Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Oconee County Democrats Note Difficulty Of Running In 10th Congressional District; New Map Suggests It May Get Harder

***Labor Commissioner Candidate Criticizes Incumbent***

Oconee County Democrats were polite and supportive of Kimberly Clark Reuter as she spelled out her positions on the issues she plans to focus on in her campaign for the Democratic nomination in the open U.S. 10th Congressional District.

They also were clearly dubious of the likely success of her venture.

Reuter, one of two declared candidates for the Democratic nomination, no doubt would face an uphill battle in the race to replace Jody Hice, who has stepped down to run as former President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate for Secretary of State.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Oconee County Schools Has Bulk Of Relief Funds Still Unallocated; Four New Buses To Be Purchased With Federal Monies

***Sales Tax Revenues Allocated For New Classrooms***

Oconee County Schools had available at the end of August nearly $2.7 million in federal relief funds allocated to the schools, Liz Harlow, chief financial officer for the system told School Board members on Monday.

Harlow, making her first report after having been appointed chief financial officer at the Board’s Work Session a week earlier, also reported that collections for the system’s Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST) were up 25 percent from July of last year.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Oconee County Schools Reports 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.