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Christmas festivities set for this weekend

It’s time for the annual Colbert “Old-fashioned Christmas” Friday and the “Christmas in Comer” Saturday and Sunday Dec. 3.

The cities of Ila and Hull held festivities Dec. 3.

Here are details of upcoming Christmas events in Madison County to help get residents in the holiday spirit:

•Colbert’s “Old-fashioned Christmas” is set for Friday, Dec. 6. The City of Colbert invites the public to visit the town from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, to enjoy “a fun-filled night of celebrating the beginning of the Christmas season.” Colbert Baptist Church will sponsor a live Nativity in the Memorial Garden. “Join us at the Pavilion for the reading of the Christmas Story,” officials said. “Enjoy face-painting, hayrides, cake walks, marshmallow roast, tour of the polar express, a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the log cabin, and lots of games and free food and drinks.” Organizers ask that those attending bring an unwrapped toy and a non-perishable food item for the Madison County Food Bank and dog/cat food, pet toys, shredded paper, shampoo, towels, sheets or blankets for the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter. These items can be dropped off at the pavilion in the designated containers. “Come and join with the community in celebrating this year’s Old Fashioned Christmas in Colbert event,” said organizers.

•Christmas in Comer is set for Saturday, Dec. 7 and Sunday, Dec. 8. The highlight of the festivities will be the Christmas Parade that will begin on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 2 p.m. The theme for this year’s parade is “Christmas In Your Homeland.” The annual Reindeer Run/Walk, sponsored by the Madison County Recreation Department, will begin on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Arnold Park. Required pre-registration can be easily accomplished by visiting the department’s web site at madcorec.com. The downtown festival will also begin Saturday at 8 a.m. in the area surrounding the gazebo. Vendors and crafters from the area will have booths set up for those that wish to shop for that special unique Christmas gift or purchase decorations of the season. The Christmas Tree Lighting, sponsored by local churches, is scheduled for Sunday evening, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. The downtown Cliff Yarbrough Memorial Park will be the location for this event and will feature choirs from local schools, churches and groups performing the songs of the season. In the event of rain or inclement weather, the program will be held in the Travel Museum. The numbers to call for more information are 706-783 4552 or 706-783-5678. A parade entry form is available at the Comer City Hall or online at www.cityofcomer.com.

•‘Breakfast with Santa’ at Camp Kiwanis: Saturday, Dec. 7, at 9 a.m. “Camp Kiwanis invites you to join jolly ol’ Saint Nick himself, fireside at Franklin Hall for a breakfast like no other!” organizers said. For $10 per person, you can work in the Elves’ workshop for a take home craft and have a chat with Santa to share your holiday wish list. Photography ops will be available to all. Space is limited and pre-registration is required by calling 706-795-2098 or www.tinyurl.com/CKBfastwithSanta

•Carlton Christmas Tree Trimming: Sunday, Dec. 8, at 4:30 p.m. The tree is located on Hwy. 72 in Carlton next to the water fountain. “Please come help us trim our tree, drink some cocoa and sing a few Christmas carols,” Carlton officials said. “Bring your kids and enjoy this holiday tradition.”

•“Christmas with Santa” — The Madison County Government Complex will hold “Christmas with Santa” on Tuesday, Dec. 10, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “The Madison County Government Complex would like to invite you to spend some time with us this holiday season,” officials said. “Each department will decorate its doors and offices for visitors to enjoy. Some departments may even be handing out yummy treats. We will have hot chocolate and cookies for everyone; as well as ornaments for the little ones to make. Best of all, Santa will be here to take pictures with all the children. As a gift from us, you will receive a 4x6-inch print of you and Mr. Claus.” All festivities will be held in the public meeting room inside the government complex.

•Santa Paws visits MOAS — The Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter, 1888 Colbert-Danielsville Road, will hold its largest holiday event of the year when Santa Paws comes to visit on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 4 to 7 p.m. “We’re excited to announce that this year we will again have our famous nativity display with live animals, including camels,” shelter officials said. Entry to the event is $5 per car with small additional fees for event participation, with all funds raised going directly back to helping save shelter animals, officials said. Bring your “fur kids” (and human ones, too) to have their picture taken with Santa Paws (photos are $5 each). A raffle will be held with a chance to win free tickets to Disney World. Raffle tickets may be purchased at the shelter from now until the drawing, which will be held at 6:45 p.m. on Dec. 14. There will also be a cake walk with delicious desserts, children’s crafts and more, shelter officials said.

•Christmas in Danielsville will be held in Madison County Memorial Park on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 2 to 4 p.m., according to Police Chief Jonathan Burnette. The event will include a tree lighting, pictures with Santa, a visit from Sparky the Fire Dog, Christmas music, train rides for children and other activities. Food will be provided by Danielsville Fire Department members. The event is free and open to the community, Burnette said. A rain date is set for Sunday, Dec. 15.

•The Booger Hill – Moon’s Grove Luminaries and Live Nativity will be held this year Saturday, Dec. 21, from 6 to 9 p.m. Motorists can begin their drive down Booger Hill Road and follow the route onto Moon’s Grove Church Road where residents along both roads will have their driveways lit with luminaries. A live nativity, complete with actors and live animals will be located at Moon’s Grove Baptist Church. The event is free.

•“Santa to visit library”: Saturday, Dec: 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Drop in for hot chocolate and bring your own camera for photo opportunities with Mr. Claus himself!” organizers said. There will also be a Santa letter-writing station and “Adopt-a-Santa” bears to raise money for the Friends of the Madison County Library. Additionally, MOAS Pets will be at the library with information on adoptable animals from the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter. This program is free and open to the public of all ages and abilities.

•The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is planning “Christmas with a Cop” to help provide needy children with a good Christmas. “Our goal is to be able to give 15 less fortunate children a minimum of $200 each to purchase gifts for their family and themselves,” said organizers. “Each child will be paired with one of our local law enforcement officers for a fun morning of shopping and an opportunity for them to build a positive relationship with their officer.” Organizers said they exceeded their goal last year. “We know this year with the help of our local businesses and our gracious citizens of Madison County, we can do that again,” officials said. A Christmas tree will again be placed in the lobby of the sheriff’s office. Any members who would like to make a donation to the “Christmas with a Cop” event can stop by the office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. An ornament will be placed on the tree as a symbol of your donation. Those who are unable to visit the sheriff’s office can mail donations to “Christmas with a Cop” c/o Madison County Sheriff’s Office, P.O. Box 65, Danielsville, Ga. 30633. “Regardless of how big or how small, every donation will help make a child’s Christmas brighter this year,” organizers said.

Poultry houses OK’d
More poultry houses approved off Hwy. 98

Six more chicken houses can be placed on property adjoining 12 existing poultry units just off Hwy. 98 at the Madison/Jackson county line.

County commissioners voted 3-2 Monday, Dec. 2 to approve a request by Minish Girls LLC to rezone a 40.44-acre parcel from A-2 to A-1 on Loop Road. The land will be sold to an adjacent property owner who already operates 12 poultry houses and plans to put six new poultry houses and a stack house on the 40-acre property. There is no timeframe on when those houses will be constructed, but the chicken farmer now has the go ahead to proceed when ready.

Commissioners Tripp Strickland, Brian Kirk and Derek Doster voted in favor of the rezoning, while board members Lee Allen and Theresa Bettis opposed the change. The planning commission recently recommended approval of the request by a 4-3 vote.

Allen said the first thing motorists encounter as they travel east into Madison County on Hwy. 98 is the smell of chicken houses. He noted that there are already 700 chicken houses in the county.

“Now the smell will be even more chicken houses,” he said.

Bettis agreed with Allen, saying that she couldn’t approve more chicken houses next to residents already dealing with the smell of a dozen houses.

Kirk said he grew up in Madison County with poultry farming in his life since childhood. He said it’s a way of life for much of the county.

“Madison County is an ag county and that’s not going to change,” he said.

Doster said that the farmer’s willingness to have a 500-foot vegetative buffer factored into his vote in favor of the request, adding that he felt the location was appropriate.

Strickland said he’s sympathetic to those objecting to the rezoning, but he said the land is in a high-intensity farming area.

Kirk said the property is suited for more chicken houses, adding that there’s really no other option for the land. That was a primary point of attorney Victor Johnson, who represents three sisters who inherited the land but have not had a viable use for it.

“It’s the only feasible economic use of the property,” said Johnson.

The attorney noted that the poultry farmer has agreed to 500-foot setbacks, which is greater than the county requirement of 300 feet. The homes will be at an east-west orientation and there will be no more than six poultry houses and one stack house. Johnson said the houses will also generate more property taxes for the county than if the land continued to be unused. He noted the massive economic impact chicken farming has for Madison County. And he added that the placement of more chicken houses on the northern side of Hwy. 98 is in line with what the county’s land use map dictates for the area.

Elizabeth Minish Cunningham, one of the applicants in Minish Girls LLC, said the poultry farm owner is “willing to do all he can to reduce the smell,” while noting the farmer’s willingness to increase the setback distance.

Farmer Terry Chandler, who serves on the county planning commission, spoke in favor of the application. He said chicken farming is not new to the area and he said that people who choose to live in rural areas of Madison County must realize that they could be in close proximity to poultry farming.

Conolus Scott, who also serves on the planning commission, spoke against the rezoning request. He said there are a number of residents in the area and that putting more burden on them doesn’t seem appropriate.

Homeowners near the existing poultry houses urged the board to deny the request, saying that the smell is already too much. They said they don’t want an even more intense odor.

“I think we got enough chicken houses already,” said Ricky Tucker, who lives nearby, adding that his family was there before the chicken farming. “It’s unbearable to us.”

Donna Wood, who lives near the existing farm, said she smells the houses “on a constant basis.”

“My vehicle and everything of mine has this dust from these houses,” she said. “This needs to be investigated before moving forward on this.”

Neighbors also said adding more chicken truck traffic at Loop Road just off Hwy. 98 is a traffic hazard.


In a separate matter Monday, the board voted 4-1 to deny a request by Janet Ayers for a conditional use permit for a dog kennel on Waggoners Grove Church Road. The request included two parcels, a 6.4-acre tract and a 5.89-acre piece of land.

Keith Ayers told commissioners that he is taking over the kennel business from his mom and wants to move from Hull to a country setting. He said the current kennel includes 50-to-55 dogs but that he would have 20-to-30 at the new location.

Commissioner Allen, the lone commissioner to vote for the request, made a motion to approve the application after tacking on two conditions: an expiration of the conditional use permit if ownership changed and a requirement that feedings — when dogs are the loudest — occur between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Neighbors opposed the application noting that they had invested heavily in their property and didn’t want to have a dog kennel next to them in a rural setting.

Bettis said the kennel is a “wonderful business, but it has to make sense.”

“And it doesn’t in an area with homeowners right there,” she said.

Also Monday, the board voted 4-1 to deny a request by Seth Cape representing Mike Alewine to rezone 4.81 acres on House Holloway Road from A-1 to R-R for two home sites. The board agreed that two homes on four acres isn’t appropriate for the area. Allen provided the lone vote in favor of the request.

The commissioners approved a request by Joyce Raines, representing her mother, Bessie Hill, to rezone two acres of her 20.18-acre tract on Farm Road from A-2 to R-R to give to her daughter. The board also approved a request by Nickole Bloom to rezone two acres of her five-acre property from A-2 to R-R on Hardman Morris Road.

BOC to consider employee pay at Dec. 16 meeting

Madison County commissioners set aside $320,000 in the 2020 county budget to address employee pay.

They’ll talk about how they will distribute that at their upcoming Dec. 16 meeting at 6 p.m. in the county government complex.

The group briefly discussed the matter Monday, Dec. 2 during their monthly agenda-setting meeting. County commission John Scarborough said that a three-percent cost-of-living-salary increase is being considered for all full-time and regularly scheduled part-time employees. If approved, those across-the-board pay raises would leave about $110,000-to-$120,000 out of the $320,000 for individual pay increases for employees in multiple departments. The board didn’t discuss any particular jobs at Monday’s meeting.

Tax commissioner Lamar Dalton and probate judge Cody Cross both approached the board Monday in support of the cost-of-living raises, noting that the county has a lot of good workers. They also asked for consideration of increases for employees in their departments.

The board will consider several other matters Dec. 16, including the re-appointment of Conolus Scott and Terry Chandler to the planning commission, the renewal of beer and wine licenses for several county businesses and the selection of a BOC vice chairman.

Also Monday, the board discussed the recent fatal accidents on Hwy. 72 and agreed to ask the state to do something about improving safety on the state highway. Scarborough said several intersections in the county need attention in terms of safety. Commissioner Derek Doster said he would like to see crash data for dangerous intersections.

In another matter, Doster said he has been receiving a lot of input from citizens upset about the new biomass power plant in Colbert. He said county officials need to reach out to state and federal officials to educate themselves on the matter as much as possible. Scarborough reminded board members that a citizens group has scheduled a meeting for Dec. 5 at the high school cafeteria to hear from local scientists about the power plant issue. The chairman said that the plant is also in the process of getting equipment to help reduce the loud noise that comes from the facility.

In a separate matter, county officials have been trying to determine how to store new elections equipment, which will take up more space than previous equipment. Scarborough said the new equipment can be housed in a room at the sheriff’s office. Board of elections chairperson Tracy Dean has said she intends to keep the elections equipment at the elections office. She has noted that this is a decision of the board of elections, not the BOC.

Commissioner Brian Kirk said he would like for the BOC to draft a proclamation praising the high school for recent accomplishments, including the football team’s quarterfinal run in the Class AAAA playoffs.

Commissioner Lee Allen said he was saddened by the recent passing of state representative Jay Powell at a legislative retreat. (Madison County is represented by Alan Powell and Tom McCall in the House of representatives and Frank Ginn in the Georgia Senate.) Allen said Jay Powell was “one of the good guys” who did a lot to help the state.

Two men die within a day in separate wrecks at Hwy. 72 intersection

Two Colbert men were killed in separate accidents over the Thanksgiving holiday at the same intersection on Hwy. 72.

Randy Keith Woodruff Sr., 64, Colbert, died in a two-vehicle accident at approximately 7:08 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 28 on Thanksgiving night when he drove a 1998 Mitsubishi from Foote McClellan Road onto Hwy. 72 and into the path of a Chevrolet Suburban occupied by three people, who were treated for minor injuries, according to Madison County Coroner Julie Harrison.

Another accident happened less than 24 hours later at the same intersection on the Hardman Morris side of Hwy. 72. Thomas Lamar Palmer, 59, Colbert, was killed when he pulled his 1990 Chevrolet pickup into the path of a teenage driver traveling on Hwy. 72. That accident happened at 5:49 p.m., Nov. 29. The teenager suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the incident.

Harrison said that both men who died in the wrecks were not wearing seat belts.

Minish wins Comer council runoff

Laura Minish is the new Comer District 3 city council member. She defeated Tommy R. Appling in a Dec. 3 runoff by a 28-25 vote.

Minish also led the way in the three-person Nov. 5 election, but failed to get over 50 percent of the votes. She tallied 31 votes (49.2 percent). Appling was second with 26 votes (41.3 percent), while incumbent Howard Threlkeld received five votes (7.9 percent).

Clean Power Coalition to meet Dec. 5

The Madison County Clean Power Coalition has announced plans for a public informational meeting on the possible risks of burning used railroad ties by Georgia Renewable Power's biomass power plant in Colbert.

The meeting will be held Dec. 5 at the Madison County High School from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The Clean Power Coalition was recently formed by local residents who are upset by the change in fuel being burned at the power plant to include used railroad ties. According to Colbert resident Cheryl Adams, “The smell and smoke seeps into my house, causes my eyes, throat, and lungs to burn, and gives me disorienting headaches.”

Health hazards now top the list of concerns for residents and they are concerned about creosote runoff from the stacked ties. The Georgia Environmental Department published notice of the proposed change in The Atlanta Journal Constitution but not in the newspaper of record for Madison County, The Madison County Journal. Local residents were unaware of the proposal until after the comment period expired.

Organizers plan to have three local scientists speak at the meeting. Wendy Meehan holds a Masters of Public Health degree and will contrast what the community was promised by Georgia Renewable Power with the present reality. Dave Ramsey, also with a Masters in Public Health, will talk about the potential hazards from biomass plants as described by the American Lung Association and other health organizations. Finally, David Vogel, with a Doctorate in Biophysics, will describe the volatile compounds that can be found in emissions from burning crossties. A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation.

Madison County Clean Power Coalition members say they want residents of Madison County and surrounding counties to be aware of the health risks associated with living near a facility that burns railroad ties. According to Vogel, public pressure “may induce management of the plant to address some of these issues, but potential creosote emissions can only be eliminated by discontinuing use of the ties.” He adds that it is “illegal to burn used ties in the European Union, and in many other countries and states, and it was illegal in the U.S. from 2011 to 2016.”