Stephens County Unemployment Inches Up

Stephens County’s unemployment rate jumps in June.  According to figures released last week by the Georgia Department of Labor, Stephens County had a preliminary unemployment rate in June of 9.8 percent.  That is seven-tenths of a percentage point higher than the revised May unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.  For more on this and other stories visit:

NGTC Reopens the Hoyt Coe Building!

North Georgia Technical College celebrates the re-opening of one of its oldest buildings, now newly remodeled.  The school held a ribbon-cutting Thursday for the newly renovated Hoyt Coe Building on the Clarkesville campus.  The Hoyt Coe Building used to house the Air Conditioning Technology program, which moved as a result of the construction.  Now, the new Hoyt Coe building will house General Education, Biology, and Chemistry classes, along with a student success center.  For more on this and other stories visit:


The Georgia Association for Career and Technical Education is recognizing a Stephens County lawmaker.  That group recently awarded 50th District State Senator John Wilkinson with tits “Policy Maker of the Year” award.  According to the announcement, this award is given annually to legislators who have made a significant contribution to CTAE programs.  For more on this story visit:


Local authors, Angela Ramage and Kelly Vickers, publish a photo history of Toccoa called “Images of America Toccoa”.  It is the next in the series of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America”.  The book lays out the history of Toccoa in story and picture and is a must for any Toccoa resident!  It is 128 pages with more than 200 historical images of Toccoa and Stephens County.  The book will be released for sale online and in stores on August the 6, 2012. 


For the past eight weeks, downtown Toccoa has turned into an outside concert arena for the Ida Cox Music Series each Saturday night.  The concert series has featured a different band each week playing a variety of musical sounds.  Regional groups as well as local groups have shared the stage each week. Saturday, July 28 will be the last in this summer series of concerts.

The HEAP, from Athens, will be the featured band for this final concert of the summer. According to Chuck Taylor, the concert series manager, “It is time to set a new attendance record for Doyle Street. Help us to get 500 people downtown this Saturday for The HEAP as they close the final weekend of the Ida Cox music series. “Invite your friends as we pack the street cone to cone for Toccoa's biggest music party ever,” he said. The concert starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m.
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Stephens County Hospital receives recognition from the Georgia Hospital Association.
The GHA’s Partnership for Health and Accountability recently named Stephens County Hospital to its Core Measures Honor Roll.
The honor roll is based on clinical data provided by the federal Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, or CMS, which administers the nation’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. The data was collected from January 2011 to December 2011.
Hospitals are required to submit care data to CMS, which details how well a hospital’s caregivers adhere to a list of Value-Based Purchasing core measures. These measures are the clinical processes of care that are known to be the most effective methods of treatment for surgical patients and patients who have suffered heart attacks, pneumonia, and heart failure.
According to the GHA, Stephens County Hospital is one of 26 hospitals in Georgia to be placed in the Trustee category, one of the highest on the list.
Georgia Hospital Association President Joseph Parker said that is a great accomplishment for Stephens County Hospital, adding that this recognition further underscores the commitment of the Stephens County Hospital staff to ensuring that every patient receives the best, most effective health care possible.
Stephens County Hospital Administrator Ed Gambrell said that it is the hospital’s mission to ensure that each patient receives the right care at the right time and this recognition validates this, adding that the honor is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of the hospital’s staff who are constantly working to make excellent care even better. 
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Local and regional economic development officials are working with a provider to finalize a contract for building and operating a broadband loop through Stephens and surrounding counties.
Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin said that the Georgia Department of Community Affairs has approved the North Georgia Network as the agency that the Joint Development Authority of Stephens, Franklin, and Hart counties will work with on the six-county broadband loop.
Martin said work on setting up the official contract is getting underway.
“I suspect it will take us 30 to 60 days to get the contract language just right,” said Martin. “I suspect it will take 30 to 60 days for NGN to then mobilize and start the construction activities.”
The North Georgia Network, which has an office in Clarkesville, already operates a high-speed broadband loop through a number of north Georgia counties.
The Joint Development Authority of Stephens, Franklin, and Hart counties has received a $1 million equity grant from OneGeorgia to go towards building what eventually would be a 150-mile, $10 million fiber loop through Stephens, Franklin, Hart, Banks, Habersham, and Rabun counties.
About $800,000 of the money is a straight grant, while $150,000 comes in the form of a loan to the JDA and $50,000 of the money would be matching funds put up by the JDA.
According to Martin, the North Georgia Network will pay off the $150,000 loan, meaning the JDA will now have to only secure the $50,000 in cash for matching funds. Martin says he will be working to secure that $50,000.
The first leg of the project has been defined as building 18 miles of the loop from Hollywood, Georgia in Habersham County, where the North Georgia Network already has broadband, to Toccoa.
However, Martin said that as other broadband providers improve their networks, that may change and the grant money may be used elsewhere to build out as much as possible in as efficient a manner as possible.
He pointed to TruVista, a South Carolina company, which recently purchased Northland Communications in Toccoa and has been building onto its broadband network.
“NGN is going to have to be smart, and they can be, to make sure that we are not overbuilding something that is already there,” said Martin, who added this is not about creating competition for companies that are already in place.
Martin said that the North Georgia Network was one of two providers to submit a proposal for the project. He said the other was TruVista Communications. According to Martin, both proposals were very strong.
Martin went on to say that building out increased broadband connectivity will have economic development benefits for the region. 
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The upper part of one half of the buildings frontage has been completed.  The face of this section has been restored and builders will now continue with the lower section of the building.  Upon its completion the scaffolding will be reconstructed directly in front of the Stephens County Development Authority’s and the construction will continue with completion of the upper part of the facade and then restoring the lower section of the building.