News from Madison County...

DECEMBER 22, 2004


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillispie
You can’t take Christ out of Christmas
The ACLU is fighting a losing battle in its efforts to take religion out of Christmas. You see, everything about the holiday has a religious background. It is not only the nativity scenes that depict religious ideals. The Christmas tree, the decorations, the wreaths, the candles, the gifts, even Santa himself are based on religious themes.

Zach Mitcham
Rapid growth on the horizon?
If you've never been interested in your local government, then it might be time for you to pay some attention. Cause there's quite a bit happening now that will profoundly affect this county for years to come.
Consider these things:
•It would take a world class runner over two hours to run the length of water lines — 25 miles — put in the ground or purchased by the industrial development authority (IDA) over the past year.


SPORTS
Lady Raiders have holiday hopes
What will holiday tourney hold for MCHS girls?
The Lady Raiders hope there’s some holiday cheer in store for them at the large and diverse Sweet South Classic next week.
A win of any kind would be fine for them — no special gift wrapping or style points needed.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


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.

 mainstreetnews.com
The Madison County Journal
Danielsville, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056
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‘Away in a Manger’

“Shepherd” Jim Hamilton is pictured with the camel “Omar” and spectators at the 20th annual Live Nativity and Luminarias on Booger Hill Road Saturday night.

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.
The commission voted 6-0 to recommend denial of a request by developer Todd Higdon, representing property owner Bruce Pilon, to rezone 42.3 acres just beyond Danielsville Elementary from A-2 (agricultural, five-acre minimum lot size) to R-1 (single residential) for a major subdivision of one-acre minimum lots sizes.
Turned down for annexation and for water by the city of Danielsville, Higdon, armed with a plan for the subdivision’s own community water system, faced a number of angry neighbors on Madison Street whose chief complaint was the huge amount of traffic on their street, primarily due to an influx of traffic to and from the three schools and the sports complex already located there.
Higdon is currently developing Long Estates, a subdivision on Crawford W. Long Street west of the courthouse square inside Danielsville’s city limits, and a Fred’s department store, which will be located on Hwy. 29 north of town.
Higdon said his Madison Street subdivision, if approved, will have 32 lots or less, depending on soil conditions and other factors, and be served by one or two community wells.
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal.


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.
If approved by county leaders in 2005, the 145-home development would be located on 226.31 acres off the west side of Colbert-Danielsville Road next to Gatewood Subdivision.
No hearing dates have been set on the proposal. In fact, no application for a rezoning for the subdivision had been filed with the county planning office as of Tuesday, according to county zoning administrator Kim Butler.
But the proposal is expected to go before county leaders early in 2005.
IDA members agreed Monday that if the Lions Ranch Subdivision is eventually approved, the authority will provide water to the development as long as developers cover the cost of connecting the subdivision to the authority’s water line.
According to the preliminary sketch, drawn by Cornerstone Land Surveying in Hull, Kim White is the agent for the project and Frank Coggins as the land owner. The proposed minimum lot size is one acre.
White could not be reached for comment as of press time.


Two sides present tax case before judge
BOC still waits for recommendation on whether there is sufficient legal cause to fire three of four assessors
A Superior Court judge is expected to issue a ruling this week on whether the county board of commissioners can fire three of the four members of the county tax assessor’s board: chairman John Bellew, Gerald Coutant and John Mallonee.
Judge John Bailey, who had not issued a ruling on the matter as of press time, heard exhaustive debates Thursday afternoon on the year-long county tax conflict.
The tax digest dilemma has caused considerable headaches for taxpayers — who wonder when they will get their 2004 tax bill and how much that bill will be.
The board of assessors was flooded with some 1,700 appeals this year from property owners upset with their land appraisals. And the process of hearing those appeals has dragged on for months, leaving the county without a tax digest — or total land value — for 2004.
Meanwhile, government officials have also been frustrated, because the lengthy delay in finalizing the tax digest means that tax rates cannot be set, tax bills can’t be issued, revenue can’t be raised, and some services must be funded in 2005 with borrowed money instead of taxpayer dollars.
The fact that the delay has disrupted normal business is not a matter of dispute. Certainly, much has been put in limbo because of the confusing ordeal.
However, who’s to blame for all the trouble?
Well, that’s been a highly contentious matter.
And the board of commissioners filed a lengthy complaint with the courts in October that puts the blame squarely on the board of assessors. They say the assessors have simply fallen down on the job and they list seven charges to back their case that the assessors are unfit to serve the county.
However, the assessors respond that the commissioners are playing politics and trying to interfere with a process in which they should not be involved.
NO FESTIVE MOOD
So, the two sides finally argued their cases before Bailey in an exhaustive, four-hour hearing in the county government complex Thursday.
There was certainly no holiday spirit in the room.
County attorney Mike Pruett began the hearing by going over each of the BOC’s seven allegations against the board of assessors at some length.
Pruett referred to the assessor board’s actions as causing “turmoil, trauma and hurt,” particularly to county employees — namely former assessor’s office employee Mechelle Salter and county computer technician Gary Venable.
BOC chairman Wesley Nash and county clerk Morris Fortson sat at the table with Pruett, but neither was called on to speak at the hearing.
THE BOC PRESENTS
ITS CASE
But Pruett had plenty to say on their behalf.
He opened the hearing by saying the entire matter began in the tax assessor’s office with the long-standing animosity between chief appraiser Rebecca Duncan and Salter, which “snowballed” and then came to a head at the March 25, 2004, meeting in which the assessor board, led by Bellew, fired Salter for allegedly altering the land values of a family member.
“If this had been true, it would have been fraud, malfeasance and criminal wrongdoing,” Pruett said, noting that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation later cleared Salter of any wrongdoing.
Salter has worked in Nash’s office since she was fired by the assessors.
Pruett then referred to the June 14, 2004, meeting of the board of commissioners where he says Bellew accused Nash’s office of enabling and assisting Salter to have access to assessor tax records by bringing her computer from the assessor’s office to the chairman’s office for Salter to work on.
“That was not a banner day in the civic history of Madison County,” Pruett told the judge.
Pruett went on to say that investigations by Venable, the Georgia Department of Revenue and the GBI had all determined that the things attributed to Salter by the assessors were actually the result of a “well-known, well-established glitch” in the WinGap computer system.
Pruett maintained that the BOC was “driven” to seek the court’s recommendation by the continued furor caused by the assessor board and staff.
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal.


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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.


Authority seeks to avoid potential $120,000 snag
The county industrial authority is trying to avoid a potential snag in its Colbert Grove Church Road water project, a problem that, if not resolved soon, could potentially cost the authority $120,000.
But IDA members said Monday that they’re committed to solving the problem before any losses are incurred.
IDA executive director Marvin White said at Monday’s authority meeting that the county cannot find any records of rights of way given from Double Branch Road property owners to the county government when that road was paved years ago.
The industrial authority needs the rights of way before a water line serving the Colbert Grove Church Road area can be installed along Double Branch Road.
The IDA is installing a water line from Madico Park to an area south of Danielsville where deep well water was contaminated by petroleum spills by Colonial Pipeline.
Colonial Pipeline agreed to provide $950,000 for that water line, provided the contamination zone — which includes 87 households in the Colbert Grove Church Road area — has water by Feb. 4, 2005.
If that Feb. 4 deadline is not met, then Colonial will deduct $2,000 from its funding of the project for every day that the completion is delayed — for a total of up to 60 days. This means the authority could lose $120,000 if the project falls two months behind the completion date. This “incentive” clause was included in the Colonial/IDA contract, because Colonial representatives wanted the project to move forward rapidly.
White and IDA chairman Tom Joiner said that they’re committed to getting that incentive money, adding that they would seek easments from Double Branch property owners if the rights of way issue isn’t cleared up by the first of the year.
White said that the Double Branch Road issue is the only apparent holdup on meeting the Feb. 4 deadline.
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal.


 mainstreetnews.com
The Madison County Journal
Danielsville, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233 Fax: (706) 367-8056
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