Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 2/14 – 2/21

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

 

Voter Security Reform Legislation – Non-citizen ID Should Not Be “Proper ID” at Georgia polls

Politics

Written And Submitted By: State Representative Charlice Byrd

 

The right to vote in a free and fair election is fundamental to our civil society.  This sacred right, upon which our democracy rests, cannot be taken for granted, nor can we afford for it to be eroded away by a lack of confidence in our elections.  I, like so many other Georgians, believe that we have an obligation to do everything possible to ensure election security and integrity.   

 

There are many policy solutions being discussed to make Georgia’s elections the most secure in the country. I offer a simple, commonsense solution to add another degree of security to the actual voting process.  A simple clarification to Georgia’s voter ID code and clearly marking “NOT VOTER ID” on driver’s licenses issued to non-citizens.  This will help alleviate the pressure and confusion of poll workers and election volunteers.   

 

Many Georgians may be surprised to learn Georgia issues a driving and official ID credential to non-citizens that are nearly identical to what many voters use as their official ID to vote.  The only difference in appearance from mine are the words “LIMITED TERM” across the top in capital letters.

 

Furthermore, there is nothing in state law that prohibits these non-citizen driver’s licenses or ID cards to be used as “proper identification/photo ID” for voting purposes.  This may have been an oversight, but many are convinced this loophole in voter ID security should be closed without delay. 

 

Currently, the law says that “proper identification” for presentation to a poll worker when voting consist of a Georgia driver’s license, a valid Georgia voter identification card “or other valid identification card issued by a branch, department, agency, or entity of the State of Georgia, any other state, or the United States authorized by law to issue personal identification, provided that such identification card contains a photograph of the elector.” 

 

The law also allows for acceptance of valid U.S. passports, government employee photo ID, a valid tribal identification card containing a photograph of the elector and military identification.  The law does not explicitly exclude the driver’s licenses or ID cards the Department of Drivers Services (DDS) issues to non-citizens of any description.  

 

The Motor Voter Registration system in use in Georgia has proven to be less than perfect in other states.  To be clear, Motor Voter has allowed non-citizens to register to vote around the nation according to reports in the Associated Press and NPR and the Pew Center.  This obvious and needless loophole in Georgia law needs to be fixed.  

 

I have introduced HB 228 to fix this loophole, (OCGA 21-2-417 ) which deals with “Presentation of identification to poll workers; form of proper identification;…”  to add language to specifically exclude from acceptance the driver’s licenses and ID cards issued to non-citizens.  The legislation will also change current law to require DDS to add the phrase “BEARER NOT U.S. CITIZEN – NOT VOTER ID” to all driver’s licenses and ID cards issued to non-citizens. This will help remove the possibility of confusion or accidental acceptance in the voting process in future elections.

 

Rep Charlice Byrd represents District 20 in the Georgia House of Representatives. 

[email protected]

##

 

 

 

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 2/7 – 2/14

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

UPS Store hiring in E. Ellijay Georgia

News

Criminal threats precede discussion of proposed Code of Civility

City Council, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Criminal Threat, Censure, Conduct, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, David Syfan, Code of Civility, David Ralston, Speaker, House of Representatives

Blue Ridge, Ga. – As the Blue Ridge City Council discussed revising the Rules and Procedures of its meetings, conflict erupted over the newly proposed Code of Civility presented by Council Member Mike Panter.

During a very heated discussion, it was also revealed by Council Member Nathan Fitts that Panter had allegedly made criminal threats against him.

Panter read from a letter sent to council regarding the review of the City’s Charter and the recommendations that were being made based on a committee that had been formed for the review.

Along with the committee Panter said input had been taken from several sources including Donna Thompson, who runs a local governmental accountability group, current and previous council members, a local attorney, business owners and residents.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Criminal Threat, Censure, Conduct, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, David Syfan, Code of Civility, David Ralston, Speaker, House of Representatives

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Criminal Threat, Censure, Conduct, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, David Syfan, Code of Civility, David Ralston, Speaker, House of Representatives

City of Blue Ridge proposed Code of Civility Policy

Panter did point out that prior to reading his letter to the council, the letter itself had already been leaked to the public.

Later Council Member Rhonda Haight would question this remark asking Panter, “Do you have a problem with the public knowing what we are doing?”

Panter pointed out that as far as the Rules and Procedures of council meetings, previous City Attorney David Syfan had drafted an ordinance that would still be in compliance with the City Charter. 

In an effort to save tax dollars Panter suggested that the city vote on the adoption of this particular ordinance instead of paying more attorney fees to have new ordinances written: “I think we should readopt this ordinance which was done away with by previous council.” 

“It (vote to adopt ordinance) was moved a few months later because evidently the council didn’t like what he came up with and they just threw it away,” Panter explained of the ordinance drafted by Syfan and why it was not already put in place.

“I’m totally great with that ordinance that David wrote,” Haight said, adding, “I thought it was wonderful. He did a great job.”

Haight did have concerns over the Code of Civility section Panter was presenting and expressed these concerns.

According to the Code of Civility section, a council member would be asked to resign or a vote could take place for the elected official’s removal after receiving two censures.

This section of the Code of Civility came directly on the heels of a censure of Council Member Nathan Fitts. Earlier in the same meeting, Panter had brought forth a censure against Fitts for “continuous inappropriate conduct”.

Haight felt this particular item in the Code of Civility would be in violation of the City’s Charter since evidentiary hearings would need to take place for a censure vote and no evidentiary hearing was given to Fitts previously that night.

Panter replied to Haight,  “Our charter says that we have the right to remove an elected official.”

“For wrongdoing,” Fitts retorted to Panter’s comment.  “The only person that has violated state and local law is you and Ms. Whitener.”

Incivility ensued as Mayor Donna Whitener questioned Fitts over his accusations against her. After a brief period of numerous calls to and points of order, discussion continued over the proposed code.

Haight pointed out that the Code of Civility was also attempting to limit the council’s transparency. 

The Code states of council that:

“There should be no public statements, letters to the editor or on social media or with an organization, advertisements, emails, texts or announcements regarding official city business without Council approval.”

“As a public official I have every right to tell the public what we are doing. I have every right to post on social media what we are doing,” Haight spoke to Panter, “I will never vote on this as it is.” 

Council Member Fitts agreed with Haight that the Code of Civility needs attempts to limit the transparency of local government and needs further review.

Fitts also pointed out the hypocrisy of Panter in not only introducing the Code of Civility but also for the censure that Panter brought forth earlier in the evening. 

“You made a criminal threat to me and Ms. Haight this week and said that you were going to drag me out of the council meeting by the hair and beat me up,” Fitts made public the alleged threat by fellow Council Member Panter. “You need to practice what you preach.”

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Criminal Threat, Censure, Conduct, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, David Syfan, Code of Civility, David Ralston, Speaker, House of Representatives

Former Blue Ridge City Attorney R David Syfan

Fitts and Haight have both personally sought legal advice from former Blue Ridge City Attorney David Syfan regarding any proposed new ordinances. Both Fitts and Haight are personally paying Syfan for his help.

“This will not be charged to the city,” Haight made clear her and Fitts personal financial responsibility to Syfan.

Current City Attorney James Balli, according to Haight is not trained in municipal law, where Syfan is.

Panter, who is the newest elected official to the council, questioned why Syfan was let go in the first place.

Leading both Haight and Fitts to agree that Balli was hired solely on the recommendation of Mayor Whitener.

Fitts went into further detail with Haight backing up his recollection of events. 

Fitts stated of the reason for Balli’s hire, “She (Whitener) said that because Speaker Ralston was from Blue Ridge and that Mr. Balli was his pick. She said that Blue Ridge would get stuff that we would not get otherwise and that’s why she asked us to choose Mr. Balli.”

Whitener replied that Fitts and Haight’s claims were “more misinformation” and that council had a chance to vote no.

The Rules and Procedures Ordinance along with the Code of Civility will be discussed and reworked before vote will be taken on its adoption.

Fitts censured for creating hostile work environment

City Council, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Censure, Conduct, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, David Syfan, Hostile Work Environment

Blue Ridge, Ga. – In a split vote ultimately decided by the Mayor, Blue Ridge City Council went on record with a censure of Council Member Nathan Fitts for continuous inappropriate conduct leading to council’s inability to perform their duties.

While not on the agenda, Fitts asked at the beginning of the meeting to be heard before Council Member Mike Panter presented his case for the censure. Panter agreed to Fitts speaking.

Fitts read a letter from his personal attorney, also former Blue Ridge City Attorney, David Syfan. This letter laid out that beyond the censure not being handled in a proper legal manner, it is also a violation of Fitts constitutional rights since it attempts to void Fitts of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

The letter stated in part : “Just because Fitts is an elected official does not mean that he has lost his First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Mr. Fitts would have full and complete right to express his opinion as to whether the Mayor has followed the City Charter and also express his opinion as to whether the Mayor has violated the conflict of interest provisions of the City Charter.”

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Censure, Conduct, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, David Syfan, Hostile Work Environment

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Censure, Conduct, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, David Syfan, Hostile Work Environment

Full letter from attorney David Syfan

“By bringing violations out in public meetings it compromises his (Panter) and the Mayor’s re-election plans,” Fitts said of the proposed censure and added, “I am very disappointed in every council member that sits back and covers up these violations.”

Fitts accused Panter of caring more about alliances and personal gain than doing his elected duty to the citizens of Blue Ridge and specifically pointed to the recent sale of private property by Mayor Donna Whitener calling the censure a “blatant attempt to cover up for the mayor”.

“I will be first to admit that I have been a part of the meetings becoming unprofessional but every other council member sitting in them has been equally guilty,” Fitts said of his own actions, adding,  “I will continue to do my job as an elected official and I will continue to call out any violation. I was elected by the citizens in Blue Ridge and I will continue to do my duty until they decide to replace me.”

When Fitts concluded, Council Member Mike Panter read a letter from current City Attorney James Balli. Balli stated that if the censure “does not impose any punishment or attempt to take any official action to reduce one’s elected authority” then it could be voted upon without an evidentiary hearing.

“I would prefer executive session if that were possible, however, with multiple conversations with legal counsel the only way to approach this matter is that censure of Nathan Fitts be included on the agenda and presented publicly,” Panter spoke of his decision to bring the item forward.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Censure, Conduct, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, David Syfan, Hostile Work Environment

Council Member Mike Panter reads motion to censure Council Member Nathan Fitts.

Panter stated that throughout his life and career he has sat on numerous boards and has worked with various organizations and had never experienced behavior like that demonstrated by fellow Council Member Fitts.

Panter added that he had witnessed and had been told of multiple situations regarding Fitts’s conduct toward City employees and the general public. According to Panter there have been “outbursts, personal attacks and unprofessional behavior” all of which is unacceptable and makes doing daily jobs impossible.

Council Member Rhonda Haight pointed out that Panter is also pushing a policy that states any Council Member who receives two censures may be removed, effectively meaning that the current censure could in fact hold punishment against Fitts.

Haight stated that according to the City Charter and the proposed policy by Panter, this censure should have an evidentiary hearing.

Panter interrupted Haight several times as she questioned his process. Finally Haight pointed out to Panter, “You are being rude right now and that is what you are trying to say that Nathan is doing but you’re being rude to me.”

Haight also said that she spoke to several City employees regarding the accusations made against Fitts and there was an overwhelming consensus among them that they wanted no part in the process.

Panter made the motion to censure Fitts on the grounds of “continuous inappropriate conduct, unfounded accusations and the creation of a hostile work environment for the employees, council members and the mayor of the City of Blue Ridge”, with Council Member Robbie Cornelius giving a second to move forward with a vote.

Council Members Harold Herndon and Haight voted against the censure, while Panter and Cornelius voted in favor.

With Fitts being unable to vote, this left the tie breaking decision up to Mayor Whitener, to which she voted in favor of the censure.

After Whitener’s vote, Fitts immediately stated of her vote: “which is a conflict of interest”.

Whitener questioned what conflict of interest Fitts felt she had. He simply replied, “because you put him (Panter) up to it.”

City Council and Mayor seats open in 2021 General Election

City Council, Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, Election, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Charter, Change, Election, Resolution, City Manager, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The City of Blue Ridge is gearing up for the 2021 General Election. All Council seats and the seat of Mayor will be on the ballot.

In a brief teleconference meeting held on Jan. 20, 2021, Council (Nathan Fitts and Mike Panter absent) along with Mayor and City Attorney passed the Resolution Qualifying Fee and did a first reading of the 2021 Election Ordinance.

A second reading of the 2021 Election Ordinance will take place at City Council’s regular monthly meeting scheduled in February.

Qualifying fees for the open seats are $252.00 for seat of Mayor and $180.00 for a seat on City Council.

Qualifying period for those wishing to run in the 2021 City of Blue Ridge General Election is as follows:

“Monday, August 16, 2021, and will continue from day-to-day through Friday, August 20, 2021.  The hours of qualifying each day shall be from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. August 16-19, 2021 and 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. August 20, 2021 (except for a one hour lunch break beginning at 1:00 p.m. each day).”

Each position is to serve a four year term beginning on Jan. 1, 2022 and ending on Dec. 31, 2025.

These terms, however, are subject to change due to a recent resolution passed by City Council wishing to stagger the election in the future. Staggering of the elections would eliminate all seats becoming open during the same election period.

The Resolution of Qualifying Fee states:

“The terms of the Mayor and each Councilmember are subject to any change imposed by a new City Charter providing for staggered terms of election or general state law.  Notice is herein provided that the City Council passed a resolution on November 30, 2020”

The General Election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 with voting at City Hall located at 480 West First Street, Blue Ridge, Ga. 30513. Polls open at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m.

The last day for voter/elector registration to vote in the 2021 General Election is Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. 

Open seats in the 2021 General Election are as follows with current incumbent listed:

City Council

  • Post 1 – Harold Herdon
  • Post 2 – Rhonda Haight
  • Post 3 – Mike Panter
  • Post 4 – Robbie Cornelius
  • Post 5 – Nathan Fitts

Mayor

  • Donna Whitener

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 1/24 – 1/31

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

McCaysville Police Department year end activity report

Community, News, Police & Government

McCaysville, Ga. – McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley gave the year-end stats for his department’s activity, as well as the latest update for the month of December 2020, at the city’s January 2021 monthly meeting.

The City of McCaysville Police Department had a busy year in 2020 with the following duties being carried out:

  • 149 Arrest Warrants
  • 897 Dispatched Calls from 911 Center
  • 178 Citations 
  • 678 Warning Citations
  • 430 Walk-In Reports
  • 84 Arrests made
  • 83 Investigator Call Outs
  • 2463 Phone Calls to the Office
  • 67 Traffic Violations
  • 1 Runaway Juvenile
  • 17 Alcohol Related Incidents
  • 2 False Statement Incidents
  • 6 Obstruction of Police Officers
  • 4 Death Investigations
  • 5 Shoplifting Cases
  • 5 Firearm Cases
  • 9 Thefts
  • 4 Terroristic Threats/Acts
  • 2 Forgery Cases
  • 17 Disorderly Conduct
  • 2 Fraud Cases
  • 5 Harassing Phone Call Cases
  • 5 Juvenile Cases
  • 1 Disorderly House
  • 1 Illegal Dumping
  • 3 Drug Related Object
  • 1 Psychological Call
  • 30  Drug Related (where drugs were found on person)
  • 17 Civil Standbys (officers present during removal of property due to divorce, eviction…)
  • 1 Conspiracy to Commit a Crime
  • 2 Businesses Break Ins
  • 5 Aggravated Assaults with a Deadly Weapon (a weapon was drawn)
  • 8 Warrant Service Call Outs
  • 11 Battery Reports
  • 4 Retrieval of Items (lost or stolen property)
  • 2 Suicides
  • 1 Reckless Conduct
  • 1 Animal Call
  • 5 Cruelty to Children
  • 1 Stalking
  • 1 Interference with Government Property
  • 4 Burglaries
  • 11 Criminal Trespass
  • 5 Damage to Property Reports

 

Monthly Report for December 2020

  • 65 Dispatched Calls
  • 33 Traffic Stops
  • 5 Citations
  • 25 Warnings
  • 32 Walk-Ins
  • 3 Arrests
  • 2 CID Calls
  • 10 Warrants
  • 194 Phone Calls

Earley also referenced that the department was off to an interesting start in 2021 with the recent theft of a Fannin County school bus.

“We had a school bus stolen here in the city,” Earley stated, “Thank God we got that recovered before he got too far down the road.” 

Earley acknowledged the help of other law enforcement agencies in apprehending the individual responsible for the bus theft, in particular Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.

The individual arrested, David York, has been charged with three felonies and one misdemeanor. Other charges are still pending.

Search for new Middle School Principal begins

Community, Fannin Middle, News, Rebel's Corner
Fannin County, Georgia, School System, Schools, Middle, Principal, Board of Education, Superintendent, Michael Gwatnet, Keith Nuckolls

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County School System (FCSS) will begin the search for a new principal after the announcement came that Fannin County Middle School Principal Keith Nuckolls will be leaving the system. 

Fannin County, Georgia, School System, Schools, Middle, Principal, Board of Education, Superintendent, Michael Gwatnet, Keith Nuckolls

Fannin County Middle School Principal Keith Nuckolls set to leave school system in April.

“This is coming as a surprise to many people, that you are leaving,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney spoke after the board voted to accept Nuckolls’ resignation.

Nuckolls’ will be leaving the FCSS April 1, 2021 “pending replacement with a certified administrator”.

Coming to the FCSS in 2015, Nuckolls’ had retired from Clay County, North Carolina where he had over 20 years of teaching and administrative experience.

“I do want to share just a little bit of my heart,” Nuckolls’ spoke after the announcement, “We are all led and guided in this life by the spirit.”

Nuckolls’ expressed feelings of gratitude for having been able to spend 25 years so far in a career that he loves but ultimately feels that he is being called elsewhere: “I’m depending on the spirit to lead me and it is with a heavy heart that I leave this system.”

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve,” Nuckolls said, adding that he has built relationships while working in Fannin County that he is sure will last a lifetime: “I love the leadership. I love the people. I’m thankful for the opportunity that will be close to 5 years.”

Gwatney echoed Nuckolls’ sentiment and commented to his service, “He has been nothing but a blessing to the Fannin County School System.”

The Fannin County Middle School SGT (School Governance Team) is set to begin the process of finding the next school principal.

Scearce released from CHI Memorial Hospital

Community, Featured News, Featured Stories, News, Police & Government
Blue Ridge, Police, City, Johnny Scearce, Chief of Police, Covid19, Fannin County, Georgia, Post One, Commissioner, CHI Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga, Fannin Regional Hospital

Blue Ridge, Ga. – After a long battle with Covid-19, Blue Ridge Chief of Police and recently elected Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Johnny Scearce has been released from the hospital.

CHI Memorial Hospital released a video of Scearce being cheered on as he made his Honor Walk out of the hospital.

“Thank you all, God bless and what a great hospital and staff,” Scearce said as he made his way through a hall of staff cheering on his recovery.

Scearce had been in the hospital for 94 days according to CHI Memorial, but his battle with Covid-19 began in Sept. of 2020.

Blue Ridge, Police, City, Johnny Scearce, Chief of Police, Covid19, Fannin County, Georgia, Post One, Commissioner, CHI Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga, Fannin Regional Hospital

Scearce being released after 94 days at CHI Memorial. Image courtesy of CHI Memorial.

News of Scearce contracting the virus quickly spread via social media on Sept. 17 as his wife Brenda posted a personal post on Facebook asking for prayers for her husband.

At the time of the original post Scearce was in a regular room at Fannin Regional Hospital but struggling with maintaining healthy oxygen levels. 

A prayer vigil was held outside the hospital for Scearce on Sept. 19 and Brenda posted a heartfelt thank you from both her and her husband.

During his stay at Fannin Regional Hospital, Scearce was sedated and put on a ventilator for several days, but was able to overcome this hurdle and made significant improvements. Scearce was released from Fannin Regional Hospital and returned home at the end of Sept.

While Scearce continued to make steady improvements at home, he was still experiencing low oxygen levels. News broke on Oct. 12 that he was being transferred via ambulance to CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga. 

The City of Blue Ridge along with Scearce’s brothers in blue gathered for a prayer vigil at the City Park on Oct. 13 and it was there that information was given as to the critical level of Scearce’s condition.

The community continued to rally behind their Chief of Police over the next several months with fundraisers and prayers. 

The news of Scearce’s release from CHI Memorial is a major milestone that was celebrated by many via social media. Scearce still faces a long road of rehabilitation but the community remains confident that he will overcome any hurdles that he may face.

Zoning request for Hastings Development tabled

Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Zoning, Hastings, Development, College Street, Highway 515, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli, Utility Director, Rebecca Harkins, Integrity Development Group LLC

Blue Ridge, Ga. – A development that has drawn the attention of many in Fannin County has once again come to a temporary halt as the developer seeks to have land rezoned in the City of Blue Ridge to accommodate the plans.

What has become known locally as the Hastings Development is a residential development set in the City of Blue Ridge with access points to Highway 515 and College Street. The 14 acre property sits adjacent to Overlook Subdivision.

The proposed development itself has seen a number of changes based on community feedback and most recently the city zoning board gave approval for an 83 town-home high density site. The Blue Ridge City Council has final say on whether zoning of the land will be changed for the development to take place.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Zoning, Hastings, Development, College Street, Highway 515, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli, Utility Director, Rebecca Harkins, Integrity Development Group LLC

Developer Johnnie Hastings addresses concerns of the citizens and presents a revitalized plan for the development.

The Hastings Development has been met with concerns ranging from the possibility of high volume traffic on narrow College Street to whether the city’s infrastructure can handle the additional stress of the new units.

A vote was expected to take place at the Jan. 12 Blue Ridge City Council meeting but with last minute changes to the proposed plans, a motion was made to table the decision until next month’s meeting.

“We listened,” Johnnie Hastings, the developer of the property, spoke to the council and citizens, “What is the need in the community? What is it that you guys need in terms of housing?”

Hastings explained that the original concept for the development dating back to Jan. 2020 was for affordable housing in the $250,000 range, but after gathering further community input the design was changed to upscale town-homes in the $450-500,000 range.

“I want to do something…that’s good for the community, that we can all get around,” Hastings said as he revealed the revised plan based on community push back to the suggested 83 town-homes, “Believe it or not but that’s my heart.”

Hastings’ new plan consists of 56 freestanding family homes at 4 homes per acre. The price will still be in the range $500,000 per home.

“We’re here to compromise and bring a little unity to this project,” Hastings said, adding, “At the end of the day you’ll be very pleased with what I did up there.”

Citizens who had come to the meeting to speak in opposition or at least express concerns over the development were taken off guard with the proposed changes to the site.

The main concerns echoed by the citizens present was the need for the new changes to be approved by the planning commission or flow through proper channels, whether the city’s infrastructure could handle the added usage and traffic coming onto College Street.

“It concerns me that you would vote on this when the planning commission has not,” one citizen spoke.

“The sewer system won’t handle it. The water system won’t handle it,” another citizen voiced.

Utility Director Rebecca Harkins addressed the concerns of city infrastructure stating that the city has more than enough capacity remaining in their system to handle the proposed development.

“I don’t have a position on this development,” Harkins stated adding that she simply wanted to present the public with the facts.

Harkins confirmed that the city did have capacity to handle the additional units to the system and that there are issues that need to be fixed and updated throughout the city’s infrastructure, but that those issues would have to be addressed regardless of the development adding on.

“I agree that it needs to be worked on and it needs to be worked on diligently,” Harkins said of the city’s current infrastructure and reassured residents that the development would cost nothing to the city: “The city does not fund any portion of the water and sewer system for a new development.” 

Harkins also pointed out that the developer would be financially responsible for any impacts on the system from the development to the plant caused directly by their connection.

Mayor Donna Whitener confirmed that City Attorney James Balli had sent in writing that council could vote on the rezoning if Hastings had lowered density but that it would need to go through proper channels before coming to council if the density had increased.

Council member Mike Panter made a motion to table the vote until the next regular meeting in Feb. giving the council more time to look over the proposed changes. 

All council members voted in favor of tabling the vote with the exception of Council member Rhonda Haight who stated her reason as “I think we’ve kept people waiting long enough”.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 1/11 – 1/17

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 12/27 – 1/3

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Charter changes and reopening of City playground

City Council, Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Citizens could see a change in the way the City of Blue Ridge is managed after the city council voted on charter changes that would allow for the hire of a City Manger.

According to council member Rhonda Haight, the move to a city manager or a full-time mayor has been discussed among councils for several years. Haight stated that when looking at projected growth of the city, citizens would benefit by “making sure someone is here full-time to answer questions”.

Many municipalities in the area have this form of government, council member Mike Panter cited the cities of Jasper and Cumming to name a few. Council members also pointed to an example in Fannin County of the County Chairman holding a full-time position to oversee day-to-day operations.

“The council still has control over everything, including the budget, hiring and firing of the city manager,” Haight explained of the proposed move, saying that the only difference would be that a City Manager would not be an elected official and would therefore be able to be held accountable for their job performance.

“We know there is a need for leadership,” Haight said, adding that while council members are currently overseeing departments, most members hold other full-time jobs giving them less time to keep track of everyday business. 

“Our job is really to set policy,” Council member Nathan Fitts stated agreeing with Haight : “I think there needs to be some accountability to the public and this is the only way we’re ever really going to get there.”

Fitts added, “I think this form of government takes power out of people who want to be in the position for power. The mayor doesn’t have power then. It puts the workload on someone who is being paid to do it.”

Council voted in favor, with Mayor Donna Whitener and Council member Robbie Cornelius absent, to send a Resolution to the Georgia State Legislature requesting that the city be able to move to a City Manager form of government.

The Resolution would need to pass on state level before any charter changes can take effect. 

If enacted, there would be a transition period of 1 year taking place in 2021, with the official City Manager style government going into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

The City Manager position would oversee and have executive power over all day-to-day activities including inner workings of all departments, tax collection, and grant availability.

CITY PLAYGROUND TO REOPEN

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Charter, Change, Election, Resolution, City Manager, Playground, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli

Council member Mike Panter going over his findings in a previous meeting regarding the city’s playground.

The City of Blue Ridge Street Department has been hard at work correcting the issue of drainage at the city’s playground.

With the corrections having been made, the council voted in favor of new padding and turf to be added and the playground be reopened to the public upon completion.

The issue of the drainage system was one that had previously halted some council members from moving forward with the new playground turf, concerned that there would be significant unforeseen expenses once corrections began to take place.

Panter, who wanted the playground corrected in a manner that would cut costs in the future, had been a strong proponent of moving to the padding and turf option rather than continuing with mulch.

“I do believe we have ample funding to do this at this point,” Haight said of moving forward with the project.

The company responsible for installing the padding and turf will have to do an initial inspection of the area and drainage system before their work would begin. The process is expected to begin as soon as next week.

Panter stated that he hopes the playground will be reopened by March 1, 2020, and could possibly be open sooner. Weather permitting and void of an unforeseen circumstance, once work has begun the process could be completed in as little as 3 weeks.

“It’s going to be done correctly. It’s going to be done right,” Panter said of moving forward with the padding and turf option.

The city has also received approximately $19,000 from a private donor for shades to be installed at the park. The city could have to spend an additional $5,000 in this area.

Moving forward with work on the playground, at a cost of $60,743.75, was voted unanimously in favor with Cornelius and Whitener absent.

BKP speaks with Republican Senator David Perdue

Election, Featured News, Featured Stories, News

Mere days before the run-off election deciding the Georgia’s Senate seats for this term, David Perdue (R), current Senator and incumbent candidate, is preparing for the final push up to election day. Counties across the state have reported record turn-outs for voting during 2020 and it looks like this election will see more voters than usual as well.

Voters are also turning out to rallies and campaign events as well. With debates still going over the Presidential Election and voters asking for continuing support, Perdue notes that he was among the few Senators who supported Trump before he was initially elected. Perdue said he fought with Trump as he turned the nations economy to it’s “best economic turnaround in history.”

Going through options and ideas in fighting what they are calling corruption in the recent election.

It is constantly a struggle against the Democrats according to Perdue who said that he is continuing to do everything that Trump asks him to do for that support.

Perdue noted, though, that people who are angry need to support Trump and the Republicans, but they also need to get out to vote. With numerous registered voters in every district still not voting on election day, Perdue calls to citizens saying that they are trying to fight the corruption and make the vote fair. He said they are working hard but it is very frustrating that people are still not voting.

Part of the efforts he has been working towards, Perdue has spoken with President Trump on Christmas Day. Perdue noted the stimulus and support for small businesses, people, and those in need from the pandemic fallout.

Perdue went on to speak on the omnibus bill at the federal level and looking at the efforts of the president fighting for people.

Perdue

Senator David Perdue

This was a great focus of Perdue in his time with BKP as he pointed to national security and what is at stake in the January election.

Perdue said that Jon Ossoff has been paid for two years by the Chinese Communist Party. Perdue said, “This is another example of how the Chinese Communist Party is trying to influence American Politics. They got in Hunter Biden’s pocket, they got into Congressman Swalwell’s bedroom, and they got into Jon Ossoff’s ego and his ambition to be an elected official. For two years after he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and lost against Karen Handel in 2017. The very next year they hire him and pay him for two years. He hid it from the people of Georgia during his Primary this year. He lied about it. When he got caught, he came clean and then lied about it again.”

Perdue said that Ossoff is not good for Georgia because he is being controlled and influenced by China just like Biden and Swalwell. He noted that if the Republicans lose these two seats, then Biden will absolutely ruin everything in America that we have fought for.

Perdue called on voters again and said, “Don’t do it for me, don’t do it for Kelly, don’t do it for yourselves. Look at the children and think about their children. This is what’s at stake right now, the form of America. What America will look like in 50 to 100 years is determined by these two Senate races.”

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