Early voting turnout records set in Towns County

Community, News
early voting line at Towns County

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Four days into the early voting process for the 2020 General Election and Towns County elections officials report record turnout.

As of 1 p.m. on Friday, October 16, 1,583 Towns registered voters had cast their ballots. This number does not include absentee ballots. Board of Elections Chairman Janet Oliva stated hundreds of voters visited the civic center all week to exercise their civic duty.

The total number of ballots cast in Georgia as of October 16 at noon is 1,217,277. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, early voting is up 62 percent, and accepted absentee ballots are up 732 percent compared to the 2016 early voting numbers. These statistics measure against the first four voting days.

Earlier in the week, the state-run election net ran slowly throughout Georgia due to the record turnout statewide. As a result, voters had to wait from 45 minutes to an hour, but Towns Board of Elections and Registration and the Secretary of State implemented measures to speed up the process.

Towns began checking people in the “old fashioned way,” in other words, using the paper rolls instead of relying on the Election Net system. The Secretary of State’s office also overhauled the Election Net database to perform more efficiently, and now it’s quickly processing voter information.

The manual or paper method is a state-recommended procedure to keep lines moving if the Election Net system isn’t working correctly. Each county in Georgia receives paper rolls from the Secretary of State right before every election in case of a technology mishap.

The first half of the sample ballot

Wait times after the improvements became 30 minutes or less.

One voter in line said that Friday’s voting line was the shortest it had been all week. When Fetch Your News was there, around eight people were waiting in line. However, it continued to move quickly.

Another woman voter added that she didn’t expect to wait in line, but it was a “beautiful day” and felt that it was essential to “get [her] vote in.”

Some voters felt like the enormous early turnout resulted from COVID-19 and the importance of the presidential election. Many people want to ensure they can safely vote and voice their opinions. 

Some registered voters who requested absentee ballots are showing up to early vote instead. These individuals must sign a piece of paper voiding their absentee ballots to prevent any double voting.

Early voting will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday until October 30 at the civic center. The one day of Saturday voting is October 24 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Absentee ballots can be requested until October 30 and must be received by the local election’s office by 7 p.m. on November 3. Voters can track their absentee ballot at https://georgia.ballottrax.net/voter/.

The second half of the sample ballot.

Additionally, the local Republican and Democrat parties are doing their best to get out the vote. Representatives from both parties have lined up along the town square and are encouraging people to vote for their respective candidates.

According to those in attendance, everyone has been respectful. The groups plan to be out in full force until November 3. A former law enforcement officer told FYN at the end of the election season, Democrats and Republicans are still friends.

Board of Elections decide against a sheriff recount

News, Politics
sheriff recount Towns County Board of Elections

HIAWASSEE, Ga – In a called meeting on Saturday, August 29, the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration deemed not to move forward with a Towns Sheriff recount.

At the time of Fetch Your News published article about the State Senate District 50 recount, the most recent confirmed information was that a sheriff recount taking place simultaneously as the senate race. FYN learned of the decision not to recall the sheriff race on Monday.

The Board of Elections decided not to move forward with the request to recall the sheriff election based on Georgia law. In O.C.G.A. 21-2-495, it states that the candidate request for a recount must be issued within two days of election certification. Osborn made his request two days prior to Towns certifying its results. Since the request was made before Towns certified the election, the letter was considered void by Georgia law.

The second reason behind denying the recount is that the board of elections couldn’t determine any error in the election process. Also, in O.C.G.A. 21-2-495, it states that if “a discrepancy in the returns recorded for any voting machine or machines or that an error, although not apparent on the face of the returns, exists, the superintendent shall, either of his or her motion or upon the sworn petition of three electors of any precinct, order a recanvass of the votes shown on that particular machine or machines.” The board of elections couldn’t find any argument that would constitute a recount or recanvasing of the vote.

The voter challenges issued in the sheriff’s race are still being investigated, however.

As for the recount of the State Senate District 50, Bo Hatchett picked up two votes with the final tally being in favor of Stacy Hall 1,878 to Hatchett’s 1,684.

Hatchett’s two new votes came from adjudicated ballots, where the machine misread those votes the first time around. Adjudicated ballots are a result of ballots being impaired or unreadable in someway.

Towns County remains in good financial health

News
financially, financial health

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw says the county is in good shape financially even in the middle of COVID-19.

The spending freeze Bradshaw enacted at the beginning of the pandemic is still in place.

“We knew that COVID would affect the county financially, so we just stopped spending any money in the county other than things we just had to have,” explained Bradshaw. “We don’t know what this Fall is going to be.”

The Georgia Mountain Fair and the parade were canceled, which impacted Towns tourism economy. The Fall Festival and Christmas Lightshow are still on track at this time.

Governor Brian Kemp updated county commissioners on Georgia’s situation last week. According to Kemp, the statewide case numbers had decreased by 22 percent over the previous two weeks, and hospitalizations dropped by seven percent in seven days.

Every day over 31,000 Georgians receive a COVID-19 test, and the positive case rate is on the decline as the “mortality rate continues to fall,” Kemp’s letter added.

“Our folks are doing a good job here in the county. Our numbers are going up, but I’m just curious…how many of those people are over it and back to normal…I would love to know that data, but we haven’t been able to find that data,” Bradshaw concluded.

The commissioner also asked everyone to remember the three W’s, wash your hands, watch your distance, and wear a mask. The county strongly recommends everyone to wear a mask, especially when social distancing isn’t possible.
Towns received a $4,000 ACCG safety grant, and the funds will go toward road department needs, such as traffic flags, cones, chaps, helmets, safety gloves, reflective lights, safety vests, and goggles. It’s a non-matching grant, so the county isn’t required to pay any money to access the grant funds.

County Reimbursement Resolution

The new SPLOST tax collections will begin in October 2020. The funds will go to the road department and courthouse renovation expenses. However, the county needs to open bidding for a new dump truck for winter road maintenance and pay courthouse renovation architect bills before the collections officially begin. A local government can purchase equipment and pay bills with funds on hand through a county reimbursement resolution and then reimburse itself once SPLOST collections come in.

“The county attorney said that if we have to pay for the dump truck before the collections come in, the county can pay for it, and then when the SPLOST collections come in, we can reimburse ourselves,” said Bradshaw. “It’s for two things, one for the dump truck and the other is the architect firm doing the courthouse renovation and addition. I’m sure those folks are going to be sending bills.”

The resolution lets the county pay for a portion or all of the project, and then reimburse itself for the amount spent. The maximum tax-exempt debt principal is currently estimated to be $8 million, which is the courthouse renovation. Once collections start in October, future payments or purchases will be made using SPLOST funds.

AVITA Community Partners Board Appointment

Deena Handy was appointed to serve on the AVITA Community Partners Board to replace Sylvia Chassner. The AVITA Program works with individuals experiencing mental illness, developmental disabilities, or dealing with substance abuse. Handy holds a bachelor’s in business administration, BS in nursing, RN license, masters in community counseling with a psychological testing specialization.

“She’s a very nice lady, and she’s very dedicated to serving other people,” stated Bradshaw.

Towns Board of Elections to recount sheriff’s race

News, Politics
sheriff recount Towns County Board of Elections

HIAWASSEE, Ga – After the Osborn campaign filed a petition stating cause and the Board of Elections consulted with the county attorney, Towns County will hold a recount of the sheriff’s race.

On August 12, sheriff candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn issued his initial request for a recount. The same day, the Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) opened an investigation into Towns County for possible election interference. However, the SOS didn’t specify for what race or expand upon the investigation. The Board of Elections Chairman Janet Oliva was unaware of the SOS investigation. No one from the state has contacted Towns County about election interference as of August 18.

Case sheet from the Secretary of State’s office.

The county attorney advised that the Board of Elections err on the side of caution and voter concern, so they opted to honor the request for the recount.

In Osborn’s first letter, he called attention to the “small marginal difference of 40 votes a recount could show error in counting, including absentee ballots.”

The certified county results brought the margin down to 38 votes between the candidates with Kenneth “Ode” Henderson receiving 1,884 and Osborn garnering 1,846. 

The letter cited “short staffing” during the initial processing of absentee ballots and asked for a review of all absentee ballots.

Osborn requested that all ballots be reviewed without interference from either candidates’ supporters, adding that Henderson’s supporters visited the Elections office daily. This behavior potentially resulted in worker duress. Additionally, he asked that observers not be allowed within the recount area.

However, the margin didn’t meet the requirements for an automatic recount, according to the Board of Elections Chairman Janet Oliva. The recount falls under GA code § 21-2-495 (c). A candidate must request a recount in writing within two days of the election certification. If the recount determines that the original is incorrect, “the returns and all papers prepared by the superintendent, the superintendents, or the Secretary of State shall be corrected accordingly, and the results recertified.”

Since Towns County is in the middle of two recounts, both will take place on the same day. 

“We’re going to do them all in a day, the same time because that’s much more effective, so we’ll do our recall in conjunction with the Stacy Hall and Bo Hatchett recall because it’s a matter of setting the machines,” explained Oliva.

Daren Bear Osborn

Osborn has requested a recount in the sheriff election.

They must physically recount all paper ballots, which will take several hours. The state certification won’t occur until after Friday. Therefore, the recall process won’t take place for at least another week.

 The August 11 runoff resulted in 47 adjudicated ballots. These ballots were either torn or marked in a manner that the machines won’t read. As a result, the votes had to be transferred over to a clean ballot by two judges, one Republican and one Democrat. They read the “spoiled” ballot and determine how that person intended to vote. Once determined, the machine processes the clean ballot. The smallest tear can result in adjudication because of the machine’s sensitivity.

As for provisional ballots, they counted ten and rejected six.

The Osborn campaign has turned in 28 separate vote challenges with names of voters, who potentially do not live in Towns County or voters up for being purged from the rolls. 

The upcoming recount doesn’t mean that the election office is accepting or validating any of the challenges made by the campaign. The Board of Elections is carrying out Georgia law, which grants candidates the capability to request a recount.

Update: Towns County sees 2nd COVID-19 death, 155 confirmed cases

Business, Community, News

Hiawassee, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reported the second death in Towns County and  155 confirmed cases of COVID-19

19 total cases have required hospitalization. This information comes from the DPH Wednesday, July 22, 3:00 p.m. update.

The two deaths were a 53-year-old, white female with underlying conditions and an 84-year-old, white male with underlying conditions.

The total cases in Georgia as of the August 13, 3:00 p.m. update is now: total number of confirmed cases 1228,668 with 21,581 total hospitalized (3,963 requiring ICU admission), and 4,538 deaths. 1,942,610 tests have been administered in Georgia. 

No recovery information is available in the daily reports.

Union County is currently reporting 313 positive cases. At this time, Fetch Your News has no additional information about these cases. We will bring you details as they become available to the public.

July 22 Update:

Hiawassee, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 85 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Towns County with 14 total cases requiring hospitalization. This information comes from the DPH Wednesday, July 22, 3:00 p.m. update.

One death is also confirmed in the county.

The total cases in Georgia as of the July 22, 3:00 p.m. update is now: total number of confirmed cases 152,302 with  15,922 total hospitalized (2,967 requiring ICU admission), and 3,335 deaths. 1,316,844 tests have been administered in Georgia. 

No recovery information is available in the daily reports.

Union County is currently reporting 147 positive cases. At this time, Fetch Your News has no additional information about these cases. We will bring you details as they become available to the public.

June 15 Update:

Hiawassee, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 35 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Towns County with 10 cases requiring hospitalization. This information comes from the DPH Wednesday, June 15, 3:00 p.m. update.

One death is also confirmed in the county.

There has been confusion in counties as to how many residents or visitors have tested positive for the virus. The state reporting is not attributing all cases to place of residence as previously reported, and some cases are ending up being reported to the county where the person had testing done.

Union General Hospital (UGH) released a statement on April 1, that the hospital was treating a Covid-19 positive case with inpatient care. The hospital also confirmed that the patient had come from Towns County.

A day after UGH’s announcement, DPH released that Union County had one positive case. This led many to believe that the case was that of the Towns County resident who had been transported to UGH.

Currently, there is no way of confirming the origins of the positive cases due to HIPAA rules protecting an individual’s medical history. 

Union County is currently reporting 36 positive cases. At this time, Fetch Your News has no additional information about these cases. We will bring you details as they become available to the public.

The total cases in Georgia as of the May 13, 7:00 p.m. update is now: total number of confirmed cases 35,427 with 6,308 hospitalized (1,511 requiring ICU admission), and 1,517 deaths. 273,904 tests have been administered in Georgia.

Timeline of Confirmed Cases in Towns County:

  • First Case – April 3, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Second Case – April 7, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Third Case – April 10, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Fourth, Fifth and Sixth cases – April 14, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Seventh and Eighth cases – April 14, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Ninth and Tenth cases – April 16, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Eleventh and Twelfth cases – April 18, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Thirteenth case – April 19, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Fourteenth and Fifteenth cases – April 20, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth cases – April 22, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twentieth case – April 24, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • First death – April 28, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-first case – April 28, 6:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-second case – May 1, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • One case rescinded  bringing total cases back down to 21 – May 2, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • One case rescinded bringing total cases down to 20 – May 3, 10:25 a.m. DPH update
  • One case rescinded bringing total cases down to 19 – May 4, 3:25 p.m. DPH update
  • Twentieth case – May 5, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-first case – May 13, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-second case – May 26, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-third case – May 27, 7:00 p.m. DPH update

*Fetch Your News has chosen to report on cases confirmed by the Georgia Department of Health (DPH) only. These reports may not reflect real-time spread as the laboratories processing COVID-19 tests are reportedly backlogged by several days. Fetch Your News is also reaching out to local sources to confirm positive cases before writing articles on the subject. 

Original story below:

Hiawassee, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed the first case of Covid-19 in Towns County in their Friday, April 3, 12:00 p.m. update.

This news was expected as Union General Hospital released a statement on April 1, that the hospital was treating a Covid-19 positive case with inpatient care. The hospital also confirmed that the patient had come from Towns County.

While there had been several suspected cases in Towns County, all testing until today had come back with negative results. As of yesterday, Towns County was one of only 16 counties reporting zero cases of Covid-19.

Now there remains only 12 of Georgia’s 159 counties that are reporting zero cases.

Georgia’s total number of cases confirmed by DPH as of 12:00 p.m. on April 3 has risen to 5,831. Of these cases, 1158 remain hospitalized. DPH is reporting 184 deaths have occurred due to Covid-19 in the State of Georgia.

At this time, Fetch Your News has no additional information about this case. We will bring you details as they become available to the public.

DPH updates the Covid-19 Georgia State Statistics at 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. daily.

Georgia Coronavirus Origin : The State of Georgia had its first confirmed cases of Coronavirus announced by state officials on March 2. These cases were of a Fulton man in his 50’s that had recently returned from a work trip in Milan, and his 15-year-old son. Fulton County remains the county with the highest number of confirmed cases, 882.

Twenty-Two arrested on drug related charges

News, Police & Government, Press Release

Press Release

The Towns County Sheriff’s Office during the last month has continued to make good on its promise to pursue the arrests of suspects on drug related charges in the Towns County Community, with more traffic stops and searches producing arrests.

On Sunday May 17th, a Towns County Deputy made a traffic stop on State Highway 66 in Young Harris on a Dodge Durango. Upon further investigation, a passenger in the vehicle Christi Bryne, age 31 of Young Harris, GA was arrested and charge with 1-count V.G.C.S.A possession of Marijuana.

On Thursday May 21st, Towns County Sheriff’s Office Investigators and deputies arrested Taylor Parrott, age 28 of Andrews, NC at a residence located off State Highway 66 in Young Harris. She was charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and 1-count V.G.C.S.A possession of methamphetamine.

On Thursday May 21st, a Towns County Sheriff’s deputy made a traffic stop on a Chevrolet Impala on Crooked Creek Connector. Upon further investigation a passenger in the vehicle, Dylan Chastain, age 21 of Brasstown, NC was arrested. He was charge with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, 1-count possession of drug related objects, and 1-count crossing the guard line with illegal drugs.

On Tuesday May 26th, Towns County Sheriff’s Investigators and deputies executed a search warrant at a resident located on Cynth Creek Road in Hiawassee, GA. Upon completion of the search of the residence, deputies arrested Terry Nichols, age 52 of Hiawassee, Georgia. He was arrested on the following charge: 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of marijuana, 1-count possession of drug related objects, 1-count possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

towns county, drugs, arrests, charges, sheriff

Lisa Nichols, age 44 of Hiawassee, GA was also arrested and charged with: 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of marijuana, 1-count possession of drug related objects.

On Tuesday May 26th, Towns County Sheriff’s deputies assisted a Hiawassee Police Department officer on a traffic stop on a Chevrolet truck in the city of Hiawassee. Upon further investigation deputies arrested Gregory Stroud, age 43 of Young Harris, GA. He was charged with 1-count driving on suspended license, 1-count expired vehicle registration, 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, 1-count possession of drug related objects.

On Friday May 29th, Towns County deputies arrested Jason Levon Garrett, age 46 at a residence located off West Union Road in Young Harris. He was arrested and charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, 1-count possession of drug related objects.

On Monday June 1st, a Towns County Sheriff’s deputy made a traffic stop on State Highway 17 in Young Harris on a Ford Explorer. Upon further investigation Leisa Marie Ledbetter, age 26 of Hiawassee, GA was arrested and charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of marijuana, 1- count D.U.I., 1-count possession of drug related objects, 1-count obstruction of a law enforcement officer, and 1-count to maintain lane.

On Wednesday June 3rd, a Towns County Sheriff’s deputy made a traffic stop on State Highway 76 in Hiawassee on a Ford Mustang. Upon further investigation the driver Vickie Allen, age 64 of Hayesville, NC was arrested and charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine.

towns county, arrests, drug, charges, sheriff

On Wednesday June 3rd, Towns County Sheriff’s Investigators and deputies searched a residence located off State Highway 288 in Hiawassee, GA. Upon completion of the search, Roxanne Wodarski, age 51 of Hiawassee, GA was arrested and charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine.

On Monday June 8th, Towns County Sheriff’s Investigators and deputies conducted a search of a residence located off State Highway 66 in Young Harris, GA. Upon completion of the search the following suspects were arrested: Ramona Montgomery, age 51 of Hiawassee, GA charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, 1-count possession of drug related objects; Lessie Montgomery, age 21 of Young Harris, GA charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of marijuana, and 1-count possession of drug related objects; and Brittany Gilbert, age 28 of Young Harris, GA charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, 1-count possession of drug related objects.

On Monday June 8th, deputies responded to a residence located off King Cove Road in Young Harris, GA. Upon further investigation, deputies arrested Danny Shook, Age 66 of Young Harris. He was charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine.

On Tuesday June 9th, Towns County Sheriff’s deputies located and arrested Cody Michael Crane on outstanding warrants for1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, and 1-count possession of untaxed alcoholic beverage. The warrants were in reference to an earlier investigation.

On Wednesday June 10th, a Towns County Sheriff’s deputy responded to an accident on State Highway 17 in Young Harris. Upon further investigation Peyton White, age 19 of Hayesville, NC and was arrested and charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of a controlled substance (Estacy), 1-count D.U.I., 1-count failure to maintain lane.

On Sunday June 14th, Towns County Sheriff’s deputies assisted a Hiawassee Police Department Officer on a traffic stop on a Dodge Durango within the city of Hiawassee. Upon further investigation deputies arrested Josh Smith, age 27 of Hiawassee, GA. He was arrested with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, 1-count possession of drug related objects, and 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of marijuana.

On Tuesday June 16th, a Towns County Deputy made a traffic stop on a Pontiac Gran Am on State Highway 76 in Hiawassee, GA. Upon further investigation the driver identified as Chet Wheeler, age 20 of Hiawassee, Ga was arrested and charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of marijuana, and 1-count defective equipment.

On Tuesday June 16th, a Towns County Deputy made a traffic stop on a Honda Civic on State Highway 76 in Young Harris. Upon further investigation the driver Donald Earl Rien, age 39 of Stockbridge was arrested and charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of marijuana, 1-count possession of drug related objects, and 1-count defective equipment.

On Wednesday June 17th, a Towns County Deputy made a traffic stop on a Honda Accord on State Highway 76 in Young Harris. Upon further investigation three suspects were arrested. The driver, Jillian Burrell, age 38 of Brasstown, NC was arrested and charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, 1-count possession of drug related objects, 1-count D.U.I, 1-count failure to maintain lane, and 1-count suspended drivers license. Marquis Gwan Ford, age 39 of Bennetsville, SC, a passenger was arrested and charge with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, and 1-count possession of drug related objects. Joaquin Mosley, age 26 of Murphy, NC, a passenger was arrested and charged with 1-count V.G.C.S.A. possession of methamphetamine, and 1-count possession of drug related objects.

These cases were forwarded to the Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Early voting adjusts to social distancing guidelines

Election, News
early voting

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County voters started casting their ballots on May 18 when early voting opened and noticed all the precautions in place to keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw stressed the importance of early voting, “I want to brag on our elections board. They’ve done a great job preparing for social separation…I do want you to get out and vote and early vote if possible that way on June the 9, maybe it won’t be too crowded.”

The Towns County Board of Elections and Registration instated a number of safety measures, including poll workers wearing masks and gloves, plexiglass separation, and limiting the number of people allowed in the lobby.

Also, they also spaced voting booths further apart to follow social distancing guidelines. Consequently, the extra space added additional voting privacy, which has been a concern in metro counties. Some voters claimed that the new system made it too easy for others to see who they voted for. 

Poll workers are wearing masks and gloves.

Early voting will last until June 5 with Saturday voting on May 30. The elections building opens at 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. until the cut-off date.

The Board of Elections installed an absentee ballot box outside the building for those choosing to go that route. Earlier in the year, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger mass-mailed absentee applications to Georgians before moving the election date to June 9.

Almost 1.5 million Georgians have submitted a request for absentee ballots for the upcoming election with over 1 million absentee ballots already sent out to Georgia voters. The states already received 400,000 absentee ballots. 

Those who first applied for an absentee ballot and then decided to vote in-person must sign an affidavit to cancel their absentee ballot.

The Board of Elections and Registration Building and adjacent civic center will also serve as the central polling location in the county on June 9. All other polling locations will be closed because of COVID-19.

According to the Towns County GOP, “Due to a state of emergency and unavoidable circumstances that exist as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office of the Towns County Board of Elections and the adjacent civic center shall serve as the single polling place for the June 09, 2020, primary and special election. This space is designated as it meets all requirements under State Election Board (SEB) rules and state law and requirements and accommodations for disabled electors; can be staffed by the current number of poll workers available; and can also be configured to meet the safety and social distancing protocols established for this election (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-265(a)(c)(d)(f)).”

Several races local races will be decided in the June 9 primary.

Towns County Sheriff

Jim Couch (R)

Linda Curtis (R)

Kenneth Henderson (R)

Lisa Joseph (R)

Darren Osborn (R)

Towns County Coroner

Tamela Cooper (R)

Harold Copeland (R)

Board of Education, Post 5

Steven Green (Non-partisan)

Caroleen Woods (Non-partisan)

State races on the ballot are

Georgia House of Representatives, District 8 

Stan Gunter (R)

Steve Townsend (R)

Dale Cooper (D)

Georgia Senate, District 50

Andy Garrison (R)

Dan Gasaway (R)

Stacy Hall (R)

Bo Hatchett (R)

Tricia Hise (R)

Lee Moore (R)

Dee Daley (D)

Voters can expect to see more local races on the ballot, but these candidates face no competition.

SPLOST will also be up for renewal, which will keep the taxes at 7 percent. The money will be used to renovate the courthouse.

The Freeport Tax is also on the ballot. It’s a tax exemption for manufacturers of raw materials in the area. Bradshaw hopes it will create jobs in Towns County.

Sheriff’s Office continues arresting suspects on drug related charges

Arrest Reports, News, Police & Government, Press Release

Hiawassee, Ga. – The Towns County Sheriff’s Office in the last month has continued to make good on its promise to pursue the arrests of suspects on drug related charges in the Towns County Community, with more traffic stops and searches producing arrests. The coronavirus covid-19 pandemic with all the issues surrounding the daily operational procedures has not stopped investigators and deputies from arresting suspects on drug related charges.

On Saturday April 18th, Towns County Sheriff’s Office investigators and deputies searched a residence located off Mill Creek Road in Hiawassee. Upon completion of the search the following drug suspects were arrested on the following charges:

Jonathan Campbell age 28 of Blairsville was charged with 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Trafficking Methamphetamine and 1 Count of Possession of Drug Related Objects

Joseph Levi Farist age 25 of Blairsville was charged with 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Trafficking Methamphetamine, 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Possession of a Schedule II Drug, 1 Count Crossing a Guard Line with Drugs, and 1 Count Possession of Drug Related Objects

Sonia Renee Taylor age 44 of Hiawassee was charged with 1 Count of V.G.C.S.A. Trafficking Methamphetamine, and 1 Count of Possession of Drug Related Objects

Julian Marc Fuller age 24 of Hiawassee was charged with 1 Count of V.G.C.S.A. Trafficking Methamphetamine and 1 Count Possession of Drug Related Objects

On Friday May 1st Towns County Sheriff’s Office investigators and deputies went to a residence located off State Highway 288 in Hiawassee to serve an arrest warrant. Upon further investigation at the residence arrested the following drug suspects:

Towns County, Drug, Suspects, Arrests

Levi James Peterson age 37 of Hiawassee was charged 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Possession of Marijuana and 1 Count of Possession of Drug Related Objects

Michael Wayne McKinney age 50 of Hiawassee was charged with 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Possession of Methamphetamine, 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Possession of Marijuana, 1 Count Obstruction of an Law Enforcement Officer, and 1 Count Crossing a Guard Line with Drugs

Ramona Lynn Montgomery age 51 of Hiawassee was charged with 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Possession of Marijuana and 1 Count Possession of Drug Related Objects

On Monday May 4th Towns County Deputies searched a residence located off Cunningham Road in Young Harris. Upon completion of the search deputies arrested Michael Henry Beeman age 56 of Young Harris and charged him with 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Possession of Methamphetamine, 1 Count Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon and 1 Count Possession of Drug Related Objects.

On Saturday May 9th during the early morning hours Towns County deputies were dispatched to a residence located off Drayton Way in Young Harris in reference to a 911 Hang Up call. Deputies upon arrival and further investigation discovered those living at the residence to be in possession of illegal drugs that being Marijuana. Warrants were obtained and the following suspects were arrested:

Terry Allen Smith age 56 of Young Harris was charged with 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Possession of Marijuana and 1 Count Possession of Drug Related Objects

Tracey Durkin Smith age 56 of Young Harris eas charged with 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Possession of Marijuana and1 Count Possession of Drug Related Objects

On Monday May 11th a Towns County Deputy made a traffic stop on a GMC pickup on Konahetah Road in Hiawassee. Upon further investigation Cody Michael Crane age 32 of Hiawassee was arrested for 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Possession of a Schedule IV Drug and 1 Count Possession of Drug Related Objects.

On Friday May 15th a Towns County Deputy made a traffic stop on a Ford Crown Vic on State Highway 288 in Hiawassee. Upon further investigation the driver identified as Georgia Mae McFalls age 59 of Helen, Georgia was arrested for 1 Count V.G.C.S.A. Possession of Marijuana.

More drug arrests will be forthcoming soon. All the cases are still active and ongoing. The cases will be forwarded to the Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Asymptomatic Towns County resident tests positive, worked at The Local Market

News, Press Release
asymptomatic

CLAY COUNTY, NC – An asymptomatic Towns County, GA resident that was working from March 28, 2020 – April 10, 2020 at The Local Market, otherwise known as “Aztec” or the “Bypass Store” in Clay County has tested positive for COVID-19 at an area hospital.

This individual is in isolation in Towns County and is doing well. All known contacts have been notified, and testing has either been completed or will occur tomorrow morning. All that have been tested have been given official isolation orders, and those that are being tested have been instructed to self-quarantine. No contacts have reported any symptoms. It is advised that if you went into this establishment during the dates above and had contact with anyone less than 6 feet from you for 10 minutes or longer, you quarantine yourself and monitor for symptoms of illness for 14 days from the date of potential exposure.

If you become sick during this time, you should isolate yourself and your household in an effort to stop the spread of this virus. Persons should remain isolated when sick until the following criteria are met:

  • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), AND
    At least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

If household or close contacts become sick during the 14 day monitoring period, it is advised that they then isolate until the criteria for discontinuation of isolation (listed above) are met.

If you become sick with a respiratory type illness and are in one of the following categories, please contact the Clay County Health Department at 828-389-8052 to speak to a provider to determine if you need to be tested:

  •  Healthcare worker
  • 65 years and older
  • Underlying health conditions such as chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma; serious heart conditions; people with weakened immune systems, severe obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis, liver disease.
    •  First Responder
    • Essential worker

For more information about Georgia cases visit DPH website. 

Information about that previous Clay County case confirmed here.

For daily updates on N.C. and Ga cases, check out Fetch Your News’ daily update page.

Towns County recommends temporary closure of Appalachian Trail

News
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

Sign Your Child Up for Basketball Camp, Football or Cheerleading Now

Community, Sports

Don’t miss out on the Towns Co. Park and Rec Basketball camp, Football and Cheerleading registration. Sign up your little athlete today!

Towns County native delivers passionate speech at Hiawassee City Hall

News

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council held their monthly work session Feb. 25, 2019, and Hiawassee City Hall was filled to rare capacity with citizens invested in the county seat’s future. Following the business portion of the meeting, public comments were accepted.

What follows is a speech, in its entirety, delivered by Towns County resident Becky Landress. FYN tracked Landress after the meeting to request a copy. The public address followed an article published by FYN earlier this month.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Council and Ms. Mayor;
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Becky Landress. I am a resident of this county and have been my entire life. Despite what a lot of progressive, move in residents feel, I am not uneducated, nor have I been sheltered by small town life. I have a background in journalism and the reason I have stayed in Towns County has much to do with a lot of what has been mentioned as a potential for change. My family is one of the main components, which is not on the table of change, thankfully; although the rest may be.

“My roots run deep. I am proud to know many of the families that make up my community. Families I went to school with, or that taught me, or that have children that have grown up along side my own children. Although finding a job in this area that would fulfill my family’s needs was near impossible, my husband and I made it work for the other benefits. He drove back and forth from Gainesville for over seventeen years to provide for us. He would leave before daylight and often get home well after. We still chose to stay put for the benefit of our children; a good school system, recreation for our children, small town feel, and a value system that mimicked those of our neighbors. Today, I don’t believe we would make that same decision.

“Families are moving away, and others are not moving in. Jobs are still scarce and now recreation programs are almost non existent for children. Our surrounding communities still have recreation programs for children running full force and most importantly, no one is questioning their “Bible Belt stigma”.

“Our traditional values are being questioned by business owners that moved to our area, with those very values in play. Those “progressive” business owners somehow have a voice with this council although they were not elected by anyone in the area. They want to change our “Bible belt stigma” and even want to dictate what music should be welcomed by our area. I’m sorry, but as a native of this area, I find these voices have no business being heard by those of us that were here long before them and didn’t ask their opinion, although this is the make up of your “ethics” board. Really? Calling a political party names and associating them with one of the most horrific groups in history is not someone I would nominate to divise up any board with the word ethical in the description.

“Ms. Mayor and members of this council, I don’t reside within the city limits of Hiawassee but I should, along with every tax paying citizen in this county, have a voice. When people were invited to help divise the five year strategic plan, and boards were made up, they were a make up of a small amount of people that actually represent the vision of most residents. I realize you are a City Council and those that do not live within city limits don’t have a vote, but we should have a voice. No one can live in this county and not have a vested interest in the happenings within Hiawassee. This is where we do our grocery shopping, school clothes shopping with our children and main street is the road we travel to take our children to school everyday, or better yet, church on Sunday. It is the road I travel down to arrive at our small business on the outskirts of town.

“Let’s be honest here, if a five year strategic plan is in place, an aesthetic vision should be one of the components, but not the main component. When hiring an economic developer, as we have, we should feel in line with the words of our county commissioner, “we will try it for one year”. He also has a vision focused on families, instead of primarily community beautification.

“Ms. Webb’s article brought my attention to a lot of things I was unaware of beforehand. I believe many residents weren’t aware of most of the things addressed in her article. Since the article, I have been to the City’s website and studied each slide in the newly adopted strategic plan. I have read about all the previous meetings leading up to that point and I have gained much respect for three members of this council for representing the districts that appointed you.

“The mayor reached out to me through a message and asked me to meet with her to discuss my concerns after me and many others read the article covering last month’s council meeting, and we expressed our ill feelings of many things, most of which was said by a member of the ethics board. We didn’t appoint her to anything and she wasn’t elected by the voters of this City. If she feels the Bible Belt stigma is not her thing, Highway 76 will take her to a city on either side of Hiawassee. Let’s see if that proposition would hold water in either of those communities.

“Honestly, I had never heard of the term “gentrification” before Ms. Webb’s coverage, but I have studied the strategic plan, read about proposed water bill increases, additional proposed taxes and much more. I also have come to the conclusion that gentrification is at play.

“Ms. Mayor, please take note of the wishes of the community you moved in to. The community that welcomed you and even elected you to office. Look back over our history and listen to families. We are not worried about which bag we need to carry out of Ingles. We know our post office is outdated and we also see way too many vacant buildings. Know that many of us remember when those buildings were full. We remember in the late 80’s and early 90’s when there were several stores for ladies to shop for a new purse at. There was one for several decades right here in the center of town and another about a mile down the road, also in city limits, as well as one where those unsightly vacant buildings are across from the grocery store. We remember when restaurants were jumping in the summer and still able to keep their doors open in the winter. A face lift on the post office would be nice but that isn’t as pressing as many of our concerns.

“Focus on a future. Please, focus on getting families here. Possibly incorporate a small playground on your strategic plan. That would look great on the square, near the gazebo. It would work wonderfully with a bunch of new retail stores and restaurants all along the square. We are the only City in our area that doesn’t have shopping and dining around our square. Instead we have insurance and financial. Look into getting stores and restaurants around the square. There are plenty of open spaces and where they are not, try to open up the right businessess in the right spot. If you can accomplish that, families would have a reason to park and walk around Hiawassee, like the visual slides of the strategic plan. If not, there is no reason for additional parking or crosswalks. If you can do that, families would not only fall in love with Hiawassee for the beauty of our lake and mountains and our nice new post office and lovely trees, but they would know we aren’t a retirement ghost town, unwelcoming to families and their needs. They would have no reason to feel Blairsville or Rabun County would be better suited for them because their are more recreation programs for their children and places to dine and shop. With families, comes jobs.

“We can all agree tourism dollars are vital for our area but it’s time we all also agree that our future should not be geared toward retirees moving in. We need to be diverse. We need to bring back the necessities that those that are still working, paying bills, shopping and raising children need. The thoughts and feelings of a select few you have heard over the past few months is not the voice of this community as a whole. I feel you know that. You must know that. Since we can’t vote in city elections without being a resident within city limits, you may be finding an influx of residents moving into city limits and I promise you, it won’t be for the lovely new murals.

Thank you for your time.”

Emotions ran high following Landress’ passionate speech, and Hiawassee Councilwoman Patsy Owens reacted to the speaker’s remark pertaining to respect for unnamed council members. Owens expressed heated dissatisfaction with FYN’s reporting, with Councilwoman Nancy Noblet soon thereafter publicly stating that she did not appreciate Owens referring to the council woman in an alleged, offensive term. Noblet later said that she respects Owens and her fellow council, and while they may not always agree, she will continue to support the mayor and council members when she believes that they are doing the right thing for the citizens. Noblet stressed that she ran for a seat on the city council to serve the people. “I don’t go to any other council member and say ‘This is how I’m going to vote. You need to vote this way.’ I don’t do that. I’ve got a conscience of my own.” Noblet referenced her strong Christian faith, and said that she publicized the meeting on social media beforehand to encourage the high turnout.

Additional citizens voiced their views on varied subjects, ranging from hope for additional youth recreational activities, a desire for a local dog park, and the group seemingly agreed that more economic opportunities are important for the area.

Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett thanked everyone who attended, saying, “We’re a community. We’re a diverse community. We need everybody involved.” Council members Ann Mitchell and Kris Berrong were present, although they did not offer input during the public portion of the forum.

Following Landress’ speech, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales invited the Towns County native to meet privately in order to discuss concerns, and the mayor encouraged the public to attend future meetings so that their voices can be heard. Mayor Ordiales stated that she has an open door policy, and that has proven to be the case throughout her term, according to citizens’ reports and FYN access. Additionally, Ordiales relayed earlier in the meeting that she is making a steady effort to visit local business owners to become better acquainted.

One regular attendee shared that the City of Hiawassee as a whole has positively advanced in recent years, with another citizen saying that she “sleeps better at night” knowing that Mayor Ordiales is in office.

Mayor Ordiales remarked throughout the forum, reiterating that she believes that everyone is moving in the same direction. “I think it’s clear that everybody wants to do the right thing for the city,” the mayor said at one point, asking for the public’s patience. As the meeting adjouned, Mayor Ordiales invited the public to return to “hear the truth.”

A summary of the business portion of the Hiawassee City Council work session will soon follow this release, with a hyperlink added once it becomes available.

Towns County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 07/23 to 07/29

Arrest Reports

Arrest report provided by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office without images.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 50-18-70) allows for www.fetchyournews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Towns County. Those arrests are posted on www.fetchyournews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

March Public Health Inspection Scores

Health
  • HUDDLE HOUSE

  • 532 BELL CREEK ROAD HIAWASSEE, GA 30546
  • Phone Number: (706) 896-8884
  • Permit Type: FS
  • Last Inspection Score: 89
  • Last Inspection Date: 03-06-2018
  • For More Information Call: (706) 896-8873
  • BIG ALS PIZZA

  • 757 BELL CREEK HIAWASSEE, GA 30546
  • Phone Number: (706) 896-1970
  • Permit Type: FS
  • Last Inspection Score: 94
  • Last Inspection Date: 03-01-2018
  • For More Information Call: (706) 896-8873
  • UNWIND ON LAKE CHATUGE

  • 3399 U.S. HWY 76 HIAWASSEE, GA 30546
  • Phone Number: (706) 896-1919
  • Permit Type: FS
  • Last Inspection Score: 97
  • Last Inspection Date: 03-01-2018
  • For More Information Call: (706) 896-8873

Towns County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 03/19 to 03/25

Arrest Reports

Arrest report provided by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office without images.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 50-18-70) allows for www.fetchyournews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Towns County. Those arrests are posted on www.fetchyournews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Towns County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 12/25 to 12/31

Arrest Reports

Arrest report provided by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office without images.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 50-18-70) allows for www.fetchyournews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Towns County. Those arrests are posted on www.fetchyournews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

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