Towns County becomes a Purple Heart County

purple heart proclaimation

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw signed the Purple Heart County Proclamation during the July commission meeting.

“We support our veterans very strongly. The county supports them in every way we can,” Bradshaw stated.

Veteran and Purple Heart recipient Ryan McPherson attended to accept the proclamation and say a few words.

“It’s important that the way of life, American Values are founded on are never forgotten, faith, family, and freedom,” McPherson commented. “We must do all we can to remember and to protect those values. We must also remember American Military Servicemen. They come from all walks and backgrounds.”

McPherson received his badge after being injured during a tour of duty in 2008 in Iraq. He’s semi-retired and moved to Union County from Marietta, Georgia.

“The American soldier is the backbone of this great nation, and their sacrifice can never be understated or under-recognized,” McPherson remarked.

Ryan MxPherson

McPherson earned his Purple Heart merit in 2008 after a tour of duty in Iraq.

George Washington created the Purple Heart as a badge of military merit in 1782. He pinned it on three people. It was also the first American Service Award made available to the common soldier.

In recent wars, thousands of soldiers received Purple Hearts:

  • 320,000 in World War I
  • Over 1,000,000 in World War II
  • 118,000 in the Korean War
  • 351,000 in Vietnam
  • 600 in the Persian Gulf
  • 12,000 in Afghanistan
  • 35,000 in Iraq

Towns County can now be recognized as a stop on the Purple Heart Trail which symbolically honors recipients across the nation.

“[It’s] a visual reminder to those who use our roadways that others have paid a high price for freedom for them to travel along those roads and to live in a free society,” McPherson added.

Military Order of the Purple Heart was established in 1992. It begins in Mt. Vernon, Virginia, and has designated sections in 45 states and Guam.

Full-time county employees receive $2,000 in ARP funds

transfer station ARP

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County employees received a lump sum payment from American Rescue Act (ARP) funds as part of their steadfast service throughout the pandemic.

The county received $1,169,023 million in ARP Act funds.

“As soon as I knew the money was in the bank, I called our county attorney because reading how you can spend the money is very confusing – a lot of grey areas in that,” Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw stated. “First thing, I had in mind. I wanted to do something for our employees.”

Towns County employees like all government employees were expected to work through the pandemic when many other citizens were told to stay home. The call to public service rings especially true for those in public safety who had to put themselves in harm’s way of the virus.

“We didn’t have employees call in ‘I’m not coming to work or I’m sick or I’m scared.’ All of our employees worked right through it and we’re very thankful for them,” Bradshaw praised all departments.

He wanted to give them a monetary thank you for their service but didn’t want to go by the so much per-hour guideline set in the rules. Bradshaw also wanted the money to be in one lump sum and as a paper check with a thank you letter for their service.

All full-time employees received $2,000, and part-time employees were given $1,000. Elected officials didn’t collect any of ARP bonus money.

“I know it helped a lot of people, but they’re very deserving of it,” Bradshaw added. He also asked the public to thank these employees when you see them out in the community.

County attorney Robert Kiker and the county are laying out a plan for the money moving forward.

The federal government has published guiding principles, but not exacting rules as for how the money is spent. However, the county is liable for those funds and how it’s spent. Kiker’s working with ACCG to ensure that nothing falls back on Towns County.

“What we’re looking to do is COVID-related pandemic preparation,” Kiker explained. “We would be better prepared for such an event.”

Some of the areas being considered are updating the HVAC systems, protecting public and employees’ health, enhancement of court facilities for IT and remote capabilities, updating jail booking procedures and interactions.

County Attorney Robert Kiker

Towns County Attorney Robert Kiker

Currently, everything’s in the theory phase, but they want to use the funds for health and make it some government can function if something similar to a pandemic ever occurs again.

“I know that COVID-19’s been a tragedy,” Bradshaw commented. “We want to be prepared.”

Transfer station updates on the way

Community, News
transfer station ARP

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw provided some insight into the future of the transfer station during the May 18, 2021 meeting.

Bradshaw and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have worked together to develop a safe layout that makes dumbing household garbage easier for residents.

“Right now, as you know, you back in under that big shed, you get out, you throw your garbage in that big trailer sitting down there. A lot of days when we’re busy there’s garbage backed up, they’re trying change out the trailer this, that, and the other. You get out, you’re carrying your trash through all this junk in the floor,” Bradshaw explained.

People will continue to pay in the same place, but the residential and commercial garbage drop points will be separate.

“We’re going to cut a road that goes around all the scrap metal that’s there, you go all the way around…you’ll be dumping straight across [from the existing garbage drop-off point],” Bradshaw stated.

Three 54-inch-tall roll-offs will go in the grassy area across from the current site. The container will also have lids. Lids on the containers eliminate the necessity of a roof over the bins. Recycling will remain in the same place.

“It will cut down on the wait time, on getting in and getting out,” Bradshaw remarked, “Plus it will make it neater and cleaner for the residential people.”

Bradshaw’s wanted to renovate the transfer station for a couple of years but wanted to find ways to save money on the project too. The road department will pave the road and some grading will be necessary for runoff toward the leachate pond. Reid Dyer of Hayes, James, and Associates has been helping the county plan the layout.

It isn’t expected to be completed until late fall or Christmas.

Colwell Detention Center crews are returning to work. One crew is back out in Towns and working on cleaning Foster Park. They hope to have a second crew back by July. Towns usually has three crews, but since COVID-19 hit, all Colwell detention crews have been locked down.

Progress on the new courthouse is still slow-moving, but the architect thinks they could break ground in late Spring 2022.

Farmers Market is expected to open by the first of June.

Towns created a bid package with the assistance of KCI for the Georgia Department of Transportation’s LMIG striving and paving grant for 2021. The $130,000 grant will include thermal striping and marking along Fodder Creek, Upper Bell Creek, Gumlog, Owl Creek, Frank Creek, and Byers Creek roads.

It’s a matching grant and the county will contribute $78,140.

Towns County prepares for summer months

Towns County courthouse COVID-19 summer

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County’s gearing up for summer season, scheduling the beach’s opening day, and using local detainees to clean county property.

The county beach and associated bathrooms will officially open on May 15. By mid-May, the weather should be warm enough.

Sheriff Ken “Ode” Henderson implemented a jail detainee road crew since Colwell Detention Center detainee crews still aren’t available. Colwell hasn’t been able to send out crews since the pandemic started. Last year, the road department cared for all the local property, but that’s not a sustainable solution on top of their usual responsibilities.

The county hired a company to care for the courthouse property alone and the sheriff’s office hired a full-time deputy to watch the jail crew. This way the crews can work five days a week.

Colwell hopes to have detainee crews back by July 2021, but it still depends on if someone tests positive for COVID-19.

Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw stated that Towns is in good shape financially and sales taxes are up again this year.

Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Bids are out for the concrete helicopter pad at the new Young Harris Fire Station. A grand opening for the facility will be scheduled sometime this summer depending on COVID-19. Speaking of COVID-19, Towns has administered over 8,000 vaccine doses. Bradshaw asked everyone to continue to follow the CDC guidelines.

Sheriff Ken Henderson’s office was officially issued a county credit card after the second reading and adoption of the ordinance. Henderson approached the county about the necessity of a credit card for training and accommodations that require cards to hold rooms. The credit card funds will come from the sheriff’s office budget and can’t exceed $750 charge per day or $5,000 per month.

Henderson’s responsible for every dime spent on that card and developed an office policy that detailed authorized users, purchases, and procedures for the credit card.

Towns County Fire Department hopes to purchase a brush rescue truck at some time in the future. The vehicle will enable the department to fight brush fires, respond to medical emergencies and car wrecks. For now, the county will continue to let SPLOST funds build up before moving forward with a purchase. The truck will cost around $140,732.

Marty Roberts was named the Safety Coordinator for Towns County as part of its Safety Policy Statement for ACCG. He will investigate accident prevention and how to make the county safer.

Bradshaw signed the 2021 Economic Development Strategy Resolution with Hiawassee and Young Harris. The three governments will work together to attract businesses and foster prosperity in Towns County.

Hamilton Gardens will continue its plant sale every weekend until they sell out. The sale runs Saturday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The new gazebo has opened in the garden, and the first concert of the season is scheduled for April 29.

Towns County Historical Society plans to have its first meeting since 2020 on May 10 at 6 p.m.

2020 millage rate set, update on county projects

millage rate

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw accepted the rollback for the 2020 millage rate during the October meeting.

The millage for the county portion is now set at 5.003 mills.

To reach the 5.003 mills, the county determined 6.918 mills or revenue were needed for maintenance and operation of county government and then subtracted 1.915 mills from the anticipated one percent local option sales tax. 0.000 mills were needed for a county bond. Also, .456 mills levied for the fire department.

The Towns County Board of Education passed their millage rate on October 5, 2020. 9.74 mills needed for revenue and operation of schools. 0.00 mills levied for the school bond. The board then subtracted 2.394 mills from anticipated local option sales tax.  For a total of 7.346 net mills levied for the school.

To Bradshaw’s knowledge, taxes in Towns County haven’t been raised since 2008.

“With the increase in sales taxes, home selling, and the economy is doing pretty good considering COVID. We are not going to raise your taxes. We’re going to accept the rollback from the state. Everything will be pretty much as is. We feel confident that we have the money and income to meet all the needs,” Bradshaw explained.

According to Bradshaw, the county is in good shape financially and sales taxes in 2020 are up. In 2019, sales taxes were $1.1 million through September, and in 2020, it’s $1.2 million.

Part of the reason for the increase is a statewide audit of businesses found misappropriation of funds. As a result, Towns County will see an increase of $93,811.

Bradshaw also believes the increase is COVID-19 related. People are choosing to take short trips out of town over flying and visiting larger tourist destinations.

Two new accounts were opened due to interest rates being extremely low. The money market account moved to South State Bank with an interest rate of .50 percent while United Community Bank had a .1 percent interest.  A second account was opened for SPLOST funds at South State Bank.

County Projects

The new fire station in Young Harris will hopefully be opened soon as they are currently moving into the space. For now, the parking lot will be gravel, but sometime in late spring or summer of 2021, the lot will be poured. It will also feature a concrete helicopter landing pad. The delay in pouring concrete will also give the ground time to settle.

“They don’t have to come all the way over [Young Harris] mountain,” Bradshaw said about the helicopter pad.

Towns County Courthouse

Towns County Courthouse

Detainee labor performed the majority of labor on the project, saving the taxpayers money. The building is mostly complete, but a few indoor additions still need to be made.

The new SPLOST-funded courthouse designs are still with the architects to achieve full use of the space. The building will be brought up to fire code with an addition, offices, new courtrooms, and inmate holding cells.

Two new battery-operated stretchers were also purchased for Towns County. The stretchers will prevent EMTS from bending down as much and hopefully lessen back issues.

Back to Top