City Council Talks Festivals in August

News

JASPER, Ga. – The Jasper City Council’s August meeting saw a change in the traffic direction for this year’s Marble Festival in October as well as for the popular JeepFest event starting at the end of August.

Haley Bouchie, President of the Jasper Merchants Association, presented a request to close a portion of Main Street during the festival. The road is already to be closed for the Road Race and the Parade that are scheduled for the weekend’s festivities. The new request would see the road staying closed from 6 a.m. on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.

Bouchie stated the joint venture between the Jasper Merchant’s Association and the Pickens County Chamber would have security for the vendors on the street overnight. The request was made last year as well but denied. After several close calls with the traffic and pedestrians, according to Bouchie, they have returned with the request for this year’s festival.

Bouchie also told the council that they would be working alongside the merchants on the street to improve and increase their foot traffic despite the loss of the parking spaces on the street.

Expanding the Marble Festival up to Main Street cause a large discussion on how to get traffic around the closed street including Dixie, Mary, or even Whitfield streets. Sitting down with police and businesses to discuss traffic by foot and vehicle were assured to be forthcoming in preparation of the event.

Ultimately approved by unanimous decision, the event will see the road closed to traffic from 6 a.m. on Saturday, October 6, to 6 p.m. on Sunday evening, October 7.

The same request came for September’s JeepFest event asking to close Main Street for a “Show & Shine” of Jeeps lined up on the street. City Manager Jim Looney presented a letter from Kris Stancil of the Picken’s County Sheriff’s Office requesting the closure of the street on Friday, August 31, starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m. after a concert.

This is not the first time this request has been presented, having been done for years now. The request was approved for the event. Mayor John Weaver commented saying that the Jeeps take over all of Main Street with hundreds of Jeeps lined up down the road for the Show & Shine.

An additional request came from Wingsology for the JeepFest event. Requesting an outside beer and wine license, Wingsology is also a request from previous years.

The council approved the request unanimously as well.

With these events coming up quickly, citizens should be aware of the closures of Main Street during these events as to avoid congestion as they seek to travel through town or attempt to find parking. Shuttles are also being made available for the Marble Festival specifically. Citizens can find the shuttle areas by visiting the Marble Festival Website.

 

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The Pickens Report – July 2018

Business, Community, News

Pickens County Government, like many other government entities is taking full advantage of the hot summer months to pave as many roads as financially possible. All paving projects are funded through LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant) and SPLOST (Special Local Option Sales Tax) dollars. During the month of July, subcontractor crews repaved: Upper Grandview, Grandview Circle, Hickory Cove, Cove View Valley, Cove Hill Road, Old Cove Road, Scott Drive, Southbrook Drive, Eastwood Circle, Paradise Lane, East Eden Way, and West Eden Way. The 2018 paving contract is now roughly 65 percent complete with the remainder to be paved in the coming weeks. Pickens County Public Works repaved: Griffith Road and Tate Mill Way. Additionally, they completed a project to widen Pettit Road and plan to begin tar and graveling that road, along with Jordan Road, Thomason Road, and Evans Road. Public Works is continuing routine maintenance around the county while dealing with some inclement weather. Over the last few weeks, Public Works has cleaned up 95 trees downed by heavy rain and wind.

During the month of July, the 911 Operations Center received 1,809 total calls, 753 were medical responses and fire related. The Water Department installed 10 new meters. The Department of Planning and Development issued 37 new building permits. The Pickens Animal Shelter brought in 101 animals, and 100 animals went out through various forms of adoption. Animal Control responded to 7 cases. The Recreation Department concluded another successful year of Summer Camp with an average of 55 kids a day. Pickens County Fire Station #12 off Carlan Road is expected to be completed in approximately two months. The exterior of the structure is nearly complete with now the focus on the interior construction. Pickens County government departments continue to stay busy working hard for the citizens of Pickens County. The Pickens County Board of Commissioners continues to do an excellent job of leading these efforts. As work progresses, and projects continue, I will do my best to keep you informed of these developments. To stay up to date like us on Facebook and Twitter, and check out our website www.pickenscountyga.gov.   

Until the next time, stay safe, and shop local!    

 

Bond Set in Farrell criminal case

News
Farrell Bond Hearing July 18 2018

JASPER, Ga – Arrested on June 24 for charges including cruelty to children and false imprisonment, Neil Roger Farrell and Janet Lynn Farrell met for a hearing on setting Bond for the couple pending their criminal case.

Facing allegations of confining their daughter Olivia to a bedroom with limited restroom break and periods where she was simply given a bucket as well as allegations of striking Olivia on her feet with industrial size glue sticks, the Farrells have already attended a bond hearing in late June. At that time the defense asked for and was granted a continuance for the case. The court reconvened at the Pickens County Courthouse, Superior Court, under Judge Frank Mills on July 18 at 10 a.m.

Lasting until after 6 p.m., the case’s arguments centered on the possibility of setting a bond for the Farrells or not. The prosecution requested denial of any bond while the defense requested a $50,000 bond for each defendant. Both Neil and Janet are being represented separately in the case by Scott T. Poole, of Grisham & Poole, and J. Daran Burns, of Burns Law Group, P.C.

 

Prosecution

District Attorney for the Appalachian Circuit, B. Alison Sosebee, presented the case against the Farrells with two witnesses, Captain April Killian and Detective Michael Jaques. The state contends that evidence indicates that Olivia Farrell, adopted daughter of the defendants was confined to her room with the door lock reversed, so she could not leave at will,  as well as a contact alarm on the door that would sound if it was opened.

They also allege that Olivia was beaten on her buttocks and feet with 10-inch, industrial glue sticks. An allegation that Sosebee says was corroborated by Neil Farrell’s own admission as well as from the couple’s other daughters.

After Olivia went missing, officers were told by the Farrells that Olivia suffers from a disorder known as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)as well as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) since before they adopted her, this plays into the charge of Exploitation and Intimidation of Disabled Adults.

With the bond hearing focused directly on the idea of setting a bond for the defendants in the case, the day focused on if the courts should allow the Farrells out of jail on bond until the official case commences.

Neil Roger Farrell looks on as the state presents evidence from Arlo security cameras that the Farrells allegedly used to monitor their daughter Olivia.

Neil Roger Farrell looks on as the state presents evidence from Arlo security cameras that the Farrells allegedly used to monitor their daughter Olivia.

One of the prosecutions main points for denying bond was concern over the defendants tampering with evidence. With evidence of video footage collected in the house from security cameras set up to monitor Olivia’s room, the prosecution stated that the Farrells had removed everything from Olivia’s room as punishment for her stealing her sisters ipad. However, once they discovered her missing, they went back to the room and put everything they had removed back into the room before searching and eventually having a gate guard call 911 to report the missing person. They claim this as the Farrells having already tampered with evidence as they took time to return all the furniture and items to her room before contacting the police, further delaying their own search as well as an official police response and search for the child.

Further, the prosecution offered up a witness, Cpt. April Killian of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office. Killian has been a part of the search and investigation and testified that when officers found Olivia, she said she did not want to go back home. As the police began interviewing her, they began discovering points of the case. Killian also testified that when she returned to the residence on June 24, the cameras in Olivia’s room had been moved.

When the Farrells arrived at the Pickens County Detention Center after Olivia had been found and were waiting in the lobby, Killian noticed the couple were utilizing their electronic devices. After getting a search warrant for the devices, officers confiscated these devices and downloaded the devices. Yielding 23,000 pages of data in messages and photos and other data, Killian noted a few of the messages found. Later in the case, investigations into the phones usage at the time the Farrells were at the jail revealed they were looking at GPS monitors and ankle monitors.

Continuing the argument of tampering with evidence, the prosecution points to an email sent from Janet Farrell to Ashlyn, the Farrells oldest daughter. The email instructs several things in an itemized list. One of these items instructs the daughter to, as read in the courtroom, “go onto my FB account and deactivate it, and if anything on there is bad due to news on my wall delete for me…” The email also gives information and passwords to accounts including the Arlo Camera account, the security cameras placed in Olivia’s room.

District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee, right, questions witness Cpt. April Killian, left, about the Farrell's treatment of their daughter Olivia.

District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee, right, questions witness Cpt. April Killian, left, about the Farrell’s treatment of their daughter Olivia.

Killian also testified that when she turned on one of the Farrells laptop seized during the investigation, an email program popped up. She noticed the number of emails in the inbox decreasing as she looked at the screen. As if the emails were being deleted. Killian says she turned off the laptop and waited “a substantial amount of time” and then turned it back on. At that time, the loss of messages did not continue.

Moving past the concerns of evidence tampering, Sosebee told the court that the prosecution was also concerned with the possible flight risks of the Farrells if bonded out before the trial.

The prosecution’s second witness, Detective Michael Jaques testified that he dealt with four search warrants into the Farrell’s home. When he entered the home on July 6, Jaques said he noticed the office was not in the same way it was on previous searches. He noticed a black backpack on the floor open. Inside he found checkbooks and passports for the family except for Olivia.

While he was unaware of who had been in the office and gotten into the pack, a later witness, Jezekiel Vanderdecker, admitted he had gone to the house at the request of Neil Farrell to get a checkbook and glasses out of that pack. The state alluded to this being additional evidence to tampering as well as a show of intent and means to flee the country if allowed a bond. However, in Vanderdecker’s testimony, he could not recall if he had seen passports in the bag or not.

The state also put forth financial records for the Farrells as evidence of substantial means for leaving the country. The financial reports presented for observation by the court confirmed the Farrels income into the hundreds of thousands over the last two years as well as a brokerage account close to $1 million. They also presented tax assessors reports on the Farrells property into the hundreds of thousands. Additional reports indicated foreign income and “ties” to foreign countries that could indicate aid in escaping the county.

The prosecution noted that the Farrell’s eldest daughter is also a missionary in Papua New Guinea as well as several trips the Farrells had taken during their life as expertise in travel and previous experience in traveling to Australia and other locations. Stating that the numerous trips and connections to the countries could also make it easier to flee, the prosecution adamantly asserted that the flight risk of the Farrells was substantial.

The state also alluded to concerns about the Farrells intimidating witnesses and affecting testimonies. While they indicated much of the allegations against the Farrells including the use of the industrial gluesticks that had been used on Olivia. They also noted that other daughters had corroborated the stories. While it was not stated specifically, the state could call upon these daughters to testify in the trial about these allegations and their witness to the actions.

 

Defense

A joint defense was presented during the case on behalf of Scott Poole and Daran Burns during the day. Providing six witnesses of their own, the defenses main contention in favor of bond was an overwhelming show of support from the Farrells community as to their character and trustworthiness to appear in trial after a bonding out of jail. Also responding to many of the points the prosecution had made, the defense presented their case to say that the Farrells were, in fact, so rooted in their community spiritually, interpersonally, and financially, that they would never think of running, but needed the time and space to prepare their case with access to their lawyers not limited by the detention center.

Responding to the state’s concerns of tampering with evidence, the defense questioned Killian what the Sheriff’s Office had left to do in the investigation. Pointing to the electronic devices and data that Killian said was still being gone through, the defense asked Killian where the data was located. Killian responded by saying that most of the data was on hard drives and flash drives. The defense suggested these devices were in police custody and out of reach of the Farrells. Additionally, they noted that the Arlo camera footage account had had its passwords changed by authorities and could not be accessed by the Farrells.

They noted the email the prosecution presented with Janet instructing her daughter to deactivate her Facebook account saying that the email was a preemptive move to protect herself against social media. They stated that the deactivation of an account does not delete the account, and they noted that the email was simply asking the daughter to delete any posts that may have been mean or hurtful words against her. It was not an attempt to tamper, but rather an attempt to protect her reputation.

Killian also stated that the continuing investigation would likely result in further interviews being necessary with those involved in the case. A fact the prosecution suggested could be an opportunity for the Farrells to affect or intimidate such testimony. The defense’s responded that most of the people involved had already been interviewed and if new information was found, it would be reinterviewing people that have, at this point, already gone on record with recorded testimonies that they cannot change. They continued saying that most of the witnesses of the prosecution would be officers, suggesting that they could not be intimidated by the Farrells.

As for the financial status of the Farrells, Poole noted that simple means of escape cannot be assumed as a substantial threat of escape. The defense went on to say that the success of Neil’s business and the Farrells financial status were actually roots tieing them here. The prosecution’s suggestion of foreign ties because of $5,000 in foreign income was a ludicrous assumption without supporting evidence. The finances also indicate over $100,000 in charitable giving. The defense even called a witness, Joel Barrere, pastor of Life Bible Church in Holly Springs, who affirmed the Farrells were faithful attendees as well as faithful givers to the church.

The defense asserted that the financial means available would not have been so heavily spent on their defense, such as hiring two law firms to represent them, if they had plans to flee.

Attorneys Scott L. Poole and J. Daran Burns present witnesses for the Farrell's character defense in their bond hearing on July 18, 2018.

Attorneys Scott L. Poole and J. Daran Burns present witnesses for the Farrell’s character defense in their bond hearing on July 18, 2018.

Providing 5 other witnesses to affirm their belief in the Farrell’s connections and efforts in the community, the defense also offered numerous written statements to add weight to the assertion that the Farrells are actually grounded into their community both financially and interpersonally.

Marshall Thomas, a fellow church member at one time, noted he also had a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. He testified in his time spent with the Farrells never caused him concern and called them “good, loving parents.” He went on to testify that he had never seen them discipline any of their children without cause.

He did testify that corporal punishment was not a good idea with his child suffering from RAD, saying that the child would not respond well to it. He noted that kids with RAD could potentially develop deep or inappropriate relationships with people. He noted that it would be a great cause for concern if Olivia was walking alone across the county.

Asking each of the witnesses if they had any reason to believe the Farrells would not show up for court if let out on bond, if they had any reason to believe the Farrells would intimidate witnesses or commit a crime, and if they would have concerns with continuing their relationships with the Farrells. With all six confirming their trust and connections with the Farrells, the defense set their point of the quality of the Farrell’s integrity in the community.

The prosecution revealed details of the allegations to the witnesses asking if it caused the witnesses concern to learn of the details, an action that the defense pointed to in their argument saying the prosecution twisted witness testimonies with unproven allegations. They continued saying that the Farrells were more than willing to voluntarily surrender their passports and submit to any conditions the court would place on bond.

 

The Ruling

At the end of the day, Judge Frank Mills returned to the court with his ruling on the bond hearing. He did preempt his ruling with explanations saying that he could see the Farrells possibly tampering with evidence or thwarting the investigations, but not so far as to intimidate witnesses that are now protected. However, he would not deny bond on that point alone. He went on to say that he could not find that they would not likely flee. He stated he based this decision not just on means and capability, but on past experience and passports readily available. He did state, “I don’t know of many defendants that I’ve had that have more knowledge about how to do things than these defendants, both in terms of knowledge of computers and finding information about computers and propensity to do so… also in having the experience in traveling outside the country, the connections outside the country, and the passports readily available.”

Judge Mills went on to say that he believed that the fears of tampering with evidence and fears of leaving the country could be alleviated with conditions on the bond. Stating “being out is better than being in,” Judge Mills ruled to set bond at $100,000 each for Neil and Janet Farrell, but also with set conditions set: Surrender Passports, no internet access, GPS monitoring, home confinement, and no contact allowed with the victim or witnesses for the state. The Judge did note that he would alleviate the no internet access after 60-days with the ability of either side to request a change later.

There will be details worked out among the attorney on how to deal with the internet access restrictions and how to have Janet taken to a doctor for existing medical conditions.

Author

July Chamber Community Breakfast

Community

By: Rachel Whitman

The Pickens County Chamber of Commerce hosts a monthly Chamber Breakfast that is open to Chamber members as well as the public. Our most recent breakfast was held Tuesday, July 10th, 2018. Attendees enjoyed a delicious breakfast catered by Bojangles’ while networking.

Melissa Jordan, the Board Chair-Elect for the Pickens County Chamber of Commerce welcomed.  Mark Mitton with Community Bank of Pickens County did the Invocation. July’s Small Business of the Month, a program sponsored by Community Bank of Pickens County, was awarded to Ag-Pro Companies- Jasper. Our breakfast sponsor was Royston LLC.  Mark Kenline, the CEO, spoke about “The Future of Retail.” A couple of the key points Kenline made is there is a convergence in the market creating tremendous growth opportunity for the company and creating employment opportunities for our citizens.

Royston LLC is the industry leader in the advanced design, manufacture and installation of first-class store interiors for the convenience, grocery, quick serve restaurant, mass merchandise, food service and specialty retail segments. They improve the consumer experience by partnering with retailers to provide customer-specific, brand-enhancing and operationally aligned products and services – from concept to store-level execution.

Their philosophy is to understand your unique values and goals. They learn your brand and retail environment objectives inside and out, match up our resources with your specific project plans, and design a customized equipment strategy that is configurable to all store locations and footprints. They will give you the benefit of our experience, and you’ll take advantage of their state-of-the-art manufacturing systems that deliver stores fast and on time, every time.

Royston has evolved from simply being the best-in-class manufacturer of merchandising fixtures to your full-service resource for end-to-end solutions for the retail environment.

The Pickens County Chamber of Commerce hosts a monthly breakfast at Chattahoochee Technical College. The next scheduled breakfast is on August 14th, 2018. This is a fantastic opportunity for members as well as the public to network and make business connections. For Chamber Breakfast pricing and registration, please call (706) 692-5600 or visit our website www.pickenschamber.com.

Brewery Ordinance Changes prep Jasper for new business

News

JASPER, Ga. – Final approval came this month in the City of Jasper’s ordinance changes for breweries in the area.

While details were discussed last month on setting the costs for the license at $1,500, it was the July 2 meeting that that approved the final adoption as well as the effective date of the ordinance change to the alcoholic beverage ordinance allowing the business as well as the zoning ordinance change to include Brewery in the accepted uses under General Commercial (C-2) and General Industry (M-1).

The amendment allows brewers to manufacture malt beverages and beer in the city limits of Jasper and provides for the creation of the authorized license for that end. Additionally, City Attorney Bill Pickett confirmed the breweries were allowed to have consumption on premises and were exempt from city restrictions for consumption.

This means the allowance of tastings and similar events on premises of the brewery.

With the new ordinance, last month’s meeting indicated that other popular options at breweries would be available such as growlers and crowlers. For those still curious, a growler is a container or vessel that is used for the transport of beer. It can also be described as an air-tight jug, typically made out of glass, ceramic, or stainless steel that allows you to take draft beer from one place to another without a degradation of quality. A crowler is similar but in can form.

Citizen interest has already been shown as well as the business interest of at least one brewery to come. The only question citizens have raised so far is how the facilities will handle parking. A subject the council indicated would be handled with the zoning into only industry and C-2 commercial zonings.

 

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Sharktop Ridge land annexed into Jasper

News

JASPER, Ga. – The second part of the development of Sharktop Ridge Road has reached its conclusion with a city approval to annex the land into the city.

Originally meeting last month to discuss the topic, the council had agreed to table the item to allow for a more detailed study on Burnt Mountain Road as feasible alternatives to access the land being developed.

The annexation is a part of a Planning and Zoning issue revolving around Paul King looking to have a residential development in the area connecting to Sharktop Ridge. The development would host around 23 homes, according to King. While he would utilize city water for the project, the sewage would be dealt with in septic tanks.

Three new points of detail were offered in favor of keeping the entrance at Sharktop Ridge Road including a survey from Chastain & Associates, P.C., a cost estimate on building the road from Burnt Mountain Road, and an accident report on the intersection of Cove Road and Sharktop Ridge Road.

Mark Chastain of Chastain & Associates, P.C., speaks with the city council on his study of accessing the development from Burnt Mountain Road.

Mark Chastain of Chastain & Associates, P.C., speaks with the city council on his study of accessing the development from Burnt Mountain Road.

Mark Chastain was on hand from Chastain & Associates, P.C. to discuss what it would take to build the entrance down from Burnt Mountain Road. Speaking mostly on the grade, or slope, the road would have to take and how long it would need to be to not exceed the maximum grade. Chastain did say that an entrance from Burnt Mountain Road could be possible, but it would need to be close to a quarter mile at maximum grade on the road. He went on to say that he had originally recommended to those looking to develop the property because “it’s a safety aspect of having to climb or descend at maximum grade for that long to achieve the difference in elevation from highway to the road.”

He explained later that fire code preference is a 12% grade, meaning you rise 12 feet for every 100 feet you travel. Chastain continued saying that in his time in engineering and surveying experience, traveling at maximum grade for that long could cause extra stress to vehicles. Without some way to level out or alleviate stress on the vehicles, you could approach an increased risk to situations “where clutches fail.”

However, this suggested that if added points of leveling for vehicle stress relief or other extra steps were taken, it could be possible. Chastain noted however that, in his opinion, Sharktop Ridge Road provides a better, more pleasant, grade to make it a safer entrance relative to Burnt Mountain Road.

Paul King, of Sharktop Ridge LLC., offers his costs estimate of changing entrances to the development, calling it a "deal killer."

Paul King, of Sharktop Ridge LLC., offers his costs estimate of changing entrances to the development, calling it a “deal killer.”

The second point came when Paul King, the representative of Sharktop Ridge, LLC., presented a quote he received on accomplishing the Burnt Mountain Road entrance, he noted an extra $200,000 in costs on top of the current costs of developing the property. King called the extra costs a “deal killer” for the project.

King noted the original plan from Chastain saying he didn’t want to spend the extra money on a “marginal, somewhat unsafe road to come into the development.” He went on to say that the road would also take out one of the planned lots for the development representing a loss to the usable residences in addition to the road costs.

Finally, King asked Jasper Police Chief Greg Lovell to comment on the accidents at the intersection of Cove Road and Sharktop Ridge Road regarding a comment from the June meeting indicating an already bad intersection due to a high number of accidents.

Chief Lovell reported there were no wrecks there in two years. Though two accidents were noted, one in 2007 and another in 2009. However, citizens present at this meeting still noted numerous instances where they had to quickly slam on their breaks or nearly missed other vehicles at the location. They also commented saying that the council should take into account all the extra traffic they would be bringing to location as well.

Though the council did ultimately approve the annexation, this is not the end of the discussion of Sharktop Ridge. The council noted several times that they would revisit the issue. They discussed options such as if the city could place certain restrictions on the development. Mayor John Weaver noted that the city had an option of a planned unit development. He noted that the council could approve the planned development before the council and any change made would have to come before the council. However, all these ideas will come later.

City Manager Jim Looney stated, “There will be opportunities for the developer to work with the mayor and council, and city manager,  on what it looks like if it is annexed in and developed.”

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Farrells’ Bond Hearing Continued

News

JASPER, Ga. – The Bond hearing for Neil Roger Farrell, 56, and Janet Lynn Farrell, 54, began today as they face charges in the case of Olivia Farrell.

However, the Bond Hearing has not reached a conclusion yet as the defense requested, and was granted, a continuance by Superior Court Judge Mary Beth Priest.

Both defendants are charged with Exploitation and Intimidation of Disabled Adults, False Imprisonment, and 2 counts of Cruelty to Children in the 1st Degree. The bond hearing was originally set for 2:00 p.m. today, June 28, to be heard by Magistrate Court. However, a release from the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday announced the hearing had changed to 10:00 a.m. to be heard by the Superior Court.

The day began with a delay as the defense requested an extra ten minutes to discuss matters with their clients and the prosecution. Both Attorneys for the prosecution and defense approached the bench twice during the delay as well.

Upon returning, an official motion was made for a continuance. According to the defense, the trial came up so quickly that they were unable to have all the supporters and preparation that they would have wanted for the bond hearing. While it was admitted that a continuation on a bond hearing is unusual, the request was made and granted based on the quick hearing and the changes to the hearing made only the day before.

However, as attempts were made to schedule the continuance, a specific date around the coming holiday week could not be reached immediately. Judge Priest did note that she was not assigned the case and another judge could hear it. With that in mind, she left the prosecution and defense to settle on a date and to schedule it with the appropriate judge.

Though no date has been set at this time, FYN will continue to offer updates when made available.

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