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Work is underway on a culvert replacement project at Steven B. Tanger Boulevard. The entrance to Tanger Outlet Center is closed, however, there is a detour (turning at Applebees Restaurant). Signs are located along the detour route. The Banks County Board of Commissioners approved a $686,202 bid from E.R. Snell for the project. The money for the project is funded from $315,000 in state funds, $95,000 in Georgia Department of Transportation Local Maintenance Improvement Grant Funds and the remainder in 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds. The Tanger Culvert Replacement includes a three-barrel concrete culvert.


Banks
COVID vaccine available in county limited

As the people allowed to take the COVID-19 vaccine will expand next week, the amount of the vaccine in the county remains limited.

Starting March 8, K-12 educators and school staff, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers and parents with children with complex medical conditions will also be eligible for the vaccination.

All of the current COVID-19 vaccination at the Banks County Health Department is committed to existing first and second dose appointments.

“As more vaccine becomes available, we will add additional appointments,” Banks County Health Department officials report. “Please continue to monitor our website and Facebook page for updates.”

However, the governor has announced that more of the vaccination will soon be available and he is encouraging those who are eligible to register for an appointment. One of the state’s four mass vaccination sites is located in Habersham County.

“With the recent approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and increased dose allocation from both Pfizer and Moderna, the state expects more vaccines will be available in the coming weeks,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement.

To register for an appointment at one of the four state-operated mass vaccination sites, visit myvaccinegeorgia.com. The March 8 criteria is now an option for pre-registration.

The Georgia Department of Public Health's COVID-19 vaccine dashboard reported 2,048,591 million total vaccine doses administered in the state, accounting for 82.57 percent of the state's shipped allocation. Georgia administered one million vaccines in just 25 days.

"With one million doses administered in just 25 days, we continue to make significant progress in vaccinating more vulnerable Georgians" said Governor Kemp. "Over 830,000 seniors have received at least one shot, accounting for nearly 60 percent of Georgia's over 65 population.

25 NEW CASES

The total number of cases of the virus reported in Banks County is up 25 over last week, for a total of 1,552 reported since March of 2020. In Banks County, 33 people have died from COVID and 178 have been hospitalized.

This week, the Banks County School System reports there is one student with a current positive COVID-19 status among the 2,708 student population. There are 105 students quarantined due to possible exposure.

Of the 405 employees, three have a current positive COVID-19 status and nine are quarantined due to possible exposure.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the websites, www.dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

For updates on COVID-19, follow @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Twitter and @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Facebook.


Banks
Planners recommend approval of rezoning for Upstate Curb

Plans for a Banks County businessman to construction a new office and shop for his business were recommended for approval by the Banks County Planning Commission at its meeting Tuesday night, March 2.

The planners recommended approval for the request from Eugene "Gal" Martin, II with Upstate Curb, Inc. to rezone the 8.86-acre lot at 113 Gallery Dr., from ARR (Agricultural, Rural, Residential) to C1 (Commercial) for an office and shop.

The Banks County Board of Commissioners will take final action on the request when it meets at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9, at the County Annex Building in Homer.

Martin said at the planning meeting Tuesday night that he plan to locate a 60x120 building on the property. He does not plan to change his current business operation but wants an enclosed area to work.

Carol Ayers spoke at the planning meeting on behalf of her mother, who lives adjacent to the property. She said she is. not opposed to Mr. Martin's plans but asked about future use that would be allowed under a commercial zoning designation.

Banks County code enforcement officer Paul Ruark said any commercial developments would be limited by square footage and would have to come back before the planning commission for approval.


Banks
Homer looks ahead to SPLOST projects

The Homer City Council discussed possible projects to be funded with a special purpose local option sales tax that will be voted on in Banks County later this year.

At a work session Tuesday morning, March 1, council members discussed projects that could be funded with the one-cent tax that is expected to be voted on in November in Banks County. The city would get a portion of the tax, based on population.

City leaders discussed these possible items to be funded: Fire department, $525,000; water and sewer projects, $200,000; roads and streets, $150,000; and building maintenance, $125,000.

No vote was taken on the projects but the issue will be on the agenda at the voting session of the city council, which is set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9.

Other items discussed at the Tuesday work session, but not voted on, that are also on the agenda March 9 include the following:

•setting town council districts with the seats held by Jerry Payne and David Dunson, being two-year terms and the seats held by Sandra Garrison and Cliff Hill being four-year terms.

•a request two name two roads at Chimney Oaks (at the upper end in the townhouse area). Suggested names are Magnolia Place, Purple Leaf Place, Fairway Lane and Camellia Lane.

Also at the work session, the council discussed the round-a-bout at State Route 51 and Hudson River and the related utility relocation. Council members agreed to discuss this further with county leaders.


Banks
Baldwin to vote on park project improvements Monday

A vote on continued improvements to the downtown park project will be on the agenda when the Baldwin City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 8.

The city council discussed the two bids received for the downtown park project at a work session held Tuesday night. The bids were opened on February 8.

Public works director Scott Barnhart said there could possibly be $100,000 in savings by allowing the engineer to do "line item value engineering." This would remove some items, but the product would still be a finished product, Barnhart advised.

At the March 8 meeting, the council will vote to either move forward with the project with "line item value engineering" or abandoned the project.

The city currently has around $550,000 in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds available for the project. The city has already spent around $360,000 on the downtown park project.

OTHER ITEMS

Other items discussed at the work session on Tuesday that will be on the city council agenda for a vote at the meetings coming up in March include the following:

•payment of a $3,507 bill to Habersham County Elections for handling the city’s 2020 elections. The council entered an inter-governmental agreement with the county in 2015 to handle city elections. Finance director Melanie Chandler advised only $1,000 was budget in 2020 for elections. Chandler recommended the budget be amended and the extra $2,507 be taken out of the legal fees line item. The council will vote on this issue at the meeting set for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 8.

•a threshold for small past due balances. City administrator Emily Woodmaster advised the city has 60 personal and real property tax bills that are more than three years past due and 36 of those accounts are less than $75. Woodmaster said it would cost more to engage a service to collect these accounts than the city would receive. The city also has roughly 300 enterprise fund accounts that are more than two years past due that total $217,000 – with $11,000 of this total being less than $50 per account. The council discussed setting a threshold for tax bills at less than $75 over three years past due and enterprise fund bills at less than $40 or $50 over two years past due. The council asked Woodmaster to see additional information from city attorney Bubba Samuels on this issue and bring back to the council for a vote on at the March 22 meeting.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business at the meeting on Tuesday:

•Mayor Joe Elam announced that city offices will be closed on Friday, April 2, in observance of Good Friday.

•Elam reminded everyone that the water and sewer rate increases will be effective on the bills due on April 20.


Banks
Alto Police Department awarded Car Seat Mini Grant

The Alto Police Department was awarded the 2021 Car Seat Mini-Grant by the Georgia Department of Public Health's Injury Prevention Program.

Through the Mini-Grant, the Alto Police Department and the Georgia Department of Public Health work together to provide car seats and education to financially eligible families in Banks County. This program is funded by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to help ensure Georgia’s children are safe while riding in motor vehicles.

Since 2007, the education, car seats and booster seats provided through the Mini Grant prevented serious injury or death and saved over 385 of Georgia’s children who were involved in crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car seats reduce fatal injuries by 71 percent among infants and by 54 percent among children ages 1 to 4 years in passenger cars. Car seats offer the best protection for children in the event of a crash, and they are most effective when installed and used correctly. Nearly three out of every four car seats are not used properly, placing children at unnecessary risk.

“It’s our responsibility to keep our children safe,” said Police Chief Josh Ivey. “The Car Seat Mini-Grant is a great opportunity to help our community and help protect our children from serious injuries or death in motor vehicle crashes.”

In Banks County, the Alto Police Department and the Georgia Department of Public Health educate parents and caregivers on how to properly install and use car seats, offer car seat inspections and provide car seats and booster seats to financially eligible families. Through the Car Seat Mini-Grant, agencies supporting more than 120 counties are working to keep Georgia’s children safe. These programs help families get their children buckled up right, every trip, every time.

For more information about the Banks County car seat program, contact Police Chief Ivey at 706-778-8028 or email at altopd@windstream.net. If you would like information regarding other counties involved in the program, contact the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Child Occupant Safety Project via email at injury@dph.ga.gov or by calling 404-463-1487.


Banks
Gillsville Council discusses upgrades around the city

The Gillsville City Council continued to discuss upgrades around the city when they met on Tuesday evening, March 1.

The council decided on specs for the patio/deck with outdoor seating to be located near the park building. They also talked about the location for new restrooms on the park property.

Mayor Roy Turpin also announced that they park fence project has been completed. In other park business, the council discussed taking bids to clear the park entrance and cut down two trees.

Mayor Roy Turpin gave an update on the new city map. There are three properties in Hall County and three in Banks County that should be listed on the city map. The town is working with the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission on this project.

In other business, local artist Dave Wiley presented the council with his idea for new welcome signs to greet people as they enter the city. The council also received one additional submission. There are costs of additional components to the structures that have yet to be determined.

Wiley also presented a replica of a structure called, “Walk through the Word.” It is a visual journey through the pages of the Bible. Wiley is looking for three to five acres to erect the structure. Wiley explained that God has given him a vision over time.

“All glory goes to God," he said. "He gave me a gift and I found it when I was three years old.”

Wiley has used his artistic abilities to paint murals all over the country.

The council liked the idea, but thought that it would be better located on private property.


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