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Board of Education speaks out about senior tax exemption

“Opportunity School District” also denounced by board


     For at least the second time in the last year a representative of Pickens Seniors for Change - an advocacy group for senior property tax exemption - petitioned the school board to help seniors from being “taxed into poverty.” 
    “We don’t get raises in Social Security,” Lee Williamson told the board at their Thursday, Oct. 21 meeting. “We were promised in December a panel would be formed to discuss this and so far I’ve heard nothing.”

See full story in this week's print or online editions, including comments from the board about their opposition to the "Opportunity School District" referendum.

5-year-old ‘doing well, considering’ after dog bite

     progress squareA five-year-old girl who was bitten on the face, cheek and neck by a dog her family had just adopted from the county animal shelter is “doing well” her father said Thursday morning.
    John Ellison, of Hobson Road, said his daughter was bitten by the dog 45 minutes after bringing him home from the shelter Tuesday, Oct. 11th. The girl was released from Scottish Rite Thursday morning.

See full story in this week's print or online edition.

One killed in tour bus, tractor-trailer wreck


Damon Howell Pickens Progress/photo

The driver of a tour bus was killed and more than 30 passengers injured after the bus and a tractor-trailer collided on Highway 515 at Whitestone Road, just across the Gilmer County line mid-morning Thursday.

The Ellijay Times Courier reported, "A tour bus heading north on Highway 515 collided with a semitruck pulling out of Whitestone Road. Capt. Frank Copeland of the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office said one of the injured was transported by helicopter, the rest by ambulance."

All medical units from Pickens and Gilmer counties responded to transport those injured from the bus.

Traffic on Highway 515 in both directions was backed up for most of the morning.


No trace of missing Preserve man


Friday Morning Update -- The sheriff spokesman said no trace of Mr. Thebaut had been found as of late Thursday. They are planning a large grid style search, beginning Saturday using trained volunteers from around the state. The public should be advised they will be using the Old Lawson Chevrolet building on Highway 515 as their staging area, command post if anyone notices a large law enforcement presence there over the weekend. The sheriff also released a Missing flyer, see bottom of this article.


     At press time Tuesday, the last known sighting of Ben Thebaut, a 79-year-old resident of the Preserve at Sharp Mountain, was him waving at a neighbor when he left on a hike Sunday afternoon.
    He was reported missing later that day by his wife when he did not return home.  Since then dozens of emergency responders and trained volunteers from here and neighboring areas have spent countless hours combing the trails in the large gated subdivision, using bloodhounds and helicopters with special heat-sensing scanners.
    But not one clue to Thebaut’s whereabouts had been found as of press time.
    “It’s a strange one,” said Sheriff Spokesman Kris Stancil. “We have not turned up anything.”

No clowning around when it comes to reliable info

By Dan Pool, Editor
    I am a regular news watcher. So when someone told me they were worried about clown attacks, I suspected a hoax as none of the major news sources had devoted any space to malicious or suspicious clowns that I could recall. I was certain that if in addition to ISIS, we had rubber-nosed, big-shoed psychos attacking Americans it would have made front pages across the nation.
    But this person was pretty sure bona fide clown assaults had occurred in Georgia. So with Halloween looming and a fear that 27 clowns could spring out of a single VW bug unleashing a wave a terror, I felt compelled to research it.
    I did vaguely recall hearing somewhere about clowns attacking people, but was pretty sure it had only been on social media, not the real media. 
    A Google search turned up what I suspected - the top results showed stories in both the New York Times and CNN about mass clown hysteria and various experts chiming in on the wave of faux-clown crime news. [Admittedly these are known as prime liberal news sources, but there doesn’t seem to be any political agenda with these particular clowns, as opposed to the current crop of politicians.]
    According to the Times, clown fever broke out in August in Greenville, SC after there were reports of pernicious Bozos luring youngsters into the woods.
    It spread like wildfire with similar clown reports coming in from Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, according to the Times.
    But behind the hysteria, there were actually zero attacks attributed to make-up wearing, big-wigged culprits. had an awesome paragraph on the widespread hysteria. “Unless you've been hiding under a rainbow novelty wig, you know communities around the country have been perturbed by sightings of clowns or possible clown-related threats or any manner of creepiness ranging from flat-out hoaxes to actual credible events.”
    It seems by reading the accounts, once the clown-attack train got rolling on social media three things followed:    
    • People thought it would be fun to use the fear of clowns in pranks either by calling schools or posting clown threats online which did not go over well and resulted in arrests. Threats against students are still illegal, even if you say it came from Shotta Clown.]
    • People got sincerely panicky and saw clowns where there was only some poor guy on a roadside in a van out of gas [at least one report] or imagined them prowling or maybe riding tiny bicycles in wooded areas where authorities turned up nothing and no crimes followed. A lot of inaccurate reports came from over-active imaginations.
    • Finally, people wanted in on the action. According to both news sources, clown mask sales soared, pranks were planned and people intentionally made fake reports so they could feel like they were part of the story.
    Benjamin Radford, a folklorist and the author of "Bad Clowns," was quoted on CNN saying the clown-attack phenomenon was primed to spread widely and falsely. “The scary clown image is perfect for social media. It is custom-made to go viral. You have something that is both scary and funny. It's this combination of horror and humor, laughter and fears."
    Much like the original Salem Witch Trials, you get nervous people trading in innuendo and gossip, throw in some genuine superstition and bad results follow.
    Radford cautioned, “I think the important thing for the public to realize is underneath all of these sensationalized headlines, there isn't any original threat. The real threat is overreaction to the story, not the clowns themselves."
    Horror master Stephen King took to Twitter to ask people to lay off, “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria--most of ‘em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.”
    Keep in mind, whether its clowns or some deal that seems too good to be true, social media is not reliable but in most cases even the briefest internet research will reveal common hoaxes.
    Before you fire from the hip either in real life (maybe at an innocent clown) or with a social media rant, take a moment and research with a reputable source.