Sheriff Mason Announces 2020 Reelection Campaign

Election, Police & Government

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – Incumbent Sheriff Mack Mason announced his campaign for 2020 reelection on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Fetch Your News contacted Mason about his reasons for seeking another term, he told the news outlet,

“I want to ensure that quality law enforcement will continue for the citizens of Union County.”

Fetch Your News will update the story as more information becomes available.

 

 

Conley property annexed, Sheriff Mason recognized at council meeting

News

BLAISVILLE, Ga. – Annexation of the Conley property off of Pat Haralson Memorial Drive was approved and Sheriff Mack Mason was recognized during the Blairsville City Council meeting Tuesday, April 3.

Last month, annexation was delayed when Daniel Davenport, owner of a 1.47-acre tract of land within the annexation route, requested access to city utilities before annexation of his property took place.

In this month’s meeting, City Attorney David Barrett explained Davenport had sold his tract of land to the developers of the Conley property clearing the way for annexation. Also falling in line with the annexation is Butternut Creek Golf Course. Mayor Jim Conley explained a 50-foot wide easement of land running through the golf course from the current city limits would connect the Conley property contiguously in the annexation process.

On hand for the meeting was the developer of the property, David Brown. When asked about the urgency of the annexation by Barrett, Brown stated, “We need to be annexed tonight.”

Brown also explained the development on the property is for approximately 70 proposed apartment units that will be marketed to seniors. The council approved the annexation unanimously.

The council also approved the purchase of a 4×2 Gator utility vehicle from Nelson Tractor in the amount of $5,525. The vehicle, according to Conley, will be used primarily by the Street and Maintenance department to carry gardening supplies and equipment. Funding for the purchase will come from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds.

Jody Cook, wastewater supervisor, told the council it has been determined a faulty tank valve at the Aviagen Hatchery located near the Colwell Detention Center was the main contributing factor leading to increased levels of chemical oxygen demand (COD) at the wastewater treatment plant. In February, Cook first reported pollutants running from the Aviagen facility into the sewer system were causing increased COD levels at the plant. Cook stated Aviagen was working to resolve the issue.

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Conley took time to recognize Union County Sheriff Mack Mason for his department’s continued efforts as well as cooperation and assistance with the Blairsville City Police Department.

“I personally would just like to say I appreciate the cooperation that the police department and the sheriff’s office has,” Conley told Mason. “As you very well know, we’ve never had that in the past.”

Mason responded by describing the level of cooperation between the two agencies as a “unique deal … one that I don’t know of that exists anywhere in the state of Georgia.”

Mason continued to say the state, in recent years, has “regressed” both in the number of Georgia State Patrol troopers and in the number of Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agents, leaving more of a burden to the local law enforcement agencies.

“I’m not knocking the troopers,” Mason explained. “I’m knocking the legislators because they’ve let us get in this shape … It’s an undisputed fact that 95 percent of arrests in the state of Georgia are made by the city and county officers.”

Speaking of the working coordination between the Union County Sheriff’s Office and the Blairsville Police Department, in which several officers work full-time for one agency and part-time for the other, Mason said, “I appreciate the relationship that I’ve had with you all.”

Following this, Conley proposed a $1 per hour raise for all part-time officers in the Blairsville Police Department. The raise was approved unanimously by the council.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

City council talks annexation, purchases police equipment

News, Police & Government, Politics

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.

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

UCBOE Gets Schooled on ESPLOST Renewal Process

News

Elena Griggs

Blairsville, GA – The Union County Board of Education (UCBOE) convened for their October Workshop and Meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the UCBOE Building in Blairsville, Georgia. Union County Schools (UCS) Superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield and all Board Members were present.

The sole Discussion Item on the Workshop Agenda was an Overview of the ESPLOST (Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) Renewal Process. Gabe Agan and Todd Barnes, Associates with Raymond James (financial advisors), addressed the Board. Agan explained the renewal process bond issues, based on historical data, in terms of the estimated future financial position of UCS (please see video for the full presentation). Dr. Rayfield advised the Board to consider the possibility of a bond issue (incursion of debt) as an emergency measure, in light of the fact that UCS currently practices ‘Pay-As-You-Go’. He said he felt it would be wise to have the authorization language included in the referendum to be used strictly as an option. Agan said that putting a bond issue on the May 22, 2018 ballot, if it passes, does not obligate the Board to issue bonds. The Board indicated they would take this under advisement and thanked Agan for his presentation.

Student 4-H Board and Representatives

In other UCBOE news, Timothy Jennings, head of the Union County Extension 4-H in Blairsville, introduced senior members and staff from the UGA Extension Office. He then presented the Student 4-H Board. Elena Griggs, President of the 4-H Board, gave a presentation on what 4-H does in the community and a short description of after-school 4-H programs.

Sheriff Mack Mason (L), Dr. Fred Rayfield (R)

 

Dr. Rayfield presented Sheriff Mack Mason with the 2017 Partner in Education Award.

Dr. Rayfield recommended that the Board approve the June, July, and August 2017 Financial Reports. The reports were unanimously approved.

Following an Executive Session, the Board approved all new personnel recommendations.

With no further business to conduct, the Meeting adjourned.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com.

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Union County Gun Club becomes a reality

Community, News

Blairsville, GA – On July 10, 2017, immediately following the Concealed Carry Class at the Pat Haralson Memorial Civic Center, Sheriff Mack Mason took the stage and asked that anyone interested in starting a gun club in Union County to stick around. Well over half, maybe two thirds, of the audience of about three hundred people stayed in their seats.

Union County Sheriff Mack Mason

Sheriff Mason began by outlining the process of forming a gun club in Union County. He said that Union County is roughly half Forest Service Land, which is federal land, which means it is our land. He said he has approached Georgia State Representative Doug Collins about this and Collins told him to get in touch as soon as a club was formed and organized. Mason then introduced Paul Clark of Blairsville who has volunteered to do the Internet/computer work; and Russell Stookey, an attorney from Hiawassee, GA, who has volunteered to do the legal work pro bono. Stookey made a point of demonstrating the importance of having a safety officer first and foremost and introduced Gene Cooley of Blairsville, a master class marksman and range safety officer. He mentioned that there needs to be a name that he can put on the application for an LLC (limited liability corporation). Stookey mentioned several other considerations, like how guests should be handled, how to become a member, the formation of a Board and creation of Bylaws. Several questions were raised by people in the audience and some discussion ensued. Mason suggested the name Union County Gun Club and it seemed to resonate with everyone. Clark was chosen to be the first Chairman. Several people volunteered to be Board Members. Cooley was adopted as the range safety officer. Several people wanted to contribute money, but there was no entity to donate to, so checks and credit cards could not be utilized; but Stookey vowed to have an entity formed before the week was out.

Paul Clark (middle wearing maroon shirt) with volunteers for the Board

For more information on or to join the new Union County Gun Club, call Paul Clark at (706) 400-8398.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at www.fetchyournews.com

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