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.