Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Oconee Post 3 School Board Republican Primary Requires A Runoff

***Hammock And Mauck To Meet June 21***

Ryan Hammock and Julie Mauck are headed for a June 21 runoff as neither received more than 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s Republican Primary for Post 3 on the Oconee County Board of Education.

Mauck led the field with 41.7 percent of the vote, followed by 38.3 percent for Hammock and 20.0 percent for Elliott Rogers, based on the unofficial results posted just before 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Post 3 Board of Education primary race was the only contested local election on the ballot on Tuesday.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Oconee County Gives Legislative Delegation Independence From Athens-Clarke

***Registration, Campaign Spending Tell Story***

In the 2021 legislative session, Houston Gaines, who represents part of Oconee County and part of Athens-Clarke County in the Georgia House, introduced legislation to ban some local governments from reducing their law enforcement budgets.

The bill, which targeted Athens-Clarke County, passed and became law, with the support of Rep. Marcus Wiedower and Sen. Bill Cowsert, who also represent Oconee County, as well as parts of Athens-Clarke County, in the General Assembly.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Area Hospitals Report Slight Drop In COVID-19 Cases; Average Case Counts Down In Oconee, Clarke Counties

***Clarke Reports One New Confirmed Death From Disease***

The Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency reported on Friday that area hospitals had nine COVID-19 patients, down from the 13 reported on Friday of last week.

The number of ICU beds in use was 60, down from 70 a week earlier, and the number of adult ventilators in use was 20, down from 33 a week earlier.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Heavy Turnout On Thursday And Friday In Oconee County Push Up Totals As Early In-Person Voting Ends

***Republican Ballots Continue To Dominate***

Nearly 16 percent of Oconee County’s registered voters have cast a ballot already for Tuesday’s primary and non-partisan Judicial elections through in-person voting, with a quarter of those casting an early in-person vote doing so on Thursday and Friday.

Rebecca Anglin, Director of Elections and Registration, said wait times had been “upwards of 45 minutes all day long” for early in-person voting on Friday and “average wait time” on Thursday was 25 minutes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Georgia Department of Transportation Asks For Citizen Input On Intersection Improvement At SR 316 And Jimmy Daniell Road

***Dials Mill Intersections Plans Revealed***

The Georgia Department of Transportation on Tuesday announced a virtual presentation and question and answer session for 4 to 6 p.m. on May 26 for the Jimmy Daniell Road and SR 316 Interchange Project.

GDOT also launched a new section on its web site containing information about the planned multi-grade intersection improvement at Jimmy Daniell Road. Construction of the interchange is expected to begin in 2024.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Few Oconee County Voters Opting For Democratic Ballot In Early Voting For May 24 Primary

***Contrast With May 2018 Election***

After 12 days of early voting, 2,516 of Oconee County’s 32,034 registered voters have cast a ballot, with 2,204, or 87.6 percent, using the Republican ballot, and 306, or 12.2 percent, using the Democratic ballot.

At the end of early voting in 2018 in the county, 72.5 percent of the ballots cast were in the Republican Primary, and 26.9 percent were in the Democratic Primary.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

COVID-19 Cases At Area Hospitals Increase; Case Counts In Northeast Health District, Oconee, Clarke Also Up

***Oconee Schools Reports Three New Student Cases***

The Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency reported on Friday that area hospitals had 13 COVID-19 patients, up from the four reported on Friday of last week.

The number of ICU beds in use was 70, up from 58 a week earlier, and the number of adult ventilators in use was 33, up from 31 a week earlier.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

COVID-19 Cases At Area Hospital Remain Low; Clarke County Reports New Death From Disease

***Oconee Schools Reports New Staff Case***

The Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency reported on Friday that area hospitals had four COVID-19 patients, up just one from the three reported on Friday of last week.

The number of ICU beds in use was 58, also up by one from a week earlier, and the number of adult ventilators in use was 31, the same as a week earlier.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Two Candidates At Democratic Party Meeting Offer Different Assessments Of Their Likelihood Of Winning in November

***Few Using Democratic Ballot In Early Primary Voting***

Jeff Auerbach told Oconee County Democrats last month that, as the Democratic Party nominee in the new House District 121, he does not expect to be able to defeat Republican incumbent Marcus Wiedower in his first match-up on Nov. 8.

Auerbach said he had been recruited by the Georgia House Democratic Caucus to run against Wiedower, and he thinks, in the future, he will represent the 121 House District in the Georgia General Assembly. The 121st is made up of  most of Oconee and parts of Clarke counties.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Citizen Tells Oconee County School Board She Is Concerned About Accreditation And Content Of Curriculum

***Board Members Profess Ignorance About Decision***

Suzannah Heimel told the Oconee County School Board during the public comment section of its meeting last month that originally she had planned to come before the Board with prepared comments about accrediting standards and critical race theory.

She said she decided to put aside her initial comments, however, because “the governor has passed a law stating that we cannot teach CRT in our school system.”

Friday, April 29, 2022

Area Hospitals Report Slight Decrease In COVID-19 Cases; Department Of Public Health Reports No Deaths From Disease In NE District

***Oconee And Clarke Have “Probable” COVID Death***

The Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency reported on Friday that area hospitals had three COVID-19 patients, down from six on Friday of last week.

The number of ICU beds in use was 57, the same as a week earlier, and the number of adult ventilators in use was 31, down from 32 a week earlier.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Oconee County Voters Who Request Republican Ballot Will Decide Only Local Race With Competition; Early Voting Starts Monday

***Post 3 For School Board Has Three Contenders***

Oconee County voters who ask for the Republican ballot when early voting for the May 24 primary starts on Monday–or at the voting both on May 24–will get a chance to vote on the only local contest in the election.

Ryan Hammock, Julie Mauck, and Elliott Rogers are seeking the Republican Party nomination for Post 3 on the Oconee County Board of Education.

Those voters selecting the Democratic ballot will be deciding only state and federal contests. State and federal contests will be on the Republican ballot as well.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Oconee County Republican Party Includes Questions Written By County Democrats On Republican Primary Ballot

***GOP Party Leaders Campaign Against Questions They Asked***

Oconee County voters who choose the Democratic ballot in the May 24 primary will get a chance to express their opinions on nonpartisan elections for the county Board of Commissioners and for the county Board of Education.

They also will be asked if they would prefer to have districts for the Board of Commissioners posts, rather than the at-large districts used at present.

Voters who opt for the Republican ballot in the May 24 primary will be asked these same questions, but with a caveat.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Area Hospitals Report Slight Increase In COVID-19 Cases; Clarke County Reports Two New Confirmed Deaths From Disease

***Oconee County Schools Lists New Active Case***

The Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency reported on Friday that area hospitals had six COVID-19 patients, up from four on Friday of last week.

The number of ICU beds in use was 57, compared with 56 a week earlier, and the number of adult ventilators in use was 32, up from 25 a week earlier.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

COVID Cases Increase Slightly In NE Health District, Oconee, Clarke Counties

***Hospital Cases Fall***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 75 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days ending on Friday, up slightly from the 62 cases added last week, based on the Friday Daily Status Report of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The Northeast Health District added seven confirmed deaths from the disease, down from the eight added in the week ending last Friday.

One of the confirmed deaths was in Clarke County.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

COVID-19 Cases Fall Back From Increase Of Week Earlier In Northeast Health District; Oconee, Clarke Report Decreases

***Deaths From Disease, Hospital Cases Down Slightly***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 62 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days ending on Friday, down from the 167 cases added last week, based on the Friday Daily Status Report of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The Northeast Health District added eight confirmed deaths from the disease, down from the 11 added in the week ending last Friday.

One of the confirmed deaths was in Clarke County.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

COVID Case Counts Increase In Northeast Health District; Oconee Reports Slight Decline, While Clarke Reports Large Increase

***Hospital Cases Increase Slightly***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 167 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days ending on Friday, up sharply from the 25 cases added cases last week, based on the Friday Daily Status Report of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The Northeast Health District added 11 confirmed deaths from the disease, the same number added in the week ending last Friday.

One of the confirmed deaths was in Clarke County.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Oconee County Commissioners Agree To Tax Refund For Caterpillar After Confirming Error In Tax Filings

***Comment Period Opened For Cole Springs Road Closing***

Oconee County commissioners gave tentative agreement on Tuesday night to a settlement that will result in a nearly $1.1 million refund to Caterpillar for taxes it mistakenly paid on personal property at its plant in Bogart.

Consistent with an agreement between Oconee and Clarke counties signed in 2012 when Caterpillar decided to move to the site, all tax revenue from the firm is split evenly between the two counties.

As a result, Oconee County and Clarke County each will refund $538,405 to Caterpillar.

Candidate For Lieutenant Governor Told Oconee County Democrats His Top Priority Is Medicaid Expansion

***Criticized Proposed Restrictions On Teaching Of History***

Charlie Bailey told a virtual gathering of Oconee County Democrats earlier this month that he is focusing his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor on healthcare, education, and public safety.

His top priority, he said, is expansion of Medicaid, which he said would not only address problems of healthcare in rural Georgia but also be a boost to the economy of the whole state.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Deaths From COVID-19, Reports Of New Cases, Hospital Cases All Down In Northeast Health District

***Oconee County Schools Again Reports No New Cases***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added only 25 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days ending on Friday, down from 47 added cases last Friday and considerably fewer than the 63 cases added in the bottom of the last wave in July of last year.

The District added 11 confirmed deaths from the disease, down from the 17 added in the week ending last Friday.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Oconee County’s Two State Representatives Split Their Votes On Constitutional Amendment To Increase Legislative Salaries, Pensions

***Senate Votes To Increase Teams To Four Years***

Oconee County’s two representatives to the State House split their votes last week on a resolution that asks voters to decide on a state Constitutional amendment that would significantly increase the salaries for members of the General Assembly.

Houston Gaines, who currently represents Bogart Precinct, Marswood Hall Precinct, and the part of the Civic Center Precinct that was the East Oconee Precinct, voted against the resolution.

Marcus Wiedower, who represents the remainder of the county, voted in favor.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Voter History Files For Candidates For Oconee County School Board Reveal Range of Partisan Voting And Commitment

***Republican Voted Democratic; Independent Voted Republican***

Amy Parrish, the sole qualified Republican for Post 2 on the Oconee County Board of Education, has voted Democratic in one primary, voted Republican in eight, and skipped five primaries since she moved to Oconee County in 2008.

Prior to that, voting in Clarke County, Parrish voted using the Democratic ballot in four of the five primaries in which she participated.

Ryan Repetske, who is seeking to challenge Parrish in November as an Independent, has voted Democratic in two primaries and not voted in five primaries since he began voting in Oconee County in November of 2012.

Friday, March 18, 2022

COVID-19 Case Numbers In Oconee, Clarke Dip Below July 2021 Level; Local Hospital Cases Also Drop To Last Year Lows

***Confirmed Death Count From Disease Remains High***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added only 42 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days ending on Friday, down from 134 cases added last week.

The number of cases added is fewer than the 63 added at the bottom of the last wave of cases in July of last year.

The District added 17 confirmed deaths from the disease, the same as the week before. Deaths have remained high even as the number of cases has fallen dramatically.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Oconee County School Board Awards Bid For Construction At Oconee County Primary School And Oconee County Elementary School

***Internet Filter To Address YouTube Problems***

The Oconee County Board of Education on Monday voted to accept a bid from Kevin Price Construction for $2.4 million for renovation of Oconee County Primary School and Oconee County Elementary School.

Total costs for the work at the two neighboring and linked schools is estimated to be $2.8 million, and funding will come from the Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST) and state Capital Outlay Project allocations.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

COVID Cases Continue To Drop In Northeast Health District; Confirmed Deaths From Disease Remain High But Fall From Week Earlier

***Hospital Cases Continue To Decline***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 134 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days ending on Friday, down from 174 last week, and the lowest number added since 63 cases were added in the week ending on July 2, 2021.

The District added 17 confirmed deaths from the disease, down from the 20 deaths added last Friday. Deaths are a lagging indicator of the disease.

One of the confirmed deaths was in Oconee County and two were in Clarke County.

Two Candidates Qualify As Independents For Oconee County Board Of Education Elections; Six Candidates Now In Races

***Independents Must Submit Signatures For Validation***

Two candidates for the Oconee County Board of Education qualified as Independents on Thursday and Friday, pending verification of nomination petitions.

The two candidates, Ryan Repetske for Post 2 and Melissa Eagling for Post 3, have until July 12 to file nominating petitions with 1,425 signatures of registered voters for each. The county has 31,894 registered voters as of the beginning of the month.

Incumbent Amy Parrish was the sole candidate to qualify as a Republican for Post 2, and three Republicans, Ryan Hammock, Julie Mauck, and Elliott Rogers, qualified for the open Post 3.

No Democrats qualified for any county office.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Oconee County Agrees To Sell Two Buildings Across From Courthouse Declare As Surplus

***Approves Rezone For Car Wash In Butler’s Crossing***

Oconee County accepted bids of $731,250 last week for sale of two properties that are next door to the Courthouse and will be surplus once the county moves its nonjudicial functions to the new county administrative building in June of 2023.

The Board of Commissioners voted to accept a bid of $376,250 for the Elections Office Building, 10 Court Street, on the south side of the Courthouse, and a bid of $355,000 for the Ward Building, on the opposite side of the Courthouse at 3 Third Street.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Walton County Plans To Reapply For Federal Relief Funds For Treatment Plant At Hard Labor Creek Reservoir

***Oconee County Not Asked To Join At Present***

Walton County plans to reapply for federal pandemic relief funds for construction of a water treatment plant at Hard Labor Creek Reservoir, if the state decides to allow for a second round of competition.

Even without the federal funding, the county plans to move forward with construction of a 16 million gallon per day treatment plant, and preliminary design work already has been completed and bond financing lined up.

Walton County plans to go ahead without Oconee County, its partner in the reservoir project, with the idea that Oconee County, which currently does not need water from the reservoir, can decide to participate at some point in the future.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Oconee County’s Legislators In Atlanta Vote With Republican Majority On Education, Gun, COVID Vaccination Bills

***No Action On Okefenokee Protection Bill

Oconee County’s two representatives in the Georgia House voted with the Republican majority last week on three bills that, if passed and signed by the governor, will have impact on Oconee County Schools and on the University of North Georgia.

Republicans Marcus Wiedower and Houston Gaines voted to restrict how teachers handle “divisive concepts,” to allow parents to demand access to and challenge classroom materials used by teachers, and to eliminate “free speech zones” on college campuses.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Early Voting Moves Back To Oconee County Elections Office Because Of Scheduling Conflict At Civic Center

***Precinct Consolidation Now Final***

Early voting for the May 24 primary will be held at the Oconee County Office of Elections and Registration, opposite the Courthouse in Watkinsville, rather than at the Civic Center, where early voting for county elections has been held since November of 2020.

Early voting for the June 21 runoff, if needed, also will be at the Elections and Registration Office, but early voting for the Nov. 8 elections will return to the Civic Center.

Qualifying for Posts 2 and 3 on the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday, also at the Elections and Registration Office.

Friday, March 04, 2022

Number of COVID-19 Cases In Northeast Health District, Oconee, Clarke Counties Drops To Levels Of Last Summer

***Confirmed Deaths From Disease Also Down***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 174 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days ending on Friday, down from 371 last week, and the lowest number added since 63 cases were added in the week ending on July 2, 2021.

The District added 20 confirmed deaths from the disease, down from the 34 deaths added last Friday. Deaths are a lagging indicator of the disease.

Three of the confirmed deaths were in Oconee County and four were in Clarke County.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Oconee Democrats Told They Can Help In State Races By Making The County Less Red

***Candidates For Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner***

Oconee County Democrats do not need to turn the county blue, Jen Jordan, a candidate for Attorney General, said at last month’s party meeting.

They just need to make it a little less red, Jordan said, for the party to have success in statewide elections in November.

To that end, Jordan said, it will be helpful if the party can field candidates for the county Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners races in November, as well as to run in the county’s two state House districts and the county’s state Senate district.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

COVID-19 Cases Continue To Fall In Northeast Health District, Oconee, Clarke Counties, While Deaths From Disease Remain High

***Hospital Cases Continue To Fall***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added only 371 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days ending on Friday, down from 654 cases added last Friday.

The District added 34 confirmed deaths from the disease, down by three from the 37 deaths added last Friday. Deaths are a lagging indicator of the disease.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Walton And Oconee Counties Passed Over In Awards Of Federal Relief Funds For Water And Sewer Projects

***Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Requests Not Granted***

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Tuesday the awarding of just more than $422 million in federally-funded water and sewer grants, passing over requests by Walton County for $115.5 million and by Oconee County for $23.5 million.

Walton County submitted its request for $80 million for construction of a water treatment plant and raw intake pump station for Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir and for $35.5 million for a water transmission system for the treated water.

Oconee Representative Wiedower One Of Eight Republicans On Natural Resources Committee With Funding From Twin Pines Minerals

Firm Seeking Permit For Mining Near Okefenokee

Oconee County Representative Marcus Wiedower is one of eight Republicans on the Georgia House Natural Resources and Environment Committee who have reported receiving a campaign contribution in the last cycle from Twin Pines Minerals, the Birmingham, Ala., firm seeking a permit to surface mine near the Okefenokee Swamp.

Wiedower and four other Republicans on the 24-member Committee also reported receiving campaign funds from the Macon-based Georgia Mining Association Committee for Good Government, which supports state legislation for mining in the state.

Friday, February 18, 2022

COVID-19 Cases In Northeast Health District Drop Dramatically In Last Month, But Deaths From Disease Increase

***Oconee, Clarke Levels Just Above Levels Before Surge***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 654 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days, or only just less than a 10th of the cases added in the week ending on Jan. 21, and down from 1,245 cases added last Friday.

The District, however, added 37 confirmed deaths from the disease, up from 28 last Friday and up from the 17 added on Friday four weeks ago. Deaths are a lagging indicator of the disease.

One of the confirmed deaths was in Oconee County and seven were in Clarke County.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Oconee School Board Approves Redistricting Timeline For New Dove Creek Middle School, With Expectation Plan Will Be Far Reaching

***Plan Likely To Impact Other Schools***

The Oconee County Board of Education on Monday gave Brook Whitmire, Chief Human Resources Officer for Oconee County Schools, the authorization to begin assembling school system leaders to create a redistricting plan for the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.

Whitmire told the Board a week earlier that while the primary purpose of redistricting was “to populate” the new Dove Creek Middle School, “anything is on the table” in terms of redistricting and all schools in the county could be affected by the plan.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Oconee County’s State Legislators Begin Year With Hefty Reserves In Campaign Accounts

***Three Republicans File Campaign Finance Reports***

State Rep. Houston Gaines, fresh off a seven-month fundraising period during which he raised $169,915, has $258,848 available as he enters the 2022 campaign season.

Rep. Marcus Wiedower, who raised $84,900 in the second half of 2021 and first month of 2022, will have $135,704 on hand once the legislature ends its session and the campaign season gets fully underway.

Sen. Bill Cowsert raised $75,285 in the June 30, 2021, to Jan. 31, 2022, period and has $310,108 in his campaign account as of the end of January.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Number Of COVID-19 Drops Again In Northeast Health District, Oconee, Clarke Counties; Deaths From Disease Increase

***Hospital Cases Continue To Fall***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 1,245 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days, representing another large drop in cases from the week before.

The District added 28 confirmed deaths from the disease, however, up from 18 the week earlier. Deaths are a lagging indicator of the disease.

Two of the confirmed deaths were in Oconee County and one was in Clarke County.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Oconee County Schools Issues News Release Announcing Re-Election Candidacy Of Board Member Parrish

***Includes Endorsement By Board Chair***

Oconee County Schools last week sent out a news release to 17 media outlets and journalists announcing that Board of Education Post 2 Member Amy Parrish plans to run for re-election this year.

It also posted the announcement on the front page of Oconee County Schools web site with a link to an inside page containing a picture of Parrish, an endorsement of her by Board Chair Kim Argo, and a biographical sketch of Parrish.

The statement quotes Parrish as saying “I would be honored to continue in this role with such a dedicated Board, as we remain fully committed to the sustained excellence for which Oconee County Schools is known.”

Sunday, February 06, 2022

Oconee County Schools Planning To Begin Work Next Year On New $12.7 Million Instructional Support Center

***Construction To Be Completed In 2024***

Oconee County Schools plans to issue a request for proposals for construction of a New Instructional Support Center on North Main Street in Watkinsville on April 4 of next year, with construction to be completed in July of 2024.

Cost of the 35,000-square-foot building is now estimated at $12.7 million, or more than 50 percent higher than the $8.3 million estimate when the project was planned in 2019.

The Instructional Support Center will be funded entirely by the Educational Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST) approved by voters in March of last year and will be the second most expensive project to be funded by that tax, behind the $34.2 million for the new Dove Creek Middle School.

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Oconee County Commissioners Approve Townley Rezone Requests For Subdivison, Approve Own Rezone For Administrative Building

***Citizens Again Raise Issue of Rentals***

Oconee County Commissioners on Tuesday night, despite opposition from neighbors and a negative vote of the majority of the Planning Commission, approved what amounts to a seven-lot subdivision surrounded by farmland in the west of the county.

The proposal for the subdivision came in the form of two requests by Tony Townley to subdivide two plots of land he owns totaling 15 acres, most of it currently farmland, so he can build houses.

Townley also owns most of the land surrounding the planned residential development, making those seven lots–and future houses–residential nodes in the pastureland surrounding them.

Friday, February 04, 2022

COVID-19 Cases Drop Dramatically In Oconee, Clarke, Northeast Health District; Deaths From Disease Also Down

***Hospital Cases Show Lesser Decline***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 2,442 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days, or less than half the number added in the week ending on Jan. 28.

The District added 18 confirmed deaths from the disease, compared with 34 added in the week ending on Friday of last week.

Three of the confirmed deaths were in Clarke County.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Oconee County Board Of Education Updated On Dove Creek Middle School Construction At Retreat

***Details Remain Sketchy***

The new Dove Creek Middle School will be a two-story building facing Hog Mountain Road just southeast of the existing Dove Creek Elementary School in the far northwest of Oconee County near the Barrow County line.

Parent entrance to and exit from the school will be off Osborne Road, with Drop Off in front of the school.

The bus entrance and exit will be off Hog Mountain Road, using the existing bus entrance and exit now serving Dove Creek Middle School.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Oconee County Finance Director Gives Commissioners Fiscal Update, Says Old SPLOST Accounts Now Exhausted

***Bond Sales For Costco Approved***

Oconee County has now spent all of the funds collected as part of the 2004 and 2009 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes and more than 86 percent of revenue from the tax referendum passed by voters in 2015.

The county has collected $1.3 million from the 2021 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which the county began collecting on Oct. 1 of last year and which will run for six years, but so far it has not spent any of the funds from the tax.

These were some of the messages County Finance Director Wes Geddings had for members of the Board of Commissioners at their Agenda Setting meeting last week.

Candidate For Georgia Secretary Of State Tells Oconee County Democrats November Election Is Crucial For Democracy In Georgia

***Focuses On Republican Candidate Hice***

The Georgia General Assembly, in the 2021 legislative session, gave itself new powers over the operation of local Election Boards and at the same time began using local legislation to change the composition of those Boards.

These two changes, Bee Nguyen said during the Oconee County Democratic Party January meeting, represent a threat to democracy in the state and country.

While the legislature also weakened the role of the Secretary of State, Nguyen said, that office remains important in safeguarding elections in the state.

For that reason, Nguyen said, she is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for Secretary of State in the May 24 primary.

Friday, January 28, 2022

COVID-19 Case Counts Remain High In Northeast Health District, Oconee, Clarke Counties, But Down From A Week Ago

***Oconee Recorded Seven Confirmed COVID Deaths***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 5,078 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days, and 34 confirmed deaths from the disease.

Seven of the confirmed deaths were in Oconee County, and three were in Clarke County.

Last week, the District had added 17 confirmed deaths from the disease.

The average number of added cases per day in the last seven days in the Northeast Health District was 725.4, compared with 917.4 in the seven days ending on Jan. 21.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Oconee County School Board Meets For Six Hours In Retreat In Barrow County But Gives No Record Of Discussion

***Minutes Only List Reports Made To Board***

The Oconee County Board of Education met outside the county at the Georgia Club last Wednesday in a six-hour retreat that had been announced late on the previous Friday.

Minutes from the meeting, which take up less than a page, indicate only that the Board heard presentations from Superintendent Jason Branch and six other school administrators.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Oconee County Planning Commission Recommends Denial Of Rezone Request By Townley For Small Subdivisions In West Of County

***Citizens Express Concerns About Rentals***

Homeowners along Ray’s Church Road and Aycock Road told the Oconee County Planning Commission on Tuesday night they do not like the small subdivisions Tony Townley is planning on the edge of his large land holdings in the west of the county.

They said they are afraid the homes will be rented rather than owned, that the subdivisions will increase the traffic on the roads, and that the development would alter the rural nature of the area.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Northeast Health District, Area Hospitals Report Some Easing Of COVID-19 Cases; Oconee County Schools Cases Increase

***Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths In Oconee, Clarke***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 6,422 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days, and 17 confirmed deaths from the disease.

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

The average number of added cases per day in the last seven days was 917.4 compared with 1,074.6 in the nine days ending on Jan. 14.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Walton County Relief Funds Application Promises Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Water For Economic Development

***Included Possible Customers: Rivian***

Walton County has touted the value of the water in the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir for economic development in a $115.5 application for federal relief funds it has submitted for construction of a water treatment plant and distribution system for the reservoir.

The county submitted the application for the Oct. 31 deadline, and on Dec. 16 Gov. Brian Kemp announced that the state had put together an incentive package to lure electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian to a site straddling the Walton and Morgan county lines along I-20.

The state has not revealed the details of the incentive package for Rivian, but water and sewer are an essential part.

Friday, January 14, 2022

COVID-19 Cases Continue To Increase In Northeast Health District, Oconee, Clarke; Area Hospitals Report COVID Case Increases

***Oconee School Cases Jump***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 9,671 new cases of COVID-19 in the last nine days, and 14 confirmed deaths from the disease.

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

The average number of added cases per day in those nine days was 1,074.6, compared with 815.4 in the first five days of the new year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Citizen Asks Oconee County School Board, State Education Department, To Investigate Relief Funds Spending By Schools

***Other Citizens Praise, Criticize Board***

John Phillips told the Oconee County Board of Education on Monday that Oconee County Schools is out of compliance with requirements for use of federal relief funds and called on the Board to investigate.

On Tuesday morning, Phillips filed a complaint with the Georgia Department of Education, which administers the federal funds, also asking for an investigation to “determine if there has been fraud, waste, and abuse” at Oconee County Schools.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Oconee Commissioners Weigh In On Need For Reform Of Annexation Laws In State

***Citizen Speaks Again About SR 316 Transformation***

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell told his colleagues last week that Oconee County has had few problems involving annexation.

Daniell said he nonetheless recommended that the Board ask the Georgia General Assembly in its session that officially started Monday to reform its dispute resolution procedures for annexation.

The Board responded with a unanimous vote to ask the legislature to pass legislation that balances “the oftentimes conflicting interests among counties, cities, incorporated and unincorporated citizens, and developers seeking different land uses through annexation.”

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Conflicting Positions On Partisan Nature Of School Board Elections Confront Oconee County Legislative Delegates

***Legislation Could Surface In Session Starting Monday***

Oconee County’s three state legislators will face a tough choice if a bill seeking to make all school board elections in the state nonpartisan comes before them when they return to Atlanta for the General Assembly session that starts on Monday.

Kathy Hurley, chair of the Oconee County Republic Party, said the local party would like to keep Oconee County school board elections partisan, saying that in the current political environment “there is no such thing as a nonpartisan election.”

Friday, January 07, 2022

Northeast Health District Added 4,077 New COVID-19 New Cases In First Five Days Of New Year; Average Cases Per Day Increases

***Are Hospitals Report Big Jump In Cases***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 4,077 new cases of COVID-19 in the first five days of 2022, and four confirmed deaths from the disease.

The average number of added cases per day in those first five days was 815.4, compared with 663.4 in the seven days ending on Dec. 31.

The Georgia Department of Public Health did not release its usual Daily Status Report on either Thursday or Friday, citing unspecified problems with its Electronic Laboratory Reporting system.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Freedom From Religion Foundation Closes Complaint Against Oconee County Schools After School Attorney Says Display Corrected

***OCS Response To Aug. 23 Complaint Dated Jan. 4***

The Freedom From Religion Foundation on Wednesday closed the file of a complaint against Oconee County Schools in August of last year for a religious display at Oconee County Middle School.

Phillip L. Hartley, attorney for Oconee County Schools, informed the Foundation on Tuesday that the display in question was part of a larger display by student groups.

Hartley said Oconee County Schools had not identified the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as the student group sponsoring the display “and that has now been corrected.”

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Georgia Transportation Department Planning Public Outreach On SR 316 Intersection Upgrades

***Dates Not Yet Set***

The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning meetings both with local officials and with the public this spring to discuss interchange improvements along SR 316 in Oconee County.

Details of these meetings, which remain incomplete, were first announced by SueAnne Decker, District preconstruction engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) at a MACORTS Technical Coordinating Committee meeting on Oct. 27.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Freedom From Religion Foundation Evaluating Nonresponse By Oconee County Schools To Complaint About Religious Display

***Schools Acknowledge Receipt Of Foundation Request***

Attorneys at the Freedom From Religion Foundation are weighing how to respond to a lack of response from Oconee County Schools to a request that it remove a religious display at Oconee County Middle School.

The national foundation based in Madison, Wisc., wrote to Oconee County Schools Superintendent Jason Branch in August and again in late October asking him to reply and to indicate what he did “to remedy this constitutional violation.”

Saturday, January 01, 2022

COVID-19 Cases Triple in Northeast Health District In Last Week; Area Hospitals Report Large Increase In Patients With Disease

***Oconee, Clarke Report Near Record Numbers Of Cases***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 4,644 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Friday, just more than three times the number added in the week ending on Dec. 24.

On Dec. 24, the number of cases had increased by just less than three times (2.8) over the week earlier.

The Northeast Health District added 11 deaths, compared with 13 a week earlier. One of those added deaths was of a 43-year-old woman in Clarke County without a chronic condition.