Friday, September 22, 2017

Oconee County Republicans Featuring Party’s House Candidates In A Meeting This Week

***Democrats Hosting Meet And Greet***

Three–and possibly four–of the Republicans running for the Georgia House of Representatives in the Special Elections on Nov. 7 are to be guest speakers at the Oconee County Republican Party meeting on Sept. 28, Party Chair Tammy Gilland announced on Thursday evening.

Houston Gaines, running in the 117th House District race, and Tom Lord and Marcus Wiedower, running in the 119th House District race, have confirmed they will attend, Gilland said in an email message she sent out late last evening.

Steven Strickland also has been invited, Gilland said, and is trying to change his schedule so he can attend the meeting, to be held at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce Office in Watkinsville.

The Oconee County Democratic Committee is holding a Meet and Greet for 3 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Watkinsville Library for candidates for the Watkinsville City elections, which are nonpartisan. Confirmed attendees include the candidates for mayor and two council seats.

The newly formed Oconee County Area Republicans is holding a meeting featuring House 119 candidate Tom Lord at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 at the Community Center in Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road.

A candidate forum for all six candidates in the two House races will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 9, also at the Community Center in Veterans Park.

Turnout in the Nov. 7 special elections is likely to be low, and all of these events are intended to generate voter interest.

Turnout Projections

In addition to the four Republican Candidates who have qualified, Deborah Gonzalez has qualified as a Democrat in the 117th House District race and Jonathan Wallace has qualified as a Democrat in the 119th House District race.

117th Includes Barrow, Jackson And Oconee Portions
In White And Clarke Portion In Pink At Center

It is likely that only somewhere between 2,226 and 3,847 of the 25,158 registered voters in Oconee County will participate in the Nov. 7 elections.

The high figure--3,847--is the number of voters who participated in the Dec. 6, 2016, runoff election for Oconee County Board of Commissioners Post 2.

The low figure–2,226–is the number of Oconee County voters who voted in all four of the county’s elections last year.

These 2,226 voters, whom I identified through an analysis of voter records for last year, might be thought of as voters who go to the polls regardless of the election.

Unusual Circumstance

The two figures are only rough estimates–even guesses–based on what happened last year, and no two elections are the same.

Having two special elections for two open House of Representatives seats in the same county certainly is not routine.

The outcome of the 119th House District race is likely to be decided in a runoff, given the number of candidates.

And that runoff will take place on Dec. 5, when turnout might be even lower.

Neither race will be determined by voters only in Oconee County.

Split Districts

Athens-Clarke County contributes more than half of the voters in the 117th House District and in the 119th House District.

Only three of Oconee County’s 13 precincts–Athens Academy, Malcom Bridge and Bogart–are in the 117th district. The remaining 10 precincts are in the 119th.

Turnout in Athens-Clarke County might well be higher on Nov. 7 than in Oconee County.

Voters in Athens-Clarke County also will be deciding on a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and that could bring voters to the polls.

Only voters in Watkinsville in Oconee County will have anything on the ballot other than the Special Election for the House seats.

Voters in Statham, part of which is in the 117th, also have a city election on the ballot on Nov. 7, but the other Barrow County voters in the 117th have no other election on the ballot.

The southern part of Jackson County also is in the 117th, but none of the voters in the 117th in Jackson County has any issue on the ballot other than the special House election.

Clarke Dominant

Based on registration figures from Sept. 1 of this year, Barrow County contributed 9.2 percent of the voters to the 117th, southern Jackson County contributed 11.3 percent, Oconee County contributed 23.2 percent, and Clarke County contributed the remaining 56.3 percent.

Oconee County made up 49.8 percent of the registered voters in the 119th on Sept. 1, with Clarke county contributing the remaining 50.2 percent.

Voter registration is dynamic, however, and voters have until Oct. 10 to register to vote for the Nov. 7 elections.

Early voting starts on Oct. 16.

A candidate must get more than 50 percent of the vote to win the Special Elections, which are being held without a primary.

Candidates simply listed the party label they wanted to be used with their names.

Meeting Details

The Meet and Greet for Watkinsville candidates hosted by the Oconee County Democratic Committee on this coming Sunday will include Dave Shearon, running uncontested for mayor, Brian Brodrick, running uncontested for Council Post 1, and Post 2 candidates Jennifer Gude, Wade LaFontaine, and Connie Massey.

Southern sweets and sweet tea will be served as part of the event at the Watkinsville Library, 1080 Experiment Station Road in Watkinsville.

The presentations by the Republican candidates before the Oconee County Republican Party is part of the regular meeting of that group, which will start at 6:30 p.m. on the 28th.

The Chamber of Commerce office is at 55 Nancy Drive in Watkinsville.

The Oconee County Area Republicans is labeling itself, according to an email that went out this week, as “a small, independent, and rapidly growing conservative grassroots Republican group in Oconee County.”

Forum For All Candidates

Sarah Bell, Russ Page and I are organizing the Oct. 9 forum for candidates from both parties at the Community Center in Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road.

The forum will run from 6 to 9 p.m.

All of the candidates except Gaines have confirmed they will participate, and Gaines has said he is trying to arrange his schedule to be present or to send a representative.

The event will be open to the public, and citizens will ask their questions directly of the candidates.

We will video record the session and make the video available on the Vimeo Site of Oconee County Observations.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Citizens Shaping Oconee County Comprehensive Plan Update Told Their Work Is 60 Percent Complete

Public Meeting In December

Work on the 2018 update for the Oconee County Comprehensive Plan is about 60 percent complete, Justin Crighton, a planner with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, told members of the citizen committee involved in the update at its meeting on Tuesday night.

Crighton, who is leading the work on the update, said he has been drafting two key parts of the final document, one dealing with community needs and opportunities and the other with visions, goals and policies.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Oconee County School System Releases Proposed Redistricting Maps To Accommodate New Elementary School

***Two Districts Affected***

Parents living northwest of U.S. 78 will be sending their elementary school children to the new Dove Creek Elementary School starting on Aug. 1 if the preliminary redistricting plans presented to the Oconee County Board of Education on Monday are adopted.

The School System is now taking public input on the proposed redistricting map, and the Board of Education has scheduled a Public Forum on the proposal for 6 p.m. on Oct. 10 at North Oconee High School.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Democratic Party Resurgent In Oconee County, With Candidates Running In Both Georgia House Districts

**Two Republican Groups**

The Democratic Party in Oconee County is experiencing a resurgence, with a candidate running in each of the Nov. 7 special elections to fill vacancies in the 117th and 119th Districts of the Georgia House of Representatives.

This is at the same time that the Republican Party in the county is split, with a new group, calling itself the Oconee County Area Republicans, having formed earlier this year.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Oconee County Approves Plans For Bank At Daniells Bridge Road And Mars Hill Road; Possible Restaurant And Hotel Nearby Under Review

Planning Commission Meeting

The Oconee County Development Review Committee on Friday morning approved the preliminary site plans for a bank on the southeastern corner of Daniells Bridge Road and Mars Hill Road, opposite QuikTrip.

Tomorrow (Monday) night, the Oconee County Planning Commission will consider a rezone request for 4.5 acres at the southeast corner of the Oconee Connector and SR 316, just north of the site for the bank.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Six Qualify For Special Election On Nov. 7 For House Districts 117 And 119

**2 Democrats, 4 Republicans**

Georgia House District 117, made up of parts of Barrow, Clarke, Jackson and Oconee counties, will continue to be represented by someone from Clarke County following the special election on Nov. 7.

Georgia House District 119, made up of Clarke and Oconee counties, will continue to be represented by someone from Oconee County following the Nov. 7 special election.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Two More Qualify For Special Elections On Nov. 7 For Georgia House Districts 117 and 119

**Forum Announced**

Houston Gaines qualified today (Thursday) for the special election on Nov. 7 to fill the open seat for Georgia House District 117, while Marcus Wiedower qualified for the special election on Nov. 7 to fill the open seat for Georgia House District 119.

Gaines, running as a Republican, joins Deborah Gonzalez, who qualified to run as a Democrat on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

On First Day of Qualifying, Four Candidates File Paperwork To Run In Special Elections For Oconee County House Seats

**Two Democrats, Two Republicans**

Three candidates qualified today (Wednesday) to run in the Georgia House District 119 Special Election on Nov. 7, two as Republicans and one as a Democrat.

Deborah Gonzalez was the only candidate to qualify in House District 117. Gonzalez is running as a Democrat.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Volunteers Take Little Time To Plant 2,977 Flags At North Oconee High School In 9/11 Memorial Event

**Student Organized**

It took the roughly 100 people assembled for the 9/11 Memorial Event less than a half hour Sunday evening to plant the 2,977 small flags on the front lawn of North Oconee High School.

Each flag was to represent an individual who lost her or his life in the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Oconee County Library Friends Has Mystery/Thrillers, Children’s Book, And More At Fall Book Sale

**28,350 Books Sorted For Sale**

Community members will have a chance starting on Thursday to participate in the Oconee County Library Friends Fall Book Sale and buy back books donated from the community to help support the library in Watkinsville.

Volunteers have organized an estimated 28,350 books, sorted into 37 categories, to be offered for sale at the Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road west of Butler’s Crossing.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Oconee County Political Parties Supporting North Oconee High School 9/11 Memorial Project

**YAF Student Chapter**

NOTE: As of 2 p.m. on Sept. 10, this event is to be held as planned. Oconee County Schools, however, are closed on Sept. 11 due to anticipated severe weather.

Oconee County’s Democratic and Republican parties have sent notices to their members asking them to join in Sunday’s 9/11 Never Forget Project at North Oconee High School.

Organized by the North Oconee High School Young Americans for Freedom chapter, the event is centered around placing 2,977 flags on the front lawn of North Oconee High School to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Oconee County Commissioners Grant Appeal To Briarwood Baptist, Move Forward On Old Jail Demolition

**$15 Million Bond Sale Discussed**

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners last (Tuesday) night approved the appeal by Briarwood Baptist Church of a construction moratorium imposed by the county, allowing the church to go forward with expansion plans at its Hog Mountain Road location.

The Commissioners also agreed to go forward with plans for demolition of the Old Jail at the rear of the Courthouse in Watkinsville to allow for expansion of the Courthouse.

Secretary Of State Kemp Announces Special Elections For Oconee County House Districts

**Nov. 7 Election**

NOTE: Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced on Sept. 8 that qualifying for the Special Election on Nov. 7 will be held from from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 13 and 14 and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 15 in the Secretary of State’s Office. Gov. Nathan Deal announced just after noon on Sept. 10 that all Georgia government offices will be closed on Sept. 11 and 12. As of 2:45 p.m. on Sept. 10, Oconee County government offices remain open on Sept. 11. UPDATE: Oconee County Offices will be closed on Sept. 11.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp today announced special elections on Nov. 7 for both of Oconee County’s state House of Representatives districts.

Qualifying will be held Sept. 11 to Sept. 13 at the Elections Division Office of the Secretary of State in Atlanta. Qualifying fee is $400.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

North High Shoals Businessman Strickland Announces Plans To Run In 119th House District

**Joins Two Others**

A third Oconee County businessman has announced that he plans to run for what will be an open seat in the Georgia General Assembly representing Oconee and Clarke counties.

Steven Strickland, 1061 Arborwood Ridge in North High Shoals, said he wants to bring his 17 years of business experience in the communications and software industries to the Georgia House of Representatives.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Oconee County Commissioners To Decide On Future Of Old Jail And Funding For Calls Creek Sewage Plant Expansion

**Horse Barn And Church Also On Agenda**

The Old Jail, a horse barn turned reception hall, funding for the Calls Creek sewage treatment plant, and Briarwood Baptist Church are all on the agenda of the Board of Commissioners for tomorrow (Tuesday) night.

Commissioners will decide if they want to go forward with demolition of the abandoned Jail at a rear corner of the Courthouse in Watkinsville and if they are willing to spend an additional $57,080 for design work for an expansion of the Courthouse into the space freed up by the demolition.