NGTC To Be Known as the “Wolves”

North Georgia Technical College announced last week that the school has decided to change from the Eagles to the Wolves.  The change comes after first looking at many choices and narrowing the mascot options down to the Eagle and the Wolf. After that, students, faculty, and staff were allowed to vote over eight days for their choice and the winning mascot was announced at the school’s annual Springfest last month.  North Georgia Technical College Campus Life Director Sherry Seal said that since the school now has a cross country team and most of its other intercollegiate sports involve running, the idea of a mascot known for speed, strength, and cunning on the ground made sense.

Friday Playoff Times Announced for Indian Baseball

Stephens County High School has announced the times for Friday’s first round AAAA state baseball playoff games.  The Indians will host Alexander High School in a first-round best-of-three series that will begin Friday at the Reservation with a doubleheader.  Game One of the doubleheader will begin at 4 p.m.  Game Two will start 20 minutes or so after the end of the first game. If necessary, a third game would take place Saturday.  The high school also wants fans to be aware that gates for Friday’s game will not open and fans will not be allowed in until 3:10 p.m.  For those who cannot make it to the game, coverage of Friday’s Indians playoff baseball games will begin at 3:45 p.m. on AM 630 WNEG and

SCHS Indian Golf Team Wins Region

The Stephens County High School Indian boys golf team won the Region 8-AAAA golf tournament last Wednesday.  The Indians won with an overall score of 356.  With the win, the Indians will proceed to the sectional tournament on Monday, May 6 at Waynesboro Country Club in Waynesboro, Georgia.

Stephens Co. Hospital Receives Mammography Accreditation

Stephens County Hospital earns a three-year term of accreditation in mammography.  The hospital received the accreditation as the result of a recent review by the American College of Radiology, or ACR.  According to Stephens County Hospital, the ACR is a national professional organization that provides programs focusing on the practice of medical imaging and radiation oncology and the delivery of comprehensive health care services.  Hospital officials said that the ACR gold seal of accreditation represents the highest level of image quality and patient safety. They added that it is awarded only to facilities meeting ACR Practice Guidelines and Technical Standards after a peer-review evaluation.  In addition to the ACR accreditation, Stephens County Hospital has also received a one-year term of accreditation in digital mammography by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA.

Corps Opening Campgrounds, Day Use Areas

The Hartwell Lake Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it will open both the Paynes Creek and Georgia River Campgrounds in Hart County and the Coneross and Oconee Point Campgrounds in Oconee County, South Carolina on Wednesday, May 1 for the 2013 recreation season.  In addition to those campgrounds, the Elrod Ferry Day-Use Area in Hart County is one of a number of day-use areas that will open Wednesday and remain open through September 9.  Corps officials said day-use areas can provide things like picnic shelters, picnic sites, restroom facilities, playgrounds, swim beaches, and boat ramps with a courtesy dock and security lighting.  For more information, call the Hartwell Lake Operations Manager’s Office toll-free at 888-893-0678.

Stephens Co. Unemployment Rate Drops in March

Stephens County receives good news for unemployment last month.  According to the statistics for March released this week by the Georgia Department of Labor, Stephens County’s preliminary unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent.  The preliminary rate for March is three-tenths of a percentage point lower than the revised February rate of 8.4 percent.  Last month’s preliminary unemployment rate is over a percentage point lower than the March 2012 revised rate of 9.4 percent.

23rd Annual “A Taste of Toccoa” Set for Tonight

Downtown Toccoa will host the 23rd annual “A Taste of Toccoa” today from 5 to 8 p.m.  Toccoa Main Street Events Coordinator Sharon Crosby said that some 15 area restaurants and caterers will serve sample-sized portions of their most popular dishes.  “We have Mexican food, barbeque, sandwiches, meals, quite a variety,” said Crosby. “You can come and get just about anything you want.”  Tokens to purchase items at the different booths will cost 50 cents each and besides the food, Crosby said “Taste” includes other activities for people to enjoy.

SPLOST VI Discussions Start

Officials from Stephens County and the cities of Toccoa, Martin, and Avalon gathered Monday at the historic Stephens County Courthouse in downtown Toccoa for the first joint meeting on SPLOST VI.  Those officials received initial projections on SPLOST VI from Stephens County Administrator Phyllis Ayers.  Currently, Ayers is projecting anywhere from $18.5 million to $21.2 million over six years of SPLOST VI, if approved by voters.  Officials then began discussing possible projects for that money.  Toccoa City Manager Mike Jackson said the city’s top priority is water and sewer projects.  “Those kinds of things are necessary for growth and to help this community prosper,” said Jackson. Other city priorities include road resurfacing, renovating the Schaefer Center, acquiring property for a new police department, and replacing vehicles.  As for Stephens County, Commission Chairman Stanley London said the county is still finalizing its prioritized list.  However, he said the county’s top priority is clearly providing money to fix roads and bridges.  “We have a great need,” said London, stating that the county is 7 to 10 years behind on road maintenance. “Our roads are lacking. We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Leaders Discuss Politics Over Pastries

The Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce hosted its “Politics and Pastries” post-legislative session wrap-up Friday morning at the Mitchell Allen Meeting Room in downtown Toccoa. Both 50th District State Senator John Wilkinson and 28th District State Representative Dan Gasaway attended the event.  Gasaway said the lawmakers are still at the beginning of what will be a detailed process.  “That is what we are in the process of doing is evaluating what the Corps says and measuring it and seeing if we can find a solution that works for everybody,” said Gasaway. “It is not easy. There are a lot of complicated issues. It is very rarely black and white, but we know a lake being 15 feet down is not in our economic best interest and that is black and white.”  The discussion then moved to Wilbros.  Local leaders thanked the two state legislators for opposing language that would have changed the definition of composting.  Wilkinson said he has met with state officials on multiple occasions, including Georgia Environmental Protection Division Judson Turner.  “I said (to Turner) that the perception in Stephens County is whatever the court orders, they (Wilbros) always get an extension, they always make an exception, and they can do whatever they want to without any consequences,” said Wilkinson. “I told (Turner) I think if you just shut them down until they get those improvements made, that would give them an incentive to get it done a little quicker. That is what I have communicated."  The two men also touched a number of other issues, including state revenues and ethics reform.

Collins Gets Sub-committee Vice Chairmanship

9th District U.S. Representative Doug Collins is now the Vice-Chair on the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.  The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman and Subcommittee Chairman appointed Collins to that position earlier this week. They highlighted his military commitment and time deployed in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves in making the appointment.  Collins said that for six months he called Iraq home and he appreciates the opportunity to learn from his colleagues and also educate them on his experiences in the Middle East.  The Hall County Republican called the Middle East and North Africa vital to the future advancement of American foreign policy and added that he is looking forward to contributing whatever he can from his personal insight to promote a better and more secure well-being for America in the international community.

SCHS Receives LEED Certification

Stephens County High School is officially a LEED certified building.  The school system held a plaque unveiling ceremony for its LEED recognition Tuesday at the high school.  LEED recognition comes from the Georgia Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.  David Freedman is the Executive Director of that organization and said the school system deserves recognition for making the choice to build a LEED-certified building.  “The Stephens County School System had a choice,” said Freedman. “You had a choice whether to pursue LEED certification or not. You had a choice to build a regular building or do something special and build a building that is going to be better for the environment, save energy, be better for the students, and that is the choice you made. I commend you for making that decision.”  LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a green building rating system.

SCSO Receives Certificate of Recognition

The Sheriff’s Office recently received a “Certificate of Recognition” from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (I.A.C.P.) for its performance in the National Law Enforcement Challenge.  The agency recognized the Sheriff’s Office for putting together an application that demonstrates how fatal crashes can be reduced through public education, training, and enforcement.  Stephens County Sheriff Randy Shirley said he was excited for his office to receive the recognition.  “I appreciate the hard work that Sgt. Bruce Cleveland and Corp. Connie Morris do with keeping the citizens of Stephens County safe, as well as those who visit Stephens County,” said Shirley.  According to officials, more than 400 agencies nationwide submitted applications to the National Law Enforcement Challenge.

Toccoa Unveils New Historic Plaque

City officials gathered at 109 North Sage Street last Thursday to unveil another historic plaque in downtown Toccoa.  This plaque commemorates what was the extension of the former Harper’s 5 and 10 Cent Store initially constructed in 1925. “It was the first location of Franklin Discount Company Loans,” said Kembra Landry of Main Street Toccoa. “Franklin Discount Co. began in 1941 as a loan investment company.  Organizers of the company were Ben F. Cheek, Jr. and J.B. McMurray. Harper’s 5 and 10 Cent Store was located mainly on Doyle Street for more than 30 years. In the late 1940s/early 1950s, Harper’s Row was modified to accommodate the growing department store, which included this extension of that store, which was the location for its toy department.”  This plaque is one of a series that have been unveiled in downtown Toccoa over the past couple of years.  Eventually, Main Street officials have said they want to create a walking tour and podcast to highlight the historic buildings.

Preparations Underway for “Taste of Toccoa”

The city of Toccoa is preparing for an annual Spring downtown tradition.
The 23rd annual “A Taste of Toccoa” will take place on Thursday, April 25 from 5 to 8 p.m. in downtown Toccoa.
Toccoa Main Street Events Coordinator Sharon Crosby said that preparations are going well for the event.
“Taste of Toccoa is one of Toccoa’s favorite festivals I think,” said Crosby. “This year, we are preparing and hoping to get all of our county and city restaurants involved. Things are going well and we are excited about another good year.”
During “Taste,” local restaurants and caterers show off their specialty menu items in smaller portions.
Crosby said that applications for restaurants and caterers are still being accepted.
Meanwhile, she went on to say that plans are in the works for the entertainment and other activities that are also part of “Taste” each year.
“We have got some really good entertainment this year,” said Crosby, including the Rhythm Academy, Chattahoochee Chain Gang, and some local artists.
For more information on “A Taste of Toccoa,” call the Main Street Toccoa office at 706-282-3309.

February Unemployment Figures Released for Stephens Co.

February figures bring good news on the unemployment front for Stephens County.
According to numbers released last week by the Georgia Department of Labor, Stephens County’s preliminary unemployment rate in February dropped to 8.6 percent. It is down nine-tenths of a percentage point from the revised January rate of 9.5 percent.
State labor department figures for February also show that 52 more people were employed in Stephens County in February than in January, while the number of unemployed dropped by 120. The labor force did decrease slightly in February in Stephens County, coming in at 13,121.
Meanwhile, this February’s preliminary unemployment rate is also a full percentage point lower than the revised February 2012 rate of 9.6 percent.
However, 77 fewer people were employed this February than in February 2012 and the labor force in February 2012 was larger, coming it at over 13,300.
The Georgia Mountains region, which includes Stephens County, had a preliminary unemployment rate in February of 7.5 percent, down from January’s revised rate of 8 percent.
Elsewhere around the region in February, Franklin County’s preliminary unemployment rate dropped nine-tenths of a percentage point to 10.3 percent; Habersham County’s preliminary unemployment rate dropped nine-tenths of a percentage point as well to 8.7 percent; and Banks County’s preliminary unemployment rate dropped four-tenths of a percentage point to 6.6 percent.