In the Loop

  • Firefly Trail Bridge Proposal Blends Old and New

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    Consultants hired by Athens-Clarke County to design a bridge over Trail Creek incorporating the famed "Murmur trestle" have submitted a final proposal that will go before the ACC Mayor and Commission next month.

    Based on feedback from an ACC-appointed user group and the public, consulting firm Kimley Horn came up with a design that involves rebuilding the remaining portion of the wooden trestle, bolstered by more modern steel-and-concrete arches on either side.

    The trestle was part of the first railroad into Athens, and was made famous in the early 1980s, when R.E.M. put it on the back cover of its debut album. Owner CSX started to demolish it in 2000, but R.E.M. fans around the world rallied, and the local government purchased what was left, with plans to turn the historic railroad into a walking and biking trail.


  • BOE Approves Early Learning Center at West Broad

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    Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

    The Clarke County Board of Education voted Thursday night to approve Superintendent Demond Means' controversial plan for an early learning center at the West Broad School.

    Means' $10 million proposal includes five to 10 Head Start, Early Head Start and/or pre-K classrooms in a new building, as well as community meeting rooms, an office for students to fill out job and college applications, and a school-based health clinic in the historic portion of the school facing Minor Street.

    The vote was 4–2, with Kara Dyckman, Charles Worthy, Linda Davis and LaKeisha Gantt in favor, and John Knox and Greg Davis opposed. Frances Berry was out of town. Patricia Yager abstained. Tawana Mattox, who works for the Athens Land Trust, recused herself—a crucial distinction, because she was counted as not present, meaning only four votes were required to pass Means' plan instead of five.


  • Commissioner Andy Herod Won't Run for Re-Election

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    Andy Herod, who’s represented the Eastside on the ACC Commission since 2007, won’t run again in 2020, he announced in his monthly newsletter to constituents.

    “Although I have enjoyed the work tremendously, there are some things I would like to pursue in my professional life that I have put on hold for several years,” the UGA geography professor wrote.

    Andrea Farnham, a sex and relationship therapist, announced her candidacy for the District 8 seat in June, running on a social justice platform.

    Longtime local activist Carol Myers, the retired dean of general education at Athens Tech, told Flagpole after Herod’s announcement that she also plans to enter the race. Myers has worked on several local campaigns, served on the SPLOST committee, is active in BikeAthens, helped write ACC’s bike and pedestrian master plan and now chairs a committee overseeing implementation of that plan.


  • Commission Votes Today on Asking State to Restrict Guns, Let Undocumented Immigrants Drive


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    Photo Credit: Chris Dowd

    Mayor Kelly Girtz (right) and Beto Mendoza read a resolution in support of undocumented immigrants at the Aug. 20 commission meeting.

    Once a year, the ACC Mayor and Commission has an opportunity to sit down with the Athens state legislative delegation to make requests for the upcoming legislative session. Requests that progressive commissioners make of the deeply conservative state legislature are routinely ignored and sometimes even directly refused. Commissioners who deem themselves more practical than progressive have stopped asking for such legislation—gun control, for example—which they know our shotgun-toting Gov. Kemp would veto immediately even if it were to pass.

    The commission is now in the process of compiling this list of legislative requests. When the idea of mandatory gun registration came up, it was shot down quickly by Commissioner Jerry NeSmith. “That’s something I could never support,” said NeSmith. He went on to clarify that, beyond practical considerations, he opposes the concept of mandatory gun registration itself. He even refused to support the motion when limited to assault weapons only. (However, NeSmith does support the banning of assault rifles.)


  • Oconee Roads Will Get Sidewalks and Bike Lanes

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    The regional long range transportation plan now before the public for review makes significant changes to the current document and provides for both pedestrian and bicycle travel on two key roadways in Oconee County.

    Both bicycle and pedestrian facilities would be added to Hog Mountain Road from Mars Hill Road in Butler’s Crossing to U.S. 441, passing the Presbyterian Homes complex now under construction at the Hog Mountain Road intersection with U.S. 441.

    Similarly, both bicycle and pedestrian facilities would be added to Daniells Bridge Road from its intersection with Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector to Hog Mountain Road.


  • Rep. Hice: Both Parties Addicted to Spending

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Republican Jody Hice of Lake Oconee represents Clarke and Oconee counties in Congress.

    The economy in the country, the state of Georgia, and the region is very strong, 10th District Congressman Jody Hice and Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler told a gathering of Oconee County Republicans last week.

    That strong economy is threatened, both speakers said, by the shortage of labor to fill the jobs the strong economy is producing.

    The pair offered a variety of solutions to the problem, including training in schools, training on the job, hiring those getting out of correctional facilities, hiring people with disabilities, and helping people get off the safety net and into jobs.


  • Sen. Johnny Isakson Will Resign at the End of the Year


    U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson will resign effective Dec. 31, he announced today, citing health problems, giving Gov. Brian Kemp an opportunity to appoint his successor and putting another Georgia Senate seat up for grabs in 2020.

    Isakson has suffered from Parkinson's Disease for several years. He broke four ribs in a fall in July, and revealed in a statement today that he also had a growth removed from his kidney this week.

    “In my 40 years in elected office, I have always put my constituents and my state of Georgia first," he said. "With the mounting health challenges I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the job over the long term in the manner the citizens of Georgia deserve. It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my Senate term, but I know it’s the right thing to do on behalf of my state."


  • Former State Rep. Bob Smith Challenges Dave Shearon for Watkinsville Mayor

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Bob Smith.

    Watkinsville alone among Oconee County’s four cities will hold an election this fall, with two candidates competing for the mayor of the city and two more competing for Post 2 on the city council.

    Incumbent Watkinsville Mayor Dave Shearon and Bob Smith, a real estate agent and former state representative, filed paperwork last week qualifying for the mayoral contest.

    Incumbent Post 2 council member Connie Massey and Jonathan Kirkpatrick, a retired federal government employee, qualified for the Post 2 position.

    Incumbent Watkinsville Post 1 council member Brian Brodrick also qualified, but he will have no opposition on the ballot in November.


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