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Too much bear to handle -- marble statue proves difficult move

Workers arrived Tuesday morning with heavy equipment, prepared to move Bill Sunderland's "Learning is Fun" sculpture from the Pickens Courthouse lawn. The heavy marble statue is headed to the county library to make room for courthouse renovations planned later this year. Lifting the large sculpture proved more challenging than expected that morning. County workers returned later in the day with larger equipment to see the sculpture safely off to the library.

No damage reported in Monday’s storm -- Fire Chief asks public to stop “nonsense calls” to 911


No significant damage was reported here in Monday night's storm that left destruction across many areas of the southeastern United States.

“We slipped through without any major problems,” said Pickens Fire Chief Bob Howard. “We had a few power lines down. But no injuries or structural damage was reported.”

Howard said they responded to one call of downed power lines on a house that were sparking, but it didn’t start a blaze.

Reports on Tuesday morning were of some areas around Pickens County still without power and lines down in a few locations.

However Chief Howard said the 911 center reported serious “gridlock” from non-emergency calls.

“In Pickens County we did pretty good with the weather, but we did have one problem, residents who wanted to call 911 gridlocked the system. They wanted information on power outages, and even called to ask if we knew anything about Gilmer County,” the chief said.

Howard stressed that 911 is the number to call to report emergencies and nothing else. Power outages, unless you are on medical equipment with no backup, finding out whether a tornado hit Gilmer County or not or generally wanting to know what conditions are like are not emergencies. He termed these “nonsense calls.”

Howard said they logged at least a half-dozen calls of people here seeking information on Gilmer County conditions.

With four dispatchers, Howard said they don’t have time to take power outage calls and provide further information on Code Reds -- the automated phone warning system.

“Last night we got through okay because there weren’t any real emergency calls,” he said. “But if we had a real event, I can see someone dying because they couldn’t get through if we had that many people calling and gridlocking the system.”



Bow Wow! Seven year old donates birthday gifts to animal shelter

For his birthday Nick Renner asked his friends to buy gifts that could be donated to the Pickens County Animal Shelter.

Above Renner is pictured with Pickens County Commissioner Rob Jones (left) and Pickens County Sheriff Donnie Craig.

By Angela Reinhardt

staff writer

Nick Renner made his parents proud last week when he decided to forgo birthday gifts and instead ask friends and family to bring donations for the Pickens County Animal Shelter.

“Like any typical kid he has way too many toys,” said Renner’s mother Marla. “So I thought I would suggest making a donation to an organization.”

Marla said she first suggested donating the toys he received to those in need, “but he wasn’t sure about that, so I suggested that he ask people to bring in gifts to donate to the animal shelter and his eyes got huge. He loves animals and he couldn’t wait to get the invitations out.”

Renner’s party was held at Jump Start in Jasper where he opened the animal-friendly gifts, which included dog food, cat food, treats and play toys.

Later that week Renner and his family then delivered the donations to the animal shelter on Camp Road where the Jasper Christian School student met Sheriff Donnie Craig and Commissioner Rob Jones.

“I was nervous,” Renner said, who told us he likes kittens and puppies best of all. “It made me feel good.”

When asked if he would do it again he said, “I know I would. I’ve got more toys than most anybody.”

The shelter’s manager Christiana Voyles said they do receive donations, but that they typically come in when people make adoptions or surrender animals.

“We do occasionally have some people just bring in a bag of food, though,” she said.

Voyles said the shelter is always in need of newspapers (to line the kennels), food, treats, toys and cash donations.

“But that kid was so cute,” she said. “All kids should be that cute. He was so well behaved.”

Renner’s father is Rodney Renner. He has two siblings, sister Alex and brother Andrew.

“This is something I am going to suggest for Christmas, too,” Renner’s mother said, “that they choose a group or organization and if they get money they donate some of it.”

The Pickens County Animal Shelter can be reached at 706-253-8983.

Angela Reinhardt can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


School board to interview superintendent candidates this week


Members of the school board will meet Friday and Saturday to begin interviews of superintendent candidates.

The board is expected to meet both days in closed sessions to interview candidates for the top post in the Pickens school system. They will meet at 4 p.m. on Friday and then re-convene Saturday at 9 a.m. at their conference center on D.B. Carroll Street.

School Board chair Wendy Lowe said Monday they had 7-10 people they plan to interview in the first round. She said they hadn’t really eliminated anyone who applied, but were going to start interviewing with an initial group later this week. She said they may have to extend initial interviews into next week depending on the availability of the candidates.

Lowe said they hope to conduct follow-up interviews the next week and be ready to make a selection by the end of April. She said they still have a goal of having a new superintendent hired by the end of April, but this could be delayed depending on the contract negotiations.

Open meetings law allows public groups to conduct job searches in private until they have narrowed their list of potential candidates down to three, at which time the names of the applicants become a public record.

When asked if she was satisfied with the quality of the applicants, she said, “Absolutely. Any one of them would be well qualified. The challenge will be to find who will do the best.”


No joy in Mudville – rains hampering first week of Rec. Department ball

Muddy fields at Roper Park, have stopped action for much of the first week of softball, baseball and tee-ball.


Progress Staff reports

Rain not only forced the cancellation of the Recreation Department’s opening ceremonies Saturday, predicted spring storms threaten the first week of regular games for the 538 kids in the program this year.

Rec. Department Director Melinda Goss said 2011 followed a pattern in the last four or five years of downpours drowning out opening day of the softball, tee-ball and baseball seasons. Last year the opening proceeded with cold temperatures and strong winds, but most of the past years have been just as soggy as last Saturday.

“We had to cancel Saturday ceremonies,” Goss said Monday. “We were supposed to start games tonight [Monday] but the weather is not looking too good for that either.”

Tuesday the skies remained cloudy at mid-morning, giving little opportunity for the muddy fields to dry out. Further storms were predicted for later in the week.

Goss said if the weather doesn’t improve this week, teams will be forced to wait until after spring break for regular season action. No games are scheduled for next week due to spring break.

Goss said they have re-done the schedule this year to allow for make up games on Saturday as no regular games are scheduled then. “We had planned for make-up games on Saturday,” she said. “We can get in a lot of games on a Saturday.”

Rather than opening ceremonies, Goss said the department will host some type of “end-of-season fun day” to coincide with tournaments planned this year for the end of the year. New for this year in all Rec. Department age divisions except tee-ball are double elimination tournaments.

Goss said the plans are for the regular season to end on May 14 and they aren’t planning to extend it with make-up games.

Goss reported that the fields and facilities were ready to go on Saturday. “Everything is looking good,” she said.

A big relief to many parents, the large back parking lot will be open for games following some work on a new gym for the park that had closed the access to the parking earlier.