Friday, March 31, 2023

Oconee County Commissioners Agree On Revised Funding For Sheriff’s Office Vehicles And For New Fire Truck

***Kiosks For Tax Commissioner Also Approved***

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office got eight new law enforcement vehicles, properly equipped, a year ahead of schedule.

Fire Station Number 1 will get its ordered Air Truck at an additional cost of $20,259, bringing the total cost to $269,810.

Supply chain problems forced the county to find a new supplier of the chassis for the truck, which is now being outfitted for the station on the north of Watkinsville.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Local Oconee County Legislation, District Attorney Oversight, Ban On Gas Powered Leaf Blowers, Part Of Final Days Of General Assembly

***Watkinsville Gets Authority***

In the last two days of the legislative session, which ended on Wednesday, the Georgia House and Senate agreed to create an oversight commission for district attorneys, with the support of Oconee County’s legislators, who had championed the effort.

The General Assembly didn’t agree to make district attorney races nonpartisan, to make it easier to recall the district attorney, or to move Banks County from the Piedmont Judicial Circuit, perhaps putting into motion transfer of Oconee to the Piedmont Circuit.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Legislation For Oconee County Homestead Exemption Referendums Includes Complex Ballot Language

***All 10 Referendums Must Pass***

Oconee County voters will confront a hodgepodge of 10 ballot items next May when they vote on efforts to revise the county’s homestead exemptions and freeze property tax assessments for homeowners who have turned 65.

Four of the 10 items repeal or change existing laws, and six enact new ones.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Georgia Senate Has Two Days To Vote On Local Legislation For Oconee County Commissioners And Watkinsville Mayor And Council

***Bills Cleared House Last Week***

The Georgia House of Representatives passed 11 pieces of local legislation last week sponsored by Oconee County representatives Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower with votes in each case of 162 to 0.

The House sent the bills immediately to the Georgia Senate, where they have been reviewed favorably by that body’s State and Local Government Operations Committee.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Oconee County Planning Commission Approves Redesigned Research Quarter Commercial Subdivision On Virgil Langford Road

***Access To Connector Removed From Plans***

Land Planner Ken Beall, appearing before the Oconee County Planning Commission on Monday evening, told that group something that those who drive along the Oconee Connector as it crosses SR Loop 10 toward Epps Bridge Centre know quite well.

Beall said that his clients' 22.7 acre property east of the Connector between Virgil Langford Road and the Loop had been clearcut and is sitting undeveloped. The wood piles and open space are hard to miss.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Northeast Health District Reports Slight Uptick In COVID-19 Cases

***New Confirmed Death From Disease In Oconee***

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported that the Northeast Health District added 135 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on March 22, based on the Department’s electronic tracking system.

That number of cases added a week earlier had been 105.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Oconee County Town Hall Meeting Bought Out Advocates For Wide Range Of Uses Of County Parks

***Horse Crowd Dominated***

One could score the Town Hall Meeting that the Oconee County Board of Commissioners held on Tuesday evening at the Civic Center this way:

Horses: 10 speakers

Sports Fields: 7 speakers

Pool: 5 speakers

Rails to Trails: 3 speakers

Pickleball and Oconee Parks Foundation: 2 speakers each

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

GDOT Reconsidering Plans For SR 316 Interchanges at McNutt Creek Road, Dials Mill Road, Dials Mill Extension, Julian Drive

***Oconee Commission Chair Reports***

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is considering changes to its plans for the McNutt Creek Road intersection with SR 316, switching from a flyover to a full access multi-grade intersection.

At the same time, GDOT is re-evaluating, in response to citizen input, its proposed intersection designs for Dials Mill Road and Dials Mill Extension with SR 316.

The planned flyover of Julian Drive of SR 316 also is being reassessed.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Oconee Legislators Begin Final Days Of Deliberations In Atlanta On Bills of Local Interest

***District Attorney Bill At Top Of List***

As the General Assembly heads into its final five days on Monday, decisions on legislation for which the Oconee County delegation has played prominent roles remain to be resolved.

Included are laws designed to create an oversight body for district attorneys and legislation to legalize some form of sports betting.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Oconee County Bus Drivers Tell School Board Their Concerns Are Not Being Heard

***Say Pay, Staffing Problems To Be Addressed***

Terry Radford, representing the bus drivers of Oconee County Schools, told the Board at its meeting on Monday that he was before them to talk about something he did not think they wanted to hear.

“We're the number one county in the state as far as the schools go,” Radford said, repeating a statement Superintendent Jason Branch makes often and made in his report to the Board at its work session a week earlier.

Friday, March 17, 2023

At Least Four Oconee County Subdivisions Hit With Anti-Semitic Flyers

***Sheriff Hale Exploring Options For Charges***

Oconee County Sheriff James Hale said on Friday afternoon his office is investigating the distribution of anti-Semitic flyers early Thursday in subdivisions in the county.

Residents of Daniell Plantation, Twelve Oaks, Lake Wellbrook, and Welbrook Farms all reported having the flyers thrown on their driveways or porches and put into the mailboxes over night.

Georgia Department Of Public Heath Reported 105 New COVID Cases In Northeast Health District, Down Sharply From Last Two Weeks

***Three New Confirmed Deaths From Disease Reported***

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported that the Northeast Health District added 105 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on March 15, based on the Department’s electronic tracking system.

That number of added cases each of the previous two weeks had been 165.

Oconee County reported nine fewer cases than it reported a week earlier, while Clarke County reported two more cases than a week earlier.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Oconee Representatives Can Introduce Legislation To Change Oconee County Homestead Exemptions After Thursday Legal Notices

***State Making One-Time Exemption This Year***

Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower, who represent Oconee County in the Georgia House of Representatives, will be able to introduce legislation on Monday allowing county voters to decide whether to increase the homestead exemption for county and school property taxes.

They also will be in a position to allow voters to decide if they want to freeze property tax assessments for persons once they turn 65 years of age.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Zaxby’s Plan For Corporate Campus In Oconee County Nixed As Firm Moves Corporate Offices To Metro Atlanta

***Enterprise Reports Move Expected In Early 2024***

In 2015, Zaxby’s proposed to build a $42 million corporate campus on Daniells Bridge Road just west of its current corporate offices on Founders Boulevard.

The campus was to include corporate offices, test kitchens, educational areas, a cafeteria, a Zaxby’s private restaurant, employee gymnasium, and employee daycare facilities.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Boswell Gets New Five-Year Term Representing Oconee County On State Transportation Board

***GDOT Makes Announcement***

Athens commercial realtor Jamie Boswell has been reappointed as District 10 Representative to the Georgia Transportation Board.

A caucus of state representatives and senators whose districts include at least part of the 10th Congressional District selected Boswell in a meeting on February 21 or Feb. 22.

No record of the deliberation or candidates considered is public.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Dentist To Be Displaced By GDOT Seeking To Relocate To Residential Lot On Mars Hill Road Near Oconee Connector

***Plans Not Yet Filed With County***

Dr. Brent Nail, whose existing Virgil Langford Road dental office is in the path of the planned new westbound on-ramp to SR 316 from the Oconee Connector, is holding an open house on Thursday to outline plans for his replacement facility.

The location that Nail has selected for his new office is a nearly three-acre lot at 2521 Mars Hill Road that currently has a single-family home on it and is zoned residential.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Georgia Department Of Public Heath Reported 165 New COVID Cases In Northeast Health District–Both Last Week And This

***No New Confirmed Deaths From Disease Reported***

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported that the Northeast Health District added 165 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on March 8, based on the Department’s electronic tracking system.

The number of added cases a week earlier–on March 1–also had been 165.

Oconee County reported adding two more cases than it reported adding a week earlier, while Clarke County reported adding 17 fewer cases.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Suit Filed To Overturn County Denial Of Rezone Request For Shopping Center On Oconee Connector At Mars Hill Road

***Suit Anticipated At Rezone Hearing***

As threatened, attorney David Ellison, representing Deferred Tax LLC, has filed suit in Oconee Superior Court asking the Court to overturn the denial of a rezone request for a shopping center with a Publix at the Oconee Connector and Mars Hill Road.

Ellison argues in the suit that Deferred Tax LLC, owned by Maxie Price, has a right to have a full commercial access to the property as a result of agreements with the county and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Bids For New Oconee County Schools Instructional Support Center Come In Much Higher Than Earlier Estimates

***Bids For Elementary School Addition Under Estimate***

Oconee County Schools Superintendent Jason Branch recommended on Monday that the School Board accept a construction bid of $14.5 million the new Instructional Support Center in Watkinsville.

The recommended bid for the Instructional Support Center is $6.2 million more than the estimated cost of the facility in 2019 and $1.8 million more than the cost estimate given to the Board in January of 2022.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Oconee Commissioners Vote To Settle Suit Filed By Landowner Who Wants To Build Oconee Crossing Shopping Center

***Rejected Rezone Will Come Back For Vote***

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners, in a 3 to 1 vote on Tuesday night, approved a settlement with Donald Hammett that will allow construction of Oconee Crossing Shopping Center on U.S. 78 at Hog Mountain Road.

Hammett will have to return to the Board of Commissioners with a new concept plan for the shopping center, and the Board will have to vote again on the rezone request by Hammett it turned down in October.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Oconee Legislators Play Prominent Roles In Crossover Day Voting In Atlanta

***Gambling Bills Fail In Both House And Senate***

Oconee County Rep. Houston Gaines on Monday voted for a bill that would increase the weight of some types of commercial trucks on the local and state roads from 80,000 to 88,000 pounds, while Oconee County’s Rep. Marcus Wiedower voted against the bill.

Gaines and Wiedower voted in favor of a bill to set up an oversight commission for district attorneys and in favor of a bill limiting the ability of city and county governments to impose a temporary moratorium on zoning decisions or issuance of permits.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Oconee County Democrats Offer District Attorney Gonzalez Opportunity To Respond To Legislation Introduced In General Assembly

***Also Discusses Criticism In Media***

The dissension that has surrounded Democrat Deborah Gonzalez since she forced and then won an election for district attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit consisting of Oconee and Clarke counties in 2020 has intensified in recent weeks.

At the beginning of the current legislative session, Rep. Houston Gaines and Sen. Bill Cowsert, who represent Oconee County in the Georgia General Assembly, co-sponsored bills that would create an oversight committee to monitor the work of district attorneys. Each bill now has received a positive vote in the respective chamber.

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Department of Public Health Reports Sharp Drop In COVID-19 Case Count For Northeast Health District

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

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported that the Northeast Health District added 165 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on March 1, based on the Department’s electronic tracking system.

That number of added cases a week earlier on Feb. 22 had been 470.

Both Oconee County and Clarke County reported decreases in cases.

Friday, March 03, 2023

Bill To Protect Okefenokee Swamp Still In House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment As Deadline For Action Nears

***Oconee Rep. Wiedower Sits On Committee***

Georgia House Bill 71, introduced on Jan. 24 by Thomasville Republican Darlene Taylor, generated a lot of attention by groups around the state seeking to protect the Okefenokee Swamp from nearby mining.

The Georgia River Network, based in Athens and with many followers in Oconee County, urged its members to write their legislators in support of the bill.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Oconee County Commission Accepts Bid For Additional Road Work At Malcom Bridge Road Elementary And Middle School Campus

***Goal Is To Remove Deputies From Roadways***

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners at its agenda-setting meeting on Tuesday night decided to move forward with postponed plans to reconstruct Malcom Bridge Road at the entrances to Malcom Bridge Elementary and Malcom Bridge Middle schools.

The goal of the changes, Board Chair John Daniell said, is to remove the deputies from the roadway at the entrances to the schools for the safety of the deputies.

The project will add a median along Malcom Bridge from the roundabout at the bus driveway north and south past the entrances for the elementary and middle schools.