RC&D Director Frank Riley recognized at National Fire Prevention Week Proclaimation

News
Frank Riley fire

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw officially proclaimed Oct. 7-13 National Fire Prevention Week in Towns County, while honoring Resource Conservation and Development (RC & D) Council Executive Director Frank Riley during a surprise ceremony. Numerous county and city officials were invited, as well as rangers from the U.S. Forest Service and Georgia Forestry Commission. Commissioner Bradshaw expressed sincere appreciation for Riley’s service while presenting an award. “That’s how much you mean to me, and how much you mean to the community,” Bradshaw said.

Towns County Fire and Rescue

Fire Prevention Week stresses the importance of installing smoke detectors in homes, along with insuring residents have planned and practiced a home fire escape plan. In 2016, 2735 people perished due to home fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and fire departments responded to 352,000 home fires, with 4-out-of-5 fire deaths occuring within homes each year.

Frank Riley was presented an award of recognition by Commissioner Bradshaw following the signing of the fire prevention week proclamation, acknowledging Riley’s service and dedication to Towns County. “That’s how much you mean to me, and how much you mean to the community,” Bradshaw expressed.

Among achievements, Riley established Towns County as the first Fire Adaptive Community to receive statewide and national attention, humbly served as a Towns County volunteer firefighter since 1999, and as a highly-respected FireWise and Fire Corps leader.

“Frank’s expertise and drive, along with being able to identify and connect the right groups together, has been the spark that has enabled FireWise to take hold in Georgia, and help start it to adjoining Appalachian states,” Tony Harkins, Chief Ranger-Safety Officer with the Georgia Forestry Commission, explained in part, “With his involvements in Chattahoochee RC&D, (as a) volunteer firefighter, farming, and with the farmers’ markets, I personally can’t see where he finds the time to do all of these endeavors. He wears more hats than anyone I know, and is successful in all jobs.”

U.S. Forest Fire Management Officer Mike Davis echoed the sentiment, “Frank has always supported the greater good. In 2015, when we were conducting a presentation about our efforts in Towns County to out regional forester out of Atlanta, we were asked could we duplicate these efforts up the Appalachian chain to other wildland urban interface communities. We knew it would be a challenge, and one that Frank would have to take the lead on, but he rolled up his sleeves and said ‘let’s do it.’ Since that time he has traveled and met with various government officials from Atlanta to Washington D.C. to promote the success in Towns County and beyond. Frank does all of this not looking to promote himself or for accolades, but to seek support for what we do here in this region.”

Riley’s wife, Linda, was in attendance at the Friday, Oct. 12, proclaimation. “You couldn’t drag Frank from Towns County,” Linda Riley shared, “He loves this community and its people.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Towns County Historical Society focuses on Macedonia Baptist Church

Community, News
Macedonia Baptist Church

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Macedonia Baptist Church, a landmark sitting high on a hill along Highway 76, east of Hiawassee city limits, has a deep history that is unbeknownst to many. The story of the chapel was the focus of discussion at the Towns County Historical Society meeting on Oct. 8, 2018. The informative program was presented by Macedonia Baptist Church Deacon Roger Dyer, and lifelong member Daren “Bear” Osborn.

The room was filled to near capacity with church members and county residents, including Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and former Commissioner Bill Kendall, both instrumental in preserving the beloved history of Towns County.

Founded as Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in 1839, with the land deeded by Major Josiah Carter, the first of four eventual structures was built behind where the current church now stands. The Hiwassee River rushed along the chapel, and it was said that when the water level in Lake Chatuge sinks low, the steps leading from the original church can still be found. The river witnessed many baptisms throughout the following years, although the initial converts consisted of 11 members. Reverend Adam Corn, an Asheville, NC, transplant, born in 1782, is thought to have been Macedonia’s first preacher, initially serving as a missionary to Native Americans upon local arrival.

Major Carter was a delegate at the founding Southern Baptist Convention in Augusta, GA, in 1845, along with other area preachers. The Hiawassee Baptist Association was organized in 1849, and included Macedonia Baptist beside 23 sister churches from Clay and Cherokee County, NC, and Union and Rabun County, GA.Macedonia Baptist Church

Carter, along with 27 of Macedonia Baptist Church’s first members, lies at rest in Carter Cemetery, tucked behind what is now Towns County Schools.

Macedonia was once known as Shady Grove, GA, and the land was a part of Union County until Towns County was established in 1856. The church was said to have housed soldiers during the Civil War era, although official records were stored in the Union County Courthouse which was later destroyed by fire in 1899.

In 1932, “God’s Acre Plan” was established by Reverend Frank Lloyd. Volunteer labor was used to prepare the land to plant, cultivate, and harvest crops. The farming endeavor served as revenue for Macedonia Baptist Church for years to come.

Macedonia Baptist Church Hiawassee

The second Macedonia Baptist Church – Photo courtesy of Town County Historical Society

The second church was constructed in 1942, the result of the addition of Lake Chatuge which caused a need to move Macedonia Baptist to higher ground. The congregation was urged to pray for God’s guidance, and the original chapel was deconstructed, relocated, and reassembled upon an elevated mound. The first homecoming was held in 1945, and it continues to be honored annually on May 15.

In 1957, the congregation desired to build a more modern structure. The government supplied timber from the High Shoals area, and $802 in revenue from “God’s Acre Plan” set the project into motion. The church was built by the hands of church members, with dedication taking place on April 27, 1958. The building remains standing, adjacent to the current church which was constructed in 1995. Reverend Harold Ledford served Macedonia Baptist Church for 30 years until his death on Feb. 11, 2017.  Reverend Ed Jump is serving as Macedonia’s transitional pastor at the time of publication.

Numerous historical photographs were displayed on a projector screen throughout the presentation as Dyer and Osborn offered detailed narrative, and DVDs of the monthly meetings in their entirety are available for a nominal fee through the Towns County Historical Society. Historical Society Secretary Betty Phillips opened the presentation by acknowledging the dedicated efforts of David and Myrtle Sokol in preserving the meetings through videography.

Towns County Historical Society meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the former Recreation Center at 900 north Main St. in Hiawassee.

Of note, the Old Rock Jail Museum will close between the months of November and April. Appointments to tour the historical site during the off-season can be arranged through the Towns County Historical Society.

 

Feature Photo Credit: Macedonia Baptist Church

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Commissioner Bradshaw extends Billboard Ban, offers Public Poll

News, Politics
Billboard ban

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw held a called meeting on the morning of Friday, Sept. 28, to extend the current 90-day moratorium for an additional 30-days. The initial moratorium was scheduled to expire on Oct. 15, with the extension running until Nov. 15, 2018.

The decision to lengthen the freeze on signage permits is due to a need for further time to consult with Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker, Towns County Planning Commission, and the public to seek input on the mandate revision.

Commissioner Bradshaw distributed polls throughout the business community, attached to printed information on the adverse effects of billboards to local economies, asking citizens whether billboards should be permanately banned, distanced 2500 feet, one mile, or two miles apart on Highway 76 in Towns County.

Although the poll is in the early stage of circulation, the overwhelming majority of participants stated they do not want additional billboards to exist in the county whatsoever.

While Bradshaw adamantly claims to be a staunch supporter of businesses, the commissioner believes a surplus of signage would hinder rather than help.

“We work for the public and when the public speaks, that’s what we do,” Bradshaw said, maintaining that too much “sign clutter” would dampen tourism and the general local economy.

Bradshaw plans to offer additional polls to attendees at the upcoming Towns County Historical Society.

Residents and business owners are invited to request a copy of the public poll at the Towns County Courthouse.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Calvary Alliance Church hosts Appreciation Luncheon for Local Public Safety

Community, News
Calvary Alliance Church

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Calvary Alliance Church hosted a hamburger and hot dog cookout for Towns County Public Safety employees on Tuesday, Sept. 18, in a show of appreciation and support. Reverend Brian Schmidt , along with church members, welcomed first responders from each of the public safety divisions to the luncheon.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton were on hand in show of gratitude in reciprocation to Reverend Schmidt and church members for the outreach of support for public safety personnel.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee Halloween may feature Haunted House Attraction

News, Upcoming Events
Old Rock Jail

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.

Sandra Green Towns County Historical Society

Towns County Historical Society President Sandra Green inside the Old Rock Jail

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

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Audit reveals Towns County in good financial shape

News
Towns County audit

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County received the findings of the 2017 financial audit, and all is going according to plan. “As far as the financials of the county, we’re doing really well. I’m very excited things are going really good. Knock on wood that we don’t have any catastrophes,” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw said, referencing the devastation to the eastern states caused by Hurricane Florence’s wrath, grateful that the county was spared damage, “But the financials are good. The reserve is in place. Everything is like it should be. We’re on track.”

Towns County maintains an impressive $3.1 million reserve.

Towns County Courthouse

Towns County Courthouse

Commissioner Bradshaw announced that year-to-date, the county has seen an approximate $30,000 increase in sales tax collection. “That means the economy is doing good, and we’re so thankful for that,” Bradshaw explained, adding appreciation for Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee’s dedication and contribution to the tourism boom. Bradshaw reminded that the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament begins this week on Lake Chatuge, and that events such as the fishing competition put the county on the map. “That’s folks spending money in Towns County. That’s what it’s all about.”

The 2017 audit is housed in the Commissioner’s office at the Towns County Courthouse, available for public review. By week’s end, the audit is expected to be posted on the Towns County Commissioner’s website 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Billboard ban in place until mandate revision finalized

News, Politics
towns county courthouse

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Discussion of the sign ordinance revision continued at the monthly county meeting, held on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, at the Towns County Courthouse. A 90-day moratorium was enacted in July, temporarily freezing permits to authorize off-premise billboards in Towns County. The decision was reached after an influx of requests reached the Towns County Commissioner’s Office, the result of a lax mandate. While eight billboards currently exist within the county lines, with several more were grandfathered in prior to the suspension.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw assured that extensive contemplation and deliberation is being applied to the reconstruction of the signage decree.

“I’ve talked to business owners. I’ve talked to the public. I’ve been trying to get input from a lot of people, knowing in my heart we’re doing the right thing the whole time, and after doing the research that I have done, there’s no doubt in my mind, and after hearing from different folks in the county,” Bradshaw said, implying that allowing billboard companies to have “free reign” would be detremental to the county, “A lot of people have their opinions on that, but I’ve got facts.”

Steven Phillips

Steven Phillips, a local radio host, musician, and former commissioner candidate, raised concern over the proposed ordinance revisions

According to reports, Steven Phillips, a local property owner who wished to erect signs on private land, contested Bradshaw’s stance at a Towns County Planning Commission meeting, held on Sept. 11. FYN did not attend the forum due to conflicting coverage, meeting with the commissioner the following day to recap the session. Bradshaw noted opposition from a sole citizen, though claimed widespread public support on the matter.

FYN spoke with Phillips on Wednesday, Sept. 19, offering an opportunity to include a contrasting view on ordinance revision. While Phillips concurred that certain billboard restrictions should be placed on out-of-area advertisers, Phillips expressed concern for personal property rights and local business owners. “I can understand restrictions on industrial billboards, but there’s far more at stake than signs being an eyesore,” Phillips explained, “What about businesses that are off the beaten path, the ones that rely on signs to advertise? More local business owners, the ones that have a dog in the fight, need to get involved in the process. It hasn’t been thought out. It can hurt businesses.” A purported proposal to allow a single sign, affixed on either the face of the business or by the roadside, was troublesome to Phillips as well.

Commissioner Bradshaw tells FYN that he isn’t aware of dialogue regarding an either/or on-premise sign restriction  taking place, and agrees that Phillip has a valid point concerning small businesses. “The ordinance is something we are continuing to refine,” Bradshaw said, “Steven (Phillips) brought out a good point. The last thing we want to do is hurt small businesses by not allowing them to advertise. We don’t want to hurt them by allowing excessive billboards to weaken the economy either though”

At Tuesday’s county meeting, Commissioner Bradshaw cited a portion of the information he had studied, stating most – although stressing not all – billboards advertise out-of-state products and services, lacking a beneficial connection to the local economy. Bradshaw stated that tax revenue gained would be scarce in exchange, garnered through estate additions that would raise assesments, and in turn, taxes for the owner of the property on which the signage was placed. The commissioner listed studies conducted in larger cities that had toughened their sign ordinances, resulting in an increase in revenue to the local economies by millions of dollars in the years that followed. Bradshaw relayed that billboard control is imperative to a thriving tourism industry, reciting research conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America, which lists natural beauty as top criteria for visitors. According to the study, the more a community does to enhance its unique natural, scenic, and historic assets, the more tourists it attracts.

A firm proponent of capitalism personal property rights, Bradshaw is an avid advocate of preserving the pristine nature of the county while simultaneously growing the native economy “in the right ways.”

“We want businesses to advertise. Do not take me wrong, but we do not want to kill our businesses by over-advertising. We don’t want to kill our real estate market by over-advertising with signs everywhere, and I feel very strongly about that,” Bradshaw concluded, reiterating that he is working diligently with Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker to finalize the decree. Although the 90-day moratorium, which suspended billboard permits, expires in mid-October, the possiblity of an extension exists. “We want to get it right the first time,” Bradshaw avowed, limiting the possibility of future amendments.

FYN has previously reported on the billboard ordinance, and will continue to follow developments, updating the process as the moratorium deadline approaches

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

County sign ordinance in the process of refinement

News
Towns County Courthouse

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Planning Committee convened on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 11, to further discuss plans to strengthen the existing billboard ordinance, setting forth guidelines that may be enacted.

FYN met with Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw the following day to gain clarity on the complex endeavor.

While Bradshaw stated that the specifics of the revisement are in the early stages of development, the commissioner firmly committed to the project. “I’m all for businesses, and we want them to be able to advertise and prosper in the county, but we are trying to maintain what we have. Allowing billboards to run wild will bring about a change in the county that we won’t want to see,” Bradshaw told FYN, “It would definitely hurt the economy in the long run.”

As previously reported, Bradshaw reiterated the recent surge in signage permit requests, stating that his office has received a notable spike due to a Department of Transportation website which “blasted” the lax county ordinance that is currently in place. With county growth projected to soar in the future, Bradshaw seeks to contain the matter before it gets out of hand. A 90-day moratorium was placed on sign permits on July 17, 2018, in order to temporarily quell the sizeable increase.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Bradshaw stressed that ordinance revision applies solely to off-premise advertisement.

Bradshaw assured that he is working closely with the Planning Committee, and Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker, to form proper regulations. Although tenative, a proposal of spacing signage 2500 feet apart on major roadways, no larger than 300 square feet, and no higher than 30 feet from the ground, erected by a single pole, has been discussed. A maximum of 75 square feet was proposed on secondary roads within the county. Dialogue of whether one- or dual-sided signs will be permitted has been broached, with digital signs prohibited. Bradshaw shared concern for residents who dwell at elevated heights, and the effect the blinking lights would have on the ambiance of their view. Additionally, landscaping of the area surrounding signs, as well as a requirement of general upkeep, may be adopted.

“I believe in personal property rights, but I believe in protecting the future of the county,” Bradshaw confirmed.

Further discussion to solidify the billboard ordinance is expected to take place between the commissioner, planning committee, and county attorney in the near future.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

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