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Following sex offender incident, safety & security among the school system discussed at town hall meeting.

News, Tate Elem

JASPER, Ga.- Following the incident last Friday in which a man on the sex offender registry gained access to Tate Elementary, Superintendent Dr. Carlson Wilson and Sheriff Donnie Craig held a meeting at the Tate Elementary auditorium on Thursday, March 28, 2019, to discuss safety and security in the school system.

Members of the community gather for the safety and security meeting at Tate Elementary.

Craig states (2:55) that the status of the offender was not known until he had already left the school grounds, but that the arrest was made quickly. He goes on to explain exactly how the events unfolded the day of the incident (4:50). Around 9:13 am, the school resource officer on campus at the time had overheard an employee of the school asking a Bruce Lee Daniel how he had obtained access. Daniel responded that he was looking for janitorial work, and had gained access through a door next to the cafeteria. Daniel was then taken to the office, where the resource officer on-site had him sign in and have a copy of his driver’s license made.

Again, Daniel claimed he was at the school in search of janitorial work, and was informed that he must go through a contractor to obtain such employment. Daniel was then escorted out of the building (6:18), but first showed school staff where he had entered. The doors by the cafeteria were secured at this point in time, but the resource officer then ran his license, at which time he was found to be on the sex offender registry. The assistant principal, as well as the sergeant in charge of the school resource officers within the county were notified (7:26), following a walk-through of the school grounds. The sergeant then passed word along to the other school resource officers, the school administrators, the uniform patrol division, and the county’s criminal investigators, at which time a “be on the look out” was posted for Daniel.

Bruce Lee Daniel, picture courtesy of Pickens Sheriff’s Office.

An investigation was immediately launched, with detectives responding to the school (8:27). It was found that Daniel was on probation out of Cherokee County for the offense of being a Peeping Tom (or something similar, states Craig). A warrant was obtained from Cherokee County for probation violation, following warrants for the arrest of Daniel.

Upon checking security camera footage, at approximately 9:06 am, Daniel found the front doors to be locked (10:00). He then found one of the doors near the cafeteria ajar. He then walked towards the other end of the school, towards the gymnasium, before entering the girls bathroom. He wasn’t there for long before walking to the boys bathroom and standing with his back to the wall. Craig states that they’re aware of this because you could see his shoes from the camera in the hall (11:01). At approximately 9:10 am, several boys entered the restroom, and at approximately 9:11 am, Daniel left to return to the office area, at which time he was confronted by school staff. It was found that the door by the cafeteria in which Daniel entered was ajar due to a piece of bark that had been kicked towards the door earlier in the day when students had arrived (13:20).

Members of the community gather for the safety and security meeting at Tate Elementary.

Daniel was arrested around 3 pm on Friday, March 22, 2019 at his home and taken into custody at the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, at which time he admitted he wasn’t at the school searching for a job, though Craig states that details can’t be given at this time as to what Daniel’s excuse was. According to Craig, Daniel faces 30-40 years for his charges.

Sheriff Craig states that, because of the investigation, information shared with the parents and the general public was initially limited (20:01). He cites that this was because if too much information was shared, it could potentially have caused problems with their investigation in such that it may have let Daniel know of the investigation underway against him. There have been several open records requests for the security camera footage, but Craig states that, because of the severity of the case, this footage won’t be released at this time.

Members of the community gather for the safety and security meeting at Tate Elementary.

Dr. Carlson Wilson states shortly after the opening of the meeting (1:39) that one of the first things to change is the addition of a resource officer so that one will be present within all of the schools located within Pickens County. Wilson goes on to state that money has been spent on new security cameras and updates to that system (25:05), as well as classroom cameras and emergency notification systems. New digital radio communications systems are now within the schools and the buses that tie directly to 911, and there is now GPS tracking on each of the buses for law enforcement utilization. There were 55 new handheld radios within the schools, and new fencing has been completed on several of the campuses, with more fencing on the way. New safety vestibules are to be installed, making access to the schools impossible without going through the front office first.

Dr. Wilson goes on to say that a “welcome center” has been implemented at the Pickens High School (26:04), which thus far has turned away 17 vehicles approaching the school (though for unknown reasons). Card readers are also being implemented on the campus, making it easier to lock down doors and tell who used which doors when. Several classes, such as the weight training class, have been brought inside of the main building instead of utilizing outside buildings, though the agriculture class still utilizes the green house located outside. Baseball and Cross-Country sports have also been moved to the high school, though the swimming team, golf team, and bass fishing team will still have to leave campus for their activities.

Dr. Wilson states that involvement on active shooter and intruder training has been constant with all employees (28:44), that background checks on volunteers will continue to be a thing, and that door monitoring and emergency lock down software is currently being looked into. The ability to run a license check on all visitors is also a likely possibility in the near future, according to Dr. Wilson, but he goes on to say that staff members as well as parents must work together to ensure every visitor within the schools comes prepared with a valid license, and displays a visitors badge at all times.

Members of the community ask questions during the safety and security meeting at Tate Elementary.

One of the parents present during the meeting proposed utilizing door alarms similar to those found in stores such as Walmart (32:10), with an opposing voice stating that this would trigger far too many alarms daily. Dr. Wilson’s comment towards this was that door monitoring software that includes an alarm is currently being looked into. Another parent posed the question as to why the school didn’t go into lock down during the incident, with Dr. Wilson stating that all of the schools within Pickens County are in a constant “soft lock down”, in which all exterior doors are supposed to be locked at all times. There was no complete lock down because none it was not determined that Daniel was a threat until he had left the campus.

Another question posed at the meeting was “who was watching the cameras during this?” Dr. Wilson responds that there’s not a single person who watches the cameras constantly, nor a person who constantly monitors halls (42:53). Dr. Wilson goes on to say that he is open to parental volunteers to monitor (after a background check) the halls or the cameras, and that most students and teachers were in class rooms during all of this, allowing Daniel an easy passage.

Yet another point made during the meeting was that, despite Dr. Carlson stating that there is someone present to monitor the children coming into the school each day, these monitors are “unarmed, defenseless staff” (48:25). Dr. Wilson responded that having an armed staff member to monitor the children is a possibility in the very near future.

Dr. Wilson states that the parents of the students who were in the bathroom were notified of the incident. Kayla Worley, parent of a student who was in the boys bathroom at the time of the incident, states her son told her “there was a man in the bathroom that had touched his shoulder and offered to give him some Beyblade toys to come over and talk to him”. She states that the school principal notified her of her son being present in the bathroom only after 7 pm that night, despite the press release from 3:40 pm earlier that day stating that there was no physical contact by offender Bruce Lee Daniel. “I was told that the man went into the bathroom and that I was welcome to watch the video, and that they were sorry that it had happened.” Worley states that she was never informed that her son was touched, though her son did tell his story to the sheriff who interviewed him. At (39:20), Dr. Wilson admits that the four parents of the children in the restroom at the time of the incident should have been notified earlier, and he apologies for letting this occur.

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Pickens County Board of Education Meeting for Thursday, March 14, 2019

Education, News

JASPER, Ga.- The Pickens County Board of Education held a board meeting on Thursday, March 14, 2019, to discuss Superintendent Reports as well as Action Items.

Katherine White, Steve Smith, and Tony Young of the Pickens BoE.

Chief Financial Officer Amy Smith was the first to discuss the financial update, citing that the FY19 (Fiscal Year 2019) General Fund revenue collected through February 2019 was 71.06 percent and expenditures were 55.38 percent of the approved budget.

SPLOST (Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax) revenue for February 2019 was $433,261.41, and interest earned was $3,250.07.

Expenditures totaled $104,850.46 and the month-end SPLOST balance was $8,891,669.06.

The school system, Smith went on, is reported to have no debt at this time.

Assistant Superintendent Tony Young then delivered the report on the condition of attendance and dropout statistics for the month of February 2019. Cory Thompson of Jasper Middle School has the highest monthly average daily attendance at 95.27 percent, according to Young. One student was withdrawn this month, bringing the total this year to 11 dropped students.

Young went on to deliver the details on the state of the school system’s transportation and maintenance departments. The Board is currently in preparation for the Bus ”Roadeo”, which will occur on Saturday, April 13, 2019. There are two drivers finishing training from the last class and the next class for bus training will begin on Monday, April 22, 2019. Mechanics Nathan Hamby and Joel Collis will be competing on Friday, March 29, 2019, at

Dr. Carlton Wilson, Tucker Green, Phil Landrum III, Sue Finley, and Joeta Youngblood of the Pickens BoE.

RESA (Regional Educational Service Agency) for the Technician district competition and a chance to compete in June 2019 for the state competition. There is also extensive Versa Trans Training taking place at this time. As far as Maintenance goes, the Board has been busy preparing for their Department of Education Facilities Review team visit, but everything is reported as going well with maintenance at this point in time.

The National School Breakfast Week (NSBW) challenge that took place last week, sponsored by the Atlanta Community Food Bank, was reported to have been a huge success among the schools. It was a week of entertainment, prizes, and breakfast foods that are popular among the students.

Food Services for the school system have been doing well lately in general. Monday, a record number of students were served breakfast, 1,372 total. Tuesday through Thursday of the same week, that number was improved upon to increase the total number of students served. On Friday, there were a total of 1,706. The district witnessed a 46.3 percent increase, with an average of approximately 500 more meals a day than the previous week. Tate Elementary came in with the highest Average Daily Participation percentage at 61 percent for the week. Pickens Junior High witnessed the greatest increase in breakfasts served, as they served an additional 165 more student breakfasts per day than the previous week, thus winning them $1,000 from the Atlanta Community Food Bank Breakfast Challenge.

Upon request of Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson, approval of all four Personnel Action Reports passed without further discussion or opposition. These reports are recommendations by the administration to employ the individuals listed in each report, with such employment being contingent upon release from any previously signed contract and a successful background check. Employment is temporary until said contingencies are met. The reports may be viewed in full here: Personnel Action Report Number OnePersonnel Action Report Number TwoPersonnel Action Report Number Three, and Personnel Action Report Number Four.

Dr. Wilson went on to recommend the approval of School Bus purchases by The Operations & Transportation Departments for the FY20 school year. The order is for a total of five 72-Passenger Buses, with a unit cost of $98,881.00 and total cost of $494,405.00, as well as one 48-Passenger Bus with Wheelchair Lift at a cost of $108,556.00. The total $602,961.00 is based on state contract, and SPLOST funds are said to cover the expenses. This move will also see to it that each route bus will be air conditioned. This recommendation was approved without further discussion or opposition.

The Five-Year Local Facilities Plan passed without further discussion or opposition as well. This plan is a requirement by the Department of Education Facilities Unit to show the district’s need when it comes to facilities. This new plan displays a total $10,408,162 of eligible needs for earning State Entitlement funding. There was also a total $12,917,312 of documented needs that were considered ineligible costs for entitlement earnings, and which were decided to be a local district responsibility. A Georgia Department of Education Facilities Survey Team consisting of area facilities administrators made a visit to the district on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, and thus the plan was evaluated and validated at that time.

The board also approved the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) of $3,999,458.00 from Carroll Daniel Construction for the purpose of Phase One of the Pickens Junior High renovation project. The school system earned $802,138.00 of entitlement from the State Department of Education for the project. Pickens County School System is responsible for $3,197,320.00 that is to come from SPLOST funding, which will be a savings from the original price of $454,800.00.

In the last order of business for the Action Items during the meeting, Chairman of the Board Tucker Green was elected as Voting Delegate for the 2019 GSBA (Georgia School Board Association) Summer Conference & Delegate Assembly in Savannah, GA, with Chairman of the Board Steve Smith elected as an Alternate.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcu1w_EPdfY[/embedyt]

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Chairman Jones optimistic after meeting with Dawson County Chairman

News, Press Release

JASPER, Ga. – A press release from Pickens County could indicate a positive movement on the recent troubles and issues of Dawson County Fire Station 8.

Pickens County Commission Chairman Robert Jones and Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond met on Wednesday the 12th to discuss the recent discrepancies involving Fire Station 8 located off Monument Road. The meeting was productive in making clear the desires and expectations of both counties. The Chairmen agreed the most crucial aspect is to provide adequate fire protection for both counties’ citizens. The two men representing their respected Boards tentatively agreed to work together to solve these discrepancies and guarantee proper service to this area. The Chairmen also tentatively agreed to begin renegotiating a new Intergovernmental Agreement that will reflect the desires of both government agencies as well as the citizens in the affected community. Chairman Jones believes the meeting was in good faith from both sides and is appreciative for Chairman Thurmond’s willingness to build constructively on the partnership between both counties. Chairman Jones is optimistic in the direction this situation has taken and believes the result will be beneficial to all involved.

Author

Jones publicly addresses Fire Station issue in Work Session

News

JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Commissioners held their December work session for department updates. With nothing else but General Discussion on the agenda, no action was discussed for later this month.

However, one point arose as Chairman Rob Jones took a moment in general discussion to address Post Commissioners Becky Denney and Jerry Barnes about a rising issue on the eastern side of Pickens County. Though nothing was set for specifics, Jones noted he wanted to get training sessions for Authority Boards in the county. With some Boards able to bond and perform other tasks in the county, Jones said he wants the people on these boards to know “what the process is and what it does to the tax base of the county or city.”

Jones also took time to address (25:25 in video) a rising issue in Pickens as he spoke pubicly that the Board has been approached about taking control of a Fire Station on Burnt Mountain. The issue has been rising between Dawson and Pickens Counties over the recent months. Dawson County Fire Station 8 is located inside of Pickens County and operated under an intergovernmental agreement. The area served by this volunteer fire station actually reaches across both counties.

Jones noted he still wants to maintain the automatic aid agreement between the two counties even as the Board goes forward with requests from several in the area. Jones stated, “Our main goal is for the protection and cooperation of the citizens in that community.”

Stay with FYN as we sit down with Rob Jones to speak about the rising issue between the two counties.

Author

Council progresses on City Manager at December meeting

News

JASPER, Ga. – With a review of city manager applications in November, the City Council was further updated at December’s meeting about accepted and Scheduled interviews for December 10 for candidates for the position.

With four interviews set for Monday, the candidate pool is shrinking towards a final decision to hire a full time City Manager. This position is currently being filled by former council member Jim Looney.

As the Council continues in executive sessions, they are to be advertised as meetings for the council to legally be in the same room for these interviews. However, the Council will immediately go into a closed executive session to perform the interviews.

After the interviews, it should not be long before the council makes their decisions and formalizes the personnel hiring at an official meeting.

Additionally at their December Meeting, the council officially adopted Sanitation Rate increases for six months of review. Council member Kirk Raffield noted in the meeting that during the six month period, he wanted a conversation and decision on the growth of the program and equipment. The new rates are as follows:

Residential – $20
Residential (Senior) – $18
Housing Authority – $14
Commercial (One Day) – $25
Commercial (Two Day) – $50
Commercial (Four Day) – $100
Commercial (Five Day) – $125
Restaurant – $150

City employees also saw a major change in Vacation Days and a Christmas Bonus for their careers in December’s meeting. Vacation policy changes were approved as proposed in the meeting by City Manager Jim Looney who stated, “Personnel Committee recommends that accrued vacation be changed from 40 hours per week to the scheduled hours that employees work. That would be a change for Firefighters to 56 hours, Police for 42, and Water and Sewer employees for 42 hours per accrued week.”

The bonus came later in the meeting. Looney also presented this proposal after a work session discussion. A motion was made to offer a Christmas Bonus and one-time Service Award for employees.

Less than one year of service – $150
One year to ten years of service – $250
Eleven to nineteen years of service – $500
Twenty or more years of Service – $750

Each of these amounts already have included within them a $100 Christmas bonus and the remainder is the one-time Service Award “to recognize the dedication of each employee.”

Author

Superintendent Wilson speaks on “Vaping” epidemic

News

Jasper, Ga – As reports continue on the rising trend by high schoolers across North Georgia using Vape devices, Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson has officially released a statement regarding it.

Calling for help from parents and guardians, Dr. Wilson reminds them that using or sharing a vaping device is a violation of the Code of Conduct and could lead to criminal charges now as five students have been physically harmed by the devices this year alone. Two of these students have been hospitalized from their use.

With the rising popularity across North Georgia, this larger issue has reached through neighboring Gilmer and Fannin counties as well.

Wilson spends much of his statement informing citizens about the devices and what they look like, comparing them to ink pens, flash drives, and even a computer mouse. The devices operate by vaporizing a liquid solution for the user to inhale.

While these device’s websites and packaging say they are intended for use with nicotine and flavoring solutions, the real danger comes in this rise of using other drugs and solutions in the devices, Wilson states that students have been utilizing THC oil (marijuana) in the devices causing a higher concentration than other forms of ingestions or inhalation.

The issue worsens as other drugs besides THC is used. Wilson quoted a CNN report in his statement saying, “Water-soluble synthetics are easily converted into liquid substances. It makes it nearly impossible to tell what is inside someone’s vape. It could be nicotine, marijuana concentrate, or fruit-flavored nicotine-free ‘e-liquid,’ popular among kids. Or worst of all, it could be a deadly concoction of chemicals, known as synthetic drugs.”

Wilson goes on to note that a student may not even know what they are inhaling until it is far too late. He adds that in these vapes, students could be inhaling “meth, kratom, LSD, or other illegal chemicals.”

Wilson invites citizens to be a part of the Monday, September 24, day of events involving the Office of the Sheriff, the District Attorney, and Pickens School district as they hold assemblies for students in Pickens High School and Pickens Junior High School. There will also be a meeting for parents involving an informational meeting and the ‘Chat with the Superintendent’ at Pickens High School at 6 p.m.

Read the full statement here:

Author

City Council Advertises Millage Rate

News

Jasper, Ga – The City Council approved advertising for their millage rate alongside other items this week. Moving the meeting due to the holiday, the Council met on Wednesday, September 5.

The Council made no changes to the rate, leaving it at 4.655 mills. Thought Lisa Hoyle said in the meeting that the inflationary rate actually went down, it did not force a rollback rate. With growth in the county and new construction, the city could still see a rise in revenue, but they decided not to raise or lower the rate to affect any other changes to the budget.

With the advertisement, the council can move the next two meetings in October and November, this could also include a Special Called Meeting if needed. Citizens are invited to speak on the Millage Rate at any meeting set to discuss the subject.

The City also motioned to move forward with negotiations in the interest of connecting a water line to a new Pickens County Water Treatment Plant. With finer details still in need of finalizing and concessions between the two entities to be met, the City will be sending Mayor John Weaver, City Manager Jim Looney, and David Hall back into the negotiations to protect the city’s interests.

The approval simply notes the city’s willingness to participate in the new treatment plant by constructing the pipeline and covering the costs. It could mean the ability to trade water between the city and county treatment plants as well as adding a potential 300,000 gallons of water per day to the supply for the area.

The city is set to continue updates for the council in coming meetings as details and agreements are finalized. The city is also looking to maintain its water supply and flow through potential drought conditions.

A third major topic the council discussed involved restricting turn options at Mark Whitfield Street and Highway 53 and a four-way stop at Old Philadelphia Road and Confederate Avenue.

Making the turn left off of Mark Whitfield Street next to the drug store was approved in efforts to fight against the danger of what Looney referred to as a “Blind Turn.” Making the action illegal will cut down on the issue while encouraging drivers to begin using alternate routes such as moving over to North Main Street or on the opposite side to Richard Street. Officially approved as “Right-Turn only,” the approval will actually have citizens avoid going straight across either.

A four-way stop on Old Philadelphia Road is set to help avoid traffic back-up from another dangerous intersection. With heavy traffic involving the many businesses located on Confederate Avenue and Philadelphia Lane, as well as traffic coming from the nearby Wal-Mart using Old Philadelphia Road as a shortcut towards North Main Street.

Requested by a business owner in the area, the council decided they wished to further investigate as the item was placed on the agenda last minute. Officially tabled until October’s meeting, the council will be looking at the intersection until then.

Author

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