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 May 15, Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw announced a resolution to amend the 2018 budget, per abidance of Georgia Law, O.C.G.A. 36-81-3, which requires each unit of government to operate under an annual balanced budget, adopted by ordinance or resolution. The resolution includes a $22,152 shift in revenue, transferred from the Towns County Board of Education, into Towns County Sheriff’s Office capital expenditures. The amendment is the result of a Board of Education reimbursement of 75 percent, calculated from the cost of a patrol car purchased for the county’s school resource officer. Towns County Sheriff’s Office absorbed 25 percent of the expense.
“Donnie Jarrard, the DARE officer at the school, needed a new vehicle. He follows the ball teams – you know, baseball, basketball, football – all over the state of Georgia. When they play in Athens, (or) Monroe, he gets home at one, two, sometimes as late as three o’clock in the morning, unfortunately at times,” Bradshaw explained, “His car was starting to get a lot of problems, and it had a lot of miles on it, so I called the (Towns County School) Superintendent Darren Berrong.” Bradshaw went on to say that the cost of the new vehicle was discussed with Berrong, and a decision to divide the expense was agreed upon, based on the 75/25 ratio that the school board and sheriff’s office expend to employ the school resource officer. “We didn’t have to add any money,” Bradshaw continued, “The money was already there in their budget, so it was a no-brainer.”
In addition, Commissioner Bradshaw authorized the opening of an investigation financial account for Towns County Sheriff’s Office. The resolution states that the Towns County Sheriff’s Office at times has “need of access to operational funds” in order to assist the department with law enforcement and investigative services, benefiting the citizens of Towns County in the most efficient manner. The investigation account will be opened at South State Bank, with Towns County Sheriff’s Office Administrator Vicki Ellis, and Towns County Sheriff’s Captain James Baldwin, listed as authorized signers.
“This money that they are going to put into this account is exactly what it says,” Bradshaw said, “It’s an investigation account. They use the money for certain things, to get the bad guys off the streets, and that’s what they’re doing.”
“We don’t want to go too far into detail, you know, and let the bad guys know what they’re doing,” Bradshaw stated.
Commissioner Bradshaw reminded that there will not be a county meeting held in June, as the commissioner will be out-of-town on the scheduled date, with the next session occurring on July 17, at 5:30 p.m. at the Towns County Courthouse.
Bradshaw also noted an increase in residential building permits, elevated from 17 to 31, in comparison to the same time-period last year. Permits for additions rose from 20 to 42 in the similar time frame. Bradshaw believes the spike is a positive indicator of an improving economy.
The commissioner ended the meeting by reminding the public that his door is “always open” to receiving input from the community.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sheriff’s Office investigators executed a search warrant at a residence off Sims Circle in Hiawassee Thursday, May 10, 2018, following an extensive joint investigation conducted by the Union County Sheriff’s Office and personnel from the Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.
During the course of an undercover investigation, numerous drug purchases were made.
A total street value of over $7,000 in illegal drugs were seized from the residence, following the execution of the search warrant.
Samuel Dwayne Hedden, 63, was arrested by Towns County Sheriff’s Office investigators and charged with five counts of Violation of Georgia Controlled Substance Act, involving the sale of marijuana, four counts involving the sale of Xanax, three counts involving the sale of methamphetamine, and one count for possession of drug-related objects.
In addition, Hedden was charged with one count of Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
The investigation remains open and ongoing. Additional charges are likely.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On Tuesday, May 8, 2018 at approximately 3:15 p.m., Hiawassee Police Department Detective Brandon Barrett observed a subject known to have an active arrest warrant, driving eastbound on South Main Street. Detective Barrett was on patrol at the time the subject was spotted.
Detective Barrett and the Towns County Sheriff’s Office initiated a traffic stop near Chatuge Way.
After initially stopping for the officers, the driver of the vehicle made a U-turn, striking the front of Detective Barrett’s patrol vehicle.
The driver, Angela Michelle Capozzoli of Hiawassee, proceeded to flee westbound on South Main Street at a high rate of speed.
Hiawassee Police Department and Towns County Sheriff’s Office pursued the fleeing vehicle to Bugscuffle Road, where Capozzoli struck both patrol vehicles with her vehicle, disabling one.
Hiawassee Police Department continued to pursue Capozzoli to Bugscuffle Spur, where the subject turned onto a dirt road, unable to proceed in the occupied vehicle.
Capozzoli exited the vehicle, fleeing on foot into a heavily wooded area where officers lost contact .
At approximately 9:00 p.m., Capozzoli was located and apprehended after a short foot pursuit by Hiawassee Police Department Sergeant Tracy James and Officer John Carter.
“I am incredibly thankful that no one was injured during the pursuit,” Hiawassee Police Chief Chief Paul Smith said, “Acts of aggression towards law enforcement officers of this extreme are rare in Hiawassee, but obviously not impossible. Working together with the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, we were able to apprehend and bring charges against Capozzoli.”
The Towns County Sheriff’s Office has obtained arrest warrants for Capozzoli. She has been charged with two-counts of Aggravated Assault Against a Law Enforcement Officer, Felony Fleeing and Attempting to Elude, Willful Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer, and two-counts of Leaving the Scene of an Accident.
Capozzoli is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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 Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns 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
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Two juvenile females, 16, were arrested and charged with one-count criminal trespass Tuesday, May 1, at Bell Mountain Park. The charges stemmed from a report called in by a witness, stating that an act of vandalism had occurred. Towns County Sheriff’s Office deputies quickly responded to the park, arriving within minutes of the report.
The two juvenile suspects, along with the suspected vehicle they were occupying, were located, and the minors were charged with criminal trespass. The juveniles were released to the custody of their parents. The charges were the result of vandalism to the wooden observation deck, allegedly spray-painted by the teenagers. The suspects were not from the Towns County area.
In recent months, Bell Mountain Park has been the target of vandalism. A cash reward is being offered to anyone providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. Information will be kept confidential. Those with information are asked to call the Criminal Investigation Division of the Towns County Sheriff’s Office at 706-896-4444.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On the morning of Wednesday, March 14, 2018, a lock-down training exercise took place at Towns County School at 10 a.m. While there was a call for a nationwide walk-out in remembrance of the 17 lives lost Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many schools across the nation chose a proactive approach.
FetchYourNews (FYN) learned of the drill and hoped to highlight the positive measures taken.
In the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, FYN has reported on the subject of school safety in Towns, Gilmer, Fannin, Union, Lumpkin, and Dawson County, Georgia, as well as Cherokee County, North Carolina.
While the safety of students is not being called into question, with FYN maintaining conviction that security is of the utmost concern for Towns County School administrators and Towns County first responders, unexpected questions arose during our research.
In a letter forwarded to FYN, dated March 13, 2018, and signed by Towns County Elementary Principal Dr. Sandra Page, parents of elementary school children were advised a day in advance that the drill would occur. The letter reads, in part, that “during an active shooter drill, it is necessary to reenact the scenario of a shooter on campus in order to find strengths and possible weaknesses in our emergency plans.”
The letter goes on to state that “local agencies such as the police, EMS (emergency medical services), and the fire department will be involved in this drill and will be arriving on campus.”
Following an unsuccessful, in-person attempt to acquire sufficient information on the active shooter drill from the Towns County Sheriff’s courthouse office, FYN contacted the emergency agencies listed as participants in the training exercise.
FYN was surprised to learn that the Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Towns County Fire and Rescue, as well as the Towns County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) were not notified that a drill was scheduled, and therefore did not participate.
At a Movers and Shakers meeting held Feb. 23, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton, along with Towns County School Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong, spoke with concerned citizens regarding school safety. The sheriff divulged that a few years had passed since an active shooter drill was conducted.
Sheriff Clinton opened his speech by recalling a recent conversation with Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith.
“The chief and I were just discussing this, what, a week ago maybe, that it’s about time that we do another one, and that we do it together,” Sheriff Clinton assured.
Sheriff Clinton continued, “How do we make our children safer? Now. Not some place down the road at some philosophical perfect normal for you, but right now. How do we do that? Frankly, at the end of the day, we have to make it a harder target.”
After referencing the 1999 Columbine tragedy, Sheriff Clinton asked, “What’s been done by the government to make our children safer? Not a single thing. Because a lot of people think they can get up and talk about it, and they can harp on whatever their pet issue is. I’m pro-gun, I’m anti-gun, whatever, but as long as they’re talking about it and people are listening, they are getting political mileage out of it, and they really don’t care. I’m sorry, but I care.
“I’m coming to silence the gun. I’m not coming to survive it. I’m coming to silence the gun,” Sheriff Clinton emphasized. “Frankly, that’s what I expect from every deputy sheriff and every law enforcement officer in this nation. God help me if I have to walk past my own children while they bleed. I’m coming to silence the gun.”
At the conclusion of the forum, Sheriff Clinton acknowledged a need to ensure all first responders are familiar with the school’s campus and lock-down procedure. The sheriff told those in attendance that it is up to the community to decide what level of security they want in place. “I work for you,” Sheriff Clinton reminded.
FYN contacted Sheriff Chris Clinton on the evening of the lock-down in anticipation of learning why his plans to include other emergency agencies had changed.
Sheriff Clinton failed to provide an explanation, focusing rather on garnering the individual identities of FYN’s sources. Shortly after asked if proper protocol was followed, a concern brought to the attention of FYN by an emergency official, Sheriff Clinton ended communication.
The following day, Thursday, March 15, FYN Chief Executive Officer Brian Pritchard sat down with Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, and Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland, reconfirming the lack of communication and coordination.
FYN met with Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong on Friday, March 16, in search of further clarification.
Berrong revealed that the active shooter drill was implemented between himself and Sheriff Clinton, following the Movers and Shakers forum.
When the question was posed concerning the absence of agencies, Berrong replied, “Well, (the school) wasn’t sure of everyone who was involved. I think there were some of those individuals there.” Upon learning that was not the case, Berrong stated there may have been a miscommunication in verbiage, saying, “Personally, for me, it wasn’t about the fire department. It was about the police officers.”
Berrong was then asked to recap the drill.
“At 10:00, Mr. Perren came over the announcement through all three schools and informed them we were going into a lock-down, that there would be police officers walking through the hallways, make sure to keep your doors locked, and to keep the kids in a safe area,” Superintendent Berrong explained. “While that was going on, police officers were making their rounds through the building, just to make sure they were still familiar with what the campus actually looks like, what’s going on during a lock-down, where can you go and where can’t you go in case there is a shooter in the school, and what areas can we access. They made their rounds through the school while we were in lock-down. We were in lock-down probably ten minutes. Our school isn’t a very big building, you can make a round through there fairly quickly. So ten to fifteen minutes, and pretty much that was the end of the drill.”
FYN inquired if there are plans to hold a subsequent active shooter exercise. “We may have further drills. We don’t have any planned currently,” Dr. Berrong said. “Sheriff Clinton and I are in discussion about this summer, getting together with all personnel, fire department and everyone, just to sit down and make sure everyone has plans of the school building, and make sure everyone has access to the ‘Crisis Go’ app, which alerts people when there is an emergency on campus, and just have another round-table discussion about what we are going to do when something like that happens, how do we shut the campus down. We had one of those several years ago, but it’s about time we had another one.”
FYN contacted Towns County School Facility Director Roy Perren. Director Perren relayed that the exercise was exclusively planned for the Towns County Sheriff’s Office and that there was never an intention to include other emergency agencies. The facility director added that a Towns County School meeting will be held in conjunction with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) April 13 concerning the involvement of all first responders, should an emergency situation arise.
Elementary School Principle Dr. Sandra Page returned FYN’s request for comment on the afternoon of Monday, March 19.
Page stated that to her knowledge, the active shooter exercise was changed to simply a lock-down drill on the morning of March 14, shortly before the training occurred, excluding the need for the involvement of agencies other than the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. “I just wanted to get the information out so that students, parents, and teachers were aware that a drill was going to take place,” Dr. Page said. “That was my main concern.”
This left FYN with more questions than answers, considering that none of the emergency agencies listed in the letter had been notified that an active shooter drill had been scheduled.
Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County EMS, Towns County Fire and Rescue, and Towns County EMA state that their departments expect to take part in future training exercises.
From the Desk of Sheriff Chris Clinton
Towns County, Georgia
The Towns County Sheriff’s Office has received several reports recently in reference to telephone scams. In some of these scams the callers have identified themselves as being representatives of the Sheriff’s Office. These callers have told victims that they had outstanding warrants against them. The scammers go on to tell victims that the warrants can be taken care of if the victims pay certain amounts of money. Neither I, nor any employees of the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, will ever contact you to solicit money.
Other recent scams involve scammers claiming to be representatives of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These callers claim the victim owes back taxes and that law enforcement officers are in the area awaiting word to arrest the victim if they do not provide a certain amount of money. The IRS does not solicit payment over the phone.
Many of these recent scams have involved payment via iTunes cards or other forms of direct payment. The scammers attempt to get the victim’s money immediately before they realize this is a scam. At least one caller actually had an individual call and represent himself as Sheriff Chris Clinton. That is when the victim realized it was a scam and advised the caller that they knew Chris Clinton and that the caller was not the Sheriff.
No legitimate law enforcement agency should be calling you to solicit money, nor would a legitimate law enforcement officer attempt to keep you on the phone until you had paid money.
Anyone who receives a call asking for funds to take care of outstanding warrants or back taxes are urged to report these scammers to your Sheriff’s Office at 706-896-4444.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – An officer with the Hiawassee Police Department attempted to stop a vehicle with an inoperable taillight near the Valero gas station on state Route 76, shortly before 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26.
The vehicle fled, emergency dispatch was notified, and law enforcement followed in pursuit from Towns County, Georgia, into Clay County, North Carolina.
Towns and Clay County deputies pursued the vehicle on state Route 69 near Byers Road. The driver proceeded to advance onto Cherry Road.
The vehicle then crashed into a ditch on Watters Road, striking a Towns County Sheriff’s Office vehicle.
A brief foot chase followed into the nearby woods, ending with the apprehension of the driver by a Towns County deputy.
The driver of the 1999 GMC Sonoma, Ryan Turbyfill, had outstanding warrants from Union County, Georgia, and New Hanover, North Carolina, for larceny.
Turbyfill, 39, of Wilmington, North Carolina, was arrested and charged with Felony Flee to Elude Arrest, Resisting a Public Officer, Driving While Impaired, and Reckless Driving.
In addition, the suspect was served a larceny warrant from New Hanover County, North Carolina, and a fugitive warrant for charges in Union County, Georgia.
Turbyfill was taken into custody, transported to the Clay County Detention Center, and is being held on a $20,000 bond.
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 Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns 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