Jefferson, Georgia

Jackson County:
1998 Top Town Stories of the Year

Zoning, water and internal disputes. These are among the issues city council members across Jackson County dealt with this year. Arcade made a move to implement zoning, while land use issues kept other councils busy as more growth and development came to the county. Water and sewer expansions were also planned in several towns, while other councils dealt with personality and political conflicts. Pendergrass, Talmo and Braselton city councils were also cited during the year for not submitting an audit to the state as is required by law.
Details on the top news events from the nine towns across the county during the year are as follows:
One of the biggest news stories out of Arcade this year was the move to implement zoning in the town. Arcade and Nicholson are the only two towns without zoning in Jackson County. The council has unanimously agreed that it's time to begin the process to bring zoning to Arcade. Public hearings have not yet been held to get input from citizens, but the council hopes to have zoning in place by the spring.
Lots of change has taken place in Arcade in 1998 with a new council and mayor taking office. Hiring a new attorney, Scott Tolbert, and passing a resolution opposing the location of a landfill in the town were among the first items of business. The council has continued throughout the year to take action that would stop a private landfill from locating in town. Tougher ordinances dealing with solid waste and a revamping of the town's solid waste management act are among the action taken to stop Bartram Environmental from locating a landfill in Arcade.
An unusual story Arcade leaders dealt with during the year came in May when the city implemented a new cemetery ordinance which left members of the First Pentecostal Oneness Church of Arcade in limbo when a member of its church died and they wanted to bury him at the church. A Superior Court judge placed a restraining order against the city and ruled that the man could be buried behind the church.
In Braselton, the big news in town has been the opening of a new city hall in a historic home in town. From early in the year, when city leaders were debating over which door the public should use when entering the structure, to the year's end, when an open house was held, the new town hall has dominated the headlines.
Another big story in Braselton in 1998 came in March when representatives from Mercedes-Freightliner Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of semi-trucks in the world, met with the Braselton Town Council to announce plans to locate a multi-million dollar dealership in the city. This project is still in limbo with city officials continuing to express concern about the development.
On a related matter, the Braselton council agreed in October to table an appeal of a $112,000 fine against Jackson Green Associates, the company trying to place a Mercedes-Freightliner dealership in town. The penalty was assessed because of the company's violation of the town's soil and sedimentation erosion ordinance.
Braselton also moved forward on a water extension project during the year. The expansion, which includes installing eight-inch main lines around the city, is expected to increase water pressure and allow more customers to be able to hook onto the system.
Also in 1998, Don Webster resigned from the council with Dudley Ray being appointed to fill the vacant seat.
The completion of the new city hall highlighted 1998 for the government of Commerce. The city renovated the old post office building, creating a 6,600-square-foot facility officials say enables city employees to more efficiently serve the public. The total project, including purchasing the building and the extensive renovation, cost about $300,000. It was completed in August.
Also during 1998, the city continued work toward upgrading its water plant. It finished a study to determine if the plant could physically handle three million gallons of water per day. That having been determined, the city plans to phase in another $1.3 million in renovations during 1999 and 2000.
The gas department completed a new main to serve Banks Crossing, while the electric department rebuilt a city circuit on Hwy. 59 and the Jefferson Road. Water lines were extended out the Jefferson Road to serve two new subdivisions, and a line was looped from the Waterworks Road back to Hwy. 334.
Work also continued on the Streetscape project downtown, the city built a new Scout hut in Willoughby Park, and Councilman Bob Sosebee was sworn in as president of the Georgia Municipal Association.
Financially, Commerce continued to build its cash reserves and completed another fiscal year without having to borrow money for operations.
In January, the city rededicated its public safety complex in honor of a beloved fire chief, the late J. Nolan Spear Jr. Also during the year, the council issued a moratorium on billboards pending the creation of a new sign ordinance and rejected a 500-unit mobile home community.
In the fall, Commerce was able to reduce its property tax by 2.8 mills. That rate makes Commerce residents the least taxed of any jurisdiction in the county for the second consecutive year.
In Hoschton, sewer problems at the Panther Creek Subdivision continued to keep the city council looking for answers. In January, engineer Don Harris presented a plan to put a $195,000 gravity flow sewage system in the subdivision to solve sewage problems. In April, the council agreed to apply for a grant that would supplement the installation of the gravity flow sewage system on the basis of a second community survey.
In other news during the year, the council placed a moratorium in September on new subdivision developments while the town's regulations were updated.
The council also agreed this year to hire a building inspector to handle all permits and inspections inside the city limits.
In Jefferson, the council continued to move forward on a huge water expansion project. In March, the council approved a $1.2 million water project along Jett Roberts Road and Hog Mountain Road. The project, which is funded mostly through grant money, will be used to connect existing water lines from Hwy. 82 down Legg Road to Jett Roberts Road and from there to a new water tank to be built along Hog Mountain Road.
Jefferson also held a referendum in 1998 on a city pouring license with it being defeated by only 10 votes.
Also during the year, the Jefferson council approved a plan from the fire department to begin preliminary plans for a second fire station and upgrades necessary for the city to maintain its ISO 4 rating.
A continuing problem with a foul odor and taste of the water led officials to shut down the system and begin buying water from the county. The city drained three lakes and flushed water lines in an attempt to correct the ongoing problem.
In May, council member Ralph Sailors resigned from the city council due to a Georgia law that prevents him from serving on the council and working for the city. This move left the council without a quorum since councilman Kevin Henderson resigned earlier. Several new council members were named during the year, including Kristy Cannon, Andy Martin and Jim Saville, were named later in the year.
A disagreement between a member of the council and members of the volunteer fire department also led to several heated meetings in Maysville during the year. A controversy in the town also caused conflicts with the annual Maysville Autumn Leaf Festival and led to the fire department pulling its barbecue from the annual celebration and holding a separate event.
On a related matter, a Maysville fire volunteer was pressured to resign following a controversy, but no action was taken. The board told those involved in the dispute to resolve their difficulties. The fire district board had an internal squabble over a dispute between the fire chief and a department volunteer.
Another dispute came later in the year when a city employee accused a council member of "slander" and threatened a lawsuit if it didn't stop.
Dealing with the problem of stray pets in town caused headaches for the Maysville City Council throughout the year. In March, the council agreed to take stray animals to a clinic if residents catch and secure the animal for transport. In October, the council loosened the reins on the proposed leash law and agreed to target animals only when a complaint is filed.
Another major accomplishment during the year was the approval of a water contract with Banks County. The council worked for months ironing out the details for the agreement.
Nicholson leaders started the year off by agreeing to draft a new charter during the year and discussing whether to levy a property tax. No action was taken on either mater, but both were discussed at several council meetings throughout the year.
The council also took action during the year to close the exercise room which had been located in a room of the public library. It was closed due to its continuing expense and lack of use.
The council also agreed during the year to support the creation of Neighborhood Watch areas being formed by the sheriff's department to help curtail "gang" activity in the town.
In Pendergrass, three new council members were named: Monk Tolbert, Sandy Beck and Joyce Wilkerson. A fourth new council member is scheduled to take office in January.
In November, the council approved a $4,800 salary for its mayor, Mark Tolbert, although the move apparently violated a state law that states a city council can't vote to raise current salaries for itself or the mayor.
One of the top stories in Talmo was a request for a beer license in February. The council agreed not to take any action until surveying residents. In March, the council decided not to hold a referendum on the sale of beer after the majority of those responding to a survey said they were against the idea. The survey was sent after a business owner requested the town allow the sale of beer.
In other news, councilman Rob Joyce resigned because he moved outside of the city limits. Dana Woods was appointed to fill this seat.