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JANUARY 2, 2005


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Hoops Tourney Has Grown Into A Holiday Tradition In Commerce
Over the years, Holiday travels for Commerce basketball players have basically meant the distance it takes to get from home to the old gym on Lakeview Drive.

Rakestraw career-high effort sparks Jefferson comeback
Jefferson point guard Jarail Rakestraw picked a great time to notch his career high Tuesday.
The sophomore drained eight 3-pointers en route to a 38-point performance that saw him net his entire output without scoring at all in the first quarter.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Rep. Jamieson brings state dollars to county
Veteran legislator Jeanette Jamieson serves county wellRep. Jeanette Jamieson has been described by one of her colleagues as “one of the most tenacious legislators” at the capitol.
Another fellow legislator at the state capitol says she’s “always been an independent thinker who votes her conscience and does what’s best for her district.”

Senator-elect Schaefer meets with county leaders
Property taxes, school funding and infrastructure improvements among topics
Newly-elected Republican senator Nancy Schaefer, 50th district, stopped by the Banks County courthouse Wednesday, December 22, to discuss issues important to the county. Schaefer said she was traveling to each of the eight counties in the district to identify issues relevant to the area. Schaefer will represent Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Hart, Rabun, Stephens, Towns and White counties.


News from
MADISON
COUNTY
2004 A Year in Review
Top 5 headlines of the past 12 months
Tornado, political storm top the list
Ivan "the terrible" roared into Madison County in 2004, with twisters spawned by that powerful hurricane ripping a path of destroyed homes and government property.

Judge rules against terminating assessors
A Superior Court Judge recommended last week that the county commissioners not fire three members of the board of assessors: chairman John Bellew, Gerald Coutant and John Mallonee.
Whether county commissioners follow that recommendation has yet to be seen.

 mainstreetnews.com
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056
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Pendergrass Policeman Slain

- Teen girls witnessed shooting

- Ruse funeral to be held Tuesday

- Investigation continues

- No bond for suspects


Crace resigns Thursday
Denied rumors Wednesday that move was coming
County manager Al Crace resigned in a called Jackson County Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday evening, after denying on Wednesday morning that the move was coming.
The item was not on the agenda for the called BOC meeting. However after all of the agenda items had been handled, Crace announced his resignation and said Friday, Dec. 31, would be his last day on the job.
When Crace was contacted on Wednesday morning by The Jackson Herald and questioned about rumors that he was going to resign and that Friday would be his last day as county manager, he denied it.
"I haven't resigned," he said Wednesday. "You know, a lot of stuff goes around. I have not resigned."
When asked repeatedly if Friday would be his last day as county manager, he said: "No, mam."
When the meeting began, BOC chairman Harold Fletcher said there would be "no surprises" during the meeting. He was apparently referring to a story in an "extra edition" of The Jackson Herald that was on the newsstands Thursday afternoon that referred to the rumors of Crace's resignation.


Jefferson man in Southeast Asia when tsunami hits
John Bell survives tragedy; but sees widespread destruction and death

A Jefferson man on a business trip to Thailand in Southeast Asia found himself in the middle of the huge earthquake and tsunami that has left more than 55,000 dead with thousands more still missing.
John Bell, a long-time Jefferson High School science teacher and former Commerce High School teacher, was in Patong, on Phuket Island in Thailand, when the earthquake hit the area.
He survived, but saw widespread death and destruction around him and lost his clothing, passport and some of his money. Bell, husband of Pat Bell, contacted his family via e-mail to let them know that he had survived.





"There were bodies everywhere, mostly old people, people caught out in the open, on motorbikes, and it many cases in their cars," he wrote in an e-mail to his family. "You should see all the houses and boats that were literally crushed by the tsumani. I was protected by a concrete building but what was so weird was the tremendous noise and the speed at which it moved. Even more weird to me was the palm trees in almost all cases were not affected, they are still upright."
Bell said he survived the storm because he was on the third floor of a hotel. He added that he is working with American Embassy officials to get another passport and return home.
He added that temporary hospitals were set up throughout the area for those who had been injured.
"People are dying from what we would not consider as a serious wound just because of the lack of medical attention," he said. "It's not the fault of the medical corps called in but just that so many people are injured.
"There is a big fear of contaminated water and food since all power is out and will be for months," he said. "Bodies are floating all over the place where just yesterday the water was as blue as could be and the sand was white, but no more."
Bell said he and others who were not injured were asked to assist those who were during the days that followed the tragedy.
"The Thai government was very appreciative of foreigners that were not killed helping out," he said. ""Needless to say, it was a while before I slept. The American consul is supposed to contact me to issue me another passport but with all the destruction and death all around me, I really feel very lucky."
Bell said he expects the death toll to rise much higher.
"It almost has to," he added. "I saw what looked like 400 bodies in the area where I was without going out of a five-block area. People that were buried are still buried, many on the streets and in the sand on the beaches, at least when I left. Maybe by now those are being put into makeshift morgues."
Bell left Patong one day after the tsunami hit when he found a driver to take him to Bangkok.
"That took 10 hours, but I think with everything taking place and the adrenaline flowing so much, I do not really remember most of the trip," he said. "When I got to some places where there was less destruction, Thai people started coming up to me and touching me or holding my hand. At first, I did not know what for until one that spoke English said that I would bring them 'chock dee,' which means good luck. Even at the hotel, they would reach out to touch me and be close. I just smiled and gently nodded."


Year-end surprises planned by BOC?
Crace says only 'routine matters' to be on agenda at Thursday's meeting
Is there a year-end surprise coming from the out-going Jackson County Board of Commissioners?
A called meeting has been set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30, with county leaders saying only "routine matters" will be on the agenda.
The non-specific agenda, which was released Wednesday, Dec. 29, lists the items as "year-end financial update" and "year-end closeout."
It will be the last meeting for out-going BOC chairman Harold Fletcher and commissioners Sammy Thomason and Stacey Britt. Fletcher and Thomason were defeated in the November election, while Britt didn't seek re-election.
County manager Al Crace announced the called meeting on Tuesday and said only "routine matters" would be on the agenda. He also denied recent rumors that he would be resigning before the end of the year and that Friday would be his last day on the job.
"I haven't resigned," he said Wednesday. "You know, a lot of stuff goes around. I have not resigned."




RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING IN OLD JAIL

When it rains, it sometimes pours in the old Jackson County jail. During 2004, Sheriff Stan Evans had to move inmates out of the facility for a while after flooding caused by heavy rains. But dealing with an old jail was just one of the issues Evans faced in 2004. The sheriff also waged a successful re-election bid, winning a fifth term in office by taking over 80 percent of the vote. And he confronted county leaders about problems in other public safety departments.

— Newsmaker of the Year —

Sheriff Stan Evans weathers political storms to win a sixth term in office
It was 1973 when the cult classic B movie “Walking Tall” became a surprise hit at the box office. The movie was based on the true story of a Tennessee sheriff who came back to his home county and attempted to clean up a vast array of local corruption.
Audiences cheered when the lawman kicked-butt, and cried when his wife was murdered.
For one teenager in Jackson County, the movie was an inspiration. It had been just a few years since the local murder of a Jackson County lawman, Floyd Hoard, by area bootleggers. And the stench of other corruption in Jackson County still hung heavy in the air.
It all made an impression on the teenager.
A decade after the movie, Stan Evans, by then in his early 20’s, had gained an early dose of political experience by running for, and winning the coroner’s seat. He was ready to make a move toward his dream of “walking tall” in Jackson County.
In 1984, Evans ran for sheriff. It was a long-shot against an entrenched incumbent.
But Evans won that election and became the youngest sheriff in Georgia when he took office in 1985.
This weekend, Evans will begin his 20th year as sheriff, having won re-election for the fifth time in 2004 with a huge margin of victory.
It may have been his last run for sheriff. Two years ago, he suffered heart trouble and he has talked of retirement at the end of 2008.
Then again, Evans may not be ready to give up the badge.
In 2004, Evans not only won re-election, but also waged war against other high-and-mighty political forces in the county. Indeed, during the past year Evans hasn’t looked like a middle-aged sheriff biding his time until retirement. If anything, he was more aggressive than ever before.
Because of his historic fifth election victory and his high-profile battles with other county departments in 2004, Sheriff Stan Evans was Jackson County’s “Newsmaker of the Year.”

One of the key issues Sheriff Evans faced in 2004 was what to do about an old, dilapidated jail. He has long pushed for a new facility, but saw that idea dashed in 2003 when the county government built a lavish new courthouse instead. With some $35 million tied to that project, money for a new jail was all but non-existent.
Still, Evans made his case for a new jail before the county board of commissioners early in 2004.
“As long as we’re having the growth that we are having and all these people coming in and all these houses being built, we’re going to have problems,” he told the BOC. “Public safety and schools are going to be the first two that are hit...We’re drowning. Studies and surveys are fine, but I need something now. I know it’s a lot of money, but this problem hasn’t blossomed overnight.”
As if to make the point, heavy rains in February forced Evans to shut down part of the jail and ship inmates to other facilities across the state. County leaders acknowledged the problem, but took little action beyond talking and providing some storage space.
Evans has also pushed the county for additional deputies to serve a growing population. He was eventually given 16 new positions, but in August that came into conflict when he learned that the BOC wanted most of those positions to staff security at the new courthouse and to show up as an expense in the sheriff’s budget.
Evans exploded at the idea that more security was being given to court officials than to average citizens.
“If we have to take them (the deputies) from the courthouse, that’s what we’ll do,” Evans said. “My first obligation is the protection of the citizens.”
By the year’s end, county officials backed down and Evans was allowed to keep the 16 additional staff members to serve warrants and civil papers and other duties. Only one is assigned to the courthouse on a full-time basis.
But the need for funding isn’t over. Indeed, the outgoing BOC didn’t put any money into the 2005 budget to house overflow inmates at other jails, an expense that is estimated to be $600,000 next year. It will fall to the new BOC to find those funds.
And it will fall to the new incoming BOC to find a way to build a new jail. But with so much of the county’s finances tied up in the new courthouse, that won’t be easy. Evans will have to play a key leadership role in finding a solution to that problem.

If the battles with the BOC over funding issues weren’t enough in 2004, Evans also took on what he considered out-of-control agencies within the county government.
In November, the sheriff’s office impounded the vehicles of the county marshal’s department, a department led by the political opponent he had soundly defeated at the ballot box earlier in the month.
Evans said he’d complained for months about the marshal’s department pretending to be law enforcement officers, but no action by county leaders had been taken to correct the problem.
“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 they ought to be wearing guns and badges and have blue lights and be carrying shotguns.
So Evans took matters into his own hands by impounding the marshal’s vehicles. That got the attention of county leaders, who agreed to take out police lights and weapons from the vehicles.
And then just two weeks ago, Evans withdrew the sheriff’s office from the county’s 911 dispatch system. The move came after the wife of his former political opponent was reassigned as a dispatcher — over Evans’ objections.
Evans read the move as an effort to get back at him for having embarrassed county leaders with November’s car impounding. If so, they miscalculated his response.
“The sheriff’s office will not operate under current conditions and will not be held hostage by any situation orchestrated by those who wish for anything but the best for our officers and the citizens of Jackson County,” he said.

Over the years, Evans has become perhaps the most respected government official in Jackson County. And that influence spreads far beyond just the sheriff’s office.
Other politicians and community leaders often seek his advice. His counsel on just about any issue carries weight. And he is known for an ability to read the mood of county citizens on just about any issue, from school-related referendums to growth and zoning controversies.
The ability to read political tea leaves has generated support for Evans to seek other political seats, both at the county and state level. And if this does prove to be his last term as sheriff, it’s not to say he would fade from the political arena forever. One of those other positions might prove tempting.
That Evans would someday play such a powerful role in county politics perhaps wasn’t clear to many in 1985, when the then newly-elected sheriff said he just wanted to see justice done.
“Being a sheriff is a job where I can get a lot out of life,” he said shortly after being elected in 1985. “Seeing justice done is a rewarding feeling — that you’re not sure justice is being done is a challenge.”
Evans continues to face challenges in the public arena and no doubt will face new ones in the coming four years.
But whatever happens, his legacy as a sheriff who “walked tall” in Jackson County appears to be secure.

Previous Newsmakers of the Year
2003 Concerned Citizens of Jackson County
2002 Scott Martin
2001 Emil Beshara
2000 Jerry Waddell
1999 Scott Tolbert
1998 Richard Cathey
1997 Pat Bell
1996 Citizens United for a Better Jackson County
1995 Ronnie Hopkins, Andy Byers
1994 Jerry Waddell
1993 Charles Segars
1992 Bill Mahaffey
1991 Sandy Beem
1990 Henry Robinson


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City Planners Say ‘Yes’ To Rezoning
For First Mixed-Use Development
The Commerce Planning Commission voted unanimously Monday night to recommend that the city council rezone 266 acres between old U.S. 441 and the U.S. 441 bypass north of town for the city’s first mixed-use development.
The city council, which meets Monday, Jan. 10, at 6:30 p.m. in the Peach Room of the Commerce Civic Center, is expected to accept the recommendation.
In giving Atlanta developer David Chattham and his Commerce 441 LLC the rezonings it sought – a combination of R-2, R-4 and C-2, the planning commission included a host of conditions and restrictions aimed at setting a precedent for any future mixed-use developments.
For example, the motion recommending approval of the rezonings noted that all mixed-use developments must have a minimum of 45 percent commercial development (the Chattham project has about 48 percent), no more than 12 percent developed for townhouses, no more than 29 percent devoted to single-family detached dwellings and no less than 20 percent set aside as greenspace.
The rezonings include:
•137.7 acres changed from A-F and M-2 to C-2 for commercial use. That will include a 20-acre shopping center and 40 out-parcels.
•31.9 acres from A-F and M-2 to R-4 for the construction of 250 townhouses of a minimum size of 1,100 square feet.
•75.2 acres rezoned from A-F and M-2 to R-2 for the construction of 255 single-family houses.
In recommending those rezonings, the planning commission is also recommending waivers of lot-size requirements, allowing higher density housing than the city’s zoning ordinance allows in R-2 and R-4, a concession made to get the heavy percentage of commercial property.
Houses will be small – half of them will be 1,350 heated square feet and the other half 1,450 heated square feet – another concession to both Chattham’s reputation for quality developments and the high percentage of commercial property in the project.
The motion also carried restrictions regarding construction materials allowed for the housing units, a vegetative buffer between the commercial properties and residential, a requirement for a homeowners’ association, and the storage of boats, trailers, trampolines and other materials out of site from the street.
The seven-page motion was prepared in advance by Chairman Greg Perry. Joe Leffew made the motion to accept it as presented, with minor corrections.
OTHER BUSINESS
The planning commission also voted to recommend approval of a request from Greg Simmons to rezone from R-3 to C-2 2.8 acres on W.E. King Road to build a commercial shop, and proposed that the city’s zoning ordinance for R1-E property be amended to accept wording similar to the Jackson County ordinance, which would allow private stables and horses.
The planning commission voted to recommend that Thomas W. Rogers’ request to rezone 1.121 acres on Waterworks Road from R-1 to R-2 be denied.
Rogers said dividing the property into two lots would improve it; the planning commission saw the move as an attempt by Rogers to get more rental income by replacing or enlarging a 500-square-foot house.
“I would hope it would be a good investment, but it would also look better for the community,” Rogers said.


 mainstreetnews.com
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233 Fax: (706) 367-8056
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® Copyright 2005 MainStreet Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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