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Another round of battles over Southern culture
The start of a new year brings another round of battles over Southern Culture. There is a difference this time. The Southern Heritage groups are fighting back with some success.
The good, the bad and the ugly
This time of year we here at the Journal are taking our usual look back over some of the stories and individuals that made the news in our little corner of the world during the last 12 months.
Raiders losing skid hits three in Sweet South Classic
Free throw struggles sink MCHS in opener
The Raider basketball team was looking for a little holiday remedy but the opening round of the Sweet South Classic only extended Madison Countys woes.
The Raiders (3-6, 2-3) hit less than half of their attempts from the foul line and paid for it Tuesday morning, coming up a point short against Putnam County in a 54-53 setback.
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 shes always been an independent thinker who votes her conscience and does whats 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.
Pendergrass policeman slain
A Pendergrass policeman was shot and killed Wednesday night following a chase and shoot-out on Hwy. 129 near Talmo.
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.
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A tornado picked up and tossed an Alberta Drive mobile home the afternoon of Sept. 16. Three people inside the trailer were treated for injuries, none life-threatening.
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.
That September afternoon storm will surely be remembered for years to come. But 2004 will be marked by political storms as well:
Heres a look at the top five stories of the year in Madison County:
COUNTY TANGLED IN YEAR-LONG
The seemingly never-ending conflict between the county BOC/chairmans office and the board of assessors/appraisal staff created more front-page headlines than any other issue in Madison County in 2004.
There were new wrinkles in the conflict most every week. For instance, the state Dept. of Revenue was called in to investigate the board of assessors and appraisal staff, finding that there were problems in appraisal practices, but making no suggestions on the personnel issues that fueled ongoing tensions. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in after assessor chairman John Bellew, who resigned from that post last week, alleged that someone had illegally tampered with property tax records, but the GBI determined that no tampering had occurred.
Some 1,700 appeals were filed by property owners who felt their land had been unfairly appraised. The final county digest or overall land value wasnt approved until last week, meaning that setting tax rates, mailing tax bills and collecting tax revenues were delayed. So, county tax-levying boards, such as the BOC and BOE, will face revenue shortages in early 2005.
Also, the BOC tried to oust three of the board of assessors members, asking a judge for ruling on whether there was sufficient legal cause for termination. Judge John Bailey ruled this week that there was not sufficient cause. (See top story).
STORM RIPS THROUGH COUNTY
A storm ripped through Madison County Sept. 16, leaving significant property damage, at least three injuries, but luckily, no fatalities in the county.
On that fall afternoon, a twister severely damaged homes in Kingston Greens subdivision and the nearby neighborhood of Alberta Drive, both on Colbert-Danielsville Road just outside Colbert. One home was completely demolished and numerous others suffered significant damage.
The storm also tore down Hwy. 98 just west of Danielsville, causing damage to several public facilities including the recreation department, the library, the senior center and the historic Strickland House (former Chamber of Commerce office). The library building sustained the most damage. Other homes and property in and around the community of Friendship Church further down Hwy. 98 toward Ila also reportedly sustained storm damage.
A tractor trailer traveling towards Ila on Hwy. 98 at Crawford W. Long Road was picked up, turned around and thrown over on its side by the funnel cloud, witnesses reported.
Emergency Medical Services director Dwayne Patton said EMS was called out to three injuries involving the demolished home on Alberta Drive.
It was a miracle, but they had only minor injuries, he said.
A MAJOR OIL COMPANY
Some 10 years after petroleum contaminants were discovered in deep well water south of Danielsville, Madison County officials held closed door meetings with representatives of Colonial Pipeline, the company responsible for the spills that caused the contamination.
The county industrial development authority (IDA) and Colonial finally agreed that the pipeline company would pay for a water line from Madico Park to the 87-home contaminant zone in the Colbert Grove Church Road area. The payment for that line would be up to $950,000. The cost of water hookups for customers in the contaminant zone would be covered by Colonial, along with the first year of water bills for those customers. But the contract also stipulated that no wells could be drilled within a three-mile radius of that zone without notifying Colonial.
The IDA agreed to run a line to the Colbert Grove area, but the group saw a bigger picture, too, agreeing that the Colonial money could also be used in a larger, $2 million water system project that would link Madico, Colbert, Danielsville and South Madison water systems.
There was both praise and harsh criticism of the plan, with some voicing concern that the county had not looked closely enough at health issues related to the contamination or at the status of the still existent contaminant plume beneath the Colbert Grove area. On the flip side, IDA members said the health concerns and contamination zone issues were matters for state and federal agencies, or for private civil action, and that getting nearly $1 million was better than a prolonged court fight.
Whatever the opinion of the deal and lingering contamination issues, the resulting water system is expected to have a significant impact on the county for years to come.
PLANS FOR SHOPPING
Madison County leaders for a second time axed a planned major shopping development at the intersection of Hwy. 98 and Hwy. 172 July 26.
The issue sparked lengthy debates over Madison Countys future, with proponents of the development saying that the county desperately needs business and opponents saying that the proposed locale threatened the countys rural integrity.
The vote followed over four hours of arguments, with commissioners finally voting shortly after 11 p.m. (The entire BOC meeting, which included 17 agenda items stretched from 6:30 p.m. to 12:45 a.m. it was the longest Madison County commissioners meeting in at least the past eight years.)
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal.
In Honor of Lemuel Penn
BOC to ask state to rename bridge after slain soldier, educator
Madison County commissioners will seek to rename the Hwy. 172 bridge for a respected black soldier and educator murdered in the night by Athens Klan members on a Madison County road just nine days after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
The BOC voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of requesting that the Georgia General Assembly approve the renaming of the Broad River Bridge at Hwy. 172 Lemuel Penn Bridge.
Commissioners Bill Taylor, Mike Youngblood, Melvin Drake and Bruce Scogin voted in favor of the resolution, while commissioner Johnny Fitzpatrick provided the lone vote against it.
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal.
BOC delays approval of 2005 budget
Madison County commissioners will likely approve the 2005 budget just hours before the new year.
The BOC delayed approval of the 2005 budget Tuesday night, agreeing that three incoming board members need a chance to review the budget before it's approved.
New District 2 commissioner John Pethel Sr., whose term will officially begin Saturday, asked the outgoing board members to hold off on finalizing figures until new members had a chance to review the budget.
Pethel said the county is facing financial strains and doesn't need to approve as many salary increases as the current budget includes. He didn't point to any particular salaries Tuesday, but said the new board members should at least have the opportunity to review employees' pay. The proposed budget includes a two percent cost of living increase for all employees and a one percent longevity increase for those workers who qualify.
The outgoing BOC members agreed to meet with the incoming members at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the county government complex to discuss the 2005 budget.
County clerk Morris Fortson told commissioners that entering the new year without an approved budget would lead to either a government shut down or the BOC would "revert back to the 04 budget," which would create an "accounting nightmare." Fortson suggested the board go ahead and approve the budget Tuesday, with new members handling any changes after the new year through budget amendments.
"What are we going to do?"
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.
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. But in Bellews case, the question is moot, since he decided last week that his time as chairman is over (see story on Page 2A of this weeks Madison County Journal).
County commissioners sought the judges recommendation in October because they maintained that the assessors had fallen down on the job in at least seven notable ways.
The two sides spelled out their cases in front of Judge John Bailey Dec. 16, with Bailey issuing a recommendation Dec. 23 that the assessors not be fired.
...This Court feels that at this time removal of the respondents from their office is improper, wrote Bailey in his recommendation.
Bailey said that six of the seven allegations against the assessors lacked sufficient cause for termination. But he said the first allegation, that the assessors violated the civil rights of an employee under the personnel policy, was not as easily dismissed.
This allegation stemmed from the assessors firing of Mechell Salter earlier this year. Commissioners contended that the assessors had no authority to fire Salter because the assessors had adopted the countys personnel policy, and thus, forfeited their right to fire.
But Bailey said that the issue of who hires and fires in the assessors department was ambiguous.
The difficulty between the boards... seems to arise simply from confusion as to what effect this adoption of personnel policy has had on the hiring and firing power of the respective boards, wrote Bailey. Or put in the simplest terms, who has the ultimate decision-making authority when it comes to personnel decisions?
The judge concluded that the ultimate authority on personnel matters rests upon the board of commissioners.
But he said the confusion over the hiring and firing issues shouldnt lead to the termination of the assessors by the BOC.
Although there have been errors in procedure on behalf of the respondents (the assessors), considering the confusion that has existed as to the proper personnel procedures and lack of any bad faith on the respondents part, it does not seem that sufficient cause exists to justify their removal, wrote Bailey.