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Commissioners Backing Down
On SPLOST For Courthouse?
JEFFERSON -- It appears that the Jackson County Board of Commissioners is having second thoughts about using the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) to finance a new courthouse annex.
In a called meeting Friday, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and members of the courthouse committee met with Wachovia Bank representative Steve Vaughn to explore options for the financing of the proposed new Jackson County courthouse. No action was taken at the meeting. A decision on the financing will be made before the end of August.
Vaughn told the group that outside of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funding, three options are available to fund the construction of the new courthouse.
The best option, according to Vaughn, would be to finance the venture through a special purpose authority, such as a building authority. Should it have the power, the Jackson County Industrial Development Authority could possibly finance the construction.
However, forming a new authority would take an act of legislature and could delay construction.
Vaughn also suggested funding the new courthouse with general obligation (GO) bonds.
The GO bonds, Vaughn said, have the lowest interest rate.
The county's third option is lease-purchase financing. With lease-purchase, a lender would take the property as collateral on the debt. However, governments in Georgia cannot have a secured debt, therefore, the county would lease-purchase the facility through a third party, usually the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG).
According to Vaughn, the Georgia legislature recently enacted changes to the lease-purchase act that could affect the county.
Most important, the county's maximum annual debt payments cannot exceed 7 1/2 percent of its revenues. The cap does not include equipment or cases where the county receives reimbursements for payments made.
Also, if the financing of the courthouse is placed on the SPLOST referendum and the referendum fails, the county cannot finance the venture through lease-purchasing for at least four years. The only exception would occur if a state or federal court ordered the property financed.
Considering the gamble SPLOST poses, Chairman Jerry Waddell said that placing the courthouse on the SPLOST referendum would be a big risk.
"Not everyone comes to the old courthouse, only a few jurors compared to the number of registered voters," Waddell said. "They are not going to vote for it, probably, if they don't know we need it."
If the board of commissioners decided to lease-purchase the venture, the county would need a credit rating and would most likely need lease insurance, Vaughn said.
Commissioner Pat Bell wants to re-evaluate the SPLOST risk and get an official legal opinion on whether or not the IDA has the power to raise funds for the new courthouse.
Commissioner Henry Robinson has been the primary advocate on the board of commissioners of financing the courthouse through the SPLOST in the hopes that taxpayer support of the other SPLOST items would carry the referendum. One reason the SPLOST was proposed as a funding mechanism was out of concern that the taxpayers would reject a bond referendum to build a courthouse or courthouse annex.

Burying The Fuel Tanks
A construction worker opens a large bucket to dump gravel over the 20,000 gallon fuel tanks at the Williams Travel Center under construction on Georgia 98 at Interstate 85 in Commerce. The project, being built by W.H. Bass Inc., is scheduled to open this fall. It is a full service truck stop and restaurant.


Blood Drive Set Thursday
Commerce area residents and workers will have a chance to help the American Red Cross deal with a critical blood shortage when a Red Cross blood drive is held Thursday at the First Baptist Church of Commerce.
From 1:00 to 6 p.m., donors will be accepted in the recently-renovated Family Fellowship Center adjacent to the church, which is at 1345 South Elm Street.
The Red Cross has received a good deal of publicity in the past three weeks after it announced that blood supplies were at a historically low level. Not only was the Red Cross warning that elective surgery might have to be delayed, but also that trauma care could be compromised due to a state-wide shortage of blood.
The Red Cross provides blood to most Georgia hospitals, including BJC Medical Center, the Athens, Gainesville and Atlanta area hospitals.
Officials say a donor can give blood every 56 days, and that anyone over age 17, weighing 110 or more pounds and in good health may donate. The process takes about an hour, although the actual time spent giving blood is less than 15 minutes.

Science Camp
Twenty-two students are spending five days this week at Benton Elementary School learning about science through fun activities. Monday was "Bubble Day."

Casey Gary won first place in the discus at the Georgia Games this past weekend in Augusta. He completed in the 17-18 age group.
Sort Of Retiring
Commerce physician Joe L. Griffeth has retired - sort of. His resignation from BJC Medical Center was accepted Monday night, but while Griffeth will not admit patients to the hospital or nursing home, his practice will continue.
Really Retiring
Dan Ford is fully retiring, and Collins Cleaners, which has operated in Commerce since at least World War II, is closing.
More on these stories can be found in this week's printed edition of The Commerce News

Planning Commission Votes Down Maysville Development
JEFFERSON -- Six Maysville residents who live on or near Wheeler Cemetery Road appeared before the Jackson County Planning Commission Thursday night to voice opposition to a proposed mobile home community with 40 lots on 40 acres.
After hearing 35 minutes of the pros and cons of the development from Beth Stargel of Star Investment Properties, Gainesville, and the Maysville residents, the commission members voted to deny Stargel's request for rezoning for the mobile home community proposed for 6275 Maysville Road and Wheeler Cemetery Road.
Residents opposed to the park cited decreased property values, a rapid increase in population, out-of-county interference and the possibility of further mobile home development as their primary concerns about the proposed action.
"I'm not opposed to development that raises our property value, but I believe a mobile home park with 40 or more trailers on 40 acres would decrease our property value," said Kenneth Bray. "I have a petition from people on (Wheeler Cemetery Road), and they are all opposed to it. We are concerned about the road's population going up from 20 to 150 or 200."
Bray's sentiments were echoed by several other residents, including Joel Baker who said not only did he not want 40 mobile homes behind his home, he didn't want to open the door for more mobile homes to locate in the area.
"I am definitely opposed to it," he said. "We need to look at the whole area and what is best for it."
Stargel presented a slide of what the mobile home community could look like, emphasizing that there is a difference between such a development and a trailer park.
"Our target market is first home homebuyers and 'empty-nesters,'" she said. "That is a niche that is often overlooked. Mobile homes are 20 to 50 percent less expensive than stick-built homes, but they have to follow codes."
Stargel had suggested re-submitting the proposal with larger lot sizes, but said that a playground might have to be eliminated.
She suggested that the council and those opposed to the community look at some of the new mobile home communities being built to see that "there is a big difference in a trailer park and a mobile home community "There is not enough housing here, and we are trying to target a nice community that is affordable."
After hearing Stargel's initial request, audience opposition and Stargel's rebuttal, the commission unanimously voted to deny a recommendation for the community. Audience members applauded.
Stargel will take her proposal before the Jackson County Board of Commissioners when it meets Aug. 3 and 10 at 7 p.m. in the county administrative building. The commissioners take final action on rezoning requests in unincorporated areas of the county.

The Commerce News - Commerce, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233 Fax: (706) 367-8056

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