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Baldwin approves funds for public utilities building

The Baldwin City Council has approved $650,000 in funding for a public utilities building and $210,000 for the proposed waterline transmission line project.

The council unanimously approved adding the $860,000 for the two projects to the 2021 water and sewer bond, that was previously approved by the council.

Finance director Melanie Chandler said this would add a year to the bond, pushing it to 2046.


In other business at the council meeting on March 22:

•the council met in closed session to discuss land acquisition and disposal. No action was taken.

•the council unanimously approved a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with Rabun County to pursue a grant for use of deadly force training technology to be used by the police departments. The city could incur a minimal cost if they choose to use the simulator for training.

•the council approved Monday, April 26, as an amnesty day for pick-up of items by the city. City residents will need to call city hall to get on the list for pick-up of items, such as furniture pieces and appliances. The city will not accept paint, tires and batteries. The council agreed to have the one-day pick-up in lieu of the normal clean-up day.

•Mayor Joe Elam made the following announcements: city offices will be closed on Friday, April 2, in observance of Good Friday; and water and sewer rate increases take effect on the next bill that is due on April 20.

•council member Stephanie Almagno was recognized for completion of 42 hours of training for council members through the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia.

9 new cases of COVID-19 reported in past week

The number of cases of new COVID-19 reported each week in Banks County continues to remain low. In the past week, 9 new cases were reported.

The total number of cases of the virus reported in Banks County since March 2020 is 1,593 — up from 1,584 reported for the same period last week.

In Banks County, 33 people (same as last week) have died from COVID-19 in the past year and 182 (same as last week) have been hospitalized.

This week, the Banks County School System reports there are zero students with a current positive COVID-19 status among the 2,711-student population. There are six students quarantined due to possible exposure.

Of the 405 employees, one has a current positive COVID-19 status and one is quarantined due to possible exposure.


More vaccines are also now available in health departments in District 2 Public Health, which includes Banks County. Eligible residents can make appointments by calling 1-888-426-5073 or online at www.phdistrict2.org.

To register for an appointment at one of the four state-operated mass vaccination sites, visit myvaccinegeorgia.com. One of the mass sites is located in Habersham County.

The state has expanded the list of eligible people to those individuals who are age 16 and up. Pfizer is the only COVID vaccine approved for teens 16 and 17 years old. Schedule an appointment at CVS or Walgreens or at one of the GEMA mass vaccination sites to ensure Pfizer vaccine is available.

“Vaccination, along with strict compliance with basic prevention measures - wear a mask, stay six feet from others, avoid large gatherings, wash your hands frequently - will help Georgia stop the spread of COVID-19,” public health officials state. “These measures are critically important as SARs-CoV-2 variants continue to circulate and increase in Georgia. Currently, there are 367 confirmed COVID cases with variants statewide; 351 cases with the UK variant (B.1.1.7), 15 cases with the South Africa variant (B.1.351), and 1 case with the Brazil variant (P.1). These variants appear

To find a vaccine location near you or to schedule an appointment, visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.

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

Georgia absentee, early voting changes clear General Assembly, signed into law

Sweeping legislation to overhaul voting by mail, advance voting and state oversight of Georgia elections passed out of the General Assembly Thursday and was promptly signed by Gov. Brian Kemp after months of intense debate at the state Capitol.

The 95-page bill contains dozens of proposals pitched by Republicans that would require stricter voter ID rules for mail-in ballots, ban people from handing out food and drink to voters waiting in line outside polling places and halt absentee ballot applications from being accepted within 11 days of an election.

It cleared the state House of Representatives by a 100-75 vote along party lines Thursday before gaining final passage a few hours later in the state Senate, also by a party-line vote. Kemp signed the bill into law about an hour after its passage in the Senate.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, absorbed proposals from several other election-focused measures on its way to passing out of the state legislature, swelling to nearly 100 pages from an original 2-page bill last week in a process that drew concerns over transparency.

Beyond absentee and early voting changes, Burns’ bill would also allow state officials to take over county election boards for poor performance, which Democratic leaders and voting-rights advocates argue could give Republicans a back door to influence local election operations in many counties.

The bill also dropped a prior effort by Republican state lawmakers to shrink early voting on Sundays in Georgia. It instead would require two Saturdays of early voting and give counties the option to hold poll hours on two Sundays.

Among the bill’s most contentious changes to survive final passage is a requirement that registered Georgia voters provide the number on their driver’s license or state ID card to request and cast absentee ballots. If they do not have those ID forms, voters instead would have to send in a copy of their passport, employee ID card, utility bill or bank statement.

“Our goal is to ensure election integrity and to restore or confirm confidence in the election process,” Burns said from the Senate floor shortly before the bill’s passage.

Georgia Democratic leaders have long condemned the changes pushed by Republicans, characterizing them as targeted at minority and low-income voters to curb election turnout in communities where Democrats tend to draw strong support.

"Make no mistake: This is democracy in reverse," said Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain. "We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we've seen since the Jim Crow era."

Election bills that have sparked intense debate in the General Assembly come after former President Donald Trump and his allies sowed doubts over Georgia’s election system, calling it fraught with fraud despite the repeated rejection of Trump’s claims by state officials and federal courts in recent months.

Speaking from the House floor Thursday, Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, who has spearheaded the push for election changes in the House, framed the bill as an expansion of voter access and tighter oversight of local election officials as he presented the bill before the vote.

“The bill greatly expands accessibility of voters in Georgia and greatly improves the process of administration of elections, while at the same time providing more accountability to ensure the integrity that the vote is properly preserved,” said Fleming, who chairs the House Special Committee on Election Integrity.

A different bill by Fleming is also awaiting consideration on the Senate floor. His 45-page bill was revised earlier this week to allow counties to buy their own voting machines amid distrust over new machines manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems that were first used in Georgia during last year’s elections.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, who has overseen revisions to Fleming’s bill in the Senate, earlier this week slammed opponents for characterizing the elections bills as instruments of voter suppression, which Republicans have denied.

Democrats in the General Assembly have devoted much of this year’s legislative session to condemning moves by Fleming, Burns and top Republicans in both chambers to overhaul voting by mail and limit access to the polls, calling their measures attempts at voter suppression reminiscent of the Jim Crow era of racial segregation.

Opposition from Democrats along with by some Republican leaders including Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, prompted bill drafters to scrap a controversial proposal that would have repealed no-excuse absentee voting.

Still, Democratic lawmakers view the bill overall as harmful to Georgians’ voting rights, particularly for minority communities that helped boost mail-in voting to record numbers in the 2020 election cycle amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You are changing the rules, cutting the polling hours and making more requirements to vote,” said Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell. “That’s not right, that’s not fair and that’s not just. … Too many people fought, bled and died for our right to vote.”

Republican leaders such as Dugan have bristled at that characterization, dismissing accusations that their bills aim to dampen Black and minority voters from casting ballots in Georgia.

“I think it’s demeaning to all those people who came before who actually had to work their tails off to get those repealed,” Dugan said earlier this week. “The hyperbole is unfortunate.”

Democratic leaders have also sought to paint the Republican-led election bills as an effort to halt momentum following the 2020 elections that saw Democrats carry Georgia in the presidential race and flip both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats for the first time in decades.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, the legislature’s longest-serving member, said earlier this week Democrats will continue to oppose the bills even with some concessions such as ditching the repeal on no-excuse absentee voting and more weekend poll hours.

“As state legislators, our aim is to ensure that all voters, particularly voters of color, have full, meaningful and non-burdensome access to the one fundamental right, and that is the preservation of all other rights, and that is the right to vote,” Smyre said.

Lawmakers have a week more to wrap up fine-tuning of the election bills on the one hand or fighting them on them other. The last day of the General Assembly session is next Wednesday, March 31.

Alex Coker, shown, chipping onto the green during home match.

Applications being taken for Head Start, Pre-K

Banks County Head Start/Pre-K is now taking applications for the 2021-202 school year via the website, www.ndo.org.

"This is only a pre-application and does not guarantee that your child will have a slot in the program," director Jan Bertrang states. "Families will be contacted by the center to complete the application process."

Bertrang adds, "The program provides children with a learning environment and varied experiences which will help them develop socially, physically, intellectually, and emotionally in a manner which is appropriate for their age and stage of development. The educational program includes experiences designed to meet the individual differences and needs of participating children. A nutritious breakfast and lunch are served. The center does not provide transportation."


Enrollment status is based on income eligibility. Children must turn 3 or 4 years of age on or before September 1, 2021.

Requirements are: Proof of child’s age, proof of household income and child’s insurance card (if available).


Enrollment status is on a first-come, first-served basis. Children must turn 4 years of age on or before September 1, 2021.

Requirements are: Proof of child’s age, proof of Residency (utility bill, etc.), Social Security card (if available) and child’s insurance card (if available).

Contact Bertrang or Shelia Mullins (Family Partner) at 706-677-2963 for more information.

Hickory Flat UMC plans sunrise service Sunday

Easter sunrise service will be held at 7:30 a.m. in the prayer garden at Hickory Flat United Methodist Church, located at 3409 on Hwy. 51 South, near Lula.

Breakfast will be avialabe after the service.

For more information, call 678-936-6853.

"All are welcome to come and join us as we celebrate our risen Savior and Lord," church leaders state.

Gillsville Easter service planned April 4

An Easter service will be held at Gillsville Baptist Church at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 4.

"Casual dress is welcome," church leaders state. "Easter T-shirts will be given to every guest."

The church is located at 2595 Hwy. 323, Gillsville.

Egg hunt to be held at Webbs Creek Church

There will be an egg hunt at Webbs Creek Church Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon

The Easter Bunny will be there Pancakes will be served.

The address is 647 Webbs Creek Road, near Homer.

Everyone is welcome, church leaders state.

For more information, text or call the pastor, Darvin Cash, at 706-207-6222.

Banks County's Great American Clean-Up Month observed in April

During the month of April, Keep Banks County Beautiful is promoting the Great American Clean-Up. The organization will provide trash bags, gloves, pick-up tools, and vests to community groups and residents on a first-come, first-served basis.

"Clean-ups include litter on the roads as well as general clean-ups," Leslie George, Keep Banks County Beautiful director states. "Perhaps there is an elderly person in your neighborhood that could use some help or a cemetery that could be cleaned and weeded. There may be a youth group at a church who would like to make Banks County more beautiful or a civic organization that would like to make a difference. To register your event, call 706-318-5448 and we will work with you in any way we can."