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More flexible housing options one goal in Braselton Comp Plan update

A major rewrite of the Town of Braselton's development codes will be one of the major focuses of the community's 2020 Comprehensive Plan Update.

The draft of the comp plan outlines thousands of details about how the community should grow over the next 20 years, but a lot of that will be tied to the town's zoning and development codes.

"While very detailed, the code is very complicated for a town this size," the comp plan update states. "It’s not unusual for a new development to have a large number of variances for rezonings — this indicates a problem."

The estimated cost of rewriting the town's codes is $155,000.

Among the goals of the rewrite — and of the overall comp plan update — will be to encourage more housing diversity in Braselton, especially affordable housing. The comp plan points out that the town doesn't have enough population to fill all the jobs which have been created in recent years.

The proposals in the comp plan include changing some minimum housing sizes in the codes and to allow one-car garages in future construction.

"Braselton has a goal to diversify housing options that accommodates its varying target market," states the plan. "One way to encourage housing diversity is to identify and change the regulations for residential uses that prohibit the creation of more affordable or more flexible housing types through reducing minimum house sizes."

The plan also calls for allowing mixed housing sizes and lots within some developments. The comp plan says that current strict regulations could "turn off" some developers of quality projects in the community.


The comp plan update also acknowledges that its survey of citizens found little support for more warehouses in the town. That finding wasn't a surprise given the large amount of citizen complaints at zoning hearings about proposed warehouse projects.

Partly as a result of that dynamic, the town's planning map now shows a "condensed" area for Transitional Employment Center, the area designated for warehouses. That area runs west of downtown along I-85, the west side of Hwy. 53 and part of the way down Hwy. 124.

The plan also mentions that in the future, the warehouses could be discontinued for their current use and perhaps could be converted to serve the state's growing film industry.


The comp plan also outlines a wish list of projects for the town in the coming years, a list that would cost over $46 million if all the projects were done.

Among the top projects outlined are:

• an addition to the library

• a 71-acre recreation area on Hwy. 124; additional parks; extension of Riverwalk.

• transportation projects including new sidewalks, bike paths, new street lighting, highway widening, additional highway signage and a multi-use bridge over Hwy. 211.


Other highlights in the updated comp plan include:

• an acknowledgement of the key role Chateau Elan plays in the area's economy.

• says that the I-85 and Hwy. 211 interchange will be "the central gateway to Braselton" and should "boast high-quality development."

• promoting additional conservation, walking and greenspace areas in the town, including possibly annexing land west of Hwy. 53 to "strengthen preservation efforts."

• consider a Community Improvement District for the Hwy. 53 corridor and for the downtown areas to raise money to pay for projects in those areas.


Citizens have until June 17 to to review and comment on the comp plan proposal.

After the feedback period, the plan will be finalized for adoption. The Braselton Town Council could adopt the comp plan update on July 13.

View the comprehensive plan and make comments online at www.braseltoncompplan.com.

Candidate for BOE: Blake Rodenroth

Blake Rodenroth

--If you are the incumbent, why should you be re-elected? What have you accomplished during your time in office? If you are the challenger, why are you the better candidate for the office you’re seeking? What will you do better or differently than the incumbent?

The incumbent, Mr Cronic, has done a fantastic job on the board for many years. I look forward to continuing to build on what he has already done for the county schools. I know that these are big shoes to fill but I feel very confident that I can continue leading the county schools growth the way he has.

--The COVID virus has dramatically affected the entire world, including our local community.

If you are the incumbent, how have you responded in your government position to the pandemic and helped the community? If you are the challenger, how would you use this public position to help the community in the coming weeks and months?

COVID has really done a number on the country, states and local communities. Like in every situation, I will work with the other board members and local leaders to ensure the safety of our teachers, students and families is the top priority.

--One of the likely impacts of the virus in the coming year will be to cut revenues coming into local governments. That will likely force some cuts in local government spending. Where would you propose making those cuts and what areas of local government should not be cut?

Local government has a lot of different facets to navigate during this time. I understand that revenues will be down but I would encourage the local government not to cut funding from the foundation of our community, state and country, education. I also know that that may not be possible and there will be tough decisions that need to be made in regards to where some money could be saved so that the students and families are minimally affected.

--What is the most important issue you see that involves the position you are running for?

I am very passionate about continuing to progress the Jackson County School system to be the most sought after school district in the state. We need to continue helping everyone in our community to achieve excellence in all facets of our lives and to help our young people to work through all situations to become even more successful than we dreamed of ourselves.

--Tell voters a little about yourself and your background:

I grew up in Roswell, GA and graduated from the University of Georgia. My wife and I fell in love with Jackson county and never left. We have lived in the county for 15 years now. I taught for 8 years at Commerce City Schools and Jackson County schools before leaving education and going into the business world. I am a mortgage loan originator for Fairway Independent Mortgage in Jefferson. My wife, Karen, and I have a 3 year old son named Tillman and 3 Yorkshire Terriers (Rennie, Ealie & Tenlie).

Early voting continues across Braselton area

Hall County elections leaders say the transition to a new early voting site has proven successful.

To allow for social distancing requirements, the county moved its early voting site for the June 9 election to the Gainesville Exploration Academy. Early voting has typically been held at the Hall County Government Center.

"Voters have been very pleased with the new voting location," Hall County elections director Lori Wurtz said. "They have been able to maintain at least six feet of distance from one another and from poll workers, and I don't think that could have been accomplished at the government center given its layout and overall space constraints."

Wurtz said approximately 591 voters had cast their ballots at the new location as of 7 p.m. Thursday, May 21.

"Turnout has been steady, and the feedback we have received has all been positive" she said.

Early voting is expected to continue at Gainesville Exploration Academy this week, Tuesday through Friday. (No early voting was held on Monday, May 25 in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.)

During the third and final week of early voting, June 1-5, voters can cast their ballots at the North Hall Community Center, the East Hall Community Center and Spout Springs Library, in addition to Gainesville Exploration Academy. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at all locations during all three weeks of early voting.

On Saturday, May 30, polls will open at the North Hall Community Center, East Hall Community Center, Spout Springs Library and Gainesville Exploration Academy as a part of statewide Saturday early voting. The hours for Saturday voting are also 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Gainesville Exploration Academy is located at 1145 McEver Road, approximately 1.5 miles from the Hall County Government Center.

View sample ballots and find your Election Day polling location at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. A video demonstration of the state's new electronic voting machines can be found at securevotega.com.


Early voting also continues in Braselton's other three counties. Details include:


Early in-person voting for the June 9 elections in Jackson County continues May 26-29 and June 1-5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Early voting is held at the Gordon Street Center in Jefferson.

Saturday voting will be held on May 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, the county has installed a drop-box outside its office in Jefferson for those voting an absentee to drop off their completed ballot.


Eligible voters in Gwinnett County may vote advance in person every day, including weekends through June 5 at the Gwinnett Voter Registrations and Elections Beauty P. Baldwin Building, located at 455 Grayson Hwy. in Lawrenceville. The office is open for advance voting Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 12-7 p.m.

Voters can also cast their ballots advance in-person every day, including weekends, from through June 5 at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds located at 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville Mondays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 12-7 p.m.

In addition, satellite voting will take place Saturday, May 30, through Friday, June 5, every day, including Sunday. On Monday through Saturday, satellite locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sunday, from 12-7 p.m. The satellite voting locations are:

• Bogan Park Community Recreation Center, 2723 North Bogan Rd., Buford

• George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center, 55 Buford Hwy., Suwanee

• Lenora Park Gym, 4515 Lenora Church Rd., Snellville

• Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center, 4651 Britt Rd., Norcross


Advance voting for the June 9 statewide general and presidential preference primaries in Barrow County runs through Friday, June 5.

Advance voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at the county elections office, 233 East Broad St., Winder, and there will be Saturday voting May 30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Voters are encouraged to take advantage of mail-in absentee voting. Absentee ballot request forms were sent to all active voters in Georgia. Absentee ballot applications can be submitted by mail to the elections office, in person, by fax at 770-307-1054 or by email to lcash@barrowga.org.

A drop box has been installed outside the elections office for voters to drop their absentee ballots in. Voters are asked to refer to the instructions posted on the box.

For more information, contact the elections office at 770-307-3110 or go to http://barrowga.org/departments/elections-registration-main.aspx.

What will next school year look like?

What will the next school year look like?

That was the topic of discussion at a called May 21 meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education.

As the current school year winds down amid the COVID virus pandemic and at-home learning, school leaders are struggling to figure out how to plan for the next year.

In a report to the Jackson County BOE, superintendent April Howard said system leaders were looking at when and how to reopen school for the 2020-2021 year and what the year might look like.

"Whether it's the beginning, middle or end, we're likely to need some remote learning time; we're prepared for that," she said.

Howard said that given the likelihood the virus might hit hard again in the winter, the core of an in-person school year could be the September-November time-frame. The system is considering having more breaks in December-January for what could be a resurgence of the virus.


But a larger question could be whether or not any school system can reopen at all with in-person learning amid state and federal guidelines.

Howard said that according to new CDC guidelines, desks would have to be six feet apart in the classrooms, meaning that only around eight students could be in the room at one time. That wouldn't work very well in classrooms of 25 or more students.

Another issue would be bus transportation since CDC guidelines recommend limiting the number of students on a bus, a move that would triple the number of bus routes needed to get students to and from school facilities, Howard said.

System leaders tentatively plan to put out a recommended calendar by the first of June for the board to consider at its June meeting. Meanwhile, the system is awaiting further guidance from both state and federal officials about how to proceed. 

If county schools do reopen in the fall, they would likely limit public access into the facilities, including parents, due to the potential of spreading the virus. For now, the leasing of school facilities to outside groups is on hold pending further review.

Howard praised the system's "strong remote learning platform" and said that while having students taught at home isn't ideal, some learning is better than none.

"If we can't start (classes) with the way our regular calendar is (in-person schooling), then we will start remotely," she said.

Howard noted that some area school systems may not start back with in-person classes until after Labor Day.

In a related discussion, Howard said that athletics was another concern for the fall. She said the state GHSA would likely issue guidelines that would allow for small-group conditioning for football players in June, but that the association, which oversees high school sports, had not made any determinations beyond that.

Board member Don Clerici said that if schools weren't safe to reopen in the fall, he didn't see how athletics could proceed safely, either.


In addition to the school year discussion, the board approved a guaranteed maximum price of $5.3 million to Carroll Daniel Construction for the renovation of the current Jackson County Comprehensive High School for the system's Empower Center, which is slated to open in 2021.

Phase one of the project would be a renovation of the high school's D-wing for various labs and technical classes.

The total cost of the project is set at $6 million.

State unemployment reaches all-time high in April

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler recently reported that the number of initial unemployment claims has reached another all-time high, with this month’s total surpassing the number of claims reached in the past four years combined.

April 2020 labor statistics also revealed that the over-the-month increase for the unemployment rate was the largest on record.

“This is the highest unemployment rate on record, eclipsing the previous high of 10.6 percent that occurred in December 2010,” said Butler. “However, the cause of this high unemployment rate differs greatly from that of the previous record, and I have no doubt that we will recover just as quickly and get back to our record lows once again.”

The unemployment rate increased by 7.3 percentage points in April, to reach 11.9 percent, an all-time high. A year ago, the rate was 3.6 percent.

April showed a decrease of 624,126 employed residents over the month, bringing the total to 4,293,628, the lowest number of employed residents in eight and a half years. This number has decreased by 606,671 over the year.

Georgia’s labor force was down by 281,525 to reach a total of 4,875,448, the lowest the labor force has been in over four years, while also reaching an all-time low in the labor force participation. This total decreased 209,140 from this time last year.

Jobs in Georgia were down by 492,100 over the month, the lowest number of jobs on record in six years. They were down 473,100 over the year, reaching a total of 4,126,500.

Unemployment claims showed an increase of 1,041,401 claims or 333 percent in April to reach a total of 1,353,921 claims. They were up by 1,332,941 claims or 6,353 percent from April 2019. The monthly total was higher than the annual total for each of the previous four years combined, 291,962 in 2019, 310,494 in 2018, 325,597 in 2017, and 372,132 in 2016.

The following sectors saw the highest increase in initial claims for unemployment:

  • Accommodation and Food Services – over 323,000
  • Trade – over 172,000
  • Health Care and Social Assistance– over 151,000

Employ Georgia posted more than 73,022 statewide job listings during the month of April.

For more information, visit gdol.ga.gov. To view the latest job listings in Georgia, visit employgeorgia.com.

Candidate for BOE: Ricky Sanders

-Challenger question; Why are you the better candidate for the office you’re seeking? What will you do better or differently than the incumbent?

I bring a unique perspective to this position due to my experience for over 25 years working in Jackson County government with the Board of Commissioners. During that time, I have had a great working relationship with the Jackson County School system and various city governments throughout our county. This has enabled me to build relationships, as well as, given me a chance to help solve problems, plan for growth, and advise on the various needs of our communities. I have been able to work with the school system on shared facilities, programs, and various agreements of mutual benefit to Jackson County tax payers. I also have a good understanding of the various needs of each school within our county related to facility needs, academic, and extracurricular programs. Obviously, there will be many things to learn as a new board member but I am well prepared for what is needed and to help our school system meet the challenges of a new decade with honesty, experience and vision.

-The COVID virus has dramatically affected the entire world, including our local community. If you are the challenger, how would you use this public position to help the community in the coming weeks and months?

If elected, I would not take office until January 1, 2021. During those months of being a Board member elect, I would attend the BOE meetings and consult with the current members on issues related to the school system. I think the best thing I could do is be able to answer questions from the public and provide reassurance to our citizens as we face the challenges brought on by this virus. The best thing a public servant can do is be transparent and share information with the people they serve.

-One of the likely impacts of the virus in the coming year will be to cut revenues coming into local governments. That will likely force some cuts in local government spending. Where would you propose making those cuts and what areas of local government should not be cut?

The likelihood of a tremendous cut in state funding for education for the 2020-21 budget year is assured unless there is some sort of increased federal funding due to this virus. If cuts have to be made I would first look at any capital expenditures to see what could be saved, cut, or delayed in that area. Next would be operational cost which cover a wide variety of expenditures. Eighty percent of the budget is personnel which would be the last area that needs to be cut. Certainly, we do not need to make cuts in the teacher/student ratio that would negatively affect instruction, it is already too high. I believe one of the positives of this virus is that parents have a new appreciation for our teachers and what they mean to their child’s development. We have also learned how much these professionals care about the children and the community at large.

-What is the most important issue you see that involve the position you are running for?

The most important issue before this virus was addressing growth and it will be after we are through dealing with this crisis. Currently, the three elementary schools that feed West Jackson Middle school are at or above capacity. The need for expanding elementary classroom capacity for the West Jackson area is a top priority. As Jackson County continues to grow at a rapid pace, we will need to plan to build more schools and if possible expand the current ones. The decisions made by the Jackson County School system for planning in regards to school location, size, functionality, and funding during the next four years will affect us for the next 25 years.

-Tell voters a little about yourself and your background:

I am a proud 1984 graduate of Jackson County High School and hold a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Education degree from the University of North Georgia. I am marred to Patty Lefebvre Sanders and have a son Nicholas, who also graduated from Jackson County High School. I have been a volunteer youth coach in Jackson County for over 30 years in various sports and have also been a community coach at West Jackson Middle school in football, Jackson County High School in fast pitch softball, and East Jackson High School in baseball during that time. I have served as Director of Parks and Recreation for Jackson County for 24 of my 30 years as a professional, the last 20 years in a row. I love Jackson County due to its beauty, diversity, and people.

Candidate for BOE: Rob Johnson

--If you are the incumbent, why should you be re-elected? What have you accomplished during your time in office? If you are the challenger, why are you the better candidate for the office you’re seeking? What will you do better or differently than the incumbent?

As a candidate that seeks an open School Board District 1 seat, my education experience, knowledge and skills will accelerate my impact as a School Board member. We face strong growth in Jackson county that will bring more facility and personnel needs. However, it will take years to overcome our inevitable diminishing revenues. I will work with the Jackson County Schools leadership to find new avenues to reduce expenditures.

While serving as Laurens County Superintendent, I was successful in cutting non-essential expenditures and initiatives while eliminating furlough days and increasing the fund balance by $6 million. Raising taxes is not the only solution.

I have worked with and have trained School Board members for years. My prior school leadership experience, the support and understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a School Board member and my knowledge of the school system inner operations are exceptional. Serving on various boards such as Chamber of Commerce, hospital, mental health, and public health boards was helpful, but required very little knowledge of education. My love for students and their journey in education is strong and un-questioned. What separates me from other candidates are my deep-rooted education experiences specific to this position.

--The COVID virus has dramatically affected the entire world, including our local community. If you are the incumbent, how have you responded in your government position to the pandemic and helped the community? If you are the challenger, how would you use this public position to help the community in the coming weeks and months?

The responsibility of motiving our students in this technology-rich environment with reduced teacher support is critical. At first, new technology is fun and attractive for students. But they miss the interactions with peers, teachers and support staff. The challenges presented are unprecedented and require careful planning and thoughtful implementation. More than ever, we realize that the daily contact with teachers, paraprofessionals, clerical staff, lunchroom staff, custodians and the oversight of a district office all play critical roles in educating our students. An electronic device with a smiley emoji is limited in its effectiveness; most students need human attention and encouragement from their teachers.

We must “think out of the box” to make this happen for our students. My 5 and 9-year-old grandkids are my daily reminder. They enjoy their effective instruction on their devices, but they really miss their classmates and especially their teachers and support staff. Times are very different now. “It was good for me” simply doesn’t motivate this generation. We must captivate their hearts, ignite their interests in learning and encourage them to reach higher standards and heights they have yet to dream. A knowledgeable, supportive School Board is a critical component to making this happen.

--One of the likely impacts of the virus in the coming year will be to cut revenues coming into local governments. That will likely force some cuts in local government spending. Where would you propose making those cuts and what areas of local government should not be cut?

Every item, program or position should be scrutinized and evaluated as essential to meeting our school district goals. Data must show that programs and initiatives have a positive impact on student learning. The “Sacred Cows” must be defensible. Because “we need it” or “we have never done without it” cannot be defended. Not only is our school system existing in new and difficult times, our families do as well. As a school system, we must find ways to make it work like our families do each day. Yet, many times, politics may get in the way of financial reductions. We must break down those “political” barriers and unsubstantiated “campaign promises” to find ways to do with less. “Doing with less” is a popular statement, but without specific knowledge to be successful, that suggestion is useless. That has never been more important than now. We must work together to meet our students’ needs, but not forget the origin of our funds/taxes. Our school superintendent and the district staff explore those options daily. Together, the school board can explore options with the district to find solutions. My background as an administrator and former school superintendent will offer a “new” perspective.

--What is the most important issue you see that involves the position you are running for?

As a school board member, I do not and will not have a personal agenda. Individual board members lack the authority to forge change themselves. We vote up or down on recommendations of the superintendent. The most important issue we face today in Jackson County is to work together as a School Board with our superintendent to navigate this journey that will provide for the students’ needs while being as frugal as possible. Our school system deserves it. Our taxpayers expect it. The issue is simple. We must listen to the opinions of the public we represent and listen to the professionals with whom we work. We must put our egos and our campaign promises aside and search for new solutions together as a community to continue our quest to be the best school system in Georgia. We may explore new US Dept of Education and state grants that could be applied to help ease the tax burden of our citizens.

We must meet these unprecedented challenges with knowledgeable board members that support yet monitor our district’s needs and initiatives.

--Tell voters a little about yourself and your background:

I wanted to be a high school principal at 16 years of age. Raised by a minister and a reading teacher, I was encouraged and supported. After nine years of teaching high school economics and government, I began my “dream” journey as an assistant principal and two years later a high school principal. After twenty plus years as a principal, an assistant superintendent position altered my goals. Recently, I retired as School Superintendent of Laurens County schools, Georgia.

Most important, my wife of 47 years and I are blessed with two sons, one of whom has provided us with two grandchildren, Garrett and Melanie. As students of Gum Springs Elementary, our grandkids offer us unwavering love and personal challenges to meet their needs in this “season” of uncertainty.

Northeast Georgia RESA and Foothills charter provide me with part-time work. Making schools better for students and educators is my job and my life’s passion.

Being a husband, father and grandfather are my most important attributes. Because of my family, I offer my service and experience as a Jackson County Schools Board member representing District 1.

Humphrey named president and general manager at Road Atlanta

Rick Humphrey has been named president and general manager of Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

Humphrey replaces Geoff Lee, who announced his retirement last week.

He will resume the new role immediately.

In an announcement about the move, Road Atlanta said Humphrey's familiarity with the facility — as well as more than 25 years of track operations experience — allowed for an immediate transition.

Humphrey has been vice president of IMSA Properties since 2014 with Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta as his base of operation. In that role, he oversaw management of Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Sebring International Raceway and Seven Sebring Hotel, the announcement said.

Prior to that, Humphrey was vice president of Zoom Motorsports and had worked at Talladega Superspeedway from 1993 to 2010, first as director of public relations and later as president.

In his new position at Road Atlanta, Humphrey will concentrate his efforts on the day-to-day operation and promotion of Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the announcement said. He will report to David Pettit, IMSA senior vice president of marketing and business operations.

“We are grateful to Geoff Lee for his many contributions to the success of Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and wish him the very best in his retirement,” said Pettit. “Geoff and Rick Humphrey worked together to transform Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta into the world-class facility it has become, and Rick is a natural choice to succeed Geoff. In his previous role, Rick developed a firm understanding of our sport and operation; we expect a seamless transition.”

Humphrey said he looks forward to the challenge in his new role at the Braselton racing facility.

“The opportunity to serve as president and general manager at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta is a challenge that I am looking forward to,” said Humphrey. “Many positive things have happened here through the years and Geoff has certainly left a solid foundation to build upon. That foundation, coupled with a well-prepared staff and the tremendous growth of IMSA makes this a great time for Michelin Raceway.”

Health leaders brace for state cuts; federal money to fund employee hazard pay

Jackson County health leaders are bracing for potential cuts in state funding next year.

The Jackson County Board of Health approved its $1.39 million budget for Fiscal Year 2021 during a conference call meeting on May 12.


Overall, revenues are expected to decrease two percent, from $1.42 million this year to $1.39 million in FY21.

The largest decrease is expected in grant-in-aid state funding — down 14-percent from $526,700 to $452,980. About 30-percent of the department’s funding comes from the state. (The remainder comes from: Fees 30 percent; county, 20 percent; and other miscellaneous revenue sources.)

Other projected decreases include Medicaid and federal COVID-19 funds. The department is receiving somewhere between $15,000-$18,000 in federal funding in FY2020 to help offset salary costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the budget update, district administrator Emily Eisenman said she wasn’t sure if that funding would be continued in FY21.

Meanwhile, the prior year’s fee income has jumped 12 percent, from $376,400 to $420,000. Eisenman said the department had a “strong year” in fees, but it could feel the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown in the FY2022 budget.

The budget also shows a $21,000 fund balance (reserves) at the end of FY2020. That fund balance comes from a 4 percent state budget cut that was restored when the COVID-19 pandemic began.


The budget shows a slight decrease (one percent) in expenses, bring the total expenses to $1.39 million.

While personnel and related benefits all show an increase, there’s a huge budgeted decrease for other operating expenses (down 46 percent from $34,500 to $18,800) and repairs and maintenance expenses (down 40 percent from 25,000 to $15,000).


The projected federal COVID-19 funding will be used towards hazard pay for employees during FY2020.

“(We’re) looking at employees who have come to work day-in and day-out, whether they’ve been with the health department or they’ve been working at our testing sites,” said Eisenman. “We will be paying an additional $250 per pay period to each employee who has come into the office, not missed work and that sort of thing.”

The hazard pay policy will be implemented for pay periods starting in mid-March through June 30.

It's expected to cost the health department between $18,000-$19,000.


Also at its meeting, the board received the following updates:

•Environmental health — Keli Hinson noted the department is maintaining a steady pace on septic permits being issued. Hinson also informed the board that the department has noticed an increase in septic failures, which she attributed to increased use due to residents staying home due to COVID-19 restrictions.

•State efforts — interim district health director Stephen Goggans said the Department of Public Health is heavily focused on testing and contact tracing. He said the state has ramped up testing over the past couple of weeks, and the results will tell more about the state of COVID-19 in Georgia. The testing initiative will also generate more positive cases since more people are being tested, Goggans said. The state has opened up the criteria for those who can be tested, allowing anyone who wants to be tested to do so.

•Staff update — the health department continues to offer essential services and has implemented a variety of safety precautions for staff and clients.