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JeepFest drives traffic to Jasper businesses


More than $50,000 raised at weekend event


            If you were in town last weekend, it would have been difficult not to notice the droves of mud splattered Jeeps buzzing around.

            That’s because the Sheriff’s JeepFest 2012 Crawl for the Kids “went above and beyond our expectations,” said organizer Greg Baker. Baker said while the sheriff’s office was shooting for around 250 Jeeps, more than 400 of the off-road vehicles registered for the event. Over the three-day period $50,000 was raised for the Georgia Sheriff’s Youth Homes and the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation, around $20,000 more than their goal.

250 Jeeps expected this weekend, spectators encouraged for annual Jeepfest





What do you get when you mix 250 Jeep enthusiasts, one worthy cause and 30 miles of off-road trails?

According to both the county economic developer and Sheriff’s JeepFest organizer Greg Baker, not only do you get a good time, you could get a sizeable boost to the local economy.

“I think this event is great because it supports a good cause and it’s also good for the community because it brings families and it brings money here,” Pickens County Economic Developer Gerry Nechvatal said of this weekend’s Sheriff’s JeepFest Crawl for the Kids, to be held Friday, Sept. 14 through Sunday, Sept. 16.

JeepFest, a fundraiser for the Georgia Sheriff’s Youth Homes and the Sheriff’s Foundation of Pickens County, is a major undertaking, with events ranging from Jeep obstacle courses to Jeep crawls, live music, a chili cook-off, a vendor fair, fellowship, a bonfire and more.


Video from Saturday of a stuck jeep being towed.


See slideshow of trial run of obstacle course -- follow Read More link.

Commissioner cuts planned tax increase in half

Find out more: other elected officials comment see story in print or e-edition now on sale

From Commissioner Rob Jones: An open letter to the taxpayers of Pickens County from Robert Jones

   To begin with, I would first like to thank all of the people who have provided thoughts and information to me on the subject of the proposed millage rate increase, both those who attended the three public meetings and those who have approached me outside of those meetings. Although these discussions can be tense and even acrimonious at times, they are an important part of a successful government run by the people.

   I have also had discussions with the individuals that you have elected to serve you in Pickens County. These include Brenda Weaver, your chief superior court judge; Rodney Gibson, probate court judge; David Lindsey, probate court judge-elect; Allen Wigington, magistrate court judge; Donnie Craig, sheriff; Joe Hendricks, district attorney; Alison Sosebee, district attorney-elect; Gail Brown, clerk; Sharon Troglin, tax commissioner; and Kevin Roper, coroner. To a person, they each are dedicated to reducing how they spend your tax money; they are also dedicated to generating more revenue in order to offset the costs of county government.

   Two other people will help me with your budgetary obligations next year. You have already elected one with Becky Denney. She has read this letter and she believes in it. I fully believe that whomever you elect from the west side of our county will hear the same voices that I have heard when he or she makes decisions as to how to spend your money.

The problem we face with this year’s millage rate is two-fold. The first part has to do with the Young Life settlement. As most of you are aware, we are obligated to pay Young Life $400,000 on or before Jan. 15, 2013, as full settlement of claims Young Life had regarding the tax exempt status of its property located in Pickens County. Young Life won this claim (and more) in the Court of Appeals earlier this year. I don’t agree with the Court of Appeals’ ruling, and I venture to guess that the taxpayers who have read this ruling also disagree with it. However, our opinions do not matter, and we must pay the money. This is a one-time payment. The matter needs to be put behind us so we can make sound financial plans for the future.


See comments from other elected officials and more on this in tomorrow's print edition.

County finance officer resigns

Updated: Gilmer County CFO hired as replacement, see story in print or e-edition on sale.


Mechelle Champion, right, at an earlier tax hearing with Commissioner Rob Jones and County Attorney Phil Landrum. Champion resigned on Friday.

Pickens County Finance Officer Mechelle Champion has resigned as of Friday 7.

     According to Commissioner Rob Jones, the CFO put in her resignation due to personal issues.

     “It was a friendly resignation,” Jones said Monday, who noted that Champion will work on and off until Oct. 31.

     “She’s going to work for a while and help with the paperwork to get things caught up,” Jones said. “I’m looking for a new CFO now, and I’ve got a few names I’m pulling from.”

     Champion was not available for comment.

Anger over proposed 9 percent tax increase grows


After being pressed and berated by more than 50 citizens for two hours Friday in the final hearing on a proposed 9-percent property tax increase, Commissioner Rob Jones agreed to give the budget one more look before making it official. Above, Commissioner Rob Jones presents finer points of the budget to a crowded meeting last Friday.
Jones told the crowded mid-morning gathering of citizens angry over the higher tax rate that there is little left to cut, “but we’ll go back and see what we can do.”

The citizens in attendance had a lot to say, including calling for a 20 percent cut in all county department spending. See the rest of the this story in our print and e-edition now on sale.


Also in our print and e-editions: Final chance for cuts not encouraging, says Jones


See previous story from our August 30 edition, Tax Hike Too Much, citizens tell commissioner