News from Banks County...

DECEMBER 22, 2004


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OPINIONS
The Christmas Story
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up to from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem

‘Yes, There is a Santa...’
It was first published more than 100 years ago in the New York Sun, but it still rings true today.
The “Yes Virginia” editorial, written by Francis P. Church, is perhaps one of the most famous editorials ever printed. It is also most likely the most reprinted editorial ever written.


SPORTS
Lady Leopards lynch Lady Tigers
Banks County’s Lady Leopards out-played the Lady Tigers from Commerce Saturday, defeating the team 69-28.
Lady Leopard head coach Jodie Watkins said Saturday’s win over rival Commerce boosted the confidence of some of the players.
“I thought it would be closer than it was,” she said about the 69-28 defeat.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
Arcade mega-project ‘not in the best interest,’ says RDC
But report is advisory only
A three-member committee of the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center decided after a one-hour hearing Tuesday afternoon that a proposed large-scale residential development in Arcade would not be in the best interest of the state.

441 Project To Be Completed At Snell’s Pace
It turns out that the E.R. Snell Co., Snellville, will build both sections of the U.S. 441 widening project between Clarke County and Commerce.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
No subdivision on Madison St.?
Planners recommend ‘no’ to development; BOC to consider issue Tuesday
The planning commission sided with the neighborhood Tuesday night against a developer’s request for a rezoning of 42 acres on Madison Street just outside the city limits of Danielsville.

IDA sees plans for 145-home development
Authority agrees to provide water if Colbert-Danielsville Road subdivision is approved in 2005
The county industrial development authority (IDA) reviewed a “composite sketch plat” of the proposed “Lions Ranch Subdivision” Monday.

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AT RETIREMENT RECEPTION

Judge Henry David Banks and his wife, Eudora, are shown at a retirement reception held in his honor Friday at the courthouse.

Henry Banks retires as magistrate judge
After 16 years on the bench, 78-year-old Banks County magistrate judge Henry Banks decided it was time to retire.
In honor of those long years of service, friends and family gathered Friday to wish him well at a reception in the courthouse. Public officials who worked with him over the years spoke on his service to the county.
“From day one, I liked Henry David Banks,” Superior Court Judge Bob Adamson said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Henry David. He’s a gentleman. He’s always been cool, calm and collected. He’s always been fair. It’s been a pleasure for me to serve with him.”
His co-workers presented him with a gift certificate from Bass Pro Shop. His hobbies include hunting and fishing, so he was appreciative of this gift.
Judge Banks thanked all of those who attended the reception and said he has enjoyed their help over the years. He added that he also appreciates his wife for “putting up with me all these years I’ve been in office.”
Banks also spoke on the pranks his co-workers played on him over the years and said he enjoyed the fellowship with them.
“They’ve pulled a lot of things on me,” he said. “I appreciate the fun we’ve had.”
Some 20 years ago, Banks had heart surgery and that changed his busy life. He once owned a landscaping business and ran a poultry farm. That ended after heart surgery in 1986.
His friends were not about to just let him sit around. When the previous judge “retired,” then-sheriff Henry Crane, Pete Hill and Milton Dalton talked the Banks County native into running for office in 1988. He won the election and embarked on a new career that would take him into the personal lives of those appearing before him.
Being a native of the county, he often presided over decisions that affected people and friends he knew.
“In a courtroom, it’s a no-win situation,” he said. “Someone has to lose. Both sides have to be treated equally. I’ve always done my best to be fair.”
Many times, he would convince the people to work it out amongst themselves, which he found worked well in most civil cases.
Sometimes it’s family members he finds on his docket in suits filed one against the other for problems that occurred after buying a car or some piece of machinery or even an animal. He said it would be better if family and friends stayed away from selling to and buying from each other.
In his beginning days, he said he wrote around nine warrants a month. By 2004, there were four times as many a week.
While many of the cases that come under his jurisdiction have remained in the common field of civil suits, the number of cases and warrants marked an increase in drug and alcohol abuse and family violence.
“Family violence is the one that really bothers me,” he said. “You just never know what could happen to the woman and the children. You don’t know if he’ll go back and hurt her. Years ago, we had a case where a man stabbed his wife in front of their children. That really bothered me. Those kids witnessed what happened to their mama.
“Hearing about children and the elderly being mistreated got to me. We have had a substantial increase in such cases. That doesn’t mean it is more prevalent now, I think it means people are finally talking about it and paying attention more.”
He said drugs and alcohol are also a problem in the county.
“The average person in this county doesn’t realize what’s happening with drugs and alcohol,” he said. “Once a person starts down that road, it’s hard to set their lives straight again.
“It happens in all income levels. I was lucky that I had a mother and father who brought me up right. But even a decent up-bringing with good parents isn’t enough to keep some of these young people out of trouble. They throw their lives away and nobody stops them.”
Banks said he tries to be straight with young people and help them. Sometimes, it works.
“Just recently, I had this young fellow come in to my office,” he said. “He had gotten in some trouble while he was in high school. I tried to help him and point him in the right direction. He came in and thanked me years later for setting him on the right path. That made me feel so good. Imagine that, he came back to say thanks. Those are the kinds of things that kept me going.”
Dispossessories are also on the increase, he said, which could be an indicator of the economy, in some case. In others, it may just be “laziness” or drug addiction.
“They come in here and tell me, ‘The check is in the mail.’ Or ‘I paid, but lost my receipt.’ They’ll forget the day of the month it’s due. Some come in and pay, others don’t.”
Though his days as magistrate for Banks County are over, he said he hopes to be appointed to “Senior Magistrate Judge” by Ivan Mote, the new Banks County magistrate judge. Mote has been training with Banks ever since the election.
“I think he’ll do a fine job,” he said. “He’s young and learns quick. He’s personable, so I think the people will like him. But, he’ll have his own way to deal with the people he finds standing before him.”
The new year will mark a new beginning for Banks. No more late night phone calls for warrants; no listening to arguments from belligerent neighbors. No, Banks has quieter things in mind.
“I may do a little woodworking in my shop,” he said. “Might do some fishing. I’m not sure yet just what I’ll be doing.”
Eudora, his wife of 57 years, will probably come up with a few ideas of her own. They have two children and four grandchildren.
“I’ve always thought a lot of my family and friends,” he said. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I have always loved Banks County.”


Lula council approves municipal court
The City of Lula now has a municipal court in place to handle violations of town ordinances.
At Monday’s city council meeting, the second reading of the municipal court ordinance was held and the document was approved. This ordinance will establish a municipal court that shall have jurisdiction and authority to try and punish violations of the charter of the city and all city ordinances.
The municipal court may fix punishment for offenses within its jurisdiction as now or hereinafter provided by the charter. The sessions of the court shall be scheduled by the judge with proper notice to the parties concerned.
In other business, the council:
•recognized Lula resident Joey Leonard, who is a two-time essay contest winner. The contest is sponsored by Dollar General. He was congratulated by the mayor for this achievement.
•the second reading of the nuisance ordinance was given and it was approved.
•after a second reading on the ordinance to provide for compensation of city council members and the mayor, the council approved the ordinance with a 4-1 vote. Larry Shuler was the council member opposed to this compensation ordinance. The ordinance states each city council member shall continue to be paid $50 for attendance at each official city council meeting. In addition, each city council member shall now be paid $50 for attendance at each work session of the city council. The mayor’s compensation shall continue to be $400 per month.
•adopted a resolution as required by the Solid Waste Management Act. The city officially adopted the Solid Waste Management Plan for Hall County and the cities of Clermont, Flowery Branch, Gainesville, Gillsville, Lula and Oakwood dated 2004, prepared by the Hall County Resource Recovery Division, Hall County Public Works and Utilities.
•approved a variance request for Eddie Medlock, who requested a five-foot variance from the front set back of his property on Lewallen Circle. Medlock told the council that his cabinet shop business is growing and he really needs the extra space. Mayor Turner informed Mr. Medlock that inspections would have to be made before, during and after construction on his new addition that were not made when the original building was built due to changes in the building codes of the city.
•voted to spend $1,174 to replace four windows and repair the wood around the four windows in the old city hall building. The work will be done by Harold’s Gutter Service.
•adopted the 2004-2025 Comprehensive Plan for the City of Lula.
•voted to give each full-time employee a $100 incentive bonus for Christmas, this would be a total of $700. Each part-time employee would receive $50, but there are no part-time employees at this time.
•David White was granted a request to address the council on property at 356 Lula Farm Road regarding the city limits of Lula. White gave an overview of this property from the time he purchased it in 1996 up until now. He was told in 1996 that the property was not in the city limits and he has never considered himself in the city limits of Lula. He had previously asked for a de-annexation to be granted and was met with opposition from the council. But since then, he has withdrawn his de-annexation request and is trying to prove that the property was never in the city limits. The mayor and city attorney told White that this matter would be turned over to the city’s zoning committee and they would need to get with a surveyor to study the city limit boundaries before a decision could be made. White presented each council member and the mayor and attorney with a packet of information with various records in it showing that he is a Banks County registered voter, that he acquired all his building permits from Banks County, and that he doesn’t receive any city services from the City of Lula. The zoning map on file at the city hall however shows his property in the city limits of Lula.
•recognized clerk Dawn Letson, as this was her last council meeting. She will be leaving her job with the City of Lula as of Dec. 23. The mayor and council wished her the best in her future endeavors.
•the mayor announced that Lorraine Hussey has been employed in the finance department for the city.
Present for the meeting were: Mayor Milton Turner, city attorney Brad Patten, councilmembers Larry Shuler, Lamb Griffin, Clyde Moore, Vicky Chambers and Mordecai Wilson, city clerk Dawn Letson and city manager Dennis Bergen.



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DFACS begins new protocol
Many times referrals are made to the Banks County Department of Family and Children Services that really do not require a full-scale investigation.
Renota Free, DFACS director, told board members at the meeting last week: “This new Diversion Response project is an option for those referrals not needing full child protective services investigations, but who do not quite meet the ‘screen-out’ criteria either. Nine Georgia counties have piloted this project for the past four months and reported it as a major success in providing intervention and services to appropriate situations without a full-blown investigation.”
In some instances, reports are made when children are seen living in dirty or trashy homes. With the new protocol, a caseworker makes contact with the family and after an assessment, determines how the family might best be helped.
“Sometimes, it’s just a matter of cleaning up the home and we just provide intervention services,” she said. “However, if there is obvious evidence of child abuse, we take immediate action to protect the child.”
The diversion response is not a new practice, said Free. It was once used several years ago.
Staff at the Banks County office have been attending training seminars in order to implement the practice.
With the number of cases of suspected child abuse continuing to increase, this service provides the means by which the more serious complaints get the most attention.
Currently, staff members were actively involved in 113 cases of reported child abuse, according to the November report.
Thirty-eight investigations were pending outcomes at the beginning of the month. Twenty-nine new cases were reported, though two were screened out. Of those, six were for physical abuse; three for emotional abuse and 20 were reports of neglect.
Thirty-four cases were closed after social workers conducted in-depth investigations, she said. Two of the reports came under the new diversion response protocol.
Staff investigations found reason to substantiate and open four cases of child abuse. There are 46 ongoing cases, Free reported.
Banks County now has legal custody of 22 children. Some are placed with other family members and others are placed in foster care.
The adoption of two children was approved recently and they are now living happily with the foster parents they have been with for the past two years.
There are four children available for adoption said Free.


Jamieson lists road improvements
Rep. Jeanette Jamieson has announced that the Georgia Department of Transportation has approved a proposed road improvement project for Banks County.
The project is 12.830 miles of asphalt concrete patching on Yonah-Homer Road and Samples Scales Road.
Work will begin after the contract has been approved and the work order issued, officials said.
“I am pleased to see this project move forward,” Rep. Jamieson said. “We all want to drive on smooth roads in Banks County.”


BCN office to be closed for holiday
The Banks County News office will be closed Thursday and Friday, Dec. 23-24, in honor of the Christmas holiday.
The office will open on its regular schedule at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 27.


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