Pickens County battered by storms

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JASPER, Ga. – Authorities are urging citizens to exercise caution on the roads today after Pickens saw numerous trees down and power outages during the night due to storms.

The National Weather Service is continuing its Flood Warnings for the area through Saturday Morning and has added a sever weather statement saying,

Wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph will be possible through the rest of the day for portions of northern Georgia. These enhanced wind speeds combined with extremely saturated soils from the persistent rain have resulted in conditions very susceptible for trees to become uprooted and blown over. Trees may be blown onto structures, roadways or powerlines causing further power outages across the area.

The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office also cautioned citizens saying, “Please, exercise EXTREME caution as you leave your homes this morning. Please watch for low hanging wires and limbs.” They reported numerous trees down and even closed both Grandview Road and Refuge Road in the A.M. hours.

Amicalola Electric company is also reporting major outages in the area as they continue dealing with the storm. With 107 outages, they have reported close to 4,000 homes without power today. While much of these outages came in the area of Talking Rock to Mole Mountain on the Eastern side of Pickens, there are others affected all over the county. Crews are currently attending to these and working to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

While school is currently out in Pickens County for the scheduled Winter Break, February 18th through February 22nd, those who may commute out of the county may run into slow and delayed buses from debris and trees there as well, as neighboring counties have reported slow and delayed bus routes.

There are still roads partially blocked by trees and debris, citizens should take every precaution for slower travel times and be more aware as you travel in the days to come.

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Sheriff’s Office seeking runaway

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Angela Pendley

Angel Pendley

JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information from citizens about a missing person today, February 19.

Releasing this information through social media, the office is asking for anyone with information to notify 911.

Earlier this morning, 16 year old Angel Pendley ran away from a residence on North Avenue in Nelson, Georgia. Angel was last seen wearing a blue zip-up jacket and blue jeans, she has brown hair and Hazel Eyes. She is approximately 5’3″ tall.

Angel was observed leaving the area on foot with 32-year-old Christopher Sean Coleman. Coleman was wearing a black jacket and blue jeans. Both left the area on foot.

If you know the whereabouts of Miss Pendley, please notify 911.

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PSO seeking suspect on loose

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JASPER, Ga. – A recent social media post has escalated concerns by citizens over a suspect fleeing Police custody at a traffic stop.

Pickens County Sheriff’s Office Captain Kris Stancil did confirm with FYN that Andrew Flowers does have outstanding warrants and during an attempted traffic stop yesterday, Flowers was a passenger and successfully evaded capture by fleeing the scene.

Stancil did say citizens should be on the lookout for Flowers, but cautioned citizens against panic in the situation. Authorities are working diligently in their investigation and search for this wanted man.

Stancil further urged citizens to contact 911 with sightings and information. As with any suspect fleeing police, citizens should report their information and allow police to do their jobs in apprehending him. The Pickens Sheriff Office has since stated “At this time, our agency has no information or credible threat that Mr. Flowers is armed or dangerous, however we do request that if you have any information in regard to the whereabouts of Mr. Flowers, please contact the Pickens Sheriff’s Office at 706-253-8900 or the Pickens County Dispatch Center at 706-253-8911.”

Flowers has been in police custody before and currently has outstanding warrants with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.

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Plane collides with vehicles injuring two

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Jasper, Ga. – A small plane has collided with multiple vehicles at the Pickens County Airport today, November 28, causing minor injuries to two.

Photo Courtesy of Pickens County Airport

Photo Courtesy of Pickens County Airport

Public Information Officer Kris Stancil of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office stated that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a government agency, would be conducting the interviews and investigations on why the crash occurred, but the Sheriff’s Office was called to assist with the incident.

Stancil said that at this time, it appears the plane may have lost control at some point in its landing process and “clipped another parked plane on the runway and then drove into, actually three different vehicles that it made contact with. One took the brunt of the front of the plane more than any of the others.” Stancil did note that the vehicles were unoccupied resulting in the two in the plane being the only injuries from the accident.

Stancil said the two people only received minor injuries and are being treated now for those injuries.

As for the three vehicles, the plane had veered off the runway and struck them near a garage. Stancil said that while one took the plane’s impact head on and another received significant damage including busting out the windows, the third vehicle only received scrapes and minor damage. Authorities were able to move the third vehicle from the scene.

Though Stancil said that no major fires erupted after the accident, he did note that fuel had been spilled onto the pavement. One plane was reported to have been delayed for take-off at the time of the accident.

At this time, NTSB is taking over the investigation of this unusual incident.

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Sheriff’s budget in question for 2019

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JASPER, Ga. – A full extra mil on taxes, that is what citizens could expect if no cuts are made to the over $1.1 million difference between the 2018 and 2019 budgets for the Sheriff’s office.

The difference accrues over a loss of revenue including an end to the housing inmates from Sandy Springs in the Pickens Detention Center as well as $448,043 increases in the Sheriff’s Administration, Uniform Patrol, Detention Center, and School Resource Officers areas alone.

Although the budget already had at least one point ready to cut as it covered two contingencies involving either continuing overtime pay for certain staff or hiring new employees to spread the work among them. Craig noted there are 11 openings in the office that he is seeking to fill.

Like the other offices and departments, the Sheriff’s Office is seeking the 2.5% increase in salaries for employees. There are other increases such as repairs and maintenance in the office as Craig says some of the older cruisers are showing their age, with some vehicles dating back to 1996.

While the county is attempting to push some of the costs like newer vehicles among other things into the county’s next SPLOST cycle, there are many things that Craig said need immediate attention. He also noted that many of the increases involve things the Sheriff’s Office can’t control saying, “I can’t cut employees, and I can’t cut the services we have.”

He also noted increases to the demands on the office including 37,000 in call volume in this year alone. He said there hasn’t been a major increase in staffing in recent years despite doubling the call volume in the last decade.

Plans for an additional School Resource Officer and upgrading computer systems are just a small part of the changes coming. But citizens need not wait until next year to see them beginning as December will see the office going live with the upgraded Caliber System. Next year will see the $117,965 payment for the system, though.

As the Board of Commissioners are still working on the budgets, the Sheriff’s Office is working along with them to deeper analyze the office’s revenue and expenses. Chairman Jones did note that he believed the county could handle up to a $300,000 increase in the budget without needing to change the millage rate.

FYN reached out to Chairman Jones to ask when the last time a major increase like this occurred in the county’s budget. He replied saying that the county raised the Sheriff’s budget three years ago by about $700,000 to cover inadequate salaries.

If approved as is, the Sherriff’s budget will reach $7,092,649. For comparison, Pickens’ northern neighbors, Gilmer County’s Sheriff’s Budget is proposed for 2019 to total $5,673,394, that’s $1,419,255 less for a county of similar size and population.

However, this is still early in the budget process for Pickens County. As both the Board of Commissioners and the Sheriff’s Office have agreed to continue working on the budget, citizens can continue to stay informed through the county’s work session, Thursday, November 1, and special called meetings that may arise in the coming month.

One thing to note as talks continue and a final budget is set. Though discussed and agreed to under the county budget meetings, it is ultimately the Sheriff’s budget and responsibility as the elected official in 2019.

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Substance at vape shop hospitalizes five

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Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office

Jasper, Ga – Authorities have met a major incident as they executed a search warrant at the local A1 Smoke Shop in Jasper, Georgia.

During the execution of the search warrant today, September 14, members of the Drug Task Force, Pickens Sheriff’s Office, and Jasper City Police were exposed to an unidentified substance that immediately brought down one detective. Others also became exposed in attempts to help treat the detective. According to an official release by Sgt. Jody Weaver, Administrative Services Division of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, “As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.”

Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office

Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office

Unconfirmed reports indicate the substance may have been made airborne during the search, but reports at this time indicate the exposure is not life-threatening.

According to their official release, “The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire.”

Additionally, authorities have closed businesses in close proximity to the location and evacuated citizens from the area for safety.

With Haz-Mat teams investigating the substances, authorities are declining to release certain details of the active investigation, but indicate that they will be releasing more information about the incident later.

With the recent rise of vaping devices being used to inhale drugs ranging from Methamphetamines to THC Oil to Synthetic Marijuana, it is likely this warrant could be part of an official response to the trend in our schools, though no official statement identifies why they were executing a search warrant. The District Attorney’s office is currently undertaking a series of assemblies at the middle and high schools of Pickens, Fannin, and Gilmer.

At this point, it is actually quite common to find controlled substances in vape devices across America, especially in schools as reports continue to flood the media about students falling unconscious or having severe reactions, even seizures because of what they may or may not know they are inhaling.

See the full media release below:

“Pickens County law enforcement have encountered a suspected unknown powder substance during execution of a search warrant – Deputies and other public safety adversely affected.”

On the morning of Friday, September 14, 2018, the Drug Task Force, along with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office and the City of Jasper Police Department executed a search warrant at the A-1 Smoke Shop located at 684 West Church Street in Jasper, Georgia. During the search of the premises, a Detective with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office came in contact with an unknown substance which immediately resulted in the Detective experiencing adverse health conditions and symptoms. The affected Detective was transported to the local hospital for immediate treatment. Public safety personnel who were exposed while treating the affected Detective also began experiencing similar reactions. As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.

The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire. Businesses in close proximity to the location have been evacuated as a safety precaution, and Haz-Mat teams are preparing to enter the premises to thoroughly investigate and identify the cause of the health issues with our public safety personnel.

As this is an active investigation, more information will be provided as it becomes available.

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PHS lockdown and what’s next in the Vaping Campaign

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Jasper, Ga – The Pickens County Board of Education hosted a no-threat lockdown today on the campus of Pickens High School.

Parents and citizens saw the Pickens County Sheriff respond to concerns saying:

We currently have a team of deputies and K-9 units participating in a controlled sweep of the Pickens High School campus. While the school is being checked, students are being placed in a non-emergency lockdown status. Students are safe and no threat exists at the school.

When questioned about the lockdown, Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson said the K-9 sweep was scheduled for a few weeks ago, but had to be pushed back due to scheduling conflicts with Cherokee County who supplies the K-9 units. As the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has retired its last K-9 unit for medical reasons, Wilson stated it is a part of the agreement with Cherokee County to utilize theirs.

With the lockdown and sweep completed, Wilson informed FYN that no drugs were located during the sweep today. Though he noted it was not directly related to the rising use of vape devices, Wilson did respond to questions about the trend saying that it is a concern in the school system.

Sweeps like this is a part of the school’s enforcement of its code of conduct as well as state and federal law. Though Wilson said there is more going on behind the scenes in the system’s response to the rising vape concerns and to school security in general, he declined to release details saying, “There is a number of things that we are doing and things that we are working with the Sheriff’s Office, some of that we just can’t publicize at the moment.”

More information on these steps like the K-9 sweeps and other programs the school already has in place over its years in operation can be found at the upcoming Monday, September 24, day of events involving the Office of the Sheriff, the District Attorney, and Pickens School district as they hold a meeting for parents for information and the ‘Chat with the Superintendent’ at Pickens High School at 6 p.m.

Wilson went on to note that the school system is being forced to change the way it views vaping devices. While he notes that it is against the law for underage kids to possess cigarettes and vaping devices and they have enforced the law, he did state that the school system may have, at times, not utilized the most extreme forms of discipline available in every situation involving the use of nicotine. He went on to say, “Now that this added ability of being able to vape just about anything, that brings it to a whole different level.”

As part of the school’s efforts to inform parents and students about the dangers that vapes present with not knowing what is in them, the board is working with the District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Office. Wilson said, “We may have looked at vaping in the past as more of a replacement for a cigarette, and not as a delivery device for drugs… Going forward, we probably would.”

He added later, “We’re going to have to really start disciplining to the fullest extent that we can, given to us by our Code of Conduct or either by the Law to keep our children safe.”

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Drug Task Force Officer Arrested

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Jasper, Ga. – The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has arrested and released reports for warrants and booking for one Charles Daniel Hamrick.

According to the Arrest Warrant, Hamrick is accused of using his position as a peace officer to convince a person to send nude and semi-nude photos to him. The offense violates his oath as a public officer.

The warrant alleges that Hamrick convinced a lady that she was a confidential informant for him and that she could have potential criminal charges brought against her. He then allegedly told her that he had destroyed her confidential informant file in return for the photos.

Having been arrested and booked on the charges, Hamrick has since paid a $1,000 bond and been released. As the official charge states Violation of Oath by Public Officer, it is charged as “a violation of the Oath taken by Hamrick as a Deputy with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Deputy Commander of the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force…”

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