Friday, September 24, 2021

Oconee County Schools Report Continuing Decline In SAT Scores Of Its Student

***Schools Drop To Eighth In State***

For the third year in a row, Oconee County Schools has seen a drop in the average score of its students who have taken the SAT college entrance exam.

The report of the drop in SAT scores followed a report by Oconee County Schools last month of a drop in state Milestone test scores.

COVID-19 Confirmed Deaths Increase In Northeast Health District While Cases Drop Slightly

***Oconee County Reports Three Deaths From Disease***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 1,904 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday, down from 2,115 a week earlier, and 35 new confirmed deaths from the disease, up from 27 last week.

Three of the confirmed deaths were in Oconee County, and two were in Clarke County. Each of the 10 counties in the District added at least one death.

The average number of added cases in the District was 272.0 per day, compared with 302.1 per day in the week ending Sept. 17.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Oconee County Citizens Given Multiple Opportunities To Comment On Study Of Truck Bypass For Watkinsville

***Changes Required In Planning Documents

The first of two informational meetings related to the launch of a study of a truck bypass south of Watkinsville will take place virtually on Monday evening, followed by an in-person meeting at Oconee Veterans Park on Thursday.

The virtual meeting will be from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday via Webex.

The in-person meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Community Center at Oconee Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road, west of Butler’s Crossing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Oconee School Board And Board Of Commissioners Agree To Meet

***Limited Chance For Public Viewing***

Oconee County’s Board of Education and Board of Commissioners have agreed to meet jointly on Sept. 29 in the small Oconee County Schools Board Room in what is being called a training session.

While the public is invited to attend–as is required by Georgia’s Open Meetings Act–the notices on the web sites of both Oconee County Schools and Oconee County Government, state that “there will not be an opportunity for public comment.”

Neither web site provides an agenda for the meeting, which stretches across the evening dining time from 5 to 8 p.m.

Monday, September 20, 2021

1964 Constitutional Amendment Focused On Election Of Oconee County School Board Members

***Filling Of Vacancies Not Prominent Part Of Change***

It seems unlikely Oconee County voters in 1964 gave much thought to the provision of a Constitutional amendment they approved that the current Board of Education relied on earlier this month to fill vacancies on the Board without seeking citizen input.

Prior to the vote in 1964, members of the county’s Board of Education were appointed by the county Grand Jury.

Citizens in 1964 overwhelmingly approved a referendum on the ballot that gave them the right to elect a five-member Board to oversee operation of the county’s schools.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Oconee County Schools Students Scored Lower On State Milestones Tests Compared With Pre-Pandemic Testing

***Rankings Did Not Change As Dramatically***

Students in Oconee County Schools scored lower on 17 of the 25 Georgia Milestones Assessment System measures released last month than they did in July of 2019 when the state last released results from the standardized tests.

Across the state, test scores were lower in 2021 than they were in 2019, likely reflecting differences in the education experiences of students in the last academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as differences in testing procedures.

Friday, September 17, 2021

COVID-19 Cases Continue To Drop In Northeast Health District, But Confirmed Deaths From Disease Climb

***Hospital Cases Also Ease Slightly***

The 10 county Northeast Health District added 2,115 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and 27 new confirmed deaths from the disease.

One of the confirmed deaths was in Clarke County.

The 2,115 added cases of COVID-19 and 27 confirmed deaths compared with the 2,817 new cases and 21 confirmed deaths added in the week ending Sept. 10.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Transportation, Including Tax Referendum On November Ballot, Dominates Oconee County Town Hall Meeting

***Planning Commission Role Also Discussed***

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell said in advance that the Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday night was going to have a “special focus” on the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum on the ballot in November.

As a lead-in to the discussion of the tax, Daniell gave a rundown of road projects underway in the county and then transitioned to what the county will do with the sales revenue if voters approved the 1 percent additional sales tax.

Audience members certainly picked up on the word “transportation” in those introductory comments.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Close-In Route On Watkinville South Side To Be Considered By GDOT For SR 15 Bypass To U.S. 441

***Public Hearings On Scoping Study Set***

The Georgia Department of Transportation will review possible routes just south of Watkinsville for a truck bypass to link SR 15 and U.S. 441.

Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz and Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell made fleeting references to close-in routes for a bypass at the Wednesday meeting of the MACORTS Policy Committee.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Northeast Health District Records Decline In Added COVID-19 Cases; Confirmed Deaths Remain High At 21

***Oconee Schools Also See Drop In Cases***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 2,817 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and 21 new confirmed deaths from the disease.

Four of the confirmed deaths were in Clarke County.

The 2,817 added cases of COVID-19 and 21 deaths compare with the 3,331 new cases and 24 confirmed deaths added in the week ending Sept. 3.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Citizens, Developer, Oconee County Commissioners Reach Compromise On Rezone Of U.S. 78 Shopping Center

***Entrance Off Talus Street Becomes Multi-Use Path***

Joel Adair, president of the Belfair Homeowners Association, was deliberate and measured as he offered his 12-minutes of comments to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night.

Adair said he recognized that the proposal before the Board for a reconfigured Meadowlands shopping center and Continuing Care Retirement Community fronting on U.S. 78 was a significant improvement over the one approved by the Board in 2009.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Oconee County School Board Extends Contract Of Superintendent After Executive Session

***Salary Remains Unchanged***

The Oconee County Board of Education has extended the term of Superintendent Jason Branch’s contract for another year until June 30, 2024.

The Board took this action after its executive session at the end of its open work meeting on Aug. 2.

Deliberations in executive session are private, and the Board reconvened and held an open meeting for only one minute to vote unanimously to approve the new contract, which has a start date of July 1, 2021.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Walton County Has Not Yet Submitted Application For Federal Relief Funds For Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir

***Draft Application Argues Funds Needed For Economic Development***

Walton County Commission Chair David Thompson did not file an application for federal relief funding of a water treatment plant and distribution system for Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir on Aug. 19 as he had promised, or on Aug. 31, the original application deadline.

Walton Board of Commissioners Clerk Rhonda Hawk explained Thompson’s decision by noting that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has extended the deadline to Oct. 31 for applications for allocation of federal funding for pandemic relief.

A draft of the Walton County application shared with Oconee County officials after the Aug. 11 meeting of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board states that the treated water is needed to serve “the emerging industrial corridors” along Interstate 20, U.S. 78 and SR 316.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Oconee County Commissioners Accepts Plan To Sell Two Properties Adjoining Courthouse That Will Become Surplus

***Reject Idea Of An Auction On Courthouse Steps***

Oconee commissioners agreed on Tuesday to take steps to dispose of two properties bordering the Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville that will become surplus once the planned administrative building is opened on Watkinsville’s northern edge.

One of those building is familiar to many voters because it houses the Elections and Registration Office at 10 Court Street south of the Courthouse and has been used as an early voting site in the past.

The other, at the corner of North Water Street and South Third Street on the opposite side of the Courthouse, is home to the county’s Operations and Facilities Office.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Northeast Health District Added 24 Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths In Week Ending On Friday, Double The Number Last Week

***Cases Increase, But At Slower Rate***

The 10 county Northeast Health District added 3,331 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and 24 new confirmed deaths from the disease.

Three of the confirmed deaths were in Clarke County.

The 3,331 added cases of COVID-19 and 24 deaths compare with the 3,218 new cases and 12 confirmed deaths added in the week ending Aug. 27.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Oconee School Board Appoints Argo As Chair And Replaces Her With Former Board Member Bagley

***Seeking Applications Not Considered***

The Oconee County Board of Education on Thursday selected Vice Chair Kim Argo to move into the open position of Board chair and, without considering seeking applications from the public, appointed former Board Member Wayne Bagley to replace Argo.

The Board also selected Board Member Amy Parrish as vice chair to replace Argo.

Argo, whose term would have expired in 2022, will now fill out Tom Odom’s terms as chair, which ends in 2024. Odom, re-elected only last November, stepped down on Aug. 9, citing health reasons, with his tenure ending on Wednesday.

Oconee County Schools Has Received $5 Million In Relief Funding, Including $3.3 million In Last Phase

***Committed To Update Plans To Follow CDC Guidelines***

Oconee County Schools has been granted more than $5 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) monies, according to a report presented to the Board of Education in June.

At that time, Oconee County Schools showed $1.8 million of that money allocated, with a little more than $1 million for distance learning.

None of the $3.3 million granted to the schools as part of the last of the three of the ESSER grants had been allocated in that June report.

Monday, August 30, 2021

GDOT Initiates Study Of Truck Route Between SR 15 And U.S. 441 In South Of Oconee County

***Federal And State Funds To Be Used***

The Georgia Department of Transportation is launching a “scoping study” of a truck route from SR 15 south of Watkinsville to somewhere along U.S. 441.

The scoping study is the first step in beginning the project, which has been discussed but is not currently part of active road plans for the county.

The Transportation Department’s interest in the truck route surfaced on Wednesday at the Technical Coordinating Committee of MACORTS, the federally mandated metropolitan planning organization serving Oconee, Clarke, and Madison counties.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Developer Will Lease Property From Oconee Development Authority At No Cost and Sublease It To Costco To Recover Site Improvement Costs

***Costco Requires Site Upgrade As Part Of Contract***

Oconee Chamber of Commerce President Courtney Bernardi touted Costco’s aura, its personnel policies, and its strong sales record on Tuesday when she made the case to Oconee County leaders for the deal to bring the company to the county.

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniells focused more on the county than Costco in comments he has made about the deal.

Daniell said the county did not seek out Costco and the reason he brought the proposal to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday was because it was financially sound, met county objectives, and was consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Friday, August 27, 2021

COVID-19 Cases Continue To Increase In Oconee, Clarke, Across Northeast Health District; Oconee School Cases Increase Again

***Hospitals Report Jump In Cases, More ICU Bed Use***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 3,218 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and 12 new confirmed deaths from the disease.

One of the confirmed deaths was in Oconee County, and another was in Clarke County.

The 3,218 added cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths compare with the 2,558 new cases and six confirmed deaths added in the week ending Aug. 20.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

No Decision Made On How Odom Will Be Replaced As Chair On Oconee County School Board, Vice Chair Says

***No Promise Process Will Allow Open Applications***

Conversations among Oconee County Board of Education members are ongoing regarding the procedures for replacing Board Chair Tom Odom when he steps down on Sept. 1, according to Board Vice Chair Kim Argo.

Argo on Tuesday, said, however, that “the process and time line are not available at this time” for the decision.

Argo would not say if the Board will be deciding to replace Odom with one of the existing Board members and then replace that Board member or replacing Odom with someone not currently on the Board.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Oconee County Parent Outlines Work Of Group Releasing Data On COVID-19 In Oconee County Schools

***Calls For More Transparency From Schools

John Phillips, in a virtual meeting with Oconee County Democrats last week, said Oconee County Schools has not done enough to keep parents and the community informed about COVID-19 cases in its schools.

To get a sense of what should be done, Phillips told the audience members, all they need do is look at Barrow County.

“I just Googled Barrow County school COVID,” he said, holding up his mobile phone to demonstrate. “And it pops up right here. And look at this. They have a chart here where they list cases by school, by date, broken out by student and staff.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Oconee County Approves Agreements To Bring Costco To Epps Bridge Centre

***County Will Own Land On Which Store Will Sit***

The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority on Tuesday agreed to issue $16 million in bonds and waive real and personal property taxes for 15 years to entice Costco to locate in Epps Bridge Centre II.

The Board of Commissioners followed by agreeing to cover the costs of the bonds, since the Industrial Development Authority has no ability to raise taxes on its own.

Monday, August 23, 2021

School Age Population Accounts For Most Of Increase In COVID-19 Cases In Oconee County

***Large Increases Since Classes Started***

Forty-seven of the 153 new cases of COVID-19 added in Oconee County in the week ending on Aug. 19 were for persons aged 5 to 17.

Eight of the added cases were for persons aged 18 to 22, and seven were for children aged 0 to 4.

The remaining 81 cases were for those 23 years old and older.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Oconee County Schools Embarking On $54.6 Million In Construction Projects Following Tax Referendum

***Time Line Differs From Presentation To Voters***

Oconee County Schools has embarked on $54.6 million in construction projects since the passage of the Education Local Option Sales Tax referendum by voters in March.

Included is a $3.4 million addition to Colham Ferry Elementary School that already is underway.

Oconee County Schools also has issued a request for proposals for a $3.1 million addition to High Shoals Elementary School.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Oconee, Clarke, Northeast District COVID-19 Cases Continue To Climb; Hospital Cases And ICU Bed Use Increase

***Oconee School Cases Up Sharply***

The 10 county Northeast Health District added 2,558 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and six new confirmed deaths from the disease.

The 2,558 added cases of COVID-19 and six deaths compare with the 1,964 new cases and five confirmed deaths added in the week ending Aug. 13.

The average of 365.4 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 280.6 new cases per day for the week ending on Aug. 13.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Elections Set For North High Shoals And Watkinville In November; Bishop Election Not Needed

***Bogart Qualifying Still Underway***

Two of the county’s four municipalities will have elections on November, with qualifying in Bishop, North High Shoals, and Watkinsville completed on Wednesday.

Qualifying in Bogart continues through the end of the day on Friday. As of 11 a.m. on Thursday, no one had qualified for the two open Council seats. (Update: As of 4 pm on Friday, David Kilpatrick Jenny Bridges and Greg Maddox qualified. The top two vote getters will assume the two seats, held at present by Kilpatrick and Bridges.)

In Bishop, no election will be held because only one person qualified for mayor and for each of the four Council seats.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Oconee County Schools Added 10 New COVID-19 Cases As New Week Of Classes Began

***Cases Range From Kindergarten Through High School

Oconee County Schools added 10 new COVID-19 cases from Friday until noon on Monday, according to data released on Wednesday in response to an open records request filed by parents.

On Friday, Oconee County Schools had reported a record 48 active cases.

According to the records released on Wednesday, the schools now have recorded 66 cases of the disease since the beginning of the school year on Aug. 4.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Oconee County Planning Commission Recommends Approval Of Modified Plans For Shopping Center On U.S. 78

***Citizens Still Concerned About Traffic***

The Oconee County Planning Commission on Monday recommended approval of a revised plan for development of a 90-acre shopping center and accompanying continuing care retirement community on U.S. 78 between Dials Mill Road and Pete Dickens Road.

The proposal involves a significant reduction from the original plans in the amount and nature of the commercial development and a marked expansion of the residential retirement community component.

One consistency is a proposed 65,000-square-foot grocery, which more than anything caused concern among residents of Belfair subdivision who spoke at the public hearing on Monday. The subdivision abuts the project.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Georgia Judicial Council Accepts Recommendation That Oconee And Clarke Remain Together In Western Judicial Circuit

***Final Action Rests With Legislature***

The Judicial Council of Georgia on Friday unanimously and without discussion accepted the recommendation of its Workload Assessment Committee that no change be made to the boundaries of the Western Judicial Circuit made up of Oconee and Clarke counties.

Chief Judge David T. Emerson of Douglas County, representing the Workload Assessment Committee, told the full Judicial Council that a change in the boundaries of the Western Judicial Circuit would not “improve the administration of justice” in the two counties.

The Workload Assessment Committee had reviewed a possible boundary change for the Western Judicial Circuit at the request of Marcus Wiedower and Houston Gaines, who represent Oconee County in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Oconee County’s Population Increased to 41,799 In 2020 Census, Outpacing Rate Of Growth In State

***County Also Became Less White***

Oconee County grew at nearly three times the rate of the state as a whole from 2010 to 2020, and it became more diverse in the process, according to data released late on Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The data are at the Census Block level, as is required for redistricting, but they also provide the first look at how larger units such as counties have changed.

Oconee County’s 2020 population was 41,799, up from 32,808 in 2010. That is a growth of 27.4 percent.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Oconee, Clarke Counties, Entire Northeast Health District Report Large Increases In COVID-19 Cases; Oconee Schools Set Record

***Hospital Cases Up Sharply***

The 10 county Northeast Health District added 1,964 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and five new confirmed deaths from the disease. Two of the deaths were in Clarke County.

The 1,964 added cases of COVID-19 and five deaths compare with the 1,371 new cases and three confirmed deaths added in the week ending Aug. 6.

The average of 280.6 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 195.9 new cases per day for the week ending on Aug. 6.

In First Week Of Classes, Oconee County Schools Recorded 40 COVID-19 Cases

***Twelve Cases Recorded On Single Day***

From the beginning of classes and through just before noon on Thursday, Oconee County Schools has recorded 40 cases of COVID-19, all but three of them among students.

Seventeen of the 37 COVID-19 positive students were in kindergarden through fifth grade, 13 were in the system’s two middle schools, and seven were at the two high schools.

Two of the staff cases were at North Oconee High School, and the third was at Oconee County High School.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Routine Maintenance Of Oconee Voter List Results In Removal Of 368 Names; Another 432 Could Be Labeled Inactive

***Part Of A Statewide Secretary Of State Effort***

State and county election officials have removed 368 voters from the Oconee County registration list since the end of June as a result of routine maintenance of the list.

In addition, early this month county election officials sent notices to 432 Oconee County voters who have not had any contact with the county’s election system for at least five calendar years.

If those voters receiving the notice do not respond, they will be moved from active to inactive status and the countdown will have started for possible removal from the list.

Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Management Board Votes To Support Application For Treatment Plant Construction Funding

***Two Oconee County Representatives Vote No***

Over the objections of two of Oconee County’s representatives, the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Management Board on Wednesday voted to fund a lobbyist to assist in an application for $146 million in federal funds to build the reservoir’s water treatment plant and distribution system.

Oconee County has only three representatives on the seven-member Management Board and no representatives on the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority, which also agreed on Wednesday to spend the money in support of the application for federal funds.

Walton County Board of Commissioners Chair David Thompson, a member of the Management Board, said Walton County already has the application of the funds ready to submit and will go forward with or without the support of Oconee County, its partner in the reservoir project.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Oconee Board Of Education Chair Odom Steps Down, Citing Health Concerns

***Board To Pick Member For Three-Years Remaining In Term***

Tom Odom, less than nine months into his third, four-year term as chair of the Oconee County Board of Education, announced on Monday that he is stepping down from the Board on Sept. 1 for health reasons.

Odom said in a statement he read at the Board of Education meeting on Monday that he made the decision after an “unexpected health issue” caused him to consider his tenure on the Board.

Much of the rest of the meeting was devoted to tributes by other board members and by Superintendent Jason Branch, who praised Odom for long service to the school system and the community even before Odom was elected to the Board as chair in 2012.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Famed Political Scientist And Election Expert Told Oconee County Republicans That Biden Won In Georgia In November

***Fraud Was Not Widespread, He Said***

Political scientist Charles Bullock, an expert on Georgia elections and politics, told Oconee County Republicans at their meeting last month that Joe Biden won the November election in Georgia and that a focus on election fraud in the race was incorrect.

Bullock said that there is always some evidence of minor irregularities in elections but that there was no evidence of any major fraud that would have changed the results last November.

Bullock, the featured speaker at the July meeting of the party, made his comments about Biden’s victory and the lack of significant fraud in response to a question after his formal comments to the group.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Northeast Health District Adding Nearly 200 New COVID-19 Cases Per Day; Hospital Cases Increasing Sharply

***Three New Confirmed Deaths From Disease Recorded***

The 10 county Northeast Health District added 1,271 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and three new confirmed deaths from the disease.

The 1,371 added cases of COVID-19 and three deaths compare with the 837 new cases and one confirmed death added in the week ending July 30.

The average of 195.9 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 119.6 new cases per day for the week ending on July 30.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Oconee County Commission Votes To End Contract With Partner For Broadband Project

***New Options Being Explored***

Oconee County commissioners, after a 40-minute executive session on Tuesday, terminated the county’s contract with Smart City Capital, its partner in building a broadband network in the county.

County Administrator Justin Kirouac gave little explanation for the decision in the short public session following the closed meeting, saying little more than that it was time to “pivot” on the project.

In an email exchange on Wednesday, Kirouac said the previous model “was proving to not be viable” and the county is exploring “different models with different partners.”

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Georgia Office Of Inspector General Said Pirkle, Boswell Did Not Act Improperly In Oconee Connector Median Decision

***Confirms Boswell Met With Pirkle***

The state Office of Inspector General has concluded that Georgia Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Meg Pirkle acted properly earlier this year when she overruled lower-level engineers in favor of a median break on the Oconee Connector.

Although the Office of Inspector General only has responsibility for the executive branch of government, it also concluded that local commercial real estate agency owner Jamie Boswell did not “inappropriately impact the design decision” Pirkle made.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Oconee County Schools Not Altering COVID-19 Protocols In Response To CDC Recommendations

***Classes Resume On Wednesday***

Oconee County Schools will begin classes on Wednesday without making any changes in its COVID-19 protocols despite guidance issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at odds with those plans.

The CDC on July 27 issued new recommendations calling for universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

The CDC also added a recommendation that fully vaccinated people should wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission of the disease.

Analysis Of Voting Records For Jan. 5 Senate Runoff In Oconee County Supports County Dismissal Of Elector Challenge

***New Law Encourages Future Challenges***

Last December, Oconee County resident Pat Daugherty, on behalf of True The Vote, challenged the eligibility and right of 1,450 Oconee County voters to participate in the Jan. 5 U.S. Senate runoff election, contending the voters had moved out of the county permanently.

The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration unanimously rejected the challenge on the grounds that there was no probable cause of a violation of Georgia law that would render the voters ineligible to cast a ballot.

An analysis of voter records for the county shows that 165 of those challenged voters cast a ballot on the Jan. 5 election. That means that 1,285 did not.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Number Of Cases Of COVID-19 Double In Last Week In Oconee County And In Northeast Health District

***Number Of COVID-19 Hospital Patients Also Doubled***

The 10 county Northeast Health District added 837 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday–more than twice the number added a week earlier.

District also added one new confirmed death attributed to the disease. The death was in Oconee County.

The 837 added cases of COVID-19 and two deaths compare with the 411 new cases and two confirmed death added in the week ending July 23.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Oconee Commissioners Move Forward With Plans To Call For Transportation Tax Vote On Nov. 2

***Board Calls Special Election For North High Shoals***

Oconee County Commissioners took another step on Tuesday to put a referendum for a new 1 percent Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the ballot in November.

Commissioners tentatively decided to ask the Board of Elections and Registration at its regular meeting next week to vote to officially respond to the request from the commissioners to put the referendum for the new sales tax on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Oconee County Schools Announces COVID-19 Protocols For New School Year

***Masks, Vaccinations Not Required***

Oconee County Schools will open on Aug. 4 with all in-person instruction.

As was the case last year, masks will not be required, but those students who choose to wear a mask are “welcome to do so.”

COVID-19 vaccinations also are not required for employees or students.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Drop Box Played Prominent Role In Oconee County Absentee Balloting In November And January

***Removal Of Outside Drop Box Likely To Have Impact***

More than half of the absentee ballots received in Oconee County in the Nov. 3, 2020, election were deposited in the drop box in front of the Elections and Registration Office opposite the Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville.

Of the ballots received after early voting ended, 60.1 percent were via the secure drop box in the front of the elections office.

Of the ballots received before early voting started, half came in via the drop box.

Friday, July 23, 2021

COVID-19 Cases Increasing In Oconee, Clarke Counties, Northeast Health District

***Confirmed Death From Disease In Clarke***

The Northeast Health District added 411 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and two new confirmed death attributed to the disease. One of the deaths was in Clarke County.

The 411 added cases of COVID-19 and two deaths compare with the 245 new cases and no confirmed death added in the week ending July 16.

The average of 58.7 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 35.0 new cases per day for the week ending on July 16.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Oconee County Planning Commission Recommends Against Rezone For Restaurant On Hog Mountain Road Opposite RaceTrac

***Traffic Congestion A Concern***

The Oconee County Planning Commission told the Board of Commissioners on Monday that it thinks building a drive-through fast food restaurant on a tiny piece of property on Hog Mountain Road across from RaceTrac is a bad idea.

The property actually fronts on the stub of what was Hog Mountain Road before it was re-engineered to meet the widened U.S. 441, and traffic would have to cross that stub before reaching or leaving the restaurant.

County planners showed a complicated set of modifications to the roadway that would be needed to make the plan work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

State Judicial Committee Recommends Against Oconee County/Clarke County Split In Western Judicial Circuit

***Separate District For Oconee Fully Rejected***

The Judicial Workload Assessment Committee of the Judicial Council of Georgia voted on Friday to recommend to the full Council that Oconee County not be allowed to split from Clarke County in the Western Judicial Circuit.

The Workload Assessment Committee was responding to a Feb. 12 request from Marcus Wiedower and Houston Gaines, who represent both Oconee County and Clarke County in the Georgia House of Representatives.

The pair were requesting that the Judicial Council do what is known as a “circuit boundary study” to determine if the current configuration of the Circuit could be changed.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Selected Route For Atlanta-To-Charlotte High Speed Rail Corridor Runs Just North Of Oconee County

***Only One Of Three Considered Routes To Include Athens***

The Federal Railroad Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation have chosen a route for high speed rail linking Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., that passes through Athens, rejecting two alternate routes that bypassed the area.

The proposed 274-mile route will be fully separated from the existing roadway and railroad transportation systems, and it will be on a new dedicated right of way for most of its distance.

The route does not pass through Oconee County, but the inclusion of Athens as a “station opportunity” would provide potential rail links for the area with downtown Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Public Hearings On Oconee County Board Of Education Proposed Millage Rate Start On Monday

***Represents A 5.6 Percent Tax Increase***

Oconee County citizens get the first two of three opportunities on Monday to tell the members of the Board of Education how they feel about the Board’s decision not to reduce the school property tax rate despite the increased assessed value of county properties.

The Board voted earlier this year to use some of the increased tax revenue from the growing tax digest to offer a one-time $1,250 bonus to all employees and an additional permanent increase of $1 per hour for custodial staff, bus drivers, and school nutrition workers.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners, by contrast, decided to make a very slight cut in the county’s millage rate.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

For Second Week In A Row, Northeast Health District Reports Increase In COVID-19 Cases

***Vaccinations Continue At Low Rate***

The Northeast Health District added 245 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday. The District added no new confirmed deaths attributed to the disease.

The 245 added cases of COVID-19 and no deaths compare with the 180 new cases and one confirmed death added in the week ending July 9.

The average of 35.0 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 25.7 new cases per day for the week ending on July 9.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Town Of Bishop Overestimated Revenue From Dollar General Rezone And Annexation–By A Lot!

***No Sales Tax Gain At All***

The Town of Bishop will receive only a small amount of sales tax revenue from the planned Dollar General on High Shoals Road at U.S. 441, not the $80,000 annually projected by town leaders in April when they annexed and rezoned land for the convenience store.

The amount of money the town will receive–less than $550 annually if company estimates of sales are correct--is exactly the same as the amount it would have received had Dollar General located outside the town limits.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Gordy Family Owns Two Parcels In Oconee County That Could Accommodate A Varsity Restaurant

***Advertisement Announces Plans For Restaurant In County***

The Varsity Restaurants announced its plans to build a new store in Oconee County in a full-page advertisement in the Athens Banner-Herald on Sunday, followed by a posting on its Facebook page on Monday.

That Facebook posting led to a story at the top of the front page of the Banner-Herald on Tuesday. The paper had written several stories about the recent closing of the restaurant on West Broad Street at Milledge Avenue.

The Oconee Enterprise also put the announcement in a short story on the front page of its Thursday edition.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Oconee County’s State Legislators In Strong Position At Beginning Of New Election Cycle

***All Three Have More Cash On Hand Than In 2019***

Marcus Wiedower, who represents nine of Oconee County’s 12 precincts in the Georgia House of Representatives, has more than 10 times the campaign cash in hand than he had at this time two years ago.

Houston Gaines, who represents the remaining three Oconee County precincts in the Georgia House, has nearly three times the amount of funds as he had at this point in the off-year in 2019.

Bill Cowsert, who represents all of Oconee County in the Georgia Senate, has slightly more campaign money than he had in his campaign account two years ago.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Northeast Health District Reports Large Increase In COVID-19 Cases In Last Week; Increase In Hospital Cases As Well

***Administration Of Vaccines Declines***

The Northeast Health District added 180 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and one new confirmed death attributed to the disease.

The 180 added cases of COVID-19 and one death compare with the 63 new cases and no confirmed deaths added in the week ending July 2.

The average of 25.7 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 9.0 new cases per day for the week ending on July 2.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Oconee Director Of Elections And Registration Explains Changes In Election Law At Democratic Party Meeting

***Use Of Absentee Ballot Drop Box Greatly Restricted***

The large drop box installed in front of the Oconee County Elections and Registration Office last year to make it easy for county voters to cast an absentee ballot is a thing of the past.

The drop box has been replaced, Oconee County Director of Elections and Registration Rebecca Anglin told county Democrats at their meeting last month, by a different one inside the office itself.

Voters will be able to use the new drop box only during the regular hours when the Elections and Registration Office at 10 Court Street opposite the Courthouse in Watkinsville is open to the pubic, Anglin said.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 63 New COVID-19 Cases In Last Week, No Confirmed Deaths From Disease

***45.4 Percent Of Oconee Fully Vaccinated***

The Northeast Health District added 63 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday, and no new confirmed deaths attributed to the disease.

The 63 added cases of COVID-19 and no deaths compare with the 70 cases and the four confirmed deaths added in the week ending June 25.

The average of 9.0 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 10.0 new cases per day for the week ending on June 25.

Friday, July 02, 2021

No Legal Challenge Filed To Oconee County Commission Rejection Of Shopping Center At Mars Hill Road And Oconee Connector

***No Revised Plans For Shopping Center Submitted***

Maxie Price let the deadline pass on Thursday without filing the threatened constitutional challenge to the decision by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners not to grant a rezone for a shopping center at the Oconee Connector and Mars Hill Road.

Angela Elder-Johnson, Clerk of Superior, Magistrate, and Juvenile Courts for Oconee County, confirmed on Friday morning that Price had not filed suit in Superior Court by the end of the day on Thursday.

District Attorney Disputes Oconee County Sheriff’s Comments At County Republican Party Meeting

***DA Says She Is Prosecuting Cases In Timely Manner***

Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez said on Friday that Oconee County Sheriff James Hale was incorrect on Monday when he said that she is unwilling to prosecute cases in the county.

Gonzalez was responding to a news release circulated by the Oconee County Republican Party after its meeting on Monday that claimed that Hale had said “he has a stack of cases that District Attorney Deborah Gonzales refuses to prosecute.”

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Oconee County Commissioners Move Forward With Plan For Nov. 2 Vote On Transportation Sales Tax

***Would Increase County Sales Tax From 7 Percent To 8***

Oconee County commissioners on Tuesday night took the first step to place a new 1 percent Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the ballot in November.

Following a presentation by Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell, the three members of the Board present, without a formal vote, agreed that Daniell should meet on July 1 with representatives of the county’s four cities to outline the referendum.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Daniell said revenue from the tax would be used for four purposes: to cover transportation costs already being funded by the county by property tax, to create new revenue for multi-use paths, for intersection improvements, and for paving.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Oconee County Commission Chair Focuses On Millage Rate Reduction At Town Hall Meeting

***Judicial District Split Raised By Citizen***

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell used the summer Town Hall Meeting to highlight the Board’s decision to reduce slightly the county millage rate for next year, provide an update on road projects, and once again anticipate a transportation tax referendum.

Daniell and others on the Commission also responded to a dozen questions posed by four of the five citizens who turned out for the meeting.

Daniell said there is nothing new to report on Costco coming to the county, that he anticipates a “solution” to the U.S. 441 bypass before the widening of that highway reaches the town, and that restoration of the foundation of Eagle Tavern is now on schedule.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 70 New COVID-19 Cases In Last Week, Four Confirmed Deaths From Disease

***Oconee County Reported No New Cases In Last Seven Days***

The Northeast Health District added 70 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday, and four confirmed deaths attributed to the disease.

The 70 added cases of COVID-19 and four deaths compare with the 91 cases and the five confirmed deaths added in the week ending June 18.

The average of 10.0 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 13.0 new cases per day for the week ending on June 18.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Sheriff Hale To Talk About Public Safety In Oconee County At GOP Meeting On Monday; Party Leader To Talk About New Group

***Party Chair Bans Recording Of Session***

The Oconee County Republican Party is scheduled to meet on Monday with Sheriff James Hale and party Executive Committee Member Julie Mauck as guest speakers.

Hale will talk about the state of public safety in Oconee County, according to the party announcement, while Mauck will talk about formation of a local chapter of Moms for Liberty.

The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Oconee Chamber of Commerce, 55 Nancy Drive, Watkinsville.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 91 New COVID-19 Cases In Last Week, Five Confirmed Deaths From Disease

***District, Oconee, Clarke Report Improved Vaccination Rates***

The Northeast Health District added 91 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday, and five confirmed deaths attributed to the disease.

The 91 added cases of COVID-19 and five deaths compare with the 107 cases and the nine confirmed deaths added in the week ending June 11.

The average of 13.0 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 15.3 new cases per day for the week ending on June 11.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Watkinsville Voters Overwhelmingly Pick Garrett For Council Post 1 In Special Election

Chuck Garrett overwhelmingly defeated Carolyn Maultsby in the Watkinsville special election on Tuesday to fill Post 1 on the Watkinsville City Council.

Only 89 voters went to the polls on Tuesday, and final turnout in the election was only 18.3 percent.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Small Number of Voters Likely To Cast Ballots In Watkinsville Special Election

***Early Voting Turnout Light***

Only about one in five of Watkinsville’s 2,247 registered voters is likely to decide whether Chuck Garrett or Carolyn Maultsby holds Post 1 on City Council through the end of this year.

At the end of early voting on Friday, 296 voters had cast a ballot in the 14 days of early voting in the special election.

All seven of the voters who had requested an absentee ballot had returned that ballot.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 107 New COVID-19 Cases In Last Week, Nine Confirmed Deaths From Disease

***District, Oconee Below National Average In Level Of Vaccinations***

The Northeast Health District added 107 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday, and nine confirmed deaths attributed to the disease.

The 107 added cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths compare with the 99 cases and the two confirmed deaths added in the week ending June 4.

The average of 15.3 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 14.1 new cases per day for the week ending on June 4.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Oconee School Board Receives Bids For New Classrooms At Colham Ferry Elementary School, New Policies On Public Comment

***Also Reviews Impact Of Hourly Salary Increases***

The Oconee County Board of Education on Monday will be asked to award a $3.1 million contract for the 10-classroom addition to Colham Ferry Elementary School, the first expenditures from the Education Local Option Sales Tax approved by voters in March.

Construction is expected to begin in late summer and be complete for the next school year.

Brock Toole, chief operations officer for Oconee County Schools, presented the recommendation that the contract go to Amacher Bros. Construction Company of Atlanta at the School Board’s work session on Monday.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Watkinsville Early Voting Slowing In Final Days Before June 15 Special Election

***Only Two Absentee Ballots Returned

Early voting slowed to a trickle on Monday, with only 11 persons casting a ballot in the Watkinsville Special Election that will fill the position of Mayor and Post 1 Council Member.

As of the end of the day on Monday, a total of only 232 voters had cast a ballot, and two more had returned an absentee ballot.

The total of 234 ballots cast is 10.4 percent of the city’s 2,247 eligible voters.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Oconee County Commissioners Pass Fiscal Year 2022 Budget But Property Tax Rate Not Yet Set

***Expect Millage Rate Reduction***

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday adopted a $58.5 million Fiscal Year 2022 budget that anticipates a reduction in the county’s property tax rate.

The size of the reduction has not yet been specified, however, and it isn’t likely to be enough to offset inflationary growth in the tax digest.

The Board has scheduled three hearings on the new millage rate for July and August leading up to adoption of the rate on Aug. 3.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 99 New COVID-19 Cases In Last Week, Two Confirmed Deaths From Disease

***District, Oconee, Clarke, State Lag National Vaccine Averages***

The Northeast Health District added 99 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and two new confirmed deaths attributed to the disease.

The 99 added cases of COVID-19 compare with the 141 cases and the four confirmed deaths added in the week ending May 28.

The average of 14.1 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 20.1 new cases per day for the week ending on May 28.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Oconee School Board Approves Resolution To Sell $37.2 Million In Bonds For School Projects

***Half Of Debt From 2016 Bond Sale Remains To Be Paid***

The Oconee County Board of Education has authorized the sale of $37.2 million in General Obligation Bonds for capital projects approved by voters in the Education Local Option Sales Tax referendum on March 16.

The Board took the action in a special called meeting that followed a budget hearing held by the Board on May 18.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners finalized the action by approving the resolution at it meeting on Tuesday evening.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Oconee County African-American Leaders Talk About History And Future Of County

***African-Americans Made Up Half Of County In Past***

Three leaders of African-American churches in Oconee County called for greater involvement of African-Americans in the county’s future at a meeting of the Oconee County Democrat Party earlier this month.

They also called for a greater appreciation of the contribution of African-Americans to the county’s past.

The goal of that increased involvement, Rev. Joseph Nunnally told Oconee Democrats, is “to make Oconee County one community” sensitive to the views of all its members.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 141 New COVID-19 Cases In Last Week, Four Confirmed Deaths From Disease

***Oconee County adds 66th Confirmed COVID-19 Death***

The Northeast Health District added 141 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and four new confirmed deaths attributed to the disease.

The 141 added cases of COVID-19 compare with the 199 added cases and the six confirmed deaths added in the week ending May 21.

The average of 20.1 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 28.4 new cases per day for the week ending on May 21.

Oconee County School Board Approves Fiscal Year 2022 Budget After Rare Public Disagreement--Over Salaries

***Board Does Not Respond To Questions At Hearing***

The Oconee County Board of Education is scheduled to hold is second and final public hearing on June 7 on its proposed $86.7 million Fiscal Year 2022 budget that leaves unchanged the existing property tax millage rate and increases spending per student by $333.

The budget includes a $1,250 one-time bonus paid to each of the system’s more than 1,000 employees plus an additional increase of $1 per hour for custodial staff, bus drivers, and school nutrition workers.

The bonus and hourly salary increase were not part of the budget submitted to the Board by Superintendent Jason Branch on May 3 but were added by the Board at its meeting on May 10.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Watkinsville Council Candidates Agree On Many Questions Posed At Candidate Forum

***Differ On Role Of Party In Nonpartisan Race***

For 40 minutes on Monday evening, the two candidates for Watkinsville Council Post 1 in the June 15 special election responded to questions ranging from their views on managing city growth to the need for a city manager.

WGAU New Director Tim Bryant asked Chuck Garrett and Carolyn Maultsby 23 different questions in the candidate forum organized by the Oconee County Republican Party and Bethel Baptist Church.

Agreement between them was more common than disagreement.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Oconee County Planning Commission Recommends Use Of Shipping Container Shells For Outdoor Food And Retail Court

***Concerned About Lack Of Pedestrian Access To Site***

The Oconee County Planning Commission took quick action at its meeting on Monday night on a request by John and Brittany Wardlow that they be given permission to use a barn on their property on Osborne Road to house equipment from their septic cleaning service.

The Planning Commission recommended approval of Wardlow’s request, as well as a request by Tyler McClure that property he owns on Moreland Heights Drive just outside Watkinsville be rezoned for an assisted living facility and general office building.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 199 New COVID-19 Cases In Last Week, Six Deaths From Disease

***Oconee Schools End Year With No Active Cases***

The Northeast Health District added 199 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and six new confirmed deaths attributed to the disease.

The 199 added cases of COVID-19 compare with the 264 added cases and seven confirmed deaths added in the week ending May14.

The average of 28.4 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with the average of 37.7 new cases per day for the week ending on May 14.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

First Hearing Set on Oconee County Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Following Outline Of Budget Plans By County Finance Director

***Tax Rate Decision Is Still Pending***

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the county’s proposed 2022 Fiscal Year Budget at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday before its agenda setting meeting.

County Finance Director Wes Geddings released spending requests and recommendations for the General Fund portion of the budget at the Commission’s May 4 meeting and promised to provide additional detail at the May 25 meeting.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Watkinsville Candidate Forum Set For Monday Even With Only One Candidate For Mayor

***Republicans, Bethel Baptist Church Join As Sponsors***

Watkinsville’s nonpartisan special election on June 15 had taken on the character of an inter-party affair before the surprise announcement on Tuesday by Peter Steckel that he was withdrawing from the mayoral race.

The Oconee County Republican Party has organized a candidate forum for the election in partnership with Bethel Baptist Church for 6:30 p.m. on Monday (May 24), with Tim Bryant, WGAU news director and conservative commentator, serving as moderator.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Minutes Of Oconee County Board Of Commissioners May Meeting Take On Significance

***Rezone Vote Has To Be Finalized***

When Oconee County commissioners gathers on June 1 and approve the minutes of their May 4 meeting, they will set the parameters for any near-term plans for development of a shopping center at the corner of Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector.

Property owner Maxie Price has 30 days from that date to file an appeal to Oconee County Superior Court of the May 4 denial by the commissioners in a 3 to 1 vote of his request to rezone the nearly 47 acres he owns at that intersection for a large shopping center anchored by a Publix.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 264 New COVID-19 Cases In Last Week, Seven Deaths From Disease

***One Of Deaths In Oconee County***

The Northeast Health District added 264 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday and seven new confirmed deaths attributed to the disease.

The 264 new cases compare with the 303 cases and two confirmed deaths added in the week ending on May 7.

The average of 37.7 new cases per day for the week ending on Friday compares with 43.3 cases per day in the week ending on May 7.

Oconee County added 11 cases in the week ending on Friday, while Clarke County added 51.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Discussions Underway For Possible Transfer Of Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Water To Newton County

***Oconee County Representatives Ask For Details***

Walton County Board of Commissioners Chair David Thompson announced on Tuesday that he has been meeting with officials from Newton County about sale of water from the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir to Newton County.

Thompson said he had three meetings with Newton County officials in recent months and that state officials also had been involved.

Thompson said the state is supportive of the interbasin transfer of water from the Oconee to Ocmulgee river basins. The water could help with development of a massive research park along I-20 on the southern tip of the county, he said.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Number of Vaccinations And Of COVID-19 Cases Falling In Oconee And Clarke Counties

***Oconee Leads Health District In Vaccination Rate***

Oconee and Clarke counties are above average in rate of full vaccination for COVID-19 in comparison with other counties in the Northeast Health District and with the state, but the number of added vaccinations per day is declining in the two counties as well as in the state.

In Oconee County, 35.3 percent of the population is fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, and in Clarke County, 27.8 is fully vaccinated.

Consistent with the rollout plans, vaccinations are disproportionately concentrated among those who are 55 years old and older in both counties.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Northeast Health District Added 303 New COVID-19 Cases And Two Confirmed Deaths From Disease In Last Week

***Slight Increases In Vaccination Rates Reported***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 303 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days ending on Friday, or an average of 43.3 cases per day, and only two confirmed deaths attributed to the disease.

In the week ending on Friday of last week, the District had added 371 cases, or an average of 53.0 cases per day, and eight confirmed deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Oconee County Commissioners Turn Down Rezoned For Major Shopping Center On Oconee Connector And Mars Hill Road

***New Plans With Roundabout On Connector Introduced***

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners, in a 3 to 1 vote Tuesday night, turned down the rezone request by Maxie Price’s Deferred Tax LLC for a rezone of nearly 47 acres at the corner of the Oconee Connector and Mars Hill Road.

Commissioner Chuck Horton made the motion for the denial after a public hearing and discussion among the commissioners that lasted nearly 90 minutes. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Mark Saxon.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Shopping Center Proposed At Oconee Connector And Mars Hill Road Would Be Third Largest In Oconee County

***Only Epps Bridge Centre I And II Are Larger***

If the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night were to approve the requested rezone for a shopping center at the intersection of Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector, it would be the third largest in the county in terms of building square footage.

It also would be the culmination of efforts going back to 1988 to create a shopping at that location.

Commissioners have approved smaller shopping centers on two of the three properties in the intersection in the past, but the property owners never developed the land.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Northeast Health District Added 371 New COVID-19 Cases And 10 Confirmed Deaths For Disease In Last Week

***Weekly Average Of Added Cases Down***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 371 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days ending on Friday, or an average of 53.0 cases per day, and 10 confirmed deaths attributed to the disease, or an average of 1.4 deaths per day.

In the week ending on Friday of last week, April 23, the District had added 413 cases, or an average of 59.0 cases per day, and eight confirmed deaths attributed to COVID-19, or an average of 1.1 deaths per day.

Boswell And Transportation Board Chair Involved In Decision To Overrule Engineers On Oconee Connector Access For Shopping Center

***Engineer Advice Unambiguous***

Jamie Boswell received a copy of the letter sent Maxie Price by a senior Georgia Department of Transportation official clearing the way for a full access commercial median break on the Oconee Connector before Price did.

Price had written to Georgia Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry on March 17 asking McMurry to confirm that a full access commercial median break would be included in the design of the new interchange at SR 316 and the Oconee Connector.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Mayor And Council Of Bishop Took Special Route In Rezoning Property For Dollar General

***Mayor Feared Convenience Store Would Not Accept Delays***

The Mayor and Town Council of Bishop bypassed the Oconee County planning staff and the county Planning Commission when it rezoned property for a Dollar General earlier this month.

“Dollar General was going to walk away,” Bishop Mayor Johnny Pritchett said in explaining that action.

The city has had an agreement with the county since 1991 calling for the county planning staff to administer its zoning laws and has had a seat on the county Planning Commission since 1982.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Video, Web Site, Facebook Page Emerge To Support Shopping Center Rezone At Oconee Connector And Mars Hill Road

***Responsible Parties Not Identified***

An Athens sales and marketing firm has registered a web site to promote the rezoning of 47 acres at the corner of Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector for a major shopping center that would include a Publix.

The web site contains information used by land planner Ken Beall in his presentation to the Oconee County Planning Commission on Monday night, including a concept plan for the project that is different from and at odds with the one submitted to the county for the rezone request.

Centerpiece of the web site is a video that has been shared on Facebook that calls the project “environmentally responsible.”

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 64 COVID-19 Cases And Two Confirmed Deaths From Disease; Rolling Averages Decrease

***Both Of COVID Deaths In Oconee County***

The Northeast Health District added 64 COVID-19 cases and two confirmed deaths from the disease with the release of Saturday’s Department of Public Health Daily Status Report. Both of the deaths were in Oconee County.

The seven-day rolling average of added cases and added confirmed deaths fell just slightly.

The two Oconee County deaths were of a 62-year-old male with a chronic condition and of a 74-year-old male without a chronic condition.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 91 COVID-19 Cases, Pushing Up Rolling Average Of Added Cases; Two New COVID-19 Deaths Recorded

***One Of Confirmed Deaths From Disease In Clarke County***

For the second day in a row, the seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases rose in the Northeast Health District on Friday while the seven-day rolling average of added confirmed deaths from the disease declined.

The Department of Public Health listed two new confirmed deaths on the District in the Friday Daily Status Report, resulting in a drop in the rolling average to 1.1 deaths per day from 1.3 deaths per day on Thursday.

The deaths were of a 76-year-old female in Clarke County without a chronic condition and a 78-year-old male in Walton County, also without a chronic condition.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 75 New Cases Of COVID-19, Producing Increase In Rolling Average of Added Cases

***No New Deaths From Disease Recorded***

With the addition of 75 new cases of COVID-19 reported by the Department of Public Health on Thursday, the seven-day rolling average of added cases increased in the Northeast Health District.

The Department of Public Health Daily Status Report did not list any new confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in the 10-county Northeast Health District, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths fell to 1.3 deaths per day from 1.7 on Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Northeast Health District Reports Three Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths, Two In Clarke County; Rolling Average Added Cases Down

***Oconee Outpaces District And State In Vaccinations***

The Northeast Health District added three confirmed deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, and the seven-day-rolling average of added deaths increased. Two of the three added deaths were in Clarke County.

The District added 58 cases with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report, and the seven-day rolling average of added cases declined to 52.9 added cases per day from 55.9 on Tuesday.

The Clarke County deaths were of 81-year-old and 83-year-old males. Neither had a chronic condition.

The third death was in Morgan County and was of a 67-year-old male with a chronic condition.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Rolling Average Added COVID-19 Cases Drops In Northeast Health District; No New Confirmed Deaths From Disease Reported

***COVID-19 Hospital Patients Increase Five Days In Row***

The Northeast Health District added 50 cases of COVID-19 in the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report on Tuesday, leading to a drop in the seven-day rolling average of added cases for the second day in a row.

The District did not add any confirmed deaths attributed to the disease, and the seven-day rolling average of added confirmed deaths remained unchanged at 1.4 deaths per day.

With the addition of the 50 cases, the seven-day rolling average of added cases for the 10-county District fell to 55.9 cases per day from 59.7 on Monday.

Oconee County Planning Commission Votes Again Against Rezone For Shopping Center At Oconee Connector And Mars Hill Road

***Unanimous Vote Becomes 6 To 3 Vote***

The Oconee County Planning Commission voted a second time on Monday night to recommend that the Board of Commissioners not rezone 47 acres at the corner of Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector for a major shopping center.

The vote on Monday had six Commission members recommending denial and three voting against that recommendation.

The vote on Jan. 19, when the rezone first came before the Commission, had been unanimous, with all eight voting members in favor of denial.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Northeast Health District Has Small Drop In Rolling Average Of Added COVID-19 Cases

***Number Of COVID-19 Patients At Area Hospitals Up***

The Northeast Health District added 39 new cases of COVID-19 with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report on Monday, resulting in a small drop in the seven-day rolling average of added cases.

The District reported no new confirmed deaths from the disease, resulting in a drop in the seven-day rolling average of added deaths from 1.7 confirmed deaths added each day to 1.4.

Oconee County, for the second day in a row, did not add any new cases of COVID-19, and the seven-day rolling average of added cases remained unchanged at 3.4 cases per day. The county had not added any new cases last Monday as well.

State Transportation Board Member Boswell Lists Numerous Oconee County Properties Affected by SR 316 Transformation

***Commercial Real Estate And Board Role Intertwined***

Boswell Properties, owned by State Transportation Board member Jamie Boswell, is at the center of the rezone involving his client Maxie Price that is before the Oconee County Planning Commission on Monday night.

Boswell not only is listing the 47 acres owned by Price, but he has been informed of a decision by Georgia Department of Transportation senior officials to overrule regional engineers who had rejected Price’s request for access to the Oconee Connector from his property.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Rolling Average Of Added COVID-19 Cases Declines In Northeast Health District After Six Days Of Increases

***No New Deaths Added***

The rolling average of added cases of COVID-19 in the Northeast Health District declined on Sunday after a six-day run of increases. The District added no deaths from the disease in the Sunday Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

With the addition of 33 new cases of COVID-19, the seven-day rolling average of added cases decreased to 59.9 from 61.6 on Saturday.

Oconee County did not add any new cases, and its seven-day rolling average of added cases dropped to 3.4 added cases per day from 4.6 on Saturday.

Clarke County added four cases and its seven-day rolling average of added cases dropped to 15.4 from 15.7 on Saturday.

Oconee County Voters Likely To Be Asked To Vote On New Transportation Sales Tax, County Chair Says

***Announcement Made At State Of County Address***

Oconee County voters are likely to be asked to approve a new 1 percent sales tax later this year to help the county meet its public works needs, Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell said in the State of the County address.

Daniell said last week that no decision has been made on when the referendum will be on the ballot, but he said that he expects to have the issue on the agenda of a Commission meeting in May or June.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Seven-Day Rolling Averages Of Added COVID-19 Cases And Deaths Increase In Northeast Health District

***Cases Increases In Oconee And Clarke***

The seven-day rolling averages of both added COVID-19 cases and confirmed deaths from the disease increased in the Northeast Health District with the release of the Saturday Daily Status Report of the Department of Public Health.

The increase of the rolling average of added cases was the sixth in as many days.

The District added three confirmed deaths, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths increased to 1.7 deaths per day from 1.3 deaths per day on Friday.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 66 Cases of COVID-19 And Three Deaths From Disease; Rolling Averages Little Changed

***Oconee Schools Report Only Two Active COVID-19 Cases***

The rolling averages of added COVID-19 cases and deaths in the Northeast Health District changed only slightly with the Friday release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

The District added 66 cases of the disease, and the seven-day rolling average of added cases increased to 57.0 from 56.9 on Thursday. That rolling average has increased, albeit by small increments, for each of the last five days.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Rolling Average Added Cases Of COVID-19 Continues To Increase In Northeast Health District; Three Deaths From Disease Reported

***Area Hospitals Report Only 24 COVID-19 Patients***

For the fourth day in a row, the seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases increased in the Northeast Health District on Thursday as the state Department of Public Health recorded 57 new cases of the disease in the District.

The Department of Public Health added three confirmed deaths from COVID-19, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths remained unchanged at 1.4 deaths per day.

Two of the deaths–of a 73-year-old male with a chronic condition and of a 74-year-old male with a chronic condition–were in Jackson County. That county now has 137 deaths from the coronavirus.

GDOT Chief Engineer Overrules District Engineer, Approves Access To Oconee Connector For Major Shopping Center

***Boswell Copied On Correspondence***

Georgia Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Meg Pirkle has overruled the District 1 project team in favor of a full access median commercial break for a major shopping center on the Oconee Connector between SR 316 and Mars Hill Road.

In a letter dated April 6 and posted by Oconee County planning staff on the county website on Wednesday, Pirkle told land owner Maxie Price she was honoring Price’s request for maintenance of the existing median break on the Connector and for an access cut to his property.

As such, she was overturning a decision by Jason Dykes, District 1 traffic engineer, who in an email message to Oconee County on Jan. 12 said the existing median opening would be closed as part of a more than $70 million reconstruction of the SR 316 interchange with the Oconee Connector.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Rolling Average of Added COVID-19 Cases Increased For Third Day Running In Northeast Health District

***Rolling Average Added Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths Declined***

The seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases increased for the third day in a row in the Northeast Health District with the addition on Wednesday of 79 new cases of the disease in the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

The increases in the rolling average have been small, from 48.4 on Sunday to 52.9 on Tuesday and 55.0 on Wednesday.

The District increases in cases are reflected at the state level as well, which has seen increases each day since Friday.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Rolling Average Added COVID-19 Cases Increased In Northeast Health District For Second Day In A Row

***Oconee Reported Drop In Added Cases; Clarke Reported Increase***

The Northeast Health District added 77 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and, for the second day in a row, the seven-day rolling average of added cases increased.

The District did not add any new confirmed deaths, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths remained unchanged at 2.0 deaths per day.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Attorney For Owner Of Land For Proposed Shopping Center At Oconee Connector Criticizes Oconee County Planning Staff

***Tells Commissioners Client Has Right To Connector Access***

Attorney William Berryman wants Oconee County commissioners to reject three elements of the county’s planning staff report on a rezone request by his client for a shopping center at the Oconee Connector and Mars Hill Road.

The planning staff is wrong is saying that three parcels owned by Maxie Price’s Deferred Tax can be developed under the current zoning classification, Berryman said in a March 2 letter to the commissioners.

As a result, if the commissioners deny the rezone request it will be a denial of applicant Maxie Price’s constitutional rights to develop his property as protected by the U.S. Constitution, Berryman said.

Rolling Averages of Added COVID-19 Cases And Deaths From Disease Increased In Northeast Health District

***No New Oconee County Cases Reported***

With the release of the Georgia Department of Public Health Daily Status Report on Monday, the seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases in the Northeast Health District increased, as did the rolling average of added confirmed deaths from the disease.

The District added only 40 cases on Monday, usually a light reporting day, and the District had added 36 cases last Monday.

The seven-day rolling average of added cases in the 10-county District increased to 49.0 from 48.4 on Sunday.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Seven-Day Rolling Average Of Added COVID-19 Cases In Northeast Health District Declines Fifth Day In Row

***Rolling Average Added Cases In Oconee Increases***

The Department of Public Health Daily Status Report listed 45 new cases of COVID-19 in the Northeast Health District on Sunday, resulting in a slight drop in the seven-day rolling averages of added cases of the disease in the District.

The Daily Status Report listed no new confirmed deaths from the coronavirus, and the seven-day rolling average of added confirmed deaths remained unchanged at 1.7 deaths per day.

With the addition of the 45 cases, the seven-day rolling average of added cases in the 10-county District fell to 48.4 from 48.9 on Saturday. The rolling average has dropped each of the last five days.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Rolling Averages of Added COVID-19 Cases And Confirmed Deaths Continue To Decline In Northeast Health District

***Oconee County Adds “Probable” Death From Disease***

With the addition of only 35 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the seven-day rolling average of added cases in the Northeast Health District fell for the third day in a row.

The District added no confirmed deaths from the disease, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths fell for the second day.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Rolling Averages For Added COVID-19 Cases And Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths Decrease In Northeast Health District

***Oconee Leads District In Percent Of Population Vaccinated***

The seven-day rolling averages of added COVID-19 cases and confirmed deaths from the disease fell on Friday with the release of the Department of Public Health’s Daily Status Report.

The District added 65 cases and four confirmed deaths.

Two of the confirmed deaths were in Clarke County, and the other two were in Walton County.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 44 New COVID-19 Cases, Three Deaths From Disease; Rolling Averages Of Added Cases Down, Deaths Up

***Oconee Vaccination Rate: 20.5 percent; Clarke Rate: 14.5***

The seven-day rolling average of added cases of COVID-19 dropped in the Northeast Health District on Thursday, but the seven-day rolling average of added confirmed deaths from the disease increased slightly.

The Department of Public Health added only 44 new cases of the disease, but it reported three new confirmed deaths in its Thursday Daily Status Report.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 64 New COVID-19 Cases And Six COVID-19 Deaths In State Health Reports

***Area Hospitals Report Increase In COVID-19 Patients***

The Northeast Health District added 64 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and five confirmed deaths from the disease, resulting in a decrease in the rolling average of added cases and an increase in the rolling average of added deaths.

Two of the confirmed deaths listed in the Wednesday Daily Status Report of the Department of Public Health were in Clarke County. Those deaths were of 56 year-old and 60-year-old females, neither of whom had a chronic condition.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Decline In Rolling Averages Of Added Cases And Deaths Halted In Northeast Health District

***State Releases Data On Vaccination Rates At County Level***

With the addition of 50 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths from the disease in Tuesday’s Daily Status Report, the seven-day rolling average of added cases increased in the Northeast Health District while the rolling average of added deaths from the disease remained unchanged.

The increase in the rolling average of added cases, to 58.0 on Tuesday from 55.9 on Monday, reversed a five-day drop in the rolling average of added cases.

The seven-day rolling average of added deaths stood at 1.6 deaths per day. That average had dropped six days in a row prior to Tuesday.

Bill Approved By General Assembly To Prevent Defunding Of Police Will Have Little Impact In Oconee County

***Only Watkinsville Falls Under Restrictions Set In Place***

Oconee County Rep. Houston Gaines promoted his House Bill 286 as a way to keep local governments from reducing funding of police, but its focus is quite narrow and it will have limited effect in Oconee County if it becomes law.

The bill would constrain the budget decisions of the City of Watkinsville, but it would not affect budgeting in the county’s other three cities or of Oconee County government itself.

The bill targets cities with police departments and the 12 counties in the state that also have police departments.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Daily Status Report Lists 36 COVID-19 Cases, No Deaths From Disease In Northeast Health District

***Rolling Averages Drop Five Days In Row***

The rolling averages of added cases of COVID-19 and added confirmed deaths from the disease continued to decline in the Northeast Health District on Monday with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

The last increase in the case average was six days ago, and the last increase in the rolling average of confirmed deaths was nine days ago.

The District added only 36 cases of COVID-19, and the seven-day rolling average of added cases dropped to 55.9 from 57.1 on Sunday.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Changes Are Slight, But Rolling Averages Of Added COVID-19 Cases, Deaths Continue To Fall In Northeast Health District

***Small Drop In COVID-19 Patients At Area Hospitals***

The seven-day rolling averages of both added COVID-19 cases and of deaths from the disease dipped just slightly in the Northeast Health District on Sunday, the fourth day in a row in which both averages declined.

The Department of Public Health’s Daily Status Report listed 48 new cases of COVID-19 in the 10-county Northeast Health District and no new deaths from the disease.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Rolling Averages COVID-19 Cases, Deaths In Northeast Health District Fall Again On Saturday

***Mass Vaccination Scheduled For April 17 At Civic Center***

The rolling averages of both COVID-19 cases and deaths from the disease dropped for the third day running in the Northeast Health District with the release of the Daily Status Report by the Department of Public Health on Saturday.

The Daily Status Report listed two deaths: a 90-plus-year-old female in Clarke County without a chronic condition and an 82-year-old female from Oglethorpe County, also without a chronic condition.

The deaths bring to 880 the number in the District since February of last year.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Rolling Averages of Added COVID-19 Cases, Confirmed Deaths, Drop For Second Day In Row In Northeast Health District

***Oconee School Cases Decline From Week Earlier***

For the second day in a row, the seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases and of added confirmed deaths from the disease fell in the Northeast Health District with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

Oconee County Schools also reported a large drop in the number of Active Cases of COVID-19 in the schools.

Oconee County Commission Chair Gave Time Line, Details Of SR 316 Transformation At Town Hall Meeting

***Malcom Bridge Road And Other Road Projects Discussed***

Between 2024 and 2027, the Georgia Department of Transportation will construct full interchanges with flyovers on SR 316 at the Oconee Connector and at Jimmy Daniell Road as well as a flyover of Virgil Langford Road without on and off ramps.

These projects will be “bundled,” Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell told in-person and remote participants in a Town Hall meeting last week.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Seven-Day Rolling Averages Of COVID-19 Cases, Confirmed Deaths From Disease Decrease

***Number Of COVID-19 Patients At Area Hospitals Down***

The rolling averages of both added COVID-19 cases and added deaths from the disease dropped in the Northeast Health District on Thursday with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

The District added 61 cases and a single death–of an 88-year-old female in Elbert County without a chronic condition.

The death was the 54th in Elbert County, which has the highest death rate in the District with 285 deaths per 100,000 population.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Seven-Day Rolling Average Of Added COVID-19 Cases In Northeast Health District Increases

***Rolling Average Added Deaths Down Slightly***

The Northeast Health District added 85 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, pushing up the seven-day rolling average of added cases. The rolling average of added confirmed deaths from the disease dropped with the addition of two deaths.

One of the added confirmed deaths was in Oconee County, which also had recorded a confirmed death on Sunday.

The Oconee County death was of a 69-year-old female without a chronic condition and brings to 62 the number of deaths in the county from the disease since the first was recorded in May of last year.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Oconee Long-Term Care Home Reports Two COVID-19 Deaths, The Third At Oconee Long-Term Care Facilities In Two Days

***Rolling Average For Added COVID-19 Cases Declines***

The Northeast Health District added only 35 new COVID-19 cases and no new confirmed deaths from the disease on Tuesday with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

The Department of Community Health, however, in its Long-Term Care Facility Report on Tuesday, listed two new deaths at The Landing Senior Living personal care home on U.S. 78 in Oconee County.

The Department of Community Health had listed a death at High Shoals Health and Rehabilitation nursing home, 3450 New High Shoals Road in the west of the county, in Monday’s Long-Term Care Facility Report.

Monday, March 29, 2021

State Health Reports List COVID-19 Deaths In Oconee, Clarke Counties; Rolling Average Added Confirmed Deaths Up In Health District

***Rolling Average Added COVID-19 Cases Falls***

With the addition of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Clarke and Morgan counties in the Monday Department of Public Health Daily Status Report, the seven-day rolling average of added confirmed deaths in the Northeast Health District increased slightly on Monday.

In addition, the Department of Community Health, in its Long-Term Care Facility Report, listed one new resident death from COVID-19 at High Shoals Health and Rehabilitation nursing home in Oconee County.

The Department of Public Health added 45 new cases of the disease in the Monday Daily Status Report, and the seven-day rolling average of added cases in the District fell on Monday from Sunday.

Oconee County’s Representatives In General Assembly Voted For Major Changes In Election Laws

***Gave Themselves Stronger Role In Local Elections***

Sen. Bill Cowsert, Rep. Houston Gaines, and Rep. Marcus Wiedower, who represent Oconee County in the Georgia General Assembly, joined their Republican colleagues last week in voting to pass legislation making major changes to the state’s election laws.

The bill restricts absentee voting, alters how local governments can manage early voting, and gives the legislature itself, through the State Elections Board, much more power over local election procedures.

It also authorizes the three legislators to monitor and request a state audit of Oconee County’s and Clarke County’s election operations.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

State Daily Status Report Lists COVID-19 Death Of 24-Year-Old In Oconee County

***Rolling Average Of Added Deaths In District Increases***

Oconee County reported its youngest death from COVID-19 in Sunday’s Daily Status Report with the listing of a 24-year-old male without a known chronic condition.

The death brings to 61 the number from the disease since the county recorded its first COVID-19 death in May of last year. The youngest person prior to the listing on Sunday was of a 43-year-old.

The actual date of death of the 24-year-old listed on Sunday was March 19.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Rolling Averages Of Added COVID-19 Deaths And Cases Increase In Daily Status Report For Northeast Health District

***Anniversary Of First COVID-19 Daily Update For Oconee***

With the addition of four COVID-19 deaths and 72 new cases of the disease, the seven-day rolling averages of added deaths and cases increased on Saturday in the Northeast Health District with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

The deaths were of an 83-year-old male in Barrow County with a chronic condition and of an 82-year-old female in Greene County, a 61-year-old female in Jackson County, and a 90-plus-year-old male in Walton County, all without chronic conditions.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds Seven Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths; Rolling Average Added Deaths Increases

***Oconee Schools Reports Drop In Active Cases, Quarantines***

With the addition of seven confirmed deaths in Friday’s Daily Status Report, the seven-day rolling average of added deaths increased in the Northeast Health District, while the seven-day rolling average of added cases declined slightly.

Two of those seven deaths were in Clarke County: a 79-year-old male without a chronic condition and an 87-year-old male, also without a chronic condition.

Clarke County had added three deaths on Thursday and two on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds Nine Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths, Three In Clarke County

***Rolling Average of Added Cases Declines***

The Northeast Health District added nine confirmed COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, pushing the seven-day rolling average of added confirmed deaths to 3.3 per day from 2.3 the day before.

Three of those confirmed deaths were in Clarke County, which had added two confirmed deaths from the disease on Wednesday.

The District added 94 new cases of COVID-19 in the Thursday Department of Public Health Daily Status Report, and the seven rolling average of added cases decreased from Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 12 COVID-19 Deaths And 72 New Cases Of Disease

*** Rolling Averages Confirmed Cases Unchanged, Cases Down***

The Northeast Health District added eight confirmed deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the Wednesday Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

The Department of Community Health also reported four deaths in the District in its Wednesday Long-Term Care Facility Report.

The District added 72 new cases of COVID-19 in the Department of Public Health Report.

Date For Watkinsville Called Election Following Resignation Of Mayor Not Yet Set

***County Waiting On Decisions To Be Made On Thursday***

The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration on Monday postponed any decision on a special election in Watkinsville–necessitated by the abrupt resignation of Bob Smith as mayor--pending action taken by the Council on Thursday evening.

Elections Board Chair Rebecca Anglin said at the Monday meeting that although Smith resigned as mayor at the Mayor and Council meeting on March 17, she has not yet been told which offices might need to be filled in a special election.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 74 New Cases Of COVID-19, No New Deaths From Disease

***Rolling Average Added Cases Down; Average Deaths Unchanged***

The seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases dropped in the Northeast Health District with the release of the Daily Status Report on Tuesday while the rolling average of added deaths remained unchanged.

The District added 74 new cases of COVID-19, and the seven-day rolling average of added cases dropped to 88.0 from 91.6 on Monday.

The District did not add any new deaths, as had been the case on Tuesday of last week, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths held steady at 2.3 deaths per day.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Rolling Average Of Added COVID-19 Cases Increases In Northeast Health District With Release Of Daily Status Report

***Oconee Contributes Nearly One In Five Of Cases***

Driven by Oconee County’s numbers, the seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases in the Northeast Health District increased on Monday with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

The District added 42 cases confirmed by molecular tests and 17 based on rapid antigen tests, and the seven-day rolling average of total added cases increased to 91.6 from 88.4 on Sunday.

The District added one death–of a 77-year-old male in Madison County without a known chronic condition–and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths fell to 2.3 from 2.4 on Sunday. Monday’s are light reporting days, and the District added two deaths a week ago.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 79 New COVID-19 Cases–More Than Double The Number Added On Sunday Of Last Week

***Oconee, Clarke Rolling Averages Of Added Cases Up***

The Northeast Health District Added 79 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, pushing up the seven-day rolling average to near where it was a week ago and suggesting that the drop in cases that began at the beginning of the month has ended.

The District added no new deaths attributed to COVID-19, but that had been true on Sunday of last week, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths remained unchanged at 2.4 deaths per day.

The 10-county District has 837 COVID-19 deaths, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 57 COVID-19 Cases And Two Deaths From Disease; Oconee Reported First Case One Year Ago

***Another Positive Test At Malcom Bridge Middle School***

On the one-year anniversary of the Georgia Department of Public Health reporting its first COVID-19 case in Oconee County, the county added seven cases on Saturday, and its seven-day rolling average of added cases was 11.3.

The surrounding 10-county Northeast Health District added 57 cases and two deaths in Saturday’s Department of Public Health Daily Status Report, and the seven-day rolling average of added cases dropped to 82.1 from 83.9 on Friday.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Rolling Averages Of COVID-19 Deaths And Cases Increase In Northeast Health District; Oconee School COVID-19 Cases, Quarantines Increase

***Oconee Cases Outpace Those In Clarke***

The seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 confirmed deaths and cases increased in the Northeast Health District on Friday, as the District added three deaths and 90 new cases of the disease.

Oconee County Schools on Friday reported a near doubling of the number of Active Cases in the system’s 11 schools and an exact doubling of the number of Active Quarantines.

Data Show Faculty And Staff At Oconee County Schools Have High COVID-19 Rates, Point To Great Variability Among Schools

***Data Released By Schools Illuminate Weekly Reports***

Just less than a third of the positive tests for COVID-19 in Oconee County Schools since administrators began recording those data in early September through the first of this month have been for faculty and staff.

Faculty and staff made up more than half of the positive tests reported at the system’s six elementary schools and single primary school, about a quarter of the cases at the two middle schools, and nearly one in five of the cases at the two high schools.

When staff, faculty, and student cases are combined, 32.0 percent of all of the positive tests at the schools going back to Aug. 15 have been at the six elementary schools and the single primary school, 27.8 percent have been at the two middle schools, and 40.2 percent have been at the two high schools.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Department Of Public Health Adds Four COVID-19 Deaths In Northeast Health District And 134 New Cases Of Disease

***One Of Deaths In Oconee County***

The Northeast Health District added four confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 134 new cases of the disease with the Thursday release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

One of the deaths–of a 73-year-old male without a chronic condition–was in Oconee County, the 60th in the county from COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Seven-Day Rolling Averages Of Added COVID-19 Deaths And Cases Increased In Northeast Health District

***Oconee County Schools Positive Tests Reported***

With the addition of eight COVID-19 deaths and 123 new cases of the disease, the seven-day rolling averages of COVID-19 deaths and cases increased in the Northeast Health District on Wednesday.

The deaths were in seven of the 10 counties in the Northeast Health District, according to the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report. The exceptions were Oconee, Clarke, and Jackson counties.

The District now has 830 deaths attributed to the coronavirus, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths increased from 2.1 on Tuesday to 2.4 on Wednesday. The District had added six deaths on Wednesday of last week.

Oconee County School Tax Referendum Receives Overwhelming Support In Low Turnout Election

***Only 1,924 Of County’s 30,516 Voters Cast A Ballot***

Oconee County Schools’ gambit of seeking early approval of a new Education Local Option Sales Tax in a low-key election paid big dividends on Tuesday with 83.6 percent of the 1,924 voters who cast a ballot approving.

Turnout was the lowest ever for any of the six Education Local Option Sales Tax referendums going back to 1997 and involved the second smallest number of voters.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Department Of Public Health Reports 99 New COVID-19 Cases, No Deaths In Northeast Health District

***Rolling Average Cases Drops, But No Change In Deaths***

The Northeast Health District saw a small drop in the rolling average of added cases of COVID-19 with the release of the Tuesday Daily Status Report and no change in the rolling average of added deaths from the disease.

The Department of Public Health reported 99 new cases of COVID-19 in the 10-county Northeast Health District, compared with 107 on Tuesday of last week, and the seven-day rolling average of added cases dropped to 80.7 from 81.9 on Monday.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Rolling Average of Added COVID-19 Cases Continues to Decline In Northeast Health District, But Not Deaths

***No New Long-Term Care Facility Deaths And Cases***

The seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases in the Northeast Health District continued to decline on Monday with the addition of 37 new cases of the disease and two deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

Monday and Sunday reports of the Department of Public Health follow light reporting days from labs and medical facilities around the state, and the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report last Monday contained 116 cases but only one death.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 38 Confirmed COVID-19 Cases, No Deaths From Disease; Rolling Average Added Cases Drops

***Area Hospitals Report Increase In COVID-19 Cases***

With the addition of only 38 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sunday’s Daily Status Report--the smallest number since Nov. 16--the seven-day rolling average of added cases continued to decline in the Northeast Health District.

The District added no confirmed deaths from the disease, which had been the case on Sunday of last week as well, and the seven-day rolling average of 2.0 deaths per day remained unchanged. Sundays are light reporting from labs and medical facilities to the Department of Public Health.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Seven-Day Rolling Averages of Added COVID-19 Cases And Confirmed Deaths Decline In Northeast Health District

***Cases Increase In Oconee And Clarke Counties***

The Northeast Health District added only 69 COVID-19 cases and one death from the disease on Saturday, and the seven-day rolling average of both continued to decline.

The Department of Public Health Daily Status Report listed the death of an 82-year-old male in Walton County with a chronic condition as the sole confirmed death, bringing to 216 the number of COVID-19 deaths in Walton County and to 820 in the District.

The seven-day rolling average of added deaths fell to 2.0 and now has declined three days in a row.

Small Number Of Oconee County Voters Likely To Decide Future Of Education Sales Tax

Early Voting Turnout Very Light

Only 1,282 voters cast a ballot in early voting, which ended Friday, or returned an absentee ballot, making it almost certain that a very small percentage of Oconee County’s 31,965 registered voters is going to decide the fate of a major educational tax referendum.

Oconee County Schools is asking citizens to approve a new Education Local Option Sales Tax–effectively continuing the one in place–and authorize issuance of general obligation bonds for up to $42,950,000 to finance construction of a list of new capital projects.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds Five Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths, Only 77 New Cases Of Disease

***Oconee Schools Report Drop In Cases, Quarantines***

The Northeast Health District added five confirmed deaths from COVID-19 on Friday and only 77 new cases of the disease as the Department of Public Health Released its Daily Status Report.

Because the Department of Public Health eliminated four deaths in Barrow County it had previously listed as the result of COVID-19, the net addition of one death from the disease resulted in a drop in the seven-day rolling average of added deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of added cases also declined on Friday.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds Six Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths, Including Two In Clarke County

***Rolling Averages Of Added Cases And Deaths Decline***

The Northeast Health District added six confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Thursday’s Department of Public Health Daily Status Report and 145 new cases of the disease.

For the second day in a row, two of the added confirmed deaths were in Clarke County.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Oconee And Clarke Counties Account For Three Of Six New COVID-19 Confirmed Deaths In Public Health Report

***Rolling Average Of Added COVID-19 Cases Drops Sharply***

Oconee County added one confirmed COVID-19 death and Clarke added two as the 10-county Northeast Health District as a whole added six deaths from the disease with the release of the Wednesday Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

With the addition of the six deaths, the seven-day rolling average of added confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in the 10-county Northeast Health District remained unchanged at 2.7. The District had added six deaths on Wednesday of last week.

The seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases dropped dramatically with release of Wednesday’s Daily Status Report.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 107 COVID-19 Cases, No Deaths From Disease; Rolling Averages Decline

***Two Probable Deaths Reported***

The rolling averages of added COVID-19 cases and confirmed deaths attributed to the disease fell in the Northeast Health District on Tuesday with only 107 new cases and no deaths reported by the Department of Public Health.

The District did add two “probable deaths” in Walton County, but without any added confirmed deaths, the seven-day rolling average of added deaths fell to 2.7 from 3.0 on Monday. The District had added two confirmed deaths on Tuesday of last week.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 116 COVID-19 Cases And One Confirmed Death From Disease In Public Health Report

***Two Clarke Deaths Listed In Community Health Report***

The Northeast Health District added 116 COVID-19 cases and one confirmed death from the disease with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report on Monday, resulting in small drops in the seven-day rolling averages of added cases and deaths.

The single confirmed death was of an 82-year-old Walton County female without a chronic condition. Her death brings to 212 the number of confirmed deaths in Walton County from the coronavirus and to 807 the number in the District.

Oconee County’s Two State Representatives Mum On Proposed Changes To State Election Laws

***Columns Large Ignore Debate In Atlanta***

Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower, who represent Oconee County in the Georgia House of Representatives, ended their Legislative Rundown column in The Oconee Enterprise on March 4 with this invitation.

“Constituent feedback is critical in decision making on all legislation,” they write. “As always, please reach out to us anytime.”

The pair’s weekly columns in the paper all end in a similar refrain and contain Gaines’ and Wiedower’s official email addresses and sometimes their telephone numbers.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Northeast Health District Added 109 COVID-19 Cases, No Deaths, In Sunday Department Of Public Health Report

***Rolling Averages Added Cases Up, Deaths Unchanged***

The seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases in the Northeast Health District increased on Sunday, and the rolling average of added deaths remained unchanged.

The Department of Public Health, in its Sunday Daily Status Report, listed 109 new cases of COVID-19, up from 99 a week ago, and the seven-day rolling average increased to 163.9 from 162.4 on Saturday.

The Report listed no new confirmed deaths from the disease in the District, as also was the case a week ago, and the seven-day rolling average on Sunday was 3.4, as it was on Saturday.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 116 New COVID-19 Cases, Two Deaths From Disease; Rolling Averages Of Cases, Deaths Decline

***District Lagging State As Whole In Vaccinations***

With the addition of 116 new COVID-19 cases and two death from the disease, the seven-day rolling averages of added cases and added confirmed deaths decreased on Saturday in the Northeast Health District.

The Department of Public Health reported confirmed deaths of a 43-year-old female in Clarke County without a chronic condition and of an 88-year-old male in Walton County, also without a chronic condition.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Seven-Day Rolling Average Added COVID-19 Cases In Northeast Health District Decreases, While Rolling Average Deaths Increases

***Active Cases, Quarantines Oconee Schools Increase***

The Northeast Health District added 91 new cases of COVID-19 in the Department of Public Health’s Daily Status Report on Friday, and the seven-day rolling average of added cases fell for the second day in a row.

The 10-county District added four confirmed deaths, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths increased to 3.6 deaths per day from 3.1 on Thursday.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Northeast Health District Adds 163 New COVID-19 Cases, Six Deaths From Disease; Rolling Averages Decline

***Positivity Rates And Number Of Tests Drop In Oconee, Clarke***

With the addition of 163 new COVID-19 cases in the Northeast Health District on Thursday, the seven-day rolling average of added cases fell slightly, halting an eight-day increase in the average.

The District added six deaths, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths also dropped on Thursday.

For the second day in a row, one of the added confirmed deaths in the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report was in Clarke County: a 62-year-old female without a chronic condition.

Attorney For Oconee County Schools Rejects Request From UGA Law School Clinic For Live Streaming Of School Board Meetings

***Says School Board Not Violating Open Meetings Act***

The attorney for Oconee County Schools has rejected the request made by representatives of the University of Georgia School of Law First Amendment Clinic that it live stream Board of Education meetings and provide access to those meetings for individuals who wish to attend virtually.

Phillip L. Hartley, a Gainesville attorney, said that the Georgia Open Meetings Act does not require “virtual transmission” of a “live meeting” unless the Board itself is meeting virtually under emergency conditions, as it did from April through July 6 of last year.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Northeast Health District Reports 283 New COVID-19 Cases And Six Deaths From Disease, Two In Clarke County

***Seven-Day Rolling Average Added Cases Increases***

The Northeast Health District added 283 new COVID-19 cases and six confirmed deaths from the disease on Wednesday, pushing up for the eighth day running the seven-day rolling average of added cases.

The rolling average of added deaths fell from 4.3 on Tuesday to 3.6 on Wednesday, as the District had added 11 deaths last Wednesday.

Two of the added confirmed deaths were in Clarke County: a 70-year-old male without a chronic condition and a 90-plus-year-old female without a known chronic conditions.

Oconee Commissioners Approve Rezones For Oconee Mercantile And Movement Of The Stone Store

***Commission Vote Split On U.S. 441 Multi-Use Project***

In well-organized and coordinated presentations to the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday evening, citizens in neighborhoods abutting the proposed Oconee Mercantile project on U.S. 441 said how they had relied on past county zoning decisions to protect their homes.

The proposed multi-use commercial development and accompanying relocation of The Stone Store not only would adversely affect their residential neighborhoods, they said, but they also would be contrary to what the county had promised with its past zoning decisions.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Northeast Health District Added 252 New COVID-19 Cases, Pushing Up Again the Rolling Average Of Added Cases

***District Added Two Deaths***

With the addition of 252 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the seven-day rolling average of added cases increased in the Northeast Health District for the seventh day in a row.

The District added two confirmed deaths from the disease in the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths declined for the second day running.

Oconee County Board Of Commissioners To Decide On Move Of Stone Store And Planned Use Of Its Current Site

***Planning Commission Sends Mixed Recommendations***

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night likely will decide the future location of The Stone Store and, if the developers of the proposed U.S. 441 mixed-use project are to be believed, the viability of that project itself.

The Commissioners are scheduled to vote on a rezone request for just more than 23 acres on U.S. 441 across from the intersection of Hog Mountain Road as well as on a second related rezone and special use variance request for just less than six acres just north of that intersection.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Rolling Average Added COVID-19 Cases Continues To Increase In Northeast Health District

***Rolling Average Added Deaths Declines***

The seven-day rolling average of added COVID-19 cases continued to increase in the Northeast Health District on Monday with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

The Department of Public Health listed 133 new cases of the disease in the District along with four new confirmed deaths from the disease.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Seven-Day Rolling Average Added COVID-19 Cases In Northeast Health District Has Increased Five Days Running

***District Lagging State In Vaccinations***

The Northeast Health District added 99 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, and the seven-day rolling average of added cases increased for the fifth day in a row.

The District did not add any new deaths in the Sunday Daily Status Report of the Department of Public Health, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths remained unchanged at 5.4.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Rolling Average Added COVID-19 Cases Increasing Again In Northeast Health District; Rolling Average Added Deaths Declines

***Deaths Are In Elbert, Walton Counties, Which Lead In Mortality***

The Northeast Health District experienced an increase in the seven-day rolling average of added cases for the fourth day in a row on Saturday with the addition of 211 new cases of the disease.

The Daily Status Report listed three new confirmed deaths from the disease, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths declined on Saturday.

Construction Scheduled To Begin In 2024 For SR 316 Intersection Projects In Oconee County

***GDOT Wants To “Transform” Gwinnett-To-Oconee Corridor***

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2024 on four of nine intersection projects in Oconee County that are part of a massive effort to transform SR 316 into what the Georgia Department of Transportation is calling “a freeway-style corridor.”

Included in the initial construction is a “bundle” of projects that will include multi-grade intersections at the Oconee Connector and SR 316 and at Jimmy Daniell Road and SR 316.

The “bundle” also includes a bridge carrying Virgil Langford Road, currently blocked, across SR 316.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Seven-Day Rolling Average Of Added COVID-19 Deaths Declines In Northeast Health District But Rolling Average Of Added Cases Increases

***Oconee Schools Reports Increases In Cases, Quarantines***

With the addition of only one confirmed COVID-19 death in Friday’s Daily Status Report, the seven-day rolling average of added deaths dropped sharply, but the seven-day rolling average of added cases increased for the third day in a row.

The Department of Public Health added 214 new COVID-19 cases in Friday’s Daily Status Report.

Oconee County Schools also reported an increase in the number of Active COVID-19 Cases and Active Quarantines Due To Close Contact.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Rolling Averages Of Added COVID-19 Deaths, Cases Increase Again In Northeast Health District

***Cases Also Increase In Oconee, Clarke Counties***

For the second day in a row, the rolling averages of both confirmed COVID-19 deaths and cases of the disease increased in the Northeast Health District on Thursday with the release of the Department of Public Health Daily Status Report.

The District added nine new deaths from COVID-19 and 179 new cases of the disease.

The deaths included a 56-year-old male in Greene County with a chronic condition and an 86-year-old female in Jackson County without a chronic condition.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Rolling Averages Of COVID-19 Deaths And Cases Rise In Northeast Health District With Release Of State Health Report

***Number Of COVID-19 Patients At Area Hospitals Falls Sharply***

The seven-day rolling averages both of added COVID-19 deaths and of added cases increased in the Northeast Health District on Wednesday with the release of the Department of Public Health’s Daily Status Report.

The 10-county District added 11 confirmed deaths, including three in Clarke County, and 178 cases.

The Clarke County deaths were of a 64-year-old male, a 77-year-old male, and 90-plus-year-old male, none of whom had a chronic condition. Clarke County added two deaths on Tuesday and one on Monday and now has 112 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

Oconee County’s State Legislators Playing Prominent Role In Debate On Changes In Election Laws

***House And Senate Considering Bills***

The Georgia Senate passed four bills on Tuesday, including two sponsored by Sen. Bill Cowsert, who represents Oconee County, making changes to Georgia’s election laws.

The bills now go to the House, which has its own more far-reaching bill under consideration that was sponsored by six Republican members of a Special Committee on Election Integrity.

Houston Gaines, who represents three of Oconee County’s 12 precincts in the Georgia House of Representatives, is a member of that Special Committee, which now will review it before House action.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Northeast Health District Has Large Drop In Added Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths; Oconee Reported Two Deaths, Clarke One

***Number Of COVID-19 Patients At Area Hospitals Increased***

The Northeast Health District added five confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Tuesday’s Daily Status Report, with one of those in Oconee County and two in Clarke County.

The five deaths were down dramatically from the 16 added on Tuesday of last week, and the seven-day rolling average of added deaths fell from 7.6 on Monday to 6.0 on Tuesday.

The seven-day rolling average of added cases also declined.