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October 14, 2004 Issue

Celebrating 100 years The Jefferson County Historical Society celebrated the Jefferson County Courthouse's 100th birthday Sunday, Oct. 10. The upstairs courtroom was packed for a presentation on the life and works of Willis Franklin Denny II, the Louisville born architect who designed the courthouse after building quite a name for himself in the Macon and Atlanta areas. The very visual presentation was given by Tommy Hart Jones, an architectural historian with the National Park Service. According to Jones, the courthouse, completed in 1904 just a year before the architect died, bears several examples of styles and motifs distinctive of Denny's work in Atlanta. Denny's first building design, described as a gift for his mother, was for the Louisville Baptist Church which once stood at the corner of Walnut and Seventh streets. Denny may be best known as the designer of Rhodes Hall in Atlanta, but in his time he also designed a number of grand hotels, impressive churches, commercial buildings and impressive homes. A number of Denny's decendents were in attendance, including his granddaughter, Ms. Philippa Denny, currently of Louisville. For more on the history of the Jefferson County Courthouse see next week's edition.

Other Top Stories
School board opposes sale
Glascock commissioners seek SPLOST extension

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School board opposes sale

• Unanimously board votes to request county's closing of landfill and give up permit

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Members of the Jefferson County School Board took an unusual stand Oct. 6 when they cast a unanimous vote making a request that Jefferson County commissioners permanently close the county landfill and give up the permit to operate the facility. They cited the landfill’s close proximity to Jefferson County High School and future potential of becoming a regional landfill as reasons for their action.

Though elected boards rarely mix in the affairs of other boards, the school board said they were compelled to make their feelings on the future of the county landfill known. While county commissioners say today that they will not sell the landfill to a company that will turn it into a regional business, another board might not hold to the same opinion. And once sold, the landfill would out of necessity increase in size dramatically.


“Elections are held every two years. We don’t know what the future holds and we don’t know what another commission might do,” said Superintendent Carl Bethune. “It may be an emotional issue but, the truth is, nobody wants to live next to a trash dump. The citizens of this county built Jefferson County High School and they have a lot of money invested in it. Their children who attend the school and the 100 people that work there should not be forced to do so next to a very large trash dump, something that could easily happen.”

The school board had asked county administrator Paul Bryan to meet with them at the Oct. 6 called meeting to provide what information, if any, that might help them understand the current and future status of the landfill. Bryan provided an encapsulated view of some of the discussion between commissioners and landfill engineering consultants, sketched some of the possibilities for the facility and acknowledged, as he had done at the commission’s September regular session, that an unofficial offer for the facility had been made. Bryan advised the school board that his comments were necessarily limited since he could only offer fact-based input to the commission.

“I don’t recommend anything,” Bryan said. “I present the facts and let the board make the decisions. When I present information, I try not to jaundice that information with personal opinion.”

Bryan added that he appreciated the school board’s concern and its position regarding the resolution. The school board’s position, he said, should be made to the commission. You are our neighbors and the protectors of our children, he said.

At the end of the meeting, the school board voted unanimously in favor of the resolution. The text of the resolution read: “The citizens and taxpayers of Jefferson County are owners of a consolidated high school worth in excess of $12,000,000. The value of the education received there for generations of students to come and who are themselves the future of Jefferson County is incalculable. While the Board of Education is certainly sensitive and sympathetic to the county’s need to generate revenue from some source other than property taxes, the idea of converting to a regional landfill is one not deserving of serious consideration. No one wants to live near such an entity nor should their children be required to attend school in such a location. The risk to students and faculty is at best unknown and at worst immense. It could well result in abandonment of a building approved and paid for by taxpayers and which is second to none. Therefore the Board of Education respectfully request that the Jefferson County board of Commissioners formally and publicly vote to cease any negotiations or discussions with any entity wishing to build a regional landfill in proximity to Jefferson County High School and, to settle the issue once and for all, we ask for a vote to permanently close the landfill and give up the permit. The present commission may not be considering selling the landfill, but no one can predict what decision may be made in the future.”

Chairman Jimmy Fleming said the school board wanted to be clear that they adopted the resolution based on the knowledge that the county’s fiscal condition can change over a period of years, conditions that might necessitate selling the facility. He added that the location of the landfill, established after the high school, would be highly problematic if it became a regional landfill located so close to the high school.

“Our intention with this resolution is not to tell the commission how to run the county’s business,” Fleming said. “The issue with the landfill is a money-driven issue, not just now, but for the future. From our standpoint it is a matter of the safety of our students and employees and the belief that the landfill is in the wrong place to become a regional landfill if a future board of commissioners decided to sell it.”

Glascock commissioners seek SPLOST extension

• Money will be used to complete the court-ordered renovation of the county's courthouse

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Glascock County commissioners are faced with finding a way to fund the court-ordered renovation of the county courthouse. The history of their attempt to satisfy the court revolves around a public referendum five years ago where residents gave overwhelming support to fund a one-percent sales tax to upgrade the facility. Not having collected sufficient funds for the project, commissioners will include an extension of the sales tax on the November ballot.

The five-year collection period for the one-percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) expires in April. When commissioners put the measure out to a public vote in five years ago they included a $1.5 million ceiling. Now at the end of the five-year collection period, revenues are expected to reach only half the desired amount. Discussed on numerous occasions in past months, commissioners confirmed their decision at the Oct. 5 monthly meeting to have the placed on the November ballot with the hopes of extending the sales tax in order to generate enough revenue to compete the project. With only $700,000 of the probable $1 million likely to be collected by the end of the period, commissioners said they felt the only fair way to raise the additional funds needed would be to ask voters to extend the tax.


“Six years ago we did a feasibility study on renovating the courthouse after the superior court ordered improvements,” Dixon said. “The estimate at that time was $750,000 to complete the project. The one-percent tax was voted in overwhelmingly by county voters and, by the end of the five-year collection period in April, we will have raised approximately $700,000. The initial bid for the renovation project came in at just over $1 million, leaving us short of having enough money to do the renovation.”

Commissioners agreed in conversations during and after the Oct. 5 meeting that they had only two options to complete the mandated renovation. Because any new bid will doubtless hit the $ 1 million range, commissioners said there is no rational choice other than asking voters to extend the current one-percent tax.

“As commissioners, we have two choices,” Dixon said. “We can borrow the remaining money needed for the renovation and have taxpayers bear that expense or we can put an extended one-percent sales tax measure on the ballot. It’s the only fair tax because everybody pays and it prevents placing an undue burden on county property owners.”

At the meeting, Glascock resident Pat Burkett told commissioners there was a misunderstanding among some county voters regarding the wording of the referendum and the need to borrow, at interest, the amount of money needed to complete the renovation beyond what has already been collected. Commissioners read the referendum notice and agreed that town meetings would be helpful in explaining the status of the project, the need to extend the one-percent sales tax and the rationale to borrow the balance required to do the renovation work.

Commissioners scheduled town meetings on the courthouse renovation at 7 p.m. on Oct. 18 and Oct. 21 at the temporary courthouse at the old school in Gibson.

Commissioners said any funds collected beyond those needed to fund the renovation would be used for work on other county buildings or roads.

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Last modified: October 13, 2004