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General news and features

One injured, restaurant damaged in Zaxby’s Fire

One employee was injured and the Zaxby’s Restaurant damaged by a fire that occurred Friday morning as employees were opening for the day.

Jasper Assistant Fire Chief Von Headrick said the fire started as they were lighting the fryers and involved kitchen grease. He said the employee lighting the deep fryer was blown across the room and suffered some first degree (least serious) burns.

The windows to the drive thru were open and the flames were sucked out causing damage to the glass around the drive thru of the restaurant near Highway 515.

Headrick said crews from Jasper, the county, and volunteer stations had no difficulty extinguishing the blaze. “We had it out within 15 minutes,” he said.

The fire crews wanted to thank nearby restaurants Taco Bell, Bojangles and Julee's for providing water and food.

State jobless rate hits lowest point in three years


ATLANTA – State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced today that Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined for the ninth consecutive month in April to 8.9 percent, the first time in more than three years the rate has dropped below nine percent. The rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point from 9.0 percent in March. The jobless rate was 9.8 percent in April a year ago.

“We now have the lowest unemployment rate, the fewest unemployed workers, and the most jobs in Georgia in more than three years,” said Butler. “Our job market continues to improve at a modest and steady rate.”

The last time Georgia’s jobless rate was below nine percent was in February of 2009, when it was also 8.9 percent. There were 423,495 unemployed workers in Georgia in April, the fewest since January 2009, when there were 409,841.

The rate declined as the number of new jobs grew by 31,900, to 3,926,000, the highest number of jobs in Georgia since January of 2009. Job growth is up eight-tenths of a percentage point, from 3,894,100 in March. In April a year ago, there were 3,904,400 jobs.

The industries showing growth were: trade and transportation, 9,200; leisure and hospitality, 9,200; professional and business services, 5,900; construction, 3,400; and education and healthcare, 2,700. While the state gained jobs overall, state and local governments shed 3,300 jobs.

The number of initial claims in April rose by 4,816, or 11.3 percent, to 47,492. Most of the increase in claims came in manufacturing, trade, and administrative and support services. While initial claims increased over the month, the number declined by 6,845, or 12.6 percent, from April 2011.

The number of long-term unemployed workers increased 1,300 in April to 240,500.  The long-term unemployed, those out of work for more than 26 weeks, make up 56.8 percent of all unemployed in Georgia. However, the number of long-term unemployed is down 14,300, or 5.6 percent, from April 2011.

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Sheriff Jeep Jam coming this fall -- video of four-wheel action



Nine jeep enthusiasts from around the state rode trails in Tate April 21st as part of a trial run for the 2nd annual Sheriff’s youth homes fundraiser, JeepFest 2012.

See a video of all the action here.


Jeepers were being asked in advance for suggestions to make the three day event “as fun and safe as possible,” said organizer Gregory Baker.

A large number of jeeps from around the region is expected before the ride takes place September 14-16. Sandy Bottoms in Tate has been chosen for the location, where two thousand plus acres will be prepared with trails and water crossings to give jeepers of all experience levels a fun experience.

To learn more about JeepFest 2012, visit the Pickens Sheriff’s JeepFest 2012 website at




13-year-old begins battle with bone cancer

“When the doctor came in and said, ‘Mrs. Anderson, Jade has got cancer and she could die,’ that was like, I mean, I just about hit the floor,” mother says.


“JMS loves Jado” — Students and staff at Jasper Middle School rally behind Jade Anderson, a student recently diagnosed with osteosarcoma.

     Mid afternoon last Monday, 13-year-old Jade Anderson, known as “Jado” by her friends and family, was tucked under the covers at her Jasper home watching television.

     While the rest of her friends were at school that day, she had spent the afternoon getting blood tests at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta clinic in Kennesaw. That’s because three weeks ago, the very first day of her spring break this April, Jade was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a malignant bone tumor that typically develops near the knee or shoulder during the rapid stage of growth in adolescents.


“Too many cats to count” roaming Jasper


Jasper’s animal control officer cages a member of the growing nuisance stray cat population in the city.


“There are cats everywhere you look,” said Jasper’s Animal Control Officer Tuesday while giving a firsthand tour of the problem he reported at the previous night’s city council meeting.

And Animal Control Officer Lonnie Waters isn’t exaggerating – big orange toms, solid blacks ones, black ones with white paws – more than a dozen cats are spotted within thirty minutes while driving around the Lily Circle/ Friendship Baptist and Georgianna Streets areas.

Waters estimates about half these cats are completely feral – having been born and grown to maturity in this area with no human contact. The other half were dumped out or abandoned.

Trapping efforts have taken at least 15 felines off the streets in the past weeks since the cat population exploded this spring.

According to the report given by Waters at Monday's city council meeting, adoption efforts in conjunction with the county animal shelter are working, and before this explosion in kitties, the stray animal situation had improved and was even under control for awhile.

Then this spring something like a Biblical plague of cats hit town, the epicenter being South Main and neighborhoods on either side of it.

"There are way too many [stray cats] to even attempt to count," Waters told council members. He had responded to one call that day for a litter of seven he was going to attempt to herd into cages the next day.

While on the Tuesday driving tour, he went to one home where the owner said she believes there are four nursing mother cats roaming in a semi-wooded area behind her house.

At another house, Waters said the owner said her garden has become a litter box for the roaming cats.

Waters' report to the council showed a picture of dozens of cats and listed the following streets as having a stray cat problem: Richard, Georgianna, East and West Sellers, Elizabeth, Moore, East Church, Bell.The report ended with "way too many to try and count!!!!"

Waters was asked if the picture was one he took of local felines. He said no, but "it is that bad."

On Tuesday, Waters was able to catch one of the cats in about 15 minutes at a home near Friendship Baptist Church on Lilly Circle. When that cat sprang the live trap three others were waiting in line to get to the bait. Waters estimated that he could catch cats as fast as he could haul the animals to the county shelter.

Waters said catching some of the less feral cats isn’t difficult, but for the completely wild ones, it’s tough. Some of the cats spotted on Tuesday fled as soon as Waters stopped the city truck and weren’t seen again – the wildest of the roamers. Others, however, took a few steps back when the truck stopped but didn’t move out of sight – most likely abandoned pets accustomed to humans.

Waters said his plan is to catch all he can before the population gets any more out of control. He said there are no plans for any type of cat killing, as this could violate animal cruelty laws and would create too much controversy. The only animals ever “put down” are those that are sick, injured or too wild to rehabilitate. The euthanization is handled at the county’s animal shelter in a licensed procedure. Waters himself is not certified for dispatching animals, only catching them.

“We’ve got to get these captured, or it will get totally out of control,” he said.

For the Tuesday demonstration, Waters drove the captured white and orange spotted cat to the county facility on Camp Road.

The City of Jasper and Pickens County work together on animal issues, and the city is able to bring the animals they trap to the shelter. But at this point, the facility is overflowing with both dogs and cats, according to shelter personnel.

The cat in the cage was “not too wild” by Waters’ estimation. Once at the shelter, it slipped free of an inmate (working there on an inmate work detail) who had reached in the cage with padded gloves. Taking some bloody-clawed revenge, the cat ran up the inmate’s back and over a counter. After a short chase, the feline was bare-handed by Brandi Strawn, shelter director.

This cat will be held for ten days while it is assessed for disease and for aggressiveness. If after that it is considered too wild to safely handle, it will be euthanized.

If it has calmed down, it will be put up for adoption. Strawn said it is hard to tell the first day if an animal will calm down or not. “I give them every chance I can,” she said, holding them ten days, double the required five day holding period.

Even if adoptable, with 90 cats and kittens already awaiting adoption, the chances this cat will end up in a good home are low. Kittens go first, and there are only so many homes out there. Strawn remarked as the fazed and stunned cat was re-caged, “all because people won’t spay and neuter.”

Waters’ report to the council also noted an increase in dogs apparently “dumped out” by former owners.

He said this is a disappointing turn, as they thought the stray situation was "under control for awhile."

Mayor John Weaver responded to Waters’ report, "I don't know how we ever got by when we just ignored this problem." The city only began taking animal control in earnest two or three years ago as the county began planning for its animal shelter.

Waters replied to Weaver, "Nature took care of it."

For anyone wanting to help with the cats or any of the stray animals in the county, the shelter on Camp Road hosts volunteers days on the mornings of May 12th and May 26th this month.