Big crowd attends public input meeting on Ga. 400 corridor

News

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – A large contingent of Lumpkin County residents filled the Parks & Recreation Department meeting room Thursday evening to share their thoughts on future development of the Ga. 400 corridor.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Dockery said, “We want to make sure we represent what you want to see in that corridor. This is an opportunity to get that public input. That’s very important to us.”

While the development of the corridor is a county responsibility, Dahlonega Mayor Sam Norton joked, ”One reason I’m here is I thought we were going to have pizza tonight.” But Norton added, “The 400 corridor is our gateway. We are very much committed to collaboration and supporting the county in any way.  With me and the chairman and the council and commission, there is no my box, your box. We are very much one community and we have to get this right.”

Rebecca Mincey

The planning process has been under way for some time and Development Authority Executive Director Rebecca Mincey provided some background on where that process stands.

The architect firm of TSW presented details about design guidelines with examples of previous projects they have worked on.

Mincey shared information developed from stakeholder meetings as well as the results of a public preference survey that has been online since Aug. 1.

Because it will be such an important presence on the corridor, representatives from North Georgia Health Systems were on hand to provide an update on the hospital that is planned for Ga. 400.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin has already opened where Chestatee Medical Center used to be. Shawn Couch, Director of Public Relations, said planners are using the flow there to help determine the number of beds that will be needed when the new hospital opens in 2022.

Scott Pippin, a planner with Carl Vincent Institute at the University of Georgia, said that Carl Vincent has been collecting input from everyone about what they want to see. “We have met with county and city officials and others to talk about their interests and concerns and we have had a remarkable uniformity of vision,” he said. He added that the talks centered on transportation, zoning and aesthetics.

Pippin added that questions about transportation included: How will traffic get into and out of the developments along the corridor; How will it affect traffic on Ga. 400?  Zoning questions centered on what kind of uses citizens want to see and aesthetics questions involved the type of landscaping, architectural style and signage that would be included.

Adam Williamson of TSW explained that his company will work with Carl Vincent to create a design guideline book that includes before-and-after renderings of the project including things like typical street sections, sidewalk widths, walking trails, landscape, travel lanes, building types and architectural styles. The guideline book can be used as an economic development tool for the county in branding. Since zoning regulations are typically text, the book can also be more user friendly for planners.

TSW’s Julia Brodsky gave attendees a brief summary of the input that has been gathered in stakeholder meetings so far. “A lot of what we have heard has to do with walkability,” she said. “People are interested in having more trails, bike lanes and sidewalks to walk on. The types of uses that seems to be of interest to bring to the corridor are office, mixed use, different types of housing, green spaces and any needed services.”

Now, the county will pull all the information from stakeholder meetings, citizen input and the online survey together and staff will make some preliminary recommendations to be considered. The final product will be presented to the Board of Commissioners in December and could be enacted by January.

Commissioner Bobby Mayfield elicited a round of applause from attendees when he said, “As far as regulations go, I’m all in favor of mandating these requirements because I’ve had to live with what we have now. So if you want to develop 400, the commissioner from District 2 is going to say it’s going to look like you want it to look.”

Forms were provided for everyone to fill out regarding their preferences for the corridor and members of the county’s planning staff stayed to answer questions from attendees.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Coroner Jim Sheppard named Coroner of the Year

Opinion

Lumpkin County Deputy Coroner Frank Goss (left) congratulates Coroner Jim Shepherd on being named Coroner of the Year.

DAHLONEGA, Ga. –Lumpkin County Coroner Jim Sheppard has been named Coroner of the Year for the state of Georgia by the Georgia Coroners Association.

Sheppard received the AR King Award from the 2017 recipient Danny Galpin of Houston County during the Coroner’s Association annual meeting in Macon over the weekend.

It marked the second year in a row the Lumpkin County Coroner’s Office has taken home a top honor from the annual gathering. Deputy Coroner Frank Goss was selected Assistant Coroner of the Year last year. It marks the first time that any Georgia county has taken home top honors in back-to-back years.

“I am thrilled and very excited,” Sheppard said Sunday. “This is definitely a team effort. When I first became coroner, (County Manager) Stan Kelley and (Commission Chairman) Chris Dockery told to let them know what I need and they would get it and they have been true to their word. (Sheriff) Stacy Jarrard has been a wonderful mentor. Having their guidance has been an absolute blessing.”

Sheppard was elected in 2016 to replace Ronald Fortner, who was convicted felony theft by taking and violation of public oath of office. He and Goss quickly went to work to establish a reputation of honesty and integrity.

“The office did have a black eye we had to battle back from,” Sheppard said. “But, thanks to lot of help from a lot of people, we’ve managed to build better relations with the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia State Patrol and Georgia Bureau of Investigation.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

County Mna

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Urgent Care Dahlonega extends hours as Chestatee Regional Hospital prepares for closing July 27

News

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Chestatee Regional Hospital will close its doors at midnight on July 27 but Lumpkin County residents will not be without healthcare options.

Northeast Georgia Health Systems (NGHS) is increasing access to Urgent Care services and stabilizing primary care in Lumpkin County. Urgent Care Dahlonega has extended its hours to be open from 8 a.m. until midnight, seven days a week.  The office, located in front of Home Depot, at the intersection of Ga, 400 and Highway 60, treats minor injuries and illnesses for people aged six months and older.

In a recent press release, Tammy Soles, administrative director for Urgent Care Dahlonega, said, “We anticipate seeing more people coming in for care after work and when accidents happen later in the evening, and our staff is prepared to care for them.”

Meanwhile, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group (NGPG) Dahlonega Internal Medicine recently welcomed a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner – Raymond Polk and Vicki Simmons – to the group.  They are now accepting new patients. Patients can schedule an appointment by calling 706-864-1580.  Polk and Simmons previously worked at Dahlonega Family Practice until its recent closure.

“We’re thrilled we are able to keep these talented providers in Lumpkin County,” said Tina Walden, vice president of Operations for NGPG.  “Primary care is the foundation of wellness and preventive health care for a community, so preserving that access is key.”

Lumpkin County Commission Chairman Chris Dockery said, “Roughly 37 percent of Lumpkin County EMS patients were taken to Chestatee Regional Hospital in 2017, and we believe a number of those patients could have been appropriately treated in a different setting – like an urgent care center or primary care office. Increased access to those services will definitely help people in this community get the care they need, and the timing couldn’t be better.”

NGHS is still in a conditional agreement with the current owner of Chestatee Regional Hospital – DL Investment Holdings, LLC – to purchase the hospital property and some equipment.

“We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made during due diligence, and we are optimistic we will finalize the agreement next month,” said Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS. “Once the current owner closes the hospital, we estimate it may take as many as 12 months to assess what is needed to re-establish high-quality healthcare services in Lumpkin County.”

Options for re-establishing services include possibly opening some services in the current hospital building; potentially building a new facility on 57 acres NGHS owns near the intersection of Highway 60 and Georgia 400; or exploring other ideas that meet the needs of the community.

“We’re still open to all possibilities, and we look forward to continuing to work with Lumpkin County leaders and the community to envision the short-term and long-term future of health care in this area,” said Smith.

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents and NGHS have finalized an agreement for the Board of Regents to purchase the hospital property from NGHS later this year.  The agreement calls for the Board of Regents to lease the property to NGHS for up to three years.  At some point in the future, the University of North Georgia will likely relocate some of its programs and services to the current hospital property.

“Given the many challenges facing Georgia’s rural communities, this is a rare win-win for ensuring access to health care and educational opportunities for generations to come,” said Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS.

In addition to the Urgent Care center and two NGPG primary care practices, NGHS currently provides other healthcare services in Lumpkin County including:

  • Women’s care through NGPG’s OB/GYN practice
  • Cardiology care through The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center
  • Physical rehabilitation services through The Rehabilitation Institute.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Failing Culverts Led to Closure of SR 60

News

Commission Chairman Chris Dockery

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – A five-mile stretch of State Route 60  between Stone Pile Gap in Dahlonega and the Union County Line will be closed for approximately three weeks as the Georgia Department of Transportation performs routine and preventative maintenance work.

DOT spokeswoman Katie Strickland said DOT crew members will flag traffic on each end of the maintenance work and a detour of State Routes will take motorists around the work.

The detour is a lengthy one of about 27 miles, and will utilize State Route 9, State Route 11 and State Route 180. Work hours will be Mondays through Thursdays 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Lumpkin County Commission Chairman Chris Dockery addressed the importance of the work during Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

Dockery said he and State Sen. Steve Gooch met with DOT officials last week and were informed that the culverts under the road were deteriorating and had to be replaced.

“According to the DOT that road is on the brink of failure with the next big storm,” Dockery said. “Our concern is with the public safety and the fire, EMS, police and school buses on that route.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

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Commissioners Discuss Taxes, Road Improvement During Work Session

News

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners discussed a wide range of issues during Tuesday’s work session, including the Fiscal Year 2017 budget and millage rate and funding for the Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) road program.

District 4 Commissioner Bob Pullen said it might be worthwhile for commissioners to consider hiring one or two more employees than what is currently included in the proposed budget.

Commission Chairman Chris Dockery responded by saying, “That’s kind of a steep hill to climb. I think we have to be very careful not to break the back of the taxpayers. It’s more important to take care of the (employees) we have currently.”

Public Works Director Larry Reiter asked the Board to approve the list of roads slated for improvement in 2017. The total cost for the 2017 resurfacing project is estimated to be $1,289,640, most of which is included in the voter-approved SPLOST.

Roads on the list must be county roads and must be approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation. GDOT will then send the county a check for the LMIG portion of the project (approximately $510,614). Lumpkin County will be responsible for the remaining cost of project.

At a minimum, the county will be financially responsible for a 30% match ($153,184.23) which will require a minimum project total cost of $663,798.29.

Commissioners will vote on these and other issues during the regular voting meeting Tuesday Sept. 13 at 6 p.m.

In a called meeting held just prior to the work session, county commissioners voted to contract with Doug Eaves as a consultant on service delivery at a cost not to exceed $1,500.

 

 

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Commissioners Discuss Public Safety at Work Session

News

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners devoted a significant portion of Tuesday’s work session to improving fire protection by adding badly-needed equipment and personnel.

Emergency Services Director David Wimpy presented the recommendation of an evaluation committee that the county purchase two 1,500-gallon pumper fire trucks from Mississippi-based Deep South Fire Trucks at a total cost of $499,998.

The committee report indicated there would be no budget impact if the recommendation is approved since the price submitted is under the budgeted amount and will include the cost to be built and retrofitted with the necessary equipment.

There was also a discussion about the EMS staffing policy and Commission Chairman Chris Dockery directed the committee to come back before the Board with a staffing analysis.

Only three of the county’s stations are currently manned by two firefighters around the clock. One station is fully manned but not by county employees and three others are volunteer only. Mill Creek is manned on a part-time basis.

The county has automatic aid agreements with White and Dawson counties and mutual aid agreements with Hall and Forsyth counties, the U.S. Forest Service and Georgia Forestry.

Commissioner Rhett Stringer pointed out Wednesday the county has only three ambulances and there have been 63 times this year when there were no county ambulances to respond to emergencies and an ambulance from an adjacent county had to be used.

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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.

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Chris Dockery, Commission Chairman Incumbent

News, Politics

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Lumpkin County Commission Chairman Chris Dockery has provided sound leadership the past four years. Now, he would like an opportunity to finish the job he started which is why he is running for re-election.

“The first time I ran, I didn’t feel like the county was putting enough emphasis on economic development and infrastructure,” Dockery said. “It had been neglected in our county for a long time. Since I was elected, we’ve done both. We’ve extended waterlines and expanded economic development. There are other things we’re working on I want to see come to fruition. We’ve got a lot of things going and we need to keep that momentum.”

When Dockery chaired the Development Authority, the county started a $56,000 expansion of infrastructure and the project was completed during his first year on the Board of Commissioners. “The goal was to create 50 new jobs,” Dockery said. To date it has created 64.”

Dockery says the county has made great progress during his first term in office.

“We completed the Arcadia project, paved 15 miles of roads, extended the water line, made well improvements, provided funding for a new water tank, purchased new vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office and completed a mutual aid agreement with White County among other things,” he said.

But the one thing he is most proud of is the launch of a community visioning process that has brought officials from the county, city, the university, the Downtown Development Authority and the Development Authority together.

“We’re now going through a consultant to come up with a common community vision that we can go back and look at on an annual basis,” Dockery said.
If he is re-elected, Dockery said the thing he would most like to accomplish in his second term is to build a better relationship between the city and county.

“That is important,” he said. “What we do as a county impacts the city and what the city does impacts us. So, we have to work together.”

A small business owner, Dockery has held many leadership roles in civilian and military life.

“I’ve commanded troops in peace time and in war time overseas,” he said. “That experience prepared me. There is nothing like leading men when their lives are on the line. I’ve also held leadership positions here in the county. I chaired the Development Authority for several years and served as Vice Chair of the Water Authority.”

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