Weather, speed may have contributed to Young Harris accident


YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – A wintry mix of precipitation, along with a high rate of speed, may have been contributing factors in a Friday accident on State Route 76, in the area of Young Harris mountain.

A 20-year-old male driver was ejected from the vehicle that he was driving following a rollover crash, ending alongside the highway’s eastbound shoulder. The Hiawassee resident miraculously sustained only minor injuries, refusing ambulance transport for further medical evaluation.

Fortunately, other vehicles were not involved in the early-afternoon accident, braking in time to avoid a collision.

Emergency officials reported “slick” patches of roadway in the vicinity of the crash.

An eyewitness told FYN that the driver appeared to be traveling at a high speed when the accident occurred. “He is lucky to be alive,” the shaken Blairsville resident, who was traveling behind the victim, stated, adding that the incident was “incredibly scary.”

Due to worsening weather conditions, Towns County Commissioners Cliff Bradshaw closed the county courthouse shortly after noon on Feb. 28, as a safety precaution.

Georgia Department of Transportation road crews were witnessed conditioning the highway in question following the crash.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 17% of car accidents occur during winter weather conditions.

“Slick surfaces exaggerate any movement,” NHTSA said.”If you brake too hard or turn too hard or drive too fast, you can go into a skid…Winter driving demands special care; safe driving is a year-round habit. You and everyone in your vehicle should be wearing seat belts for every ride. Children should be in age- and size-appropriate child seats. Never drive after drinking. Never drive when distracted by an electronic device or anything else. Those are the essentials for safe driving, whatever the weather.”

Towns County comes in $100K under budget, road grant approved

Towns County budget

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County has nearly completed its budget amendment calculation for 2019, with positive news of an underspending of approximately $100,000. Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw estimated the amount between $80K to $100K at the 2020 county budget adoption on Dec. 31, with the exact amount undetermined at the time due to delayed bill submissions by unspecified departments. Bradshaw stated that a few outstanding bills still need to be paid in order to arrive at an exact figure.

“It may be a little bit more. I don’t think it will be any less,” Bradshaw said. “But we can safely say $100,000. So I’m very, very proud of that. The auditors have already started again, auditing. They should be able to work through our books through June so we’re looking forward to getting that one done as well.”

The commissioner held a called meeting in his courthouse office on New Year’s Eve to finalize the adoption of the 2020 county budget while amending the budget from the previous year. “Every year, at the end of the year, we go over the previous year budget, and then we make any amendments that we need to amend. We might have an overage of one department, and under in another department, so we just move the money around so that we stay in budget,” Bradshaw explained.

Click to review Towns County’s 2020 budget

In other news, Towns County was approved for a Local Maintenance & Improvement Grant (LMIG) in the amount of $316,000. Towns County will provide a 30-percent match. “Last year we receive $284,000 so it’s definitely up and we’re very thankful for that,” Bradshaw said. The grant assists with road repaving and resurfacing.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the annual LMIG allocation is based on the total centerline road miles for each local road system and the total population of each county or city as compared with the total statewide centerline road miles and total statewide population. The LMIG program allows local governments greater flexibility and quicker project delivery while allowing the GDOT to effectively administer the program with a reduced workforce and new funding match requirements.

U.S. Route 76 safety improvements begin to take form

US Route 76

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The safety of travelers on U.S. Route 76 in Towns County has been a concern of Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and the community for years, and a plan is in the works to improve conditions for motorists.

Commissioner Bradshaw joined Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) District Engineer Brandon Kirby last week on a tour to evaluate dangerous portions of Towns County’s main highway. Kirby was appointed to serve District 1 earlier this year, a region that incorporates 21 counties in Northeast Georgia. Kirby replaced Brent Cook upon retirement, the district engineer whom Bradshaw initially consulted on the issue.

Bradshaw’s goal is the installation of a turning lane stretch, west of Hiawassee city limits. Currently, motorists traveling westbound who wish to make a left-hand turn must come to a complete standstill in the traffic lane while eastbound vehicles pass and rear motorists quickly approach. The area in question has been the site of numerous accidents, some proving fatal. Towns County Road Superintendent Clyde Shook accompanied the commissioner and state engineer on the detailed tour.

Bradshaw reported that communication between the county and state departments is fluent.

“(The GDOT) gets it,” Bradshaw said. “They understand that something has to be done, and studies are underway to make it happen.”

Bradshaw committed to highway safety improvements prior to taking office in 2016, and the sole commissioner has proven steadfast in pursuing the promise. Reconstruction of the roadway is expected to take an indefinite period of time, however, as the logistics involved may prove challenging for the GDOT due to bordering Lake Chatuge.

FetchYourNews has established contact with the GDOT and will provide updates as they become available.

Click for related archives

GDOT to reevaluate U.S. 76 turning lane

turning lane

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The addition of a turning lane on U.S. 76 was discussed between Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT)  Engineer Russell McMurry in Atlanta Aug. 28. Georgia State Senator John Wilkinson accompanied Bradshaw to the meeting. Bradshaw told FetchYourNews that McMurry was highly receptive to the community’s safety concerns, connecting the commissioner with DOT District One Engineer Brandon Kirby.

turning lane

DOT District One Engineer Brandon Kirby

Kirby is expected to conduct additional studies on Towns County’s main highway in order to begin constructing a blueprint to install a turning lane on the dangerous roadway. Kirby recently replaced now-retired District One Engineer Brent Cook. The district engineer oversees the DOT’s programs in 21 counties in northeast Georgia, aiming to build partnerships with local and state lawmakers, chambers of commerce, business leaders, and the public in the region.

“I feel good about our conversation,” Bradshaw said. “I made it clear that studies should not be done during the winter months when our population drops. It was explained, however, that it will likely take many years for DOT to complete the project.”

The vicinity of Papa’s Pizza, west of Hiawassee, has been the site of community concern for many years, and Bradshaw has diligently pursued the matter since his election to office in 2017. Bradshaw was additionally scheduled to meet with Governor Brain Kemp while visiting Atlanta, a meeting that was postponed until Sept. 25 due to Governor Kemp’s attendance at a funeral.

GDOT Pleads for Safe Back to School Driving in Northwest Georgia 

Safe Driving for Back-to-School Season…
GDOT Pleads for Safe Back to School Driving in Northwest Georgia 

WHITE, Ga. – Students heading back to school means more traffic, increased congestion and the need for extra safety precautions. From school buses loading and unloading, to kids walking and biking, to parents dropping off and picking up – dangers abound.

As back-to-school gets into full swing, Georgia DOT urges drivers to put safety first – especially in and around school zones, buses and children.

  • Pay attention to school zone flashing beacons and obey school zone speed limits.
  • Obey school bus laws.
    • Stop behind/do not pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
    • If the lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, opposing traffic must stop unless it is on a divided highway with a grass or concrete median.
  • Watch for students gathering near bus stops, and for kids arriving late, who may dart into the street. Children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.

According to the National Safety Council, most children who lose their lives in school bus-related incidents are four to seven years old, walking and they are hit by the bus, or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus.

“It’s never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present – especially in the peak traffic hours before and after school,” said Grant Waldrop, district engineer at the DOT office in White.

Research by the National Safe Routes to School program found that more children are hit by cars near schools than at any location. Georgia DOT implores drivers to watch out for children walking or bicycling (both on the road and the sidewalk) in area near a school.

“If you’re driving behind a school bus, increase your following distance to allow more time to stop once the lights start to flash. The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to give them space to safely enter and exit the bus,” Waldrop explained.

Whenever you drive – be alert and expect the unexpected. By exercising a little extra care and caution, drivers and pedestrians can co-exist safely in and around school zones. Let’s make this new school year safer for our children. 

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Gooch: Senate Gets Down to Business

State & National

Senate Gets Down to Business

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

Although the Senate was in session for only two days this week, my colleagues and I were very busy under the Gold Dome addressing budget proposals and a key piece of legislation on the Senate Floor.

The week started with Joint Senate and House Appropriations hearings on the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets. Governor Deal kicked off the hearings which included several different agencies presenting their budget proposals. I am happy to say that the state’s budget continues to be in good shape, with the General FY19 budget topping $26 billion for the first time. The General FY19 budget proposals were drafted with an estimated 2.9 percent state fund growth and around 3.8 percent tax revenue growth over the Amended FY18 revenue estimates. Included in the General FY19 budget are increases in funding for education and transportation.

The General FY19 budget addresses the needs for the state to meet determined employer contributions within the Teachers Retirement System with a proposed increase of around $364 million. Additionally, around $120 million would be appropriated for enrollment growth and training. Along with these positive changes in the General FY19 budget, an important proposal in the Amended FY18 budget is adding $15 million to purchase 194 school buses statewide. This will positively impact our students by ensuring that buses are not overcrowded.

The state’s growing need to address transportation infrastructure is also addressed in the General FY19 budget. An additional $31.6 million in projected revenues resulting from House Bill 170 – passed during the 2015 Legislation Session – will be added to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) budget. I am very happy to see that a piece of legislation we passed a couple of years ago is still making positive impacts for GDOT.

Along with attending the budget hearings and carefully reviewing the proposals for the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets, my colleagues and I took up a very important piece of legislation in Senate Chamber. On Thursday, the Senate passed the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act, also known as the Adoption Bill, or HB 159. This bill passed with bipartisan support and is now headed over to the House of Representatives for their review. Final passage of this legislation and a signature into law by the Governor would allow our state to update our adoption system which has been the same for nearly 30 years.

The Senate’s version of HB 159 clarifies many of the laws regarding who can adopt, who can act as a legal guardian and the rights held by the biological parents before and after giving their child up for adoption. Additionally, the version the Senate passed on Thursday states that if an agency is not involved in a private adoptive process, living expenses cannot be paid. The only expenses that can be paid in a private adoption are medical and counseling. These are just some of the highlights of the Senate version of HB 159. As this legislation moves through the legislative process, my colleagues and I will work with the Governor and House of Representatives to ensure there is cooperation to address concerns anyone may have. It is imperative that we pass this legislation so that we can assist the large number of children who are in foster care and need a loving and stable home.

The pace of the session is going to pick up quickly with standing committees beginning to hold meetings next week to vet legislation pending from last year along with new bills introduced this year. As we move forward in the session, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns and feedback. It is always great to hear from my constituents and our door is always open.

Put your phone away and just drive: Hands-Free cell phone use is now the law drivers in Georgia

Press Release

Hands-Free cell phone use is law

Drive Alert Arrive Alive, Georgia!

CARTERSVILLE, Ga.—Just put down the phone and DRIVE! Hands-free cell phone use is now the law for drivers in Georgia. The Hands-Free Law (House Bill 673; Hands-Free Georgia Act), which went into effect on July 1, requires hands-free technology when drivers use cell phones and other electronic devices. Among other things, it is illegal for a driver to hold a phone in their hand or to use their body to support a phone. Penalties range from $50 and one point on a license for the first conviction to $150 and three points for the third and subsequent convictions.

Read Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) The EXTRA MILE blog post – Hands-Free Means Big Changes for the Better in Georgia – by guest author Robert Hydrick of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS). For additional information on the many facets of the law, visit

“I am optimistic that Georgia’s new Hands-Free law will save lives,” GDOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry. P.E. said. “I also want to emphasize how crucial it is for drivers and passengers to buckle up. Seatbelts truly save lives.”

Through its Drive Alert Arrive Alive campaign, GDOT has, for several years, called attention to an alarming surge in fatalities on Georgia’s roads after a decade of reductions. Many of these deaths are preventable. The campaign implores motorists to focus on driving, to not drive distracted and to wear a seatbelt to reduce the chance of serious injury or death if there is a crash.

While GDOT reports that, as of June 28, 2018, overall roadway fatalities are down 10 percent in Georgia from the same time last year, pedestrian deaths are up 22 percent. GDOT’s See & Be Seen campaign, the pedestrian component of Drive Alert Arrive Alive, emphasizes that pedestrian safety is a shared responsibility between motorists and pedestrians. Visit

Summer construction roadwork is underway across Georgia. Before you get on the road, call 511 or visit for real-time information about active construction, incidents and road conditions.Pay extra attention in work zones – slow down and watch for workers.  Work zone safety is everybody’s responsibility. 

Georgia DOT Contracts Awarded for Senate District 51

Press Release


Press Release


Contact:           Ines Owens, Acting Director

[email protected]


Georgia DOT Contracts Awarded for Senate District 51GDOT


ATLANTA (January 25, 2017) | The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) awarded approximately $8.6 million for road projects in Senate District 51 as part of a $54 million statewide construction and maintenance upgrade. Projects for Senate District 51 were announced as part of the 2016 November and December awards.


“Maintenance and upgrades for existing roads continue to be a critical issue for our local communities,” said Senator Steve Gooch(R – Dahlonega). “I commend GDOT for acknowledging the needs within our community and awarding projects to Senate District 51. These projects will increase safety, decrease congestion and ensure that existing infrastructure needs are met.”


Dawson County was awarded a project totaling around $3.8 million. This funding will go toward construction of a roundabout on State Route 53 at State Route 183. The anticipated completion date for this project is May 31, 2018.


A project totaling around $4.5 million was awarded to address approximately 53 miles of plant mix resurfacing and surface treatment paving at five locations across Fannin and Pickens Counties. These upgrades will be completed by November 30, 2017. Along with this award, Pickens County was awarded an additional project totaling $292,243. This project will increase safety throughout the county by funding signing and pavement marking upgrades at railroad crossing location throughout the county. The anticipated completion date for these projects is May 31, 2018.


Information on schedules, lane closures and detours will be made available on the Georgia DOT Website in advance of construction activities.


Details on all projects awarded can be found through the Award Announcement Downloads link at Click on Award Announcement on the right.


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Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at [email protected].

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