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This week's Herald


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Ten-month-old Victoria Hunter, Jefferson, clowns around town Friday night during the annual Jefferson Trick or Treat parade of children. Hundreds of children and their parents crowded Jefferson while visiting merchants for Halloween candy.
Photo by Travis Hatfield


Voters say 'YES!' 'YES!'
Change to five-member BOC and SPLOST approved
Voters didn't just approve a major restructuring of the Jackson County government, they fairly screamed for change.
Nearly 80 percent of those going to the polls Tuesday agreed to change the county's current three-member board of commissioners to a five-member board with a hired county manager. Voters also approved "Option 2" of the proposal that would have four of the BOC members elected by voters in specific districts with only the chairman elected countywide.
The other big "YES" vote came with an unexpected 67 percent approval of a special local option sales tax, the majority of which would go toward water and sewer projects. Just a little over one year ago, the SPLOST tax was defeated by only 66 votes in a primary that drew over 4, 000 voters to the polls. This time, only 3,268 people turned out to vote.
"I'm thrilled to death that our efforts paid off," said Jackson County Water and Sewer Authority chairman Alex Bryan of the SPLOST vote. "I'm excited for the folks in Jackson County who have been pushing us to get them water because now we have the opportunity to do so."
With both the SPLOST and county government change approved, 2000 looks to be a year of major activity in county government. Although the SPLOST won't take effect until April 2000, the county and various city governments will soon begin gearing up in anticipation of the funds. Preliminary engineering plans for water and sewer expansions will undoubtedly be discussed by the Jackson County Water and Sewer Authority and by the towns in Jackson County that have water systems. By the time the tax money begins flowing, bids will likely be ready and the final plans put in place for what looks to be a major expansion of county water and sewer services.
Also in the SPLOST are funds for road and sidewalk improvements and for recreation projects, including green space purchases for county or city parks. Those plans will no doubt be taking shape by the end of 2000.
And the county's fire departments will begin plans for a fire training facility.
The change in the county's government structure could lead to a major shift in county politics during the 2000 elections. Rather than having three commissioners running countywide, four commission districts will have their own elections, a change in dynamics that could bring out a slew of candidates for the BOC seats. The chairman and Districts 1 (Jefferson) and 2 (Commerce/Maysville) will be running for a four-year term, while District 3 (North and West Jackson) and 4 (Nicholson/South Jackson) will be running for a two-year term. In 2002, those running for the latter two districts will be vying for four year terms, thus setting up a staggered election cycle.
The chairman will continue to be elected at-large, but it will only be a part-time position rather than a full-time slot as it has been in the past.
The Democratic and Republican Primaries will be in July and the General Election will be in November.
"I think this sends a clear message to our county government that people want accessibility and accountability," said Rep. Scott Tolbert, author of the legislation calling for the referendum. "With this new form of government, there's going to be a lot of people who were once locked out of county government who will have a voice now."
But perhaps the biggest change will be the hiring sometime in 2001 of a county manager to run the county on a day-to-day basis.

Hoschton incumbents axed; Joiner wins in Jefferson
Liquor by the drink gets Jefferson OK
In the midst of an ongoing controversy over sewage problems in Panther Creek subdivision, voters elected three new Hoschton council members Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Jefferson incumbent councilman Jack Seabolt was defeated by challenger Jim Joiner 122-107. Jefferson voters also approved a liquor-pouring referendum 300-158 in an effort to recruit new restaurants to the area.
Hoschton incumbents David Healan and Glenn Evans, who have served on the council for many years, were both defeated. In Post 4, Rosemary Bagwell defeated Healan in a 129-91 vote. In Post 6, Genoria Ree Bridgeman defeated Evans in a 120-103 vote.
In Post 5, Paul Turman won over Sandie Fee Romer in a 146-52 vote. Incumbent Ronald Holcomb didn't seek re-election.
The problem with the sewage system in Panther Creek was a heated topic of discussion during the recent candidate forum. The candidates also addressed the problem in interviews last week in The Jackson Herald.
Bagwell, who is the CFO of Image Systems, Inc. (ISI), a re-marketer of mainframe computer systems, said the council needs to do "whatever it takes" to solve this problem. She suggested reallocating funds from other parts of the city's budget to pay for sewage repairs or taking out a loan.
"The residents of Panther Creek have been looking for a resolution to this problem for three years," she said. "The city needs to take responsibility for this deplorable situation and take action immediately."
Bridgeman, who previously worked as a health scientist with Centers for Disease Control, said the town's problems with sewage disposal stem from the failure to put adequate inspections in place.
"Hoschton is facing serious problems such as water deficiencies, sewage disposal, and in general, the challenges of development," she said. "Failure to put policies in place, such as adequate inspections, has led to resources being spent on crisis management rather than for focusing on the city's future. We need both a responsive and responsible council to begin now to deal as efficiently as possible with these challenges."
Turman, who is the owner of a sales and marketing firm in the plastics industry, said the council needs to rebuild the town's infrastructure to cope with future growth.
"Our water system is currently sucking air and our sewage treatment capacity will reach 87 percent with the development that is now on the books," he said. "The three-year-long sewage problem for the people of Panther Creek is intolerable and must be rectified immediately."

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