Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones gives the Squires & Stags breakfast group a county update. PHOTO BY WAYNE TIDWELL
Pickens County 911 service one of two top programs in Georgia
BY WAYNE TIDWELL
Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones told the March 5 Squires & Stags breakfast crowd that Pickens County’s 911 service is one of two top programs in Georgia.
“There’s not but one county in the State of Georgia that is equivalent to the Pickens County system and that is Dekalb County,” Jones said. “We can pinpoint on your cell phones pretty close to within 100 feet to where you are at.”
He said the system has the capability to accept personal medical information that can be turned in to the 911 system so that the caller’s medical issues and medicines will be available to the ambulance driver. Fire station additions and improvements have improved ISO Ratings in the county, according to Jones. Pickens is also one of the few counties in North Georgia that has medical emergency helicopter service, according to Jones.
Pickens County owns 1,400 acres and 20 public facilities. The county’s 2019 budget is $26,327,000 of which the board of commissioners controls $16 million, according to Jones. Elected officials control $9 million of that, $7 million of which is controlled by the sheriff’s department.
Pickens County maintains over 400 miles of roads of which 50 miles are dirt roads, down from 100 miles.
“We have people living on dirt roads that want them left as dirt roads,” Jones said. “They have livestock, they have horses and their philosophy is that if they are dirt roads nobody goes through there speeding.”
Road paving costs increasing
Jones said the county set a (road) paving record in 2018 with the help of the SPLOST in place now. That was 31 miles of roads.
“We hope that we can get 31 miles [paved] this year,” Jones said. “The issue we’ve got is that for some unknown reason asphalt went up three times this winter. Gasoline is going up so that probably had something to do with that.”
Jones said the county had over 500 trees down in 2018 due to storms and has already had 80 trees down this year. Road crews have had to deal with that, Jones said. He also said they were over-sizing drainage pipes because of heavy rains.
“Since we are having 100-year floods every two years, we are over-sizing our pipes two times,” Jones said.
The county started expanding its water system in 2006/2007, according to Jones.
“We are bringing water in from Cherokee County for back-up, which most of y’all are using in Big Canoe,” Jones said.
He said the county was selling Big Canoe an average of 1.6 million gallons that they are buying and bringing in to Big Canoe at different times.
“You [Big Canoe] still have some water loss and we are trying to back up Utilities, Inc. with about 300,000 gallons per day,” Jones said.
He said that he hopes some day when the Big Canoe leak issues are fixed that Pickens County will be able to buy water from Big Canoe and not Cherokee County.
The Pickens County Community Center serves over 1,200 kids, Jones said. The center is named after Jones, which he said surprised him.
“They [Parks and Recreation Department] felt like it was necessary to name the building after me since I paid it off,” Jones said. “I always thought they did that for somebody who passed away.”
A Big Canoe group is among those who use the indoor pickle ball courts, Jones pointed out.
Fire station expansions improving ISO ratings
The Pickens County Fire and Rescue Department now has 10 stations, according to Jones.
“We just completed a new station on the west end of the county where the ISO rating was 10,” Jones said. “And we are getting ready to build a station in Tate.”
Last year grants totaling $160,000 paid for fire station and water pump stations back-up generators and computers according to Jones.
The Pickens County animal shelter is not a “no kill” shelter, according to Jones. He said the county couldn’t have a no kill shelter because of ASPCA guidelines.
“But the only time we put animals down is when the animal is vicious or is in such dire straits that you can’t rehabilitate it,” Jones said.
Businesses around town help provide food for the shelter animals, Jones said.
Pickens County is one of the few counties that has its own brine solution facilities for dealing with icy roads, according to Jones. The computerized system assures the water/salt recipe is effective in melting ice.
The Grandview Lake, LLC, who owns the Grandview Lake Dam that created the lake, sold the water withdrawal permit to Pickens County allowing the county to draw 330,000 gallons of water per day, according to Jones. The revenue from the permit is used to repair and maintain the dam. The Salvation Army is going to donate property for a treatment plant, Jones said.
“That gives Pickens County a reservoir and treatment facility,” he said. “For the future of the county, that gives Pickens County the ability to plan on an extra 330,000 gallons.”
Water customers will pay for this build, not the general fund, according to Jones.
Jones encouraged the breakfast attendees that live in Pickens County to sign up for the “Code Red” system that will alert residents of tornados or other emergencies. He said the system is on a polygram that allows it to only alert those in the specific area of the threat.
He said Pickens County residents can call 911 and request to be added to the system.
Jones said he was told by the city of Jasper that the Cove Road closure where the landslide occurred could be from two days to three weeks.
On the issue of senior tax breaks, Jones said the issue cannot be put on a ballot again for five to seven years.
“If you want a school tax exemption you have to go to the school board,” Jones said. “They in turn will work together with you and work with state representatives to come up with a plan to get it on the ballot.”
About 14 percent of county revenue comes from Big Canoe, according to Jones.
Squires & Stags meets on the first Friday of the month in the Mountains Grille at the Clubhouse at Lake Sconti. Coffee is ready at 7:45 a.m. followed by a buffet breakfast served at 8:00 a.m. Big Canoe residents and guests are invited to attend the meeting. The price of breakfast is $13 payable on your POA account or by cash at the door.
Reservations are required and must be received by Noon on Thursday before the Friday morning meeting. You may call (706) 268-3346 to make reservations.