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OPINION PAGE - DECEMBER 8, 1999 - HOMER, GA

Editorial
The Banks County News
December 8, 1999

County officials ready for 2000
Doomsayers have been predicting for years that Dec. 31 will bring power failures, bank crisis and all sorts of problems. When the clock strikes midnight, no one is sure what will happen. But Banks County officials say they are prepared for the arrival of the year 2000.
County leaders say there will be no need to worry about the loss of water or gas services or about getting through to a 911 operator. It won't be known for several weeks whether they are right or not, but it sounds like they have done all they can to prepare for the arrival of the year 2000.
The county computers have been upgraded to handle the roll over and officials will be on hand that night to assure there are no problems. It has been a huge task to make these changes but our officials have handled them well.
Young faces were flush with excitement Sunday night in Homer as they sang Christmas songs on the joy of the season. They were also bright with excitement when Santa Claus arrived for a visit.
Similar Christmas celebrations were held in Baldwin and Maysville last weekend and one is coming up in Alto. Our leaders have plenty of pressing city needs on their agendas, along with full-time jobs for most, and they still took time to plan these gatherings.
It is good to see such togetherness and community planning this holiday season. Thanks to all who worked to plan these celebrations. It is good to come together in peace and harmony instead of the conflict and turmoil that cities often deal with as they plan for the future.

Column
By Adam Fouche
December 8, 1999

County not ready for PUD, planners say
BY ADAM FOUCHE
Though planned unit developments (PUD) may be in the county's long-term future, the Banks County Planning and Zoning Commission attempted to keep PUDs out of the near future by voting not to recommend their approval.
While in the process of revising the county's zoning ordinances, PUDs were proposed and the commission's lawyer drew up an ordinance concerning them. PUDs allow for different types of developments to be constructed in one area.
"It gives a county the flexibility to put some type of developments into an area where it wouldn't traditionally be put because of zoning," attorney Randall Frost told the board.
Commission chairman Harold Ivey explained the PUD ordinance would allow apartments, houses, convenience stores and other structures to be built on the same parcel of land.
However, concerns of lot size and density caused the commission to view PUDs unfavorably. The availability of water and sewerage was also a concern.
"We don't want this to become Gwinnett County," board member Barbara Poole said. "I don't think Banks County is ready for this. We don't have the proper sewage or water."
Ivey said: "A PUD, if written for the benefit of everyone in the county, is a good thing."
The Banks County Board of Commissioners will have the final say-so on the matter at its meeting next Tuesday.
The planners also gave their lawyer permission to draft ordinances for the following:
·setting the minimum lot size for a commercial-agricultural development (CAD) zoning tract at 35 acres. The ordinance would allow contiguous neighbors to join the sizes of their land to obtain the minimum acreage to rezone all the property.
·allowing a provision to the setback for a chicken house on a CAD. The provision states a property owner would waive his right to a 400-foot setback from a chicken house if he builds a dwelling within 200 feet of his property line adjacent to a CAD. Under the current ordinances, farmers must move their chicken houses if a dwelling is built within 400 feet of one.
·allowing a farmer to build one residence on his property for a caretaker or employee of his farm. The ordinance would allow farmers to place one conditional use structure per five acres of his land.
·changing the setbacks from 10 feet to 30 feet for all zoning districts except commercial and industrial.
·changing the setbacks for cellular towers to equal the height of the towers. Under the ordinance, a tower would be set back from the property line a distance equal to the height of the tower.

Column
By Sherry Lewis
The Banks County News
December 8, 1999

County joins together to combat problems
I attended my first Banks County Family Connection meeting last week and I'm glad to report help is on the way.
At this moment, there is no game plan to tackle the issue of school completion and strong families, but there are meetings scheduled to come up with the plans. The state legislature has designated $25,000 to plan the program. The county will reapply next year for additional funds to implement the program.
One of the strongest assets of Family Connection is the membership. There are representatives from the health department, family and children's services, mental health, the school system, senior center, public safety and government, just to name a few. I believe this group of people is attuned to the problems in the county and the resources available to combat them.
Personally, I wanted to tackle the problem of children missing more than 10 days of school annually. I believe Family Connection will help to achieve that goal and more through school completion. If is a fact that the students who are missing a lot of days in the early years are the ones most likely to drop out of high school.
So it is up to us to find a way to make those children want to come to school, to learn and become healthy members of society.
Family Connection also agreed to target strong families. One of the goals in this category is to increase the percentage of stable new families and reduce the percentage of teenage pregnancies.
When citizens were asked to fill out a survey stating what they believed to be the "greatest challenges" in the county, teen pregnancy ranked third. Alcohol/illegal drug use and school dropouts ranked first and second. I truly believed that was a "preconceived notion" until I read the statistics. During 1996-97, we topped the state average in the number of children born to unwed mothers age 15 to 17. Banks County had 39.4 percent per 1,000 while the state average was 34.8 percent.
Some of the most staggering statistics I saw were the number of children and senior citizens who live in poverty. Almost one-sixth of children age 5 to 17 live in poverty, while more than 25 percent of senior adults 65 and over live below the poverty level. Those numbers are several years old and I would hope they have decreased somewhat with the efforts of Generous Hearts.
While the members of Family Connection have a long road ahead of them, it is also a challenge with an outcome that could benefit most everyone who lives in Banks County.
Sherry Lewis is news editor of The Banks County News.


Osteoporosis testing planned
Osteoporosis testing will be held at the Banks County Senior Citizen's Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17.
Leaders say those who would like to be tested need a doctor's order to do so and the reports will be sent to the physicians for a treatment plan.
For more information, call the senior center at 677-3275.


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