Zoning request for Hastings Development tabled

Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, Featured News, Featured Stories, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – A development that has drawn the attention of many in Fannin County has once again come to a temporary halt as the developer seeks to have land rezoned in the City of Blue Ridge to accommodate the plans.

What has become known locally as the Hastings Development is a residential development set in the City of Blue Ridge with access points to Highway 515 and College Street. The 14 acre property sits adjacent to Overlook Subdivision.

The proposed development itself has seen a number of changes based on community feedback and most recently the city zoning board gave approval for an 83 town-home high density site. The Blue Ridge City Council has final say on whether zoning of the land will be changed for the development to take place.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Zoning, Hastings, Development, College Street, Highway 515, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, James Balli, Utility Director, Rebecca Harkins, Integrity Development Group LLC

Developer Johnnie Hastings addresses concerns of the citizens and presents a revitalized plan for the development.

The Hastings Development has been met with concerns ranging from the possibility of high volume traffic on narrow College Street to whether the city’s infrastructure can handle the additional stress of the new units.

A vote was expected to take place at the Jan. 12 Blue Ridge City Council meeting but with last minute changes to the proposed plans, a motion was made to table the decision until next month’s meeting.

“We listened,” Johnnie Hastings, the developer of the property, spoke to the council and citizens, “What is the need in the community? What is it that you guys need in terms of housing?”

Hastings explained that the original concept for the development dating back to Jan. 2020 was for affordable housing in the $250,000 range, but after gathering further community input the design was changed to upscale town-homes in the $450-500,000 range.

“I want to do something…that’s good for the community, that we can all get around,” Hastings said as he revealed the revised plan based on community push back to the suggested 83 town-homes, “Believe it or not but that’s my heart.”

Hastings’ new plan consists of 56 freestanding family homes at 4 homes per acre. The price will still be in the range $500,000 per home.

“We’re here to compromise and bring a little unity to this project,” Hastings said, adding, “At the end of the day you’ll be very pleased with what I did up there.”

Citizens who had come to the meeting to speak in opposition or at least express concerns over the development were taken off guard with the proposed changes to the site.

The main concerns echoed by the citizens present was the need for the new changes to be approved by the planning commission or flow through proper channels, whether the city’s infrastructure could handle the added usage and traffic coming onto College Street.

“It concerns me that you would vote on this when the planning commission has not,” one citizen spoke.

“The sewer system won’t handle it. The water system won’t handle it,” another citizen voiced.

Utility Director Rebecca Harkins addressed the concerns of city infrastructure stating that the city has more than enough capacity remaining in their system to handle the proposed development.

“I don’t have a position on this development,” Harkins stated adding that she simply wanted to present the public with the facts.

Harkins confirmed that the city did have capacity to handle the additional units to the system and that there are issues that need to be fixed and updated throughout the city’s infrastructure, but that those issues would have to be addressed regardless of the development adding on.

“I agree that it needs to be worked on and it needs to be worked on diligently,” Harkins said of the city’s current infrastructure and reassured residents that the development would cost nothing to the city: “The city does not fund any portion of the water and sewer system for a new development.” 

Harkins also pointed out that the developer would be financially responsible for any impacts on the system from the development to the plant caused directly by their connection.

Mayor Donna Whitener confirmed that City Attorney James Balli had sent in writing that council could vote on the rezoning if Hastings had lowered density but that it would need to go through proper channels before coming to council if the density had increased.

Council member Mike Panter made a motion to table the vote until the next regular meeting in Feb. giving the council more time to look over the proposed changes. 

All council members voted in favor of tabling the vote with the exception of Council member Rhonda Haight who stated her reason as “I think we’ve kept people waiting long enough”.

Scearce released from CHI Memorial Hospital

Community, Featured News, Featured Stories, News, Police & Government
Blue Ridge, Police, City, Johnny Scearce, Chief of Police, Covid19, Fannin County, Georgia, Post One, Commissioner, CHI Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga, Fannin Regional Hospital

Blue Ridge, Ga. – After a long battle with Covid-19, Blue Ridge Chief of Police and recently elected Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Johnny Scearce has been released from the hospital.

CHI Memorial Hospital released a video of Scearce being cheered on as he made his Honor Walk out of the hospital.

“Thank you all, God bless and what a great hospital and staff,” Scearce said as he made his way through a hall of staff cheering on his recovery.

Scearce had been in the hospital for 94 days according to CHI Memorial, but his battle with Covid-19 began in Sept. of 2020.

Blue Ridge, Police, City, Johnny Scearce, Chief of Police, Covid19, Fannin County, Georgia, Post One, Commissioner, CHI Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga, Fannin Regional Hospital

Scearce being released after 94 days at CHI Memorial. Image courtesy of CHI Memorial.

News of Scearce contracting the virus quickly spread via social media on Sept. 17 as his wife Brenda posted a personal post on Facebook asking for prayers for her husband.

At the time of the original post Scearce was in a regular room at Fannin Regional Hospital but struggling with maintaining healthy oxygen levels. 

A prayer vigil was held outside the hospital for Scearce on Sept. 19 and Brenda posted a heartfelt thank you from both her and her husband.

During his stay at Fannin Regional Hospital, Scearce was sedated and put on a ventilator for several days, but was able to overcome this hurdle and made significant improvements. Scearce was released from Fannin Regional Hospital and returned home at the end of Sept.

While Scearce continued to make steady improvements at home, he was still experiencing low oxygen levels. News broke on Oct. 12 that he was being transferred via ambulance to CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga. 

The City of Blue Ridge along with Scearce’s brothers in blue gathered for a prayer vigil at the City Park on Oct. 13 and it was there that information was given as to the critical level of Scearce’s condition.

The community continued to rally behind their Chief of Police over the next several months with fundraisers and prayers. 

The news of Scearce’s release from CHI Memorial is a major milestone that was celebrated by many via social media. Scearce still faces a long road of rehabilitation but the community remains confident that he will overcome any hurdles that he may face.

Stolen Fannin County school bus recovered

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Fannin County, GA  –  Fannin county school superintendent, Michael Gwatney, sent the following message to keep the public informed and provide information regarding a school bus that was taken from its parking spot in McCaysville earlier today.

No students were on the bus, as the driver had completed his morning route and parked the bus.  When the bus driver returned to pick up his bus for the afternoon route, he discovered it was missing.

A check of our district’s bus tracking system showed the bus was traveling south on highway 515.  Law enforcement was notified, and the bus was stopped in Pickens County.  The person who took the bus has been taken to jail, and charges are being filed.  Transportation Director Denver Foster has taken possession of the bus, and he is returning it to Fannin County at this time.

What’s going on with the Fannin’s Post One seat?

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga: With Post One-elect Johnny Scearce continuing to recover from COVID-19-related illnesses, Fannin County Commissioners discussed the board’s options until he assumes responsibilities. 

At this time, there’s not a set timeline for Scearce to take his oath of office and begin his commission term. However, the law is ambiguous about when the oath of office must be administered – in other words, there’s not a deadline.

police chief

Post One-elect Johnny Scearce

The most recent legislation concerning election officials in Fannin occurred in 1987, “Fannin County – Compensation, etc. of Board of Commissioners No. 1117.” In the act, it stated, “Thereafter, their successors shall be elected at the general election immediately preceding the expiration of their terms of office and shall take office on the first day of January immediately following their election for terms of four years and until their successors are elected and qualified.”

“Qualified” refers to a commissioner-elect taking the oath of office and being bonded. According to County Attorney Lynn Doss, since Scearce has yet to take his oath, former Post One Earl Johnson remains the commissioner.

“Mr. Johnson has agreed that if needed. He automatically holds over. His term of office doesn’t end until the next person is sworn in,” Doss explained. “He holds over with the same obligations and privileges as he has held for the previous four years to the extent needed, and he desires to and is willing to until Mr. Scearce can be sworn in.”

Chairman Jamie Hensley asked, “Let’s just say that Mr. Johnson decides he would be more than happy to help us. Three weeks down the road, he decides ‘I got out of it for a reason.”

According to Doss, if Johnson decided he didn’t want to continue with Post One duties, it wouldn’t be considered a vacancy because it doesn’t fall under the list of nine types of vacancies described by the state. It wouldn’t trigger a special election period because Johnson’s a “holdover” from the previous board until Scearce assumes his responsibilities.

Former Post One Earl Johnson.

“Then the two of you would continue on,” Doss asserted. She cited when Tommy Stephens died, the recall election, and other examples when two commissioners presided over the board.

However, none of those individuals were taking a new office at the time. The current situation has never occurred in Fannin County before.  

The county attorney stated that the law doesn’t address how many meetings a commissioner can miss either. She cited the Georgia attorney general in 1991, who deemed that after three meetings with no communication as to why someone was absent, they can be “deemed to abandon their job.”

Georgia Code determines vacancies by the following criteria: death, resignation, competent tribunal declares office vacant, voluntary act or misfortune of the incumbent that renders them ineligible, non-citizens of state or county, failure to obtain certificates, commissions, or bond, and abandoning office.

Scearce made great strides to overcome COVID-19 and its related illnesses and would prefer to take the oath in person. If needed, he could obtain a doctor’s note to perform Post One duties remotely, but according to Doss, he physically doesn’t meet the “bodily infirmity” vacancy standard.

 Hensley and Post Two Glenn Patterson wished Scearce a continued speedy recovery and prayers to him and his family.

Deputies asking for assistance to find missing teen girl from Fannin County

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teen girl missing

BLUE RIDGE, GA – Sheriff’s deputies in Georgia are requesting assistance from the public in helping locate a missing teenage girl. She could be in several locations.

Hayleigh Willingham was last seen in early December 2020 and is registered as a missing juvenile with the Fannin County Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities have reason to believe Hayleigh might be in the company of a juvenile male and the two might be in the Blairsville or Murphy areas of Georgia.

According to her mother, she might also be in Roswell with a man who goes by “So Lo.” She might be linked to a 2004 tan Mercedes Benz.

If you know of Hayleigh’s whereabouts, please contact the Fannin County Sheriff’s Department at (706) 632-6022.

Arguing erupts over City Park playground

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Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Playground, Park, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Zoning and Project Manager, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, Jeff Stewart, James Balli, Legal, Safety, Reopen

Blue Ridge, Ga. – It was clear from the onset of the Blue Ridge City Council meeting that tensions were high between fellow council members Rhonda Haight and Mike Panter.

During approval of the minutes from a Special Called Oct. 20, 2020 council meeting Haight made the motion to accept the minutes but with it being noted that Panter had brought forth non agenda items at this meeting and that this was illegal according to the Open Meetings Act.

During this meeting Panter asked to speak and used this time to point out the history of dysfunction within the city council.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Playground, Park, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Zoning and Project Manager, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, Jeff Stewart, James Balli, Legal, Safety, Reopen

View of playground in City Park showing height of slide.

Mayor Donna Whitener pointed out that it was a council member who had made the request for this for the time to speak.

“It doesn’t matter if it was a council person,” Haight responded to the Mayor’s comments, “I’ve never been allowed to do that.” 

The motion to accept the minutes with the added note passed 3-2 with council members Robbie Cornelius and Panter opposing.

Contention didn’t stop there, as Haight then moved to have the agenda amended, moving Panter’s line item (Presentation of playground and Purchase) from Action Agenda Items to Purchasing Approvals.

Haight stated that according to the city charter and for clarification in minutes that the item should be moved: “Are we going to be purchasing?”

Council member Nathan Fitts backed Haight stating, “If we’re going to go by procedures, let’s do it correctly.” Fitts added that everyone needs to get on the same page.

“An action item can be an action item where you are taking action on something and a purchasing approval,” City Attorney James Balli clarified whether the item had to be moved. “Legally you can do it under either one.” 

The motion to move the item passed with only Panter in opposition and council member Harold Herndon expressing his opinion that it didn’t really matter.

Panter had previously presented to the public his research and opinion on the route that should be taken when considering reopening the City Park’s playground area.

During his presentation at the current meeting Panter reiterated that his concern is with safety and the lack of upkeep the city has done in maintaining the playground area. 

Panter advocated for using rubber padding in lieu of mulch and stated that while the initial cost would be over $60,000, the benefits of not having the upkeep of mulch would save the city money in the years to come.

“We had two grants of over $150,000 offered to the city,” Panter stated of the park’s history, “We got zero because we couldn’t make a decision.” 

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Playground, Park, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Zoning and Project Manager, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, Jeff Stewart, James Balli, Legal, Safety, Reopen

Panter presenting his research and findings into reopening the City Park playground.

Arguing among council and mayor erupted over who had been previously responsible for the decisions made about the park and playground.

“Ms. Whitener went down to the park yanked all the equipment out and left it totally blank,” Haight said of the park’s two year saga of renovation between 2015 – 2017.

Haight acknowledged that there was a grant for $120,000 to be used in the park but that the grant was for a botanical garden and not for the playground. 

Mayor Whitener retorted to Haight, defending the landscaping that began but was later removed, “You were moving the park to the other side.” 

“And yes I did want it to go at the other end but it was too late at that point,” Haight responded to Whitener’s remark.

One thing that the two did agree on was that $12,000 was spent during this time on sod that was later removed and a sprinkler system.

Conversation became more heated when Whitener pointed out that council member Haight’s husband had been involved with the park at that time. Haight acknowledged that her husband had volunteered some of his time but was not involved in the ultimate decisions that were made.

“I think you’ve told so many lies over the years, you don’t even know what the truth is,” Haight spoke directly to Whitener.

Fitts tried to steer the conversation back to addressing the playground as it is today instead of discussing the history: “We need to do what is best for the citizens right now. What would it take to get the park open to code?”

Cornelius finally made a motion to purchase the turf option presented by Panter, stating that the problem should just be fixed rather than “putting a band-aid on it”. The motion, however, failed to pass with only Panter and Cornelius voting in favor.

“I’m not interested in taking the liability and doing that,” Panter said when suggested that the city use mulch for now.

Haight responded to Panter,  “Just because we voted you down, you don’t want to participate even though you’re over the park?”

“I’ve done my job,” Panter responded “You do your job. I’ve done mine.”

Haight motioned for $10,000 to be spent in bringing the playground up to code with the use of mulch and to address drainage issues in the area. This motion passed 3-2 with Cornelius and Panter in opposition.

Planning, Zoning and Project Manager Jeff Stewart agreed to take on the project of the City Park playground and will oversee the steps necessary to reopen the playground to the public.

Arguing erupts over City Park playground

Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Playground, Park, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Zoning and Project Manager, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, Jeff Stewart, James Balli, Legal, Safety, Reopen

Blue Ridge, Ga. – It was clear from the onset of the Blue Ridge City Council meeting that tensions were high between fellow council members Rhonda Haight and Mike Panter.

During approval of the minutes from a Special Called Oct. 20, 2020 council meeting Haight made the motion to accept the minutes but with it being noted that Panter had brought forth non agenda items at this meeting and that this was illegal according to the Open Meetings Act.

During this meeting Panter asked to speak and used this time to point out the history of dysfunction within the city council.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Playground, Park, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Zoning and Project Manager, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, Jeff Stewart, James Balli, Legal, Safety, Reopen

View of playground in City Park showing height of slide.

Mayor Donna Whitener pointed out that it was a council member who had made the request for this for the time to speak.

“It doesn’t matter if it was a council person,” Haight responded to the Mayor’s comments, “I’ve never been allowed to do that.” 

The motion to accept the minutes with the added note passed 3-2 with council members Robbie Cornelius and Panter opposing.

Contention didn’t stop there, as Haight then moved to have the agenda amended, moving Panter’s line item (Presentation of playground and Purchase) from Action Agenda Items to Purchasing Approvals.

Haight stated that according to the city charter and for clarification in minutes that the item should be moved: “Are we going to be purchasing?”

Council member Nathan Fitts backed Haight stating, “If we’re going to go by procedures, let’s do it correctly.” Fitts added that everyone needs to get on the same page.

“An action item can be an action item where you are taking action on something and a purchasing approval,” City Attorney James Balli clarified whether the item had to be moved. “Legally you can do it under either one.” 

The motion to move the item passed with only Panter in opposition and council member Harold Herndon expressing his opinion that it didn’t really matter.

Panter had previously presented to the public his research and opinion on the route that should be taken when considering reopening the City Park’s playground area.

During his presentation at the current meeting Panter reiterated that his concern is with safety and the lack of upkeep the city has done in maintaining the playground area. 

Panter advocated for using rubber padding in lieu of mulch and stated that while the initial cost would be over $60,000, the benefits of not having the upkeep of mulch would save the city money in the years to come.

“We had two grants of over $150,000 offered to the city,” Panter stated of the park’s history, “We got zero because we couldn’t make a decision.” 

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Playground, Park, City Council, City, Mayor, Planning, Zoning and Project Manager, Attorney, Donna Whitener, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Mike Panter, Harold Herndon, Jeff Stewart, James Balli, Legal, Safety, Reopen

Panter presenting his research and findings into reopening the City Park playground.

Arguing among council and mayor erupted over who had been previously responsible for the decisions made about the park and playground.

“Ms. Whitener went down to the park yanked all the equipment out and left it totally blank,” Haight said of the park’s two year saga of renovation between 2015 – 2017.

Haight acknowledged that there was a grant for $120,000 to be used in the park but that the grant was for a botanical garden and not for the playground. 

Mayor Whitener retorted to Haight, defending the landscaping that began but was later removed, “You were moving the park to the other side.” 

“And yes I did want it to go at the other end but it was too late at that point,” Haight responded to Whitener’s remark.

One thing that the two did agree on was that $12,000 was spent during this time on sod that was later removed and a sprinkler system.

Conversation became more heated when Whitener pointed out that council member Haight’s husband had been involved with the park at that time. Haight acknowledged that her husband had volunteered some of his time but was not involved in the ultimate decisions that were made.

“I think you’ve told so many lies over the years, you don’t even know what the truth is,” Haight spoke directly to Whitener.

Fitts tried to steer the conversation back to addressing the playground as it is today instead of discussing the history: “We need to do what is best for the citizens right now. What would it take to get the park open to code?”

Cornelius finally made a motion to purchase the turf option presented by Panter, stating that the problem should just be fixed rather than “putting a band-aid on it”. The motion, however, failed to pass with only Panter and Cornelius voting in favor.

“I’m not interested in taking the liability and doing that,” Panter said when suggested that the city use mulch for now.

Haight responded to Panter,  “Just because we voted you down, you don’t want to participate even though you’re over the park?”

“I’ve done my job,” Panter responded “You do your job. I’ve done mine.”

Haight motioned for $10,000 to be spent in bringing the playground up to code with the use of mulch and to address drainage issues in the area. This motion passed 3-2 with Cornelius and Panter in opposition.

Planning, Zoning and Project Manager Jeff Stewart agreed to take on the project of the City Park playground and will oversee the steps necessary to reopen the playground to the public.

Panter doesn’t back down from decision to close park

Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, Featured, Featured Stories, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council held a special called meeting last week, but due to a lack of a quorum no votes could be taken and business for the city remains at a halt. While lack of a quorum seemed to be a contentious issue, it did not stop the remaining members of the council along with the mayor from presenting information to the public.

Council member Mike Panter has recently come under fire for his decision to close the playground area of the city park. With citizens and even other council members questioning his decision and authority, Panter did not back down from his stance and took the time to explain his reasoning.

“I did not want the liability. I did not want the city to have the liability, and I felt like it was my responsibility to close the park,” Panter said of recent events, adding, “I know I did the right thing.” 

For Panter, the issue of public safety came to his attention during the state mandated shut down of the city park during the onset of Covid-19.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Playground, Park, Safety, Mayor, City Council, Donna Whitener, Mike Panter, Children

Plans for Blue Ridge City Park Playground area showing where the height of the slide stands at 12 feet.

Panter had examined the 12 inch bumper placed around the park and realized the mulch had not been properly maintained.

Municipal playgrounds are required to maintain a certain depth of “padding” around equipment for safety purposes, and for the City of Blue Ridge that depth should be maintained at 12 inches considering the height of the slide, standing at 12 feet tall.

“How much mulch do you think we have underneath that slide,” Panter questioned and then answered, “three inches.”

According to Panter, the mulch in the city park should be maintained every six months and that the park itself should be inspected once a year.

“We haven’t had any additional mulch added in three and a half years. We have not had an inspection in three and half years since it was put in,” Panter remarked of the current state of the playground area.

Panter discussed a number of options for remedying the situation that included mulching, rubber mulch, and his preferred option of padding and synthetic grass. 

While the synthetic grass option would be more costly upfront, it would allow for proper drainage to be installed and would also come with a 15 year warranty.

Panter stated that “the cost is half (compared to the mulching option) over that 15 year period”.

Mayor Donna Whitener also commented that using the synthetic grass would make the park more accessible for those with mobility issues and for very small children.

“Everything that you look at has positives and negatives,” Panter said of the possibilities to get the park back up and running.

There is expected to be a more in depth discussion on the matter along with costs of the project at the Special Called Blue Ridge City Council meeting to be held on Thursday, Nov. 12.

Man charged with attempted murder

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Blue Ridge, Ga. – Timothy Charles Stiles is being charged with attempted murder after Fannin County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) responded to a call of a stabbing in Mineral Bluff.

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Timothy Stiles has been charged with 3 felonies after stabbing incident in Mineral Bluff, Ga.

The incident occurred on the evening of Sept. 28. FCSO was dispatched to a call in Mineral Bluff around 7:00 p.m. The caller indicated that a person had been stabbed and was in need of medical attention.

Upon arriving at the scene, it became apparent that the victim, Kenneth Arnold, was in need of immediate emergency medical attention. Arnold was life-flighted to Gainesville for treatment. 

Warrants for Stiles arrest describe the wounds as “seriously disfiguring” to Arnold’s upper torso and abdomen. 

Stiles had already fled the scene upon officer arrival but was apprehended a few hours later. When found Stiles was inflicting stabbing wounds on himself and was transported for medical attention.

Friends of Stiles say that he suffered from mental illness but did not specify which illness(es). They also did not speculate on whether Stiles’s mental health issues played a part in the incident.

Stiles is being charged with 1 count felony aggravated assault, 1 count felony aggravated battery and 1 count felony criminal attempt “to commit the offense of murder”.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Sheriff’s Office, Stabbing, Attempted Murder, Mineral Bluff, Timothy Stiles, Kenneth Arnold

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Sheriff’s Office, Stabbing, Attempted Murder, Mineral Bluff, Timothy Stiles, Kenneth Arnold

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Sheriff’s Office, Stabbing, Attempted Murder, Mineral Bluff, Timothy Stiles, Kenneth Arnold

Click here to see Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report for the Week of 9/20/20 – 9/27/20

Authorities arrest alleged child molestation suspect

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Michael Case

JASPER, Ga. – According to reports from Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), a fugitive, Michael Case, was located and arrested on the evening of August 8.

The 37-year-old, white male led authorities on a two-day hunt with multiple law enforcement agencies working together to locate the suspect. Local agencies and the GBI took to social media asking for the public’s help in finding Case on Saturday, August 8.

Case

Michael Travis Case was arrested in Fannin County, Ga.

Arrest warrants were issued over the weekend as authorities were seeking Case for aggravated child molestation, incest, and statutory rape charges. Authorities had requested help from the public for information or whereabouts him.

However, early this morning, August 9, authorities updated social media posts saying that Case had been apprehended. Pickens County Sheriff’s Office added that he was in custody in Fannin County, where he was last seen.

According to GBI, they were requested to aid Pickens County Sheriff’s Office in a child abuse investigation on August 4, 2020. That investigation is still ongoing. However, warrants were issued for him and authorities began the search later in the week.

Efforts involved Sheriff’s Offices from several counties including Cherokee County, Fannin County, Gilmer County, and Pickens County alongside the Georgia Department of Corrections and GBI.

Case is a Gilmer County resident but was last seen in Blue Ridge as authorities said when beginning the search. He was apprehended late on August 8, 2020.

****UPDATE: Michael Case was arrested on the evening of August 8.****

WANTED: Arrest warrants have been issued for…

Posted by Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Saturday, August 8, 2020

Fetch Your News will update this story as more information becomes available. Please remember that all individuals are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Two dead after three-car wreck in Fannin County

Police & Government
two dead

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – Two people are dead after a three-vehicle wreck on Ga. Hwy. 2 and Hwy. 515 in Fannin County Friday morning around 7:40 a.m.

According to a report from the Georgia State Patrol:

Margaret Fundis, 74, and her passenger, Dolores Ayers, 72, both of Blue Ridge, were pronounced dead at the scene after Fundis’s 2005 Toyota Camry side-swiped a Jeep driven by Richard Sailors, of Morganton. Both vehicles were traveling eastbound.

Two people are dead after a wreck on Hwy. 515 near Loving Road in Morganton Friday.

 

After the initial contact, Fundis stopped her car in the road and was rear-ended by a 2007 Toyota Sequioa SR5, driven by Sabrina Deyton, also of Morganton.

SFC Ensley who worked the wreck, said the sun in that area and time of day can be blinding, which he says was a contributing factor. Drugs and alcohol are not considered contributing factors in this wreck.

No charges will be filed against Sailors or Deyton. For other Fannin County news and to see the EMS weekly report, click here.

 

Sports talk Thursday with Lauren Hunter- Thank a coach!

Sports

Over the last week and a half BKP and I have been going from school to school interviewing head football coaches for our North Georgia Coaching Series. Now if any of y’all know BKP, you’ll know what I mean when I say that he’s been doing most of the talking and I’ve been doing most of the observing. But this doesn’t bother me, it gives me a chance to learn more about the programs I’ll be spending a lot of time with this fall.

With that being said, there’s one thing in particular I’ve been noticing in our interviews, and that’s how much these coaches truly care about their players and their programs.

Now me saying that might make some of y’all think, “Well, duh. That’s what they’re supposed to do.” Well, maybe. But I like to think I’m pretty good at picking up when someone is just putting on an act for appearances. And I can say with all sincerity that none of these coaches are doing that.

Obviously when BKP and I go into these interviews, he asks questions about what the teams have been doing during the summer and how they’re planning to prepare for the regular season. But he also asks the coaches if they can highlight a few players that have really stood out. This point in the interview, I believe, is where a coach who didn’t care would possibly just say a couple names and move on.

But these coaches not only name the players, they tell us about why they stand out. And it’s a sign of the hard work of these athletes, but there’s also a sense of pride from these coaches as they name them. A couple of coaches have mentioned that it’s hard to name just a few, because all of their players have worked hard. And it’s not that the rest of the team doesn’t matter or that they don’t care about them, but the ones that they mention they do so without hesitation because they’ve been there with them through the summer truly coaching them. There’s no so-so about the commitment these coaches make- they’re all in.

Another thing that has amazed me about these coaches, not just in the interviews but learning about them off the field, is how much they care about their community as well. A couple of them, such as Chad Cheatham at Fannin County and Chad McClure at Hayesville, are natives to their communities. It’s home to them, and they’re not going to be just halfway in their commitments to their programs.

When Coach Caleb Sorrells of the Lumpkin County Indians was first named as head coach, the school hosted a meet and greet for him. It was one of the first stories I covered in this position.

In his address to the parents, Sorrells promised to not only invest in the team as players and athletes, but as men who would one day be employees and fathers. I remember being caught off guard at first because I was expecting him to talk about plans for the future of the program, the summer schedule and what not. He did talk about these things, but I believe by telling the parents that he was going to invest in the players as men showed that it was going to be a priority.

Although I know more about the commitment that Sorrells has made because I’m positioned in Lumpkin County, he’s not the only one in the area who gets involved in the community and works to build up the athletes’ character.

Tim Cokely with the White County Warriors has an entire wall of his office decorated with signs of good character qualities to instill in the team. Chad Cheatham, who I mentioned earlier, referees basketball in the football off-season just because, and the community loves him for it. I’m sure that many of the other coaches in the area do similar things and I just don’t know about it yet.

These are commitments that we see played out by coaches in movies and don’t always think to look for in real life. And because I grew up in Gwinnett County, population one million, if there was this sort of commitment by coaches I didn’t always see it because there were so many people. I love living up here in North Georgia in a smaller community where an act of kindness, especially where sports are concerned, rarely goes unnoticed.

We think about football as a sport that instills a since of discipline, but why is that? Because there’s a coach that sets that standard and inspires the team to do the same. As a community we love football and we love our team, and we can thank a coach for that.

Current Closings and Delays for Public Health in North GA for Dec. 10

Community, Health

 

Due to the potential for wintry hazardous road conditions tomorrow, Monday, December 10, Pickens County Health Department will be CLOSED all day, and Fannin County Health Department will delay opening until 10 AM. Gilmer County Health Department will delay opening until 9:30 AM. This applies to all public health services in these counties.  Further updates will be posted to the North Georgia Health District website at www.nghd.org and to our social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Giving Day for Apes was a Success!

Community
This was the second time we participated in the global Giving Day for Apes fundraising event. Last year, we raised just over $36,000 for the care of former research chimpanzees. This year, we were hopeful that with new friends and long-time supporters at our side, including you, we could raise $40,000 for GDA 2018.

Amazingly, we reached our original goal in the early afternoon, well before the deadline. Then our anonymous donor contributed an additional $5,000 matching gift to push our overall goal to $50,000!

Were you surprised?

We reached the $50,000 goal within 30 minutes of announcing it! That’s right, just 30 minutes to raise an additional $10,000 to support the chimpanzees that call Project Chimps their forever home.

And the gifts kept coming in. By midnight, we had soared past $62,000. Simply amazing.

Gertrude, Danner, and Amy would thank you for your support if they could. If you contributed to Giving Day for Apes, you will soon receive a thank you gift from us with special notes from one of the care staff who know these three individuals well. If you donated at $100 and above before midnight, you will also receive the 2019 calendar. Those who contributed $200 and above will receive the calendar and the bandana. Look for these in the mail as a thank you for your generosity!

And if you also contributed to our Power Hour from 2 – 3 pm yesterday, we will send your screensaver options in an email a little later today.

While the competition is over, the needs are still ongoing. If you missed out on donating yesterday, you can contribute today, tomorrow, or consider making a monthly gift to support the 49 chimpanzees currently here and the future 200+ who will be here soon.

I can’t thank you enough for your support, whether you contribute $1 or $10,000. Or even if you simply like and share our social media posts to help spread our message, YOU are making the difference in these chimpanzees lives.

Be on the look out for exciting updates and I hope you will continue to engage with us in meaningful ways!

Tomorrow is Giving Day for Apes at Project Chimps

Community, Featured
Tomorrow is a very special day – it’s Giving Day for Apes! This one day event is a global initiative to support sanctuaries around the world that work with gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, gibbons, and of course our favorite…the chimpanzee! I hope you will join me in our efforts to raise fund to support the 49 chimpanzees that call Project Chimps home.

On this Giving Day for Apes, or “G-D-A” for short, we’re working to raise $40,000 to provide food, care and enrichment to the 49 chimpanzees now in our sanctuary. The first $20,000 will be matched by a generous donor, so we ask you to help us reach and exceed that first $20,000 goal.


We invite you to choose a chimp for the G-D-A competition:

 

We know them, so we know it’s a tough choice! Here’s a little more information to help you decide:
Gertrude is SOCIAL. She’s leading the way in our first program to introduce the male and female chimps who were forced to live separately in the lab. If you want to help bring the chimps together into a more natural and balanced social group in which they can thrive, dedicate your donation to GERTRUDE.
Danner loves FOOD. When Danner arrived at Project Chimps, he seemed so excited to have so many new fresh fruits and vegetables in his diet. He particularly loves pears and sweet potatoes. And we can see the nutritional benefits in his now-shiny brown hair. If you love healthy food and believe the chimps deserve more of it, dedicate your donation to DANNER.
Amy is all about the FUN. She is young, energetic and smart and needs to be actively engaged. We’re working to provide new climbing structures, engaging puzzles and toys for all 49 chimps in the sanctuary. If you love fun, dedicate your donation to AMY.

Choosing a chimp is hard, but donating is easy. Just dedicate your donation in your favorite chimp’s name when you donate today!  You can donate anytime now through midnight on Tuesday Sept 25th for your donation to be matched!

Or set a reminder to donate on Tuesday and not only is your donation doubled, but we will also send you a cool Project Chimps’ gift! See below for details.

On behalf of the 49 chimpanzees currently in our care and more than 200 chimpanzees that we are working to bring to sanctuary, thank you for your generous support!

Sincerely,

Ali Crumpacker
Executive Director

Back to School Info for 2018 – 2019 School Year

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