BLAIRSVILLE, GA – Fire Investigators with the Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner’s Office, accompanied by their K-9, have determined a fire that occurred just before 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 7, at the Nantahala Village apartment complex was intentionally set.
“The arson occurred at the Nantahala Village Apartment Complex, located at 40 Nantahala Lane in Blairsville, Ga. The 20-year-old, 7,500 square-foot building is two floors with four apartments on each floor,” said Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King. “One unit suffered severe fire damage while the adjacent units suffered minor smoke damage. No injuries were sustained in the fire.”
Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King is asking anyone with knowledge about this fire to call the Fire Investigations Unit at 1‐800‐282‐5804. Rewards are offered of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist(s). Calls are taken 24 hours a day and callers can choose to remain anonymous.
The Union County Fire Department is assisting with this investigation.
Stay with Fetch Your News as this story continues to develop.
Blairsville, Ga – S.A.F.E., also known as Support in Abusive Family Emergencies, has assisted over 309 individuals between July 2018 and July 2019 with significant plans to expand services in the near future.
S.A.F.E. Executive Director Molly Cousin broke down the 2018-2019 numbers, “Of these clients, 104 were outreach (not in the shelter), and 93 lived in the emergency shelter. Of these clients, 112 were children, and 76 were adults. We provided 14,350 services including 469 hotline calls.”
Over the next three years, the organization hopes to expand its shelter space to accommodate more children’s groups and activities. Additionally, S.A.F.E. wants to reach out to the Spanish population as well as educate others in the language. Finally, Cousin addressed a desire to expand awareness of the non-profit in Towns County.
One way S.A.F.E.’s hopes for their clients is at their 30th-anniversary event “Rock Against Violence” on September 21 at 6:30 p.m. at Copperhead Lodge. Entertainment includes the band Everyday Clever. Tickets are $10 for ages 16 and up and are available at S.A.F.E. Thrift Stores, Copperhead Lodge, www.safeservices.org, Selah Hair Salon, and Cone and Associates CPA’s Accounting and Tax Services.
“Currently, we have over thirty active volunteers who provide direct service, indirect service, work at the thrift stores or are on our board of directors. Since October 2018, we have received over $30,000 in community monetary donations and the community donated supplies increased significantly in the past year. We are very thankful for such strong support from the community,” stated Cousin.
S.A.F.E. began in 1989 to help those faced with domestic violence, child abuse, or sexual abuse in Union and Towns County.
What started as a 24-hour crisis intervention hotline and support group for women quickly became a grant-funded non-profit organization with support from law enforcement, the judicial system, and social service agencies.
In 1991, Blairsville Jaycees purchased a residence for S.A.F.E to use, and in May of 1991, it officially opened its doors to those in need. Since then, S.A.F.E. has continued to expand its facilities, opening a new facility that can house 16 individuals and meets all ADA and safety requirements, and provides space for all of the services currently offered.
In 2011, the Butterfly House Child Advocacy Center relocated from the S.A.F.E. house to property donated by Union General Hospital. The center allowed for families involved in custody cases to regularly spend supervised visits with their children.
A past client of S.A.F.E had this to say, “If it was not for the people at S.A.F.E. and the Butterfly House Child Advocacy Center’s visitation area, I would not get to see my child that I am working toward getting back to my custody. I was involved in a relationship that was full of domestic violence, and now thanks to everyone at both of these places I am headed in the right direction in getting me and my child back together.”
S.A.F.E. also offers women, children, and men legal advocacy, referral services, children’s programs, family violence assessments/case management, prevention education programs, sexual assault prevention and services, and a family support center program.
When asked about her experience with the organization, Cousin said, “I originally wanted to volunteer with SAFE and see what it was all about. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I am so happy it happened that way. The amount of work done on behalf individual client is certainly a lot, but it really changes your outlook on life when you see someone start out somewhat broken and leave successful on their own two feet.”
If anyone needs S.A.F.E.’s services, please call 706-379-3000. Volunteers can also be reached through the Union County Sheriff’s Office, police department, or email at email@example.com.
Union County junior Mason McCombs has been kicking since he first started playing football, and it showed Friday night as the Panthers hosted the Towns County Indians in Blairsville.
McCombs went 6-for-6 on point-after attempts, while kicking off for four touchbacks and catching a touchdown pass as the Panthers won, 60-7.
For his efforts, McCombs is the Union County Panthers Player of the Week.
“I’ve been kicking since I was seven or eight-years-old, but this is my first year kicking for the varsity team,”
McCombs handles all the kicking duties for the Panthers, kicking off and attempting extra points.
He also plays wide receiver, where he caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from senior Pierson Allison in the second quarter. After he converted the extra-point try, McCombs and the Panthers led 28-0 early in the second quarter.
The touchdown catch was the first for the varsity squad for McCombs, who said he would always remember the play.
“I loved it. That’s my first touchdown catch and it was exhilarating,” McCombs said.
As for the game, McCombs gave all the credit to his teammates for the big win.
“They did amazing. We knew what we had to do, and we did it tonight. Our coaches tell us to get 1 percent better every practice, and I think we did that all week and we proved it tonight.”
Blairsville, Ga. – Thanks to a big day at the plate, the Union County Middle softball team took down area-rival Fannin County, 11-3, Thursday, August 29, at Meeks Park.
The Panthers, who are 10-2 on the season, scored four runs in the bottom of the first and fourth innings to earn the five-inning, mercy-rule win.
Illa Bragg, Sloan Dyer, Layla Akins, and Aubrie Akins each drove in two runs, while Georgia Patton went 3-for-3 with two runs scored.
The Union County scoring started in the bottom of the first inning. The Panthers used a walk from Sierra Burnette, a single from Patton, and three stolen bases to earn the 1-0 lead when Burnette stole home.
Patton stole third, and Dyer walked and stole second to give Layla Akins runners on second and third with one out.
Akins delivered, driving a double to center and bringing in Patton and Dyer to give the Panthers the 4-0 lead to end the first.
Fannin County scored once in the top of the second, before Union County tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the frame.
The surge was in part thanks to a Patton single, a walk from Addison Kennedy, and a big triple from Bragg that pushed the score to 6-1. Bragg scored a batter later as Burnette smacked a groundball out to shortstop and moved the score to 7-1.
The Lady Rebels managed to score in the top of the third, hold the Panthers scoreless in the bottom of the inning, and add another run in the top of the fourth.
With the score 7-3 in the bottom of the first, the Panthers put up their second four-run inning of the night.
Patton, Kennedy, Dyer, Aubrie Akins, and Jewel Massey all singled, while Bragg doubled and Dyer added a stolen base to extend the lead to 11-3 headed into the top of the fifth inning.
Bragg struck out the first two Fannin County batters in the inning, issued a two-out walk, and then got the final batter to pop-out to catcher Kennedy in foul territory to end the game on the five-inning mercy rule.
The Panthers next host Lumpkin County, beginning at 4:15 p.m., September 3. Union has faced Lumpkin before this season, beating the Lady Indians 14-2 in Blairsville on August 8.
Blairsville, Ga – Union County (UCS) students head back to school this week on Wednesday, August 7 for the 2019-2020 school year.
For parents wondering about start and end times for each school, here they are:
- Union County Primary School (UCPS) – 8:15 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.
- Union County Elementary School (UCES) – 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Union County Middle School (UCMS) – 7:50 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Union County High School (UCHS) – 7:50 a.m. to 3:17 p.m.
- Woody Gap K-5 – 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Woody Gap 6-12 – 7:50 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Alternative School – 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
UCPS also has a freshly paved car-pick up line and privacy fencing along the playground.
To help keep traffic moving, UCS Police Chief Chad Deaton stated, “We’re probably going to beef up [SRO presence] the first couple days with some part-time guys to help us with traffic those first few days and add some drop-off zones.”
UCS also has a district-wide dress code that prohibits facial piercings and unnatural hair colors, gym clothes outside of PE, crop tops, and other items.
Meet Your Teacher is Monday, August 5 from 3 to 6 p.m.
Good luck to all the students, teachers, and parents as they get back into the school routine!
Blairsville, Ga – Union and Towns County formed the Trusted Voices committee for assistance with the 2020 census.
With the 2020 Census rapidly approaching – April 1, 2020, Union, Towns, Blairsville, Hiawassee, and Young Harris partnered with the Patrick Malone to form the Trusted Voices committee to ensure maximum participation.
“We had a meeting six week ago with a lady from the Governor’s Office, Anna Miller,” said Mayor Jim Conley “Commissioner Paris put together an agreement with Mr. Patrick Malone who is here tonight that puts [Malone] in charge of the working end of the Census.”
In the 2010 report, Union recorded around 85 percent of the total population. Towns recorded 87 percent.
Malone hopes to increase Census participation in 2020. The organization serves to encourage individuals to answer the survey through door-to-door visits and community engagements. These efforts will gear up in the fall to promote awareness.
“The committee’s known as the Trusted Voices Campaign. The responsibilities are really minor. It’s just being aware what’s going on with the Census and make sure that we exceed last Census’ participation rate,” explained Malone.
Blairsville City Council appointed Councilman Mary Ruth Cook and Councilman Rhonda Mahan to serve on the Trusted Voices committee to represent Blairsville’s interest. They will have one meeting with Malone and then spread the word in the community.
The city paid Trusted Voices $500 to utilize the service. Hiawassee and Young Harris also paid $500, but Union and Towns are expected to cover the rest of the cost.
Blairsville, Ga – New field house being reassessed after bids come in $1M over the initial budget.
Board of Education elected to reevaluate the scope of the field house project after bids for came back around $2M.
“I had anticipated a million. This is way more than I anticipated,” stated Chair Cynthia Odom.
“When we started out the architects the number was a lot lower, but it seems like it has grown and grown with its costs and we actually value engineered practically everything,” explained Assistant Superintendent David Murphy.
Superintendent John Hill offered to go back and reevaluate the specifications, including the architectural drawings and RFP to find a reasonable solution.
Odom suggested looking at the current fieldhouse and trying to modify it before proceeding with this project.
“We’re a pay as we go,” said Odom, “It’s going to delay other items.”
Board Member Keith Potts added another approach to the field house project, “Maybe the footprint of it can be what you’re looking at, but downsize the building so you can expand maybe in five years to get that number down.”
These bids for the project came in last week, and due to architecture fees, the school system’s already paid over $50,000 into it. The bidding was very tight among the lowest three within $50,000.
“It’s a terrible time to build,” stated Hill.
“It’s hard to justify the costs of double, $2M on a non-academic building, used by a finite number of students,” said Board Member Janna Akins.
“We need to provide a facility, but we can reevaluate exactly what that is,” stated Hill.
Odom the discussion closed with, “We appreciate all the time, effort, and energy. I know this is not an easy thing to do.”
Safety access doors for all the schools are proceeding and should be installed by the new school year. All teacher IDs have been updated, and the switch should begin soon.
Paving for the primary and elementary pick-up line, two parking lots, as well as primary and elementary bus drop-off/pick-up areas. The paving project will cost the school system $511,775.88.
Privacy fencing for the primary school also received approval to move forward with a bid of $76,867.20. It will include a six-foot chain link fence with privacy slating around the pick-up lane. This fence will allow traffic to start earlier in the day and hopefully speed up the process.
“Those were the areas we identified with the most potholes and issues for parents, but also they drop off the most children there. It will really benefit a lot of our students,” said Hill.
“We never let them back before 2:30 because we still have children on the playground,” explained Murphy, “The privacy slating will allow us to have them out.”
Union County Primary School Principal Millie Owenby agreed that the fencing should improve the pick-up process in the next school year.
Blairsville, Ga – Union County High School (UCHS) named the fourth STEM certified public school in the state.
State Superintendent Richard Woods visited UCHS a few weeks ago and recognized the school as the 14th STEM certified program in the state and fourth public school to earn the honor.
STEM teaches students computational thinking and using scientific methods to solve real-world problems. It helps children to develop technological skills that they can use to one day find highly-sought after jobs.
At the May Board of Education, Superintendent John Hill presented the STEM certification award to Ms. Alecia Frizzell.
“Ms. Frizzell was extremely dedicated and instrumental in the high school receiving the certification, and it’s going to have a lasting impact on students of our county,” said Hill.
Ms. Frizzell also received the Outstanding High School Chemistry Teacher of the Year 2019.
“I have not met a teacher more dedicated to her students and her profession,” said Hill, “we’re very proud of her.”
“I had no idea I was getting the award. I think I was nominated by Mr. Hussion,” explained Frizzell, “I had a student write a recommendation letter that is framed and on a wall in my house.”
Three Partners in Education were recognized for their significant efforts to improve the schools’ facilities and life of the students.
Gene Sprayberry donated a large greenhouse to Woody Gap Schools in memory of his wife, Louise.
“I’m thankful that the school system accepted the schoolhouse in memory of Louise,” said Sprayberry, “She would be so thrilled to see that it was doing some good, and students might take up her passion. She loved it.”
This year the Chamber of Commerce had an entire night dedicated to recognizing Union County Schools’(UCS) students and set up two committees devoted to finding ways to help students.
“Our local chamber has always supported our school system, but this past year they have truly been a partner in education,” said Assistant Superintendent David Murphy.
“We appreciate the opportunity for the chamber to participate in the program,” said Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rowe, “These students are the future of Union County.”
RC&D Council sponsored a number of learning opportunities for the students of UCS and Woody Gap, including sponsoring a steer for middle school agriculture day, a pig for the cafeterias, fire-wise programs, a high-wind tunnel, drone software, wick-whacking device, and a number of the members.
Jason Moore’s recognized for his outstanding service on the middle school governance team.
“Jason Moore has been our representative at the middle school for the past two years, and he has done an outstanding job, said Principal Gwen Stafford, “If he doesn’t know what the students would like, he goes out and sees them. He gets there opinion and comes back and reports to us.”
UCHS FFA Students also received recognition for winning first place in state competitions.
Isaac Hunter placed first at the state level for the ocular estimation event at the junior foresters’ field day.
“Ocular estimation is where I have to stand five feet away from the tree and guess the diameter of it,” said Hunter. He can’t use any tools to assist with the process, just his best sight guestimation.
Next, Timothy Dye won first place at the state competition for timber cruising for board volume.
“You have to stand 66 feet away from the tree using logger tape, diameter tape, and clinometer. The diameter get the actual diameter of it, and with the clinometer, you get the height of it,” explained Dye.
The Union County Primary School recognized two teachers who achieved perfect attendance for the 2018-2019 school year. Kelsey Miller teaches Pre-K, and Tina Payne is an RTI specialist who teaches Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade students.
“We all know that as teachers that the more we are there, the better the students perform,” said Principal Millie Owenby, “Sometimes at the primary school that is quite an accomplishment.”
The board also presented Superintendent with an award to commemorate his 15 years of service.