HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Sheriff Kenneth Henderson presented and signed a pro-Second Amendment (2A) resolution during the February commission meeting.
The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement patterned itself after the Sanctuary Cities for refugees. The first credited use of a gun sanctuary was in Effingham County, Illinois. The measures commonly reject the enforcement of federal or state gun laws and target regulations like red flag laws, universal gun background checks, and bans on assault-style weapons.
“I took an oath to uphold the Constitution, Bradshaw explained. He quoted President Ronald Reagan (R – CA) who also opposed gun control.
Once the sheriff’s race heated up, the commissioner wanted to wait on the resolution until he knew he had the sheriff’s support. Henderson approached Bradshaw about a Second Amendment Sanctuary measure first and reviewed what Bradshaw already wrote.
“I just can’t explain how honored and humbled I am to serve the people of Towns County as your sheriff. I’m going to work very hard every day to do the best job I possibly can,” Henderson stated. “I want to say thank you commissioner for this document. As he said, we took an oath to uphold the Constitution. I as your sheriff will never ever support anything that infringes on your right to bear arms.”
Several sheriffs in 2A counties have declared they would not enforce any gun law that they deemed unconstitutional.
The Second Amendment resolution states that its “under full assault and the threat to the framework for our basic freedoms and democracy constitutes a clear and present danger.”
SB 281 received special mention as a piece of legislation from the 2019-2020 General Assembly that infringed upon the right to keep and bear arms.
The resolution also affirms that Towns County citizens expect their “GOD given rights” to be protected and defended against tyranny, and the commissioner and sheriff will do their part to prohibit any unconstitutional law.
Many few the Second Amendment Sanctuary measures as a largely symbolic effort and not legally binding. Many state constitutions outline how local ordinances can’t conflict with federal or state law.
Pro-Second supporters believe having these resolutions on the books provides a chance for the issue to play out in court.
43 counties in Georgia have passed gun sanctuary resolutions.
HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, and Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales honored retiring District 50 State Senator John Wilkinson at the October County Commission meeting.
Wilkinson served as a state senator for nine years. District 50 includes Towns, Rabun, Habersham, Stephens, Banks, Franklin, and Jackson counties. He was the Chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee and served on Appropriations, Education and Youth, Natural Resources and the Environment, and Rules Committees. Before being elected to the state senate, Wilkinson was a teacher and farmer.
The senator was instrumental in guaranteeing $1 million in funding for the renovation of the Towns County Library and another $1 million for the Young Harris Library.
“You go through a lifetime…and there are just some people that stand out and you connect with and you click with. They have the same heart, same personality,” Bradshaw said of the senator.
The two had a strong working and personal relationship. Wilkinson would always strive to help Towns County in any way. For instance, he aided in making the COVID-19 drive-thru testing facility a possibility.
Once Bradshaw wanted a grant that met the needs of Towns County, it was $267,000. Wilkinson helped to get the grant approved for the county.
“His heart has always been with helping me and our citizens in this county,” Bradshaw stated, “He is definitely going to be missed.”
Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales added, “I called him one time when we were having water issues and he was on vacation. He didn’t answer right away, but within half-an-hour, he called me back. He didn’t say this is what you need to do. He guided me through the many ways to do things, and he said, ‘you make the right call.’”
Wilkinson was given a chance to speak and said leaving politics, “it’s probably about as close as being at your own funeral as you’ll ever be.” He was referring to hearing people speak about how much he helped them over the years.
Originally from Stephens County, Wilkinson’s agriculture teacher was from Towns County, and he would share stories about Hiawassee.
“Cliff and Liz, I have not had two better friends during my service in the state senate than the two of you,” Wilkinson stated about the commissioner and mayor.
“I’ve done the best I could to work for everybody in this district…Towns County is a special place,” he added.
Wilkinson also quoted Romans 8:22 to cite his belief that all things happen for a reason.
He decided not to run again for the state senate district 50 seat to run for U.S. House of Representatives District 9 but lost in the primary to Matt Gurtler and Andrew Clyde. Later, Clyde won the runoff election. He faces Devin Pandy in the 2020 General Election on November 3.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Towns County Libraries will close Tuesday, March 17.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw canceled the March 17 monthly meeting at the courthouse.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
“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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.