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 FRONT PAGE - DECEMBER 29, 1999 - COMMERCE, GA

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Major Event In 1999

The decision by the Southern Company to build a $400 million peak generating plant in Jackson County was one of the major local news stories of 1999. The plant, when the second phase is completed, will generate more than $3.5 million per year in property taxes. It is the biggest economic development project ever for Jackson County.
EDUCATION
Work To Begin On CHS Renovation
$1.9 Million Low Bid Accepted At Special Meeting Last Tuesday
Students will welcome the new year in portable classrooms at Commerce High School.
The Commerce Board of Education has awarded a $1.9 million contract for the renovation and modification of the school at a called meeting last Tuesday, Dec. 21.
Bowen & Watson Construction Company, Toccoa, submitted the low bid of $1,907,000 for the work, and AES Environmental Inc., Braselton, submitted the low bid of $34,783 for the removal of asbestos floor tiles. The board of education approved both bids.
"The bids came in within our budget," stated Superintendent Larry White. "I'd been worried. With older buildings, you never know how it will come out. It made my holidays, I'm telling you."
According to White, AES was to begin work before school resumes Monday. The company will start at the east wing.
Overall, the project is expected to take 270 days. When it is over, the school will have new floors and ceilings, a new art classroom in what is now a maintenance area, a new health occupations lab, more energy efficient windows, closed in breezeways, new exterior doors and a new fire alarm system.
But the most noticeable improvement will be at the front entrance, where a canopy will extend from the current entrance so drivers can drop kids off under cover. The entrance will be "more dressy," says White, and the improvement will extend to the exterior.
There, visitors will find a receptionist's office through a storefront-type window ­ just like in the middle and elementary schools.
"That will give it a more welcome atmosphere," White stated. "What happens now is people come in and wonder 'Where do I go?'"
Construction will begin in the east wing, proceed to the south wing and then the main building.
Five companies bid on the project, with bids going all the way up to $2.09 million.
Students, meanwhile, will go to portable classrooms on loan from the Jackson County School System instead of east wing classrooms. Once the east wing is completed, the mobile units will house classes from the south wing.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Commerce To Consider B Wilson Rd. Annexation
Having completed in 1998 the annexation of everything inside the Commerce bypass on the east side of town, the city is taking the first tentative steps that could lead to a similar annexation on the west side.
At the suggestion of Ward 4 councilman Bob Sosebee and at the direction of the city council, Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. has appointed a six-member committee to look into the issue of annexing land inside B Wilson Road.
The road runs from Quality Foods to the Jefferson Road. Among the land inside is Montgomery Shores subdivision.
The homeowners' association of that subdivision brought the matter up, according to Sosebee.
"The homeowners' association of Montgomery Shores has approached us," Sosebee said. "We are already planning on looping our water line with a major extension down B Wilson Road, and we already serve that whole area as part of the East Jackson Fire District. In my mind, it was just a good time to look at the possibility of doing some local legislation, maybe bring B Wilson Road and everything inside it into the city, similar to what we did with the bypass."
Hardy named Sosebee to chair the committee. Other members are Sam Brown, councilman from Ward 3; city residents William Studdard and Henry Slocum, and Dr. Joe L. Griffeth and Dr. Sammy Thomason, both residents of the affected area.
"Once the committee meets, it will research the pros and cons. If legislation is not a possibility, we will look at other possibilities open to us like the 100 percent method, to see if we can get enough annexed to get Montgomery Shores," said Sosebee.
Reminded of the outcry from affected residents when Commerce annexed inside the bypass, Sosebee indicated that the city fathers learned from the experience.
"If we go by that (local legislation) route, Eddie (Sen. Eddie Madden) will be brought in and educated on the pros and cons the very first thing," Sosebee said. "Last time, we thought he had been brought into the loop of information, but he wasn't."
In addition, there will be a public hearing. That was one of Madden's complaints against the city on the previous action.
"Also, we're going to make sure Scott (Rep. Scott Tolbert, who will be a resident of Montgomery Shores) and Eddie, if that's what the council decides, are included," Sosebee added.
The city plans to run a water line the length of B Wilson Road as part of its long-range water system improvements. It will also loop along Sheep Pasture Road to Waterworks Road. Asked if the committee would consider annexing inside those water system boundaries as well, Sosebee said he was unaware of any interest in those areas.
"The only citizens I'm aware of who have expressed an interest are those in Montgomery Shores," he said.
How quickly a resolution is reached may depend on the level of opposition, according to Sosebee. Should the committee find no opposition to annexing the entire tract, legislation could be introduced this year. On the other hand, if opposition is heavy, it may be the 2001 legislative session.


After All Of The Predictions, Not Much Expected From Y2K
The year 2000 is upon us. After the years of dire predictions, warnings of the need to be prepared and even a disaster TV film, Y2K will arrive at midnight Friday.
Ready or not, Y2K is upon us.
And while a very few people have been stockpiling firewood, hoarding food and even taken their money out of the bank, the general consensus is that Y2K will come nowhere near living up to the expectations delivered over the past 24 months.
The problem was that many computers, software and chips were designed to recognize dates only by their final two digits. Presumably, when the calendar turned over Dec. 31, the 00 would register as 1900 instead of 2000, creating chaos.
There were predictions of widespread power outages, financial collapse caused by computer failures, airplane crashes and all of the makings of a disaster movie.
Nobody is making such predictions anymore.
THE POWER GRID
All of the power consumed in Jackson County originates with the Georgia Power Company, whether it's through the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) as in the case of Commerce, or through Oglethorpe Power, as in the case of Jackson EMC.
Georgia Power has issued assurances that it is ready. Commerce and Jackson EMC say that if they get power, they'll be able to get it to their customers.
"We don't have any computer controlled systems," reports Commerce city manager Clarence Bryant. "Our entire electric system is manually operated. There is not a chip anywhere that is electrically controlled."
That doesn't mean there won't be any interruption of power. Short-term problems in the national electric grid or a driver hitting a utility pole at the wrong place could cause the power to go out.
Commerce's electric crew will be on duty (as will Jackson EMC and Georgia Power crews).
"If there is an (city-wide) outage, we'll probably wait 10 minutes and see if it comes back," Bryant said. "If it doesn't, then we'll respond."
Jackson EMC is taking a similar approach. Its position is that the main problem will be to assure consumers that there is no Y2K problem.
The company says there are no devices in its distribution system that will automatically interrupt or restore power by time or date. Nor are there any such devices in the state's transmission system, and the state's generation units have been Y2K prepared over the past two years during regularly-scheduled maintenance.
"Our offices are going to be staffed and our linemen will be in the field as well," said Greg Broussard, Jackson EMC's official in charge of the Y2K contingency plan. "Senior management will be here too. We will have the staff so if customers call, there will be humans to answer the phone. Our customer reps and operations people will be in the field. We will have people at some substations."
For the power suppliers, the biggest concerns are vandals and accidents that are not Y2K-related but could cause people to panic. When a drunk driver clips a utility pole and knocks out electric service for an entire circuit, staff will be available to assure customers that the cause of a power outage is routine.
"We are staffing like we would for a major ice storm," Broussard declared.
JUST IN CASE
While it is operating in the belief Y2K will be a big non-event, Commerce will have staff on hand just in case something goes wrong.
"We're just going to be here twiddling our thumbs," predicted Bryant, "but we'll be here to react to any local situation. We don't anticipate anything on a statewide basis."
Half or more of the city's staff will be on duty from 10:00 or 11:00 Friday night to 2:00 Saturday morning.
"We've got so many other things to think about than the power going out," Bryant explained. "There are probably some folks waiting to break into stores if the power goes out. We've got to be able to monitor that situation too."
Y2K COMPLIANT
Over the past year or more, Commerce has upgraded numerous systems to ensure compliance. The city did a computer upgrade at City Hall, although it was scheduled regardless of Y2K, and the police department computer system was replaced. The city's only two computer meter stations, both for natural gas, were changed out at the Louisiana Pacific and J.M. Huber OSB plants.
None of the city's utility systems are operated by computer. Computers are in all of the offices, but they are used for monitoring and administrative work, nothing that could affect delivery to customers, Bryant said.



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