UPDATED DAILY…Community Adjustments/Closings/Cancellation
Out of caution to prevent the spread of COVID-19, several local agencies have announced modifications of group activities, in Toccoa-Stephens County and surrounding area.
-ALL K-12 Public schools in Georgia are closed by Executive Order of the Governor through the remainder of the school year.
– North Georgia Technical College announces that exclusive online instruction will be extended through the end of the spring semester and that the college’s originally scheduled graduation will be postponed to a later date to be determined.
The end of the term, originally scheduled for April 30 has been extended one week to May 7 for programs needing additional time to complete requirements. Students with questions regarding their particular class timeline and situation are encouraged to email and discuss with their individual instructors. Students are asked to check their student email daily.
-Toccoa Falls College has an online format for all students until further notice.
– The Stephens County Government Building will be closed to walk-in traffic. You can enter by appointment only.
-Stephens County Convenience Centers will no longer accept recyclables.
-Until further notice, the Bulky Item Disposal for Stephens County residents has been suspended. This service is located on Scenic Dr. at the Public Works office. It does not include the five Convenience Sites.
-Toccoa City Hall and the Toccoa Police Department Offices will be closed to walk-in traffic until further notice. Appointments can be arranged by calling 706-886-8451. City of Toccoa Utility customers are asked to make payments by mail or the drive-thru open weekdays from 1-5 P.M.
-The Historic Stephens County Courthouse has limited access to the public until further notice.
-All Main Street Toccoa and Ritz Theatre events have been canceled for April.
-Toccoa Main Street’s “Toast of Toccoa” scheduled for May 2nd is canceled.
-The Town of Martin ask water customers to make payments in ways other than entering the City office until further notice.
-Stephens County Recreation Department Sporting Events and Senior Center Group Activities are canceled until the end of April.
-The Toccoa-Stephens County Public Library is closed until further notice.
– To comply with the governors “Shelter in Place” order the Toccoa-Stephens County Humane Shelter is suspending animal adoptions and scheduling for low-cost spay neuter services. The shelter will remain closed to the public until further notice.
-The Toccoa Rotary Club has canceled meetings through May.
-During the month of April, in an attempt to protect volunteers, staff and patients, OPEN ARMS CLINIC will have altered hours and functions. All appointments are cancelled. If you are a patient and experiencing a medical issue or have a question, please call 706-491-8639 and speak with a nurse. Hours to Order or pick up medication are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 P.M.- 5 P.M. only.
-The Stephens County Historical Society and Currahee Military Museum will be canceling the monthly Veteran’s Coffee for the month of May. The museums will be closed until further notice.
-The Toccoa VFW is closed until further notice.
-The Toccoa Welcome Center is closed to the public until further notice.
-The Toccoa Little League all play and practices have been suspended until further notice.
-The Toccoa Lions Club will be doing video conference calls for the near future due to general health concerns.
-Neighbors 4 Neighbors food pantry closed until further notice.
-Oconee County (SC) Libraries are closed and no book sales in April.
-Physical Therapy Specialists and Balance Center is open. Patients are asked to remain in their vehicles until their appointment time. Patients and employees are having their temperatures read prior to treatment. They are also providing care through Telehealth.
-Van Minos Insurance-closed to walk-in traffic, but there to take calls and take care of your insurance needs at 706-886-7517.
-Bulldog’s Xpress Car Wash-Wash through “The Falls” and Oil Change only.
-Tru Vista has provided field staff with single use gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes, with instruction to use frequently and with every property, home or business visit. The Toccoa office is closed, but payments may be dropped off at the payment box or mail slot. Call 1-800-768-1212 with any questions.
-Picture of Life Personal Care Home-no visitors until further notice. Residents can be reached by phone.
-Addison Agency is closed to walk in traffic, but there to take calls and post payments over the phone. Call 706 886-1247 with questions.
-X-Factor Grill is carry-out or curbside only.
-Shirley’s Sole Food is carry-out only.
-1st Franklin Financial Investment Center lobby closed to all walk-in traffic. They encourage investors to use the drive-thru window and call with questions.
-Oconee Federal Savings and Loan is temporarily closing the Doyle Street branch and limiting the Big A Road branch lobby to “appointment only service”. Drive-through lanes will be open during normal business hours.
-Stephens Co. Eye Clinic will be closed until further notice. They will be available for emergency eye care. Call 706-886-0111 and leave message. Stephens Co. Eye Clinic, Franklin County Eye Care, and Family Eye Care offer Telehealth options using your smartphone.
-North Georgia Credit Union will be open for drive-thru only at all locations until further notice. Hours of service have been extended and NGCU will be open from 8:00am–6:00pm on Monday – Friday, and will continue to be open from 9:00am – 12:00pm on Saturdays. In-person visits will be made by appointments only.
-Hart EMC drive-thru windows ARE OPEN, and the call center is staffed. Any questions you have can be answered by calling 1-800-241-4109. Drive-thru windows are open Monday – Friday from 7 am until 7 pm for your convenience.
-The Wright Credit Union is “ drive-thru” only until further notice
-Northeast Georgia Housing Authority offices closed to the public. Please call 706-886-9455 if you need information.
-Salvation Army Family Store is closed until further notice.
-Ping’s Grill and The Links at Lake Toccoa will be closed until further notice.
Following the Shelter in Place Order issued by the Governor and in recognition of the fact that there are confirmed cases
of Corornavirus (Covid-io) in each of the Mountain Judicial Circuit counties of Habersham, Rabun and Stephens, Chief Superior Court Judge Russell W. Smith and Superior Court Judge B. Chan Caudell have issued a Declaration/Standing Order providing that during the period of emergency,
unless otherwise ordered by the presiding judge, all court proceedings will be held online.
Attorneys and parties will be sent an email with a link to access their hearing. Members of the public who would like to attend a hearing may contact the office of the clerk of court for the county in which the case is scheduled to be heard. The Clerk will provide a link which can be used to access the hearing remotely from any laptop or smartphone. Laptop
computers are available at each courthouse for use by the parties or their witnesses who do not have other access to a laptop or smartphone.Litigants should direct any questions regarding a particular case to their attorneys. Any general questions or concerns may be directed to Chief Judge Russell W. Smith by email to email@example.com or at his
office at (706) 886-7525.
I. APPLICABLE TO ALL COURTS
The provisions of this order shall be applicable to all Superior, State, Juvenile, Magistrate, Probate and Municipal courts in the Mountain Judicial Circuit.
II. PROCEEDINGS TO BE HELD ONLINE
For so long as there is an Order of Judicial Emergency in effect every effort should be taken to ensure that all civil and
criminal courtroom proceedings take place through remote video conference as follows:
A. Each Judge shall select an online platform such as Microsoft Teams, Webex, or Zoom on which court proceedings may take place.
B. The attorneys and litigants participating online by personal computer or smartphone through the selected platform and must, at all times, be able to hear the other participants, the Court, and any witnesses. The participants shall also have access to video to the extent feasible.
C. Attorneys and their clients must be able to communicate privately during the proceedings both orally and in writing either through a private meeting function on the platform application, by muting the other participants, or by private text or cell-phone conversation. The Court may grant reasonable breaks to permit the attorneys to speak
privately to their clients.
D. The oath may be administered to witnesses by the Court Reporter, the Court, or the attorney calling the witness. A witness sworn online will be considered for all purposes as the oath having been administered in Second Amendment to Order Declaring Judicial Emergency Mountain Judicial Circuit.
E. In courts of record, a court reporter may be present in the courtroom with the judge or online with access to the audio and, if possible, video for any proceedings for which a record is required to be made and shall be available on request in civil proceedings.
F. Documentary exhibits shall, if possible, be individually labeled and scanned prior to the hearing so that they may be uploaded and viewed by the parties and the Court. If a document is admitted in evidence, the Court Reporter shall save or print the exhibit for inclusion in the record.
G. In order to ensure that all proceedings are open to the public as required by law:
Each daily court session (or each proceeding, depending on the application or platform used) shall be assigned a link by WhiCh\any member of the public may listen to and/or view the entirety of the proceedings by joining the “meeting” as an observer or “webinar” participant.
Notice that the proceedings will be held online shall be posted on the websites of each County, each Clerk of Court, and the Council of Superior Court Judges and shall also be distributed to the media, along with a notice that anyone who wishes to attend should contact the office of the Clerk or the office of the assigned judge for the link to be used to access the particular court session or proceeding.
If the number of persons seeking to attend a virtual proceeding Second Amendment to Order Declaring Judicial Emergency Mountain Judicial Circuit exceeds the limit permitted by the platform or application (e.g. 250 on Microsoft Teams),the proceedings shall be continued until the first available date following the expiration of the emergency order or until arrangements can be made for the proceedings to be live-streamed so that they may be viewed by an unlimited number of persons, whichever first occurs.
There shall be made available in each courthouse at least two (2) computers (with a webcam, if possible) for use by litigants. Each such computer shall be maintained in a separate room in the courthouse so as to avoid any contact between litigants,
particularly in proceedings under the Family Violence Act.
All proceedings shall be subject to the provisions of O.C.G.A, § 15-1.10.1 and Uniform Superior Court Rule 22 (or the applicable rule of any other court). Therefore, the proceedings may not be recorded except in accordance with the rules of court. Attorneys and unrepresented parties may record the proceedings after giving notice to the Court. Members of the public may only record after making a request and being granted permission to record pursuant to the rule. The Court Reporter’s transcript shall remain the sole official record of the proceedings.
The outgoing sound or voice for members of the public observing proceedings shall be muted and they shall not speak or use any messaging feature of the application to communicate publicly or privately with the Court, the litigants, or the attorneys. This shall Second Amendment to Order Declaring Judicial Emergency Mountain Judicial Circuit not prohibit private communications between the attorneys and
their clients or staff.
Members of the public observing the proceedings shall not
“unmute” themselves so that they can be heard, nor shall they
speak or otherwise disrupt the proceedings.
Attorneys, parties and observers in any online proceeding are
expected to behave as they would in a courtroom. Any person who disrupts a proceeding shall be subject to removal from I the proceedings. A person who seriously or repeatedly disrupts proceedings, thereby interfering in the administration of justice shall be subject to the contempt power of the court.
In the event that an attorney or party believes that a proceeding cannot effectively be heard or presented in the manner required, they may move the assigned judge for an order waiving the requirements of this rule. The assigned Judge may also waive these provisions, sua sponte, as to a particular matter or proceeding. If such a waiver is granted, the provisions of the prior Amended Order regarding courtroom proceedings shall apply as well as any other conditions imposed by the assigned judge.
III. LOCATION OF PROCEEDINGS
Pursuant to the Order of the Georgia Supreme Court of Georgia dated March 27, 2020, for the duration of the Judicial Emergency, Uniform Superior Court Rules 9.2
was clarified and/or amended so as to provide that it is no longer required that the public have access “…to the location where the judge is presiding over a video.
Second Amendment to Order Declaring Judicial Emergency Mountain Judicial Circuit
As a result of the existing emergency, Sheriffs Department Personnel ordinarily assigned to courtroom security may be needed for other duties. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. §
38-1-61 (c), the undersigned Chief Judge does hereby find that the existing circumstances make access to the courtroom of each courthouse temporarily impractical. It is therefore, ORDERED, that a judge presiding over a matter by
videoconference may do so from any convenient location, including their private residence or office, provided that, in all criminal cases, they shall do so from a location
within the county where the action is pending (preferably the courthouse), unless there is an express waiver on the record of this requirement by all parties.
For the duration of the Judicial Emergency, attorneys may file motions, entries of appearance and any other pleadings in criminal cases by sending the document to the Clerk of Court by email in PDF format. The Clerk shall accept such documents for filing. All such documents shall otherwise comply with the Uniform Superior Court Rules (or the applicable rules of any other court) regarding, for example, signature and certificate of service.
Further provided, however, that once the Clerk of Court has established e-filing in criminal cases through a secure service such as Peach Court, any and all filings must be made through via that system and the provisions of paragraph above, shall no longer apply.
V. AUTOMATIC EXTENSION
This order shall be effective through the Declaration of Statewide Judicial Emergency of the Second Amendment to Order Declaring Judicial Emergency Mountain Judicial Circuit.
Chief Justice is extended, this order, as well as the Court’s prior orders regarding the Declaration of Circuit Judicial Emergency, shall likewise be automatically extended for
the duration of the Statewide Judicial Emergency.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Sheriffs of Habersham County, Rabun County, and Stephens County shall post this Order on their public notification site and in the courthouse;
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the undersigned shall immediately notify and serve Chief Justice Harold D. Melton of the Supreme Court of Georgia with a copy of this Order, such service to be accomplished via email to Tee Barnes, the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Georgia, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WNEG News will continue to update this page as more announcements become available.