JASPER, Ga. – Pickens saw celebrations and attendance from many officials as all three members of the Pickens County Board of Commissioners met to cut the ribbon on the new Tate Fire Station.
The new facility is the second-largest fire station in Pickens County now that it is open and hosts larger drive-through bay doors to accommodate future plans for equipment and hosts the fully drive-through bay area to prevent the larger trucks from needing to back out.
Pickens Fire Chief Sloan Elrod said, “I want to thank all the citizens that voted on SPLOST, without SPLOST this would be very tough to be in this building, to have our new trucks.”
Several officials from across the county were also in attendance including representatives from the Pickens Board of Education, Cherokee Fire Fighters, the Copeland family who sold the land to the county for the station, the Pickens Sheriff Office, and Jasper Fire Department among others.
With those wider bay doors on the new fire station, Pickens Commission Chairman Rob Jones said this is part of a direction towards housing a Quint. A quint is a multi-use fire truck that serves multiple purposes based on needs including pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device, and ground ladders.
Jones said that the board is looking at better and bigger equipment for the community. Part of the opening of this station and the continuing goal that Jones noted is lowering the ISO Rating. This insurance rating, as noted in previous fire station openings and other counties, affects the insurance costs.
With Tate’s upgrade into the new station, Jones said the county’s rating is down to a four. Continuing along with past years planning to increase the fire department and lower the rating.
Additionally, the new station will also see the change to constantly hosting three paid firefighters every day according to Elrod. Jones echoed this saying they are still relying on volunteers in the county and want to continue utilizing them even though they will constantly have three on staff in Tate at Fire Station 2.
JASPER, Ga. – Many citizens in Pickens County have been closely following the developments in the Superintendent position at Pickens Board of Education (BOE) through a series of Special Called Meetings as well as those regular scheduled in the final days of 2019 and early days of 2020.
Even FYN reported statements from Wilson that he would offer a written statement of the proceedings as he resigned during one of the called meetings on December 19, 2019.
Later he was nearly reinstated as questions arose about the validity of the “emergency meetings.” But was voted down by Chairman Tucker Green, board member Joeta Youngblood, and board member Donna Enis.
This week, Dr. Carlton Wilson released a public letter to citizens fulfilling his promise of a written statement from last month. That letter follows:
Dear Pickens County,
Cindy and I wanted to take a moment to express our thanks to you as a community. When we relocated here more than 25 years ago we knew we had found our home. Cindy and I love living in and being a part of this community. We have raised our family here and we have worked to be a part of the community in every aspect. I knew when I interviewed for a teaching job here that this was the place I wanted to teach, coach, and live. Having had an opportunity to serve as your Superintendent of Schools was one of the greatest honors of my life thus far. I know we have one of the best school systems in the state of Georgia, some of the greatest staff, students, and parents.
We have been overwhelmed and extremely humbled by the love and support from the people of Pickens County. This is just another reason Pickens County is a great place to live. We love this county and I especially love our school system. The past month has been very difficult and confusing.
Our current school board is the third school board that I have served with as your superintendent. As school boards change board members, even just one, their personalities, priorities, and visions can change. Each school board is different from the boards they replaced. However, I felt it was very important to continual and complete the goals our previous boards had established not knowing these priorities, goals, and visions had changed. The current board never shared with me that that their priorities or visions changed for our school system. As Superintendent, I have always followed the strategic plan and direction that I was given. That was my job.
I am very proud of the accomplishments, partnerships, and relationships our school system developed over the past couple of years. I am very happy I can say I left the school district knowing every employee received a raise while we reduced the mileage rate for the fourth consecutive year. This took teamwork and I was proud to be a part of it.
I realize when information is not given, people will fill the void with rumors. Just to be clear, I was not given any reason except several of the board members had lost confidence in my leadership. Several members of the Board did not like the direction I was leading the school system. Concerning decisions that I made during my tenure as superintendent, I can assure you that every major decision was made with the school board’s understanding and approval. However, I take full responsibility for all day to day operational issues. Again, that was my job.
It has been a privilege serving the students, staff, and residents of Pickens County. I wish the greatest success to our school system and especially the young people they serve. The students deserve stability and strong leadership from our next Superintendent and the principal’s of our schools. Our teachers deserve the support of not only the board and school leadership but the community. I encourage you to help our community move forward by investing in our school district and helping them move to the next level. Cindy and I are excited to see what the future holds and I look forward to continuing to serve our great community in the future.
JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Education has called three meetings in less than 48 hours of each other regarding the subject of the Superintendent position.
This morning, at 8:59 a.m., the notice came from the Pickens County Board of Education for an Emergency Special Called meeting an hour later at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the Superintendent position. This coming after last night’s meeting that was called just over 24 hours earlier. Less than an hour after this morning’s meeting finished, another meeting has been called for tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m., giving slightly less than 24-hours notice.
Today, at 10 a.m., the Emergency Special Meeting was held to accept the resignation of Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson. The meeting was called to order and the agenda amended to delete an executive session and approval of executive session minutes, moving straight to the discussion as the superintendent resigned.
Board Attorney Phil Landrum III said, “Mr. Chairman, at your direction, and at the board’s direction, I have prepared a settlement agreement between the superintendent and the board. I presented that to all parties last night. It is my understanding that the Superintendent is tendering his resignation subject to the conditions upon the terms of that agreement.”
The vote came immediately after this at 3-2 to accept his resignation. Joeta Youngblood, Donna Enis, and Tucker Green voted for accepting the resignation. Steve Smith and Sue Finley voted against accepting his resignation.
Right before the meeting adjourned two comments were made. Sue Finley stated, “I am heartbroken. Dr. Wilson has done a fantastic job leading this county. He has turned around a lot of the issues that we had when he came in. He is one of the kindest men I know. He is one of the smartest men I know. When teachers demonstrate weaknesses that need to be corrected, they are brought into their administrator’s office. Their weaknesses are outlined and explained. And they are given a plan to remediate those weaknesses. They are rarely summarily dismissed. I believe that Dr. Wilson should have been afforded this courtesy and he was not. I completely disagree with this decision to release him. I believe that this is at least one backward step for our county. And I am so sorry, Dr. Wilson. I am very embarrassed that our county is going to be portrayed this way and that you’ve been treated this way. But, unfortunately, I am part of the minority.”
Additionally, Steve Smith commented saying, “I totally agree, this is the most egregious act I have ever witnessed on a board. And for it to come out of nowhere is shocking. I was as shocked yesterday, uh, I absolutely do not support the release of Dr. Wilson and I absolutely think our board has taken a ten-year step backwards. I think our school system has suffered because of this decision. I admire you Dr. Wilson.”
While few citizens were on hand for the meeting, some who were present spoke privately with Dr. Wilson. One citizen was overheard asking why the meeting was called as an emergency. Another was heard saying this subject should have been handled after the new year.
Landrum did say in the meeting that he had presented the settlement the night before this meeting was called 61 minutes before it was held. Finley was also discussing the topic with citizens saying that the board has gone through four superintendents in six years.
Dr. Wilson declined to comment at the moment, instead saying that he would offer a written statement later.
Additionally, the meeting was closed without any interim or stand-in appointed. Some would speculate that the notice sent out at 11:04 a.m. today, calling for a new meeting at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, is to address the issue as Wilson’s signatures are no longer valid on any board documents, agreements, checks, or other legal actions.
FYN can confirm that yesterday’s meeting delivered an ultimatum of “resign or be terminated.” The meeting, called to order at 3:00 p.m., held over two hours of executive session in which Dr. Wilson spent the majority of the time excluded from, but then later included in the final part of the executive session.
Further on that topic, it is FYN’s understanding that the settlement agreement is likely to have been different from the termination clauses specifically in the amount of money involved. However, FYN is attempting to confirm this as we submit an Open Records Request for the settlement agreement.
Stay with FYN as new details become available in this story and we await comment from Dr. Wilson and look to tomorrow’s last-minute meeting as the board deals with the situation mere days before Christmas.
JASPER, Ga. – Jasper saw the presentation of the 2018 Audit for both the City and Chamber during the June City Council meeting with reports for each.
Presented by Rushton and Company, CPA’s, the Audit held an unmodified opinion for the city, meaning Rushton did not have to change or alter anything with their opinion and the financial records.
Ending the year of 2018, Rushton’s presentation reported $530,252 of “Revenues over Expenditures.”
The report also noted the city could currently operate about one-third of the year on their fund balance. Council member Dr. Sonny Proctor questioned the fund balance asking if the city was in a “healthy” spot with that operational buffer in the fund balance. To which the city was told that many cities only have one to two months of operational balance, so Jasper would be better than many of those cities.
The report also presented an internal controls opinion. With no material weakness, the presentation did note a comment on a “significant deficiency” with regards to segregation of duties. While Rushton’s representative did say that he felt the two people handling the alchohol licenses were doing a great job, the standards would suggest three employees. He also noted that he didn’t expect the city to change this, but the note was put into the audit.
As the city gives money to the Picken’s County Chamber of Commerce, the city also heard an audit presentation for their funds in the Chamber. The report stated that Rushton and Company found the expenditures were properly spent and spent during the proper timeline.
The report did note that they found one note as the city noted no written policy on allocation percentages for joint costs. While they tested the funds and found the allocations reasonable, they simply thought that having a written policy could improve upon the area.
JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Commissioners began considerations for their vending contracts at the Recreation Department.
During their monthly work session, the commissioners listened to details presented proposals from Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi Co. While Pickens has used Pepsi for the last few years, this year’s bid packages were presented to the commissioners with a quick comparison.
That comparison showed that Pepsi has offered a $5,000 check to the Recreation Department and Coca-Cola has offered to either fund two scoreboards plus maintenance or provide a $6,000 check.
Additionally, the county’s ‘commission on vending sales’ with Pepsi would be 30 percent while Coca-Cola would be at 35 percent, Pepsi is proposing to go from $1.50 in price to $1.75 while Coca-Cola’s proposal is priced at $1.50.
Part of the contract with Pepsi is a required truck sale that the county does in the spring, Coca-Cola’s contract holds the truck sale as optional. Selling this miniature trucks functions like a fundraiser for the recreation department according to information in the commissioners meeting.
The county will not vote and decide on the proposals until the county’s regular meeting on June 20, this also gives citizens time to contact the commissioners and weigh in on what they would like the county to chose.
JASPER, GA. – Much of the Board’s meeting focused on continuations of present items as they reappointed members to boards and authorities and continued as the agent for a grant.
Family Connections requested the continuation of the Board of Commissioners acting as the fiscal agent of the Family Education Grant. Finance Director Faye Harvey said that either the Board of Commissioners or the Board of Education has to be the agent on the grant. She also noted that the expenses for the grant are reimbursed quarterly.
County Commission Chairman Rob Jones stated that the county has “done this for a few years now.” The motion came for approval by giving the chairman the authority to sign the agreement.
The Board also reappointed John Tatum, Phillip O’Bryant, and Jack Brown to the Pickens County Water and Sewer Authority and Lee Thrasher to the Pickens County Planning Commission.
Also continuing previous work, a resolution was passed by the board confirming the use of the land where the Veteran’s Memorial currently is and the land south of that as well as the property west of the parking lot for honoring veterans of Pickens County.
The Veteran’s Memorial currently in place stands as an achievemnt for both Pickens County and the City of Jasper, but continuing further developments are possible with the confirmation of this property.
Though this doesn’t guarantee the land for any one organization, it is set aside for that use.
Jasper, Georgia – The Pickens Board of Education has made a public statement about allegations from a recent chorus concert.
Pickens Junior High School and Pickens High School chorus groups performed in a joint concert last evening. The district office is aware that some members of the audience have expressed concerns on social media based on their perception that a student was “separated, segregated, and alienated” during the performance.
Superintendent Wilson wants to assure the community and public that the allegations circulating on social media are serious in nature and are being investigated. The district is working with all individuals involved to ensure the concerns are resolved and that any misunderstandings are made clear. We appreciate your patience as we work through this process.
JASPER, Ga. – January’s meeting of the Pickens County Board of Commissioners brought with it the final budget report of FY 2018.
Entering the new year showcases departments both over and under. Most notably, the budget sat at 97.92% ($25,648,382) of total revenue collected.
On the other side, total expenditures came in at 92.72% ($24,287,881).
Individual Departments and Offices over-budget at the end of December include:
- Sheriff was budgeted at $6,663,915. The 2019 Actual was $6,759,370, achieving 101.43% of the budget.
- Probation & Drug Abuse Funds was budgeted at $27,500. The 2019 ACtual was $58,984, achieving 214.49% of the budget.
- General Gov Buildings was budgeted at $420,728. The 2019 Actual was $522,158, achieving 124.11% of the budget.
- Superior Court & Grant Admin was budgeted at $365,124. The 2019 Actual was $395,334, achieving 140.14% of the budget.
- Economic Development was budgeted at $56,273. The 2019 Actual was $56,768, achieving 100.88% of the budget.
Be sure to see the full budget provided by Pickens County below.
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.
JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Education wishes to inform citizens of the procedures for Inclement Weather and Early Dismissal. The following is an official release from the BOE concerning parents and students.
INCLEMENT WEATHER AND EARLY DISMISSAL PROCEDURES
Do you know how your child is getting home?
Jasper, Georgia – Now that it seems we have definitely entered into winter, the Pickens County School
District wants to make sure you are aware of how we will proceed in case of inclement weather. Our
number one priority is to make sure our students and staff are safe.
EARLY RELEASE / DISMISSAL
At the beginning of every school year, each parent completes a form where a choice is made regarding what
your child will do in case school is released early. Should school ever be released early, your child will go
home based on your selection on the form. Following this procedure allows us to account for all students
and make sure they are safe, which is the most important part of what we do.
If you need to make changes, those need to be handled before inclement weather takes place. This can be
done by sending in a note to the school along with your child’s name, whether your child will be a car rider or
bus rider (include their bus number), your signature, and a telephone number. We have specific protocols
and procedures we follow because it is extremely difficult for our school office staff to handle large volumes
of calls and notify teachers with last minute changes. Also, we ask that you not email teachers with changes
in how your child should be transported for early release. There is no way to guarantee a message is
HOW YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED
In the case of early release, start time delays, or school closings, the school district will utilize the Infinite
Campus Messenger service to notify parents and guardians. The Messenger service sends phone calls,
emails, and notifications to your Infinite Campus account. It is critical that you notify central registration or
the school if your phone number changes.
If there is a need for a delayed start time, we will make that call as early as possible, and hopefully no later
than 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. Weather is unpredictable, so there may be an occasion that the call comes a little
For school closings, you can also tune in to Atlanta news stations, district and school Facebook pages, and
local news media – Know Pickens, Pickens Progress, and Fetch Your News.
Again, our first priority is the safety and well-being of our students and staff. We want everyone to arrive
safely to their destination. Also of great concern to the district is the number of inexperienced high school
drivers who are new to driving in inclement weather.
Make certain that you take care of updating telephone numbers and transportation directions before a
weather event occurs.
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.
JASPER, Ga. – A Special Called Meeting saw the Pickens County Board of Commissioners approve a resolution to officially adhere to election results from November.
The Sunday Sales question on Novembers ballot resulted in 63.55% approval, that’s 8,205 votes. Though election results showed the county’s wishes, it still had to be approved by the Board. Though almost a formality, the election results were followed with a 3-0 vote by the Commissioners to approve the resolution.
Effective immediately after the vote, Chairman Rob Jones clarified with County Attorney Philip Landrum that this allows the sell of spirits on Sundays with a few notable exceptions including holidays like Easter Sunday and Christmas. This will be allowed from 11 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Sundays.
Though the county already has resolutions for beer and wine, this resolution allows for the sales of distilled spirits.
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.
JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Commissioners Chairman Rob Jones met with members of the community April 17 to officially sign the county’s proclamation declaring April “Sexual Assault Awareness Month.”
The proclamation urges “all citizens to observe this month by becoming aware of the reality and tragedy of sexual assault, and by supporting the North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network in its efforts to end sexual violence and exploitation.”
Joined in support at the meeting, Kerri Henderson, Pickens County supervisor for the Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), and Shelly Cantrell, Student Services for Pickens County Schools, showed just a small portion of the network of support the Crisis Network has established to answer the need for those victimized. Elaine Cannon, interim executive director at the North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network, said the community that makes up the supporting organizations are the key to taking care of those in need.
Proclamations like this one from county and city governments show the official and legal face of supporting the cause as the “awareness” that becomes part of shepherding those in need to those who can help, but also in keeping the Crisis Network open with official support when they seek grants and funding to continue their work.
Another part of the network’s need for awareness, Cannon explained that some victims may not come forward for care due to stigma or fear. Explaining the options for victims and those who just need an advocate in a time of shock or confusion and others needing guidance and support going through investigations or medical care is something that these people may not realize. Catering to every need from a retreat, shelter, or support in a court case, the network continues to build upon the entire support structure to continue, without interruption, to provide for the people they help.
Cannon told FetchYourNews, “If we can work together that way, it ensures that the people get a more broad arena of services … Of course, none of us can provide everything they need all the time, but together we can.”
JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Commissioners saw a work session and immediate subsequent called meeting to finalize TAN Documents and bids for the county’s 2018 Tax Anticipation Note (TAN).
Having sent requests to five banks, the county received responses from two, Community Bank of Pickens and United Community Bank. The interest rates on the two bids saw Community Bank with 2.15 percent and United Community Bank at 3.36 percent.
Being a work session, the board had to leave its work session and officially open a called meeting in order to field a motion to accept Community Bank’s 2.15 percent TAN and a motion to approve Pickens County Board of Commissioners Chairman Rob Jones to execute the documents.
Additionally, the board was presented with a $10,000 check from the Wildcat Community as a reimbursement for their work on the Wildcat Community Fire Station. With a major ISO rating drop from 10 to five with the facility, the addition has proven more than effective. The station has constant need for water as it has responded to 191 incidents with six of those being major structure fires (four in Pickens County) since its opening in 2009.
This is part of the support for which the community is thanking the county, helping provide a tank for 45,000 gallons of water, which is half of the total 90,000 gallons now available in the area. The community offers its thanks to the Pickens BOC for its leadership and recognition of need for the area.
The community stretches across Pickens and Dawson counties and has received support from both counties. They continued raising funds for the original and a replacement fire engine better suited for the winding roads on the mountain.
The community has raised over $100,000 in support of fire services for the station and its need. That fund raising is what allowed them to provide the “reimbursement” to the county.