COVID-19 testing site coming to Towns County Health Department

Announcements, News

TOWNS COUNTY, Ga – In his public address on Friday, April 17, Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw revealed that Towns County would soon receive a COVID-19 testing location at the local health department.

“We’re going to have a drive-thru testing site at Towns County Health Department, and it will be up and going in a few days. It will help us identify who has the virus, who doesn’t have the virus. You need to go isolate yourself or your fine, you can go back to work,” explained the commissioner.

According to Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales the testing site is open and taking appointments. Please call ahead before showing up at the health department. The number is (706) 896-2265.

Fetch Your News contacted District Two MPH Dave Palmer for further details about the testing location.  However, once all the specimen collection details are worked out, testing should begin soon.

Towns and Union County Health Department staff are being trained in COVID-19 testing protocols, and the Towns location will serve citizens from both counties.

“Specimen collection will take place at the health department and specimens will be sent to a lab for testing. Test results average 24 to 48 hours, explained Palmer. “The process will require an appointment. Individuals who have symptoms are asked to call the health department. A nurse will screen callers and then submit the information to a scheduler who will call the individual with a time to come to the specimen collection site.”

Those who take a COVID-19 test will receive a phone call with the lab results. All positive patients will work with a nurse regarding contact tracing.

How Towns received a testing location

Bradshaw contacted State Senator John Wilkinson and District 2 Public Health Director Pam Logan on Thursday, April 16 about getting a testing site. Up until now, Gainesville, Ga has been the closest drive-thru testing site for Towns County residents.

“I said can we not please get a testing site on this side of the mountain? We’ve got elderly folks here who are sick, and [they don’t feel like driving across the mountain.] To be honest with you after watching the local news and all this stuff about testing sites, I thought it would probably be impossible,” admitted Bradshaw.

At 5 p.m., Logan called back and confirmed Towns County could receive its own drive-thru site.

For those with questions about the testing site, call the health department at 706.896.2265.

“I’m very, very proud that we’re able to get this done,” said Bradshaw.

testing site

Commissioner Bradshaw gave a COVID-19 update to Towns County citizens.

He thanked everyone who made it possible including Wilkinson, Logan, Laura Ide, the office manager health department, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby, and all the people involved in making it happen.

“This is a serious time. There’s no doubt about it and this is when Americans rise to the top. This is when we do our best. I’m thankful to all you guys, and I’m thankful to our citizens,” stated the commissioner.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw gives update on COVID-19.

Posted by Fetch Your News on Friday, April 17, 2020

Commissioner Bradshaw asks public to continue their efforts against COVID-19

Health, News
bradshaw Towns County shelter in place

HIAWASSEE, Ga – On the courthouse steps, Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw spoke the residents of Towns County and encouraged them to continue following the CDC guidelines.

He’s also telling any people who want to visit the county to stay home. When everything is lifted, Towns County will welcome visitors with open arms, but not right now. People need to stay home so freedoms can be restored hopefully sooner rather than later.

“Now is not the time to come to Towns County. I ask them the simple question every time, ‘what does shelter in place mean?’ The phone gets silent on the other end,” said Bradshaw.

Georgia’s COVID-19 peak is expected around April 26, but that doesn’t mean the “danger of this pandemic virus will be eliminated at that time.” Some reports have pushed the peak out to May and others suggest Georgia’s already over the peak.

Citizens should continue to shelter in place, frequent handwashing, practice six feet apart social distancing, wear cloth face masks in public settings, and if sick isolate and contact physician.

“I would like to take the time to thank you for your cooperation, understanding, patience, and support during these difficult times,” said Bradshaw. “As we are seeing an increase in confirmed cases in Towns County and across the nation, I want to assure you that as your commissioner, I am doing everything within the law to combat the spread of the virus.”

The total of confirmed cases in Towns County has risen significantly over the past 48 hours, jumping from three to ten. Health officials continue to urge caution due to asymptomatic transmission and many cases could go unreported because the afflicted only experience mild symptoms.

Bradshaw is in constant contact with government officials on how to control the spread of COVID-19.

He also took a moment to thank local healthcare workers and essential employees who are tirelessly providing aid to patients during this crisis.

“I would also like to express my appreciation to healthcare workers, public safety personnel, and all other essential workers for the vital services you are providing to our community. We are very fortunate to live in such a loving and caring community, working together we can limit the threat this virus has brought to our community,” expressed Bradshaw.

The commissioner also addressed the financial state of the county, and currently, Towns is in good shape financially due to former Commissioner Kendall’s “rainy day fund” and the good economy leading up to the shutdown. Kendall’s fund has three months of operating expenses stored even if the county has no income.

“In year 2018, we increased our revenue by $600,000, that’s a lot of money for a small county, small budget, compared to most counties,” explained Bradshaw. “Tourism dollars, since I’ve been in office, has increased over $3M that’s dollars spent in Towns County on tourism. We pushed very, very hard for that. Our sales tax collection last year was up over $100,000. So that’s a good economy and that’s us pushing to take advantage of a good economy.”

Bradshaw did caution that eventually the county may have to dip into the “rainy day fund,” but right now all county departments are under direction to only complete necessary spending.

If anyone has questions or concerns, they can contact the commissioner at 706.896.2276.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw gives update on COVID-19.

Posted by Fetch Your News on Friday, April 17, 2020

Towns County recommends temporary closure of Appalachian Trail

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COVID-19 Appalachian Trail

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw supported the closure of the Appalachian Trail due to the national COVID-19 outbreak to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Ranger District on March 25. Bradshaw stated that the closure of the trail, which crosses the eastern portion of Towns County, will support social distancing and ensure that local emergency services will not become overloaded.

Numerous rescues are performed on the famed Appalachian Trail by area first responders each year, a factor that Bradshaw took into consideration while planning for an uncertain future. Towns County declared a State of Emergency on March 24, a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Hiawassee is the first official town that the hikers reach when traveling north on the Appalachian Trail, or the last town on the long journey south. The Appalachian Trail extends through 14 states, from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. An estimated 2 to 3 million visitors walk portions of the trail each year, including a few hundred who complete the entire 2,190-mile trek. Hikers often exit the trail to venture into Hiawassee at Dick’s Creek Gap, located next to Highway 76 in the eastern portion of Towns County.

Continue to follow FYN for updates on the potential closure of the Appalachian Trail.

Towns County Appalachian Trail

Towns County asks visitors to ‘stay home’ as crisis grows

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Towns County COVID-19

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- As the COVID-19 crisis sweeps the nation, Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw is asking tourists to think twice before visiting the area. As mountain residents struggle to find items that were once in ready supply at the county’s lone grocery store, the anxiety of travelers introducing the deadly virus to a highly susceptible community is a viable threat.

Towns County SPLOST

Towns County declared a State of Emergency in response to the growing pandemic.

In a county with limited healthcare options – combined with a steep senior population – Commissioner Bradshaw made it perfectly clear that the safety of residents, first responders, and healthcare providers is his top priority.

“I called Senator (John) Wilkerson,” Bradshaw said on Tuesday. “We had a long conversation and I asked him to please make it known to the Governor of Georgia Brian Kemp that we love our tourists. We do. We love our tourists. We love our visitors, right? Right now is not the time for visitors. We don’t want visitors right now. When this is over, we’ll welcome them with open arms.”

Click to read: Visitors flock to Towns County from heavy-hit areas

The commissioner explained that while he would require assistance from Governor Kemp and the Georgia Department of Public Health to legally “close the county down,” Bradshaw hopes that visitors will heed the advice of local, state, and national leaders and remain at home.

“We don’t need people flocking up here, you know, we don’t need that. For their health and ours,” Bradshaw said. “And the second thing I told Senator Wilkerson is please, talk to the governor and close the Appalachian Trail. If you get somebody on the trail and they don’t know they have this virus, and maybe it’s the third day into the trail and they become sick, our public safety has to go get them. That’s putting a strain on our public safety now and also exposing them to a virus.”

In a county that reaps the economic benefits of tourism, Bradshaw stressed that he will spare no expense when it comes to the health and safety of Towns County’s citizens and staff.

“We love our tourists. We want them back,” Bradshaw said. “But right now they need to stay home. So I’m just making that clear.” Bradshaw received high approval and appreciation from residents on social media following his bold stance. Towns County declared a State of Emergency on March 24, 2020, in response to the unprecedented health crisis, closing restaurant dining and numerous, at-risk businesses.

 

VIDEO: Towns County declares State of Emergency

Visitors flock to Towns County from heavy-hit areas

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Towns County coronavirus

HIAWASSEE. Ga. – In recent days, FYN received a volume of reports from local citizens concerned with the surge of visitors from areas heavily afflicted with COVID-19. While Towns County is home to many part-time residents, several sweeps through the parking lot of the area’s lone grocery store on any given day or time confirmed a near 50/50 mix of local to out-of-state and metro-Atlanta license plates, with shoppers in search of food and supplies. Likewise, lodging accommodations are seeing a sharp spike in renters hoping to “shelter-in-place” away from urban environments. In an area that welcomes tourists with open arms, local residents are warning of potential repercussions in the midst of the pandemic.

Tpwns County COVID 19

An Atlanta resident appeals to fellow citizens on social media.

In a Georgia county with the top concentration of senior citizens, the demographic most vulnerable to virus complications, some fear not only shortages but the evident health risks involved with travel. While Towns County remains free of a confirmed coronavirus case at the time of publication, health officials warn that it is a matter of when, not if, COVID-19 arrives.

In reaction to an FYN report from Chief Medical Officer David Rearick of Onecare who focused on the dire consequences that may be in store for Fannin and Union counties, Towns County residents weighed-in. “This is how we should be looking at it in Towns County, also based on the population and any people that have immersed themselves in our community to escape their own, only to bring it with them,” Kelley Denton wrote.

Click to read: COVID-19 Pandemic Appears to be Just Entering the Psyches of Fannin/Union County Residents

“I’m curious about something,” John Dills asked in a social media group on Sunday. “With the governor refusing to take any steps towards a quarantine, and tourists who don’t see the necessity of staying home, can our city and county officials do anything to stop the influx of travelers until this virus is under control?”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp stated in a press conference last Thursday that the decision to close businesses or implement additional measures has been delegated to local officials.

Click to read: Emory expert warns point of no return approaching for Georgia, urges Kemp to shut down state

Across the state border in nearby Graham County, N.C. officials are doing just that. In response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in neighboring Cherokee County, lodging accommodations were ordered to close on March 23, and travel restrictions – allowing only property owners and those conducting legitimate business to enter its border – are scheduled to go into effect on March 27.  For similar measures to take place in Georgia counties, a local declaration of emergency is the initial step in following suit. While Towns County officials have given no indication of enacting such at press time, FYN remains confident that local leaders are diligently monitoring the unfolding situation.

Last week, Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw stated that the county was in “phase one” of mitigation. “My department heads have been working on this for a couple of weeks for where we’re at right now, for these closings, how we’re handling it, how we’re handling our employees,” Bradshaw said. “If it gets worse, and it possibly could and we pray that it don’t, but if it gets worse and we get people in the county that’s affected with it and showing positive to the virus, we are working now – the department heads and myself – on the next phase.”

Towns County Emergency Management Agency stated on Monday that the issue has been documented with the State.

County officials continue to urge calm, discouraging citizens from engaging in online speculation.

FYN remains in remote contact with Towns County authorities on a continual basis, vowing to provide now-news updates throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

 

Towns County suspends ‘non-essential’ expenditures

News
Towns County Courthouse

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – In response and preparation, Towns County has suspended all “non-essential” government spending due to the COVID-19 crisis plaguing the nation. As a county that depends heavily on tourism dollars, the local economy has begun to suffer significant financial loss.

“As the county continues to take measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus within our community, there will be no unexpected expenditures. Due to the decrease of tourists’ activity and local social distancing, we also expect a significant decrease in revenues; sales tax, alcohol tax, fees for services, etc,” Towns County Finance Director Andrea Anderson announced to elected officials and department heads. “As no one really has any idea how long the country will face this pandemic event, it is imperative that we take action now in order to ensure that the county can continue to operate and protect the citizens of our community during this pandemic event.”

If an expenditure is not “absolutely imperative to operations,” it will be postponed until the pandemic is under control and the local economy increases, even if previously budgeted. Likewise, out-of-town training has been suspended unless deemed necessary.

Towns County Commissioner

Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

“This is going to be very expensive,” Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw said, adding that the county’s main concern is to protect the health and well-being of its citizens and government employees. “We do have a rainy day fund. The county does have emergency money that we have saved…We’re not in a panic mode, nothing like that, but it is time to start watching our money right now because we don’t know how long this is gonna last.”

Thanks to prior planning for unexpected events by the county’s former commissioner, Bill Kendall, Towns County has maintained an emergency reserve fund in excess of $3 million since Bradshaw was elected to office in 2016.

Continue to follow FYN for local updates on the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Commissioner Bradshaw addresses citizens as virus spreads

News
Towns County COVID-19

Towns County - Coronavirus - COVID19

UPDATED: Government and Business Closings – COVID-19

News
Towns County closed corona virus

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On the day of President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw notified FYN of multiple closings throughout the county due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The health and safety of Towns County citizens and our employees is my top concern,” Commissioner Bradshaw told FYN. “I’m working very closely with our EMA director, along with local and state authorities, to take the precautionary measures necessary to safeguard the community.”

Towns County Recreation Center in Young Harris will close March 16, suspending all sports, classes, and programs until further notice. Team practices will not be permitted at Foster Park fields or the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds.

Towns County Senior Center will additionally close. Meals on Wheels will continue its operations.

Towns County Transit bus operations will cease until further notice.

Visitors will be not be permitted to enter the Towns County Emergency Operations Center (E-911) in Young Harris.

Entry restrictions have been enacted at the Towns County Courthouse. Visitors who have traveled to Italy, Iran, South Korea, or China in the past 30 days, those who have come in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, and persons asked to self-quarantine, diagnosed with COVID-19, or exhibiting symptoms of an undiagnosed illness or fever are not permitted to enter the county courthouse.

Towns County Schools announced on Thursday that the campus will close on March 16 for up to two weeks as a precaution. Online learning classes will be implemented for students.

Young Harris College is closed.

Towns County Detention Center has suspended visitations.

In other events, the Towns County Republican Party will video record the 2020 Towns County Sheriff Candidate Forum for those who do not wish to attend the event. The forum begins at 6 pm, Saturday, March 14, at the Towns County Middle School Auditorium.

UPDATED:

Towns County Libraries will close Tuesday, March 17.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw canceled the March 17 monthly meeting at the courthouse.

UPDATED:

Chatuge Regional Hospital entered “lockdown” on Tuesday, March 17.

“For the safety and wellbeing of our patients and staff. Chatuge Regional Hospital will be on lockdown effective immediately,” the statement said. “All hospital doors will be locked and remain locked except the emergency room entrance. No visitors will be allowed until further notice.”

Patients experiencing symptoms such as fever or respiratory ailments who have traveled in widely infected areas in the past 14 days are asked to call the hospital from their vehicle or immediately request a face mask.

Chatuge Regional Hospital: 706-896-2222

UPDATED: 

Towns County Daycare will close as of Monday, March 23.

Hiawassee City Hall offices are closed.

Towns County EMA advised citizens who suspect that they may be experiencing symptoms related to the virus to contact the local health department or their primary healthcare provider by phone prior to visiting in person. Towns County 911 should be notified of patient symptoms prior to the arrival of first responders.

Click to view the Georgia Department of Public Health website

As of March 16, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Towns County. A Towns County Elementary School teacher is awaiting test results at this time. The findings are expected this week. UPDATED: Test result was negative for COVID-19.

Business Closings:

Courtesy of Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce:

Asiano – Curbside service and delivery within a 10 mile radius

Brassie’s Grill – CLOSED

Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa – Takeout available

Brother’s at Willow Ranch – CLOSED

Cabin Coffee Co. – Blairsville, GA – Curbside service & takeout available

Chick-fil-A Blairsville – Drive-thru and delivery available within 10 minute range

Daniel’s Steakhouse of Hiawassee Ga – CLOSED

Enrico’s- Curbside service and takeout available

Hawg Wild BBQ & Catfish House of Hiawassee – Drive-thru

Hiawassee Brew – Curbside service and takeout available

Kountry Kitchen – Curbside service and takeout available

Marina Station – Takeout available

Mary’s Southern Grill – Takeout available

McLain’s on Main Cafe + Coffee Bar – Takeout available

Moondance Grilll – Curbside service available

Monte Alban – Takeout available

Papas Pizza To-go Hiawassee – Drive-thru, delivery area extended

Sand Bar & Grille – Takeout available

Sundance Grill- Curbside service and takeout available

The Copper Door – Curbside service only for dinner and wine

The Oaks Lakeside Kitchen – Takeout available

 

 

Recent Archive:

Towns County officials ‘closely monitoring’ coronavirus developments

 

Towns County officials ‘closely monitoring’ coronavirus developments

News
Towns County - Corona Virus

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County officials and health providers gathered in recent days, focused on disseminating information related to COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. Rhonda Calwell, a registered nurse trained in Infection Control and Prevention with Union General Hospital, held a seminar for the public on March 10, at the Towns County Recreation and Conference Center in Young Harris. The following day, a PowerPoint presentation was led by Towns County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) with local emergency responders in attendance.

Archive: Towns County EMA issues statement on coronavirus

FYN spoke with Towns County EMA Director Brandon Walls on Wednesday, March 11. Walls stated that EMA is “closely monitoring” the spread of the virus outbreak. Walls added that the department is involved in “active and heavy situational awareness” with “advice and guidance exchanged between local, state, and federal agencies.” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw indicated that policies related to the virus outbreak may transpire in coming weeks.

There are no known cases of COVID-19 in Towns or surrounding counties at the time of publication.

On March 10, Towns County Schools announced guidelines stating that students, staff, and any individual who attends or visits the campus must impose a 14-day self-quarantine should they meet certain criteria. If the individual or a house member has traveled outside of the U.S. in the past two weeks, or if they have been in close contact with anyone who has contracted COVID-19, self-monitoring for the onset of virus symptoms is warranted. Students and staff must remain fever-free for a 14-day period prior to their return to campus.

Towns county Schools - coronavirus

Statement issued by Towns County Schools regarding COVID-19

Quarantined students and staff are required to report symptoms associated with COVID-19 to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by dialing 1-866-PUB-HLTH, additionally seeking medical assistance. According to the school’s administration, students will be provided class assignments during the quarantine period, and absences will be excused.

“We’re talking with the school daily,” Walls told FYN. “We’re looking at the response plan to see if changes need to be made.”

Walls stressed that the public should not panic nor “add to the hype” but rather follow CDC and DPH health guidelines and pursue accurate information on the virus.

As of March 10, there were 22 confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia. While the risk of infection remains relatively low, citizens are urged to take general precautions recommended to reduce the spread of any respiratory illness.

Click here for preventive information from the CDC

COVID 19 Towns County

Source: CDC

 

“More cases of COVID-19 are likely to be identified in the United States in the coming days, including more instances of community spread. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur,” Georgia’s DPH website states in part. “Widespread transmission of COVID-19 would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, and workplaces, may experience more absenteeism. Mass gatherings may be sparsely attended or postponed. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and sectors of the transportation industry may also be affected. Healthcare providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed.”

Georgia physicians are now capable of ordering tests for COVID-19, and private labs can process the samples.

FYN will continue to update information related to the virus outbreak as developments occur.

 

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Towns County EMA issues statement on coronavirus

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Towns County Coronavirus

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw addressed COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus, during a special-called meeting on Thursday, March 5, with Towns County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Brandon Walls in attendance.

“Towns County EMA is constantly monitoring the situation and is, as always, connected in real-time with our local, state and federal partners,” Walls told FYN. “We are always ready to mount a response to any situation. We urge the public to educate themselves from reputable sources such as the CDC and the state department of health. Monitoring, education, and research is a key factor in managing, mitigating and responding to any situation like the CoVid-19 outbreak. Follow standard infection control hygiene practices such as hand washing and staying home when sick. We would also like to ask the public to avoid adding to ‘hype’ and spreading unverified information.”

Two known cases of the coronavirus have been documented in Georgia; a 56-year-old father and his 15-year-old son residing in Fulton County. The man was reported as a recent visitor to Milan, Italy.

Symptoms include a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

As of March 5, the CDC reported 99 cases of confirmed coronavirus in 13 U.S. states, along with 10 deaths resulting from the illness. Of the 99 cases, a total of 30 have been deemed travel-related, 20 cases were spread person-to-person, and 49 cases are currently under investigation. As of March 4, a total of 1,526 U.S. patients had been tested for the novel virus. The number, however, does not include testing performed at state and local public health laboratories as testing began this week.

The CDC advises the following preventative actions to avoid respiratory illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well to wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

 

Plunkett appointed to Towns County Board of Elections

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David Plunkett

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – David Plunkett was appointed to the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration last week by Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, replacing former board member Jim Powell.

“I want to thank Jim Powell for serving,” Bradshaw said. “He has done a great job. He is a very nice man…” Powell’s term expired on Dec. 31, 2019. “I met with (Mr. Plunkett) today. I’d never met him before, and we talked for about 30 minutes. He’s a very nice man, a very knowledgeable person,” Bradshaw continued, adding that Plunkett formerly worked at the Capitol.

Towns County Board of Elections

Towns County Board of Elections and Registration, located on Lakeview Circle in Hiawassee.

Plunkett, 67, is a retired attorney living in Young Harris, GA, with his wife Vickie.  Plunkett moved to Young Harris, purchasing his parents’ house, in 2017 after leaving his position as Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).  Prior to joining CSPI, the appointed board member worked as Legislative Director and Counsel to several Members of Congress from 1989 to 2007.  Plunkett additionally served as an Elections Specialist in the Alabama Secretary of State’s office from 1988 to 1989 where he carried out functions related to certifying elections, training poll workers, implementing changes to Alabama’s election law and investigating election fraud.  Plunkett has a background in community newspapers in South Alabama, rising from a staff reporter/photographer to editor and associate publisher. The retired attorney is a Georgia native, a graduate of the University of Georgia, Athens, GA, and George Mason School of Law, Arlington, VA.

Plunkett joins Dr. Janet Oliva, Chair; Scott Ledford, Vice-Chair, Loretta Youngblood, and Betsy Young on the county elections board.

 Towns County Board of Elections archives

 

Courthouse renovation plans begin to form

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Towns County Courthouse

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As previously reported, the Towns County Courthouse, constructed in 1964, could be getting a much-needed facelift should the SPLOST referendum pass on the May 19 ballot. Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw is consulting with the architectural firm  Clark Patterson Lee who was hired to sketch the blueprints for the modernized design. The renovation cost, derived solely from SPLOST funds, is expected to amount to approximately $8 million. Because the Towns County Board of Education ESPLOST is set to expire this year, implementing a county SPLOST will not increase the current 7-percent sales tax.

Click to read: SPLOST to appear on spring ballot

Towns County Courthouse

The lower level of the aged Towns County Courthouse.

Preliminary ideas include transforming the present courtroom into additional office space while constructing a new full-sized and a smaller courtroom. “A lot of times we have court here and have to have court across the street at the civic center,” Bradshaw explained. “We’re also talking about doing a sally port because the grade of the property back here goes downhill and it’s a great place to do a basement type.” The commissioner added that holding cells for prisoners awaiting court will be installed.

“There’s many things that they’re looking at doing to make the courthouse more efficient, as far as energy-efficient goes, and safety to make it safer,” Bradshaw said. “We’ve got these (courtroom) side doors, here and here, that back in the day were fine to use. People come and go as they want but those days, unfortunately, they are gone.”

Handicap-assessable restrooms, as well as a family restroom, is also in the plans.

Towns County Courthose

The present county courtroom.

“The $8 million is what we’re looking to spend on the additions and renovation of the courthouse. They think they can do all of our needs for that plus additional parking,” Bradshaw said. The blueprints are expected to be completed in approximately five weeks, and a minimum of two County Hall meetings will be held with different renovation options. “Everything we do, we’re going to involve the public in it,” Bradshaw assured.

SPLOST to fund $8M courthouse renovation

911 director updates community on call center upgrades

News
Marty Roberts - Towns 911

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County 911 Director Marty Roberts brought the community up-to-date on the progress of the upgraded equipment and renovations to the Emergency Operations Center during the February commissioner’s meeting.

“We’re excited at 911. There’s a lot of things happening down there that are just wonderful,” Roberts said. “Everything looks great. The dispatchers are really excited about the new upgrades. We’re ahead of schedule on going live with our CAD. We started our training last week. We were in training for four days. We’ve got two more weeks of that and then we’ll be cutting live on the 24th of March. So we’re really excited about that.”

Roberts confided that the renovations have not been a simple task, however, considering that the 911 center is operational at all times. In addition to a lease agreement with AVTEC for the radio console systems, a contract with Quality Recording for a recorder to preserve the audio of 911 calls was signed by Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw.

“The radio console, it’s not actually a radio,” Roberts continued. “It’s actually a computer system hooked to radios which allows the dispatchers to combine different frequencies to talk to the fire, EMS, SO at the same time. So we don’t have to talk to one and then talk to the other. It allows us to do our tones that we dispatch to alert the fire station or the ambulance services when we have a call.” Roberts said that the upgraded system will increase the speed of emergency dispatch.

Emergency dispatch, responders switch to digital communication

 

A five-year lease agreement was entered with AT&T in November, in conjunction with West Safety Services, at a cost of $4.260 per month for the emergency telecommunications service. Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw explained that while the county considered purchasing the service, the lease agreement proved to be the better bargain due to maintenance and service costs associated with an owned system.

Bradshaw previously signed a contract in July 2019, upgrading the county’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system for emergency services. Towns County 911 explained that the improved system will be custom-tailored to Towns County. The cost of the enhanced CAD system totals nearly $213,000, a price that Bradshaw defined as a “tremendous amount of money.” The charge is roughly half of the amount that the commissioner expected to spend on the program upon taking office, however, and Bradshaw expressed approval, referencing computer-aided dispatch as “the heartbeat of 911.”

“There are times when leasing is more cost-effective because the maintenance of this equipment is included in the lease,” Bradshaw said on Tuesday. The new console system will cost $2,983 per month which includes maintenance, whereas it has cost $1,055 per month in maintenance alone without parts included for the 12-year-old system. “We’re not only upgrading all of the technology and equipment down there, we’re also remodeling the interior of the building,” Bradshaw added. “New floor coverings, ceiling, tiles, paint, and it’s going to look very nice.”

The commissioner said that the public will be invited to view the renovations to the 911 Center once the project is complete.

Road crews at work as snow blankets county

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Towns County weather

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Road Department is hard at work, clearing area roadways to ensure safe passage for emergency responders and motorists who must travel. As the snow began to fall, with current reports of over 6 inches of accumulation in some locations, Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw continues to make the rounds with county road crews.

Numerous, minor accidents have been reported throughout the county.

Towns County snow

Upper Hiawassee River, State Route 75 South.

Hiawassee Police Department advised motorists this morning to “please stay off the streets unless absolutely necessary.”

Blue Ridge Mountain EMC is reporting approximately 600 power outages in its area of coverage.

Winter precipitation is expected to taper off as the afternoon advances, with an overnight temperature of roughly 23 degrees. Partly sunny skies with temperatures in the 50s are in Sunday’s forecast.

Ice may form on area roadways after dusk. Please use extreme caution if travel is unavoidable.

“We would like to ask that travel be avoided if possible especially after dark due to freezing of wet and slushy roads,” Towns County EMA Director Brandon Walls told FYN. “We have also requested extra GDOT plow trucks to assist.”

The threat of possible localized flooding remains, Walls said, as the ground is saturated from recent rainfall and additional precipitation is anticipated to return next week. Walls urged residents to remain alert to changing weather conditions.

Follow FYN for further weather updates as developments occur.

Towns County Road Department

Towns County Road Department at work. 

Freeport Tax Exemption to appear on May ballot

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Freeport tax exemption

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- A referendum that could ease the tax burden for local business owners will appear on the May 19 general primary ballot. Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw informed FYN last year that it was an option that he was considering in expectation of attracting economic development to the area. The formal decision to include the question on the spring ballot was announced last week during a special-called meeting. If approved by the voters, the referendum will allow business owners to store merchandise and production supplies in their shops, tax-free, for a year’s time.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, business inventory became exempt from state property taxes.  According to Georgia.org, nearly all (93 percent) of Georgia’s counties and over 140 of its cities have adopted a Level One Freeport Exemption, set at 20, 40, 60, 80 or 100 percent of the inventory value.

Towns County opted for a 100-percent exemption.

A Level One Freeport Exemption may exempt the following types of tangible personal property:

  • Inventory of goods in the process of being manufactured or produced including raw materials and partly finished goods
  • Inventory of finished goods manufactured or produced in Georgia held by the manufacturer or producer for a period not to exceed 12 months
  • Inventory of finished goods on January 1 that are stored in a warehouse, dock, or wharf that are destined for shipment outside of Georgia for a period not to exceed 12 months

If approved, application for Freeport Exemption should be made with the Board of Tax Assessors within the same time period that returns are due in the county.

In addition to Freeport Exemption, Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw requested that the Board of Elections include a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum on the May ballot.

SPLOST is an optional one percent county sales tax used to fund capital outlay projects proposed by the county government and participating qualified municipal governments. In general, county and municipal governments may not use SPLOST proceeds for operating expenses or maintenance of a SPLOST project1 or any other county or municipal facility or service. SPLOST is levied in what the law refers to as a “special district,” which is comprised of the entire territory of the county calling for the SPLOST. By using special districts, the revenue of a county tax
can be constitutionally shared with participating municipalities. The tax is imposed when the board of commissioners – or in the case of Towns County, the sole commissioner – calls a local referendum (i.e., vote)  and the referendum is subsequently passed by the voters within the county.

SPLOST to appear on spring ballot

News
Towns County SPLOST

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw requested that the Board of Elections include a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum on the May 19, 2020 primary ballot.

“The school’s SPLOST tax runs out in October…,” Bradshaw said last week. “Ours will pick up when theirs cuts out, when theirs ends. So there would be no increase on taxes from what it is right now. And the reason we’re asking for the SPLOST tax is to remodel this courthouse and possibly do an addition on it because all of the judges since I have been here have come in and actually told me you all need to do some work here at the courthouse. We’re not handicapped compliant, and there’s several other reasons as you can look around and see. We just need to be updated.

Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

“Also, we would use the money for the fire department to upgrade some of our fire trucks and things like that. Also for our road department to upgrade their equipment. It’s been many, many years since we replaced any of the dump trucks. our backhoe or sidearm machine that mow your banks and things like that. And then we’d also put in there for parks and rec. We might need to do some fencing and things like that at Foster Park.”

Additionally, the City of Hiawassee scheduled a special-called meeting for Monday, Jan. 27 at 6 pm, immediately preceding the council’s regular work session. “It will begin with a special-called meeting to discuss and vote on the SPLOST Referendum and the Fluoride Resolution,” Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick told FYN.

Click for City of Hiawassee fluoride archives

SPLOST is an optional one percent county sales tax used to fund capital outlay projects proposed by the county government and participating qualified municipal governments. In general, county and municipal governments may not use SPLOST proceeds for operating expenses or maintenance of a SPLOST project1 or any other county or municipal facility or service. SPLOST is levied in what the law refers to as a “special district,” which is comprised of the entire territory of the county calling for the SPLOST. By using special districts, the revenue of a county tax
can be constitutionally shared with participating municipalities. The tax is imposed when the board of commissioners – or in the case of Towns County, the sole commissioner – calls a local referendum (i.e., vote)  and the referendum is subsequently passed by the voters within the county.

The tax is collected on items subject to the sales and use tax within the county. The SPLOST is also imposed on the sale of food and nonalcoholic beverages, which are not subject to the state sales tax, and is also imposed on the sale of alcoholic beverages.

 

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