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This week's Banks County News

This week's Banks County News

This week's Banks County News


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Banks County Middle School students listened to the National Anthem and pledged allegiance to the flag during a special Veterans Day ceremony at the school.

Ex-girlfriend to testify against Ballinger
The ex-girlfriend of the man accused of setting the New Salem United Methodist Church fire will testify against him next year.
Angela Wood pled guilty in federal court to seven charges for her involvement in church arsons and agreed to testify against Jay Scott Ballinger, according to Judith Stewart, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. Ballinger was indicted for the New Year's Eve fire that took the life of Banks County volunteer firefighter Loy Williams Jr. Ballinger has also been charged in 30 more church fires from California to Georgia.
For her guilty plea to all charges, 36 prosecutors, in 19 states including Georgia, have agreed not to prosecute her for any other church arsons she allegedly helped Ballinger set. Wood was working at a club in Athens on the night of the Banks County fire and is not a suspect in that case.
Wood could face a 105-year maximum prison sentence and a $1.75 million fine.
Ballinger's trial is set to begin on Feb. 7, 2000.

New road opens in Banks with celebration
Community members, along with officials and Indians a Department of Transportation, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week to open a 2.63 mile section of Hwy. 441 from Caudell Road to English Road.
The total cost of construction for this portion of the project to four lane Hwy. 441 was $10.7 million.
DOT commissioner Wayne Shackleford praised the engineers who worked on planning the road, the pre-construction crew and the men and women responsible for construction.
"As long as there is time, there will be a need for safe and efficient highways," he said. "This is a vital link to connect those communities served by the Hwy. 441 corridor."
The Hwy. 441 four-lane project is part of the "Developmental Highway System" approved by legislators in 1989.
"This was a sound decision to balance the state in a state that was growing but growing unevenly," Shackelford said.
One of the greatest factors in opening this section is the deletion of "Deadman's Curve" on the old Hwy. 441. Banks County Board of Commission chairman James Dumas spoke about the increased safety of the road during his dedication address. The opening of the four-lane road will virtually eliminate head-on collisions.
"We not only celebrate an accomplishment of engineering and construction, but we celebrate the opening of a much safer road that will provide safe passage around and through Banks County for its citizens and visitors," said Dumas.
Presently, the DOT is working on a project to four-lane Hwy. 441 all the way to Hwy. 365. It will cost around $18.4 million, according to Shackelford. The DOT will take bids on the long-awaited Homer bypass project in January. Construction should begin next spring.
In the future, the DOT hopes to have a four-lane corridor that will run all the way through Georgia, from Florida to the North Carolina state lines, Shackelford continued.
District board member Steve Reynolds opened the program and acknowledged those responsible for the project. One of the DOT construction engineers was Larry Caudell, a life-long resident of Banks County. The primary contractor was Sloan Construction.
Members of American Legion Post 215 presented the colors and Banks County High School junior Kristy Sexton performed the National Anthem.

Suspect in home invasion to testify against others
One of the suspects in the home invasion of Maysville residents Sam and Georgia Thurmond has agreed to testify against his alleged partners in crime.
Paul Kozachyn will plead guilty to armed robbery and testify against his brother, Michael Kozachyn, and Bobby Wilbanks, Randal Vaughn and Glynn "Tootsie" Boswell, in exchange for 10 years in confinement and 10 years probation. This was revealed by district attorney Tim Madison during motion hearings in the case that is set to go to trial in Banks County on December 13.
All of the men are charged in the April 8th armed robbery at the Thurmond's home on Hwy. 98. The suspects allegedly broke into the Thurmond home, beat up Mr. Thurmond, tied up the couple and took a large sum of money, guns and jewelry from a safe in the home.
On Monday, Superior Court judge David Motes ruled on a number of motions, including one that denied bond to Boswell, the nephew of the victims in this case. Motes heard testimony from Boswell's girlfriend, Margaret Mosley. She is bound to a wheelchair and told the judge of how he has cared for her in the past.
Boswell's attorney, Dan Summer, talked of his lifelong residency in Banks/Jackson county and pointed out that Boswell has pled innocent to all charges. Mrs. Thurmond testified earlier in a magistrate court hearing that she recognized the voice of one of the suspects wearing a mask and believed it to be her nephew.
Motes ruling gave visible relief to the victims and their children who sat in the courtroom.
"These offenses are extremely serious," Motes said. "Based on previous testimony in this and the earlier hearing, Mr. Boswell would pose a risk of intimidating witnesses and be likely to reoffend."
Tim Healey, attorney for Wilbanks, focused on the confidential informant used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This person wore a tape recorder when Wilbanks talked about details of the crime.
"I know the law of one party consenting to a taping but this was a state actor," Healey said. "It was an interrogation and there needed to be a court order."
Motes ruled that this was not an illegal act.
Also, M. Kochachyn's attorney, Billy Healon, and Randal Vaughn's attorney, Kevin Christopher, said that Mel Janousek, special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, failed to expose all the facts in the case when he obtained a search warrant for the Athens residence of Anna Marie Walker. She is the mother of the Kochachyn brothers and they, along with Vaughn, were staying at her residence around the time of the alleged crime.
Motes said under the circumstance the search warrant was obtained with probable cause.
There will be another motion hearing on Friday that will include discussion of a change of venue and trying the cases individually.


BOC to market 189 acres in industrial park
The Banks County Board of Commissioners has taken action to control what type of development goes into an industrial park at Banks Crossing.
The BOC signed a contract to secure a 24-month option on 189 acres of property at Banks Crossing. This doesn't mean the BOC plans to purchase the property, it just means the commissioners will market the property. The county won't make any money off the deal, but it will be able to control what type of industries locates in the industrial park.
The property is owned by the Ferebee family and is located behind the Tanger Factory Outlet Center in the Banks County Industrial Park. In the past, county officials have been unable to market property in the industrial park because all but 14 acres is privately owned. The county has owned that 14-acre tract since the 1980s.
"In the mid-1980s, we spent from $1.3 million to $3 million to develop that industrial park," BOC chairman James Dumas said. "If we were going to spend the money for water and sewer, we ought to have the right to say how much the property will be sold for instead of dealing with escalating property costs."
The county will market approximately 30 acres on the left side of a new road at a cost of $55,000 an acre and the additional acreage, on the right side of the road, at $27,500 an acre. All money from the sale will go to the Ferebee family.
The development of the new road is part of the negotiations with the Ferebee family. The new half-mile road will connect Hwy. 441 to Hwy. 59. The county and the Development Authority of Banks County will pay 40 percent towards the cost of the road and the Georgia Department of Transportation should pay 60 percent, according to Dumas. The road will be located on 7.8 acres of land donated by the Ferebee family. The value of that portion of property is $215,600, Dumas said.


Baldwin to tax Banks County residents
Banks County residents living in the Baldwin city limits will be paying a property tax for the first time next year--unless the state attorney general rules that the move is not legal.
The Baldwin City Council has wrestled with this issue for several months with the council being split on whether or not to tax the Banks County residents. The Habersham County residents in the city already pay a property tax.
The council set the preliminary millage rate at 4.05 percent, which is a decrease of almost one percent over last year's rate of five mills. The millage rate will be advertised and a meeting date of November 29 has been set to take final action on it.
For 20 years, the sales tax collected from Banks County has been paid in lieu of property tax. In city attorney David Syfan's opinion, both Banks and Habersham residents need to be taxed equally.
"It (the action) can be contingent on a ruling by the attorney general," Syfan said. "If he says Syfan is wrong and Banks County gets the full benefits of the sales tax revenue, the taxpayers can seek a rebate. This is a reasonable resolution to our courteous disagreement."
Syfan said Banks County tax commissioner Margaret Ausburn had contacted the city asking for action on setting the millage rate because residents are allowed to purchase their car tags 30 days before their birthday. This means citizens with a January 1 birthday can purchase their tags as early as December 1.
In other business, the council discussed a request to abandon Peyton Street. Richard Martin said his mother has been paying property tax on the abandoned road for years and the family has a barn that sits in the middle of it. The city has been unable to find the records documenting if the road was ever officially closed.
Other adjoining property owners attended the meeting and expressed some opposition to closing at least a portion of the road. The council set a public hearing on the matter for Monday, December 13, at 6 p.m. during the regularly scheduled council meeting.
The council also discussed approving a request by Mike Murray to temporarily place a camper trailer on Scenic Terrace. The Murrays want to live in the trailer while they build a home in Smoke Rise, which has covenants against placing a trailer in that area. Syfan suggested the council require Murray to put up a bond to be sure the trailer is moved by the one year time frame limits that Murray has requested. The council said they want the agreement in writing due to past problems getting temporary trailers moved out.

Lula annexes 38 acres into city limits
The Lula City Council approved the annexation of more than 38 acres of Hall County property into the city limits at its meeting Monday night.
Mayor Tim Allen broke a tie on the vote to pass the measure. After the property was annexed, the area was zoned residential in a unanimous vote by the council.
Doug Calvert spoke for the development company, which hopes to build a subdivision on the 38.45-acre site off Old Cornelia Highway. Several landowners around the annexed land also spoke in opposition to the project. David Anthony, who owns five acres adjacent to the lot had questions about drainage into his well during the construction.
"My well is downhill from the property," Anthony said. "I'm sure that fertilizers and other undesirable things will make it into my well. Who is going to make sure that none of that gets into my well?
"This is a wooded area. When you put in homes, septic tanks and driveways, that just about takes care of most of the trees. This is my dream, and you're going to ruin it."
The question of inspecting the building site was addressed in one of several stipulations made by the council for the development.
Calvert said he would agree to the council's requests that the development have homes on lots no smaller than one acre, that no dwelling would be smaller than 1,200 square feet of heated space and that part of their building permit fee could include the cost of having an inspector come on site to approve the work. Calvert added that they have no plans to clear cut trees on the proposed development.
"In the past, we have been accused of leaving too many trees," Calvert said. "We like to leave as many as we can and let the future homeowner make that decision."

Schools to close Nov. 24-26 for Thanksgiving holiday
Banks County schools will be closed Wednesday through Friday, Nov. 24-26, in observance of Thanksgiving Day.
Schools will resume as scheduled on Monday, Nov. 29. The next holiday will be Christmas break which will begin on Monday, Dec. 20. School will resume on Monday, Jan. 3.
A teacher work day/student holiday will be on Friday, Jan. 14, and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday will be observed on Monday, Jan. 17.

News, ad deadlines moved up for next week
News and ad deadlines have been moved up for next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, Nov. 25.
The deadline for classified and display ads will be at noon on Friday. The legal deadline will remain the same, noon Thursday.
The news deadline will be 5 p.m. Friday. This includes school, social and other news submitted to the paper.
The papers will be available late Tuesday night on the news stands and will be delivered by mail Wednesday. The change was made because the post offices will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 25.
The news office in Homer will be closed Thursday and Friday for the holiday. It will open as scheduled at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 29.

Deadline set for children's photographs
The deadline for turning in photographs of children for The Banks County News' 33rd annual special Christmas kids section is set for Wednesday, Dec. 1.
Photographs of children ages 8 and under are featured free of charge in the special section planned for the week of Christmas. The children must live in Banks or Jackson counties. The name, age, address and parent's name must be listed on the back of each photo.
Photos may be turned in at The Banks County News office in Homer. They may also be mailed to: The Banks County News, P.O. Box 920, Homer, Ga., 30547.

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