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July 4, 2002

Philippa Denny helped save and frame Louisville United Methodist Church's WWII service flag.

Church protects service flag

By Parish Howard

During World War II the families of men and women who were away from home in service to their country hung tiny flags in their windows, flags with red borders, white backgrounds and stars.

The stars signified the loved one-blue for servicemen and women, gold for those who died protecting their country's freedoms.

Some families had one star, some had four or five. Louisville United Methodist Church had 57.

"I wasn't here to see it at the time," said local historian Philippa Denny of Louisville. "I was in Savannah at the time doing my part in the war effort. But there are people who remember the church's flag. Veterans who were overseas who remember getting letters about it, about their stars."

The flag was created by hand by Sunday School Superintendant Eleanor Clark Farmer, Denny said. It was dedicated on May 9, 1943.

"She had two sons in the service," Denny said. "My sister and brother were there."

Most families had invested loved ones in the war.

After the war the flag, a large version of the banners families across the United States were displaying, was folded up and stuck in a closet.

"I found it," Denny said. "Once we got a historical room at the church I put it in there. And there it sat for six or seven years."

It has only been in the last few months that the church's finance committee and administrative counsel agreed to pay for the flag to be framed and protected.

This past Sunday, the sabbath before the country will celebrate its independence, the flag was put on display for the first time before the congregation in its new frame.

"A lot of local churches had them," Denny said. "I believe the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has had one on display for a long time. We were blessed, all of our stars are blue."

She meant that none of the churches' members serving in that war were killed in action.

About a month ago, on the church's heritage Sunday, Denny pinned the fading, fraying flag to the choir loft curtains and told the congregation about its history.

"I looked around and realized that most of the people there weren't even born when this flag was made," she said. "The preacher was only 3-years-old."

She told them about the church's history, about the history of the flag and the people it represented.

The original service flag contained only 29 stars signifying active members of the United States Armed Forces and members of the church. Later other stars were added.

"It's a part of our church's history," Denny said. "It's something we should be proud of. So many old things like this just get thrown away. We need hold on to them. We need to remember."

After the holiday the flag will be put on permanent display in the church's fellowship hall.

Commission adopts tentative budget

New budget reflects a $577,000 or six percent increase

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Increases in funding for the Roads Department, the old and new landfills and wage hikes for county employees accounted for the highest dollar increases in the FY 2002-2003 tentative budget adopted June 26 by Jefferson County commissioners. The $9.423 million tentative budget represents a $577,000 increase, or six percent, over the $8.846 million budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Budget categories receiving the greatest increases included the Roads Department at approximately $287,000, the old and new landfills at $180,000 and wage increases of $130,000. Though a number of departments saw their budget fluctuate up or down over last year, the Buildings budget decreased by $135,000 because renovations were completed at various offices in the courthouse and at the old National Guard armory and the Administration budget decreased by $63,000, largely due to the finance officer included in last year's budget being deleted this year.

The $287,000 increase in the Roads Department budget was due primarily to the addition of five employees and two corrections officers assigned to the department, said County Administrator James Rogers. More than one-third of the increase, nearly $100,000, comes from debt service on equipment purchases.

A combined total of $180,000 added to the old and new landfill budgets was included to help offset both the higher than anticipated expenses that have been incurred since the new facility opened in January 1999 and the amount of subsidization that has increased recently as the county remediates deficiencies required at both facilities by Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Chairman Gardner Hobbs said the commission is hoping to get recommendations in the near future from the citizen-based landfill committee on one or more ways to offset the increasing costs associated with operating the new landfill.

Another area reflecting a significant increase, yet spread throughout the budget, is three and one-half percent salary increases for county employees that total $130,000 across all departments. Rogers told commissioners that wages account for 39 percent of the total budget.

Commissioner Wynder Smith questioned the steady increase in the budget during the past several years. He referenced the current property revaluation and advised caution in formally adopting the budget once the tax digest is approved unless every consideration is made to minimize the burden on property owners.

"I'll go along with the tentative budget," said Smith. "Even though we are not talking about raising the millage rate, our property values are still going up and we would have to pay more taxes. At six percent, we're talking about roughly $600,000. Every year for the last five or six years there have been increases and there's got to be a stopping point somewhere. If we've got to have the money to (operate), then okay. But let's spend our money wisely."

Offering a different perspective, Commissioner Tommy New said that the average property owner still receives a good deal in county services compared to the amount of taxes paid. He gave an example of an $800 tax bill for a house on an acre of land.

"Half of the taxes goes to the school board," he said. "Then divide up what you get for the rest. You get a hospital, you get police protection, you get paved roads, you get a place to put your garbage. It comes out to be a pretty good bargain."

Referring to commissioners' inability to formally adopt the budget until the county's tax digest is completed and approved, Rogers said circumstances during the interim time period or during the fiscal year may require budget amendments.

"This budget is tentative," said Rogers. "We've amended this year's budget (FY 2001-2002) and we will likely have to amend this one. It's not a firm budget yet until the tax digest is approved. It is tentative with estimated revenues and estimated expenses."

An item not included in the tentative budget was the allocation for an animal control facility proposed and agreed to earlier this year. Rogers said Monday that the commission has not yet met with mayors around the county to solicit their assistance in funding the facility.

"I don't think it should be a 100 percent county cost," he said.

Hobbs agreed that the cities should be involved and said that the issue will be brought up at the next meeting of the mayors and the county.

Also during the meeting, Hobbs said commissioners might consider beginning the budget process earlier next year in preparation for the FY 2003-2004 budget.

He said the scope of county's financial needs should be more clearly defined in the near future with the establishment of a five-year Capital Expenditures Budget.

Hobbs praised the involvement of department heads in preparing their budgets for submission to the board. Department heads were given responsibility for developing their respective budgets during the FY 2001-2002 budget cycle. This is not the board's budget, it is the organization's budget, he said.

"There are some struggles when you deal with this participatory thing," said Hobbs. "Some times people are slow, sometimes there is apathy or indifference, but in the long haul I think we are better off for doing it this way."

Responding to remarks indicating that some department heads were more adept at preparing budgets, Commissioner Isaiah Thomas suggested that those managers assist those less adept in preparing budgets in a training or mentoring capacity next year.

In doing so they could provide follow-up to the training provided by consultant Mike Jackson in 2001 and would help facilitate a higher level of overall competency throughout county government.

Thomas also called for the commission to be continuously aware of the financial needs of the county compared to the amount of taxes the board asks property owners to bear.

Rogers said Monday that copies of the tentative budget are available upon request at the commission office in Louisville.

County 911 emergency response equipment to get upgrade

New equipment will include technology that will be able to trace a cell phone call to within feet

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Jefferson County Commissioners approved a proposal for FY 2002-2003 that will facilitate the required upgrade of the county's 911 system, replacing antiquated equipment that has not been upgraded since being installed in the early 1990s and cannot perform needed functions such as locating a cell phone user in distress.

"The new equipment will help us locate people when they need help," said county administrator James Rogers. "The commissioners recognized the need to have current, up-to-date systems to help serve the citizens adequately."

Commissioners decided to lease the systems rather than purchasing them.

The lease will provide three dispatcher stations compared to the two stations now in use. The lease price will include a one-time charge of $20,265 and approximately $3,000 additional per month over the $5,000 currently being expended to provide 911 services. An outright purchase of the systems would cost more than $200,000.

The upgrade will comply with increasing state and federal standards for 911 services. Counties and municipalities providing 911 services that fail to comply with the new standards by July 2003 will no longer be able to receive their portion of the surcharge currently charged to cell phone users.

The equipment currently in use no longer meets the requirements in the United States, said 911 Director James Cox. The new systems do meet the requirement for 911 equipment to convert to routing through an Internet Service Provider. The systems will feature Phase 1 and Phase 2 capabilities for locating cell phones. This capability, said Cox, is important when a cell phone user either at home or traveling needs assistance but is unable through accident or injury to communicate the need. Phase 1 capability, which will be operational through Bell South in July 2003 can narrow the location to within two and one-half miles of the phone. The new system, also outfitted with Phase 2 technology, can narrow the locations to within 150 feet of the phone's location. the county will activate the Phase 2 feature as soon as Bell South brings it on line.

Once installed in the fall, the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system will integrate nearly all functions of 911 dispatchers and is linked to the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) and National Crime Information Center (NCIC). CAD will also interface with a range of databases including wireless, alarm systems, wrecker services, response unit paging and has integrated TDD capability for callers with hearing impairment.

An important feature built-in to the systems will be the ability to locate a cell phone user who can call 911 but is unable to communicate his location. Once Bellsouth completes the required upgrade of its equipment dispatchers will be able to narrow the source of the call to a two and one half mile area and eventually to an area of 150 feet.

The Records Management System (RMS) component enables the dispatcher to enter, track and manage all cases, citations, arrests, incidents and crimes. The system is also capable of conducting crime analysis such as crime trends and analysis for staffing and personnel usage. The system performs various information storage and retrieval functions. The volume of information generated from the thousands of calls per year will be computerized rather than having to be maintained on hard copies. That feature will free up the need for a large volume of constantly increasing storage space, said Cox. He said maintaining the information generated by 911 for the required two years currently occupies more space than is now being used by dispatchers and equipment.

The 911 Center serves all county fire departments, Rural Metro ambulance service, Marshal's Department, Forestry Service, state Department of Motor Vehicles when inside the county and all law enforcement agencies in the county, except for Wrens Police.

The new 911 equipment will be moved to the Jefferson County Law Enforcement Center once the facility is built. There will be no charge for moving the systems if the county decides to lease a fourth dispatcher station.

Cox said upgrading the 911 system to meet requirements by state and federal agencies accomplishes the need to be stewards of taxpayers' money while enabling emergency services to serve the growing number of residents throughout the county who use cell phones either for mobile communication or as their primary phone service at their homes.

"This is the most cost effective way I can think of to serve Jefferson County," said Cox. "I don't know how we could justify not moving forward with this system. Without it there is no way to locate cell phone users."

Glascock County receives $630,000 reading grant

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A two-pronged approach designed to enhance children's reading skills and promote a literacy-rich environment in the home is the objective of a $630,000 Reading Excellence Act Grant presented to Glascock County Consolidated School for the 2002-2003 school year.

Superintendent Dorothy Reynolds said the overall goal of the grant is to be sure that on completion of the third grade each child is reading at grade level or above. Though the third grade level is used as the benchmark, she said the grant parameters extend the program through the fifth grade to help insure continued results in reading.

"This is a way to use proven methods from scientific research to insure that no child will be left behind in reading," said Reynolds.

GCCS was one of 45 schools statewide to receive the grant. Funds will be used for reading instruction, professional development and family literacy. Assisting teachers in applying new strategies in the classroom are University of Georgia researcher Dr. Steven Stahl and Georgia Southern University researcher Dr. Michael McKenna. Both educators are nationally recognized and often work in tandem in the classroom and as authors, said Reynolds. She said McKenna will be present at GCCS one full day per week for the next two years to assist with the implementation of the grant program while Stahl will provide follow-along assistance at the school on a periodic basis.

Reynolds said staff members Sandra McAlister and Reading Specialist Cindy Holton will direct the two components of the grant at GCCS. Holton was hired to serve grades K-5 and will work with students, teachers and parents to implement and evaluate the program with research-based curricula and methodology.

McAlister will direct the family literacy component, coordinating a two-generation project designed to assist parents and local childcare providers by establishing a literacy-rich environment for children from birth through age 8. McAlister will also work with parents to enroll them in GED, post secondary and parenting classes. An unusual feature of the grant provides funds for instruction on reading readiness for the staff of the county's three daycare centers and for the purchase of books and instructional supplies, said Reynolds.

As part of the professional development portion of the grant, GCCS Pre-K through 5th grade teachers are involved in a two-year training program taught by McKenna. Reynolds said the elementary grade faculty will complete three graduate-level reading instruction courses. Teachers will choose from a menu of research-based strategies and materials. Reynolds said the courses will be taught in Glascock County, where McKenna will continue to work with teachers through May 2004 to insure that instructional methods and evaluation procedures are successfully implemented.

"They are quite knowledgeable about what works and what doesn't," McKenna said of the teachers he has already begun working with. "They are open to new ideas that can help them and they are extremely resourceful in seeking them out. Unlike many of the schools I serve, the teachers here are already in great shape. Our aim is to help them fine tune their approaches and help them add a few new ones."

Stahl is Co-director of the University of Michigan-based Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA), a national research center focusing on the acquisition of reading skills in children. McKenna has authored six books and more than 70 articles on a variety of aspects of reading instruction. Both researchers recently collaborated to author a book on reading assessment.

Reynolds said parents who have concerns about their child's reading achievement should contact Cindy Holton at GCCS at (706) 598-2291. Those who wish to participate in the family literacy program should contact Sandra McAlister at (706) 598-3053.

Bartow develops Internet website

Bartow is one of the county's first municipalities to find a home on the Internet

By Elizabeth Howard

The city of Bartow has recently unveiled its new website, promoting the many attractions of the small town.

"We may be small," said Mayor Hubert Jordan, "but we think we have a lot going on and want people to know about us."

The website includes information on Bartow's rich history and current life. Coverage of Schoolhouse Players' productions, the Speir's Turnout Festival and reunions can also be found.

The site includes a town tour, restaurants and upcoming events. It will be kept current and the town's council welcomes suggestions concerning other information that should be included.

"I think this is a brilliant way to promote all the wonderful things going on in the city of Bartow,"Brad Day, president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, said of the website. "I admire the initiative of the Bartow city council and the Bartow mayor."

The site can be accessed at http://bartowga.tripod.com/.

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Last modified: July 3, 2002