Two Fair Council Members Resign

The Chattooga County Fair Council is busy planning for the return of the 2021 Chattooga County Agricultural Fair in August, but the council is seeing some changes to its members.

Chattooga County Commissioner Blake Elsberry appointed new public works director Yancey Robinson to the fair council after sending word to former public works director Joe Reed that his services were no longer needed.  The commissioner contends that it makes sense to have the current public works director on the council instead of Mr. Reed.

However, there was already one open seat on the council that Mr. Robinson could have been appointed to.  Blake Weaver with Smith Iron Works in Lyerly recently resigned his position on the council due to time constraints.

Since the appointment of Mr. Robinson to the council, council member Stan Reynolds has submitted his resignation.  Reynolds submitted this letter to the council:

The fair council serves at the will of the commissioner.  In the past, the council has always acted as a self-perpetuating board, appointing members as they see fit.  Until Mr. Reed, no other fair council member has been removed by a county commissioner.

The fair council was organized in 2014 and operates under a set of bylaws drawn up by County Attorney Chris Corbin.

U.S. Labor Dept. Webinar For Contractors Seeking Federal Contracts

The U.S. Department of Labor encourages construction companies and contractors in the Southeast that hold federal contracts or have an interest in obtaining one to take advantage of an upcoming educational webinar on Tuesday, June 29 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. EDT.

Representatives from the department’s Wage and Hour Division and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will discuss basic requirements and compliance issues related to the Davis Bacon and Related Acts, Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, and equal employment opportunity concerns.

“The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to protecting the workplace rights of workers,” said Wage and Hour Division Southeast Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta. “This event is an excellent opportunity for employees, employers, trade organizations, and other stakeholders to learn about the requirements and responsibilities associated with performance on federal contracts. Our education and enforcement work in this area protects workers’ wages, and levels the playing field for contractors.”

Attendance is free, but registration is required. Register to attend the webinar.

The division’s Southeast region covers Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The division invites stakeholders from throughout the region to participate.

For information on other laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor, contact the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, or reach out to your nearest Wage and Hour Division office for information about labor laws affecting your workplace.

Georgia Landline Customers To See Cheaper Bills

The diminishing number of Georgians with landline telephones in their homes are about to see a savings on their bills thanks to the sunsetting of a decade-old program.

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) voted unanimously last week to reduce the fee supporting the program from 6% to 3.75% in monthly phone bills starting next month.

The mandatory fee, implemented in 2011, was designed to bring the costs of in-state long-distance phone calls in line with the costs of out-of-state long distance. It took 10 years to fully implement the program, making the fee reduction possible.

“The bottom line is business and individual customers in Georgia will see a savings on their phone bills,” said Commissioner Tricia Pridemore, who chairs the PSC’s Telecommunications Committee. “This is welcome news for anyone with a landline phone.”

A $50 phone bill will drop by slightly more than $1 per month under the reduced fee, resulting in more than $13 in annual savings. Georgia has an estimated 1.7 million landline phones.

Farm Bureau Says Water Rule Is Blow To Agriculture

On June 9, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army  announced their intent to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).

The action reflects the agencies’ intent to initiate a new rulemaking process that restores the protections in place prior to the 2015 WOTUS implementation.

Georgia Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation supported measures in the Navigable Waters Protection Rule rolled out in 2020. GFB and AFBF maintained that the 2015 WOTUS rule represented a massive regulatory overreach that violated landowners’ private property rights.

“The American Farm Bureau Federation is extremely disappointed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement of its intention to reverse the environmentally conscious Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which finally brought clarity and certainty to clean water efforts,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a written statement. “Farmers and ranchers care about clean water and preserving the land, and they support the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.”

Duvall said the agencies failed to recognize the concerns of farmers and ranchers in deciding to reverse the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.

“This is an important moment for Administrator Regan and will be pivotal to his ability to earn the trust of farmers on this and other administration priorities. He must keep his word to recognize the efforts of agriculture and not return to flawed, overly complicated and excessive regulations,” Duvall said.

AFBF urged the EPA to be aware of the burden placed on farmers and ranchers by overreaching regulation and to ensure the term “navigable” is not effectively removed from the Clean Water Act via the new rule.

“On this issue, and particularly prior converted croplands and ephemerals, we also urge Vilsack to ensure that we don’t return to the regulatory land grab that was the 2015 WOTUS Rule,” Duvall said. “Clean water and clarity are paramount, and that is why farmers shouldn’t need a team of lawyers and consultants to farm.”

Chattooga Unemployment Down Slightly For May

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On Thursday of this week, the Georgia Department of Labor released the unemployment numbers for the month of May.  Chattooga County’s rate dropped slightly from April to last month.

In April of this year, the county’s unemployment rate was at 4.8% – for May the numbers dropped 2/10ths of a percentage point to 4.6%.  Georgia’s May unemployment rate dropped another 0.2 percentage points to reach 4.1 percent in May.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says he is more concerned with the number of laborers in the workforce than the current unemployment number.  Butler said, “”We have a serious workforce issue reflected in the monthly drop in the labor force. We are looking to reemploy Georgians as a critical component for our economic recovery.”

Butler added, “With the amount of jobs listed in Employ Georgia combined with the number of employers I am hearing from daily who are struggling to find employees, we need to see our labor force increase dramatically.”

 

CERT Training Coming Up Next Month

Chattooga County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will be offering a free class for future volunteers.  The dates for the in person training are July 10th & July 17th from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.  The classes are no longer offered online.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks.
If you are interested in signing up for the classes, please contact John Sterner at johnsterner62@gmail.com or Jamye McDonald at jamyemcdonald@aol.com.

Summerville City Water Customers To See A Rate Hike Next Month

If you are a Summerville City water customer, you will be paying more for your water starting next month.

The City of Summerville has announced a rate hike that goes into affect on July 1, 2021.  The added rate increase for water customers will also mean about a 15% rate increase for city water customers who also have sewer service.

The rate increase comes on the heels of the city’s water issue after the EPA notified city officials in January 2020 that water from Racoon Creek showed high levels of two human-made chemicals — perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid — which are used to make carpet, clothing fabric, cookware, paper, food packaging and other materials.  The city has taken costly steps to get the water system back within EPA guidelines.

The city’s proposed 2021-2022 budget shows around $6.4 million in expenditures for the water system.

Landslide On Taylor's Ridge Means Delays For Commuters

UPDATE: According to Chattooga EMA / 911 U.S. Highway 27 at Taylor’s Ridge had reopened. 

The Georgia DOT says Highway 27, the Summerville side of Taylor’s Ridge is down to one lane while GADOT clears a small landslide in the area of Butler Dairy Road.

GADOT says that they cannot estimate a time when the ridge will be fully open again.

In the mean time, you may want to find a route around Taylor’s Ridge until further notice.

Arrest Report - Thursday - June 24, 2021

Here is the latest arrest report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office for Thursday, June 24, 2021:

Broken TV Leads To Civil Dispute

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A broken TV has lead to a dispute between two people, according to Summerville Police.

Summerville City Officers met with Britney Jones, who stated that she had allowed Jacquaious Watters and his girlfriend to live at her residence for several weeks. After Watters and his girlfriend had moved out, it was discovered that a 40inch Hisense TV had been broken by the screen being damaged. Watters was supposedly to have purchased a replacement TV but two weeks have passed and now Watters was refusing to replace the TV, according to Jones. The cost of the original TV was $100 and had been purchased from the Walmart in Trion.

Officers advised Jones of Magistrate proceedings to start a civil suit against Watters.

BBB: Child Tax Credits Are Coming - So Are The Scammers!

From July 15 through Dec. 2021, if you qualify for payments through the American Rescue Plan Act, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced sending monthly payments through direct deposit, paper check, or debit cards. These payments are an advance on the child tax credit, which means eligible people will get up to half of their child tax credit in these monthly payments and the other half when they file their 2021 taxes. You can go to IRS.gov to see who qualifies, how much you may receive, and how to address any problems. Consumers will also have the option of unenrolling from the Advance payments program.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, when it comes to the government being in the news, scammers will likely use their standard playbook, meaning impostor scams may appear, with con artists pretending to “help” you get your payments earlier, earn more money, or commit identity theft.

BBB and the FTC share these tips:

  • Avoid Impostor scams – Government agencies like the IRS or Social Security Administration will not call, text, DM, or email you.
  • Do not give out any personal information, like social security numbers, bank account information, or credit/debit card numbers.
  • Eligibility requirements and payment disbursements are monitored by the IRS only.
  • It is likely a scam when someone requires payments by gift card, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Learn more tips on how to avoid scams by reading 10 Steps to avoid scams. If you have been the victim of this or another scam, make others aware by filing a report on BBB.org/ScamTracker.

You can also report scams to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

FOR BBB INFORMATION:
Visit BBB.org to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips, follow us on social media, and more.

Chattooga County: Lane Closures Continue On Taylor Ridge Monday

WHAT: Weather permitting, crews will continue to repair the roadway at Taylor Ridge on Highway 27. The work next week will require occasional lane closures with traffic being led by a pilot car.
WHEN: Monday, June 28 through Thursday, July 1 from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. each day as needed. Any lane closures required on Friday, July 2 will be completed by 12 p.m.
WHERE: The southbound lane of Highway 27 at Taylor Ridge will be closed as needed. Traffic will be paced in each direction through the area with a pilot car.

Speakers And Amp Stolen From Truck

A theft from a vehicle left one Summerville man less several necklaces, an amp, and speakers according to the Summerville Police Department.

On June 19th, Officers were dispatched to Lee Street regarding a claim of stolen property from a vehicle at that location. On scene they met with Susie Crabtree who stated that her sons truck had been broken into and several items had been taken. It had happened sometime between Wednesday, when her son had last worked on the truck, and Saturday when she noticed the items missing. The neighbors had also told Crabtree that they had seen an unknown person around the truck on the night of July 18th. Officers made contact with the owner of the vehicle, Tyler Crabtree who also stated that nothing had been missing on Wednesday. Tony stated that the missing items included 3 necklaces that meant a lot to him but he did not have a monetary value to them. The fuses had been ripped out of the truck and also missing 2 12inch Kicker speakers and and amp that valued around $400. Extra patrol was requested around the residence and investigators were notified of the case.

Trion Teacher's Art To Be Featured In Rome Art Show

The Georgia’s Rome Gift Shop and Welcome Center and Rome Area History Center are excited to host a Pop-Up Art Show featuring local artist Morgan Reynolds, who will begin teaching this year in the Trion City School System.

An opening reception will be held Sunday, June 27 from 4 to 7 p.m.  The show will be held at the Rome Area History Center and will run June 27 through July 1.

Reynolds will feature a series of sculptural works composed of organic and man-made materials that celebrate the beauty of nature and echo the allure and peaceful quality of creation.

During college, Reynolds worked at the Georgia’s Rome Gift Shop and Welcome Center and helped create several window displays for both welcome center locations.  She recently graduated from West Georgia University with a Certificate in Art Education.

She will begin teaching this fall at Trion Middle School and High School.

Georgia DNR: Don't Let Geese Get Your Gander Right Now: There Is a Reason They Can't Fly

The Canada goose thrives in a variety of habitats, often near areas close to people, such as neighborhood ponds, office complexes, parks and other developed areas. This closeness can become a frustration for homeowners and landowners when geese begin to molt in the summer, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD).

“Our offices report that calls about Canada geese tend to increase slightly in late June and early July. This increase is almost certainly caused by the fact that geese are ‘hanging around’ an area longer than usual,” says Tina Johannsen, Assistant Chief of the WRD Game Management Section. “Why? Because they cannot fly right now. Geese go through a molting process in the summer during which they lose their flight feathers and are in the process of growing new ones.”

What can you do if you have goose problems? Most times of the year, geese can be scared away with the use of harassment techniques. But, because geese cannot fly during the molt, these techniques may not work right now. During the molting season, WRD personnel encourage affected landowners and homeowners to be patient. The new feathers will soon grow in, and the geese will regain their ability to fly and will likely move on.

However, if geese continue to cause problems, here are a few tips to try:

  • Harassment: First, try a variety of harassment techniques (also called hazing), including mylar balloons, noise makers, or even trained herding dogs. These techniques may scare the geese away from your property.
  • Chemical Repellents: Repellents can be sprayed on the grass in your yard to deter geese from feeding in treated areas. Most repellents require re-application after mowing or after rains.
  • Physical Barriers: Barriers, such as wire or string 12–18 inches above the ground, or heavy vegetation (like cattails), along property lines or the shoreline can deter geese from using your property. This method requires consistency from the property owner and may not always be 100% effective.
  • Special Permits to Remove Geese: In cases where the above techniques have been unsuccessful, homeowners who want to reduce or eliminate the goose population on their property can obtain a permit from their local WRD Game Management office (https://georgiawildlife.com/about/contact). This permit allows them to have geese captured and relocated to a suitable area, or allows them to legally and lethally remove the animals. The removal can be done by the homeowner or by a licensed nuisance wildlife trapper (list found at https://gadnrle.org/special-permits#nuisance).

It is important to remember that Canada geese are a protected species under state and federal law. It is illegal to hunt, kill, sell, purchase or possess Canada geese except according to Georgia’s migratory bird regulations.

For more tips and information about Canada geese, go to https://georgiawildlife.com (click on “Living With Wildlife” on the home page, and then scroll down and click on “Canada Geese”).

 

GDOL Sued For Unpaid & Unprocessed Unemployment Claims

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The Southern Poverty Law Center and an Atlanta-based law firm filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday representing four different clients against the Georgia Department of Labor over unprocessed and unpaid unemployment claims.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says that his office was overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic and also argues that he has been trying to get more funding from the Georgia Legislature for years.  Butler also opposed a move by state legislators to create a “chief labor officer” for the state.  That bill was vetoed by Governor Brian Kemp who said that the position would interfere with the constitutional office of State Labor Commissioner.

The Georgia Department of Labor and Labor Commissioner Mark Butler have not responded to the suit as of Wednesday.

GNN / Compiled Sources

Several Apply For Open BOE Seat

Chattooga County School Supt. Jared Hosmer says that several have applied for the open seat on the Chattooga Board of Education.

Chattooga County’s Board of Education is elected “at-large” by county voters; unlike other counties in Georgia where only the voters living in that particular district get to vote on the members.  Even though school board members are voted on by everyone in the county, they still must reside in the district they represent.

The school districts are set by the state legislature, based on population.

Supt. Hosmer told WZQZ News on Wednesday that he will first verify the addresses of the people applying for the seat by looking at the map you see above.  If there is a question, he then gets with the Transportation Director to help verify and will, if necessary, go to the person’s address to verify their exact location.

As of Wednesday, four people had applied for the position and Supt. Hosmer said that he has verified that all four of the potential board members who had applied so far do live in the Lyerly District.

Georgia Supreme Court Upholds Hays Inmate's Murder Conviction

The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction of a Hays State Prison inmate who was convicted of shooting his wife in the back of the head in 2011.

Court evidence was presented in the trial of Shay Alexander Merritt that proved that his wife could not have shot herself, as Merritt claimed. “There was no physical way (his wife) could have shot herself behind the ear with that rifle,” a statement by the Polk County coroner read.

Merritt has been serving a life sentence at Hays State Prison since 2014.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton said in the court’s upholding of Merritt’s conviction, “His defense was based on the theory that the shooting was an accident,” the opinion read. “Based on the evidence presented at trial, the jury was authorized to reject Merritt’s accident theory and find him guilty of the crimes of which he was convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Compiled Sources

Downtown Summerville Celebrates Pollinator Week

Pollinator Week is celebrated this year June 21-27. Pollinator Week was initiated and is managed by Pollinator Partnership. Fourteen years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. It has now grown into an international celebration, promoting the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

Recently, a Pollinator Garden was added to Willow Spring Park in downtown Summerville. This garden was made possible through a license plate grant from the Georgia Beekeepers Association. The Chattooga Bee Keepers Association was awarded a $1,200 grant to create the “Pollinator Pit Stop Garden In Willow Spring Park. These funds are made possible by the sales of the Save The Honeybee License Plates. The tags are available for purchase through our local tag office.

In 1975 the Honeybee was designated as Georgia’s state insect. This garden not only serves as a nectar source for honeybees, it feeds all pollinator bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. There are over 20 different varieties of pollinator plants, including milkweed, for the monarch migration. Summerville’s Town Branch and Willow Spring help provide a fresh flowing water source for the garden.

Planting of this pollinator garden was a joint effort between the Chattooga Beekeepers Association, The City of Summerville, The Chattooga Garden Club, and the Chattooga Master Gardeners. An A-Frame Hive has been donated by Pat Grover, and will be placed in the garden for educational purposes.

The public is invited to celebrate National Pollinator Week by strolling by and enjoying the beauty of this garden.

GNTC Partners With Floyd County Prison

A total of 24 offenders at the Floyd County Prison have completed training provided by Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) and the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and are now certified in Shielded Metal Arc and Flux Core Welding.

A special commencement ceremony was hosted by Floyd County Prison Warden Mike Long and Georgia Northwestern at the prison on Friday, June 18, to recognize the second cohort of offenders who have become certified in the two welding processes needed for an entry-level welding position. The graduates received a Certificate of Completion from GNTC, as well as up to two weld test certifications from the American Welding Society. Special guests of the ceremony included Laura Boalch, TCSG chief of staff; Karen Kirchler, senior executive director for Economic Development and interim deputy commissioner of Workforce Development for the TCSG; and Lesia Lambert, Northwest Georgia Regional Commission (NWGRC) director of Workforce Development.

During the ceremony, GNTC President Dr. Heidi Popham introduced GNTC’s Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Initiative. As a part of this new initiative, offenders that have successfully completed the 135-hour program in welding, and passed the AWS weld test certifications, can be exempt from a college credit course if they choose to apply at GNTC and meet admissions requirements.

“This initiative is a first of its kind at GNTC that bridges non-credit and credit training,” said Popham. “These prior learning credits you have earned may be applied to GNTC’s Basic Shielded Metal Arc Welder Technical Certificate of Credit or the Gas Metal Arc Welder Technical Certificate of Credit. We welcome you to continue your education with us.”

After Popham presented the graduates with their certificates, several of the offenders shared their insights on the program during the ceremony.

“Today is a day we get to celebrate our success,” said Rodney Flournoy. “We have become better brothers, sons and fathers by taking part in this program.”

“This is a life changing moment,” Ernest Harris added. “I have a family to go back to and this is going to change their lives too.”

“I did this so I could show others they can do it to,” Demetrick Davis told the audience which included representatives from TCSG, Georgia Northwestern, NWGRC and Floyd County Prison. “I won’t let you all down. I promise.”

The 12-week training has a 100% completion rate between both cohorts with the first finishing in September 2020.

“A program having a 100% completion rate is a huge deal,” TCSG Welding Instructor Scott Edison told the graduates. “This is a gift that has been given to you. It is time to take your knowledge and go get some experience.”

Kyle Edmunds, a trainee in the second cohort, is already employed and gaining experience while still incarcerated. Edmunds is currently in the prison’s Work Release Center, a transition program that allows offenders to leave the prison for work and return when their shift is complete.

According to Betty Bailey-Dean, deputy warden of care and treatment at Floyd County Corrections, Edmunds and other offenders can keep their jobs once released. Dean oversees the Work Release Center and hand-picked the offenders who would participate in the program. During the commencement ceremony, the deputy warden reminded the graduates that being chosen for the welding training program is a high honor.

“You are leading the way for the next cohort if it gets approved,” Dean said. “Everyone involved with this program wants you to become better citizens all the way around. I am so proud that each one of you wants that for yourselves.”

Stephanie Scearce, GNTC vice president of Economic Development, is thrilled with the success of both cohorts. Scearce and her Economic Development team along with GNTC’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program spent over a year developing the welding curriculum and securing the funding for the program.

“It felt a little easier to get the second cohort up and running because we had performance metrics from our first group,” she said. “I tell the prisoners that the effort they put in is a determining factor if GNTC will be able to bring the program back again. If we get the grants approved we will try to offer this program as many times as we can.”

Scearce added that trainees in the second cohort kept asking if the training hours invested in the program would transfer to the Welding and Joining Technology program at GNTC, which is what led to developing the Prior Learning Assessment Initiative.

“We want them to know their hard work was worth it,” Scearce said. “For now, GNTC is only offering this initiative to the 24 students who completed the 135-hour training created by GNTC’s Office of Economic Development. We are wanting to expand to other programs so we can bridge non-credit training programs with select technical certificates of credit offered through Academic Affairs to grant credit course exemptions.”

In the meantime, the offenders are finding meaningful employment through the Work Release Center. Currently, Steel King Industries, Inc., F&P Georgia, Jefferson Southern Corporation, Thermal Seal Duct, Mat HD, LLC and Advanced Steel Technology are partnering with Floyd County Corrections to hire certified welders.

According to the Georgia Department of Labor, the average hourly pay for welders in northwest Georgia is $17.45 as of 2019. The industry is also seeing growth as a result of retirements. The American Welding Society estimates half a million welding jobs will be available nationwide by 2022. Offenders with welding jobs through the Work Release Center are making an average of $11.60 an hour.

The welding program at Floyd County Prison was made possible through partnerships at both the state and local level, Scearce said. Brandi Dover, GNTC WIOA program coordinator, said her department coordinated with GNTC’s Economic Development office and with Lesia Lambert, director of Workforce Development at NWGRC, to fund the project. The WIOA office handled the applications and paperwork of the offenders who wanted to be a part of the program. In addition, GNTC also applied to secure a TCSG mobile welding lab. Now that the class is complete, the lab will return to TCSG.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma or a certificate in business, health, industrial or public service career paths. This past year, 11,820 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. GNTC has an annual credit enrollment of 8,591 students and an additional enrollment of 3,229 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training and Georgia Quick Start. For more information about GNTC, visit us at www.GNTC.edu. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.