HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced that Halloween on Hiawassee Square may be relocated to the Towns County Courthouse grounds in order to feature a new addition to the well-loved annual event: A haunted house attraction at the historic Old Rock Jail.
Ordiales revealed that the City of Hiawassee is collaborating with Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Towns County Historical Society President Sandra Green on the notion. The festivities are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 31.
Traditionally, the event has taken place on town square. Hiawassee City Council, along with Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, voiced agreement with the slight shift in venue due in part to parking issues. The relocation will free the parking spaces surrounding the square that were dedicated to candy booths in years’ past, potentially reducing the swarm of trick-or-treaters trekking across Main Street from business parking lots.
While the plans for the haunted house and venue change were not firmly solidified by Mayor Ordiales as of Monday, Sept. 24, Commissioner Bradshaw stated no objection to to the plans.
The Old Rock Jail is located adjacent to the Towns County Courthouse, with renovation to the 1936 stone jail recently completed through the efforts of the Towns County Historical Society. The two-story site serves as a museum, featuring artifacts and photographs, and is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment.
Scarecrows, created by area businesses, are set to begin “invading” Hiawassee Town Square on Oct.1, staked thoughout the month.
A list of autumn activites in the Hiawassee area is available from FetchYourNews.com
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith advised citizens to be on the lookout for counterfeit bills that could be circulating in the area. Smith delivered his department’s monthly update during Monday’s council work session at City Hall.
Smith received a call from United Community Bank earlier in the day, stating that the branch had received several counterfeit bills with Japanese script printed on the rearside. Smith presented a counterfeit $20 bill that the police department had on file as an example of what to potentially look for. While some counterfeiters produce shoddy replicas, other fraudulent bills can be more difficult to detect.
“Sometimes what they’ll do is take actual dollar bills, and bleach them, and then print on top of them so they feel like a real bill,” Smith said, “Take a good look at the money before you accept it.”
Smith suggested holding bills against a light source to check for the embedded security strip, or using a counterfeit banknote detection pen to determine authenticity.
At the beginning of the report, Smith recapped the manhunt which took place in the vicinity of Upper Bell Creek Road the previous week. What began as a traffic stop initiated by Hiawassee Police Department led to a multi-agency search, the capture of two fleeing suspects, four arrests, and the recovery of stolen firearms. “It was a happy ending to a stressful three days,” the police chief concluded.
In addition, Chief Smith relayed that the department had recently received an anonymous, hand-written letter stating that an individual residing within the community has been driving under the influence of alcohol on a daily basis, with the author inquiring as to why the agency is allowing the habit to occur. Smith said that due to the appreciated information, he is now aware of the situation, and his agency can investigate the matter.
“We don’t get to see everything,” Smith explained, “There’s a thousand cars going through here at any given time so it’s hard to pick out that one car that might be drunk. So if you see something, please let us know. If you’re aware of something that’s going on, please let us know. You don’t have to make a formal report or anything. You can send an anonymous letter.”
As residents exited the meeting, several stopped to shake the chief’s hand, thankful for his department’s service to the community.
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HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Today, August 1, marks the one-year anniversary of the appointment of Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, and FYN sat down with the law enforcement official to discuss his year-long journey.
Chief Smith began his law enforcement career in Cobb County, Georgia, serving as an officer for three years prior to transferring to the Towns County Sheriff’s Office in 2009. Smith attended Towns County Comprehensive, Young Harris College, Kennesaw State University, and Cobb County Department of Public Safety, and has been with the Hiawassee Police Department since 2010. Smith accepted an assignment as acting police chief of the agency five months prior to his official appointment on August 1, 2017.
Chief Smith shared that an affinity for community service spurred his decision to enter law enforcement.
“I grew up a community orientated family, doing litter clean-up together and things like that,” Smith said, “I had been in Boy Scouts from a young age, was an Eagle Scout, and began considering law enforcement in high school. Giving to the community, it had been a memorable part of my life, and becoming an officer was an extension that I could build on.”
The Hiawassee native says his goals for the department include “continuing to technically advance into the 21st century” while maintaining a “professional, positive community presence.” Smith recently revised the agency’s operations manual, which lists expectations of respect for citizens, officer integrity, commitment to service, and a strive for excellence among its mission.
Furthermore, Smith aspires to complete his degree in Criminal Justice. “I’m a few classes short. Cobb County came calling before I graduated. I took classes after the academy, but it was difficult to find any that worked with my schedule. That’s a personal, short-term goal of mine, to finish my degree now that online classes are more prevalent.”
Smith is proving to be a respected leader, highly-visible and easily approachable, available to address citizen concerns, and provide useful information to the public. When not actively enforcing the law and preserving the peace, Smith regularly steps in to offer other forms of service. Whether its shopping with local children during the holiday season, providing car seats to parents in need, ensuring that city activities go as planned, or taking on the responsibility of emptying trash cans on the town square during events, the humble public servant is an appreciated asset to the community.
As part of continuing education and training in the administration of law enforcement, Smith recently attended the 2018 Annual Summer Training conference, sponsored by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. Heads of law enforcement agencies from over 550 departments throughout the state participated in the Savannah conference. “It was informative. There was a series of classes on different subjects, and though some were geared toward larger agencies, the conference provided a good opportunity to network with other departments,” Smith said.
Additional articles related to Chief Smith are available.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hayesville Mayor Harry Baughn was invited to address the Mountain Movers and Shakers on the morning of Friday, July 13, and the city official cited several similarities between Hayesviile and Hiawassee. Situated north of Towns County, Hayesville is the county seat of Clay County, North Carolina.
Elected in 2013, Baughn is serving his second-term in office, and says he believes he will be able to accomplish his goals within the next three-and-a-half years, with no plans to run for a third-term seat.
“Our towns are comparable,” Baughn began, “We each have our own specialties, and our own wonderful places to be. Hiawassee has Music on the Square one night, and we have Music on the Square another night, so we do have some similar things.”
Baughn said one of his proudest accomplishments since election was the construction of public restrooms. “One of the first things I did after taking office – and it’s probably going to be my legacy – was building a set of public restrooms. That has been a big deal in downtown Hayesville. It is right next door to town hall.” Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, who did not attend Friday’s forum, voiced ambition for public restrooms at a city council meeting months prior.
Baughn spoke of the importance of “walkability” in small towns, describing the placement of sidewalks in Hayesville, and the necessity of sufficient parking. Baughn said that an additional 24 parking spaces were recently added to downtown Hayesville, and the City of Hayesville partnered with business owners to replace worn awnings on storefronts to make the ambiance more appealing.
“Business development, the other important thing in small town survivalability,” Baughn stated, “We’ve been doing economic development during my administration, and we’ve gotten quite a number of new businesses downtown. If you’ve not been to the Valley River Brewery and Eatery, home of the famous wood-fired brick oven pizza, 15 craft brews – and right now is Wednesday, Wacky Wednesday – that you can get up to five toppings for $14.99, and I highly recommend the Mayor’s Pizza.” The crowd laughed in response.
Baughn continued, listing additional businesses that have opened in Hayesville within the past two years, such as a home décor shop, a children’s’ boutique, a computer repair store, a pet shop, and a tap house. The city official noted that Clay County Chamber of Commerce relocated to downtown Hayesville. Baughn included that a new Italian restaurant opened for business last week, and an additional restaurant and brewery plans to open its doors in August.
Baughn said that Hayesville hopes to gain an updated post office in the near future, which was a recent topic of discussion at a Hiawassee Town Hall meeting, designed for strategic city development planning. Baughn expressed hope of acquiring a recognizable “name brand hotel” in Clay County in order to to draw visitors to his town, claiming that many Hayesviile tourists choose to lodge in Hiawassee.
The mayor concluded by encouraging citizens to visit Clay County’s newly-renovated historic courthouse which towers above Hayesville’s town square. The majestic structure was originally constructed in 1888, and it functioned as the county courthouse until 2007. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 21.
“In addition to building the bathrooms, one of the things I’m proud of is wrestling (the courthouse) away from the county since they didn’t care about it,” Baughn revealed, “When they abandoned it, they needed to get rid of all of the wood in there because of the deterioration. When they took out the door frames and stuff, they weren’t really careful. I mean, they took sledgehammers, so basically there were round holes in the brick walls where there used to be doors. But at least they were willing. They deeded the courthouse and the square over to the town of Hayesville. It is leased to the CCCRA (Clay County Communities Revitalization Association) so that they could go after grant money.” Baughn explained the toiled effort involved in the restoration of the historic site, singing the praises of those who partook in process.
Hiawassee City Councilwoman Anne Mitchell, and Hiawssee Police Chief Paul Smith attended the Mountain Movers and Shakers meeting, held weekly at Sundance Grill.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On June 18, 2018, the Hiawassee Police Department stopped a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier for operating without a license plate. Towns County Dispatch had also given a “lookout” for the vehicle after it had been reported as driving recklessly. A subsequent search of the vehicle lead
officers to locate approximately 77 grams of methamphetamine, syringes containing
methamphetamine, marijuana, drug related objects, and over $700.
The driver of the vehicle, Phillip Goss of Gainesville, Georgia, was arrested and charged with Trafficking
Methamphetamine, Possession of Less than One Ounce of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Related
Objects, and Operating an Unregistered Vehicle.
The passenger, Angelica Millwood of Gainesville, Georgia, was arrested and charged with Trafficking Methamphetamine, Possession of Less than One Ounce of Marijuana, and Possession of Drug Related Objects
Both suspects are being held without bond at the Towns County Detention Center.
“This is the first drug trafficking arrest made in Hiawassee, and the largest amount of methamphetamine that we have seen,” Chief Paul Smith said, “These drugs came from Gainesville and were meant to be sold in this area. Stopping the distributors will do the most good for our community and our fight against drugs.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Hands-Free Georgia Act takes effect July 1, and local law enforcement plans to uphold the newly-enacted state mandate. The new law strictly prohibits drivers from holding a cellular phone or stand-alone electronic device in their hands, or touching any part of their body, while operating a vehicle on Georgia roadways. Motorists will not be permitted to write, read, or send text messages nor emails, use social media, or otherwise access internet data. Drivers will be allowed use of GPS and navigational devices, however, via hands-free methods. While motorists will still be permitted to stream music through apps, the activation of such devices, changing of songs, or streaming of any type of video is prohibited. In addition, recording or broadcasting videos also constitutes a violation of law. Mobile devices may be used in lawfully parked vehicles which does not include traffic signals or stop signs.
“Hiawassee Police Department will certainly be enforcing the hands-free law,” Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith told FetchYourNews, “It’s definitely an issue we’ve seen, and it’s a growing issue that we’ve been looking at.” Smith explained that the penalty for first-time citations includes a $50 fine, a one-point penalty against the driver’s license, and states that the purchase of a hands-free device, such as a Bluetooth device or a stationary mount for electronics, prior to an appearance in court, will allow a defendant to enter a not guilty plea. Subsequent violations carry stiffer penalties.
“It’s becoming a habit we don’t think twice about since we have been talking on our phones while driving for more than three decades, and it is going to take time for all of us to stop automatically reaching for the phone when it rings,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Communication Director Robert Hydrick said, “If you want to talk on your phone or use GPS while driving, now is the time to implement those measures so hands-free will become the instinctive thing to do.”
Two-year studies revealed a 16 percent decrease in traffic fatalities within the 15 states that have implemented similar hands-free driving laws.
Additional information on the Hands-Free Georgia Act can be found at www.headsupgeorgia.com
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Department mobilized traffic checkpoints at two separate locations on the evening of Wednesday, May 23, charging motorists with driving under the influence and drug-related offenses.
The initial checkpoint took place at approximately 8 p.m. in the vicinity of the Bell Creek Car Wash on state Route 75 north. According to the incident report, Hiawassee Police Department made contact with a grey Chevrolet Impala, occupied by three subjects. Upon interaction, the officer detected the odor of alcohol within the vehicle. The male driver consented to a preliminary breath test, which detects the presence of alcohol, and the breathalyzer registered 0.103 percent blood alcohol concentration. The maximum limit in Georgia to operate a motorized vehicle is .08 percent. The suspect then consented to standardized field sobriety testing, soon thereafter declining to participate. The driver was taken into custody by the officer. In addition, morphine pills were discovered in an unmarked bottle within the vehicle, and the suspect was charged with driving under the influence, drugs to be kept in original container, and creating hazardous or offensive conditions.
A subsequent checkpoint occurred on South Main Street, near Azalea Drive, at approximately 10 p.m. A female motorist was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, open container violation, and obstructing law enforcement officers. Several bottles of alcohol were discovered within the vehicle by Hiawassee officers after the odor of alcohol and marijuana was detected, providing officers with probable cause to conduct a search. According to the incident report, the female suspect proceeded to ingest “a green, leafy substance.” The subject denied possession of marijuana.
In other news, at a recent city council work session, Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith provided additional information on a significant drug arrest that took place within the city limits May 15, 2018. Federal and state charges resulted from the observation of the odor of marijuana noted by officers upon response to an unrelated panic alarm, originating from the AT&T store on Main Street. It was determined by responding officers that the odor wafted from an adjoining apartment, and a warrant to search the residence was obtained. Upon execution of the warrant, illicit substances, firearms, $700 in cash, and a postal scale were seized as evidence. Barry Hunter Collins was arrested and charged with multiple felonies, including a federal charge. Collins was an employee of the Blairsville postal service at the time of his arrest.
Chief Smith released the regularly-complied department activity report for the month of April, and while statistics continue to show a decrease in drug-related arrests – with only a single misdemeanor arrest for possession of under an ounce of marijuana and drug-related objects – the overall amount of issued citations increased in comparison to the previous month. A total of 115 citations were written in April, 35 of which were warnings. Data from March revealed a total of 79 citation, 21 being warnings. The highest amount of citations were the result of speeding, followed by tag registration and license requirements, safety belt violations, and brake lights or turn signal infractions.
Hiawassee Police Department conducted 237 calls for service in April, a combination of dispatched and self-initiated.
On Saturday, May 26, the Hiawassee Police Department held a child car seat safety check on Hiawassee Town Square. The event drew 20 participants, with 11 cars seats determined defective, and replaced at no charge.
[Feature photo: Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith displays the department’s former patch, while sporting the newly-acquired design, created by Smith]
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Animal control was the topic of spirited discussion at Mountain Movers & Shakers Friday, May 18, 2018.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton, Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, and representatives from the Mountain Shelter Human Society spoke on the subject.
Many residents were unaware of how to handle stray or problematic animals in the area, and those in the know set out to clear the confusion.
A dangerous dog ordinance was in place when Commissioner Bradshaw was elected to office in 2016, with the issue recently being turned over to the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to 2018, the sheriff’s office was not actively involved and could only take reports. Commissioner Bradshaw said there have been two calls pertaining to the mandate this year.
“There’s a lot that needs to be talked about, and there’s always room for improvement. I realize this, as the county grows,” Commissioner Bradshaw began. “Where I live, it’s no problem. We’ve got elbow-room, my neighbors have elbow-room, and in most places in the county, that is the case, right? It is a fact. But there are neighborhoods, and pockets of neighborhoods that maybe you need some more animal control than what the county’s got. That’s entirely up to your homeowners association, and if you want to have stronger rules or regulations, or leash laws, then I would say go for it. But I’m going to tell you that where I live, I’m not going to tie up my dogs. I’m just not going to do it, but I’m a responsible dog owner, and that’s where the problem comes in.”
“As far as a leash law goes, I understand animal control,” Bradshaw continued. “I’ve talked to (Union County Commissioner) Lamar Paris about it. People say, ‘Union County has leash laws,’ and they do. I’ve read it. But a lot of times there’s just no teeth in it. I’m just going to be honest with you. What about barking? A dog barking all night, keeping the neighbors up? We’re still a small area, and I’ve had this happen twice. I called the neighbor with a barking dog, and I talked to them, and I asked them to help me. I said I need your help, and they did. We got it taken care of. I’m not saying everything we’re doing is perfect, but I’m saying much more than we are doing now, I don’t see it. In time, as the population grows, I can definitely see more ordinances, and leash laws, but I just don’t think the county is there yet. Your neighborhood may be, but the county as a whole is not.”
Sheriff Chris Clinton spoke on Title 4, a state law requiring the sheriff’s office to respond to animal complaints. Sheriff Clinton noted that it is a crime to abandon pets. Roaming livestock falls under the responsibility of the sheriff’s office as well.
“There is a leash law in the city,” Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith said. “It applies to city property. If you have a domestic animal on the sidewalk, the square, or Mayors’ Park – city property or city streets – then it’s supposed to be restrained. It doesn’t apply to personal property or your neighbor’s property, but it does apply to city streets. There’s also an ordinance that discusses loud noises, the barking and howling from animals. I’ll echo the commissioner’s sentiment from earlier. The best method is to call your neighbor and say your dog is annoying me. We can address it from an ordinance perspective if it’s something that goes on and on. As far as strays in general that don’t have an owner that we can contact, I think that’s something that the council and mayor will need to address.”
Mountain Humane Society Board President Bob Levy said that the shelter has improved considerably in recent years. “We have a facility, and our facility continuously grows, based on the donations that we get,” Levy said. “We adopt out a tremendous amount of animals every year. We try to take in every animal that we possibly can. It’s difficult for us to take in sick animals because it can affect the entire operation, but we do have a quarantine area.”
Mountain Shelter Humane Society is a no-kill shelter, and the organizations accepts as many well-disposition, healthy animals that are suitable for adoption as their facility can accommodate. “We are limited on our funds, but we are trying our best to take in animals with minor illness and injuries,” Lisa Collins, the executive director of the shelter explained.
According to Board President Bob Levy, an average of $200 to $500 is spent on each animal housed at Mountain Shelter.
Pit bulls, due to workman’s compensation and liability insurance, and feral cats, because of their wild nature and sparse adoption rate, are not accepted at the shelter.
While Mountain Shelter Humane Society cannot pick up animals, strays can be taken to their facility, provided space is available, at 129 Bowling Dr. in Blairsville.
Mountain Shelter Humane Society can be reached at 706-781-3843.
Bill and Lynn Hall, founders of Katz n Dawgs Helping Hands, a local 501(C)(3) non-profit animal rescue organization, provided contact information. Katz n Dawgs Helping Hands can be reached at 706-896-7931 or email@example.com.
FetchYourNews will include information on additional area resources should they become available.
In summary, the course of action is to contact Towns County Sheriff’s Office for issues related to animal aggression or general animal control. Towns County Sheriff’s Office can be contacted by dialing 911 or 706-896-4444.
In addition, Commissioner Bradshaw can be reached at 706-896-2267.