|FRONT PAGE - AUGUST 18, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GA|
Back to the books Fri. for county students
Students across Jackson County will return to class Friday as another school year gets underway. A record enrollment of some 5,100 students are expected at the county's four schools.
New programs, new faculty members and other changes are in store for students Friday. For an in-depth look at what's new this year at Jackson County schools, see pages 6-9B. A calendar, meal prices and other stories are also included in this special four-page feature.
BOC may set tentative budget Fri.
BY ANGELA GARY
There's likely to be a lot of sharp pencils around the county's administrative offices later this week as officials begin setting a tentative budget for the year 2000.
Some $5 million in new spending has been requested by county departments, but the Jackson County Board of Commissioners is looking to cut that in order to keep tax rates the same as last year.
A called meeting has been set for 10 a.m. Friday and final action is expected to be taken on the preliminary budget. The final budget won't be set until later this year after officials know the size of the county's taxable digest.
Last year, the millage rate was 7.57 and officials expect a projected growth in the tax digest will cover the yearly salary increases in the proposed budget. But many other requests may or may not get funded.
"I want to make sure we're down to the needs," commissioner Pat Bell said.
One of the largest requests came from the road department where several pieces of new equipment are needed. The county is working with road superintendent Sam McClure to auction off current equipment and use the proceeds for the new equipment.
PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE
A proposed court order from the judges in the Piedmont Judicial Circuit for a $200,000 public defender's office was also discussed last week. BOC chairman Jerry Waddell said it "galls" him that the three Superior Court judges sent such an order to the county.
"If they want to order us to do this, I will," he said. "But I want the public to know."
The action was a "consent" order, meaning the county would have to agree before it would go into effect.
The board discussed allocating $100,000 for a public defender's office for the county. The BOC also discussed a possibility of refusing to accept $20,000 in state funds for the office from the indigent council fund. By doing that, the county won't have to meet state case load guidelines.
Tax commissioner Don Elrod once again appealed to the BOC to fund a new position for his office. He said the office already has problems with long lines and that would continue as more houses come to the county.
Other departments requesting more help were clerk of courts, recreation, probate judge, planning and development, sheriff's department and ambulance service.
CUB-JC REQUESTS FUNDS
A new request that was not discussed at earlier budget hearings came from Citizens United for a Better Jackson County which is asking for $25,000 to help pay legal fees to fight a private landfill in Arcade. Hilton Bik, a leader in the citizen's group, said Clarke County had already given $150,000 toward the cause. Jackson County also earlier gave $25,000 to the case.
But Waddell said county attorney Lane Fitzpatrick told him it would be illegal for county government to give money to a private organization. But commissioner Bell appeared more open to the idea.
"If there is any legal way to do so, I feel like we're obligated to do so," Bell said.
Waddell asked Bik to have his attorney forward the county a letter outlining how the BOC could legally provide funding to the citizen's group.
Peace Place, a group formed to locate a battered shelter in the county, has also requested some $10,000 in county funding.
Officials continue wreck probe
The Jefferson Police Department continued its investigation this week into a fatal wreck last Friday on Hwy. 129 north of town. Charged in the wreck was Johnny Sherwood Edmonson, 31, Monroe. Edmonson was charged with homicide by vehicle.
According to police reports, several large landscaping rocks fell off a flatbed tractor trailer traveling south on Hwy. 129 near Bell's Shopping Center. One of the rocks went through the windshield of a small north-bound station wagon and struck the driver, Kim Thi, before hitting her 5-year-old daughter Di Thi, who was riding in the backseat. Another child in the vehicle was uninjured.
A Phoenix Aircare medical helicopter flew the 5-year-old girl to Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta, where she later died. Kim Thi was transported by ambulance to Athens Regional Medical Center where she died earlier this week.
The truck that caused the accident, a 1995 Freightliner with a 48-foot flatbed trailer, had been loaded in Tennessee and was traveling to Watkinsville, where it was later found. The driver was apparently unaware of the wreck as he continued from Jefferson toward Watkinsville. While stopped in Jefferson at a red light just minutes after the wreck, one man motioned to Edmonson that some loose rocks were about to fall off the trailer of the truck. He pulled over a short time later to fix the loose rocks before continuing on to Watkinsville.
Herald - Jefferson, Georgia
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