HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw plans to take the fight for a center-turning lane on U.S. 76, west of Hiawassee, to Atlanta next week where the commissioner will meet with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and State Department of Transportation (DOT) Director Russell McMurry to discuss the pertinent topic. Bradshaw has persistently pushed for the lane addition since taking office, campaigning on a promise to make Towns County’s main highway safer for motorists.
Bradshaw’s decision to press the issue at the State Capitol came prior to the recent death of Randy Barnes Sr., a Hiawassee motorcyclist who lost his life following an Aug. 13 accident in the area of highest safety concern, the stretch of roadway in the vicinity of Papa’s Pizza.
“I’m going to plead our case,” Commissioner Bradshaw told FYN on Tuesday. “It’s a life or death situation. It causes great concern and getting something done is a promise that I plan to keep. We’re going to the top and we’re going to push hard.”
According to district research conducted by the Department of Transportation, the task of widening the highway could prove to be a difficult feat. With Lake Chatuge bordering U.S. 76 to the north, and steep embankments on the southern slope, issues with construction logistics were cited by the department in April 2018. While it may be possible to install turning lanes in critical areas, a continuous stretch of center roadway may not be feasible. “We’ll be happy with that, but that’s not what we want,” Bradshaw said.
Citizens continued to speak out on the danger surrounding the portion of highway in question, following the recent fatality, taking to social media to make their concerns known.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A public hearing on the county abandoment of Olin Hughes Road, listed on the Department of Transportation’s mapping system as County Road 38, was held at the Towns County Courthouse, Aug. 20. Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker joined Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw to discuss the matter.
“There’s two ways that roads become county roads,” Attorney Kiker began.”It’s by dedication which is by deed, or court order, eminent domains, or something of that nature. The other one is called implied access. Implied access is when the public starts using an access and the county starts maintaining that access, and actually, many of our roads have been established that way for public roads. So in a dedication situation, a road is a road is a road. It will always remain a road until such time as there’s a deed coming out of the county, or some other action coming out of the county, to close a road. Implied access only continues so long as the public uses a road and the county maintains a road. Once those matters cease, then that road then becomes subject to closure, being taken off the county road system and the maps for the Department of Transportation. This road meets the second criteria of implied dedication. According to our records, there has not been any maintenance of this road for at least 30 years, both in records and recollection, nor use of the county road by the public or for public purpose at least that long.”
The floor was opened for public comment following Kiker’s explaination. Becky Landress, a property owner with land bordering Olin Hughes Road, opposed county abandoment based on public use. Landress said that a third of her property adjoins Olin Hughes Road, and that allowing the road to be privatized will prevent future access, denying an alternate route to-and-from the residence. Landress claimed that issues arose following the deaths of Olin and Lois Hughes, with the sons of the late couple erecting barriers to restrict travel. “We are the public,” Landress asserted. Landress was accompanied to the meeting by husband, John, who mentioned that the road is traveled by the public to reach Hughes Sorghum Syrup Mill.
Cecil Hughes countered the argument, stating that the road has been solely maintained by the Hughes’ family since adjacent property was purchased in 1957, adding that his father had supplied the needed gravel and culverts. “It’s always been private,” Hughes said. It was noted by Terry Hughes that the road does not have a mail delivery nor school bus route, further implying that the road is not public.
Both Landress and Hughes provided the county with photographs of the area in question to present their opposing stance.
Towns County Road Superintendent Clyde Shook was briefly questioned by Attorney Kiker, with Shook unable to recall repairs to Olin Hughes Road in his 42 years of county service.
Commissioner Bradshaw tabled a decision, stating that he plans to give the matter additional consideration. Future meetings pertaining to the potential road abandonment will be publicly announced.
Feature Image: (L-R) Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker, Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, and Cecil Hughes, a proponent of the road’s abandonment.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Georgia State Senators John Wilkinson and Steve Gooch were invited to address the Towns County Republican Party Thursday, Aug. 15, at Daniel’s Steakhouse in Hiawassee. The evening began with acoustic entertainment by student Summer Rahn, who later led the National Anthem. followed by a well-received rendition of two classic county songs. Student Gabe Moody delivered a powerful speech on the importance of gratefulness in America, speaking favorably toward President Donald Trump and the sacrifice of the U.S. military. Chrissy Figg informed the community on the benefits of the local 4-H extension program, and student Samatha Church proudly introduced the state senators.
Senator Steve Gooch was the initial keynote speaker, touching on numerous topics of interest, including strong support for the enacted “heartbeat bill” which prohibits abortion in Georgia once a heartbeat is detected in the womb, the need for broadband internet options, the ongoing process of medical marijuana cultivation, and the upcoming change in voting machine procedures. Senator Gooch was elected to the Georgia State Senate in 2010. Gooch is a Republican representing the 51st District, which includes Fannin, Union, Gilmer, Lumpkin, White, Dawson and parts of Pickens and Forsyth counties. Gooch was elected as the Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus in 2014. The senator spoke on the importance of voting in upcoming elections in order to keep Republicans in office, not only on a national level, but state and local as well. Gooch warned that the State House could lose its majority if Republicans fail to vote. “If the Democrats take the House, game over,” Gooch said.
Senator John Wilkinson mirrored Gooch’s position on the heartbeat bill, medical marijuana, and support for voter turnout at the polls. Wilkinson spoke with pride on the state’s decision to award individual Georgia schools with $30,000 funding for upgraded security, and favorably of Georgia’s $2.5 billion reserve and Triple A bond rating. Senator Wilkinson, a Republican from Toccoa, was first elected to the State Senate for Georgia’s 50th District during a special election in 2011 and has been reelected to serve in three subsequent elections. Senator Wilkinson represents Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Rabun, Towns, Stephens and portions of Hall and Jackson counties.
Ninth District Republican Chairwoman Rebecca Yardley additionally stressed the importance of voting in local elections, stating that 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has specifically targeted the highly-conservative Ninth District in an attempt to flip it from a Republican to Democratic hold.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw delivered the invocation at the beginning of the program, speaking briefly on the positive state of the county as the forum commenced. Towns County Republican Chairwoman Betsy Young led the meeting’s agenda. Hiawassee Councilwoman Anne Mitchell and Towns County Fire Chief-Coroner Harold Copeland attended the popular event.
Towns County Republican Party is scheduled to meet Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6 pm at the Towns County Civic Center. Meetings are open to the public.
Feature Image: State Senators Steve Gooch (left) and John Wilkinson speak with Towns County citizens.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw told local Democrats last week that one of the biggest challenges facing him as commissioner is managing the county’s expected growth. “We are going to expand, and we need to be involved with that growth because we want it to be controlled growth,” Bradshaw told the Democratic Party Aug. 8 at the Towns County Civic Center. The commissioner cited an increase in tourism tax dollars from $37 million to $41 million in the past three years as evidence of a growing local economy. “The only way we are going to grow the economy here is more population, but we also have to consider how much do we want to grow and how,” Bradshaw added.
Bradshaw responded to questions and spoke to the Democrats for almost an hour about accomplishments during his first three years in office as well as future goals. Clearly enthusiastic about his time in office, Bradshaw told the Democrats, “I love doing this job. I work every day for the people, and I don’t know how they vote and I don’t care. My job is to be the very best commissioner I can be for Towns County. My job is to protect our mountaintops, to keep the county clean, and to keep our water clean.”
Towns County Democratic Party Chairwoman Charlotte Sleczkowski said that she appreciated Bradshaw taking the time to share his vision for the county with the group. “We want to work alongside Commissioner Bradshaw as he strives to make Towns County a great place to live and work,” Sleczkowski said. “Our mutual goals for the county have no political distinction.”
A challenge related to growth is providing a skilled labor force to supply the needs of businesses, beyond the restaurant and service industry, that want to locate here, Bradshaw explained. Additional traffic comes with growth, and Bradshaw stated he will be meeting with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and the state transportation director later this month regarding installing a left-turn lane on State Route 76 West, near Papa’s Pizza.
Among the accomplishments of his first term Bradshaw listed:
- Remodeling the old county recreation center gym with new lighting, roofing, painting, and flooring, making it pickleball friendly.
- Building a new fire station on Highway 66 in Young Harris and the addition of a helicopter landing pad there to provide a second site for medical evacuations. He also noted the fire station will contribute to lower home insurance rates for people in that part of the county.
- Replacing county road equipment, particularly old dump trucks with high repair bills.
- Adding a recycling station for electronics (cell phones, TVs, printers, computers, etc.) at the county dump.
- Maintaining the $3.1 million financial reserve which he inherited from the previous commissioner. Any funding above that amount will be used to improve the county, Bradshaw said.
- The county’s 2018 audit report revealed general revenue increases of more than $600,000 as a result of efficiency changes Bradshaw said that he has instituted, with no increase in taxes since 2007.
- Instituting a veterans’ program that formally recognizes any veteran who has grown up in Towns County, graduated from the county high school, or who has moved into the county. The program is carried out in cooperation with the local VFW chapter and includes a suicide hotline.
Bradshaw cited as a primary goal reclaiming for the county the one percent special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) which expires for county schools in 2020. “We want to get it for the county to remodel the courthouse. It’s time,” the commissioner said. Another fire station near the Emergency Management Services building is an additional future goal.
Bradshaw also plans to renegotiate the county medical air flightcontract, which he emphasized covers every full-time homeowner in Towns County, with the county covering the fee. Bradshaw said the current contract has a cap on the price so the county doesn’t pay more if the airlift service flies out more people than in the previous year. The commissioner wants the new contract to provide a lower cost if the service flies out fewer people than in the previous year.
Towns County Democrats will meet again on Sept. 20 at the Towns County Civic Center. A potluck dinner will begin at 6 p.m. followed by the business meeting at 6:30. Meetings are open to the public.
HIAWASSEE, Ga.- A motorcyclist suffered severe injuries following a collision in front of Papa’s Pizza on State Route 76, west of Hiawassee, as an employee was leaving the restaurant’s parking lot. Towns County first responders were dispatched to the site of the accident at 3:15 pm, Tuesday, Aug. 13.
The two vehicle accident caused life-threatening injuries to the motorcyclist, including extensive trauma to the lower extremities. The victim, a male in his mid-to-late 50s, was flown to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, GA, for emergency surgery. Traffic on State Route 76 was temporarily stalled in order to create a landing zone for the medical helicopter.
FYN reported on the danger surrounding the area where the accident occurred in April 2018. Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw contacted the Department of Transportation, insisting on a center-turning lane on State Route 76, to no avail due to logistics. Bradshaw told FYN in recent days that he plans to again address the issue in the near future while visiting the state capitol.
“We want a center-turning lane. It’s very dangerous leaving Hiawassee, going in that direction,” Bradshaw told FYN last spring. “If you want to take a left-hand turn to get into Papa’s Pizza, or several other places, you’re constantly looking in your rear-view mirror, afraid you’re going to get hit. It’s very dangerous…I said you’re going to have to stay on top of this. The community is demanding this. I will not let it die. I’m going to stay on top of it.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County Republican Party is fast tracking into 2020 on the “Towns County Express Trump Train” and Towns GOP Chairwoman Betsy Young invited a “troika” of speakers aboard the August locomotion.
State Senator John Wilkinson, Chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, and State Senator Steve Gooch, Majority Whip of the State Senate, will accompany Towns County’s “fearless and hardworking” Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw as represented speakers Thursday, Aug. 15, at Daniel’s Steakhouse in Hiawassee.
“One definition of the word ‘troika’ is three people working together for the betterment in an administrative or managerial capacity,” Young explained. “These three men certainly fit that definition as they all work hard at doing the best for their constituents and the State of Georgia.”
Opening exercises will feature Towns County student Gabe Moody, leading the Pledge of Allegiance, and Samantha Church, who will introduce Senator Gooch. “The youth of our county is the lifeline of our Party,” Young said. The public is welcome to arrive early to enjoy a “rib night” buffet dinner at the local restaurant. Doors open Aug. 15 at 5 pm, followed by the meeting at 6 pm. Attendees will receive a ticket for a free door prize drawing. Raffle tickets for a “special item” will be available for purchase, along with an assortment of political-themed items.
“Invite your friends and neighbors,” Young encouraged. “It will be an exciting and spirited evening that you won’t want to miss; fun, food, and fellowship all in one place.” Meetings are open to the public.
For additional information, contact Betsy Young at 904-382-1912 or TCGOPChair@gmail.com
Feature Photo: Towns County Republican Party Member Donna Barrow (left) with Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young at the June meeting.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw called a special meeting Friday, July 26, to amend the local alcohol mandate, making it simpler for area establishments to understand the terms of agreement. Bradshaw described the previous verbiage on the mandate as “too hard to understand.” The commissioner has worked alongside Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker in past weeks to eliminate the confusion.
The revised ordinance states that due taxes from beer and wine sales are to be paid by the alcohol distributor. A three percent tax acquired from “liquor-by-the-pour” sales are to be collected from the establishment itself.
Commissioner Bradshaw explained that businesses with an alcohol license must provide documentation to support reported sales figures, and that Towns County has the authority to conduct an audit if questions arise. Establishments must serve a 50-50 percent ratio of food to alcohol sales, along with additional requirements, in order to operate in Towns County. License permits are available at the commissioner’s courthouse office. The fee for on-premise beer and wine licenses is fixed at $1,000. A combination license to additionally serve liquor on-premise is set at $3,000. Event permits will cost vendors $25 per day. A charge of $125 is required to alter wording, such as an establishment’s name, on an issued license.
The liquor referendum appeared on the November 2018 ballot, garnering 66.67 percent approval from Towns County voters. After a lengthy process, the original liquor-by-the-pour ordinance was adopted by Towns County during a regular monthly meeting held Tuesday, March 19. To date, Hawg Wild BBQ was the sole establishment to request a liquor license.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Visitors at Chatuge Woods Campground, a 30-acre county operated tract located on the banks of Lake Chatuge, have reported a wild hog frequenting the area, and Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw wants area newcomers to be aware of the presence of the invasive species.
Bradshaw explained that the nuisance notoriously increases during the summer months due to wild hogs venturing down mountain slopes to secure an available food source. “There’s always more than one, but we’ve only seen one so far,” the commissioner told FetchYourNews, referring to the recent campground sighting. Bradshaw reported that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has installed a trap in the area to capture the creature, and it will be returned to the wild if the catch proves successful.
The swine sighting follows FYN’s recent reports of Towns County Fire Chief-Coroner Harold Copeland receiving a $330 fine from the United States Forest Service for shooting a wild hog on federal land. While there is no hunting season for wild hogs on private property, the animals can only be eliminated with proper weaponry during open hunting seasons for other wildlife on national land.
Copeland received overwhelmimg community support as a result of FYN’s initial coverage.
“Feral swine were first brought to the United States in the 1500s by early explorers and settlers as a source of food,” the United States Department of Agriculture states on its website. “Repeated introductions occurred thereafter. The geographic range of this destructive species is rapidly expanding and its populations are increasing across the nation.”
Towns County residents can report issues created by the wild hogs to DNR at 706-379-2040.