From the Desk of Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton:
Over the years I have often commented that I wished most people had experience riding a motorcycle, as most riders learn very quickly to pay attention to other drivers and take responsibility for their own safety. I bought my first street bike in 1987 and over the years the skills I learned that first year or so have continued to serve me well. Of course, I have continued to learn, but the basics remain the same. I realize that most people never own or even ride a motorcycle, nor do they have the desire. Some even think those of us who do ride should not. That being said, I thought I would offer some tips that apply to all vehicles that, if practiced each time you drive, should improve your safety and those around you. These tips apply not only to motorcycles, but can and should be used by any driver of any vehicle.
Driving distracted is a serious problem on our roads today. We have all sorts of laws addressing it, two more recent ones on everyone’s mind are texting while driving and hands free driving, but the real issue is being distracted by anything. One should always be alert and scanning the roadway ahead, paying close attention to what is behind and on either side of you, as well as your instruments. Scanning keeps you from getting locked onto something for too long which causes accidents. According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), one should never remain focused on something for over four seconds at a time. In my opinion, four seconds is a very long time to not be scanning. While scanning, one should always be looking as far as possible down the road for potential hazards. Be mindful of potential hazards and where your potential “escape routes” are located if you need to avoid a collision with a distracted driver. By knowing what is around you, you have a better chance of finding a safe escape route. It doesn’t do much good to avoid one collision only to create another.
Following too closely is a problem I see often. Georgia’s Emergency Vehicle Operations course advises law enforcement officers to leave a two-second reactionary gap between your vehicle and the one in front. I follow MSF’s rule of remaining three to five seconds behind the vehicle in front. The reasons are: This gives more time to react, especially if you were looking elsewhere when the trouble ahead occurs. It also allows you to see much further down the road and watch for hazards. I often see people so close that they can’t possibly avoid striking the vehicle in front of them if it were to strike something. In that situation the second driver can’t see anything except the vehicle in front of them and haven’t left time to react if that driver makes the mistake of striking something ahead of them. Simply pick out a spot ahead and as the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you cross it count to yourself one thousand one, one thousand two, etc. Make sure you get to three full seconds at least. Try it and notice how much more you can see what is going on down the road.
Another piece of advice is to not drive faster that you can see, regardless of the speed limit because that might be posted too high. By this I am talking about curves, hills, or any other thing that prevents us from seeing further. When approaching a curve, etc., one should only travel as fast as they “can see.” When entering a curve or topping a hill etc., make sure you can safely stop the vehicle in the distance that you can see. We can’t know what is beyond our field of vision. Often people start into a curve already pushing the speed, only to find it suddenly becomes a sharper turn than they can negotiate at that speed. Heading west off Clayton mountain, there is a smashed up guard rail. We work a lot of wreck there for this very reason. People enter that curve faster that they can see to drive. While that is bad enough and some have been seriously hurt, it could be worse. I’ve witnessed a lot of tragedy in this profession, much of it avoidable by taking a little extra care. Maybe it isn’t that the curve is too sharp, maybe you know the road well, but what if someone’s child is chasing a ball, but you couldn’t see that. Wouldn’t we want to be able to stop in time? I use that example because like many officers, I have had to witness the horror when someone drives faster than they can see while distracted. A mistake like that can often be avoided beforehand, but can never be called back. Stay safe, friends!
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Schools Facility Director Roy Perren spoke with Mountain Movers & Shakers on the morning of Friday, Aug. 24, on several subjects – one of which was the process taking place within the school system to ensure students and staff remain safe on campus.
Towns County Schools Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong and Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton attended the forum, with both officials addressing the issue.
In light of the recent decision reached by Towns County Board of Education to station a second school resource officer on campus, along with an announcement to arm select faculty members, the room filled with local residents paid close attention to the limited details offered by the three officials. Due to the sensitive nature of the matter, based on the solid logic that individuals who may intend to cause harm should not be made privy to specific information that could potentially assist a perpetrator in the fulfillment of a detrimental plan, the trio of leaders adequately ensured, rather, that proper procedures are producing a viable security system.
“School safety is something that’s very important to all of us,” Director Perren began, saying that many in attendance likely have children or grandchildren enrolled in Towns County Schools, “We take it very seriously. Last time I spoke we were planning on having a table-top drill with the emergency management agency. We had it that following Monday. It went really well, and we’ve got people in the community, everybody’s on the same page as far as what we would do in the case of an emergency, whether that would be an active shooter or any type of emergency that might come up in school. We’re really working out getting that plan.”
“We also trained our teachers, and I mentioned last time, in a program called ALICE,” Perren continued, “That stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate. It went really well. The teachers, I feel, felt empowered by it, how they would act in case there was an emergency, and how they could not just be idle, and sit there and get shot, which is unfortunately how, over the years, we’ve trained educators to be, is that, you lock down your room, turn off the lights, and you all go hide in the corner, and wait for somebody to come get you. The main thing we would want to do in the case of an emergency is to be to get out. If there’s any way to get out of the building, we would want to do that. Get them to evacuate.”
Perren advised that if escaping isn’t an option, barricading within the facility is the next best choice, followed by countering the attacker.
Several table-top discussions have occurred over the summer months, in conjunction with Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), with officials from the full-scope of local first responder agencies taking part in the school safety endeavor. According to Perren, an active shooter drill, which will consist of county and city law enforcement, firefighters, and medical staff, is planned to take place in the coming months. The drill will be conducted at a time when classes are not in session.
School Superintendent Berrong stated that strict protocol will be imposed when allowing limited faculty to have access to a firearm to counter a threat in the event of an active shooter scenario. Berrong assured that extensive training is a necessity, and noted an importance for responding law enforcement officers to have the ability to adequately identify an armed protector from an armed intruder.
“I feel comfortable with what’s being done, and I’ll continue to work alongside Dr. Berrong and Mr. Perren to provide the resources needed to succeed, ” Sheriff Clinton told FYN after the meeting, “We’re all on the same page. It’s an ongoing process that is being given due diligence. The safety of Towns County students is top priority for everyone involved.”
From the Desk of Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton:
Summer is a time for outdoor play, renewing friendships, reliving memories, and trying new activities. So you and your family will also have a safe season, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association offers the following summer safety guidelines:
• Never allow a child to swim unsupervised. If your child is going with a friend to swim, be sure to speak with the adult in charge. Don’t be afraid to ask if they know CPR. Children can drown quickly, and in very small amounts of water. Even a brief span of inattention can be fatal. Take the opportunity to evaluate your child’s ability and general comfort in the water. Make sure your child knows the safety rules.
• Hydration is important for all ages, particularly in the summer. A dehydrated person can become weak, faint, and vulnerable. Make sure you allow at least eight glasses of water per day for each person, more if you’re involved in athletics or strenuous activities. If you’re traveling, freeze water in reusable containers to pack in a cooler. The ice will thaw gradually, but the water will stay cooler and more refreshing during the long, hot summer days.
• When schools are not in session, children often spend more time on the computer or in front of the television. Make sure your computer has an Internet filter (available from many family-oriented websites), and that you have activated the parental controls on your television. Teach your child never to give out their name, address, or other identifying information to anyone on the Internet. Make an effort to become acquainted with the parents of your children’s friends. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their guidelines are for their child’s Internet and television use.
• Set outdoor boundaries for your child. A good way to establish these limits is to take a tour of the neighborhood with your child and determine what areas are off limits. Perhaps you live near a highway or a busy intersection that might be designated “out of bounds” because of the risks they present to your child. Often, places with water, such as creeks, streams, and ponds are also out of bounds. Entering unfamiliar homes without a parent should always be out of bounds. Discuss these boundaries with your child and make sure they understand.
• Get to know your child’s camp counselors, coaches, troop leaders, ministers, and teachers.
When you speak to the adults in your child’s life, establish yourself as your child’s parent. If time allows, consider offering to volunteer or help out in some capacity. Not only will you enjoy the time you spend engaged with your child in summer activities, but you can watch their interaction with others and monitor their activities.
As your sheriff, it is my goal to help keep our community a safe place to live, work, and raise a family. Never hesitate to call upon your Sheriff’s Office for assistance. I hope that each of you have a safe summer season.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Republican Party hosted an “Old-Fashion Rally and BBQ” on Hiawassee Town Square, the weekend prior to the state run-off election. Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young organized and orchestrated the event, drawing Gubernatorial candidate Casey Cagle , and Secretary of State candidate David Belle Isle, to visit with constituents.
Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon spoke on behalf of Lieutenant Governor candidate David Shafer, and former State Representative Stephen Allison represented Gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp. Kemp was unable to attend due to an engagement with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Macon, Georgia.
Vendors set up shop along Berrong Street, and K&K Killer Kue served smoked pork barbeque sandwiches to guests.
The Republican Party held a bake sale, and the President’s Team manned an information booth.
Radio host of EXtreme Carolina, Michael Levi Borkman, served as Master of Ceremony.
Former Towns County Republican Chair Mark Wolchko streamed music, leading up to the candidate “stumping”.
Chris Clinton, who serves as Towns County Sheriff, and his band provided live entertainment.
Hiawassee Police Department chipped in, providing not only security, but supplying a needed tent and table for visitors.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, staying throughout, and Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales made a brief appearance at the event.
The State Run-Off Election takes place tomorrow, July 24. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
(Feature Image: Blairsville Mayor Jim Conley shakes hands with Gubernatorial candidate Casey Cagle)
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Fourth Amendment was the topic of discussion at Mountain Movers and Shakers on the morning of Friday, June 29, 2018. Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton and Colonel Gene Moss – a retired law enforcement officer from Forsyth County, Georgia – advised citizens of their constitutional rights pertaining to search and seizure.
The Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights reads: The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Colonel Moss, who spent over four decades serving in law enforcement, opened the forum by asserting that citizens have the right to an expectation of privacy._
“We’re going to talk a little bit about searches, vehicle searches,” Moss said, adding that vehicle searches tend to be controversial, “First of all, if you’re in law enforcement, you’ve got to have a reason to stop somebody, ok? You’ve got to have a reason…Law enforcement, how far they push this thing to get into your car, to look in your vehicle,” Moss reiterated, “You’ve got to have a valid reason to stop somebody.”
Moss went on to explain that stopping a vehicle for infractions, such as driving with a broken or dim taillight or failure to maintain lane, in itself does not constitute a legitimate reason for a law enforcement officer to conduct a search.
Sheriff Clinton mirrored the colonel’s thoughts. “Anybody that’s been around me very long knows that I’m a liberty guy, a lover of the constitution,” Clinton said, going on to state that only one percent of the population commits crimes, and his office sees no reason to “harass” the other 99 percent.
The sheriff explained that reasonable and articulated suspicion, probable cause, a warrant issued by a judge, or citizen consent is necessary for a lawful search to be conducted. “For my purposes, I require by policy, our deputies have to be able to articulate what it was that lead them to ask for consent to search,” Clinton said, “This garbage about ‘Well, I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, and we’ve got a lot of drugs out here in the world. Mind if I go rifle through your stuff?’ Well if you don’t know me, and I don’t know you, why are you calling me a bad person? Shouldn’t I be observant enough and good enough at my job to know when criminal behavior is afoot?”
Reasonable suspicion is a standard of proof in United States law that is less than probable cause, the legal standard for arrests and warrants, but more than a hunch; it must be based on specific and articulable facts, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, and the suspicion must be associated with the specific individual.
Probable cause is the standard by which police authorities have reason to obtain a warrant for the arrest of a suspected criminal or the issuing of a search warrant. The principle behind the standard is to limit the power of authorities to perform random or abusive searches, and promote the lawful gathering of evidence during criminal arrest and prosecution.
Mountain Movers and Shakers meet Fridays at 8:00 a.m. at Sundance Grill in Hiawassee, with different community speakers each week. Meetings are open to the public, and membership is not required.
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.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On the evening of April 17, 2018, Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw officially announced a decision to cease the allowance of spray-painting rocks on Bell Mountain, a county park and historical site.
“No more painting on Bell Mountain,” Commissioner Bradshaw asserted. “People are painting nasty stuff on the roads, on the platforms, on the trees, and of course, the rocks, so I don’t have a problem with stopping it. I’ve been working with Sheriff (Chris) Clinton on this. We’ve got cameras up there now. We’ve got new signs up saying you cannot paint.”
Bradshaw continued, “I want the public to know this is not my choice. It’s for the insurance company because of the danger factor, but at the same time, I support it because it’s a beautiful place, and it’s starting to look really bad. We want to stop it, get a handle on it, and we are going to.”
The ordinance prohibits graffiti on not only the structures, signs, parking lot, and trees, which was forbidden in the past, but the rocks themselves have been added to the list.
Numerous park signs alerting of the regulation have been installed, and the park is continuously monitored by camera surveillance. Criminal charges will be brought against those who violate the county’s mandate.
FetchYourNews (FYN) reviewed a letter from Local Government Risk Management Services (LGRMS), dated March 1, 2018, and the field report recommendation to the county reads as follows:
“To reduce the potential of someone being injured or even killed, it is recommended allowing the park attendees to paint the rocks be stopped. By allowing the painting of the rocks, attendees have placed their selves in precarious situations which could cause injury or death. By stopping the painting, it should reduce the likelihood of placing their selves in theses areas thereby reducing the potential of an attendee being severely injured or killed.”
Bell Mountain was deeded to Towns County in 2015 by the Hal Herrin estate, and offers a magnificent panoramic view of the Appalachian Mountains and Lake Chatuge.
Bell Mountain Park is open to the public from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. during the winter months, and from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. during daylight savings time to allow opportunities for nocturnal photography.
Bell Mountain Park is located 1.3 miles east of Hiawassee Town Square, off Highway 76. Turn left onto Shake Rag Road, travel 1.5 miles to Bell Mountain Road, turn right, and proceed an additional mile to reach the Bell Mountain Park summit.
Admission and parking are free.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Department announced a “new low” in felony drug arrests, and the suspected reason for the decline is surprising.
According to Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, word of his department’s vigilance has spread, and individuals possessing illicit substances may be traveling an alternate route to evade city law enforcement.
During Hiawassee City Council’s regular session on Tuesday, April 3, Chief Smith recalled an incident involving a drug-related arrest. Smith stated that the suspect readily admitted that he should have avoided Hiawassee, specifically mentioning Highway 288 as the passage the driver divulged should have been chosen instead.
Highway 288, also known as Sunnyside Road, winds south of Hiawassee’s perimeter, beyond the city police department’s jurisdiction.
In comparison to the first three months of the previous year, 2018 has witnessed a noticeable decrease in the number of drug arrests conducted by Hiawassee Police Department.
From January until March of 2017, nine misdemeanor drug arrests and 17 felony drug arrests took place. The current year-to-date statistics show only two misdemeanor drug arrests, along with eight felony drug charges.
“There was another person that let us look through their phone after we arrested them, giving us consent to search their device,” Chief Smith disclosed in an interview with FetchYourNews (FYN). “Someone had messaged them, saying something along the lines of, ‘Why did you go through Hiawassee?'”
A patrol officer with the Hiawassee Police Department relayed that, he too, has heard rumors of Highway 288 being the preferred course of travel for perpetrators hoping to avoid city law enforcement.
The majority of drug arrests occurring within the city limits of Hiawassee are the result of traffic stops initiated for citation-related offenses, such as speeding or improper vehicle requirements.
FYN contacted Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton for his thoughts on the theory that drug offenders are skirting Hiawassee in favor of Highway 288, a route which falls under his department’s jurisdiction.
“I am unaware of any official statement by the City of Hiawassee making such a claim. My office has received no criminal intelligence, much less evidence, of any such criminal methodology,” Sheriff Clinton stated via email.
In contrast to 2017 data, Hiawassee Police Department’s self-initiated reports have decreased by 25 percent this year. The agency has seen a 40 percent increase in dispatched calls, however, in the first quarter of 2018.
Hiawassee Police Department has generated a total of 868 case numbers in the past three months. The amount is a combination of traffic stops, citations, and calls for service.