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Hoschton to reactivate police department and establish DDA

The Hoschton City Council called a special meeting April 27 to reactivate its police department, activate a new Downtown Development Authority and vote on several other items.

The council approved reactivation of its police department, which was included in the city’s 2021 budget to provide funds for one officer and one car beginning in the third quarter of 2021.

The city abolished its police department in 2010 due to funding problems, however the council determined a need to reactivate on a small scale due to the city’s anticipated growth coupled with the county sheriff’s office inability to provide the response times residents expect.

In addition to a considerable amount of documentation to be filed with the state, the city must reinstate its municipal court, appoint judges and public defenders and set up probation.

The city aims to have the police department in operation by Aug. 1.

The council also determined a need for a Downtown Development Authority. The DDA will act to promote the city’s efforts to revitalize and redevelop the city’s central business district by creating a business friendly climate open to new development, trade and commerce, officials said.

The designated DDA area is “pretty much what used to be the overlay district,” according to city administrator Gary Fesperman. The district will span from West Jackson Fire Station to Peachtree Road on Hwy. 53.

The council is reviewing applications for DDA directors and will make appointments at its regular council meeting May 10.

In other business, the council:

● heard a proposal from the Appalachian Regional Commission to build a 500,000 gallon elevated water tank to better provide for the city’s rising water usage. The project will cost $1.5 million. The city has been approved for a $600,000 grant from the ARC to help fund the project. The proposed funding for the remaining $900,000 would come local funds and connection fees. If approved by the council, this will be the third grant given to the city by ARC. A public hearing was held on the proposal and the council will vote on the measure at its regular meeting May 10.

● approved an ordinance to allow for drive-thru windows in a licensed retail dealer of distilled spirits and malt beverages.

● amended agenda and approved motion to clarify the eight rezoning conditions approved in its April 19 meeting for property on Peachtree Road.

Braselton hosted its first cleanup day on Saturday, May 1. Volunteers checked in at the gazebo on the town green to pick up their coffee, donuts and supplies before dispersing to the five zones downtown. “This is a program that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” said Amy Pinnell (right). “I am really surprised and pleased with how many people responded to our call for help. We’ve got a great group of 30 folks out today. It’s fun to have some families out who wanted to get their kids involved to teach them about being responsible and helping out in your community.” Pinnell said that Keep Jackson County Beautiful donated water for volunteers and that Yyvett Wise of the Rivers Alive program was a great resource to the program as well as she gave them tips and let them borrow supplies. A cleanup tally form was also given to groups to collect their cleanup data to submit to RiversAlive.org.

Peggy and Donna Cannella collected bags of trash to haul to the dumpster after a cleanup day held in downtown Braselton.

Braselton area counties still below state average in vaccines

Braselton’s four-county area still lags behind the state in the percentage of residents who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccination.

Across the state, 3.63 million residents have received at least one dose, or 35% of the population, while 2.72 million (or 26%) are fully vaccinated.

Gwinnett County has the highest vaccine rate in the Braselton area, but falls just short of the state average with 34% of its residents having at least one dose and 24% being fully vaccinated.

Hall and Jackson counties have the same average with 27% of residents getting at least one dose and 21% fully vaccinated.

Barrow County has the lowest average of the four-county area with 24% of residents having their first dose and 17% fully vaccinated.

COVID cases remain low at NGHS

The number of COVID-19 patients at Northeast Georgia Health System remained low over the past two weeks.

As of May 3, the hospital system was treating 36 COVID patients with 12 of those at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton.

Those numbers are down from the week prior (April 26) when there were 50 COVID patients at NGHS with 20 of those at NGMC Braselton.

The hospital system is also continuing its efforts to administer vaccinations. NGHS has given 12,238 vaccinations to its employees (a little over 6,000 of which were second doses) and 31,114 vaccines to members of the community (with 13,658 of those being second doses).

Since the start of the pandemic, the state has had 881,498 confirmed COVID cases resulting in 17,578 confirmed deaths. There have also been 2,634 probable COVID-related deaths.

In Braselton’s four-county area, the state reports the following since the start of the pandemic:

•Barrow: 8,736 cases; 132 confirmed deaths and four probable deaths

•Gwinnett: 86,381 cases; 1,073 confirmed deaths and 70 probable deaths

•Hall: 24,982 cases; 439 confirmed deaths and 25 probable deaths

•Jackson: 8,504 cases; 140 confirmed deaths and 11 probable deaths

Broken arm or shortness of breath: Where do you go?

Health complications can occur any day of the year and at any time of the day.

Your grandchild sprains an ankle while playing in your backyard. Or you wake up in the night with an unusually high fever. Or maybe you or a loved one develop symptoms of a possible heart attack.

Chances are, you’ll head to the emergency department, Urgent Care or make an appointment with your regular physician. But which location is right for your specific situation?


The Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Urgent Care clinic in Braselton is a good option for patients who have non-life threatening issues that could get worse in the time it takes to get an appointment with your primary care physician.

That can include anything from a cold, flu or bronchitis, to minor cuts and burns, sprains and minor broken bones.

Dr. Sakib Maya, NGPG Urgent Care medical director, said the clinic is designed to treat minor illnesses, including patients with respiratory symptoms, sinus symptoms, urinary tract infections, sprains and minor fractures, along with lacerations, aches and pains.

“We try to avoid severe abdominal pain, respiratory pain where people are short of breath (even at rest) and definitely chest pain, especially in the elderly,” Dr. Maya said.

For those more severe cases, Dr. Maya said the Urgent Care has a good relationship with the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton Emergency Department. The Urgent Care clinic is located in Medical Plaza 1, next door to the NGMC Braselton main campus and emergency department. If the patient’s vitals are stable and they have someone with them, they can take a private vehicle from the Urgent Care to the Emergency Department. EMS is also available to transport patients to the Emergency Department if needed.

“We communicate well with the ER,” said Dr. Maya. “And our nurses call the charge nurses there right away and give them an update on what’s coming and what to do… We try to keep it smooth for the patient.”

But for the less severe cases that can be treated at Urgent Care, there are some definite benefits to visiting an urgent care center over an Emergency Department, namely the lower cost and the time.

“I would say the biggest benefit would be the time,” said Dr. Maya. “The ER has its own protocols. They’re a bigger facility and do more blood work. And they have more patients.”

Dr. Maya said a patient could come in to Urgent Care with a minor fracture and be in-and-out with a splint within 20 minutes, depending on the day.

“I rarely see anyone spend more than an hour here,” said Dr. Maya. “Unless they have to for fluids or something.”

Urgent Care also has an online “Save My Spot” option, along with a wait time estimate. Dr. Maya said you could wake up at 8 a.m. with ankle pain and see that you have free time at 2 p.m. that day, “Save your Spot” and walk-in almost immediately at 2 p.m. The initiative also allows patients to stay home where it’s more comfortable until their appointment time.

Urgent Care does have its limitations, though.

“We can do a lot, but at the same time we’re limited,” said Dr. Maya, adding that the biggest limitation is imaging since the clinic doesn’t have ultrasound or CT scan technologies. Urgent Care is able to do X-rays, however, and has a good working relationship with other departments that have those additional technologies available for ultrasounds and CT scans.

Urgent Care is not a 24-hour facility, so patients with late-night emergency situations would need to go to the Emergency Department. Urgent Care is open every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For a more comprehensive list of the common issues treated at urgent care, along with the Save My Spot sign-up, visit https://www.nghs.com/urgent-care.

NGPG also offers e-visits, which cost $40, and can be used to screen for flu, COVID-19, sinus issues, urinary problems and vaginal discharge concerns. Find out more at https://www.ngpg.org/evisit.


Urgent Care is a great option for patients with more minor ailments, but serious issues do come up and when they do, it’s best to head to the Emergency Department.

Dr. Douglas Morrison, NGMC Braselton emergency department medical director, noted there’s a wide variety of reasons someone may need to visit an ER.

“It’s so broad that it’s hard to define,” said Dr. Morrison. “You really kind of go by symptoms.”

Emergency situations can include those with shortness of breath, chest pains, severe headaches, burns, poisonings, severe injuries and pediatric situations with major concerns. But those are just a few of the reasons someone may choose to go to the ER.

“If someone perceives they need to go to the ER, then they need to go to the ER,” said Dr. Morrison. “…We have to listen to the patient significantly. If somebody tells us they’ve had a significant change in their health, that’s an emergency until proven otherwise.”

NGMC Braselton also has advanced care for stroke and cardiac situations.

The hospital is a primary stroke center, which allows NGMC Braselton to handle all stroke care except clot extractions. NGMC Braselton can administer clot busting medication, and has specially trained nursing staff and a section in the intensive care unit for post-stroke care. The hospital also offers in-patient care, rehabilitation, and education about stroke care.

NGMC Braselton also has a robust emergency cardiac center and can treat all heart attacks, but cannot perform open heart surgery.

“We can treat all heart attacks the same way we can treat all strokes,” Dr. Morrison said. “…We can give you the medicine to help. We can put in a stint. We can open up the artery. We can remove the clot. And we can provide all the in-patient and after care, and intensive care.”

Dr. Morrison added that NGMC Braselton has made huge strides in stroke and cardiac care over the past five years.

“We started out as a hospital, but it takes a lot of work to become a primary stroke center and an advanced cardiac care center,” he said.


Regardless of whether an Urgent Care facility or the Emergency Department is best for your situation, it’s important not to delay seeking treatment for medical issues.

“We had a significant number of months where people were just scared to come in,” said Dr. Morrison. “And that was really to the detriment of the healthcare of the community.”

Dr. Morrison noted people were ignoring symptoms of strokes or shortness of breath and chest pains.

“The stuff that we did see, we were seeing too late,” said Dr. Morrison.

He noted for time-sensitive situations like strokes and heart attacks, you can’t delay.

“You’ve got an hour or up to four hours to treat these things,” he said. “You don’t have two days.”

Dr. Morrison noted that while he understands the trepidation of patients not wanting to come into the hospital during the pandemic, the hospital follows strict protocols and is safe for its patients.

Braselton plans community workshop on development code update

The Town of Braselton will hold a community workshop on its development code update on May 5 from 6-7:30 p.m.

This workshop will be held in the community room at 5040 Hwy. 53.

"Join us to learn more and share your input on housing types, open space, design controls and more," town leaders said.

For more information, visit braseltondevelopmentcodeupdate.com.

Hoschton Council at odds with public on rezoning conditions

Confusion over an April 19 rezoning vote in Hoschton let to some pushback by members of the public at a meeting last week.

During a called meeting on April 27, the council added to its agenda a second vote on the conditions of an R-3 zoning for a small 20-acre subdivision on Peachtree Rd.

Nearby residents to the project had expected several conditions recommended by the town's planning commission to be included in the council's final vote on April 19. But those conditions were not in the final vote, something the neighbors only discovered after the rezoning had been approved.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the town's planning commission was abolished by the city council after it made its recommendations in March.

The main issue was a recommendation that the number of lots in the development be reduced from 55 to 49 to avoid an existing requirement that mandates two entrances to any subdivision of 50 lots or more.

Other conditions recommended by the planning board included a 30-foot rear setback and a 25-foot natural stormwater buffer for property abutting an R1 zoning district. The R1 property abudding the development is owned by many of those who voiced their concerns to the planning commission March 22.

Nearby residents thought all those conditions had been approved by the city council, but discovered that they were not included in the final council vote.

“That was not what was voted on and passed by the council and we can produce email communications from council members attesting to that fact,” said nearby resident Keith Sallsman to the council following the vote. “We expect you to adopt the conditions approved and duly voted by council on April 19th.” 

Sallsman and others were allowed to speak only after the council revoted on April 27 to uphold the 55 lots and smaller setbacks.

Mayor Shannon Sell said there were errors in the email communications between the public and council members. The communication lapse, according to Sell, is why he was told by the city’s attorney to “re-clarify” the vote that was taken April 19.

Sell said he and the planning staff plan to change the city ordinance that requires two subdivision entrances for developments over 50 lots prior to approving the development’s preliminary plat.

All other questions raised by the public during the April 27 special meeting on the matter, including why it was left off the agenda prior to the meeting, were not addressed by the mayor and council before the meeting was adjourned.

GOP leadership re-vote to be held May 8

A re-do election for the officers of the Jackson County Republican Party will be held Saturday, May 8 at the La Quinta Inn in Braselton.

The 9th District GOP committee recently ruled the officers' elections have to be redone due to irregularities when the county GOP held its county convention on April 10. The district committee will conduct the new elections.

To be decided are the positions of: Chairman, 1st Vice Chairman, 2nd Vice Chairman, Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Treasurer and Parliamentarian.

Only those who participated in the April 10 party elections will be allowed to participate in the new elections on May 8.

Three candidates have jointly announced their intention to seek some of the county party's seats.

Adam Ledbetter, a member of the Hoschton City Council, is challenging incumbent chairman TJ Dearman; Jeff Hughes, a member of the Jackson County Board of Elections is running for first vice chairman and Shantwon Astin, a member of the Hoschton City Council, is running for second vice chairman.

Among their platform items, the three say they want to update the county GOP's rules and to do a better job of grassroots organizing.

Ellis named interim principal at GSES

Lisa Ellis has been promoted to the position of interim principal at Gum Springs Elementary School.

Ellis replaces Todd Graichen who had served as principal for the past three years.

Ellis has worked in the Jackson County School System for 18 years, previously serving as assistant principal at North Jackson Elementary School and East Jackson Elementary School.