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Teachers across Jackson County received the Covid vaccine last week. Here, Commerce Middle School 5th grade teacher Patty Crumbley (L) receives her vaccine from Commerce pharmacist Becca Brown (R).


News
8,150 vaccines given in county so far

A little over 8,150 doses of the Covid vaccine have been given in Jackson County, but only 2,765 people have had both doses.

The county continues to have a low rate compared to most other areas of the state on a per capita basis. But over the last week, the pace of vaccinations picked up, largely due to programs that administered the vaccine to local teachers.

As a third vaccine begins to make its way into the market, the rate of vaccinations is expected to pick up. That is also being affected by new state rules that went into effect this week that  that allow those over age 55 to be vaccinated, along with younger people who have underlying health problems.

Meanwhile, the rate of new cases in Jackson County has dropped to its lowest level since June. Total confirmed deaths are at 127 with 11 other suspected to be from the virus in the county.


News
featured
County looking to add green space

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved a move March 15 that could lead to a new green space park in West Jackson.

Following a closed meeting, the BOC authorized county manager Kevin Poe to negotiate for a piece of property for green space.

The county has long discussed the need to acquire more park and recreation property in the county to serve the growing population and to preserve some environmentally sensitive areas.

In other West Jackson action on March 15, the board approved three large residential rezonings. Two of the projects are on Maddox Rd., Hoschton.

The first is for a master planned open space subdivision of 66 houses on 25 acres. JTG Holdings is developing that project .

The other Maddox Rd. project is for 175 homes on 87 acres for a master planned development. Those homes will be in the $300,000 price range, developers said. Chafin Communities is developing that subdivision.

On Hwy. 124 at Olde Wick Trail, Hoschton, L.T.R. Investments got approval for 103 townhomes on 23 acres near the Publix shopping center. The property had earlier been zoned for a senior community, but developers said the local market is saturated with housing for older citizens.

In other zoning action, the BOC approved:

• a rezoning for New Liberty United Methodist Church to allow for a LED sign.

• a package of map amendments for industrial development (warehouse) at Pettijohn Rd. and Wayne Poultry Rd. in Pendergrass.

• rezonings for a 57-acre subdivision on Waterworks Rd. in Nicholson near East Jackson Comprehensive High School.

• a rezoning for Nays Way in Jefferson of seven acres from R-1 to A-R to allow for a homestead so that the owner can have farm animals on the property.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, the board approved:

• a ground lease with Peace Place, Inc. to build a 32-bed shelter on 4.8 acres of county property. The group’s current facility is in Barrow County, but the organization services all of the Piedmont Judicial Circuit, which includes Jackson and Banks counties as well. The new location would be more centrally-located and would double the size of the existing facility.

• an agreement with CSRA Probation services for the Jackson County State Court solicitor’s office.

• a contract with Roll Off Systems for wood grinding at the county transfer station.

• moving the county’s current retirement plans to a retirement plan run by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

• a year end budget amendment for final a


News
Commerce Easter event to take different route

Commerce’s Easter celebration will take a different route this year — literally — following action by the city council this week.

At its March 15 voting session, the Commerce City Council voted to approve a number of road closures for the annual Easter event, planned April 3 at 10:30 a.m.

In the past, children and parents lined up along Georgia Ave., then paraded through downtown on bikes, wagons and toy cars to the First Baptist Church of Commerce where an egg hunt was staged on the church lawn.

This year will be different due to the continued pandemic.

The town’s Easter parade will still be held, but with a different route. Parade participants will still meet on Georgia Ave. and travel through downtown, but will turn at the end of Spencer Park and circle back to Georgia Ave.

And instead of the usual egg hunt on the lawn of First Baptist Church, eggs will be disbursed along the parade route to children.

OTHER BUSINESS

Also at its meeting, the Commerce City Council:

•heard the State of the City address from Mayor Clark Hill (full story in next week’s paper).

•approved the adoption of the city’s comprehensive plan update.

•tabled two variance requests for Ponder Development for 2280 Remington Dr. and 2262 Remington Dr.

•denied a request for a variance at 2382 Homer Rd. for sidewalks in the Overlay District. Council members voiced concerns about the variance at the council’s work session March 1, saying the area will someday need sidewalks and the city should follow its overlay district requirement for the area.  The vote to deny the request was split, with Darren Owensby and Keith Burchett opposing the motion.

•approved naming Griffin Brothers as the town's on-call water and sewer utility installer.

•approved codifying a grease trap ordinance.

•approved creating a solar tariff rate structure for the city electrical utility system.

•held a closed session on a legal matter and real estate, with no action following.


Features
featured
Jackson County woman to perform at NASCAR event March 20

Pendergrass native Whisper Whitlock will be performing the National Anthem on March 20 at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

She will also perform on stage at the track.

Whisper has been playing music since she was 13-years-old. A graduate of Jackson County Comprehensive High School, she sings full-time and works part-time for a hair studio.

"I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in the music industry and had pretty much given up on it then by the grace of God Southern Sound Records heard one of my songs, “Breaking Hearts & Curfews” and I signed a contract with them," she said.

After hearing a demo of her singing the anthem at another event, NASCAR contacted Whisper to sing at this weekend's event.


News
breaking
Jackson County to get $14 million in federal relief funding

Jackson County will get an estimated $14.1 million from the recently-passed federal Covid relief act.

Federal sources say that every county in the nation will receive direct funding, broken down into two payments, one this year and one in 2022.

The legislation, passed last week by Democrats and signed by President Joe Biden, allocated $65 billion to county and city governments.

All Republicans in Congress voted in opposition to the bill.

Exactly how Jackson County will use those funds remains to be determined, said county officials.

"We're waiting to get further information/instruction from U.S. Treasury through ACCG as to the allowable uses of the funds, restrictions, documentation required, timing, etc. before considering use of the funds," said county manager Kevin Poe.

According to the National Association of Counties, the funds can be used to respond to the pandemic or its negative economic impacts. Those could be assistance to households, small businesses, or to aid industries, such as hospitality, tourism and travel.

The money can also be used to fund public services that have been hurt by the pandemic and to pay a premium pay to essential public workers.

The funds must be spent before the end of 2024, according to NACo.


News
ESPLOST vote to wrap-up March 16

Voters in Jackson County's three school districts were wrapping-up an ESPLOST vote on Tuesday, March 16.

For full results, check our website at 

JacksonHeraldToday.com

Only 668 people voted early in the referendum with another six voting absentee.

County elections manager Jennifer Logan said the in-person voting on Tuesday had been slow.

The outcome of the vote will have  a major impact on local school systems, especially in financing facility needs for new or expanded schools.

The measure has to pass in all three school districts to go into effect. It is an extension of an existing sales tax being used by the systems to help fund local education needs.


News
DOT officials tout 'R-cut' as effective option for Old Swimming Pool Rd. problem

Georgia Department of Transportation officials advocated for the implementation of an “R-cut” at a problematic intersection along the Hwy. 129 bypass in Jefferson during a virtual town hall meeting Monday (March 15), saying the measure is a lower-cost option that’s proven effective in reducing traffic accidents.

Kelvin Mullins and Jason Dykes, both of the DOT, spoke to the public about the “R-cut” and addressed questions and concerns during the one-hour event coordinated by Jefferson mayor Jon Howell and city councilman Mark Mobley via Zoom.

The DOT has asked the city council to approve a resolution in support of the R-cut. The council will vote during its March 22 (6 p.m.) meeting on whether or not to approve that resolution.

Jefferson leadership, along with a number of citizens, have asked for a traffic light at the intersection of the bypass and Old Swimming Pool Rd. due to car stacking problems and safety concerns.

But the R-cut is the solution being offered by the DOT, which contends that the intersection does not meet traffic thresholds to warrant a traffic light.

“It definitely provides safety improvements for the intersection and would reduce some of the crashes that have occurred at those intersections,” Mullins said.

The R-cut — Restricted Crossing U-Turn — would prevent lefthand turns off Old Swimming Pool Rd. onto the four-lane bypass in an effort to reduce the volume of cars stacked at the intersection and darting across the bypass during peak traffic hours. Drivers needing to turn left off Old Swimming Pool Rd. to travel north on the bypass would instead have to turn right and make a U-turn at a median break near Panther Dr.

The DOT recently installed an R-cut on Hwy. 347 in Hall County at Reunion Golf Course. Dykes said the community there “wasn’t very happy” with being forced to make a U-turn but eventually warmed to the change.

“I think after it went in, it’s been pretty well received,” Dykes said. “We haven’t heard any kind of complaints since then.”

Concerns, however, were expressed that the R-cut would only shift problems to another point on the Jefferson bypass.

Limited site distance for drivers U-turns being made at the median break near Panther Dr. was one question raised. Mullins said site distance there met DOT requirements needed to execute those turns. He also said the project would create a better turning radius for drivers of fire trucks and buses trying to execute those U-turns.

The impact of the R-cut on the intersection of Hwy. 11 and the bypass was another concern. Drivers may opt to use the traffic light at that location to make U-turns instead of using the median break near Panther Dr., adding traffic to an already-busy intersection.

“That’s a possibility,” Dykes said. “It really just depends on where those U-turners go, if they utilize the U-turns that we are providing or will they feel more comfortable going down to the signal. We can’t predict where everybody is going to go.”

Fears were also expressed that drivers would face increased difficulty making a left out of Panther Dr. with more drivers attempting to make U-turns at that location due to the R-cut. It was noted, however, that Panther Dr. — unlike Old Swimming Pool Rd. — does not extend across the bypass, so motorists don’t contend with traffic coming from the other direction.

“There’s not another road with cars coming the other way, so it reduces those number of conflict points that you would have because you don’t have as many on the other side … but it’s definitely always a challenge anytime you’ve got to make that left turn across four lanes of traffic for sure,” Mullins said.

Should this state-handled project move forth, the R-cut could be installed by as early as late-spring early or early summer, Mullins confirmed.

“It’s pretty simple and easy to put in and cost-effective also,” Mullins said. “It definitely will improve the safety of the location.”

As for a traffic light, Jefferson may not get one at the intersection anytime soon.

An intersection must meet the traffic thresholds for eight-straight hours. The intersection of Old Swimming Pool Rd. and the Hwy. 129 bypass only meets those marks for two hours during rush-hour traffic, according to the DOT.

Even the expected residential growth in the area likely wouldn’t change the intersection’s status since new homes would contribute to mostly rush-hour traffic with drivers leaving from and returning to their homes. Projecting a growth rate annually of two percent, which the DOT used, the location wouldn’t meet the standard for a traffic light for 20 years or more, Dykes said.

The DOT officials were asked if the department considers that number of fatalities at an intersection in its criteria for a traffic light.

“We don’t want anybody to die at any intersection and safety is our No. 1 priority … this R-cut is a solution to the safety issue,” Mullins said. “We look at crashes and types of crashes and consider all of those things, but it’s really a traffic-count issue.”

Said Dykes: “We look at crashes. We look at everything. These are our friends and neighbors and co-workers that are driving these roads … Our goal is to make these roads as safe as possible. And that’s why we want to make sure that when we do implement a traffic-control device for an intersection that, we’re using the right one.

Installing the R-cut, however, would not preclude the installation of a traffic light at the intersection if traffic counts eventually warrant one.

Howell said he deemed this “a temporary solution.”

“We will study this, on-going,” the mayor said, “and the moment we are eligible for a traffic signal, we will be signing the document and requesting a traffic signal.”

At the same time, Howell said the R-cut appears to be the best option for the city at this time.

“I guess the Rolling Stones had the song, ‘You can’t always get what you want,’” he said. “We feel like this solution moves the dial toward public safety, and we just wanted to be as transparent as we could with our friends and neighbors and citizens of Jefferson to let them know this was an opportunity.

“So, we’ll be continuing to take comments and questions as we move forward through the process.”


Virus timeline

2019

December — Coronavirus discovered in Wuhan, China.

2020

January — First cases of COVID reported in United States.

March 2 — First cases of COVID reported in Georgia.

March 12-13 — Emergency leaders meet in Jackson County with health and public safety officials. Local supermarkets were flooded with shoppers stocking up on necessities, including a run on toilet paper.

March 25 — Local governments issue states of emergency, announce stay-at-home orders and order the temporary closure of a number of businesses.

March 26 — Jackson County reports its first two cases of the virus.

April 1 — Governor Brian Kemp issues a statewide shelter-in-place order and orders some business-es to close.

April 9 — Jackson County records it first death from the virus, a 53-year-old black female.

April — Most Easter church services are cancelled.

April 30 — The statewide shelter-in-place order expired for residents under 65 and in good health. Governor Kemp extended the shelter-in-place order for older adults and those who are medically fragile.

May 2 — Jackson confirmed virus cases top 100.

May 6 — Due to the virus, over 10,000 people asked for an absentee ballot for the June elections.

May-June — Local high schools alter plans for graduations due to the virus.

July 1 — Deaths in Jackson County from the virus top 10. The county hits the peak of its first surge on July 30.

August — Most local schools reopen for in-person classes. Jefferson City Schools make national news as one of the first systems in the nation to reopen.

September — After six months of the virus, deaths top 27 in the county. A second local surge peaks Sept. 4.

October — Deaths top 40 with over 2,300 cases reported since the pandemic began. A surge of cases begins Oct. 10, a surge that will last for weeks.

November — New virus cases surge all through November as the Thanksgiving holiday rolls around.

December — The surge continues, local Christmas parades are canceled.

— Jackson has the third worst Covid rate in the state.

— The FDA approved two vaccines for the virus.

2021

January — Some schools adopt a phased-in return to class following the holidays as a major surge of the virus breaks all previous records. Jackson County hits a record of over 100 new cases per day on average on Jan. 11. Some 30 deaths are recorded in the county during January, the deadliest month so far.

— Some nursing homes and health care workers begin to receive the vaccine, but the vaccine re-mains in limited supply.

February — The state sets up a large vaccine site at the Jackson County Agricultural Center. Still, the county lags other area counties in its rate of vaccinations. Vaccines are limited to those over age 65 and a small number of others.

— County deaths top 100.

March — Vaccine eligibility expands across the state as supplies increase. School teachers begin receiving the vaccine, as do those over the age of 55 and younger adults with medical problems.

March 14 — New virus cases fall to their lowest rate since June.

Jackson County after 1 year:

• 9,309 virus cases recorded through testing.

• 127 deaths with 11 others likely. The youngest to die was 20-years-old.

• 465 hospitalizations of county citizens.

• On a per capita basis, Jackson ranked 6th in the state for the number of cases reported after 12 months of the pandemic.


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