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. – The citizens of Pickens County breathe a sigh of relief today as County Commission Chairman Rob Jones shares information on funding for repairs of the damage that has shut down Jones Mountain Road close to two months ago.
Citizens have been avoiding the area since February 22, 2019, when the county closed the road after major storms washed out the ridge under the road and caused part of the pavement to crumble away. The road is still closed today, but Jones says this will change soon as the funding will allow them to move forward with a proposal from GeoStabilization International to reopen the road.
The county has secured $1.3 million in funding from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank with the SRTA (State Road and Tollway Authority as well as an additional $500,000 from the state’s emergency LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant) to cover the estimated $1.8 million project. These estimations came when Chairman Jones called the event a “major disaster” in early March.
Jones says that additional companies have spoken with the county about their own proposals for the repairs. But utilizing these funds requires the project to meet and adhere to DOT guidelines. Additionally, operating under the emergency status for the county, they will not wait for a bid process that could take up another two months before any repairs begin. Instead, the county is moving forward under the proposal with GeoStabilization International.
While the road will take upwards of two months to fully repair, Jones reiterated his intentions, as he explained in the March Commissioners’ Meeting, to get the road open for use of a single lane within the next two weeks. As part of the proposal, this quick turnaround will address the extra 4.7 miles that both citizens and emergency services must travel to go around the slide area.
While some points of the project are still up for negotiations in the upcoming pre-construction meetings, Jones asserts that the funding will cover the entirety of the project. However, he did note that the county could reach into the $100,000 contingency funds should the need actually arise.
Jones noted that receiving the state funding would not have been possible without a major concerted effort. Pickens County Finance Director Faye Harvey in conjunction with state representatives Steve Gooch, Rick Jasperse, andChuck Payne worked alongside Emily Dunn on the State Board to make a last-minute push for state involvement to bring funds to relieve the citizens from such a major financial impact from this emergency.
Citizens of Pickens should begin seeing the repairs and construction beginning soon and in a matter of weeks, access through the entirety of Jones Mountain Road should be returned, if only a limited one lane access.
(Photo from Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Social Media)
JASPER, Ga. – Two families mourn today after the sudden death of Deputy Sheriff II Spencer Englett, 29, during training in Pickens County.
Englett was recently married and had just begun his first day of training in Pickens, but served as a deputy of Forsyth County. The training program was a part of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center-Pickens Law Enforcement Academy where Englett was with three other Deputies from Forsyth.
According to an official release from Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman, “Spencer suffered a traumatic medical event during training and collapsed. Medical personnel and first responders on scene, as well as his fellow Forsyth County Deputies, immediately administered aid to Deputy Englett.”
Englett was transported to Piedmont Mountainside Hospital for what Freeman called “heroic efforts” in his care. However, Englett was unable to be revived.
Sheriff’s Offices across North Georgia and the state are offering up their condolences and mourning as his “family in blue” alongside his wife and family at home.
Englett had served with Forsyth County since May 2017 and Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office before that. Freeman stated, “Deputy Englett served Forsyth County with distinction and honor and remains well respected by his peers.”
Public Release by: Piedmont Healthcare
Atlanta, Ga. (March 13, 2019) – Piedmont Healthcare now offers Rachel’s Gift, a non-profit program that provides support and guidance services to families who have suffered the loss of an infant, at 10 of its hospital locations.
Started in 2008, Rachel’s Gift partners with hospitals to assist families through the initial phase of infant loss. In coordination with the hospital’s labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and emergency department staff, Rachel’s Gift trains on grief assistance and companioning patients through infant loss.
“Rachel’s Gift is a very special program, and we’re proud to be able to train our staff to offer the services that it provides,” said Carolene Gaster, Clinical Manager of Labor and Delivery at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital. “The program helps our local hospitals provide a healthy environment to begin the grieving process for families, while also providing lifetime keepsakes of their child. It’s a really special program.”
With Rachel’s Gift, hospital staff receives regular training written by licensed professional counselors as well as families who have experienced infant loss, educating them in the grief process. The program has training specific to NICU services, as well as services in the emergency department, helping families experiencing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), an unexpected death that usually occurs during sleep, and families with early-term infant loss who visit the emergency room.
“It equips hospital staff with an outline to help families face the grief,” said Gaster. “Thanks to the program, these families also have access to a 24-hour hotline to call when they’re in need of assistance after they leave our care.”
Rachel’s Gift also gives families a keepsakes of their child, and families receive a package that includes items such as clay kits to collect hands and footprints of their child, a special album, a book to guide them in grieving, and information about businesses in their local community that provide free counseling and other support services that these families may need.
“It’s amazing to see our program being utilized throughout the Piedmont Healthcare system,” said Lori Beth Blaney, director of Rachel’s Gift. “Our nationally accredited training course equips staff with the tools and training to deliver compassionate patient care, while also providing a gift that gives these families special keepsakes for a lifetime reminder and a physical reminder of their child.”
Piedmont’s hospitals comprise 10 of the 27 hospitals in Georgia that offer Rachel’s Gift’s free services, and the program is available at Piedmont Atlanta, Piedmont Athens Regional, Piedmont Columbus Regional Midtown, Piedmont Fayette, Piedmont Henry, Piedmont Mountainside, Piedmont Newnan, Piedmont Newton, Piedmont Rockdale and Piedmont Walton hospitals.
For more information about maternity services at Piedmont Healthcare, visit piedmont.org.
JASPER, Ga. – “We’re old country people. We always work on a handshake and a person’s word is his bond.” These were the words of Pickens County Commissioner Rob Jones when questioned about an outstanding issue of a water tank for what is known as the Wildcat Community.
A set area along the line of Dawson and Pickens Counties, the community stretches between and has shared in an Automatic Aid Agreement between the two. They are served by Dawson County Fire Station 8, a volunteer fire station that actually sits inside of Pickens County but is manned by Dawson.
A growing confusion from citizens is attempting to find a single point catalyst for tensions regarding the issue of the fire station, with some pointing to a missing extra water tank, and others pointing to a recent fire that destroyed a home on Burnt Mountain Ridge Road that was not responded to by that Fire Station.
Station 8 was constructed on Monument Road in 2008 by Pickens County in an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Dawson County.
The questions and concerns over the station have grown so much that the community held a town hall over the issue involving both Dawson and Pickens County Officials to ask questions. Those questions include why it took so long for Fire Station 8 to respond to the fire on Burnt Mountain Ridge Road, why was Fire Station 8 not dispatched promptly since it is only 2.5 miles from the fire? Later in the meeting, the community did also ask what became of the water tank the organizers say Dawson County promised to provide.
A question that Chairman Jones says isn’t an issue with him anymore because he knows where the issue stands now with Dawson. Jones did not comment on whether he believed the community still had an issue. Jones did also admit that he had no idea why Station 8 was not initially contacted in response to the recent fire.
He noted that as a Volunteer Fire Station, those at station 8 would not have directly engaged the fire, but would instead have been there to contain the fire, prevent it from spreading, ensured the safety of citizens in the vicinity, and preset the area so that when county firefighters did arrive, they could immediately engage the blaze with little setup work.
Additionally, Jones noted that having volunteers familiar with the community helps expedite firefighter response to a location as they can help direct and guide the approach on back roads the firefighters may not know.
Jones also stated that during the two-hour town hall meeting he was questioned, “The question was asked of me at the end of the meeting, would Pickens County consider taking the station over?” Jones says that he answered by saying that if the community wanted Pickens to do it, they would.
However, Jones contends that he had no intentions for the Fire Station saying that he has trusted Dawson County over the years and had good relations with them with previous commissions. He said he did not want to “throw them out,” referencing Dawson County.
“My main concern is the safety and well-being of the people of Pickens County,” said Jones. He insisted that he wanted to continue with an Intergovernmental Agreement and the established Automatic Aid Agreement.
He went on to state, “I am not telling anybody up there that they don’t need to deal with Dawson County. I have never said, nor will I say that. That’s up to them.”
Another symptom of this rising issue came from Dawson County taking issue with Station members attending training in Pickens County. A fact that Jones said he offers to all volunteer fire fighters in the County as it is a training they must stay up-to-date with.
Still, Jones made note that volunteers are still volunteers. Working with them on their schedule is a part of the package according to Jones who said, “You have to work with them as well as they work with you. It’s not a one-sided game.”
He went on to specify that he does not tell these volunteers to attend Pickens County training saying, “If the individuals up there want to come to Pickens County for training, they can come to Pickens County for training. If they have training going on in Dawson County, they can go to Dawson County for training. We’re not telling them where to go.”
Jones said the State provides guidelines to go by on how to handle fires, those guidelines will match across counties.
During the Pickens County Commissioner’s work session, Jones stated that the county has been approached to take over the station and later confirmed they would be moving forward with that request.
With the Intergovernmental Agreement set in 2008 and an Automatic Aid Agreement in 2009, the station has been up for almost ten years. Taking on new volunteers is not something Jones wants as they move forward with taking control of the fire station. Jones said he didn’t care where they trained or which county they are from, “if you want to be a volunteer, we will proceed forward.”
It is an issue that Dawson County does not agree with. December has seen 13 volunteer firefighters resign in the face of directive from Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson to attend a mandatory training session.
FYN recently reported in a Dawson County Article, “Fire Station 8 volunteers a no-show at training submit their resignations:”
Thursday morning, Thompson summoned Lt. John Tarantini — who supervises Station 8 – to a meeting. “It was my intention to demote him back to support staff for failure to follow an order and insubordination,” Thompson said. “He declined to sign the paperwork and instead tendered his resignation.”
Tarantini also brought with him the resignation of the 12 other volunteers who work at Station 8, which Thompson accepted. That effectively closes the station for now. Station 6 on Hubbard Road in Big Canoe is the closest manned fire station to the Wildcat Community which lies in both Dawson and Pickens counties.
Additionally, Dawson County responded to their resignations and citizens concerns with a press release stating, ” In no way do the recent resignations of Station 8 volunteer support personnel members affect the ISO rating for this community, nor does it decrease the level of service provided.”
Jones has indicated during the County’s Work Session that the Board wants nothing to change between Pickens and Dawson counties moving forward. He said, “We still want to do an Automatic Aid Agreement, if they so desire. Our main goal is for the protection and cooperation of the Citizens in the community. Wildcat Community, as they call themselves, has got money and time invested in that station. Pickens County does, too. And Dawson County does, also.”
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.
JASPER, Ga. – Traffic is grinding to a halt on Highway 515 southbound today as a tractor trailer accident resulted in a fire.
According to reports from the Jasper Fire Department, the incident is not only completely shutting down Highway 515 Southbound, but is backing up and affecting all traffic stops in the area of the intersection of 515 and Highway 53, the main intersection between Kroger and Ingles.
Jasper Fire Department is asking citizens to avoid the area for the time and find alternate routes.
Officials have not released a statement on the driver of the truck or other vehicles involved yet.
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.”
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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Sunlink Inc. / Southern Health Corp. of Ellijay may soon be closing the North Georgia Medical Center located in Ellijay.
Piedmont Mountainside Hospital Inc. has made an offer for a five year lease for the Emergency Room Care area of the hospital. The two are awaiting approval from the State Department of Community Health that is due by January 28th.
In a document obtained by FetchYourNews, Piedmont has submitted a Georgia Certificate of Need, Request for Determination. In the document, Piedmont Mountainside stated:
Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, Inc. (“Piedmont Mountainside”) proposes pursuant to this Determination to acquire existing equipment and supplies, and lease approximately 11, 000 square feet of space at North Georgia Medical Center, located at 1362 South Main Street, Ellijay, GA. As a result of such acquisition and long term Lease, Piedmont Mountainside proposes to offer outpatient emergency department services at the current location of the Emergency Department (” ED”) of North Georgia Medical Center (” NGMC”). The present owner of NGMC, Southern Health Corporation of Ellijay (” SHC”)— a subsidiary of Sunlink Healthcare— intends to close North Georgia Medical Center and cease offering all short stay hospital services, including emergency services, in that facility. Such a closure will leave a troubling gap in the provision of emergency healthcare services to the rural community in Gilmer County.
This Request for Determination could be contested, but if it is not contested and is approved by the state, it is not clear when the inpatient side of the hospital will close and Piedmont Mountainside will take over the emergency room.
FYN spoke with North Georgia Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Earl Whiteley about the possible closing of the hospital. Whiteley said that although the hospital would no longer have inpatient care the positive was that the community would still have emergency care services. If a person came in the emergency room and had to be admitted, the patient would then be moved to a hospital of their choice.
Many of these patients, however, are expected to travel to Piedmont Mountainside in Pickens County. Whiteley went on to tell us that Sunlink Inc. would continue to operate the nursing home and no changes should be expected there. Additionally, the Piedmont campus on Industrial Dr will be in the lease as well and is expected to continue operation.
To further understand the impact of this to Gilmer County, FYN spoke with Executive Director Chuck Scragg of the Greater Gilmer JDA who said
The UGA study said the Hospital and nursing home has a yearly $31 million dollar economic impact to Gilmer County. We will loose very high paying jobs here, as well as other sources of revenue as people will go to Mountainside Piedmont in Jasper for hospitalization. This change will take effect unless we contest it. We only have until January 27th to do so.
Whiteley indicated in the interview that rural hospitals are ‘under the gun’ with this making six rural hospitals to close in Georgia in the last two years. Currently the hospital employs 332 employees throughout all campuses.
While FYN has not learned of any final operating days yet, we are continuing to research this project as it develops and will update you as information becomes available. You can also read, in its entirety, the Request for Determination.
When we asked about details concerning the purchase price that Piedmont was paying the hospital, Whiteley referred us to Bob Thornton of Sunlink inc. for details on the transaction. FYN has reached out to Thornton and has not heard back from him at the time of this article.
FYN has also reached out to Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston for a comment about a hospital in his district possibly closing. FYN has also reached out to Piedmont Mountainside Hospital in Jasper for a comment concerning the transition and what citizens can expect. We currently await responses from both.
At this time, we understand the Request had also been sent to the County Commissioners and both City Mayors.
Pickens County received its StormReady Certificate during the November BOC meeting, making it one of 86 Counties in Georgia that is recognized as StormReady. (more…)
What to Do in Case of a Veterinary Emergency
When there’s any medical emergency, it is always best if you have planned ahead. The same is true for your pets. Never plan on experiencing a life-threatening emergency with your pet, but have a plan in place in case one occurs.