Blog Topic: Oconee Observations

  • In the Loop: Oconee County Considers Plan to Demolish Old Jail, Expand Courthouse

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    The old jail in downtown Watkinsville currently sits vacant.

    Oconee County commissioners are considering a plan to tear down the old, unused jail tucked at the rear of the existing courthouse in Watkinsville and to build an addition to the courthouse where the old jail now sits.

    Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell announced the proposal at the end of a town Hall meeting held by the commissioners Thursday night at the Community Center in Veterans Park.

    Eighteen people other than the commissioners attended the meeting, which covered a range of topics, including the Animal Shelter, Mars Hill Road, the proposed widening of U.S. 441 and the possibility of a property tax rollback.


  • In the Loop: Democrat Says She'll Run Against Rep. Jody Hice

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Chalis Montgomery speaks at the Oconee Democrats meeting June 20.

    Chalis Montgomery, a musician and music educator from Barrow County, told the Oconee County Democratic Party Tuesday night that she intends to announce her candidacy for the 10th Congressional District seat and is seeking help in forming her campaign committee.

    Montgomery said she was motivated to challenge incumbent Republican Jody Hice in part because of her 7-year-old daughter, who has rheumatoid arthritis.

    She said she anticipated losses in her life, but “I never thought I’d look at losing the future for my child, or her friends, or my community.”


  • In the Loop: Officials Cut Daniells Bridge Extension From Plans

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    MACORTS, the regional transportation planning organization, has begun accepting public feedback on changes to its planning documents, including the removal of the controversial Daniells Bridge Road Extension and Loop 10 flyover from its long range plans.

    The first of three public meetings on the proposed changes in the planning documents will be held from 5–7 p.m. on Monday, June 26 at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road.


  • In the Loop: Athens Democrat Will Run for State House

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    A screenshot from Deborah Gonzalez's website.

    Deborah Gonzalez, an Athens attorney, has announced that she will seek the Democratic Party nomination for Georgia House District 117, which includes three Oconee County precincts.

    Regina Quick, a Republican, currently represents the 117th in the Georgia House of Representatives. Quick, also an Athens attorney, has not said if she intends to seek re-election in 2018.

    Gonzalez officially launched her campaign at Bishop Park in Athens on Saturday.


  • In the Loop: GOP State Rep: Athens Democrats Are 'Fired Up'

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    Rep. Chuck Williams (R-Watkinsville).

    Athens native Brian Kemp, seeking the Republican Party nomination in the 2018 gubernatorial election, told a gathering of Oconee County Republicans late last month that his experience as a small business owner sets him apart in the campaign.

    “I have been a conservative, small business owner for over 30 years,” Kemp, who currently is secretary of state, said. He said he is seeking the governor's office to “take that small-business owner’s mentality and be the next CEO of the state.”

    Kemp said he wants to reform state government, strengthen rural Georgia, do tax and regulatory reform and provide health care for those in Georgia who are here legally.


  • In the Loop: New Progressive Group Emerges in Oconee County

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    Andrea Wellnitz met hundreds of sympathetic people in Oconee County when she shared concerns about President Trump's election emboldening discrimination against her adopted children from China.

    An empathetic response by the North Oconee Rotary Club to a member’s statement of concern about possible discrimination against her Chinese-born, adopted daughters after the November election has had an unexpected outcome.

    A group calling itself Oconee Progressives and claiming nearly 300 members has emerged.

    The group is political but not necessarily partisan, according to four women who have been instrumental in its formation.

    The goal is community building, the women say, and they’ve organized luncheon meetings and picnics for their families so people can get together and share their concerns.

    Also planned is a workshop to help children learn how to deal with bullying and another workshop to teach participants how to write more effectively letters to advocate for their causes.

    The story of the formation of Oconee Progressives is a complex and surprising one that begins with Andrea Wellnitz, 47, an artist and social worker who works with veterans who are at risk for being homeless.

    Wellnitz lives in the far west of the county near Statham.

    Wellnitz first shared her concerns about the implications of the elections on her two daughters, adopted from China, with the Rotary.

    Then she shared the positive response of the Rotary with her friends on Facebook.

    That second sharing led to the emergence of Oconee Progressives.


  • In the Loop: Epps Bridge Centre Phase II Is Coming Along

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    In the foreground are the new $3.3 million road Parkway Boulevard and the site of Epps Bridge Centre's second phase across the Oconee Connector from Phase 1.

    Oconee County expects to open Parkway Boulevard from the Oconee Connector to Kohl’s by the end of May, county Public Works Director Emil Beshara told a meeting of the regional metropolitan transportation planning organization on Wednesday.

    Construction on the roadway is “winding down,” Beshara told the group, with work remaining only on such things as pedestrian islands, guardrails, and striping.

    The roadway will allow traffic to flow from Epps Bridge Parkway just inside Oconee County at the bridge over McNutt Creek to one of the entrances to Epps Bridge Centre or onto the Loop and Highway 316, or the reverse.

    The county decided to spend $3.35 million to build the roadway not as a means of relieving traffic but to open up the area for further commercial development.


  • In the Loop: GDOT Ditches Plan for 441 Bypass Around Bishop

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    City and GDOT officials review plans for 441 through Bishop.

    The Georgia Department of Transportation is proposing that U.S. 441 be widened to three lanes through the center of Bishop rather than build a bypass of the small Oconee County city.

    GDOT also is proposing that the highway be widened to four lanes from Bishop north to Watkinsville and from Bishop south to Madison, following the alignment of the existing roadway.

    GDOT released the proposed route Tuesday night at the first meeting of the Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee, where it met with strong opposition from Bishop Mayor Johnny Pritchett and Farmington resident Buddy Murrow, both members of the Citizen Advisory Committee.


  • In the Loop: Cheers! Watkinsville Approves Sunday Sales


    Photo Credit: Paul Joseph

    Watkinsville voters overwhelmingly approved the Sunday sales of alcoholic drinks in the city’s restaurants and the Sunday sales of beer and wine in the city’s convenience stores in voting in the special election that ended Tuesday.

    Vote rturnout was low, but the margins in favor of Sunday sales in the city were even higher than they were when county voters approved Sunday sales last November.


  • In the Loop: Turnout Light for Watkinsville Alcohol Referendum

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Only 63 of Watkinsville’s 2,117 eligible voters participated in the three weeks of early voting leading up to todays ’s election on whether Sunday sales of alcohol should be allowed at the city’s restaurants and convenience stores.

    The turnout of less than 3 percent of the city’s voters suggests that only a small number of the city’s voters will decide the issue.

    In the Mar. 17, 2015 special election in the city on liquor by the drink, only 265 voters cast a ballot, representing just a little more than 15 percent of the 1,759 registered voters. Positive votes were cast by 216 of those voters.

    Voting on Sunday sales will take place from 7 a.m.–7 p.m. today at the city’s two precincts, City Hall and Annex.


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