Roadways become impassable during winter storm

Community, News

Blairsville, Ga. – Winter weather is taking its toll on our area and Union County is beginning to feel the brunt of the storm.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office is keeping citizens updated via Facebook and recently released a warning stating, “Roads in Union County are becoming impassable. There are several vehicles including tractor and trailers stuck in the roadway. Please stay off roads!!”

In neighboring Fannin County, Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Robert Graham explained the situation, ““The pavement was wet when the snow started falling, so the wet areas on our roadways have turned to ice.”

Roads in Union County are experiencing a similar condition with ice being reported under the thick layer of snow.

Union County Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris shared on Facebook, “Do not get on the highways. They are slick and dangerous.”

“It is foggy and the visibility is low and all highways are slick,” Paris continued emphasizing the importance of avoiding travel at the moment.

Paris urged people to not drive around  sightseeing and to wait for conditions to ease up.

Union County Fire/Rescue and EMA are also confirming that there are multiple accidents in the county and that several roadways are being shut down.

All Union County emergency services are asking citizens to remain home at the moment, unless absolutely necessary to get out, and allow crews and personnel time to address issues and to try to make the roadways safer for travel.

FYN will bring you updates on the winter weather throughout the day.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of FYN viewer Doug Brown.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

UPDATE: Terroristic threats made against Blairsville Walmart

News, Police & Government
Blairsville Walmart

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – A Murphy, N.C. man called into Walmart corporate on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 and threatened the customers shopping at the store.

According to Union County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO), the call came into the Bentonville, Ark. office at 8 a.m. CST, which would be 10 a.m. EST. Corporate then called Union County 911 dispatch immediately before even calling the Blairsville store. Law enforcement responded and swept the store to identify any potential threat. They found none. After clearing the scene, UCSO began to work on who made the call.

By 10:45 a.m. EST, UCSO had identified Robert Theodore Lee, 59, as the alleged caller/potential shooter. Lee was extradited from Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, Feb. 7 and charged with one felony count of terroristic threats and acts, O.C.G.A. 16-11-37 (b). Bond hasn’t been set for Lee at this time.

O.C.G.A. 16-11-37 (b) states that a person commits the offense of a terroristic threat when he or she threatens to: Commit any crime of violence; Release any hazardous substance; or Burn or damage property.

Sources have also reported that employees had no idea about the potential shooter until management called a meeting for “any available associates.” Those who couldn’t go had to hear from other employees or ask law enforcement in the building. This could be part of Walmart policy, and Fetch Your News (FYN) has contacted Walmart corporate to answer this question.

Additionally, off-duty deputies are stationed in the Blairsville Walmart for the next 72 hours at the store’s request. FYN will ask Walmart if this is part of their policy to determine as well.

In September 2019, the same Walmart experienced a credible bomb threat that included evacuation.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. Please remember all are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

High-Speed Chase Driver Charged with 4 Felonies and 6 Misdemeanors

Featured Stories
High-speed chase

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Charges listed for a male suspect arrested after high-speed chase include four felony counts and six misdemeanors.

Jeremy Ursel Folds, the driver of the stolen 2018 black Toyota Corolla, sped through Union County and Blairsville on Tuesday, Nov. 19 before being apprehended in the Seasons Inn Motel parking lot.

He’s charged with four felony counts: possession of methamphetamine, tampering of evidence, theft by receiving stolen property, and fleeing or attempting to illude an officer; as well as six misdemeanor counts: possession of drug-related objects, DUI- marijuana or controlled substance, driving while license suspended/revoked, obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers, reckless driving, and aggressive driving.

The bond for Folds is set at $57,826.00.

Union County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO) chased the stolen vehicle across the county before capturing Folds at Seasons Inn with assistance from Blairsville Police Department (BPD) and Georgia State Patrol (GSP).

Union County Sheriff’s Lt. Shawn Dyer spotted the vehicle near the Lumpkin/Union County Line and realized it matched the description of one wanted in several jurisdictions.

Folds reportedly stole the vehicle in Union County (Fulton County) with a chase originally beginning there, but law enforcement ended pursuit until Dyer picked it back up.

Dyer began pursuit of the Corolla on Hwy. 129 toward Blairsville. Once entering the city, Folds turned left from Cleveland St. and proceeded to go the wrong way around the square before entering Seasons Inn Plaza.

Patrol cars followed Folds into Seasons Inn Plaza, and GSP entered a pit maneuver to end the high-speed chase.

No one was hurt in the incident, but Dyer’s and a GSP car were damaged.

UCSO took Folds into custody on charges in other counties. His expected charges in other jurisdictions could include vehicle theft and aggravated assault. GSP will also issue charges against Folds.

This story is developing, please stick with Fetch Your News and more information comes in.

UPDATE: Missing Appalachian Trail Hiker Found Safe

News, Police & Government
Appalachian Trail

UPDATE:  Appalachian Trail hiker was found on Tuesday, Nov 19. and taken to receive medical treatment.

Previous story

UNION COUNTY, GA –  On Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, a hiker reported finding an abandoned backpack on the Appalachian Trail. It belonged to Shane Michael Dixon, 24, of St. Petersburg, Fl, who has yet to be found.

Union County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department have actively been searching the trail. They located his belongings, but so far no sitings of Dixon.

The backpack was discovered, close to Gooch Gap and Suches, GA. It’s just three miles off Georgia Hwy. 60, located in the Southeastern end of the county.

Other hikers saw Dixon around 2:15 p.m. on Monday near Cooper Gap, not far from where the bag was found.  They stated that Dixon seemed fatigued and wasn’t carrying any supplies, such as water, food, or camping equipment. He took a bottle of water from the hikers, then set off toward Unicoi State Park.

The state park is 30 miles away from Dixon’s last known location.

Heading into the second night, Dixon’s exposure to the elements could affect his survival. Last night the Appalachian Trail recorded near-freezing temperatures, and according to reports, Dixon lacks any survival gear.

If you have seen or know Dixon’s whereabouts, please call 911 as soon as possible. If you find Dixon, please provide any assistance you can, then call the authorities.

Sheriff Mason Discusses His Achievements and Plans for Future

Election, News
Mason

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – On Oct. 9, incumbent Sheriff Mack Mason announced his intentions to run for reelection in Union County. Fetch Your News sat down with sheriff to learn more about his platform and hopes for the county’s future.

Three tenants of his 2020 campaign could be Union County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO) efficiency, community safety, and inmate mental health.

Mason took office almost seven years ago in 2013, and before being elected as Sheriff, Mason spent 29 years as a Georgia State Patrol (GSP).

When asked why he decided to run for a third term, Mason referred to the alarming trend in this country where officers are losing respect and becoming afraid to do their jobs. “That’s not going to happen in Union County,” he said, referring to cities across the country being destroyed due to lack of law effective law enforcement.

“We have some of the most dedicated people that I have ever seen,” said Mason, “One fact that I am extremely proud of is when I took office, we have one female deputy, and she worked at the school. Now we have six female deputies on our shifts.”

Given today’s atmosphere, women deputies are essential to manage the female prison population and ensure everyone receives fair treatment at UCSO jail.
He also substantially raised the pay since taking office. When first elected jailers received “$8 or $9” an hour, and now they make $15. As for deputies in 2013, they started at $12. Currently, they earn $17 an hour.

“We could not get female applicants at $12 an hour,” stated Mason.

While raising wages to better his employees’ lives, overall, Mason tries to run a lean department.

In his seven years in office, the sheriff’s office has received approximately $572,000 in tax funding or $82,000 per year. This amount operates a 60 vehicle fleet, 40 deputies, jail staff, and part-timers.

All vehicles log their mileage and gas consumption from month to month. The records let Sheriff’s Office maintain an efficient and well-oiled fleet that’s always ready to roll for the community.
In his first two years, Mason began a crackdown on drugs after being elected as sheriff. UCSO collected enough drug seizure money to purchase new vehicles. Due to the drug task force’s vigilance, drug arrests are down for the year with only 67 thus far. In 2018, officers arrested123 individuals on drug-related charges.

UCSO has cracked down on drugs in the last seven years.

“Hopefully, people are getting the message,” Mason stated about individuals understanding Union County takes drugs seriously wants to keep them off the streets.

However, overall activity is still consistent with over 15,000 service calls so far into 2019.

“We don’t want to short our citizens with a lack of service of any kind,” said Mason, “We preach to these deputies to watch your driving mannerisms and use your head.” Mason wants to make sure that his deputies understand their role in the community and do not abuse it. Since taking office, he has set up patrol zones for deputies, so everyone knows their area. Deputies know where to patrol and can effectively monitor their zone.

Officers undergo 40 to 60 hours of training a year. The state of Georgia requires deputies to perform for at least 20 hours a year of training. Mason likes to be proactive with his deputies, so they are equipped for any situation that might arise in Union County.

The animal control unit also received praise for keeping an eye on the whole county from dogs to cows. The two officers will respond and take care of the incident promptly with the animal’s welfare in mind.

One area that Mason wants to improve is inmate care and mental health. Some inmates have been in the system for over 500 days without a court date.

Some inmates never see a lawyer because conflict attorneys from other counties don’t make an effort to visit or call. As a result, people remain stuck in jail for years. When a local public defender cannot represent an individual due to already representing another defendant in the same case, a conflict attorney takes responsibility for the unrepresented individual.

The jail has an occupancy of 54. However, the facility regularly experiences overcrowding, and UCSO houses inmates out when necessary.

Mason conceded, “We can get things done if they’ll talk, but if they never see their attorney.” He provides jail reports monthly to county officials, district attorneys, and judges, so they know how long people have been in jail without trial.

Also, some inmates have mental health issues and need to be in a facility for treatment. These inmates include people addicted to drugs who need rehab.

“It takes sometimes two to nine months for the state to call for [individuals sentenced to a mental facility],” explained Mason, “My question to the state is why is that happening? Why aren’t their more facilities? They have dropped the services for these people. The county jail is not the place for these people.”

“I’m trying to shed light on these problems,” said Mason referring to jail overcrowding and inability to properly care for inmates.

Deputy Arrested for Simple Battery Resigns, Investigation Ongoing

News, Police & Government
simple battery

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – Sgt. Andrew Hammond resigned from the Union County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO) after a misdemeanor charge of simple battery, family violence on Sunday, Sept.22.

UCSO deputies were called to Hammond’s household for an alleged domestic violence incident. Upon arrival, deputies heard shouting coming from inside the house. After entering the residence, discerned that Hammond was intoxicated from alcohol.

They discovered bruising on Hammond’s wife’s person consistent with physical restraint, which affirmed their determination that Hammond was holding his wife to prevent her from leaving the premises.

Hammond was booked into the Union County Jail on Sunday, Sept. 22 on the misdemeanor charge of simple battery, family violence. He bonded out on Monday, Sept. 23.

UCSO immediately placed Hammond on unpaid administrative leave until they could conduct a thorough internal investigation. He resigned later that day after deputies escorted Hammond home to collect his gun, badge, and patrol vehicle.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has been brought in to conduct an external review of the arrest since it involves a UCSO officer. The sheriff’s office is still in the midst of conducting its internal investigation. It will forward the findings to the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council for consideration of Hammond’s continued certification as a peace officer.

Hammond joined UCSO in 2013 as an investigator in the Criminal Investigations Division before transferring to Road Patrol. Most recently, he worked security at the Union County Courthouse.

In 2018, he received employee counseling for conduct unbecoming of a deputy sheriff due to overlapping personal and work life. He was informed to not use his work vehicle for personal use during or after his shift. Additionally, he was told to not become entangled in domestic disputes between a female friend and her ex-husband. Records show that Hammond understood the implications of mixing work and personal.

In a past position, he was the subject of an internal investigation for use of excessive force, but the claim was unfounded by investigators. Aside from those two instances, Hammond’s personal record doesn’t indicate any misconduct while on the job.

Before gaining a position with the UCSO, Hammond worked for the Morrow Police Department, Jonesboro Police Department, Tyrone Police Department, and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office.

Weapons Carry Class with Union Sheriff’s Office in October

Announcements, Police & Government, Press Release
weapons carry class

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – Union County Sheriff’s Office is sponsoring a Weapons Carry Class on Tuesday, Oct. 29 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

This class is open to the public and free of charge, and it will be held at the Haralson Memorial Civic Center at 165 Wellborn Street in Blairsville.

The training covers the “Do’s and Don’ts” for carrying weapons and provides an overview of how people can legally defend themselves and their property.

Staff Sergeant Purcell will be teaching the course. sixth time teaching the class. He has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, including as a Georgia P.O.S.T. certified instructor with Firearms and Defensive Tactics as his major course of instruction. SSgt. Purcell is also a two-tour Vietnam vet and has taught this class six times.

The Staff Sergeant was a senior instructor from 1986 to 2010 at Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College Police Academy. Additionally, he was the assistant director of the academy from 2002 to 2010.

Purcell has a degree in criminal justice and graduated from the Professional Management Program, Command College. He also attended the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy 159th session.

In addition to his law enforcement service and education, Purcell was one of the few officers selected to travel to Israel and serve as a law enforcement exchange officer.

Participants don’t require a firearm for class. Please park at the civic center and not in the adjacent parking lot for Skillet Café Restaurant.  Parking will also be available across the road at the county permit office on the hill.

There is no fee or test for this class, just free information.

 

Walmart Bomb Threat Leads to Evacuation

Featured Stories, News, Police & Government
Walmart Bomb Threat

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – An anonymous caller dialed up the Union County Walmart at approximately 2.45 p.m. and threatened to blow up the building. Local law enforcement responded and conducted a complete evacuation and search of the scene.

Once the call came in, Union County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO) immediately responded to the threat in an effort to maintain public safety. They removed everyone from the store and most of the parking lot before conducting a thorough search of the building.

Captain Lloyd commented that it took around 20 minutes to remove everyone from the premise. He also stated that deputies examined every inch of Walmart and found no suspicious objects inside the building.

Currently, UCSO aren’t releasing any details as to the identity of the caller or the call.  It’s still an active investigation.

After completing the search, Walmart managers decided to open the store back up around 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

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

 

 

Suspected Thief In Custody after 6 Day Search

Featured Stories, Police & Government
thief

Blairsville, Ga – William Trannies “Rainbow” Jones, a suspected thief, arrested on Saturday, August 3 by Fannin County Deputies after several days of eluding officers.

Fannin Deputies recognized Jones during a traffic stop and arrested him for outstanding warrants in Union County. Jones was wanted for violating parole, burglary, theft by taking, and obstruction/hindering an officer.

A resident of Young Harris, Jones evaded law enforcement from July 28 to August 3 before being apprehended by Fannin County Sheriff’s Office. His bond is currently set at $14,000.

According to Lt. Daren Osborn, Jones burglarized a couple’s home after being hired to help out with their Pleasant Grove Property.

Originally, he turned up on the property asking for scrap metal. Since the couple was moving out of state soon, they agreed to let Jones help out. Currently, only the wife resides in Union because her husband already moved to Alaska for work.

When she left town for a few days, Jones allegedly entered the residence through back windows and took several items from the home. He took approximately $4,000 worth of goods, and at this time, $75 has been recovered.

“He knew they were going to be gone for a few days, and he basically came back and entered the house through the back window,” said Osborn.

The owner of the home reported the items missing on Saturday, July 27.

A deputy spotted Jones’ truck on Sunday, July 28 with items that matched the description of the stolen goods.

thief

Jones, a suspected thief, arrested in Fannin during a traffic stop.

However, by the time the deputy had turned around Jones had exited the vehicle and parked it at an Ivy Log residence before disappearing in the woods. He did know the people who lived at the residence, but they’re not involved with the crime.

The deputy ran the pick-up’s tags and discovered Jones had violated parole, but due to slow technology, it allowed Jones to escape.

“He didn’t know it was him. They just fit the description,” explained Osborn, “by the time [Georgia Crime Information Center] got all the information back to the deputy, he had fled.”

The deputy did impound Jones’ truck and confirmed that some of the stolen goods were in the truck bed.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested Jones during a traffic stop and held him for Union County for suspected burglary.

After being taken in, Jones stated that the owner of the home told him to have the items. Osborn confirmed that she did give him some of the items, but not all the items missing or found in Jones possession.

Jones has been helpful with the investigation and asset recovery since being questioned by officers.

Osborn noted that the Union County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank Fannin County Sheriff’s Office for their cooperation in this matter.

UPDATED: Suicide at Union County Courthouse

News
courthouse Qualifying meetings state of emergency

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – Lt. Russell Walker with the Blairsville Police Department confirmed a suicide occurred outside of the Union County Courthouse sometime before 11:00 a.m. Monday, May 21.

Criminal Investigator Lt. Tom Mangifesta, of the Union County Sheriff’s Office, stated the victim was 59-year-old Elmore Martin Putney III, a Blairsville attorney who had been practicing law locally for over three years. Mangifesta reported Putney died from a single gunshot wound to the head. The lieutenant added the incident occurred sometime between when Putney was last seen on security cameras outside the courthouse at 8:55 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. when a call was received by the sheriff’s office from a passerby who reported seeing Putney lying on the ground outside the north lower parking lot entrance of the courthouse.  Mangifesta also stated Putney was scheduled to be at the courthouse for a court hearing later that day.

Following the revelation that a shooting had occurred, the courthouse was put into a state of lockdown. Mangifesta also said sounds of gunfire were never reported and stated a nearby berm and large transformers outside the courthouse entrance may have contributed to the inability of anyone in the near vicinity hearing the gunshot.

According to the Mangifesta, Putney had finalized his will Friday, May 18, and several other documents including notes were later discovered in the ensuing investigation that led investigators to believe the incident was premeditated by Putney. Mangifesta speculated Putney had been “suffering from mental health issues for a long time.”

Union County School Superintendent John Hill confirmed reports that all schools were also put on lockdown following the incident. Hill stated the school system received word at 10:54 a.m. from the Union County Sheriff’s Office of a shooting at the courthouse and the schools were immediately locked down as part of standard protocol for the schools. Hill added the lockdown was lifted at 11:15 a.m. after the school system received details as to the nature of the incident and it was determined there was no threat at the schools.

The incident is being investigated by the Union County Sheriff’s Office. FetchYourNews will have further details on this as they become available.

 

 

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.

Another Huge turnout in Blairsville for Concealed Carry Class

Community, News

UCSO Deputy Billy Purcell

Blairsville, GA – About three hundred people attended the Blairsville Concealed Carry Class on Monday, July 10, 2017. It is put on by the Union County Sheriff’s Office. The class was held at the Pat Haralson Memorial Civic Center. The class lasted well over an hour and was taught by UCSO Deputy Billy Purcell. Union County Sheriff Mack Mason has been a proponent of these classes since he took office in January 2013.

 

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 FetchYourNews.com

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

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.

Rayfield presents school security and safety update

News
conferences

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – During the Union County Board of Education (BOE) work session Tuesday, Feb. 20, Dr. Fred Rayfield, superintendent for Union County Schools, delivered an update on school security and safety procedures in the wake of the recent school shooting in Florida.

Rayfield stated there are three non-negotiable duties for which all employees of Union County Schools are responsible: teach students, protect students and act ethically and professionally.

The superintendent clarified that all security and safety plans and protocols for Union County Schools have been approved by the state and Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), and Union County has been used as a model for other north Georgia school systems to follow.

Dr. Fred Rayfield, superintendent of Union County Schools, updates the Board of Education on school safety and security policies and measures Tuesday, Feb. 20.

“Every aspect is reviewed annually,” Rayfield said of the school system’s security and safety policies. “Safety enhancements and additions are an ongoing priority.”

Currently, according to Rayfield, Union County Schools employ three school resource officers (SROs) from the Union County Sheriff’s Office as well as two security officers and one security guard who mans the guard shack at Union County High School.

Additionally, other system-wide safety features include a required picture ID for all school system employees, security cameras inside and outside of facilities, security cameras on buses, thorough visitor sign-in processes, secure “buzz-through” main entry points at facilities, 24/7 monitoring of electronic threats and messages on social media and other online outlets, and on-site panic buttons.

Rayfield explained the school system has spent over $715,000 over the last five years on these and other safety enhancements for schools, which averages to $271 a student spent for safety and security measures.

“I can assure you,” Rayfield told the audience at the meeting, “that there are some things in place here that make me feel very good about where we’re at with security and that we’re making progress toward getting better … I believe that we do everything that we can to protect kids no matter what the situation, and I applaud the (BOE) for appropriating the resources over the last three to five years .”

Following Rayfield’s presentation, BOE member Janna Akins stated, “I think it’s hard to fathom that we’ve got kindergartners that we should be concerned about in these kind of situations, but that’s just the times that we live in now. This information was very helpful, and I appreciate the board and the school system’s approach of not just having a reactionary plan but an ongoing plan to make (safety) a priority.”

Also during the work session, Courtney Waller, school nutrition program director, presented a slight revision to the school system’s wellness policy. Waller explained the policy, according to federal mandates, must be reassessed every three years

According to Waller, the revision would change the wording from “all food and beverages made available on campus during the school day shall be consistent with the minimum requirements of federal law” to “all food and beverages available for purchase …”

Later, in the regular meeting, as the board was about to approve the revision, Rayfield explained this proposed revision must remain tabled for 30 days before final approval can be made to change the policy.

In the regular meeting, Superintendent Rayfield awarded two presentations with the first being an art student recognition awarded to second-grader Emma Taylor. Taylor’s design was selected for use on the Union County School System Christmas card in 2017. “Thank you for a beautiful piece of artwork,” Rayfield told Taylor.

Next, Rayfield presented representatives from Union General Hospital – Lewis Kelley, chief executive officer, Michael Gay, chief operating officer, and Leslie Daniel, administrative liason – with a Partner in Education award.

“They do a tremendous amount of work throughout the school system to provide lots of services for our students and employees,” Rayfield said of the hospital’s partnership with Union County Schools, “and we’re just absolutely excited to recognize Union General Hospital as our community partner for this month.”

In other business, the BOE unanimously approved, as submitted, all principals’ quarterly reports, the monthly financial reports, fiscal year 2018 budget amendments, and personnel recommendations.

 

 

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

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.

Huge N. Georgia Methamphetamine Bust Leads to Lab in Suches, GA

News

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.

GBI Press Release

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

Escaped CPDC Inmate Has Been Apprehended

News

Blairsville, GA – On a tip from the Union County Sheriff’s Office, FetchYournews.com has learned that an inmate from the Colwell Probation Detention Center in Blairsville, GA, who was on a work detail in Towns County, stole a car and managed to escape from custody today. The car reportedly had .357 magnum hand gun in it. The inmate was spotted by a Union County Sheriff’s Deputy heading towards Fannin County on Hwy 515. A chase ensued from there that lead into Fannin County where Fannin County Sheriff’s Deputies assisted in apprehending the inmate after he ran several cars of the road and ended up crashing the stolen vehicle. It is not know at this time whether the inmate knew he had stolen a car with a handgun in it. The inmate was reportedly not injured in the crash and is now back in custody. The inmate reportedly only had nine days left to serve out his sentence.

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

Man sought for assault on law enforcement faces drug charges

News, Police & Government

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Law enforcement officers from the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, Union County Sheriff’s Office, and Hiawassee Police Departmet arrested a suspect at a residence on Sampson Road in Young Harris on Sunday, Nov. 25, on outstanding warrants stemming from Towns, Union, and Gordon Counties.

Towns County Sheriff’s Office investigators seized metamphetamine with a street-value of $5,000, illicit Schedule II and Schedule IV drugs, additional drug-related objects, and cash. Christopher Ray arrest

The suspect was identified as Christopher Steven Ray, 34, of Murphy, North Carolina. Ray was taken into custody, and charged with the following offenses:

  • One Count Trafficking in Methamphetamine
  • One Count Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute
  • One Count Possession of Methamphetamine
  • One Count Possession of Schedule II drugs
  • One Count Possession of Shedule IV drugs
  • One Count Possession of Drug-Related Objects
  • One Count Obstruction of Law Enforcement Officers

In addition to the listed chardres, investigators served warrants on Ray which involved a previous encounter with the subject on Sept. 6, 2018. The warrants were related to the following crimes:

  • Possession of Methamphetamine
  • Three Counts Obstruction of Law Enforcement Officers
  • Two Counts Possession of Schedule IV drugs

Gordon County Sheriff’s Office held outstanding warrants on Ray for Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer along with several traffic offense warrants.

Union County Sheriff’s Office had previously issued a warrant for Ray for Violation of Probation.

The Towns County Sheriff’s Office warrants and charges will be forwarded to the Enotah Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

Ray is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Feature Photo: Evidence seized from the Young Harris residence where Ray was apprehended.

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