News from Banks County...

DECEMBER 8, 2004


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OPINIONS
Zach Mitcham
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.

Lessons to be learned from Chernobyl
On an April day in 1986, a horrific accident occurred in Russia.
The release of steam from a nuclear reactor sent an intense cloud of radiation across hundreds of square miles in Russia.


SPORTS
Showing signs of improvement
Banks County wrestling team taking early season wins
Banks County wrestling season is in full swing with positive results from several early season matches and several more matches ahead on the schedule.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
2,440-home community being pitched for Arcade
Mega-development would be county’s largest project
A high-density housing planned community in Arcade is being pitched to area government leaders for comments by the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center. And action on the plan could come as soon as Dec. 21 when an annexation and rezoning request is slated to go before the Quad Cities Planning Commission.

Isakson speaks at courthouse dedication Wed.
Commends county officials on facility
While its doors have been open to the public for months, the new Jackson County courthouse was officially dedicated on Wednesday morning.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
475-home subdivision in the works?
Major residential development proposed for Colbert Grove Church Road, Johnny McElroy Road
A 475-home subdivision could be in the works for 400.12 acres on Colbert Grove Church Road and Johnny McLeroy Road.

The Proposal:
Here is the actual proposal submitted by the applicants to the Madison County Planning and Zoning Department:
“Star Home Builders proposes to construct a subdivision on 400 acres of property on Colbert Grove Church Road in Madison County, and requests rezoning of the property from A-1 (agricultural) to R-1, Planned Unit Development (PUD).

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Control Center

Joey Ayers monitors security cameras located in every cell, at every door, in every room and over every parking lot while working a shift in the control center at the new Banks County Jail. Ayers also controls the opening and closing of all doors from a switchboard and monitors an intercom system, located to his left.

See more photos in this weeks Banks County News.

New Banks County jail open for business
Anyone needing to fill out an incident report, report an accident or speak to an officer with the Banks County Sheriff’s Office should now go to the new Banks County jail, located on Thompson Street across the new Hwy. 441 bypass.
Inmates were moved into the new $3.2 million facility on November 2 and have been residing there without incident for over a month.
More than 30 inmates were moved election day. When inmates moved from the old to the new jail, they had to go through booking again to be sorted into classifications; minimum, medium and maximum security, depending on their charges, criminal history and whether they had committed a violent crime.
“From the time a person is brought into the jail, everything is different,” said Sheriff Charles Chapman.
At the old jail, people were brought in through the front door to be booked in and would stand in the same area as the public. At the new jail, inmates enter through the back and are booked into jail in a separate, secure location.
“We did a lot of things over there (the old jail) because we had to, we had no other way,” he said.
The state and federal governments regulate the way inmates and prisoners are treated in jails and prisons. They must be treated in a way that does not violate the Constitution of the United States of America.
“We don’t just take people off the street and stick them in a cage,” Chapman said. “They are people and they have rights and they have to be treated that way. It is our responsibility to maintain the jail not only for the safety of the officers, but for the safety of those who are incarcerated.”
The jail has a full-time nutritionist who plans and prepares three meals a day for the inmates. Inmates are expected to be up in the morning by 7 a.m. for breakfast and the lights go out at 11 p.m.
Some inmates volunteer to work inside the jail so they perform chores during the day. Others are allowed to spend time in a common area located in each of the four cell blocks. All are allowed to go outside, inside locked and wired gates, for a certain amount of time each day.
Inmates cannot be denied medical attention if they request to see a doctor. The new jail has a nurse’s station with a waiting room, medicine vault and exam room, but does not have a nurse on the staff. Inmates have to be taken to see the county doctor, Dr. Robert Marshburn. Chapman said eight medical requests were completed last week and Marshburn had to come to the jail to examine the sick. Chapman said it would be easier, and possibly less expensive, to have a nurse come to the jail.
“We are going to try to come up with something that considers the welfare of the inmates and is in the best interest of the taxpayers,” Chapman said.
Last year, medical expenses at the jail totaled $60,000. Only $17,000 was added into this year’s budget for medical expenses.
Chapman said the transition was a big adjustment not only for the inmates, but for the staff as well.
“Here, it is so much different, the work load for jailers became greater after the move and they are separated from each other,” he said.
Jailers work in shifts, rotating from one post to another throughout the day.
“That jail has been out-of-date for years,” Chapman said about the old facility.
He said he started discussing the possibility of a new jail with commissioners during his first term in office.
“We were facing many, many problems in that jail,” he said. “It was designed in such a way that there was really no security and we had a lot of problems with the sewer system.”
Law enforcement officers from the Georgia Sheriff’s Association were contacted in 1999 by local officials to conduct a feasibility study to assess the need for a new jail in the county. After several weeks of research, findings suggested the county fund the building of an 80- bed jail. Chapman said for budgetary reasons the facility was condensed to 60 beds.
Construction began in January 2003. Heavy rain and the lack of a road delayed the progress for several months, Chapman remembered.
“It came up from the mud holes,” he said. “We came up with a nice building.”
The building was completed in June 2004, but jailers still had to learn how to operate all the new equipment; intercom systems, a network of security cameras, electronic rolling doors and security gates.
“We had to make sure the jail staff was ready to occupy the building,” Chapman said. “It’s not something you just do, it is a transition.”
The Sheriff’s Association conducted a jailer’s school for several days on location for the staff.
The new jail cost $3.2 million to construct, but property owners didn’t have to pay for the building, just the maintenance.
“Everybody knows that this jail is operated and maintained by the tax- payers,” Chapman said. “But, everyone who spent $1 in Banks County got to pay for the building.”
The new Banks County Jail was one of several projects paid for by a special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST).


Flu shots to be given Mon. at the health department
Only ‘high risk’ to get vaccination
The Banks County Health Department will have a limited amount of flu vaccinations to give to those at “high risk” on Monday, Dec. 13, from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1-4 p.m.
A spokesperson with the North Health District 2, which includes Banks County in the 13-county region, said officials don’t know how many flu shots will be available.
Flu clinics in the North Health District 2 will also begin to hold daily flu clinics until all available vaccine is given.
Those identified by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) as “high risk” are: persons 65 years of age and older; health care workers who provide direct patient care, out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children younger than six months, persons ages six to 64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions, children ages six months to 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy, children aged six months to 23 months and women who will be pregnant during the influenza season.
Flu shots will be given on a first-come, first-served basis to persons in high-risk groups only, officials said. Public health officials expect demand for the vaccine to be high. Therefore, expect that there may be crowds at the clinics and allow plenty of time to receive service.
“Please be considerate and patient with others, as well as the public health staff,” officials said.
Vaccine will be given daily until depleted. If additional vaccine is made available, subsequent clinics will be scheduled to administer flu shots. The cost for the vaccine is $20. Medicare and Medicaid are accepted at all health departments.
North Health District 2 is comprised of Banks, Dawson, Forsyth, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White counties in northeast Georgia.



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Holiday open house planned in Gillsville
Friends of Gillsville and the City of Gillsville invite all area residents to a holiday open house.
This holiday event will be held Saturday, December 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. in downtown Gillsville. It will feature caroling groups and complimentary food and beverages, and will give folks a look at the progress of the building renovations.
“Bring your family, friends and neighbors and help us celebrate the holidays in downtown Gillsville,” leaders say.


BOC questions tax commissioner
Will residents be able to pay their 2004 property taxes before 2005?
The Banks County Board of Commissioners asked tax commissioner Margaret Ausburn in a called meeting last week if residents can voluntarily pay their property taxes before January 1 so the payments could be used in tax preparation. She said, “Not yet.”
“Until I receive a response from the state commissioner, I can’t collect, it’s illegal,” Ausburn said at a called meeting Wednesday, December 1.
Ausburn said she sent a letter to the state department on October 28 requesting the authority to accept voluntary property tax payments. She said she hasn’t received a response, but expects citizens will be able to pay their taxes before the digest is complete using last year’s values.
Commission chairman Kenneth Brady said he’s received several phone calls regarding the tax payments.
“People want to pay their taxes so they can write it off on their income taxes,” he said. “I need mine to come off.”
Ausburn said the decision to accept payments lies completely with the state revenue department.
“I understand why people want to pay their taxes, but I can’t do anything,” Ausburn said. “As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know.”


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Homer, Georgia
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