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News
UOBWA budget to be more than $3 million

Barrow County is expected to pay about $2.6 million toward the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority's 2020 budget.

Barrow County uses the second-largest amount of the UOBWA water supply and pays nearly 31 percent of the operating budget. The county pays almost 38 percent of the agency’s debt service, which will be $1.324 million for the fiscal year 2020.

The proposed UOBWA budget for 2020 will increase about 5 percent over the amended 2019 budget.

The UOBWA board is expected to approve the 2020 budget at its November meeting. The board heard a presentation about the budget at its September meeting.

Counties that are included in UOBWA are Barrow, Jackson, Oconee and Clarke counties. Clarke County receives only raw water from the agency when it needs it. The other three counties get finished water for customers.


News
Two WBHS students arrested for having gun on campus

Two Winder-Barrow High School students were arrested Tuesday, Nov. 19, for possession of a firearm on school property.

According to a Barrow County Sheriff’s Office news release, the BCSO’s school resource officer at the school received a tip around 8:40 a.m. Tuesday that a student had a gun on campus. The officer made contact with the student and ultimately secured the firearm without incident.

An investigation led to another student who had brought the firearm to school initially, according to the release.

Both students, whose names weren’t released because they are juveniles, were arrested and transported to the Regional Youth Detention Center.

“There is no evidence of any intent by either of the juveniles to use the gun on campus,” Maj. Ryan Sears with the sheriff’s office said.


News
Barrow Briefs for Nov. 21

Bill Rutledge Road closed for 30 days

A 30-day closure of Bill Rutledge Road due to the widening and construction of the West Winder Bypass took effect Monday, Nov. 18. 

Drivers will be detoured onto Patrick Mill Road, to Carl Bethlehem Road, to Bill Rutledge Road and the reverse.

Senior center Thanksgiving luncheon set

The Barrow County Senior Center’s annual Thanksgiving Luncheon will be held at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, at the senior center, 80 Lee St., Winder.

R.S.V.P. to Deidra Mathis, center coordinator, at dmathis@barrowga.org or 770-307-3025.

Jaemor Farms at NGMC Barrow

Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Barrow will host three upcoming daylong Jaemor Farms pop-up farmers' markets in the hospital atrium.

The dates are Nov. 21, Dec. 5 and Dec. 19.

Food distribution day

The Barrow County Food Pantry, in partnership with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, will host its monthly food distribution day at 8 a.m. (rain or shine) Thursday, Nov. 21, at Holly Hill Mall, across from Hill's Ace Hardware, 186 West Athens St., Winder.

The event, sponsored this month by Bank OZK, is open to all Barrow County residents who meet USDA income-eligibility requirements. Proof of Barrow County residency is required.

Food will be served on a first-come, first-served basis.

The food distribution day is held the fourth Thursday of every month January through October and the third Thursday in November and December.

Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event

A Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event will be held from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at First Christian Church, 275 North Fifth Ave., Winder, across from Winder-Barrow High School.

Survivor Day is an annual event where people all over the world gather together to find comfort, gain insight and share stories of healing and hope. First Christian Church is one of a handful of host sites in the U.S.

Each event features an American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP)-produced documentary about suicide loss and will also include small group discussions and support from other survivors.

"Sharing your experiences with fellow survivors can help you heal," organizers state.

Sign up for the event at afsp.org/survivorsday.

Five authors to sign books at book store

On Nov. 30, Corner Bookstore in Winder will offer readers extra incentive to join in Shop Local Saturday with a visit from five Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas authors.

Multi-published, multi-genre, award-winning writers Lindsey Brackett, Sandra Merville Hart, Ane Mulligan, Pat Nichols and Denise Weimer will sign their most recent releases and enjoy refreshments with the public from noon to 4 p.m, according to a news release.

Fall GED orientation dates

The following GED orientations are scheduled at the Wimberly Center for Community Development, 163 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Winder:

•6 p.m., Dec. 3

•10 a.m., Dec. 11

•6 p.m., Dec. 17

For more information, call 770-531-3361.


News
Speed cameras likely coming to Barrow schools

The Barrow County School System will probably have traffic studies done at each school and speed enforcement cameras placed at those schools that have a large number of speeders.

The Barrow County Board of Education heard a report Tuesday, Nov. 19 about the cameras. Sheriff Jud Smith and Mark Hutchinson, with Blue Line Solutions, which would install the cameras, spoke to the board.

Smith said a study was done on Highway 11 South for five days and more than 8,700 vehicles were doing more than 10 miles per hour above the posted speed limit.

He said a study would be done for each school zone before the cameras are installed.

Smith said the “goal” would be to reduce the number of speeding vehicles by at least 60 percent.

He said the project is “not a moneymaking thing,” but speeders will receive a ticket for $100. The money would be split 50-50 between the sheriff’s office and the company. He said the sheriff’s office money would be used for public safety.

Cases would be heard in probate court so that “due process” is available, Smith said.

Smith and Hutchinson emphasized the educational part of the program. The sheriff said warnings would be issued, not tickets, for the first 30 days of the program. Hutchinson said the company hopes to make presentations to PTOs and other school groups about the program and the cameras.

Smith said email “blasts” and Facebook posts also will discuss the program.

“We want to look at these as an education for our folks,” he said.

Smith said he hopes to start the program in late February or early March.

Hutchinson said the cameras are just like the LIDAR “guns” that officers use and are calibrated each day.

The cameras will not cost the school system.

TECHNOLOGY

The board will be asked to approve the purchase of more than $835,000 in computers and Cleartouch interactive panels at its Dec. 3 meeting.

John St. Clair, information technology services director, said W.B. Mason will be recommended for the purchase of 600 Chromebooks. The district bought 500 Chromebooks from the company in September.

He also said 165 of the interactive panels will go to TechOptics of Winder for $636,611 and 300 Dell laptops will be bought from the company for $83,325.

All of the money will come from SPLOST — special-purpose local-option sales tax — money for the yearly technology refresh.

St. Clair said the panels cost about twice as much as previous purchases but also last about twice as long.

The board also will be asked to approve Charles Black Construction as the construction manager at risk for the summer renovation projects, which includes the Statham Elementary renovation, audio and visual systems and ancillary projects throughout the system, and for the Westside Middle addition that includes 24 classrooms.

The two separate projects have an estimated total cost of $13.5 million.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Tuesday, the BOE:

•heard the system has received $24,840 for professional learning for computer science instructors. Jennifer Wood, director of secondary education, said all of the grant will be used for professional learning for about 27 teachers. She said the grants are to build teacher capacity for computer science education for all of Barrow County’s students.

•will be asked to declare 12 buses and a pickup truck surplus so they can be sold. Jennifer Houston, assistant superintendent for business services, said most of the vehicles are more than 20 years old.

•heard Joe Perno, assistant superintendent for system operations, report that the new high school remains on schedule. He said nearly all of the concrete has been poured and the roof on the student services building is being installed. Perno has emphasized the importance of getting the building roofs on so that work can continue inside regardless of the weather. A classroom building and student services facility are being built adjacent to Sims Academy.

•was given an attendance report that shows enrollment is up after 60 days of school by 273 students from the same time in 2018. The enrollment as of Nov. 14 was 14,275. As Ken Greene, assistant superintendent for support services, noted, the growth in enrollment is all in middle and high school grades. Winder-Barrow High School was at 2,101 students and Apalachee High School was at 1,935 students.


News
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Barrow County one of three finalists for company location

Barrow County is in the running to be the next home to an undisclosed manufacturing business that would bring in 200 jobs to the community, according to the county’s director of economic development.

Lisa Maloof told the Winder-Barrow Industrial Building Authority and Joint Development Authority during a Monday, Nov. 18 meeting that the county is one of three finalists and the business, which has not been revealed to her, is eyeing the Park 53 business park at highways 316 and 53 as a location.

Maloof said the site selection firm that is scouting locations for the company contacted the county to let officials know Barrow was under consideration. The project has a code name, Maloof said, and the firm provided her with sparse details. She said she learned through a phone conversation that Barrow and two other Georgia counties were the finalists.

The company, which is planning a $9 million investment, according to Maloof, is interested in building on “15 to 30” acres at Park 53 and has scouted both sides of the park. The park has 182 acres on the south side of Highway 316 and 90 acres on the north side.

Maloof was hired as the county’s full-time economic development director last year when county manager Mike Renshaw decided to split the former economic and community development department into two separate departments, and one of her top priorities since taking the position has been attracting a company to the vacant business park.

This past summer, the county board of commissioners approved a millage levy on the property for Fiscal Year 2020 in order to generate money to make a $1.1 million debt payment on the property and for several upgrades to the property, including grading a portion of it, making road improvements and building a monument entrance sign with landscaping.

Maloof said she did not have a timetable for when the company could make its final decision.


News
Winder council meeting schedule changed

The Winder City Council has altered its meeting schedule for the remainder of the year, and the change is likely to take effect through next year as well.

Mayor David Maynard has suspended the rotating weekly meetings of the council’s four standing committees — finance and benefits, public safety, planning and development, and utilities and stormwater — until further notice amid concerns over the structure of those meetings, and the council will instead hold a second work session in November and December.

The second November work session is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Winder Community Center, where the council holds its regularly-scheduled meetings. The council will hold another work session at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, and its monthly voting session at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, at the community center before holding another work session at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, at the Winder Police Department.

Maynard said that is likely to be the council’s approach going forward. A full council vote on the 2020 meeting schedule is expected at the council’s Dec. 3 voting session.

In recent years, the full council has typically held official meetings at the community center on the first Monday for a work session and the first Tuesday for a voting session most months with holidays being the exception. Committee meetings have been held each Thursday (except the fifth Thursday of any month) at 6 p.m. in the upstairs conference room at city hall.

But Maynard said he recommended the change after concerns were raised about the openness of the meetings. While the committees — which the mayor has the power to designate under the city’s charter — were designed to have three council members present to hear presentations on certain topics and make recommendations to the full six-member council, the full council, or at least a quorum, has been present at the bulk of the meetings.

While the committee meeting times and locations have been posted to the city’s website, formal agendas have not typically been made available and minutes have not been taken at them, even though most of the council’s discussion on the majority of items it votes on has occurred in that setting. Those meetings rarely draw public attendance of more than one or two people. 

During the recent city council election campaign, one candidate in particular, Robert Lanham, who has regularly attended the committee and regular council meetings, raised the issue, saying the city should have more transparency. Holly Sheats, who defeated Lanham for the at-large seat to replace outgoing councilman Michael Healan, and Kobi Kilgore, who defeated incumbent councilman Al Brown in Ward 2 in the city election earlier this month, also have called for more transparency in the city’s decision-making process.

Maynard and most members of the current council have defended the city’s government as one of the more transparent ones in Barrow County.

“I think this (new format) will be a better and far more accurate depiction of what we’ve been doing,” Maynard said. “Hopefully there will be regular public attendance at the work sessions. We want more public input.”