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Journal launches new website

The Madison County Journal launched a new website Sept. 18.

The new site includes all the content from the newspaper, unlike the previous site which only included selected stories.

The website address will stay the same at MadisonJournalToday.com.

For now, access to the site will remain free. But starting in early 2020, only newspaper subscribers will be able to access content on the website.

"Once we go behind a paywall, you will have to be a subscriber to access the content," said editor Zach Mitcham.

For now, to access content on the new website viewers will have to create a log-in account with their email address.


Content from The Madison County Journal will also feed into the regional MainstreetNews.com website along with the newspaper's four sister publications.

All the content from The Madison County Journal, The Jackson Herald, The Banks County News, The Barrow News-Journal and The Braselton News will be available on the regional Mainstreetnews.com website for the four-county area.

Mainstreet Newspapers will also maintain its separate stand-alone websites for area obituaries and regional sports.

Madison Co. Fair set for Sept. 24-28

It’s the first full week of fall next week. In Madison County, that's also “fair time.”

The 71st-annual Madison County Agricultural Fair will open Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m. at the Comer Lions Club fairgrounds, 1254 Main Street (Hwy. 22), Comer.

The fair will run through Saturday, Sept. 28. Gates open nightly at 6 p.m. with a Saturday matinee for kids from noon to 4 p.m. The $4 gate admittance includes free grandstand entertainment and you can bring a pair of used eyeglasses, hearing aids or cell phones and get 50 cents off the gate price. Ages 5 and under are admitted free. The Saturday matinee features free entrance for children under 15 and $1 for all others.

Gate prizes will be offered each evening and during the Saturday matinee (deposit your gate tickets in the barrel under the canopy and remember to save your stub). Drawings are held at 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and organizers say you must be present to win.

James Gang Entertainment will once again provide entertainment on the midway featuring rides and games. Organizers say bring non-perishable food or monetary donations for the Madison County Food Bank to the Lions Club community booth and register to win two tickets to the Georgia/Kentucky football game on Oct. 19.

Participate in “Split-the-Pot” by guessing the number of peas in a jar for $1 per guess. The winner will be announced Saturday night and will split the money with the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter, organizers said, and you do not need to be present to win.

There will be exhibits of handmade arts and crafts, community club and promotional exhibits, commercial business, agricultural equipment and vendors with various wares.

Special unlimited midway passes can be purchased Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and at the Saturday matinee for $15 each. Friday and Saturday unlimited ride passes are $20 each.

Fair organizers say be sure to visit the community and commercial exhibit buildings and look for the winning entries in each category.

The following is a list of daily highlights for the fair this year:

•Tuesday night will open the fair with a FFA and 4-H swine show that will begin at 6:30 p.m. and at 7 p.m. The Grains of Sand will take the stage for a performance of beach, soul and Motown music. The 10 p.m. gate prize drawing will be a $200 gift card from Ingles. Also, all Lions Club members will receive free gate admittance by showing their membership cards.

•Wednesday night will kick off with a FFA and 4-H goat and lamb show competition and The Nothin’ Nu Band will perform “everything old is new again” music on the grandstand beginning at 7 p.m. The gate prize for the evening will be a $150 gift card from A Girl’s Treasures in Comer and a $150 gift card from Madison County Ace Hardware in Danielsville.

•Thursday evening features The Country River Band performing “classic, traditional country music” on the grandstand beginning at 7 p.m. An FFA and 4-H dairy cow competition will also begin at 7 p.m. in the livestock arena. The 10 p.m. gate prize drawing for the night is a Pit Boss wood pellet grill.

•Friday night events begin with a FFA and 4-H beef cow show at 6 p.m. and the Sons of Sailors, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band, will perform on the grandstand beginning at 7:30 p.m. The gate prize drawing is at 11 p.m. that evening for a $500 gift card from Sears Hometown Store.

•Saturday’s matinee opens at noon with the 20th annual open beef cattle show. Two special prize drawings will be held at 4 p.m. (Please note that gates close at 4 p.m. and will re-open at 6 p.m.)

•Saturday evening will feature Madison County’s own Holman Autry Band on stage at 7:30 p.m. The 11 p.m. grandstand drawing will be for a Honda TRX 420 all-terrain vehicle.

IDA talks 2020 finances

County industrial authority leaders reviewed the proposed 2020 county water budget Sept. 16, which is down from 2019. But that dip doesn’t reflect cuts. Rather, it’s due to a major project included in this year’s budget that won’t be in the 2020 figures.

The water budget fluctuates significantly from year to year, based on what projects the group is tackling at the time. The 2019 budget was $6.8 million, because it includes a $4.7 million project, running a 12-inch water line 12 miles from Elbert County to the Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) plant. But next year’s water budget is projected at $2.7 million, since it doesn’t include such a major project.

The 2020 water budget includes $451,504 in loan payments, up from $275,000 this year, but down from the $864,000 in payments in 2018 before the IDA refinanced much of its debt for old water expansion projects.

Meanwhile, the IDA anticipates an increase in water billing revenues from $1.1 million to $1.7 million, while also increasing its water purchase expenses from outside the county from $760,000 to $1.2 million.

The IDA is trying to increase its in-county water production through well purchases and rehabilitation so that it can be less reliant on out-of-county sources. The group reviewed its monthly water report Monday, which showed 5.8 million gallons of water produced in the county in August. But the bulk of its water supply comes from out of the county. The IDA purchased 8.5 million gallons from Elbert County, 2.8 million gallons from Commerce, 572,000 gallons from Franklin County and 55,000 gallons from Royston last month. The Elbert purchases are primarily feeding GRP.

The IDA also anticipates $1.6 million in sales tax revenues if voters renew the one-cent tax for county improvements in November. The group is including sales tax revenue in its 2020 budget, but the group may wait to officially approve next year’s budget until after the November vote, so that anticipated revenues are accurate. A “No” vote on the sales tax by the county would wipe out that line item and send the county and cities into a financial hard place, where they may have to rely on property owners for more revenue.

The industrial authority has two budgets, its water fund and the general IDA budget. Both of these are available for review at the IDA office. The industrial authority general budget expenses are expected to be $678,103, down from $708,968. But revenues are anticipated at $710,600, which would leave the IDA with a $32,497 fund balance heading into 2021.

The IDA is planning a three-percent cost-of-living increase for its employees. And the line item for personnel/executive director is proposed for $74,000 in 2020, up from $65,000 this year. The authority is also allocating $20,000 to help fund the salary of the new Chamber of Commerce director.

The industrial authority anticipates $671,000 in property tax revenues, up $15,000. But revenues from motor vehicle taxes have drastically declined in recent years due to the state’s overhaul of the car tax system. The IDA had $60,000 in car tax revenues in 2017. The authority expects just $7,300 next year.


In a separate matter, authority members said GRP operated at 100-percent capacity from Tuesday through Friday last week. IDA director Frank Ginn said the machinery at the plant has been receiving some “tweaks” in recent weeks. GRP is contracting with Georgia Power. It will burn wood chips to generate electricity to sell to Georgia Power. GRP received an extension to early October to be fully functional.

Also Monday, the IDA met in closed session to discuss personnel issues. The group discussed potentially upgrading its billing system, which has been in place since 2010.

The group also agreed to send a letter to Peoples & Quigley, Inc., an engineering firm that has helped with the GRP project, to challenge approximately $40,000 in invoices that authority members say don’t seem appropriate. They are asking the firm to specific exactly why those bills were sent.

The 2019 Madison County High School Homecoming is set for Friday night when the Red Raiders host East Jackson. Pictured (L-R) are senior homecoming court members Willie Gaines, Miracle Armstrong, Demyus Watts, Colby Smith, Adam Echols, Caroline Beach, Taylor Andrews and McKinley Tittle.

Brandon Ayala is shown performing a rola bola act where a teeter board is placed on top of a stack of cups on a rolling cylinder. This was one of the many performances by Ayala at the Lewis and Clark Circus. The show was held at the Comer Fairgrounds.

Lexington man charged with child molestation

A Lexington man was arrested last week after his girlfriend’s grandparents reported a relationship between him and their granddaughter, who is under 15, according to Captain Jimmy Patton.

Walter Wayne LeCroy, 20, was charged with child molestation and statutory rape and remains in the Madison County Jail as of press time under a $28,700 bond.

Athens man sentenced for impersonating officer

An Athens man was sentenced to jail time and probation for impersonating an officer in Madison County Superior Court recently.

James Phillip Seagraves was sentenced by Judge Chris Phelps to serve five years, with the first 95 days to be served in confinement and the remainder on probation and to pay a $500 fine on a charge of impersonating a police officer.

Other recent action in superior court included:

•Richard Earl Helms, of Danielsville, was sentenced by Judge Jeff Malcom to serve three years, with the first year to be served in confinement and the remainder on probation and to pay a $1,500 fine on charges of possession of methamphetamine and reckless driving (reduced from DUI/drugs). Charges of possession of drug-related objects, operating a vehicle without insurance and failure to maintain lane were dismissed.

•Sheila Louise Chandler, of Crawford, was sentenced by Judge Malcom to serve three years of probation and pay $850 in fines on charges of possession of a Schedule I Controlled Substance (heroin) and DUI/drugs. A charge of possession of drug-related objects was dismissed.

•Timothy Rowland, of Danielsville, was sentenced by Judge Phelps to serve 10 years of probation, with five years to be suspended upon no violations for two years, and to pay $1,000 in fines on charges of entering auto, theft by taking and driving while license suspended. A charge of hijacking a motor vehicle was dismissed.

•Joshua Joe Pappe, no address listed, was sentenced by Judge Malcom to serve two years of probation and pay $750 in fines on charges of possession of methamphetamine and false report of theft or conversion. Charges of possession of marijuana less than an ounce and possession of drug-related objects were dismissed.

•Nicole Deanna Campbell, of Bethlehem, was sentenced by Judge Malcom to serve two years of probation and pay $500 in fines on charges of reckless driving (reduced from DUI/less safe) and failure to maintain lane. Charges of failure to stop for a stop sign and improper parking were dismissed.

•Austen Mackenzie Simms, of Taylorsville, was sentenced by Judge Lauren A. Watson to serve 12 months with 66 days to be served in confinement and the remainder on probation and pay $500 in fines on charges of battery-family violence and criminal trespass. A charge of third degree cruelty to children was dismissed.

•Joes Antonio Gonzalez, of Lafayette, La., had his case (second degree forgery and giving false name, address, birthdate to police officer) moved to the dead docket by Judge Watson because he has been removed from the United States. If he re-enters the U.S. and is arrested, the state will move to have this case placed on the active docket, according to court records.

•Jeffery M. Johnston, no address listed, was sentenced by Judge Malcom to serve three years, with the first 120 days to be served in confinement and the remainder on probation and pay a $1,000 fine on a charge of possession of methamphetamine. A charge of crossing guardlines with weapons, drugs or contraband was dismissed.

•Jyme Birt Noble, of Hull, was sentenced by Judge Malcom to serve 12 months of probation on a charge of battery-family violence. A charge of false imprisonment was dismissed.

•David Glenn Chapman, no address listed, was sentenced by Judge Phelps to serve five years, with the first 180 days to be served in confinement and the remainder on probation and to pay a $750 fine on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

•Richard Blount Gordon, of Hull, had his charges of aggravated sexual battery and child molestation dismissed by Judge Malcom because the defendant is deceased.

•James Rowlins Shevlin, of Colbert, had his charges of aggravated assault-family violence moved to the dead docket by Judge Phelps because of the defendant’s deteriorating physical and mental health. As a condition of the case remaining inactive, the defendant shall not possess any firearms, nor shall he reside at a residence where firearms are present, according to court records.

•Nicole Marie Golden, of Winder, was sentenced by Judge Phelps to serve three years of probation and pay a $1,000 fine on a charge of crossing guardlines with drugs. Charges of obstruction of an officer and possession of drug-related objects were dismissed.