A HAPPY TRICK
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!'
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
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
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.
axed; Joiner wins in Jefferson
Liquor by the drink gets Jefferson OK
BY ANGELA GARY
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
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."