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Local elections office among those being flooded with email requests

The Jackson County elections office is one of hundreds across the nation being flooded with open records requests by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The national effort is being coordinated in an apparent bid to disrupt and create chaos with the nation's elections system in the weeks leading up to the November balloting.

Jackson County elections director Jennifer Logan confirmed this week that her office is among those being flooded with open records requests about the 2020 election. She said many were coming from out of state.

It isn't the first time the county elections office has been hit with a flood of emails. Logan said that in May, her office was so flooded with "no reply" emails objecting to the use of Dominion voting equipment that her office's email server crashed, something that affected legitimate absentee ballot requests.

She said the flood of emails has affected her office's operations.

"This hinders our office and ties up our resources that could be better served by focusing on the upcoming Elections," she said. "I don’t believe many people understand the amount of work that goes into an election. I need to be able to utilize my staff on registration, absentee ballots, training, testing and deployment of supplies and equipment."

Under state law, her office has to respond to each open records request within three days. According to a Washington Post story about the issue, elections officials are getting requests for records that don't even exist or that aren't clear.

The coordinated attack stems from Trump elections deniers who claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. By flooding elections offices across the nation, the attackers apparently want to create confusion and doubt about the 2022 elections as well.

Trump supporter and peddler of conspiracy theories Mike Lindell reportedly sparked the email flood in an August speech where he called on Trump supporters to flood elections offices with requests for "cast vote records" from 2020.


Cannons fired during Civil War battles in the Heritage Village at Hurricane Shoals during the 31st anniversary of Art in the Park.


Jim Enloe, flintknapper, is shown making arrowheads from volcanic stone during a demonstration at Art in the Park on Saturday, Sept. 17. He has been making arrowheads as a hobby for 15 years.


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Hoschton neighborhood residents oppose car wash, council delays decision

Residents of a Hoschton subdivision pushed back against a proposed car wash — even holding a small protest Sunday — but city leaders have delayed their decision.

The Hoschton City Council voted 4-1 on Monday (Sept. 19) to table a vote on the car wash, which is proposed for a 1.38-acre tract on Hwy. 53 and Eagles Bluff Way near Creekside Village. Adam Ledbetter voted in opposition to the postponement.

The developer seeks a rezoning for the property from mixed use to commercial motor vehicle service and repair to allow for the car wash. City planner Jerry Weitz recommended denial of the request, though he recommended multiple conditions for the project should the council approve it.

Seven residents, mostly from Creekside Village, spoke out against the car wash at the council’s Thursday (Sept. 15) work session.

Opponents said the car wash would hurt their home values and wouldn’t fit with the character of the city.

“I strongly feel that it would have a negative impact on our property values,” Creekside resident Jennifer Wilkes said. “It’s not the look or vibe we’re going for.”

Wilkes asked for a show of hands from the audience of those in opposition to the car wash, the vast majority of which raised their hands. Other residents contended that multiple car washes are already within a short drive. Creekside Village resident Laurie Lesniak, who said she felt “blindsided” by the potential car wash, pointed to potential noise issues. She said she visited a Braselton car wash and took noise readings, reporting a maximum decibel level reading of 85.1 with an average of 69.5.

“That puts us in the loud range for probably most of the day,” she said.

The applicant for the project, Kenneth Whitworth, said an in-town car wash was a needed new business that would save Hoschton residents from having to cross I-85 to use a car wash. He also speculated that the car wash wouldn’t generate new traffic, saying those using this car wash are already driving on Hwy. 53 through Hoschton. He said plans call for “an upscale car wash,” similar to Tidal Wave, with 10 employees. Whitworth said the car wash would include an extra exit on Hwy. 53 to aid traffic flow.

But councilman Tracy Carswell on Monday made a motion to table the council’s vote on the matter for a month, saying the zoning signage placement did not accurately represent the location of the car wash in relationship to the neighborhood. Additionally, Ledbetter said the car wash would not be situated directly in front of the subdivision.

“I just want to mention that if anyone took the time to actually look at the drawings, they’d see it’s not at that location where the signs were,” he said.

Ledbetter said the car wash would be situated “all the way in the corner” of the lot.

“It’s nowhere in front of Creekside, at all,” he said.

Similarly, Mayor Lauren O’Leary noted that the rezoning notice signs displayed on the lot were placed in front of Creekside.

“And that’s not the desired location that has been presented to mayor and council,” O’Leary said. 

The council’s action came after a small protest of the car wash was organized Sunday among Creekside Village residents. Opponents held up “no car wash” signs and also signed a petition, which had generated approximately 200 names as of Sunday afternoon.

WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS

The council approved a series of water system improvements aimed at alleviating the city’s water pressure issues on the south end of town.

It voted to approve professional engineering services from Engineering Management Inc. (EMI) for a water booster pump station associated with connections to Braselton’s water system and a water system booster pump station on Amy Industrial Ln., where an easement has been secured for that project.

“It will improve pressures and flows down in Cresswind and Twin Lakes (neighborhoods) substantially,” Jerry Hood of EMI said.

Hood said the booster-pumping station is part of a comprehensive water improvement plan the city approved a couple of years ago. The project is estimated to cost $625,000, though the city landed a $400,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant last year.

Proposed first-phase improvements to the city’s water distribution system were approved as well. Those improvements will upgrade multiple lines in town to 12-inch lines. Those replacements would begin on the line at Hwy. 53 and Broad St., go down White St. and Industrial Blvd., and then down to Jopena Blvd.

“That will put a 12-inch loop all the way down,” Hood said. "With the booster pump and the new (Northside), tank that increases the fire flow in Cresswind and Twin Lakes almost 70%."

The council also approved an engineering services agreement addendum with EMI for a long-planned project to improve the city’s water reclamation facility to a 950,000 million gallon-per-day capacity.

CHANGE ORDERS APPROVED FOR CITY SQUARE

The council approved $43,575 in change orders from Garland and Associate Contractors for its City Square in-fill project where Hoschton’s new city hall is being constructed. The changes included $6,875 for removal of a tree in danger of falling on power lines and poles and also a revised site work estimate at an additional $36,700. Ledbetter recused himself from the vote because the tree requiring removal was located on his property. The council approved the change orders 4-0.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, the council:

•approved an update to the city’s five-year comprehensive plan.

•approved a $17,085 bid from O.C. Roofing to replace the roof on the city’s police station facility.

•approved federal per-diem rates for employee and the mayor and council travel expenses. It also approved a new on-call policy that would pay employees $100 for being on-call, plus any hours worked at time-and-a half.

•approved annual tank-maintenance agreements with American Tank Maintenance for the city’s downtown and Northside tanks for $13,409 and $18,424, respectively. The annual fee for the downtown tank after six years will drop to $6,550. The tank, however, is scheduled to come off line, leaving the city to decide what to do with the landmark. Meanwhile, the Northside tank’s annual maintenance rate won’t be charged until the tank’s one-year warranty is complete.

•approved the appointments of Diane Blankenship, Carol Tanner and Dorothy McAlvin to the Hoschton Historic Preservation Committee.

•tabled action on a proposed playground on Cabin Dr.

•voted to hire a company to even out the corner of city-owned property at White St. and Broad St. and spread mulch where trees have been cut down on the property. The council also approved an expenditure, up to $10,000, to put gravel on the lot. The city plans to use the lot for extra parking space for downtown events until it can determine the property’s long-term use.

•approved a final plat for Twin Lakes Phase 6B. The council also approved Phase 6A and 7 during a called meeting on Sept. 8.


Anakin Imsirovic, 5, enjoyed a cool beverage in the Heritage Village at Hurricane Shoals during the 31st anniversary of Art in the Park.


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JCWSA approves FY23 budget and five-year capital plan

The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority recently approved its FY23 budget of about $16.96 million, a 9.1% increase from FY22.

Finance director Judy Smith said the total budget increase is the result of customer growth and costs for maintenance and repairs.

The operating expenses portion grew by 19.9%, as water sales are projected to grow by 4% and sewer sales by 30%.

The salary and benefits portion grew by 14.2% for three additional staff positions: junior engineer, locator and maintenance/asset manager. This increase includes related costs for human resources and employee compensation packages.

The FY23 budget also assumes a $1.80 increase in the sewer rate, part of a five-year “step-up” that was adopted after a 2020 rate study.

For the average customer, “it'll result in their bill going from $44 a month to $46,” general manager Joey Leslie said.

CAPITAL PLAN

The authority adopted its five-year capital plan at its Sept. 8 meeting.

The five-year plan consists of capital projects that total $59.8 million, including the projects funded by the 2021 bond issuance, Smith said.

For the FY23 budget, the authority allotted $2.7 million for water projects; $361,200 for sewer projects; and $3.06 million from its renewal and extension fund.

A priority project is the authority’s new headquarters, among other priority projects funded by SPLOST and a 2021 bond.

“There is a timeline for which we must vacate the current facility and space is badly needed for operations,” Smith said.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Sept. 8, the authority approved:

• the purchase of repair parts to have in the case of emergencies to provide continuous service.

• revisions to the hydrant meter rental agreement.


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Commerce police investigating Sept. 13 shooting

Commerce police are investigating a shooting that occurred on Sept. 13 at Heritage Crossing Apartments. One person was transported to the hospital with reported "serious injuries."

Officers with the Commerce Police Department were called for a report of shots fired around 10 p.m.

"While heading to the scene, they were notified of a second caller located at Hwy. 441 near Steve Reynolds Industrial reporting a gunshot victim, according to the caller they had just left Heritage Crossing Apartments," the CPD said in a news release. "Several officers diverted and responded to the site of the gunshot victim to provide aid. EMS arrived and transported the victim to a local area hospital with serious injuries."

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Commerce Detective King at 706-335-1847 or aking@commercega.gov.


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BOC rejects some bids, approves others for major projects

Planning for two major county projects got put on ice Sept. 19 by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

The BOC voted to reject a recommendation to award a contract for the Phase 1 of planned improvements to the Jackson County Transfer Station.

A county consulting firm had recommended the Phase 1 contract go to BM&K Construction for the amount of $1.2 million.

But BOC chairman Tom Crow made a motion to reject all bids and to rebid the project. He said he wanted to bid to include all aspects of the project, including the construction of a new building. The Phase 1 improvements didn't include that, he said. The BOC voted 4-1 to rebid the project.

Another major project also got a rejection by the board. A motion to name Reeves Young as the construction manager at risk to oversee the construction of a new county administrative building died for the lack of a second. Reeves Young had been recommended by county staff as the CMAR for the project.

The BOC did approve naming Precision Planning to provide architectural services for the new admin building at a cost of $718,000.

Another project approved by the board was the expansion of EMS Station #3 to accommodate another ambulance. Amacher Brother Construction was awarded the project with a bid of $931,000.

OTHER ACTION

In other action Sept. 19, the BOC:

• approved a request to consent to the deannexaton of 36 acres from the City of Jefferson for Vulcan Materials Company. The company operates a neighboring quarry site which was recently approved for expansion by the BOC. 

• declared September as National Recovery Month in Jackson County.

• approved revising the county's purchasing policy to raise the limits on various levels of authority for purchasing for the county.

• approved a new speed zone requested by the Georgia Department of Transportation for Hwy. 335 from 55 mph to 50 mph for a small section hear its intersection with Hwy. 441.

• approved the new service delivery strategy agreement in a 4-1 vote with Marty Seagraves opposed. The deal is with the county's various towns over how certain services are done and who pays for what services.

• approved a new indigent defense services agreement.

• approved condemnation of a small tract to facilitate improvements for upgrades to Skelton Rd.

ZONING

In zoning matters, the BOC:

• rejected a proposed map amendment for storage units on 17 acres on Hwy. 129 and Old Gainesville Hwy.

• approved the withdrawal of proposed map amendments for 6.6 acres on Hwy. 129 at Tyler Way.

• approved the withdrawal of a rezoning proposed for 24 acres at 315 McRee Rd., Jefferson.

• approved a rezoning of 6 acres at 815 Silver Dollar Rd., Maysville.


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Commerce council approves higher millage rate

Commerce leaders voted this week to raise the city’s millage rate.

The Commerce City Council voted Monday (Sept. 19) to increase its millage rate from 3.867 mills to 4.36 mills for the 2022-23 year.

On a $250,000 house, the higher rate will equal an additional $53.20.

City leaders estimate the increase will bring an additional $341,000 to the general fund. Those additional funds will help offset higher costs due to inflation, higher insurance costs and the need to purchase additional equipment for the city police department. The town is also looking to improve its parks and recreation department, among other items as well.

The city is expecting to bring in around $1.4 million in property tax revenues for the year. For the first time ever, the town's tax digest topped $300 million coming in at $325.3 million.

The tax hike won't cover all the additional costs, estimated to be around $1.2 million during the current fiscal year. In addition to the tax hike, the city is expecting to get an additional $840,000 in income from SK Battery as part of the firm's payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) funds that were negotiated when the company located in Commerce. Those dollars, in addition to the additional property tax funds and an increase in expected sales tax dollars, should cover the additional costs, city manager James Wascher told the council on Sept. 6.


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