Georgia Ag Awareness Week This Week

Commissioner Gary W. Black and the Georgia Department of Agriculture are excited to kick off a week of celebrating Georgia’s diverse agriculture with their third annual Georgia Agriculture Awareness week.

“We should thank our farmers every day for the blessings they give us by providing the most abundant and safe food supply in the world,” Black said. “But this week gives us that extra little nudge to take a moment to a really appreciate the importance of agriculture in our state and the key role it plays in our communities and overall state economy.”

The Governor and First Lady Kemp will show their continual support of agriculture and farm families by participating in events throughout the week.  Georgia Agriculture Week activities include Hands-On School Garden Day, Buy Georgia Grown Day, Ag Hero Day, Ag Literacy Day and Make My Plate Georgia Grown Day. Each day is designed to better communicate the important role agriculture contributes to our daily lives.

For more information on Georgia Agriculture Awareness Week please visitwww.georgiaagweek.com

Arrest Report - Monday - March 18, 2019

Here is the latest arrest report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office for Monday, March 18, 2019:

Drug Bust At Gaylesville Area Dollar Store

A Rome woman was arrested last week after Alabama Drug Task Force agents and the Cedar Bluff Police Department searched a suspicious vehicle involved in a traffic stop at the Dollar General Store located on Highway 35 between Gaylesville and Blanche, Alabama.

A Cedar Bluff K-9 Officer and his partner “Jagger” found the odor of narcotics and a subsequent search produced a quarter pound of methamphetamine.

Fifty-six-year-old Elizabeth Diane Mcilvaine of Rome was booked in at the Cherokee County Detention Center on charges of Drug Trafficking and the Unlawful Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, she remains in jail on a $75,500 bond

In addition to the Drug Task Force, Cedar Bluff Police were assisted by Cherokee County, Alabama Sheriff’s Deputies.

WEIS Radio

Health Inspection Scores - First Half Of March

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Here are the latest health inspection scores from the Chattooga County Environmental Health Department for the first half of March.

  • CHATTOOGA HIGH SCHOOL

  • 989 HIGHWAY 114 SUMMERVILLE, GA 30747
  • Last Inspection Score: 100
  • Last Inspection Date: 03-15-2019
  • SUBWAY 33504

  • 13427 HWY 27 SUMMERVILLE, GA 30747
  • Last Inspection Score: 97
  • Last Inspection Date: 03-13-2019
  • PIZZA HUT

  • 9741 ROME BLVD SUMMERVILLE, GA 30747
  • Last Inspection Score: 91

Should you ever have any complaint with any food service or tourist accommodation that operates in Chattooga County, you can register that complaint by calling the Chattooga County Environmental Health Department at 706-857-3377.

Theft Of Services Reported

The City of Summerville Water Department reported a theft of services incident to the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Department last week.

According to a report from the sheriff’s department, the incident was reported on Wednesday of last week when a water department employee found the lock cut off a water meter on Memorial Drive.

The water department employee told the responding deputy that the service had been turned off at the home, and someone had cut the shut-off and had been using water at the residence.

The Chattooga County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident.

Friends Of The Park Meeting This Evening

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The Friends of James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park will meet this evening for the their monthly meeting.

The Friends of the Park work to promote and preserve Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites across the states.  Here in Chattooga County, the Friends of Sloppy Floyd State Park raise awareness of the park and support projects at the park.  The organization is supported entirely by the Friends of the Park and local donors.

If you would like to take part, you are encouraged to attend their monthly meeting coming up this evening.  This month’s meeting will be held at Cottage 2 at 6:30 PM.

At the meeting, the Friends of the Park will be planning upcoming spring events and volunteer opportunities. Visitors are welcome to attend.

Drug Task Force Discovers Indoor Marijuana Growing Operation

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This past week, the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force found an indoor marijuana growing operation in southern Walker County.

Drug Task Force agents found the operation just outside LaFayette on Thursday.  The operation was located at a home on Little Oakland Drive, off of South Burnt Mill Road.

Agents found forty marijuana plants under cultivation, along with eight pounds of processed pot, and also found evidence that the couple at the residence had been selling marijuana to area teenagers.

Arrested were sixty-year-old Rebecca Robin Kirby and fifty-two-year-old Robert Michael Kirby.  Both were charged with possession and manufacturing marijuana.  Michael Kirby was additionally charged with using a phone in connection with the sale of controlled substances.

AAA: Gas Prices Up .28 Per Gallon Over The Month

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AAA Auto Club says Georgia gas prices continued to climb last week. The state average has increased 30 of the past 32 days, for a total of 28 cents. During the past week alone, Georgia gas prices rose an average of 5 cents per gallon.

“Drivers saw a jump have seen a steady increase at the pump due to rising demand, reduced refinery output, and lower gasoline supplies,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Unfortunately the springtime surge may not be over quite yet. These seasonal factors could keep upward pressure on prices at the pump through Memorial Day weekend.”

Georgia drivers are now paying an average price of $2.42 per gallon for regular unleaded, which is the highest daily average price of 2019. Although Sunday’s state average is 23 cents per gallon more than a month ago, it remains 2 cents less than this time last year.

Gas prices increased because: 

  • Gasoline demand increased for the fourth consecutive week, according to weekly data from the EIA
  • Gasoline supply levels declined for the fourth consecutive week, according to weekly data from the EIA.
  • Refineries are conducting seasonal maintenance leading to reduced output.
  • Summer-blend gasoline is hitting the market, as required by the EPA, in effort to reduce smog levels. Because this blend of gasoline requires more additives, it is more expensive to produce.

Georgia Metro Prices:

  • Most expensive city averages – Brunswick ($2.49), Hinesville-Fort Stewart ($2.49), Savannah ($2.47)
  • Least expensive city averages – Warner Robins ($2.35), Albany ($2.35), Rome ($2.37)
  • Chattooga County average – Chattooga County ($2.41)

Crude Oil Prices

The price of oil also reached a new 2019 high, last week.  Settling at $58.61 per gallon on the NYMEX last Thursday, crude oil has climbed a total of $12 per barrel this year. The price of crude is now only $2 per barrel less than this time last year. Last March, oil prices peaked at $64.94 per barrel, dragging the daily average price for gasoline in Florida up to $2.64/g.

Both Sides Blame The Other In School Board Upheaval

Last week was particularly dramatic in the ongoing debate between a four-day and five-day school week in Chattooga County.   Chattooga County School Superintendent Jimmy Lenderman resigned on Friday on the heels of the resignation of Board Member John Tuner last Thursday evening.  Since then, both sides in the debate have been pointing fingers at each other.

In his letter of resignation, Mr. Lenderman said that a “caustic” environment had developed between the current Board of Education and the community.  Lenderman accused the school board of having a “bully” attitude.

Board Member Brad Hayes was the only BOE member to elaborate on the resignation of the school superintendent to WZQZ News.  We contacted all of the board members, but only Hayes and Dr. Julia Houston returned our request for a statement.  All Dr. Houston said was that she had “no comment at this time.” See earlier story here.

Dr. Houston did speak with a reporter from the Chattanooga Times -Free Press. See story here.  Dr. Houston pointed the finger of blame for the hostile environment on supporters of the four-day school week.  Houston told the Chattanooga paper, “”I don’t understand why all these parents aren’t acting more mature and putting their children’s best interest at heart. They’re causing instability and angst.”

Board Chair John Agnew did not return our request for comment, but he did tell The Summerville News, speaking of Supt. Lenderman, “We’ve not had any friction between us except that we disagree on the 4-day and 5-day school schedules,” Chairman Agnew said. “We’ve never had any problems between us.” See The Summerville News story here.

With the resignation of the last Democrat on the board, John Turner, the board of education now consists of all Republicans, but some see recent changes in the local Republican Party in Chattooga County as a sign that they may have lost some support in their own party.  In a packed Republican Party Convention earlier this month, none of the Republican Board of Education members retained their position as a delegate or even alternate to district and state conventions.  In fact, the local Republicans swept out several longstanding members for new faces to guide the local party.

A group of people billing themselves as “Concerned citizens regarding the Board of Education” have planned a meeting for 7 PM Tuesday evening at the Summerville Recreation Department.

Communities Across The Nation Adopting No-Tethering Ordinances

As the City of Summerville debates a tethering ordinance, there are many communities across the nation that have already adopted ordinances that prevent the tethering of animals.  Some of those ordinance are “no-tethering” at all ordinances, and some allow for limited tethering – usually defined as leaving animals on a “run” between two fixed points.

The Humane Society says, “Total bans on tethering are straightforward, making enforcement easier and offering a clear incentive for outreach initiatives. But because this is such a stringent regulation, there’s more likely to be strong opposition to the adoption of ‘no-tethering’ ordinances.”  They also admit that their is “no one-size-fits-all” approach to such ordinances.  The Humane Society says that the issue has come to light over the past couple of decades, and public opinion largely supports “no-tethering” which has led many communities to adopt ordinances concerning the issue.  Within the past few years, there have been many new ordinances adopted across the nation, according to the group.

While the types of ordinances that have been adopted by other communities have many variances, many are taking a strict “no-tethering” approach to the issue.  WZQZ News received a copy of the Town of Trion’s ordinance that prohibits all types of tethering.  Trion Police Chief David Gilleland said that compliance with the law has not been much of an issue.  The chief said that since he became Police Chief last year, only two citations had been issued against pet owners who had their dogs chained.  Gilleland said that in all the other instances, the pet owners have complied with the ordinance after receiving a warning from Trion’s Code Enforcement.

The City of Hunstville, Alabama recently adopted a “limited tethering ordinance.”  Their code allows for a dog to be on a “run”, as long as the their are two swivels on the tether that allow the dog to have more mobility and cuts down on the risk of injury to the animal.  While Huntsville’s new ordinance, that went into place March 1st, allows “limited tethering” it has strict measures concerning other issues such as “weather-proof housing” and mandates for the size of dog pens.  Also, the Huntsville ordinance would allow for citations if animals don’t have “potable water.”

Raleigh, North Carolina allows for tethering “for up to three hours”, but critics of that city’s ordinance say that it is difficult to know how long an animal has been chained up.  Sometimes it is obvious, but the critics say that there is no real way for the ordinance to be enforced as it is written.  Raleigh’s ordinance says a dog may not be tethered for more than three hours total in any 24-hour period. The ordinance defines tethering as a means of tying out or fastening a dog outdoors on a rope, chain or other line for restraining a dog. The term does not mean the restraint of a dog on an attended leash.

Critics of “limited tethering” say that there are many situations that still put animals in danger when a dog is on a run. At last week’s Summerville City Council meeting, one Summerville resident talked about a recent incident where a dog on a run had jumped over a fence and was suspended by the tether, dangling from the fence.  The resident was able to rescue the dog before it choked to death.

Another criticism of “limited-tethering” is enforcement.  With limited resources, small municipalities don’t have multiple code enforcement officers, or their own animal control officers and that makes anything except “no tethering” difficult to enforce.  City’s like Huntsville, Alabama have a whole department devoted to enforcing city codes, in addition to an animal control department.  Critics of “limited-tethering” say that if the code is “no-tethering” it will be clearer and easier to enforce.

Summerville has not adopted a final plan for a tethering ordinance.  The council is still debating if the best idea is “limited-tethering” or “no-tethering.”  However, it seems clear that the city will adopt some type of ordinance in the near future.  City Councilman Joe Money, who introduced the proposal, said that he favors “no-tethering”, like the Town of Trion has, but indicated that if “limited-tethering” was the only way to get an ordinance passed, he would support it.

The Summerville City Council is expected to take up the issue again at an upcoming meeting.

Hepatitis A Infections Surging In Georgia

Georgia Health News says that public health officials say they’ve seen a big increase in acute hepatitis A infections in Georgia. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

Large outbreaks have occurred in other states among injection drug users and other drug users, the homeless, and men who have sex with men, Department of Public Health officials said in an advisory this week.

Since January 2018, 170 acute hepatitis A infections, including one death, have been identified in the state. That’s more than six times the number of infections reported in 2017. Of the 170 cases, 87 have been identified since the beginning of this year, said Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam. About 60 percent of the infections have occurred in northwest Georgia, North Georgia and the Augusta area. But hepatitis A cases also have increased in other areas of the state, Public Health said.

Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea and headache. It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water.

Two-thirds of the hepatitis A cases in Georgia have resulted in hospitalizations, Public Health said. The agency added that 27 percent were associated with injection drug use; 32 percent associated with non-injection illicit drug use; 14 percent among men having sex with men; and 19 percent among contacts of a confirmed hepatitis A patient.

Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death. This is more common in people older than 50 and in people who also have other liver diseases.

Hepatitis A had been declining for a long time before the outbreaks the last couple of years in multiple states, said Dr. Jesse Jacob, an infectious disease specialist at Emory School of Medicine. “It’s not terribly surprising that we’re seeing many of these cases in Georgia,’’ he said Thursday.

Most hepatitis A cases are mild, Jacob said. And it’s not a chronic disease, unlike other forms of hepatitis. Once it’s out of a patient’s system, it’s gone, he said.

Since March 2017, the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis has been assisting several state and local health departments in dealing with hepatitis A outbreaks.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) said in late December that it was investigating an increase in hepatitis A cases in the northern part of that state.

Tennessee has reported a large number of cases since December 2017, including four deaths.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease. The best protection is vaccination among populations at risk. Practicing good hand hygiene, including hand washing after using the bathroom and while preparing food, also helps prevent the spread of the disease, Jacob points out.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that the following groups be vaccinated against hepatitis A:

  • All children age 1 or older
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Illicit drug users (injection or non-injection)
  • Household members and close personal contacts of people with hepatitis A infection
  • People who are homeless
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • People with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

Fence Damaged On Lyerly Highway

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A Chattooga County Deputy responded to a call on the Lyerly Highway (Highway 114) in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday regarding damage to property.

When the deputy arrived at 2174 Highway 114, near the intersection of Ellenburg Subdivision and Highway 114, he spoke with the property owner identified as Michael Dover.  Dover told the deputy that a wooden fence on his property had been damaged.  The deputy observed that part of the fence had been partially knocked down.  The deputy said that it appeared that a vehicle had backed into the fence causing the damage.

There were no suspects, but the property owner requested a report to be filed in connection with the incident.

Arrest Report - Sunday - March 17, 2019

Here is the latest arrest report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office for Sunday, March 17, 2019:

GA Lawmaker Wants To End Daylight Saving Time

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A Georgia lawmaker says it’s time to leave the clock alone and to stay on daylight saving time.  Representative Wes Cantrell, who represents Cherokee County, said Georgia shouldn’t be bouncing back and forth with the time.

WSB TV in Atlanta reports that this past Wednesday, Cantrell submitted a proposal to stay on daylight saving time or standard time.  Cantrell says that Daylight Saving Time is antiquated and why he’s submitted the bill to keep us on one time.

Representative Cantrell told WSB, “Hey, this is ridiculous, and let’s do something about it. I think it’s just one of those things we’ve just become accustomed to. It’s a hassle, but that’s they way it is, you know? We just live with it.”

Cantrell said his proposal won’t see any action this year, but he is working to get a proposed amendment with three different options on the ballot in 2020. If the majority of voters want to stay on daylight saving time, the state would have to get federal approval. If the public votes to stay on standard time, the change could be made with just voter approval, Cantrell said.

Read more from WSB-TV

 

Special Opportunity Turkey Hunting Season For Youth & Mobility-Impaired Hunters

The statewide turkey hunting season opens on March 23. However, youth and mobility-impaired hunters utilizing private land have a chance to harvest a bird during a special early opportunity turkey season on March 16–17, 2019, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

This weekend hunt opportunity is available only for youth 16 years of age and younger, or hunters that are mobility impaired (i.e. confined to a wheelchair, hemiplegia, monoplegia, paraplegia, or single-leg amputation above the knee). Youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult (18 years or older) who may call for turkey, but may not take or attempt to take a turkey.

All turkey hunters, including those under 16 years of age, landowners, honorary, lifetime, and sportsman license holders, must obtain a free harvest record each season. Before moving a harvested turkey, hunters are required to immediately enter the date and county on the harvest record, and within 72 hours, must complete the reporting process through Georgia Game Check. More information at www.georgiawildlife.com/HarvestRecordGeorgiaGameCheck.

Resident youth hunters under age 16 will not need a license. Hunters age 16 years or older (including those accompanying youth or others) will need a hunting license and a big game license unless hunting on their own private land. Get your license at www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com, at a retail license vendor or by phone at 1-800-366-2661.

The 2019 Georgia statewide turkey season opens Sat., March 23. For more information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations.

Walker County Getting Tough On Derelict Properties

Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has adopted an ordinance that will address derelict properties.  The “clean and lien” ordinance is aimed to clean up Walker County, according to Commissioner Whitfield.

Under the new ordinance, Walker County Government now has the right to tear down blighted buildings.  Commissioner Whitfield signed the ordinance that will allow the destruction of properties deemed as a “public nuisance.”

The ordinance will allow Walker County Code Enforcement to file a complaint in Walker County Magistrate Court concerning derelict properties.  The ordinance mandates that if bringing the building into compliance will cost 50% or less of the assessed value, the magistrate judge will order it repaired.  If fixing the building will cost more than 50% of the assessed value, the judge will order the property owner to tear the building down.

The property owner would then have 270 days to complete the destruction of buildings, according to the ordinance.  If the owner doesn’t tear it down within 270 days, the county can complete the demolition.

According to Commissioner Whitfield, blighted structures was the number-one complaint that he has received in the recent round of community meetings the commissioner has held in Walker County.

WQCH

Lenderman Resigns - BOE Mostly Silent

Chattooga County School Superintendent Jimmy Lenderman resigned on Friday afternoon, and only one Chattooga County Board of Education member has responded to a request for comment on the superintendent’s resignation.

Lenderman said that he was quitting the position after serving since 2011 because a “caustic situation” had developed between the current board of education and the parents.  Lenderman told WRCB TV in Chattanooga on Friday that he could no longer serve with a board of education that refused to hear the voice of the people.

Lenderman’s resignation came on the heels of the resignation of board of education member John Turner who told the others on the board that there was “no need” for him to be on the board of education after the other members voted to strip an item on the agenda at Thursday night’s meeting that would have allowed for more discussion on the switch from a four-day school week to a five-day week.

Superintendent Lenderman said in his resignation letter to the board of education that he wished he could stay he does not want to be associated with the current board of education.

WZQZ News reached out to the Board Chairman John Agnew for a response about the superintendent’s resignation, but did not hear back from Agnew or Board Member Sammy Ballard.  Dr. Julia Houston did return our message requesting comment.  Houston said that she appreciated our request, but at this time she has no comment on Lenderman’s resignation.  Only, Board Member Brad Hayes responded to our request for a comment about the resignation.  Mr. Hayes commented, “I have admiration and appreciation for Mr. Lenderman. I wish he would stay and help us unite in these demanding and difficult times.” You can read his complete comments below:

I’d like to thank WZQZ for reaching out to me for my thoughts on the retirement of Mr. Jimmy Lenderman. He has served our country and our county with many years of dedicated service. I, like Principal Jeff Martin, always found his connection to President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan very interesting. I admired and appreciated how President Reagan led our country, even during the most demanding and difficult times. I have admiration and appreciation for Mr. Lenderman. I wish he would stay and help us unite in these demanding and difficult times. In their own way, President Reagan and Mr. Lenderman have a way with words. One reason I decided to run for the school board was to have the opportunity to get to know and work along side of Mr. Lenderman. I have the utmost respect for our Superintendent, and I wish him the best in his retirement. As a newly elected school board member, I found it easy to email him with concerns or questions. He responded in a timely fashion, and he always offered wise advice. He shared with me one time, “learn to have thick skin.” When I heard of his retirement intentions, I asked Mr. Lenderman, “Are you sure you want to retire?” I will honor whatever decision Mr. Lenderman makes in regards to his future. 

Arrest Report - Saturday - March 16, 2019

Here is the latest arrest report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office for Saturday, March 16, 2019:

Mullis Expresses Support For Voting System Bill

State Senator Jeff Mullis released a statement on Friday expressing his support for House Bill 316 that will allow the state to purchase new voting machines for all 159 counties in Georgia.  The machines will be touchscreen that prints out choices on a paper ballot so voters can review the ballot before submitting their vote. Mullis says that this will allow for an audit in every election with both a digital record and a paper trail.   The new voting machines will also account for handicap and elderly accessibility.  Mullis says, “These new voting machines will make sure that we have a secure elections system and will provide the people of Georgia with a safe and accessible voting system that we can trust.”.  You can read Mullis’ full statement below:

This session, the Georgia General Assembly has passed legislation that will secure our state’s new voting system. This will give the people of Georgia an updated, state-of-the-art touchscreen voting system, as we make the simple transition to ballot marking devices (BMDs).

House Bill 316 will allow the state to purchase new voting machines for every county, putting in place machine marked ballots which will provide the most clear and accurate election results. Ballot marking devices will allow voters to make their selections with a touchscreen and then prints out their choices on a paper ballot so they can review it before submitting their vote. This will address the irregularities of hand marked paper ballots, allowing for a fair and accurate vote count in every election. This also allows for an audit in every election. Not only will there be a digital vote count, but it will provide a physical paper ballot that can be counted by hand.

I have firsthand experience with the error and fraud that can be the result of the use of hand marked ballots. In 1998 I ran for public office for the first time, where hand marked paper ballots were used. I initially won the election by 23 votes but as in all races this close, a recount was called for. 151 new hand marked ballots just so happened to be discovered. I was awarded a mere six of these ballots, with the rest going to my incumbent opponent who was then deemed the new winner.

This is why it is so important that handwritten paper ballots are no longer a part of the voting process and why I voted yes on HB 316. By using machine marked ballots, this kind of voting fraud can be minimized. These new voting machines will make sure that we have a secure elections system and will provide the people of Georgia with a safe and accessible voting system that we can trust.

Not only do these new voting machines provide for fair and accurate elections, but they also account for handicap and elderly accessibility. To force Georgians who live life with a disability or cannot use the antiquated system of hand-marked paper ballots is discriminatory and eliminates our privilege of a private vote.

Not only is this system accessible, it is the most cost-effective option for local governments.  Over a 10-year period, hand marked paper ballots will cost counties well over $200 million.  However, with the new touchscreen systems, the state bears the bulk of the cost, negating a top-down, unfunded mandate. This is an investment in our most fundamental right of voting that will save the state and our counties money overall.

This legislation is simply Georgia’s best option and I am proud to have voted yes on HB 316.  I strongly encourage every Georgian, from Walker County to Seminole County, to support this measure.

Early Voting In SPLOST Election Comes To An End

Early voting is now over for the March 19th SPLOST (special local option sales tax) in Chattooga County.  Early voting ended at 5 PM on Friday afternoon, and the turnout appears to be higher than the last SPLOST election.

According to the Chattooga County Registrar Office, 475 Chattooga County residents have cast their ballots in early voting, with 97 people voting on Friday.

Election Day is March 19, 2019.  All thirteen precinct polling places will be opened from 7 AM until 7 PM.  The Chattooga County Registrar Office is not a polling location on Election Day, but they will assist voters who do not know which polling location they are assigned to or who have any other questions.

Six years ago in 2013 Chattooga County voters approved the current SPLOST that provides funds for infrastructure projects for the county government and local municipalities.  In that election, only 175 people voted early.

WZQZ News will have updates from the Chattooga County Courthouse after the polls close on Election Day.