Roundabout to be created at Stone Pile Gap


DAHLONEGA- In Lumpkin County a $4.7 million contract was awarded for construction of a modern roundabout to replace the existing Y-intersection at SR 9 and SR 60. The project, designed to enhance safety and improve traffic flow, will also accommodate trucks.

The roundabout will be built around the Trahlyta’s Grave Stonepile. A barrier fence will ensure that the historically significant site is not disturbed during construction. The existing Trahlyta’s Grave Historical Marker will be stored during construction.

State Senator Steve Gooch is a sixth generation native of Lumpkin County who grew up about two miles from Stone Pile Gap. “In fact, I remember stories from my grandmother whose parents owned and operated a general store at that location in the early 1900s,” Gooch said. “Throughout my childhood and now my adult life, I have seen and heard of numerous traffic accidents due to the confusion and unusual design of the two roads at the Highway 60 and Highway 19 merger. I believe these much needed improvements will have a significant impact and will reduce accidents and save lives.”

With nearly one-third of fatal crashes in Georgia occurring at intersections and almost half of those a result of angle collisions, roundabouts provide fewer conflict points and result in fewer collisions than traditional intersections.

The contractor is C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., Inc. and the anticipated completion date is Oct. 31, 2019.



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NGHS reaches agreement to sell Chestatee Regional to University of North Georgia


DAHLONEGA, Ga. — The Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) purchase of Chestatee Regional Hospital (CRH) has opened up an opportunity for the University of North Georgia (UNG) to meet the school’s growing educational needs.

NGHS officials announced Friday an agreement to sell the facility to UNG. While the school will not be able to occupy the building for a couple of years, it plans to house nursing, physical therapy, and counseling education programs, as well as two existing, outreach clinics from the counseling and physical therapy departments designed to serve specialized health needs of the community.

UNG President Bonita Jacobs said, “UNG has been exploring opportunities to add academic space for the Dahlonega Campus, and this acquisition will have a transformative impact across multiple academic programs. The healthcare sector is a broad-reaching, high-demand career area, and the facility could serve as a catalyst for interdisciplinary opportunities and collaborations to support workforce development needs, such as advanced technologies, informatics, and analytics.”

Jacobs thanked Gov. Nathan Deal and State Sen. Steve Gooch and the Board of Regents for their leadership in facilitating the purchase that will ensure healthcare for this rural community long-term, while also improving healthcare education opportunities.

State legislators have earmarked dollars in the state’s 2019 fiscal year budget for the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to purchase the property. Acquisition will require final approval by the Board of Regents later this year. If approved, the Board of Regents initially would lease the property to NGHS.

Meanwhile, NGHS officials will conduct an assessment of the community’s healthcare needs, including evaluating the possibility of a new facility in Lumpkin County, just south of the intersection of Georgia Highways 400 and 60.

“Chestatee Regional Hospital has been a vital resource for Lumpkin County and an integral part of healthcare in the region for more than 40 years,” said Carol Burrell, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of NGHS. “We look forward to working with the community to better understand what care it needs and collaborating to create a plan to meet those needs in the future.”

CRH is required to notify federal regulators of plans to close the hospital later this year, which would help assure existing liabilities are not tied to future owners or operators. A specific date will be set for the hospital closing during a required due diligence period.

“Our immediate goal is to assess what is needed to re-establish high-quality healthcare services in Lumpkin County after the hospital closes,” Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS, said. “Given what information we’ve received about existing resources, we estimate it may take as many as 12 months to complete that assessment.”

Gooch, who also serves as executive director of Lumpkin County’s Development Authority, said the deal would both stabilize the future of healthcare for Northeast Georgia and allow UNG expanded academic space.


Committee Searches for Ways to Bring Broadband Internet to Rural Georgia



TOCCOA, Ga. – A joint study committee made up of 10 members of the Georgia House and Senate is on a fact-finding mission to find out how to bring high-speed broadband Internet to the rural areas of Georgia.

The Joint High-Speed Broadband Communications Access for all Georgians Study Committee held the second in a series of meetings Thursday on the Curahee campus of North Georgia Technical College.

State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega ) said, “If we’re going to continue to bring in new companies into the state of Georgia, especially into the rural areas, we’ve got to have adequate infrastructure. It’s just as important today to have adequate broadband access as it is to have adequate water and sewer infrastructure. We’re just not getting what we need now.”

Studies have shown that about 20 percent of the U.S. population does not have access to broadband Internet. The problem is not a lack of providers. It is that most private providers say it does not make financial sense to lay expensive broadband infrastructure to serve very few people.

Business leaders from as far away as Royston attended the meeting and shared stories about how a lack of broadband access had impacted their businesses. Educational leaders like Franklin County School Superintendent Wayne Randall said lack of access has also deprived students of valuable learning opportunities.

“For years and years, we as a school system have prided ourselves on being a socioeconomic equalizer that provides an education no matter where you come from, where you live, what you have or what you don’t have,” he said.

But, he pointed out that today, brick and mortar schools aren’t the only place students learn. Modern education relies heavily on Internet connectivity where students can do research and access advanced classes. Randall said that students have that access while they are at school, but not necessarily at home.

“There are large spots in Franklin and Stephens counties where there is no connectivity at all and that makes it impossible for students who live in those areas to have an equal educational opportunity. What I don’t want to see happen is like back in the old days when you had a division between the haves and the have nots. I don’t want to see that gap widen.”

David Raynor, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, recommended eliminating the tax on broadband providers and the imposition of local permitting fees.

He said the state had invested more than $20 million to develop broadband and he produced some loud groans of displeasure from some members of the committee when he said that in 20 years, “Georgia has gone from no connectivity to now covering 97 percent of the population.”

State Rep. Susan Holmes (R-Monticello) pounced on the comment.

“When you indicate the state of Georgia is 97 percent covered by broadband, that is simply not correct.” Holmes said. She added that representatives at both the Georgia Technology Authority and the Carl Vincent Institute of Government at the University of Georgia strongly disagree with the Chamber’s numbers.

“The Carl Vincent Institute who I have tons of confidence in has a problem with your figures being overstated,” Holmes said. “The Georgia Chamber and the Georgia Public Policy Institute have got to get out into rural Georgia to understand what we are dealing with.”





Northeast Georgia Health System to Open Dahlonega Urgent Care Center



DAHLONEGA, Ga. – State Senator Steve Gooch brought welcome news to the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday evening. Northeast Georgia Health System will open an Urgent Care center in Dahlonega early next year.

The facility will be located in the Home Depot Shopping Center on Longbranch Road at the corner of Ga. 400 and U.S. Hwy. 60 and will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Northeast Georgia Health System continues its plan to bring exceptional Urgent Care to Dahlonega. Physicians and advanced practitioners will treat illnesses or injuries that need immediate attention, but are not life-threatening.

Dr. Antonio Rios, MD medical director and chief administrative officer of Northeast Georgia Physicians Group said, “Northeast Georgia Health System has been serving Lumpkin County residents for decades through the Dahlonega offices of Northeast Georgia Physicians Group (family medicine, internal medicine and OB/GYN) and The Rehabilitation Institute. We are excited to bring even more services to this area through a new Urgent Care center which offers seven-day- a-week, extended-hours care, giving Dahlonega residents even more convenient access to the state’s most awarded health care.”

No appointment is necessary at NGHS’ Urgent Care centers, and most major insurance plans are accepted. Urgent Care Dahlonega will accept patients 6 months and older and provide access to a referral network of more than 500 physicians if specialty care is needed.

Urgent Care is part of Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, an affiliate of Northeast Georgia Health System, with six locations throughout Northeast Georgia. Learn more at


Union County Republican Party / Union-Towns TEA Party 51st State Senate District, 9th Congressional District, and U.S. Senate Forum

Featured, Featured Stories, Politics

Union County Republican Party / Union -Towns TEA Party Forum 4/30/2016.

Scroll down to watch video of each forum.

forum moderator

Moderator Brian K. Pritchard

Republican U.S. Senate Candidates Dr. Mary Beth Bacallao and Mr. Derrick Grayson

john steve

51st District State Senate Republican Candidates John Williamson and Steve Gooch

9th group

Republican 9th District Congressional Candidates Roger Fitzpatrick, Paul Broun, Bernie Fontaine and Mike Scupin


Early Voting Begins Monday in Lumpkin County

News, Politics

LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. — Early Voting for the May 24 General Primary/Nonpartisan General Election starts Monday (May 2) and will continue through May 20.

Early Voting will be open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.. There will also be one Saturday Voting opportunity on May 14 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Early Voting will be held at the Lumpkin County Elections and Voter Registration Office located at 56 Short Street, Dahlonega, GA.

The key race at the federal level is for 9th District U.S. Congress where the incumbent Doug Collins of Gainesville has come under heavy fire from conservatives as a result of his support for President Obama’s Omnibus bill and House Speaker John Boehner.

His challengers include former 10th District Congressman Paul Broun, Lanier Tea Part Patriots founder Mike Scupin, White County educator Roger Fitzpatrick and retired Army and National Guard Brigadier General Bernie Fontaine.

State Senator Steve Gooch of Dahlonega is running for re-election in the 51st District and has drawn a strong challenge from John Williamson, co-founder of the Gilmer County Tea Party.

Several key races highlight the local elections. Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Dockery has drawn a challenger in current District 1 Commissioner Doug Sherrill. David Miller and Bill Scott will compete for the seat being vacated by Sherrill. There is a four-way race for District 2 Commissioner where the candidates are incumbent Steve Shaw, Bobby Mayfield, Carlton Smith and D.J. Wight.

In the race for District 1 Board of Education, the candidates are Catherine Ariemma, Jay Sessions and Mera Turner.


Political Hopefuls Qualify This Week in Lumpkin County

Election, News, Politics

DAHLONEGA, Ga. –It’s qualifying week for political hopefuls in Lumpkin County and all across Georgia. Incumbents and newcomers seeking public office must officially declare their candidacy between Monday, March 7 and Friday, March 11.

Chief Registrar Ashley Peck said  qualifying will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Friday when qualifying ends at noon. Candidates are required to bring ID and qualifying fee to the Lumpkin County Elections Office.

Lumpkin County offices up for election include, County Commission Chairman, District 1 and 2 Commissioners, Tax Commissioner, Sheriff, Surveyor, Coroner, Board of Education District 1 and 3 and several judgeships.

Candidates for state offices such as state representative and state senate must qualify in Atlanta. Dist. 9 State Representative Kevin Tanner will seek reelection to a third term. State Senator Steve Gooch will vie for a fourth term. He represents the 51st District which includes Fannin, Union, Gilmer, Lumpkin, White, Dawson and parts of Pickens and Forsyth counties.

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