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FRONT PAGE - AUGUST 11, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GA


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COMMUNITY

READY FOR SCHOOL

Chase Brooks gives his dad, Tim, a good-bye hug on his first day of school Friday at Jefferson Elementary School. He is a student in Judi Glenn's kindergarten class. Jefferson students began school two weeks earlier this year. Students in the Jackson County and Commerce School Systems start back Aug. 20.

SPLOST to be called Thurs.
But formula likely to be changed after request to pull courthouse from the funds
BY ANGELA GARY
Although the official call for a November referendum for a special local option sales tax is slated for Thursday, how those funds will appear on the ballot may be dramatically different than previously planned.
In a major shift, it appears as though funding for a new courthouse won't be part of the SPLOST vote. Previously, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners said they would commit up to 20 percent of the SPLOST for a new courthouse.
But this week, the committee formed to investigate and plan for a new courthouse called for the facility to be funded through future tax revenue and long-term financing instead of SPLOST funds.
The seven-member committee sent a letter to the board of commissioners this week following a work session two weeks ago at which several financing options were presented.
"Of the three options discussed at our last meeting with you, the project should be done through a lease/purchase arrangement with the Association of County Commissioners Georgia," the letter from the committee states. "A 20-year lease purchase option arrangement could be funded by growth in the tax digest with no new taxes. The committee members have worked hard and will continue to work hard to make sure that the courthouse as planned and designed will be built. Any action by the board short of the lease purchase option will receive less support."
The move was an apparent reaction to fears that voters would kill any SPLOST that included courthouse funding. At Thursday's meeting, the BOC is expected to divide the SPLOST between roads, water, recreation and fire protection needs.
County mayors have been invited to the meeting to give input on how they want the SPLOST revenue allocated. Chamber of commerce president Richard Cathey will speak at the meeting on promoting the SPLOST referendum.
Also on the agenda Thursday, will be the proposed 2000 budget. Budget hearings were held earlier this summer with department heads.

GOVERNMENT

EPD delays Water Wise permit move
Condemnation hearing set Fri.
BY ANGELA GARY
The private firm looking to build a sewer system in Jackson County has hit another roadblock - for now.
At a meeting with officials from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division last Thursday, Water Wise, Inc. squared off against a unified county leadership to debate whether the permit for the old Texfi waste water facility on Hwy. 11 in Jefferson should be transferred to the firm. State officials declined to transfer the permit to Water Wise until other issues related to the facility are settled.
Meanwhile, a condemnation hearing set last week on the matter was postponed until 9:30 a.m. Friday in the courthouse. It will continue Monday in the State Courtroom in the Administrative building.
The county condemned the old Texfi plant from Water Wise after realizing that if Water Wise did get a state EPD permit, a loophole in state law would allow it to have the power of condemnation in the county. County officials said they don't want a private firm to direct the county's future growth by having such unregulated authority. County leaders said they are now committed to providing sewer services in some unincorporated areas of Jackson County, primarily for commercial and industrial development.
EPD HEARING
EPD director Harold Reheis said he went into Thursday's meeting with the intent of transferring Water Wise a permit for the old Texfi waste water facility in Jefferson, but he apparently changed his mind after hearing from members of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, the Jefferson City Council and the Jackson County Water and Sewage Authority. Reheis compared the situation to a "hornet's nest that has gotten stirred up."
"Going into the meeting, I had thought the law says that I had to transfer the permit (from Texfi to Water Wise)," he said. "...The EPD is reluctant to go out into an area where a hornet's nest is still brewing."
Reheis said one of the first issues to be resolved before a decision is reached on the permit is who owns the Texfi sewerage plant in Jefferson. At the meeting, Water Wise owner Jerry Wickliffe said that he owns the facility. However, Pendergrass filed a motion earlier in the Jackson County courthouse claiming it owns the facility by virtue of a trust indenture signed with Water Wise. And an attorney for the Jackson County BOC said the county owns the plant by virtue of its condemnation process.
"That issue has got to be resolved before we can do this right," Reheis said of the confusion over who has proper control of the plant.
More than 30 Jackson County and Jefferson officials, along with Sen. Eddie Madden, attended the hearing in Atlanta. BOC chairman Jerry Waddell said a private sewage operation would not be in the best interest of the county.
"We think Jackson County needs to be in charge and control our own destiny," he told Reheis.
Gainesville attorney Julius Hulsey, along with other county and city officials, also asked the EPD to deny transferring the permit to Water Wise.
Pendergrass mayor Mark Tolbert, attorneys Walter Harvey and Chris Elrod and Wycliffe asked that the permit be issued. Wycliffe said his company would only provide sewage service to areas zoned for it.
"We don't want to control growth in Jackson County," he said. "We just want to offer sewage in areas zoned for it."
Reheis also said that he wants to review House Bill 489 before taking any action on the permit request. Jackson County and Jefferson leaders said that allowing Pendergrass to take over the Texfi facility would violate HB 489.
"If by transferring a permit, I would be breaking another state law, I don't want to do it," Reheis said.
Hulsey said: "It (giving Water Wise the permit) totally does away with the agreement under HB 489 that Pendergrass signed off on. They say tongue and cheek that they're not interested in controlling growth but everyone knows that if you put lines in, that's where the growth goes. Water and sewer control where growth goes."
But Elrod said it is not a duplication of services because Jackson County doesn't provide sewage service.
"I challenge anyone to tell me it is a duplication of services when Jackson County doesn't even have sewage," he said.
Reheis asked everyone involved in the matter to work further on a solution before asking the EPD to issue the permit.
"You need to work among yourselves to come up with a win-win solution," he said. "...I would encourage everyone here to try one more time, to take a cooling off period and then see if there is a middle ground. Try one more time instead of letting the EPD sort all this out. We would like to see peace."
In the meantime, Reheis said the EPD would review all documents submitted Thursday by the county on the matter. He also told Water Wise officials they could submit any relevant materials.
INFRASTRUCTURE

Jefferson sewer capacity almost full
Expanding spray field an option, but cost could run to $300,000
Growth in Jefferson may soon come to a screeching halt unless the city can find a way to expand its in-town sewer capacity.
That problem came to a head Monday night as the Jefferson City Council considered a rezoning request for a 160-home subdivision along Peachtree Road. The project would be an extension of Peachtree Estates and is proposed to have 20,000-square-foot lots and homes of 1,000 square feet.
But the council tabled action on the matter after learning that the city's in-town sewer capacity was almost used up. With the town's old oxidation pond and one spray field, the total daily capacity available is 330,000 gallons. But already 287,000 gallons per day is being used and the city has committed to take another 23,000 per day from the west side of town, a commitment that includes Jackson County Comprehensive High School. In addition, the town is committed to take Phase 3 of Holder's Mill subdivision along Holder Siding Road with some 43 lots planned.
"We cannot accept this (the proposed subdivision) until we install the other two spray fields," said councilman Jack Seabolt. Seabolt later said he believed the city needs a subdivision moratorium until the sewer issue can be resolved.
The city does have room to expand its spray field and is permitted up to 800,000 gallons per day. But the cost of building a second spray field is estimated to be around $300,000. In addition, city leaders said the Peachtree Road project might also require a lift station to the tune of $160,000.
Real estate agent Ron Bond, who spoke on behalf of developer Hugh McGinnis, said he was "surprised" by the information about the limited sewer capacity.
"We've done everything we know to do," he said.
Bond also alluded to remarks last week at a Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce meeting that the county needed more low cost affordable housing to lure residents away from mobile homes.
"I wish we could work something out," said council member Marcia Moon, whose ward covers the Peachtree Road area. "This would bring something nice to our area. It would be an improvement to the community."
The sewer limitations do not affect the I-85 area of Jefferson which uses a different spray field than that used in the downtown area.
In other business, the Jefferson council:
·approved instructing beer and wine merchants that city ordinances do not require them to sack such beverages unless asked to do so by a customer.
·approved allowing Gene Yearwood to erect flags and cross across from city all on Memorial Day next year.
·approved a four-way stop at the intersection of Elder Drive, Martin Street, Deerwood Lane and Westmoreland Drive.
·agreed to increase Larry Embrick's pay scale to the next level.
·approved insurance benefits for city employees who retire with 30 years of service or at age 62 with at least least 15 years of service.


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