leaving the courtroom. Other family members also cried.
Gabriel, in his first real show of emotion, brought both his hands to his face as he heard his distraught voice on the tape stating several different versions of what had happened, including that he didn’t know the gun was loaded.
“My gun accidentally went off and shot my girlfriend,” Gabriel said right after the call began and gave his address as 307 Peachtree Street in Colbert.
Gabriel’s shoulders began to shake and he too began to cry quietly as his voice on the tape called “Dana, Dana, Dana,...” over and over as a dispatcher tried to assist him in administering CPR.
“I can’t get the blood out of her mouth,” Gabriel could be heard to say at one point on the tape. Earlier, Gabriel told the dispatcher he didn’t know if Brookshire had a pulse or not. “I don’t know, I’m fixin’ to go into shock,” he said.
“She’s laying in the hall, I don’t want to touch her—I ain’t never seen nobody shot that way,” he was also heard to say. Other parts of the conversation between Gabriel and the dispatchers were too blurred to be heard clearly from the audience.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime scene specialist Lannie Cox took numerous photos of the apartment on the morning of the shooting, noting there were several rounds of live ammunition, as well as spent shell casings, found in the living room, bedroom and other areas of the home. One shell casing was also found on the kitchen floor and a bullet hole was noted in the living room wall. Cox also confiscated letters and other items found around the apartment and in a “burn pile” in back of the duplex.
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal.

Comer Christmas Parade set for Saturday
The annual Comer Christmas parade will be held Saturday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m.
The day will start with a fun run, sponsored by the recreation department, and the Christmas festival at Comer Elementary School. At 11 a.m., the Comer Volunteer Fire Department will serve up its “famous barbecue chicken dinner,” first-come, first-served, organizers say.
Also prior to the parade, there will be choruses featured from all Madison County schools under the direction of Paula Drake, Jennifer Scoggins, Susan McCormack, Franleata Sorrells and Shirley Dillard and the gospel quartet Fourgiven will perform.
Santa Claus will make an appearance during the parade.
On Sunday night, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. the annual lighting of the Comer Christmas tree will take place on the median. All the choruses from Madison County schools will also be at this event to perform. Merchants and Farmers Bank will provide refreshments and the churches of Comer will have the program.
“Come have Christmas in Comer on the first weekend in December,” organizers say.

Kids’ picture deadline extended
The deadline for submitting photos for our annual children’s Christmas section has been extended to 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13.
The kids’ section will be published in The Madison County Journal on Wednesday, Dec. 22 (not the Dec.16 issue as previously stated).
The newspaper will accept photographs of children age 8 years and younger through The child must live in Madison County. Photos of grandchildren will be taken only if the child resides with the grandparents in Madison County. Please submit the following information along with the child’s photo: the first and last name and age of each child shown, as well as the parents’ names, their city of residence and phone number.
Black and white or color photos can be used, but no Polaroids or photographs printed out from a computer onto laser paper will be accepted, as they do not reprint well. Digital photos with the above information may be e-mailed to
The photos may be dropped off at or mailed to The Journal office in Danielsville and may be picked up there after the publication runs in the paper. (If the office is closed, photos may be dropped in the slot beneath the front porch window.)

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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.

Tax bills coming this month?
Digest dilemma has impact on county revenues for 2005
Will county taxpayers get their property tax bills by the end of the year? Well, that’s still up in the air. But county board of assessors chairman John Bellew said that remains his goal.
“We will have tax bills mailed hopefully by the end of the year if the state approves our preliminary figures,” said Bellew Monday.
The board of assessors was flooded with some 1,700 tax assessment appeals this year from property owners unhappy with how their land was valued by appraisers.
A county digest, or total land value, cannot be submitted to the state for approval until pending appeals total less than five percent of the 14,000 parcels in the county.
Any holdup on the digest sets the annual county revenue process behind because tax rates cannot be set until a digest is finalized. Bills can’t be mailed until tax rates are set. And local tax revenue for the county government and county schools can’t be collected until bills are mailed.
So both the county commissioners and school board have discussed borrowing money if necessary due to the digest delay.
Bellew has had to push his projected date of digest completion back more than once this fall due to the ongoing appeals process. But he said Monday that the board of assessors is now reaching the finish line, noting that the assessors brought pending appeals under the required 700 mark last week when they issued second notices to 107 property owners. Those property owners have 21 days to appeal the second notice.
Bellew said assessors are hoping to get approval of the preliminary digest from the state government and move forward with required advertising of digest figures. If that happens, then tax bills could be mailed before the end of the year, he said.
While many individual property assessments have been lowered through the appeals process, the overall land value for the county will be up significantly in 2004. Earlier this year, assessors projected a 29 percent increase in overall land value. Bellew said that figure is now about 23 or 24 percent.
The ongoing digest dilemma has been the source of much tension in the county government in 2004. And county commissioners recently filed a request with a Superior Court judge to determine whether there are sufficient legal grounds for the removal of three of the four members of the board of assessors: Bellew, John Mallonee and Gerald Coutant.
That lengthy BOC complaint included numerous charges against the assessors, with the basic theme that the group “failed to perform their duties and requirements and meet the qualifications imposed upon them by law in numerous aspects.”
The attorney for the assessors was supposed to file a response to those charges with the office of the Clerk of Superior Court this week.
A hearing on the matter is set for 2 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 16, before Judge John Bailey in the county Superior courtroom in the government complex in Danielsville.
Bellew, who lost the race for the BOC chairman’s seat to Wesley Nash Nov. 2, said Monday that if the judge answers the question of who has authority over hiring and firing the county appraisal staff — the BOC or the board of assessors — then he will resign from his position as chairman, adding that what he sees as the primary problem between the two boards will have been resolved.
“If we can have a ruling on who hires and fires, then I’m out,” said Bellew, whose term as chairman is scheduled to expire at the end of 2005. “I’ve got to take care of my own personal business.”
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233 Fax: (706) 367-8056

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