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FRONT PAGE - JANUARY 26, 2000 - JEFFERSON, GA

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TREES DOWN ACROSS COUNTY

The ice storm that hit Jackson County Saturday and Sunday left trees down throughout the area. Members of the Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department are shown around 10 a.m. Sunday sizing up a tree that had fallen over a utility line on the corner of the Brockton Loop and Brockton Road. They had been out since 5 a.m. clearing up debris from the storm.


WINTER WEATHER

Another wintry weekend?
Three-day snow storm predicted
BY ANGELA GARY
This weekend may look a lot like last weekend as forecasters predict a mix of sleet, snow and freezing rain. Only this time, the impact on Jackson County may be a lot worse.
The National Weather Service forecast predicts snow, sleet and freezing rain for north Georgia Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If the winter storm does hit, it would come after a week of extremely cold temperatures that have kept the ground and roads cold. The forecast predicts that temperatures would stay in the 30s during the wintry weekend.
Jackson County road superintendent Sam McClure said his crews will be ready for the ice and snow if it does return this weekend. He is getting all of the materials refurbished and resupplied and making plans for the next storm.
"We've already mounted our spreaders on our trucks and got our snow plows on," he said. "We are laying our battle plan and getting our crews lined up. It looks like it will be a long storm, so we will have to go to shifts and rotate them in and out."
McClure said he will be keeping a close watch on the weather forecast.
"It seems like each storm is a little different," he said. "The crew is doing pretty good. They rest up pretty quick. They've all been notified that it is coming and they will be prepared to come in. They will get as much rest as they can Wednesday night."

LAST WEEKEND
Predictions of another winter storm come on the heels of a winter weekend that left hundreds without power following a heavy dose of freezing rain and sleet that brought down power lines in north Georgia. Although a number of areas in the county were without power early this week, Jackson County escaped the worst damage. Other nearby counties were hit hard as trees and broken limbs took a toll on electric service. At one point Sunday, over 60 percent of Banks County residents were without electricity.
The Jackson County School System canceled classes Monday due to the power outages and weather conditions, but the Jefferson and Commerce school systems held classes on Monday.
Jackson County road department crews worked Saturday and Sunday to put sand and salt on the county roads and to remove trees and limbs. The crews first went out around 2 p.m. Saturday and worked through Sunday night.
"We were in pretty good shape just before daybreak on Sunday, as far as our roads go," said McClure. "We had worked on them all night and then the ice started freezing on the trees and about daylight Sunday, we had trees start to fall and we had to call everyone in again."
McClure said the crew and the volunteer firemen who assisted them did a good job during the storm.
"Everyone really did a good job," he said. "I'm really proud of them. We worked 15 to 20 hours each over Saturday and Sunday...We had a lot of help from the local fire departments. They pitched in and we certainly appreciate it."
McClure said that all of the roads were clear by Monday and most of the debris had been cleared away.
"We still have some debris adjacent to the roads," he said Monday afternoon. "We will be a day or two clearing and hauling it up. Some of the back roads have limbs leaning over them that we need to get."
Employees with the Georgia Department of Transportation worked 56 hours over the weekend clearing the state routes and interstates. Traffic signal technicians also worked to ensure that power was restored to traffic signals and that they were operating correctly.
"It is a thankless job to drive a dump truck at 3 o'clock in the morning on Hwy. 441, but our people did it and did it well," DOT commissioner Wayne Shackelford said.
911 CALLS INCREASE
E-911 director David Murphy said calls increased to his department over the weekend, but most were not emergencies. The department received 372 calls on Friday, which is average, but it jumped to 527 calls on Saturday and then to 820 on Sunday.
"Most of these calls were people asking about road conditions and power outages," Murphy said. "People wanted us to notify the power companies... What people don't realize is that we don't have any magic solutions or magic numbers to call the power companies and let them know services are out."
Murphy pointed out that people who call 911 with non-emergencies are taking time away from the dispatchers who could be needed for real emergencies.
"If someone actually had an emergency, they might not be able to get through," he said. "People need to remember not to use 911 to report their power outage or find out when it will come on. We have no idea."
Murphy said the department did get more wreck calls than usual over the weekend, but none were serious.
"We didn't even transport anyone from any of the accidents that we did have," he said. "Most of them were people who were sliding off of the road. No one was really injured."


GROWTH

Water Wise accepts $1.5 million for sewage plant
No word on when firm will build promised plant in Pendergrass
BY ANGELA GARY
Water Wise officials have apparently decided not to appeal a judge's order approving the condemnation suit filed by Jackson County on the former Texfi sewage plant in Jefferson.
The company accepted $1.5 million Friday from Jackson County for the plant. Jackson County leaders said this means that the company can't challenge the ruling. Water Wise attorney Chris Elrod said Tuesday that the company has not decided whether it would appeal the ruling, but he admitted that the law probably wouldn't allow such an action.
"I think it's fair to say that is probably what the law is on that," he said when asked if such an appeal would be legal.
Water Wise can apparently still appeal the value and seek more money from the county. If they do proceed with this, a court hearing would be held in March.
The company apparently kept $200,000 of the $1.5 million settlement with the remainder going to PrinVest, the New York firm which financed the project.
The county took operation of the sewage plant in early January and has been making minor repairs. Metcalf and Eddy, Inc. will operate the plant for the county on a temporary basis until bids are taken.
Throughout the legal maneuvering, Water Wise leaders said they would build a sewage plant in Pendergrass whatever the outcome of the Texfi case. But there have apparently been no efforts made toward doing that, nor any announcements made by the company on the Pendergrass project. Elrod said there has been no decision on when construction would begin on a sewage facility in Pendergrass.


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