Ann Stoneburner said she was motivated to help set up a program at the Oconee County Library late last month by a concern with the rewrite of the county’s Comprehensive Plan and its impact on development in the county.
The centerpiece of that program—sponsored by the Oconee County Democratic Committee and the Oconee County Progressives—was a screening of the 2008 film by Celestea Sharp, Carving Up Oconee. Stoneburner is vice-chair of the Oconee County Democratic Committee.
The 50 minutes of discussion that followed the film indicated that those in attendance shared Stoneburner’s general concern, and those familiar with the draft of the Comprehensive Plan focused on one particular change it contains.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has developed an alternate plan for improvements to U.S. 441 that involves a close-in truck bypass on the east side of the City of Bishop.
Officials from GDOT presented the broad outlines of the plan to the city council of Bishop on Monday night, where it got at least some support.
The officials said they would present the plan in fuller detail to its citizen advisory committee in a meeting from 5–6:30 p.m. on Mar. 19 at the community center in Oconee Veterans Park.
The truck bypass would take some land from the University of Georgia Equestrian Complex and pass very close to two houses on Old Bishop Road, possibly necessitating the purchase of those two properties, the officials said.
The truck bypass—which could be one or two lanes wide in each direction—would connect to a four-laned U.S. 441 at Astondale Road and High Shoals Road with roundabouts.
Rick Jeffares, running for Georgia lieutenant governor, told Oconee County Republicans that he doesn’t expect the Republicans to lose any state offices in November and that the party is likely to control state politics for at least eight to 12 more years.
Jeffares, from Henry County, said he expects fewer people to vote in the May 22 Republican primary than voted in the primary four years ago.
“When things are good,” Jeffares said. “When the stock market is good and people have got jobs, I hate to say it, they don’t care about politics at that point in time.”
Jeffares used the Feb. 22 meeting of the Oconee County Republican Party to state his positions on a variety of issues.
He said he wants to reduce regulations that restrict businesses, increase technical offerings in high schools, improve rural broadband service, invest more in roads and infrastructure, and reduce tuition at state universities.
John Barrow, running as a Democrat for Georgia Secretary of State, told Oconee County Democrats last week that he was proud of his endorsements from Republicans, including from Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry and from former Oconee County Commission Chair Melvin Davis.
“Believe me, to have someone like Scott and Melvin on there is an eye opener for folks who know the score,” Barrow said of his list of endorsements.
The more general point, Barrow said, is that it is important for political leaders to listen to people who have views different from their own.
“I think that is just as true for Democrats as it is for Republicans,” Barrow said.
Barrow was the featured speaker at the Oconee County Democratic Committee meeting on Tuesday night, where he followed Lisa Lott, a candidate running in the nonpartisan election on May 22 for judge of the Superior Court for the Western Judicial Circuit, made up of Clarke and Oconee counties.
Lott said she was challenging Regina Quick, appointed by Governor Nathan Deal to the judgship in August of last year, because she felt voters, not elected officials, should pick the Superior Court judge.
Brad Raffensperger told Oconee County Republicans he is motivated by three key issues in his bid to get the Republican nomination for Secretary of State in the May 22 primary.
He said he wants to make sure that only Americans vote in elections in the state, that Georgia is a great place to find a job, and that Georgia is a great place to build a business.
Raffensperger told the 25 people attending the Jan. 25 meeting of Oconee County Republicans at the very front of his talk that he was running for Secretary of State “to make sure that only American citizens vote in our elections.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation lifted a stop-work order last week against G.P.’s Enterprises Inc., contractor for the widening of Mars Hill Road, that had halted all work on the road project since December of last year.
GDOT had issued the stop work order after discovering problems with storm water drainage at the bridge over Barber Creek that resulted in dirt and sediment entering Barber Creek.
G.P.’s, based in Auburn, GA, has been prohibited from moving forward with all work on the project except for repair of the drainage system at the bridge.
Oconee County Public Works Director Emil Beshara said on Thursday of last week that G.P.’s is getting ready to start paving again, and he does not expect any delay in completion of the $26.4 million contract by the May 31 deadline.
Oconee County late Tuesday reported its second major spill in less than a month from its Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant outside Watkinsville.
According to the county, an estimated 72,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater was released on Monday and Tuesday into Calls Creek from the plant, which is located at 1100 Durhams Mill Way, on the north side of Watkisville.
The wastewater release exceeded permit limits for total suspended solids.
The county said it notified the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which classified the discharge as a major spill, and the Oconee County Environmental Health Department.
On Jan. 9, the county reported a major spill of an estimated 24,000 gallons of wastewater that exceeded permit limits for total suspended solids from the Calls Creek plant.
Twenty-eight people turned out at the Oconee County Library in Watkinsville on a rainy afternoon Jan. 28 to exchange nonpartisan conversation with the goals of getting to know each other and of building community.
The sponsors, the Oconee Progressives and Oconee Democrats, had reached out across party lines with their invitations, and they were successful.
Oconee County Commissioner Chuck Horton, a Republican, attended, as did Kate McDaniel, secretary of the Oconee County Republican Party, and Marcus Wiedower, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican in the special election for House District 117 representative last November.
The event started at 3 p.m. and lasted just an hour, but several people were around a half hour later, continuing the conversations started during the structured part of the session.
Oconee County probably will consider whether to pursue a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax after it completes an ongoing transportation study and might ask voters to approve such a tax next year, Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell said Tuesday night.
Daniell made his comment in response to a question posed at the first quarterly Board of Commissioners town hall meeting for 2018, held at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park.
Jeanne Barsanti of 1170 Oliver Bridge Road, in the south of the county, asked “what your feelings as commissioners are” about doing a local Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, now that Clarke County has passed its own T-SPLOST.
Photo Credit: Nicole Adamson
Oconee County voters turned out in big numbers on election day, with a plurality picking Democrat Jonathan Wallace to represent voters in Georgia House District 119 and a majority picking Houston Gaines to represent voters in Georgia House District 117.
Wallace won strongly in the Clarke County part of the evenly split 119th District, ending with 56.7 percent of the votes in the unofficial tally—enough to avoid a runoff on Dec. 5.
Democrat Deborah Gonzalez dominated voting in Clarke County, giving her 53.1 percent of the votes in the 117th, which, in addition to Clarke County and Oconee County, includes parts of Barrow and Jackson counties.
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