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 FRONT PAGE - JANUARY 5, 2000 - COMMERCE, GA

Search / Jackson Co. Sex Offender Registry


Bob Sutton checks out the former Texfi sewage plant in Jefferson. He will operate the facility until bids can be taken for a permanent operator. Jackson County took over the plant Monday following a ruling by Judge T. Penn McWhorter.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Judge Rules For County In Water Wise Condemnation
By ANGELA GARY
JEFFERSON -- Jackson County is in the sewage business following a court order signed Friday by Superior Court Judge T. Penn McWhorter.
McWhorter agreed with the ruling by special master Greg Perry in the condemnation suit filed by the county against Water Wise for the old Texfi sewage plant in Jefferson. The county took over operation of the plant Monday.
Jackson County Board of Commissioners chairman Jerry Waddell led as county leaders, accompanied by a deputy, walked through the sewage plant Monday afternoon. A county employee had to cut the lock on the gate before the group could enter. That lock, along with one on a storage building and several others around the plant, was replaced. The county will also replace the fence around the facility this week.
"We've been expecting this," Waddell said. "We felt we had presented a good case (in the condemnation hearing). We had hoped for a smoother transition. Water Wise officials were invited here today."
Water Wise attorney Chris Elrod sent the county a letter Monday morning authorizing the county to take over the sewage plant and take any necessary steps, including cutting the lock and chain that secure the gate to the property. He added that Water Wise would remove the dialing system installed over the holiday weekend for emergency use.
Bob Sutton will operate the plant for the county on an interim basis until bids are taken.
Water Wise officials have not commented on the judge's order nor said how they will proceed. Elrod said Monday that no decision has been reached on whether the company will appeal McWhorter's ruling.
Perry had ruled that the county pay $1.5 million for the plant, but a jury trial will be held on this in March pending an appeal by Water Wise disputing the value of the facility. Elrod said that Water Wise plans to proceed with this appeal.
The judge ruled that the county did not act in bad faith in seeking to condemn the property, but he said some actions by both parties were "suspect."
"It is clear that this is not an attempt by Jackson County to block a noxious use, as it intends not to change the character of the facility and actually intends to expand the facility substantially," the ruling reads. "While the motives of the condemnors may have been mixed, the weight of the evidence adduced on this point indicates that the condemnors' basic motivation is to expand substantially the present facility for the public use of the people of Jackson County."
The judge also ruled that the city of Pendergrass' actions to contract with Water Wise in July 1999 violated state law. He said the law requires towns to evaluate any bids for such projects, including prior projects by the company.
"There is no evidence that Pendergrass complied with this mandatory code section," the judge wrote. "Therefore, the special master was correct in finding that the agreement between Pendergrass and Water Wise was not valid."
The judge also ruled that a quit claim deed filed by Pendergrass the day of the hearing was valid.


Some City Tax Bills For Elderly Have $100 Error
Several hundred elderly Commerce taxpayers should call City Hall before paying their 1999 city taxes. The call will save them almost $100, according to City Clerk Shirley Willis.
"The (billing company) made a mistake on the bills of people who have the school exemptions," Mrs. Willis stated. "These are people age 62 or older and who have less than $18,000 of earned income. They qualify for a $10,000 school exemption."
The company that prepared the city's tax bills gave exemptions of only $2,000 to $4,000, Mrs. Willis said.
In most cases, the mistake resulted in those taxpayers' bills being $99.90 too high.
"They need to contact me," said Mrs. Willis. "What I'm doing now is just recalculating them as they come in, and I've already recalculated 219 pages."
Commerce property tax bills are due Feb. 20.


Annexation Committee Meets Thursday
A committee looking into the possible annexation of large tracts of land on the west side of Commerce will have its organizational meeting Thursday night, and at least one vocal opponent plans to attend.
The committee, created because of interest from residents of Montgomery Shores, is charged with considering whether the city should annex all land between B Wilson Road and the city limits.
Members include Bob Sosebee, chairman, and Sam Brown, from the city council; William Studdard and Henry Slocum, city residents; and Drs. Sammy Thomason and Joe Griffeth, who live in the affected area. They will meet at 7:00 Thursday night in the conference room at city hall.
And Luther Beck will be there as well.
Beck, who owns land in the area that might be affected, had led the opposition two years ago when the city annexed by legislation all of the land inside the city bypass. The annexation succeeded, but was very controversial.
"They're going to do it again," Beck said recently.
That is not necessarily the case, contends Sosebee, at whose urging Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. appointed the committee.
Sosebee has said that if the residents of the area appear largely in favor of the annexation, the legislative method could be used. If there is significant opposition, an attempt would be made to merely annex the land of interested individuals through the "100 percent method," which means only land contiguous to the city limits.
Residents of Montgomery Shores have expressed a desire to enter the city, a move that would save them money on water bills, provide police protection and save them on ad valorem (property) taxes.
But there is opposition, and Beck is not alone in expressing it.
"I've got four or five people lined up (to attend the Thursday meeting) that are opposed to it," he said. "Of course, you never know how many will attend. I've talked with (Rep.) Scott Tolbert and talked with (Sen.) Eddie Madden, but at this point they don't know anything because the city has not contacted them."


ESCAPING YK2

Like Elsewhere, City Escapes Y2K Disaster
The new year, the 21st Century and the New Millennium crept into Commerce at midnight last Friday with a whimper. What was once billed as a possible debacle turned into the quietest New Year in recent history.
Citizens stayed home to watch the world's millennium celebrations - or maybe a football game ­ on television or, worse yet, drank coffee at offices throughout town, slaves to fears of the Y2K computer glitch that wasn't.
No sounds of The Jesters wafted out of the Civic Center. The Commerce Area Business Association's annual New Year's party/dance was canceled out of concern that so many people had Y2K responsibilities that no one would come.
When midnight passed, nothing happened. The streets of Commerce were mostly deserted, the exceptions being the cars of the Commerce Police Department, city utility department vehicles and even volunteers from the Commerce Fire Department.
The second crucial hour was at 1:00. Although news reports from around the world revealed no substantial Y2K problems in countries that had made nowhere near the preparation made in America, city employees and employees of several computer-dependent firms sipped coffee and awaited anxiously, just in case. Y2K problems would have turned up in computers at 12:00 a.m.; they would have showed up in the electrical system at 1:00, because Georgia Power operates its systems on Central Time.
But there were no more Y2K problems in Central Time than in Eastern Standard Time. The lights never flickered in the evening fog, and the 21st Century dawned without incident. Workers shut down their computers and went home. It was the quietest New Year's Eve in years.
"It was unusually quiet," agreed David Murphy, Jackson County E-911 director. "It is usually pretty busy on New Year's Eve, but it was not near as bad this year as what it has been in the past."
The same held true in Commerce.
"It was probably the quietest midnight on record. It was a non-event," said Police Chief George Grimes. "We made no arrests New Year's Eve at all. We had one little neighborhood problem. We talked to the people and they went back inside."
In City Hall, city manager Clarence Bryant drank coffee and watched computer monitors from about 11:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. City clerk Shirley Willis made backups of files before midnight, then brought the system back up after the witching hour "to verify that everything was running smoothly." Everything was.
So much for Y2K problems.



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