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.
Blairsville, Ga – Commissioner Lamar Paris approved the contract with BM&K Construction to build the new Union County Recreation Center.
The facility will include a double gym and will be located next to the Health Department. Construction on the recreation center should be completed by March 10, 2020. The contracted amount for the facility is $3,320,00.00
“It’s going to be a beautiful facility, and the contractor should start right away. We’re excited about that,” said Commissioner Lamar Paris.
Also, the new entrance to the Farmer’s Market will be opening soon, hopefully by the June 1 opening of the Farmer’s Market. The pavements complete, and striping still needs to be finished.
“Department of Transportation has to come and make the three-way light a four-way light at the by-pass intersection and 515, explained Paris, “They’ve assured us that they will let us know that they thought with a two-week notice that they can get it done.”
Additionally, the county approved a resolution to reapply for a non-operational Army Tank through the Army Tank Automotive and Armaments Command for display at the Leon Davenport’s Building. It’s the third time that the county has applied for a tank.
“We’ve been totally frustrated for five years solid, and the gentleman who started the process just died a few months ago. We’re very sad about that and we’re trying to increase our efforts, go our congressman and maybe go down to the army depot to find out why we’re not being considered for a tank,” said Paris.
Blairsville, Ga – Proposed gun range on Hwy. 180 close to moving ahead in the process if the final public hearing on May 30 goes well.
The May 30 public hearing will take place at the Civic Center at 6:00 p.m. and will be the last required hearing for the public to attend and voice concerns about the new gun range.
“We’re making steady progress on the gun range on Hwy. 180,” said Commissioner Lamar Paris, “Similar to the range in Towns County, but much better and much different range. We’re now going through the process with the Forest Service, and they’re conducting their environmental studies.”
The Forest Service wants a third public hearing to ensure that the public has ample opportunity to come forward to learn about the project.
Blue Ridge District Manager for the Forest Service Andy Baker and Union County Sheriff Mack Mason will direct the meeting. They will give their presentation and field any questions attendees might have about the gun range.
After this hearing, the public can file questions with the Commissioner’s Office and the Blue Ridge Forestry service.
“Sheriff Mason’s been the park behind the gun club, getting it organized, finding a sufficient property, and working with the Forest Service. All the tests out there have been positive so far, said Paris.
Another public hearing will be held on May 23 at 4:30 at the Union County Courthouse about transferring the surplus property on Hwy. 515. This property was originally purchased for a shotgun range, but environmental studies and growth of residential property has deemed it unsuitable. The hearing will discuss transferring the property to the development authority because the county can’t sell it.
Blairsville, Ga – Missing 5-year-old autistic child found by neighbor and deputy at 7:07 p.m. in a wooded area near Hwy. 180.
“A nearby neighbor and Deputy Josh Bridges found Brett in a wooded area near the house almost simultaneously,” stated Deputy Daren Osborne, “Once found, he was taken to be examined by medical services and his parents were notified.”
Union County Sheriff’s Office led an exhaustive search for the little boy, who wandered away from home sometime between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Brett was last seen asleep in his bed by his father when he left for work. The boy’s mother went to look in on Brett at 11 a.m., and the child had disappeared.
Brett normally sleeps for two hours at a time and then wakes up because autistic children commonly experience chronic sleep problems.
The parents conducted a search of their own before calling the authorities at 1:18 p.m. Upon arrival, Deputies thoroughly searched the house. After, they set up a command center on Hwy. 180 and started canvassing the surrounding area.
The Sheriff’s Office also contacted A Child Missing Foundation immediately after the report came in, and the organization started calling neighbors to ask if they had seen Brett and to search around their homes.
Union County School Board alerted the community with a robocall.
“People also called wanting to volunteer, but we wanted our specialized units to have the first look through the area,” said Osborne.
K-9 Units from Union County Schools Police Department and Woodstock Police Department explored the area. The dogs did hit a track close to a pond. Towns County and Georgia State Patrol (GSP) dive teams were then called, and Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR) lent their sonar unit to check the pond.
Ground search teams included Union County Fire and Rescue, Union County EMA, Blairsville Police Department, Union County EMS, GSP, GDNR, Georgia Department of Community Supervision, GEMA, Woodstock Police Department, Union County High School Police Department, Towns County EMA, and a few volunteers.
GSP also furnished air support with their air patrol helicopter.
“We want to thank everybody that came and assisted with the search. Everyone knew exactly what to do and were very professional during the entire search. We greatly appreciate all the help,” expressed Osborne.
No foul play is suspected in this case just a scary incident for the family and the community. The parents will not be charged with anything.