Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Traffic Engineer Says County Should Not Allow Full Access Intersection On Oconee Connector For Proposed Shopping Center

***Also Recommends Roundabout On Mars Hill Road***

Based on current guidelines from the Georgia Department of Transportation and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, a full access intersection from the Oconee Connector should not be allowed for the proposed shopping center at the Connector and Mars Hill Road.

The intersection of the Oconee Connector and SR 316 already has crash rates and injury crash rates significantly higher than the statewide average.

As a result, a full-access intersection would work against the county’s desire to maintain long-term safe and efficient traffic operation on the Oconee Connector.

A roundabout is needed at the proposed full-access entrance to the shopping center off Mars Hill Road.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Legislation To Increase Oconee County Homestead Exemption Awaits Drafting In Legislative Counsel, County Chair Says

***Legislative Delegates Have Not Responded***

Although Oconee County’s three state legislators have been unwilling to confirm, the Board of Commissioner’s request for legislation to increase the county’s property tax homestead exemption is in the queue with the General Assembly’s Legislative Counsel, Board Chair John Daniell said on Friday.

County Attorney Daniel Haygood also said on Friday that he was aware that the request had been submitted to Legislative Counsel, but he had not yet heard from Counsel.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Owner Of Land For Proposed Oconee Crossing Shopping Center Asks Court To Set Aside County’s Denial Of Rezone Request

***Claims Rights From 1990 Rezone***

Donald Hammett, contending that the Oconee County Board of Commissioners ignored his “vested rights” in the nearly 43 acres he wants to develop as Oconee Crossing Shopping Center, has filed suit to overturn the county’s denial of his rezone request.

Hammett said that he obtained his “vested rights” to develop the property as it was rezoned in 1990 when he purchased the property on the southeast corner of U.S. 78 and Hog Mountain Road in 2005.

Friday, January 27, 2023

COVID-19 Cases In NE Health District Drop For Fourth Week; Eight Confirmed Deaths From Disease Reported

***Two Of Confirmed Deaths From Disease In Clarke***

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported eight new confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in the Northeast Health District in its report on Wednesday, including two in Clarke County.

The Department of Public Health reported seven confirmed deaths from the disease in the Northeast Health District on Wednesday of last week, and seven the week before that.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Oconee Commissioners To Seek Citizen Comment On Preliminary Multi-Use Trails Master Plan

***Date For Input Still To Be Set***

Oconee County citizens will get a chance in the coming months to comment on preliminary plans for a multi-use trail system for the county that could be funded in part with money from the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved by voters in November.

The centerpiece of the plan is what is termed the Main Loop that would wind around the northern part of the county, connecting Hog Mountain Road, Malcom Bridge Road, Rocky Branch Road, Mars Hill Road, and Daniells Bridge Road.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Oconee County Elections Director Reviews Recent Elections, Discusses Plans For Future

***Also Praises Staff And Voters***

Sharon Gregg, who took over as director of Elections and Registration in Oconee County in September, introduced herself to Oconee County Democrats last week with a report on the November and December elections and tips on things to come.

Gregg said the two elections took place without any glitches and that turnout was high.

“The longest anyone waited in line was 20 minutes,” Gregg said referring to the December 6 runoff. “And that is great. We had people just swarming in. I love it. I love it when people want to vote.”

Monday, January 23, 2023

Oconee Legislators Wiedower, Gaines, Cowsert Get Top Committee Assignments In Georgia General Assembly

***Okefenokee Swamp Issue Impacts Wiedower’s Committee***

Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns last week appointed Oconee County’s state Rep. Marcus Wiedower chair of the General Government subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee when he announced new committee assignments for the current House session.

Burns also appointed Oconee County’s other state representative, Houston Gaines, as vice chair of the subcommittee on Higher Education.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Oconee County Recreation Advisory Committee Approves Proposal For Upgrade To Heritage Park

***Proposal Offered For Equine Events***

Amanda McCoy says that the covered arena at Oconee County’s Heritage park is in disrepair and underutilized and that she has a plan to change that.

A self-described “horse lady,” McCoy appeared before the Board of Commissioners back in November with suggestions on how to make the facility more usable for horse events.

McCoy followed that up with a presentation last week before the county’s Recreation Advisory Committee, of which she is a member.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

COVID-19 Cases In NE Health District Drop For Third Week; Seven Confirmed Deaths From Disease Reported, Same As Last Week

***Two Of Confirmed Deaths From Disease In Clarke***

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported seven new confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in the Northeast Health District in its report on Wednesday, including two in Clarke County.

The Department of Public Health also had reported seven confirmed deaths from the disease on Wednesday of last week.

The Department of Public Health also reported that the Northeast Health District added 494 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Jan. 18, based on the Department’s electronic tracking system.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Meeting Called To Develop New Request Of Oconee School Board For Adding Religious Instruction Into School Day

***Mars Hill Baptist Church Is Venue***

Julie Mauck has called a meeting of interested local citizens for 6 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) at Mars Hill Baptist Church to develop a new plan for incorporating Christian instruction into the curriculum of Oconee County Schools.

Working with LifeWise Academy, Mauck plans to ask the Board to allow K-5 students at Oconee County Schools to leave their campuses during regular school hours for Bible-based instruction.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Oconee County’s Republican Legislative Candidates Spent More Per Vote Received Than Democratic Candidates, Campaign Reports Show

***Republicans Also Gave Money Away***

The three Republicans who are representing Oconee County in the General Assembly session that got underway last week received just more than 63 percent of the votes cast in the three multi-county districts that selected them.

They won their seats after receiving 88 percent of the campaign funds raised during the election year in the three districts and accounting for just less than 81 percent of the campaign spending during the year in those districts.

Even with the high levels of spending, the three were so successful at fund raising that they ended the year with just a little less than 100 percent of the unspent campaign funds.

Weather Has Created Problems For Dove Creek Middle School Construction, Oconee School Board Told

***Board Also Told All Schools Under Capacity***

Fred Ricketson, Director of Facilities for Oconee County Schools, didn’t sound the alarm at the first meeting of the year of the Oconee County Board of Education.

But he did tell the Board that the weather has caused delays in construction of the system’s new Dove Creek Middle School, planned to open for the next academic year, and that “dry warm weather will do us a lot of favors.”

Ricketson’s report was one of many to the Board on Monday, which merged the usual work and regular sessions of the Board into the single meeting for the month.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

COVID Case Count In Northeast Health District Drops Slightly For Second Week

***State No Longer Reporting Hospital Data***

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported seven new confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in the Northeast Health District in its report on Wednesday, up from the four reported a week earlier.

The Department of Public Health also reported that the Northeast Health District added 664 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Jan. 11, based on the Department’s electronic tracking system.

That number of added cases on Jan. 4 was 729, and on it Dec. 28 was 758. The decline is the first going back to Nov. 30.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Boswell Is Seeking Reappointment To The Georgia Transportation Board

***Oconee Legislators Will Join Caucus To Decide***

Jamie Boswell, President and owner of the Boswell Group, which includes insurance, real estate and appraisal companies, has confirmed that he will ask area legislators to appoint him to a new five-year term on the State Transportation Board.

Boswell’s term expires on April 15, and state law requires that members of the Transportation Board be elected by a majority vote of the members of the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate “whose respective districts are embraced or partly embraced within” the Congressional District.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Oconee County Commissioners Take First Step Toward Increasing Homestead Property Tax Exemption, Freezing Assessments At Age 65

***Legislature, Local Citizens Will Have To Approve***

Oconee County commissioners are asking the county’s state legislative delegation to help it increase the homestead exemption as a way to decrease homeowner property taxes and freeze property tax assessments for persons once they turn 65 years of age.

The commissioners passed a resolution at their meeting on Tuesday calling on the legislators to introduce bills in the General Assembly this year that would allow for a referendum in 2024 on the homestead exemption and the freezing of assessments.

The changes in the property taxes would reduce county and school revenue, and Board of Education Chair Kim Argo said the School Board does not intend to pass a resolution making the request of the legislators but it supports the changes proposed by the county.

Saturday, January 07, 2023

COVID Cases At Area Hospitals Continue To Increase: NE Health District Case Count Falls Slightly

***Oconee, Clarke Report Confirmed Death From Disease***

The Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency reported on Friday that area hospitals had 64 COVID-19 patients, up from 52 on Friday of last week and the highest number of cases since February of last year.

The number of ICU beds in use on Friday was 76, down from 80 a week earlier, and the number of adult ventilators in use was 28, down from 32 last Friday.

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported four new confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in the Northeast Health District in its report on Wednesday, including one in Oconee County and one in Clarke County.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Oconee County Had Highest Turnout In State In December Runoff And November General Election

***Also Largest Gap Between Kemp And Walker Vote***

Oconee County ranked number 1 in the state in turnout in the December runoff election, as it has in the last four state-wide elections going back to November of 2020.

Oconee County retained its top ranking in terms of the percentage of active voters who cast a ballot in December despite a drop-off of 8.4 percentage points in turnout from the vote in November.