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Dr. Ben Desper named sole finalist for Pickens school superintendent


The associate superintendent of Bartow County schools appears headed to become the next superintendent of Pickens County schools, following an announcement at a Thursday school board meeting.

The board announced at a called meeting that Dr. Ben Desper is the sole finalist for the superintendent job here. Under Georgia law, a school board must wait 14 days after naming a finalist before they can officially sign a contract.

A press release handed out following the meeting Thursday stated, “after a lengthy search that began in January, 2011, the Pickens County Board of Education has named Dr. Ben Desper as the finalist for the superintendent of schools.”

Dr. Desper is presently Associate Superintendent of Bartow County schools. He has 27 years of administrative experience and has been in the Bartow County school system since 2008. Prior to working in Bartow County he was a successful teacher, elementary principal, middle school principal, high school principal and has superintendent experience, according to the press release.

“The Board of Education was impressed with Dr. Desper’s knowledge and experience in finance and budgeting, curriculum and instruction, and his success as a principal at all levels,” the press release stated. “His experience is in North Georgia school systems of Floyd, Habersham and Trion, all of which share common characteristics with Pickens County.”

Wendy Lowe, chair of the school board, stated in the press release, “We are delighted to have someone of Dr. Ben Desper’s experience and ability to be our next superintendent. We have had a very deliberate and thorough search process and I appreciate how well the board has worked together through the search process.”

See more on the selection in next week’s print edition

County officials discuss rockslide, cleanup work and future efforts on Cove Road


Pickens County Road Department Supervisor Greg Collis surveying the rockslide at Cove Road.

With the original cleanup complete, county officials are looking at what may shore up the steep cliff next to Cove Road in the long run.

Among the more immediate plans are concrete barricades placed at the base of the cliff, directly next to the road in a section called the “S Curves.”

Most of the long-range plans are expensive and will require the road being closed temporarily at times.

See the original story on the rockslide.

See a complete report in this week’s print edition.

100 pooches turn out for 3rd annual dog days


By Matt Moore

On April 16 at Lee Newton Park, over 100 dogs had a great day of games, treats, camaraderie and attention and appreciation from humans at the 3rd Annual Dog Day in the Park.

Dog Day was sponsored by the Pickens County Anti-Drug Coalition (PCADC) and the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office to showcase the joy and fun that dogs bring to humans and to raise funds to support substance use prevention network for youth that the community has developed over the past several years.

Fortunately, there was a “dog whisperer” at Dog Day and he was able to interview some of the dogs to find out how they enjoyed their special day and what they thought about all of the activities and events of the day.

“I have never had so much fun in all my life,” exclaimed Sidney. “There were six different games that I could play and I won delicious treats at each game. I have never eaten so much in my life!”

Sidney thought he was just going to get a low-cost rabies shot from Pickens Animal Rescue. “But when I saw all those fun things to do, I begged my owner to let me stay and we stayed all day.”

Bolo’s favorite game was “Find the Treat.” “They hid the treats under pillows, in a box with crushed newspaper and in a rolled up towel. I found the treat every time. They said that I was the fastest treat finder of the day.”

Sheba loved the agility course. “I knew how to do it so I showed the other dogs how to weave around the cones.”

Toto was nervous about jumping through the hoop. “But when I saw that treat on the other side, I went for it. I even learned to step over the hoop when they raised it a few inches.  I couldn’t figure out how to jump through the higher hoop though. My owner needs to work with me on that.”

Zoey liked the Kissing Booth for dogs. “A lot of us dogs like to kiss people, especially nice people. There was this friendly, happy man named Fergie who had a big smile who was sitting there waiting for dogs to lick his face. What fun!”

Winston said that he loved the Dog Parade. “Since I am such a big, handsome dog, they let me lead the Parade. The owners sang Who Let the Dogs Out, my favorite song, as we marched around the park to the cheers of the crowd. What a grand time.”

Sidney enjoyed all the toys that were given.  Every dog who entered the contests received a toy.

Moxie was nervous about entering the Best Trained category of the dog contests. “I have not been around a lot of people before, so I was a little scared.  But I did my routine and the crowd loved it. I didn’t win but my owner and I were so proud.”

“I really love my owner,” explained Oreo. “She has grey and dark hair, and so do I. That is why I am so glad that we came in second place in the dog/owner look-alike. Woody and his owner won first place.  They had a great camouflage look.”

The Dog Show and Dog Contests at 1 p.m. were the highlight of the day. Everyone marveled at the dog skills, the owner/dog relationships and the unique dog personalities and characteristics.

Here are the winners.

Best Trained: 1st, Sidney; 2nd, Bolo; 3rd, Sheba; Best Groomed – 1st, Max; 2nd,Faith; 3rd, Berwyn; Best Dressed – 1st, Zoey; 2nd, Toto, 3rd, Tiny;  Dog/Owner Look-Alike – 1st, Woody and Keith; 2nd, Oreo and Margy; 3rd, Toto and Jennifer; Best Tail Wagger – 1st, Rilsy; 2nd, Oreo; 3rd, Freckles;  Most Vocal – 1st, Bolo; 2nd, Genesis; 3rd, Josie;.

Cutest Puppy – 1st, Chocolate; 2nd, Brownie; 3rd, Brutus; Squishiest Face – 1st, Zoey; 2nd, Tommy; 3rd, Freckles; Longest Tail – 1st, Becket; 2nd, Christina; 3rd, Wilson;  Tallest Dog – 1st, Becket; 2nd, Wilson; 3rd, Booger; Shortest Dog – 1st, Zoey; 2nd, Marbles; 3rd, Bobo.

“The Pickens County Anti-Drug Coalition and the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office thank all of the organizations, individuals, sponsors and donors who helped to make Dog Day in the Park such a fun and exciting event for our canine friends,” says Greg Mason, PCADC president. “It is a lot of fun to get a lot of dogs together to see the many different things they do that are so entertaining and engaging for all of us.”

Bald Eagle nesting going strong in Georgia, survey shows



Georgia DNR website/photo

Submitted by the Georgia DNR

Chalk up another solid nesting year for bald eagles in Georgia.

Department of Natural Resources aerial surveys in January and March documented 142 occupied nesting territories, 111 successful nests and 175 young fledged. Totals for eaglets and successful nests declined slightly compared to 2010, when the respective counts were 194 and 122. But the number of occupied nests increased from 139 last year.

Each count this year topped 2009 when the statewide search revealed 128 occupied or active territories, 101 successful nests - those in which young are raised to the point they can fly - and 166 eaglets.

Survey leader Jim Ozier said the fluctuations could reflect factors such as harsh weather and sampling error and “are not outside the range we would expect.” His opinion is the state’s bald eagle population is strong.

“I think it will continue to grow,” said Ozier, a program manager in the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section.

Thanks to conservation laws, restoration work and a ban on the pesticide DDT, bald eagles have rebounded from near-extinction through much of their range 40 years ago. Nests numbered in the single digits in Georgia when Ozier started searching for them more than two decades ago. Nesting territories steadily increased and then surged to 96 in 2006 and beyond 100 in recent years.

Ozier and others are concerned about the impact of Avian Vacuolar Myelinopathy, or AVM, a neurological disease deadly to waterbirds, mainly coots and bald eagles. One suspected link is that coots ingest a

strain of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae common on submerged aquatic plants - particularly hydrilla - and a toxin in the algae sickens eagles that eat contaminated coots.

Discovered in Arkansas in 1995, AVM has been documented in Georgia at lakes Clarks Hill, Juliette, Varner and West Point, and some small reservoirs near Atlanta. Clarks Hill, also known as J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir, is a hotspot. Eagle nesting territories on the lake have dwindled from eight to one, Ozier said. He saw two adult eagles dead on nests there this year. At one of the nests, another dead adult eagle was found a few days later on the ground below. Apparently both members of this nesting pair were lost at about the same time.

Scientists are probing AVM and what can be done to combat it.

Although concentrated on the coast, bald eagle nests are found across the state, usually near major rivers and lakes where the fish, birds and turtles that eagles eat are abundant. The nests are big - averaging 5 feet wide - but they can be hard to find. Ozier encouraged the public to let his office know of any eagle nests they see, by form ( or phone (478-994-1438). Each year, these reports lead to the documentation of nests not monitored before.

DNR works with landowners to help protect nests on their property.

Bald eagles are one of more than 600 high-priority nongame animals and plants identified in the Georgia Wildlife Action Plan, a strategy guiding conservation efforts statewide. Georgians can also help conserve eagles and other rare and endangered nongame wildlife by contributing to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund checkoff on their state income tax returns.

The Wildlife Conservation Fund supports conservation of animals from sea turtles to southeastern American kestrels, as well as native plants and natural habitats. DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section also uses donations to attract and match grants, gaining about $1 for every 25¢ spent.

The Nongame Conservation Section receives no state appropriations for its mission to conserve nongame animals - those not legally hunted, fished for or trapped - and native plants and habitats. The sales of bald eagle and hummingbird license plates also benefit the agency and the Wildlife Conservation Fund. Details at www.georgiawildlife. com