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News
David requests recount of Solicitor's race

Candidate Jim David has officially requested a recount of the votes for the position of State Court Solicitor.

Gabriel Bradford apparently won the position by just 14 votes out of over 11,600 cast in the race.

The recount is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on June 18 in the county elections office. Elections officials have requested a second scanning machine to help speed up the recount of absentee ballots.

Bradford had 5,844 votes to David's 5,831. David had led the race following the tabulation of in-person voting, but absentee voting pushed Bradford to the lead.

The solicitor's position was an open seat following the retirement of Don Moore.

RUNOFF

The Post 1 seat on the Jackson County Board of Education is headed for a runoff between Rick Sanders who got 46% (893) of the vote and Rob Johnson who received 33% (636) of the vote. The winner will replace retiring board member Michael Cronic.

In other local contest, incumbents trounced challengers:

• Incumbent Sheriff Janis Mangum won 90% of the vote (11,582) to Johnny Wood's 1,338 votes.

• Incumbent tax commissioner Candace Taylor Heaton won 71% of the vote (8,880) over challenger Wes Colley who had 3,693 votes.

• Incumbent coroner Keith Whitfield won with 83% of the vote (10,337) over challenger Shannon Stephens who had 2,083 votes.

• Incumbent District 2 county commissioner Chas Hardy won with 79% of the vote (2,093) over challenger Tommy Rainey who had 554 votes. Hardy will face Democrat Brodriche Jackson in November.

HOSCHTON

In the City of Hoschton, two embattled seats on the city council were filled.

Tracy Carswell won 54% of the vote over Jared Thompson while James Lawson won with 62% of the vote over Raphael Mayberry.

FEDERAL & STATE

In the crowded Republican District 9 race for Congress, Matt Gurtler is headed for a runoff with Jackson County resident Andrew Clyde. The winner will face the winner of a Democratic runoff between Brooke Siskin and Devin Pandy.

In the contest for State Senate District 50, which covers part of Jackson County, there will be a runoff between Bo Hatchett and Stacey Hall for the Republican nomination. The winner will face Democrat Dee Delany in November.

ISSUES

In local issues on the ballot, a rise in the amount of income to qualify for homestead exemption won in all three school districts, a move that will give a small tax break to some homeowners.

In the City of Commerce, Sunday alcohol by the drink was approved with 58% voting Yes.


News
Jefferson HS grad works as nurse in Detroit area during COVID-19 crisis

When Chase Brooks’ hours were cut at St. Mary’s Hospital during to the COVID-19 pandemic, he wasn't going to settle for downtime.

Instead, the 2012 Jefferson High School graduate and registered nurse signed up for crisis-care work in the Detroit area, where he spent six weeks on the front lines in one of the country’s most heavily-stricken COVID-19 spots before returning in mid-May.

“It’s invaluable,” the 25-year-old said of his experience. “It’s something that I’m going to be able to take with me anywhere.”

Brooks took on this assignment for both financial reasons and out of personal conviction.

He’d worked two years as a nurse when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which reduced his hours in the post anesthesia care unit at St. Mary’s in Athens as elective surgeries were postponed. So, he needed the work.

But Brooks wanted to help, too. So, he began seeking out hospitals needing crisis assistance.

“Because I always thought that would be cool to do,” Brooks said.

In what amounted to a lateral move, Brooks was able to land a job within his company’s own system in a hospital in Livonia, a large suburb of Detroit.

“When they offered that, I was like, ‘Heck, yeah, I want to go help out with that,’” Brooks said. “It helps me out and I get to help them out.”

Brooks spent his first two weeks in an overcrowded 60-bed emergency room, 50 beds of which were COVID-19 patients.

“It seemed like we always had a line of ambulances waiting out the door,” Brooks said, “about 10 or more waiting on a room in the ER.”

“And that was just during the day,” Brooks added, “and that was for literally 12 hours straight.”

He then transferred to the hospital’s less-hectic ICU unit for four weeks where he worked with two patients at a time, the majority of which were on ventilators.

Brooks had done ICU-level care before “and I have never taken care of people to that caliber until I went up there," he said. The level of sickness was an eye-opening experience for the young nurse.

“It was all new to me in a way,” Brooks said, “and it was very sad to see.”

Brooks said he had to a develop certain numbness to what he was witnessing in the ICU.

“I go there. I do my job. I get in. I get out. And then at home is kind of where it hits,” Brook said. “There were a couple days in the ICU when I got back to the hotel and I was highly contemplating calling my boss and asking to come home.”

And his initial work in the overcrowded ER had him doing similar soul-searching.

“The ER, every day was like that,” Brook said. “Every day, I regretted going up there. I was either like, ‘I’m coming home or I’m transferring.”

But Brooks, who spent four weeks working in the ICU after securing a transfer, persevered. 

Brooks said he wished he could share inspirational stories of patient care in the ICU unit, but he can’t. COVID-19 patients on those ventilators “didn’t come off (of it), honestly. They die on it.”

During his experience’ in the ICU, Brooks often took a liaison role to families who couldn’t enter the facility to due to COVID-19 restrictions, giving them detailed updates and assurance that all care possible was being given.

“It seemed that a lot of those families appreciated that,” Brooks said.

The ER was a somewhat different experience where people were angry, hurting and declining quickly.

“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to become numb to it and put on your professional face," Brooks said. 

Naturally, Brooks’ own risk of contracting COVID-19 was heightened during his experience in the Detroit area, especially during his stint in the hectic ER. He recalls one particularly close call when a patient with dementia not wearing a mask coughed in his face. She tested COVID-19 positive.

“It went through my head right then, ‘That just got me,’” Brooks said.

Fortunately for Brooks, he tested negative for COVID-19.

Brooks has been home now for nearly a month. Asked for his opinion of where the country stands in the COVID-19 crisis, Brooks believes the nation is making “good baby-steps progress.”

"I've never been a person that's like, 'We've got to make this huge jump in a short amount of time,'" Brooks said. "I want to make baby steps because smaller goals lead to bigger goals."

Meanwhile, he’s proud of his experience in the Detroit area.

“I think it was good that I put myself in a position where I wasn’t exactly comfortable, and I made it through,” Brooks said. “I learned a lot. I saw a lot. I can 100 percent say it made me a better critical-care nurse.”

And Brooks’ message to others given a similar opportunity:

“Go join it,” he said. “It’s 100 percent worth it.”


News
Commerce city employee tests positive for COVID

The City of Commerce has its first report of an employee testing positive for COVID-19.

During its June 15 city council meeting, city manager James Wascher reported the city has taken steps to have all employees that may have been in contact with the employee tested. So far, all results have come back negative.

“We don’t think there was a lot of exposure, but there potentially could have been so we are doing what we need to do,” Wascher said.

Although the department in which the employee worked was not indicated, Wascher said that several city buildings have been deep-cleaned and fumigated.

“I think we have gotten the environment taken care of and we are getting the employees taken care of,” Wascher said.

Given the nature of the coronavirus pandemic, Wascher said there is a good chance other cases could be reported in the future.

SUNDAY SALES

In other business, the council approved an ordinance to allow Sunday brunch sales of alcohol for consumption.

The measure was approved in the June 9 voting.

ELEVATOR POSTPONED

The council postponed a vote on a proposed installation of an elevator at the Commerce Civic Center.

Milestone Construction had submitted the lowest bid at $457,508. During a recent work session, Wascher said other projects planned for the Civic Center may have to be postponed or cancelled if funds are allocated to install the elevator.

Another option the council could consider is financing for all improvements needed in the Civic Center.

The council agreed to postpone voting on installation of the elevator and instead have staff gather information and an estimated cost for an architect to design a plan to include electrical, plumbing, kitchen improvements, upgrades to bathrooms and improvements to the bottom level and parking area.

OTHER ACTION

Other action by the council on June 15 include the approval:

• of updates to the building fee schedule. Mayor Clark Hill said this will bring the fees for building in the city in line with the cost of providing the required service. In addition to an increase in the cost of building permits, an additional plan review fee of fifty percent of the cost for a building permit will be required to cover the staff time needed for plan review, permitting, inspections, or other related tasks.

• of a request from Brian Cardoza for annexation of 2.2 acres and rezoning of 139 acres on Maysville Road and Wheeler Cemetery Road. The request is to unite all of the related parcels under M-2 zoning in order to continue with a long range industrial development project. The parcels were previously zoned C-2 and R-1.

• of a request from Chadwick Richardson to rezone 1.61 acres on Bill Anderson Boulevard from C-2 to R-1 for the construction of five homes.

• of a request from Robert Wollaston to rezone 8.841 acres at 71 W.E. King from R-4 to R-2 and 19.322 acres at 187 W.E. King Road from AR to R-2 for construction of thirty one homes in Phase III of Highland Estates. The developer is required to obtain an easement to W.E. King Road and have easement included on the plan before permits are issued.

• of a request from Victor Golban to rezone 4.134 acres along W.E. King Road from R-3 to C-2 for construction of a repair garage.

• of a bid from Garrett Paving in the amount of $296,668 for paving of various city streets.

• of an amendment to the Gas Supply Portfolio Program. The portfolio will allow the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia to negotiate gas supply contracts on behalf of a group of local government agencies.

• of the 2021 budget. According to Mayor Hill, the $25 million budget is in line with what has been budgeted during the past couple of years.


News
featured
Election certified, but elections board again clashes

Jackson County's election results got certified Friday evening, but not before some members of the board of elections clashed over a range of issues.

The board approved several provisional ballots and rejected a few others, mainly because of missing signatures or other problems.

When the additional ballots were counted, they didn't change the outcome of the close race for State Court Solicitor between Gabe Bradford and Jim David, which had only 13 votes difference in the initial count. Following the additional ballots, that margin moved to a 14-vote difference.

David has asked for a recount given the close results. County elections director Jennifer Logan has already requested an additional scanning machine from the state for absentee ballot-counting for a recount.

The elections office is also preparing for an Aug. 11 runoff in several local, state and federal contests. Early voting for the runoff begins July 20.

ABSENTEE HEADACHE

One of the biggest local issues of the June 9 election was the massive number of absentee ballots that had to be counted. The county was given only one scanner by the state to process those ballots. (The county didn't have long lines at voting locations on election day as did some areas of Metro Atlanta that have received national attention.)

In addition, there were a lot of voter errors with absentee ballots, a situation that slowed down the process on election day.

All members of the county elections board agreed that there should be a better system if there is ever again a massive number of absentee ballots to be counted.

Board members and others worked over 18 hours on elections day, a situation that board member Larry Ewing said, "we can't go through that again."

But it was a range of comments about the absentee situation from board member Erma Denney that led to another verbal spat between board members. 

Denney had earlier argued via email and during a previous Zoom board meeting that the county should open absentee ballots early since it was allowed to do so under a special state rule.

Logan was opposed to the idea, citing security concerns and securing a location to process the ballots early. 

On Friday, Denney again clashed with elections board chairman Eric Crawford over the issue, rehashing her earlier arguments about the process and lecturing the board about state  requirements for the board.

'PISSED OFF'

After about 20 minutes of argument, Crawford blasted Denney, saying her comments bordered on "paranoia" and that Denney had "pissed off" a lot of people.

Crawford said he had received calls from people who told him Denney "would not leave me alone."

"You are completely pissing off people throughout the county and pissing-off people throughout the state," Crawford said. "I'm having to deal with the clean-up of that."

Crawford said that the "board acts as a whole and the board does not act as individual members," and alleged Denney had misrepresented herself as acting for the board.

"You are burning bridges," Crawford said. "You are relentlessly, nonstop, just pestering the hell out of everyone."

Denney said the only person she had gone back and forth with leading up to election day was county manager Kevin Poe about the situation with an elections staff member having tested positive for COVID. She said she had gotten two different stories about testing board members.

"You are acting on behalf of the board and you have no authority to do so," Crawford said again.

At that point, Jackson County GOP Chairman T.J. Dearman, a spectator at the meeting, stood up and began speaking.

"You are not recognized, sir," Crawford said as the two began raising their voices. "Please sit down."

Crawford then pointed out that Dearman had called on Denney to resign her elections board post over a previous contentious issue she was involved with.

Dearman denied that and then called on Crawford to resign.

'NEVER STOP TALKING'

After some additional back and forth over the issue of how the county should have handled the COVID case, Denney and Crawford clashed again. Denney said she was just asking a question about the COVID situation and "not pestering" people.

"It's hard to distinguish a legitimate question from all the noise when you never stop talking," Crawford said to Denney. "The people who were helping us open the envelopes (on election day), you just don't stop and you did it the entire day. You did a great job with the envelopes, but everything was a comment, it (the talking) just didn't stop."

When Denney defended herself for talking "about Mennoite stores," and other things, Crawford again cut in.

"You talked about everything... and this entire meeting, you've just domineered the entire discussion," Crawford said. "I hear stories you like doing that and being the center of attention."

It isn't the first time Denney has been controversial in the public arena. She was a controversial and outspoken mayor of Hoschton a decade ago. Two years ago, she was outspoken about a rezoning issue in Hoschton. Last year, she was a vocal critic of the Hoschton council after the mayor and another council member got caught up in a racial controversy. She often spoke at council meetings as a citizen and was one of the activist working to hold a recall in the town during 2019. That effort also raised questions about her role on the elections board, a group that oversaw recall petitions.

She's also been controversial more recently after clashing with local GOP leaders when she called for a push toward absentee voting so that people would avoid COVID exposure. Local GOP leaders didn't like the call for more absentee voting, a political position the party has taken across the nation.


Public_safety
Driver crashes into house, strikes man in hit-and-run last week

A driver crashed into a house and sent a man to the hospital in a hit-and-run last week in Nicholson, according to Jackson County Sheriff's Office reports.

Jackson County deputies responded to Kesler Rd. on June 8 where the driver of a truck reportedly crashed into a residence and ran over the man before leaving the scene.

The victim was reportedly barely conscious and having trouble breathing. The man had several broken bones, a collapsed lung, head trauma and a laceration on his left leg, according to the incident report. He was transported to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center for his injuries.

A witness said she saw a Dodge Ram truck drive up Kesler Rd. and then travel in reverse down the road “at a high rate of speed.” She said she heard a crashing sound a few moments later and then saw the truck speeding toward Hwy. 334. The witness then heard someone groaning loudly from a neighboring property. She went to the residence, where she found the victim.

The status of the victim was not known at press time.


News
breaking
JHS to hold graduation June 19

Jefferson High School will hold its 2020 graduation ceremony on Friday, June 19 at 8:00 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

The event was delayed from May due to the COVID virus crisis.

Each of the school's 287 graduates will be given five tickets for the event. Officials said students, faculty and spectators will be separated for social distancing.

In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held Saturday morning, June 20, at 9 a.m. at the Arena.