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 OPINION PAGE - OCTOBER 20, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA



Editorial

The Commerce News
October 20, 1999

Impact Fees Needed To Help Cover Growth Costs
Taxpayers should be pleased to know that the Jackson County government is considering the imposition of impact fees for new developments. Commerce should do the same.
It is very difficult for governments to keep up with the demands for the kind of growth this area is experiencing. Every time a new development comes in, from a subdivision to a new industry, there are effects on the rest of the county that ripple out like little waves when a stone is tossed into a pond. New houses mean new residents who use up part of the capacity of a government's water and sewer service. The residents cause school enrollment to increase, necessitating the construction of classrooms and the hiring of additional teachers. Increased population strains the use of public streets, county government facilities and police and fire protection.
Impact fees give government a chance to recoup some of the expense of providing that service. If a new industry needs 100,000 gallons per day of sewage treatment, its impact fee might include part or all of the cost of replacing that 100,000 gallons of treatment capacity, for example, so when the treatment plant reaches capacity, funds are available for expansion or to build another.
The courts have made the levying of impact fees very difficult. Government must be able to document the justification for each fee and must be able to show they are fairly applied. That should not be a formidable obstacle.
Everyone sees the growth occurring here, but few of us fully understand how it affects our governments. Yet the county school system has two or more new schools already on the drawing board. Commerce is expanding its water and sewage treatment plants, county officials are struggling to build a courthouse annex, and the county water system is constantly being requested to serve new areas. Health inspectors, tax officials, the clerk of courts and all law enforcement offices are busier every year, all because of our population growth.
Jackson County needs a fair system of impact fees; it needs a way to recover the expense it incurs when major developments arrive. Those who move to Jackson County should pay up front to help cover some of the costs they will generate for government services as they move into our county. The point is not to shift all growth-related costs to new arrivals, but to make those who cause local costs to soar to help pick up the tab.


Letters
The Commerce News
October 20, 1999
October Is Time To Think About The Dangers Of Domestic Violence
Editor:
Are you aware that according to data gathered by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, every year between two and four million American women are battered by their husbands or boyfriends? Domestic violence is the leading cause of serious injury to American women, more common than muggings and car crashes combined. Every day four women are killed by a husband or boyfriend.
Those of us not in the direct path of domestic violence may feel unaffected by domestic violence. However, domestic violence contributes to violence against all persons in our communities and neighborhoods, because violence is often learned in the home. Our backyards and neighborhoods would be safer for all of us if domestic violence were not so common.
The financial cost of domestic violence (law enforcement, prosecution, incarceration) is another burden that we all bear. Moreover, we bear the financial burden of incarcerating violent offenders who quite possibly learned violent behavior in the home. In short, we all feel the cost of the destructive and deadly epidemic of domestic violence -- emotionally and/or financially.
As a part of the effort to end domestic violence, the month of October is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month: a time for reflection, sadness and hope. The purposes of Domestic Violence Awareness Month are threefold. It is a time for: mourning those who died because of domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived domestic violence, and honoring those who work to end violence.
This October, please open your heart and mind to the seriousness of domestic violence as both a threat to those directly involved, and a societal tragedy in which we all share. Across the nation domestic violence will be highlighted for what it is: an epidemic which consumes precious lives and resources.
Joan V. Murray, Chief
Jefferson Parole Office



Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 20, 1999

Cyberspace Helps
Us Provide
Entertainment
They tell me in Jefferson that the Jackson Herald got more than 300 e-mail letters in regard to the story about the ghost-hunter divorce case. Most of the letters castigated the newspaper and were based on an Internet posting that attributed negative comments about ghost hunting to the newspaper instead of to the people who made the comments.
No matter. We learned something here.
We learned that the Internet can be a wonderful source of irate and nutty letters to the editor. Those are the kind we like, of course, because those are the letters you readers like. While a good discussion of a crucial social issue is helpful and appreciated, a letter castigating the editor, his lineage and the newspaper as a whole makes for more entertaining reading.
Entertainment is where most newspapers fall short. We don't have comics in our local weekly newspapers and though we try sometimes, we're not great at humor writing; the best we can do often comes from the police incident reports in which people do bizarre things while under the influence of intoxicants and bad genes. Our business is news, but it is nice if we have something each week for people to chuckle over.
It appears that the Internet is the answer. If local people don't care enough about an issue to write, someone out in cyberspace will be angry enough to dash off an electronic letter.
To do this though, something in the paper must offend a local reader enough that he or she posts either the original story or a totally biased report of it on a web site. That is easier to do than we would have imagined.
What for us was a routinely screwy story about people hunting for ghosts in a graveyard turned out to be of crucial interest to hundreds of people for whom that kind of activity is High Science or even religion. Someone local, irate over the comments about ghost hunters in the story, summarized it on a web site. The other ghost hunters, reading an inaccurate summarization or assuming the newspaper had taken a position on ghost searching, responded with wonderfully goofy and angry e-mail messages.
Thus we learn that the Internet serves two purposes of which we were unaware. It provides us an opportunity to get entertaining letters from people who have never read our papers and it provides angry people who live their lives on-line a place to vent their anger.
If our own readers are apathetic about really important items like the special purpose local option sales tax, the referendum to change our form of government or allegations of public officials driving while intoxicated, it is still possible to incite an e-mail riot of letters just by offending some minute but sensitive portion of the general population. All that must occur is for something offensive to anyone - say left-handed lawn bowlers, for example - to appear in one of our papers where it makes one local left-handed lawn bowler angry. That person posts a scathing summary of the comment on the web site of the International Association of Left-Handed Lawn Bowlers, and we can count on a flood of e-mail, some of which will meet our entertainment standards.
Ain't technology grand!


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