BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – Annexation of the Conley property on Pat Haralson Memorial Drive was discussed during the Blairsville City Council meeting Tuesday, March 6.
According to Mayor Jim Conley, a developer interested in the property has requested city annexation of the property before proceeding with a development project. From the city limits to the Conley property, a portion of Butternut Creek Golf Course, which is owned by the county, and a stretch of a 1.47-acre property owned by Daniel Davenport falls in line with the proposed annexation route.
While the county has agreed to an easement of the golf course property, Davenport, who was present at the meeting, requested of the city to bring water and sewer utilities through his property before allowing annexation of his property.
“I’m all about annexation if the city sewer and water would pass through the 1.5 acres, which to me is a legitimate path to take (to the Conley property),” Davenport told the council Tuesday. “If (the city is) going to annex my property, I’ll be paying city taxes, so I’ll, of course, want to be able to hook up to the sewer on my property.”
Davenport was told by City Attorney David Barrett if his property was annexed, he would have the right by law to attain water and sewer utilities from the city. However, Davenport explained that in his previous discussions with Barrett, the city attorney told him the city would not provide the infrastructure needed to connect to city water and sewer lines. Davenport further stated that, to his understanding, the city would be extending water and sewer lines all the way to the Conley property. To this, Mayor Conley replied, “No we’re not either … we’re not bringing the sewer to their property. They’re coming to our manhole.”
After further discussion, Councilman Tony Dyer made a motion to withdraw the annexation proposal followed by a second from Councilwoman Betty Easter. The motion failed 3 to 2, with nay votes coming from Councilmembers Rhonda Mahan, Robert Moore and Mary Ruth Cook.
On Friday, Mayor Conley stated Davenport had discussed the situation in the days following the meeting with the owners of Conley property and a possible agreement was in the works, which would clear the way for the annexation.
The council approved two equipment purchases for the Blairsville Police Department. Sergeant Shawn Dyer informed the council of a recent audit of the department conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in which the GBI recommended the use of departmental phones for city officers as well as the addition of wi-fi hotspot devices within city patrol vehicles.
Dyer explained the phones would be used by full-time officers for official police business. Currently, officers use their personal cell phones for police business while on duty, and GBI, in the audit, claimed this presents a security risk and the possibility of a personal information breach for the officers.
Concerning the addition of the hotspot devices, Dyer stated the technology upgrade will ensure a safer and more effective environment for officers while conducting routine traffic stops. The hotspot devices will provide instant Internet access to the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) database and allow officers to access information of the vehicle and the recorded owner before initially approaching the vehicle.
“(The hotspot devices) could probably save somebody’s life,” Dyer explained, “because right now, if we stop a car, we call in the tag number to dispatch, we pull that car over, we go up and we talk to that driver not knowing anything (of the driver). We don’t get that information back until we sit back there in the (patrol) car after we’ve talked to them, got their driver’s license and all that.”
According to Dyer, six cell phones (iPhones) and eight hotspot devices will come from Verizon at a monthly cost of $564.57.
Dyer also told of the need for a large metal cabinet that can be locked to store evidence or guns in the squad room at the police department. The sergeant stated a large lockable cabinet in the squad room would allow all shifts the ability to store evidence if the evidence room of the department cannot be accessed. Dyer said he found a cabinet suitable for such a purpose for around $2,000.
Both expenditures were approved unanimously.
The council gave approval to proceed with RevoPay as an online electronic payment method for payments of all fees, permits and/or taxes to the city. Last month, the council discussed and approved an option for accepting credit or debit cards for water services payments.
Kaye McCann, city clerk, explained to the council the RevoPay system would allow customers to pay all bills to the city in a lump sum by credit or debit card or by electronic check either online or over the phone. Also, city hall would have access to RevoPay, so that any customers making payments in person would also be able to make payments via those options as well.
According to McCann, there is no charge or fee to the city to use this service; however, a percentage-based fee from RevoPay would be passed along to customers using the service. When asked about the percentage of the fee, McCann explained the fee would likely fall between 3 to 5 percent and that the percentage would be determined over time by the amount of customers using the service. McCann further explained customers using RevoPay would know before the transaction is complete exactly how much the fee is.
Jody Cook, wastewater supervisor, delivered an update of a wastewater issue involving the Aviagen Hatchery, a poultry hatchery facility located near Colwell Detention Center. Last month, Cook reported increases in the chemical oxygen demand (COD) at the treatment plant were discovered in January. At that meeting, he said it was determined pollutants stemming from outdoor wash downs of the hatchery’s delivery crates were the cause of the increase of COD. Cook also stated last month the issue does not pose a health risk to anyone, but rather puts a greater strain on the wasterwater treatment facility.
This month, Cook told the council the hatchery had changed its clean-up policies. “It has made a difference, but I think we’re going to have to do a little bit more there because our readings are still high,” Cook said.
Cook stated officials from Aviagen have been cooperating with the city in an effort to correct the issue and told Cook to inform the hatchery if the changes in their cleaning processes did not resolve the issue. To this, Cook told the board he wanted to do a few more tests before going back to Aviagen since recent rains have disallowed the possibility of accurate testing.
In other business, the council approved a change in the type of envelopes used to mail water bills to customers. The new envelopes will feature a clear window panel on the front of the envelope and, as Mayor Conley pointed out, are easier for mail sorting machines to process.
The council entered into a 12-month contract with Jeff Burks, of Total Geek Tek, for regular IT maintenance and upgrades for all city departments. Burks’ hourly rate will be $40 an hour, and he will service city computer systems two days a week for a total of 16 hours a month, according to the parameters of the contract.
Councilman Tony Dyer stressed the need to move forward with a paved public parking lot, public restroom facility and a greenspace on city property located behind city hall. Dyer stated he would like to see the space, when completed, dedicated to longtime state representative and Blairsville native Carlton Colwell.
Dyer also mentioned the idea of honoring Union County Sheriff Mack Mason at the next city council for the sheriff’s office ongoing cooperation with the city police department.
Rabun County, Ga. – On Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia State Patrol and the Rabun County Sheriff’s Office arrested Jesse Reeves Smith, 22, of 238 Gipson Lane, Lakemont, Georgia, and his brother, James Cody Smith, 22, of 259 Gipson Lane, Lakemont, Georgia, for murder. This case stemmed from a motor vehicle wreck which resulted in the death of Marshall Wayne Turpin, 18. Jesse Reeves Smith was arrested at the Rabun County Jail where he was incarcerated on unrelated charges. Jesse Reeves Smith was charged with one count of felony murder, four counts of aggravated assault and one count of making false statements. James Cody Smith was taken into custody by the Rabun County Sheriff’s Office and charged with one count of felony murder and four counts of aggravated assault. The brothers are currently incarcerated at the Rabun County jail awaiting court proceedings.
The charges stem from an incident occurring July 14, 2017, on East Wolf Creek Road in Rabun County during which a vehicle occupied by the Smith brothers intentionally struck a vehicle occupied by Turpin which resulted in the fatal crash.
The arrests come as a result of a six-month investigation conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia State Patrol, the Rabun County Sheriff’s Office and the Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office. The investigation remains active and ongoing. All parties are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Blairsville, GA – On Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, a traffic stop in Lumpkin County, GA resulted in the confiscation of 15 kilograms (kilos) of methamphetamine (meth). The bust was a joint effort by the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office, the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office and the FBI’s North Georgia Major Offender Squad. As a result of the ensuing investigation by Lumpkin County authorities and FBI Agents, a few grams of cocaine and $166,000 dollars in cash were found at 990 Flanders Road in Dahlonega, GA, the residence of Valentine Duarte-Vejar. Following subsequent leads, agents were lead to 843 Cooper Creek Road in Suches, GA, where a conversion lab was uncovered (a conversion lab is used to convert liquid methamphetamine to crystal form).
Agents discovered a handgun and 15 kilos of crystal methamphetamine at the lab, along with approximately 300 pounds of environmental waste, mostly containing methamphetamine oil. Agents estimated that the lab was capable of producing 25-50 kilos of crystal meth at a time. (a kilogram (kilo) weighs about 2.2 pounds).
The 30 kilos of crystal meth (15 kilos confiscated during the traffic stop and 15 kilos found at the conversion lab) have a street value of about $3,234,000.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office, EMS and union County Fire Department assisted with safely processing the conversion lab.
Angel Luis Rivera-Santiago, 42, of Norcross, Victor Rafael Aponte, 30, of Dahlonega and Valentine Duarte-Vajar, 25, of Dahlonega were charged with trafficking methamphetamine. Eleoncio Perez-Pineda, 29, of Dahlonega and Jose Mario Duarte-Vajar, 25, of Dahlonega were later arrested and charged with conspiracy to manufactory Methamphetamine. All five men were transported to Lumpkin County Detention Center. Additional charges are pending in Union County.
The immigration status of these men is still pending. The investigation continues.
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Decatur, GA – On Thursday, June 29, 2017, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) conducted an assessment of the fentanyl spill. This assessment has determined that evidence containing a powder of fine furanyl fentanyl leaked through untaped corners and seams of a cardboard box. The furanyl fentanyl came from powder residue within the box. The Crime Lab has modified lab procedures related to repackaging and return of drug evidence to ensure that this situation does not recur. These procedures include enhanced sealing and new containment protocols. Return of drug evidence has resumed.
6/28/17 – The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab is currently reviewing internal procedures for packaging drug evidence. This follows information received from the Duluth Police Department that evidence containing a fentanyl related drug spilled out of a package that was returned to the agency today. Additionally, the crime lab will be conducting a thorough review of this incident with the goal of establishing what caused the spill. A temporary hold has been placed on the release of all drug evidence during the review. An update will be provided following the full assessment.
Decatur, GA – The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab has identified counterfeit pills related to the reported overdoses in the Central Georgia area.
Analysis has confirmed that the pills contain a mixture of two synthetic opioids, cyclopropyl fentanyl and U-47700. Cyclopropyl fentanyl is a fentanyl analogue that is chemically similar to fentanyl. It is unknown how the human body will react to this drug since it is not intended for human or veterinary use. Cyclopropyl fentanyl had not previously been seen in Georgia.
U-47700 is a synthetic opioid 7.5 times stronger than morphine.
Both of these drugs are HIGHLY DANGEROUS and should not be handled. They can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and are extremely toxic in even the smallest quantities.
Legislation was introduced this year to outlaw both cyclopropyl fentanyl and U-47700 in Georgia. The law banning the substances went into effect after passage by the Georgia General Assembly and the Governor’s signature on April 17, 2017.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Poison Center, hospitals, local, state, and federal partners are working jointly on this investigation.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation
Contact: Natalie Ammons
For Immediate Release
February 6, 2017
Convoy of Care – South Georgia Tornado Relief
Atlanta, Georgia – The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is once again partnering with state law enforcement agencies, Channel 2 WSB-TV, the Georgia Motor Trucking Association, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) and Caring for Others, Inc., to help raise funds for South Georgia residents who survived the historic tornado outbreak last month.
“The communities in South Georgia need money to be able to fund specific needs of each individual resident, whether it’s to cut down trees or to restore homes,” said Tim McVay, WSB-TV Vice President and General Manager. “That’s why we are urging our viewers to make cash donations now.”
The Convoy of Care will take a load of supplies to South Georgia on Sunday, February 12th. Mt Zion Baptist Church in Albany will be accepting the donations and distributing supplies on site. Volunteers from Caring for Others and the law firm Stewart, Seay and Felton will load up the tractor trailer truck donated by Holland, Inc. which was part of the first Convoy of Care that saw five tractor trailer trucks go to flood ravaged Baton Rouge, Louisiana in August last year.
Law enforcement organizations including the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, along with state agencies; Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles, Georgia State Patrol, and Georgia Bureau of Investigation, have pledged to use their network to raise the awareness of the Convoy of Care online fundraising effort.
“We’re all One Georgia, and we want to continue to demonstrate how law enforcement serves the very communities we are sworn to protect,” said Clarence
Cox, National Vice President of NOBLE.
Funds being collected through Caring for Others will be disbursed directly to Long Term Recovery Committees being established in the Berrien, Cook, Crisp, Dougherty, Thomas, Turner, Wilcox, and Worth counties in coordination with GEMA, Caring for Others is accepting online cash donations at http://caring4others.org – click on “South Georgia Disaster Relief” at the top of the page or checks may be mailed to Caring for Others, Inc., 3537 Browns Mill Road, SE, Atlanta, Georgia 30354. Please indicate that you are donating to South Georgia Tornado Relief.
“The men and women of the GBI are honored to partner with Channel 2 WSB and our law enforcement counterparts n raising money for the tornado victims in South Georgia. This money is desperately needed so that they can begin to rebuild their lives,” said GBI Director Vernon Keenan.
Seventeen Georgians were killed by tornadoes that blew through South Georgia in January and caused more than $100 million worth of damage. State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens says much of the damage was to structures and properties that were uninsured.