Council talks speed vs. safety in Cove Road Issues

News

JASPER, Ga. – Citizens of Jasper listened as Mayor John Weaver offered updates on proposals and plans for the Cove Road rockslide recovery.

The council addressed the rockslide with information from City Manager Brandon Douglas who said the city has retained the services of Geostabilization Engineering for stabilization and repairs from the rockslide. Douglas said that the Thursday, the firm offered a proposal to stabilize and ensure safety in the area.

The proposal would present a 6-day period of operations for the cost of $95,000. Douglas said they employed a third-party firm to vet the proposal. This third-party did confirm the competitiveness of the proposal according to Douglas.

However, the contract came under question by City Attorney Bill Pickett who pointed out that any disputes about action or inaction in violation of the contract would require the city to go to Colorado, the home state of the company, to sue or pursue legal action against the company.

Though this is an “if” situation, meaning it would only be needed if the company does not live up to the contract. However, Douglas countered saying that his understanding was that this point of the contract was open to negotiation.

Another contention point came as the $95,000 is not a set price. The proposal is based on site investigations, but if additional work is needed, then additional costs would be incurred.

Mayor Weaver noted that he felt much of the danger of the specific area of Cove Road was taken out by the slide. While stabilization is needed, Weaver said he felt there were much more dangerous areas nearby this site on Cove Road. Douglas said that the six-day period would allow the company to address additional nearby areas without incurring additional “mobilization costs.” This means that if Geostabilization Engineering secures the area’s safety in two or three days, the City can have them move on to the additional areas of danger on the road.

Addressing the rockslide directly, Weaver said, “You can drive the road today. They cleaned it up the next day. But what they’re worried about is your safety because if you’d been on the road when that rock fell… What you’re worrying about is how fast we can get it done. So, that’s the issues that the administration is going to be working with, but there is a lot of issues to be worked out.”

Weaver went on to note that funding and taxpayers are in his consideration as he wants to go seek emergency funds from the state and federal government as well as other agencies who could help. He said he wants citizens to consider that they are working on the area to provide safety for those who are traveling on the road. He does not want to have a phone call one day of somebody being crushed by another landslide as they were driving.

City Councilmember Tony Fountain said that he wants to have the city sleep at night knowing they have done everything they can.

However, the city must also consider, as Weaver later said, once the city begins any work on the area, it becomes a city liability. Weaver stated that because of this liability, the city is going to take its time in the process to get each “stamp of approval” they need to ensure the safety of all who utilize the road.

He went on to say it isn’t going to be a cheap and quick fix, but asked for patience as they continue along this project.

The council did approve ‘up to $120,000’ in a motion from Councilmember Kirk Raffield and a second from Councilmember Anne Sneve. This motion will allow the city manager to move forward with negotiations on the proposal and finalizing details on the contract. The final vote came to 4-0 with John Foust abstaining as he said he could be part of crews working on power lines in the area.

Weaver noted afterward that he is shocked that more landslides haven’t occurred with all the rain and snow and weather the city has suffered in the last year. As such, he is more worried about other dangers in the area than the recent slide that has already taken away much of that spots danger.

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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.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-J6V0IxGhw[/embedyt]

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REVIEW TURKEY HUNTING SAFETY TIPS BEFORE SEASON BEGINS

Outdoors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

REVIEW TURKEY HUNTING SAFETY TIPS BEFORE SEASON BEGINS

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Before you head to the woods this Spring in pursuit of a gobbler or two, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division encourages all hunters to take some time to review important turkey hunting safety tips.

“Firearms safety knowledge is critical to keeping you, and others, safe while in the woods,” advises Jennifer Pittman, statewide hunter education administrator with the Wildlife Resources Division. “In addition to firearms safety tips, hunters should review and practice safety precautions specific to turkey hunting.”

Turkey Hunting Safety Tips:

  • Never wear red, white, blue or black clothing while turkey hunting. Red is the color most hunters look for when distinguishing a gobbler’s head from a hen’s blue-colored head, but at times it may appear white or blue. Male turkey feathers covering most of the body are black in appearance. Camouflage should be used to cover everything, including the hunter’s face, hands and firearm.
  • Select a calling position that provides at least a shoulder-width background, such as the base of a tree. Be sure that at least a 180-degree range is visible.
  • Do not stalk a gobbling turkey. Due to their keen eyesight and hearing, the chances of getting close are slim to none.
  • When using a turkey call, the sound and motion may attract the interest of other hunters. Do not move, wave or make turkey-like sounds to alert another hunter to your presence. Instead, identify yourself in a loud voice.
  • Be careful when carrying a harvested turkey from the woods. Do not allow the wings to hang loosely or the head to be displayed in such a way that another hunter may think it is a live bird. If possible, cover the turkey in a blaze orange garment or other material.
  • Although it’s not required, it is suggested that hunters wear blaze orange when moving between a vehicle and a hunting site. When moving between hunting sites, hunters should wear blaze orange on their upper bodies to facilitate their identification by other hunters.

For more hunting information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations .

BEFORE TURKEY SEASON BEGINS, DO YOU NEED A HUNTER EDUCATION COURSE?

Outdoors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BEFORE TURKEY SEASON BEGINS, DO YOU NEED A HUNTER EDUCATION COURSE?

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Do you need hunter education before you head to the woods? You have options! Hunters in need of the Georgia hunter education course can choose to go completely online or attend a classroom course, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

“In 2018, over 14,000 people completed the Georgia hunter education course – either online or in a classroom,” says Jennifer Pittman, statewide hunter education administrator with the Wildlife Resources Division. “I am glad that we can continue to offer both classroom and online options, as it gives students a choice of what works best with their schedules, especially those with time constraints.”

The four available online courses each require a fee (from $9.95 – $24.95) but all are “pass or don’t pay” courses. Fees for these courses are charged by and collected by the independent course developer. The classroom course is free of charge.  

Completion of a hunter education course is required for any person born on or after January 1, 1961, who:

  • purchases a season hunting license in Georgia.
  • is at least 12 years old and hunts without adult supervision.
  • hunts big game (deer, turkey, bear) on a wildlife management area.

The only exceptions include any person who:

  • purchases a short-term hunting license, i.e. anything less than annual duration (as opposed to a season license).
  • is hunting on his or her own land, or that of his or her parents or legal guardians.

For more information, go to https://georgiawildlife.com/hunting/huntereducation or call 770-761-3010.

2019 STATEWIDE TURKEY HUNTING SEASON OPENS MARCH 23

Outdoors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


2019 STATEWIDE TURKEY HUNTING SEASON OPENS MARCH 23

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Georgia turkey hunters are ready for the season to open on Saturday, Mar. 23. The 2019 turkey hunting season should be a fair season, similar to 2018, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.  

“Reproduction in 2017 was lower than the four-year average, so that could mean a lower than usual supply of 2 year-old gobblers across much of the state in 2019,” explains Emily Rushton, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “However, that lower average comes between two better years, so hopefully other age classes will remain plentiful.”

With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 23 through May 15 – one of the longest seasons in the nation – to harvest their bird(s).  

What should hunters expect this spring? The Ridge and Valley, Piedmont and Lower Coastal Plain should have the best success based on 2017 reproduction information. The Blue Ridge region had a poor 2017 reproductive season, but saw a significant jump in 2018, so there may be a lot of young birds in the woods. The Upper Coastal Plain saw reproduction below their five-year average for the past two years, so numbers in that part of the state may be down.

Cedar Creek and Cedar Creek-Little River WMA Hunters, take note! The 2019 turkey season will run April 6-May 15 on these properties. This is two weeks later than the statewide opening date. This difference is due to ongoing research between the University of Georgia and WRD, who are investigating the timing of hunting pressure and its effects on gobbler behavior and reproductive success. Through this research, biologists and others hope to gain insight to the reasons for an apparent population decline in order to help improve turkey populations and hunter success at Cedar Creek WMA and statewide.

Georgia Game Check: All turkey hunters must report their harvest using Georgia Game Check. Turkeys can be reported on the Outdoors GA app (www.georgiawildlife.com/outdoors-ga-app), which now works whether you have cell service or not, at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com, or by calling 1-800-366-2661. App users, if you have not used the app since deer season or before, make sure you have the latest version. More information at www.georgiawildlife.com/HarvestRecordGeorgiaGameCheck.

Hunters age 16 years or older (including those accompanying youth or others) will need a hunting license and a big game license, unless hunting on their own private land.  Get your license at www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com, at a retail license vendor or by phone at 1-800-366-2661. With many pursuing wild turkeys on private land, hunters are reminded to obtain landowner permission before hunting.

 

Conservation of the Wild Turkey in Georgia

The restoration of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories.  Currently, the bird population hovers around 300,000 statewide, but as recently as 1973, the wild turkey population was as low as 17,000. Intensive restoration efforts, such as the restocking of wild birds and establishment of biologically sound hunting seasons facilitated the recovery of wild turkeys in every county. This successful effort resulted from cooperative partnerships between private landowners, hunters, conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Wildlife Resources Division.

The Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has donated more than $4,000,000 since 1985 for projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife. The NWTF works in partnership with the Wildlife Resources Division and other land management agencies on habitat enhancement, hunter access, wild turkey research and education. The NWTF has a vital initiative called “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt,” focused on habitat management, hunter access and hunter recruitment.

“Hunters should know that each time they purchase a license or equipment used to turkey hunt, such as shotguns, ammunition and others, that they are part of this greater conservation effort for wildlife in Georgia,” said Rushton.  “Through the Wildlife Restoration Program, a portion of the money spent comes back to states and is put back into on-the-ground efforts such as habitat management and species research and management.”

For more hunting information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations .   

 

Photos courtesy of Brian Vickery. After watching his older sister have two successful seasons, 7 year-old Luke is able to take his first bird during the special opportunity youth turkey hunting season.

Sharktop Ridge land annexed into Jasper

News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pesticide Safety Month and Apple Producers Meeting

Outdoors

Hundreds of people get sick each year from inappropriate pesticide use.  Pesticides are used in homes, workplaces, apartments, farms and other places where humans need to control pests such as weeds, insects, fungi, rodents and even viruses. Of the 11 states participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) pesticide safety program, workers reported 853 serious injuries from pesticides in 2011.  During National Pesticide Safety Education Month this February, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension personnel are urging homeowners, and all Georgians, to learn more about the safe use, storage and disposal of pesticides.

According to Dr. Mickey Taylor, UGA Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP) Coordinator, “pesticide safety education is key to helping homeowners and pesticide applicators, both commercial and agricultural, safely and effectively use available pesticides to protect their homes and crops and livelihoods.  At the same time, they want to protect themselves, their employees and colleagues from any potential ill effects of pesticide use in addition to protecting their families and neighbors. As good stewards of the land, pesticide users want to preserve our environment for the future.”

UGA Extension’s PSEP promotes the safe, responsible use of pesticides by individuals and commercial groups by providing training programs, materials and educational resources covering pest identification, personal safety, safe storage and disposal of pesticides, environmental protection, pesticide drift and runoff prevention, threatened and endangered species protection, water quality protection, and food safety.

One way that UGA Extension reinforces safe pesticide usage is to conduct workshops, meetings, and trainings in which pesticide usage and safe handling is taught.  One such course coming up is the North Georgia Commercial Apple Production meeting.  It will be held on Wednesday, February 21st at the Gilmer County Public Library on Calvin Jackson Drive in Ellijay.  There are other regional trainings held for producers.  If you would like information about those trainings, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

Dr. Taylor is also the editor of the UGA Extension “Georgia Pest Management Handbook.”  The handbook is revised and published annually.  It has information about labeled pesticides that can be used by homeowners and commercial producers. Copies of the handbook are available for purchase through the UGA market place at ugaextensionstore.com and there are copies in the UGA Extension county offices if you would like to view one before purchase. Remember to always read the label before you use or store any pesticide.

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Currently in a “soft” Lock Down

News, Pickens High School

The Pickens High School is currently in a “soft” lock down, meaning the hallways and common areas are kept clear. This is being done to allow a planned K9 search of the facility. Students are not at risk and this has been a planned operation to continue to make our schools a drug free environment.

Additional details will come as the search is completed.

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