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If you are accused of a crime, the only thing standing between your freedom and a verdict of "guilty" is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Isle of Hope, GA.

Those who have been arrested before know that life in the legal system is no laughing matter. Aside from the imminent ramifications of fines and jail time, any goals you have of bettering yourself and advancing your life could be compromised. Without a trusted attorney by your side, you could face a lifetime of embarrassment and poor employment prospects due to a tarnished criminal record.

The good news? Dennis O'Brien and his team of experienced lawyers in Isle of Hope are ready to clear your name. By retaining the help of a criminal defense attorney early in the legal process, you have a much better chance of securing your freedom and living a life as a productive member of society.

At O'Brien Law Firm PC, our practice was founded to fight for the rights of individuals accused of or charged with a crime. Our team of legal experts is well-equipped to take even the most difficult, contentious cases. From violent felonies to DUI, there is nothing we haven't seen and handled. As a former law enforcement officer, founding attorney Dennis O'Brien knows exactly how much a person can lose if convicted. That's why we work tirelessly to secure a verdict that is favorable for our clients.

Regardless of how serious or minor your case may be, know that we will fight fearlessly on your behalf. You deserve zealous representation - when you hire O'Brien Law Firm PC, you will receive nothing less.

 Drug Lawyer Isle Of Hope, GA
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The O'Brien Law Firm PC Difference

Many of our clients are surprised to discover that founding lawyer Dennis O'Brien was a police officer prior to his criminal defense career. As a former Field Training Officer for the Memphis Police Department, he has over two decades of knowledge and experience in the criminal justice system. Dennis truly understands the nuance and complexities involved in a criminal defense case. This rare experience gives Dennis a clear edge in any criminal defense case and gives clients priceless peace of mind when they need it the most. Unlike some criminal defense attorneys in Isle of Hope, Dennis O'Brien and his team believe that every client deserves effective, empathetic legal assistance. While some Isle of Hope criminal defense firms will take weekends off or pass along cases to paralegals, Dennis personally reviews each of his cases. There is no case too small or big for O'Brien Law Firm PC. When you hire our firm, you can rest easy knowing that we will be by your side when the going gets tough.

 Federal Defense Attorney Isle Of Hope, GA
Here are just a few reasons why O'Brien Law Firm PC is Isle of Hope's top choice in criminal defense:
  • Vigorous Representation
  • Fierce Dedication to Clients
  • Unmatched Experience
  • Face-to-Face Counsel
  • Prompt Response to Inquiries and Questions
  • Commitment to Defending Your Rights
  • Thorough, Effective Research and Investigation
  • Contact Us or Call: 912-704-5150
 Criminal Defense Law Firms Isle Of Hope, GA
Our firm has represented hundreds of criminal defense clients in Isle of Hope and is highly qualified to take your case. Some of our specialties include:

Drug Cases in Isle of Hope, GA

When you are charged with a drug crime in Isle of Hope, it can change your life forever. Georgia imposes very strict punishments for drug offenses. The truth is, it's hard to get your life back on track with a drug charge on your record. Your freedom and way of life could be in the hands of your criminal defense attorney. As such, you need a competent lawyer with years of experience handling drug cases. Leaving your fate in the hands of an incompetent attorney could have long-lasting effects on your family and may result in a conviction.

 Criminal Defense Lawyers Isle Of Hope, GA

Consequences for drug crimes in Isle of Hope often include:

  • Jail
  • Prison
  • Heavy fines
  • Community service
  • Court-ordered drug and alcohol counseling
  • Probation or parole
  • Permanent criminal record

While the consequences for a drug crime in Georgia are serious, there's reason to be hopeful: O'Brien Law Firm PC is here to fight for you. Remember - being charged with a drug crime is NOT the same thing as being convicted.

Our stellar team has represented many clients facing numerous drug-related charges. While each situation varies, one constant remains the same for clients facing drug charges: a fear of what lies ahead. At O'Brien Law Firm PC our job is to help you overcome the fear of the unknown. We do so by ensuring you understand your charges, the possible outcomes associated with those charges, and the options you need to consider from a criminal defense standpoint.

With more than a decade of experience as Isle of Hope drug crime attorneys, we have the experience and resources to defend you in court no matter what your charges may be, including:

  • Marijuana
  • Crack
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Ecstasy

No matter what charge you are facing, our team has the experience and resources to build a comprehensive defense strategy for your drug case in Isle of Hope, GA. Without a criminal defense attorney acting as your advocate, you could be facing very harsh penalties. Here are a few punishments you could be facing for drug crimes in Isle of Hope:

  • Schedule I or Schedule II Drug Possession
    Schedule I or Schedule II Drug Possession:

    Having less than a gram (or one milliliter for liquids) of this type of drug results in a prison term of one to three years. Having four grams or milliliter carries a term of one to eight years.

  • Schedule III, IV, or V Drug Possession
    Schedule III, IV, or V Drug Possession:

    Any substance on this list is punishable by a prison sentence of one to three years.

  • Non-Narcotic Schedule II Drug Possession
    Non-Narcotic Schedule II Drug Possession:

    If you have less than two grams or milliliters of this substance, punishments can be between one year and three years. Having up to four grams or milliliters results in a prison sentence of one to eight years.

  • Possession of Marijuana
    Possession of Marijuana:

    Those who are in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana are subject to a jail sentence of up to 12 months. Fines may be no more than $1,000. Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana can result in a prison term of one to 10 years.

To avoid these life-changing punishments, you must take action now. Contact O'Brien Law Firm today for a consultation about your case.

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 Defense Lawyers Isle Of Hope, GA
 Criminal Defense Attorney Isle Of Hope, GA

Violent Crime Cases in Isle of Hope, GA

Violent crime offenses in Isle of Hope typically involve some form of bodily harm to another individual, actions committed against an individual's will, or threatening someone with bodily harm. Aggravated violent offenses are more severe charges and often occur when a violent crime is made more serious due to circumstances like deadly weapons.

Much like serious drug cases, violent crimes create an added layer of negativity that follows the accused for the rest of their life. In these cases, even an accusation is enough to cause irreparable damage to a person's reputation. Those convicted of a violent crime face severe penalties that can include years in a correctional facility.

Common crimes of this nature include but are not limited to:
  • Murder
  • Assault with the intent to murder
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Domestic violence
  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Carjacking

When you are accused of any of the above crimes, your freedom hangs in the balance. The outcome of your case will determine whether you leave the courtroom with your freedom intact or stripped away to serve time behind bars. Because the punishments for violent crimes are so extreme, you should be seeking legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney in Isle of Hope, GA, as soon as possible. As a former police officer with a long record of positive verdicts in violent crime cases, Dennis O'Brien is well equipped to represent you in court.

Having a criminal defense lawyer by your side is the best way to avoid the serious punishments associated with violent crimes. These punishments usually result in prison time if convicted and include:
Forced rape: 20 years
Armed robbery: Up to 20 years
Simple assault: Up to 12 months
Aggravated assault: 10 to 20 years
Aggravated battery: Up to 20 years
Involuntary manslaughter: One to 20 years
Vehicular homicide Up to 15 years
Murder: Life in prison or the death sentence
Zealous Representation Without Judgement

As a former police officer, Dennis O'Brien has seen the toll it takes on a person when charged with a crime. His time in law enforcement allows him to empathize with his clients who desperately need competent representation. Despite being innocent until proven guilty, accusations are scary, and conviction could be a reality. That is why you must work with a trustworthy criminal defense lawyer in Isle of Hope, GA who will work tirelessly to clear your name.

Clients choose O'Brien Law Firm because we believe in open communication, honesty, and hard work. It is not our job to act as judges for those who have been accused of crimes. Rather, our goal is to find the best defense that allows us to protect our clients' rights and freedoms.

DUI Cases in Isle of Hope, GA

Driving under the influence (DUI) is one of the most common crimes committed in Georgia. Punishments for such a crime can be severe, and for understandable reasons - when a person operates a vehicle while they are intoxicated, they're putting their life and the lives of others at risk.

While DUI is a serious crime that completely upend the accused's life, the earnest desire to end drunk driving can make police officers too eager to catch a person who they believe is under the influence.

 Criminal Defense Law Firm Isle Of Hope, GA

The city of Isle of Hope, Georgia, has implemented severe punishments for DUI, even for first-time offenders. Individuals charged with DUI in Isle of Hope could face:

  • Very expensive fines and fees
  • Loss of license
  • Incarceration

Fortunately, if you or someone you love has been charged with DUI, there is hope. This is particularly true when the accused is administered a breath or blood test for DUI. In fact, cases that involve a breath and/or blood test are beaten daily. When you hire O'Brien Law Firm PC, we will dive deep into your DUI case in Isle of Hope and examine every angle possible for your case to be dismissed. Here are just a few questions our team will investigate:

  • Was the stop legal? If not, your case could be dismissed
  • Is there enough evidence or probable cause to arrest you? If not, Dennis O'Brien will file a pre-trial motion and will fight hard to have your case dismissed before trial.
  • Did the police read you your implied consent rights? If not, your case could be thrown out. Failure to read implied consent rights to the accused is one of the most common police errors.
  • Were your blood testing records and breathalyzer results maintained? Breath testing comes with inherent weaknesses that can create doubt in a juror's mind.

There are numerous ways to beat a DUI case in Georgia, from unreliable field sobriety tests to inaccurate state-administered breath tests. As a veteran criminal defense lawyer in Isle of Hope, GA, Dennis O'Brien has the knowledge and experience to expose the state's mistakes and fight for your rights. When you hire O'Brien Law Firm PC your chances of dismissal are greatly increased. When your case is dismissed, you can continue living life without the burden of a criminal record.

 Criminal Justice Attorney Isle Of Hope, GA

If you or someone you love is accused of a crime in Isle of Hope, GA, don't leave fate up to the prosecution. Take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family before it's too late.

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Latest News in Isle of Hope, GA

Wynonna Announces She’ll Be Ending ‘The Judds: Final Tour’ in Kentucky Where it All Began + Special Guests

When it was announced earlier this year that the mother/daughter singing duo The Judds would be headlining The Judds: The Final Tour, we were all pumped to hear the Kentucky natives one more time together in concert. But then the news broke that Naomi had taken her own life just hours before she was to be inducted by the Country Music Hall of Fame.As a longtime fan of the Judds, I have confess seemed out the blue. I mean, the two had just performed together on the CMT Music Awards and had just announced the tour. That's why t...

When it was announced earlier this year that the mother/daughter singing duo The Judds would be headlining The Judds: The Final Tour, we were all pumped to hear the Kentucky natives one more time together in concert. But then the news broke that Naomi had taken her own life just hours before she was to be inducted by the Country Music Hall of Fame.

As a longtime fan of the Judds, I have confess seemed out the blue. I mean, the two had just performed together on the CMT Music Awards and had just announced the tour. That's why the announcement came as such a shock. But, that's the nature of mental illness. It's toll can be unbearable for some and it ultimately was for Naomi.

It was unclear what would happen after her mother's death, but days later Wynonna announced that she was moving forward with the tour with one purpose in mind- celebrating her mother and honoring Naomi's country music legacy.

While that announcement seemed to indicate the Wynonna would by flying solo on the tour, she actually won't be going it alone. The Judds: The Final Tour has become an ultimate girls night out with a star-studded tribute to Naomi Judd. The tour will include appearances by huge musical acts like Faith Hill, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Ashley McBride, Brandi Carlile, Trisha Yearwood, and others to be announced at a later date.

Though each show will not feature all the entertainers, you'll 100% be sure to get your money's worth seeing some of country music's all-time greatest female country performers.

Wynonna said in a press release,

I am humbled, once again, by the loyalty of the fans who have been with us for 38+ years, who continue to show up for me when I need them the most,” Wynonna Judd said in a statement. “I am grateful that we will continue to honor The Judds legacy, together.

And Kentuckians just got an additional helping of good news. Wynnona announced yesterday that the tour will conclude on Saturday, October 29th at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.

She went on to say,

What a full-circle moment it will be to end the tour in Kentucky where it all began. It means so much to have my sisterfriend, Faith, join me for this musical celebration,” Wynonna Judd said in a press release. “It is pretty amazing – all of the people who have come forward to offer up their time and their gifts. I am feeling extra grateful.

Tickets go on sale next Saturday at Ticketmaster and box office locations. For me, the price of admission will be this- Wynonna singing "Love Can Build a Bridge." When she sang it at her mom's memorial, she slayed. It was raw, emotional and powerful. I love that song and it has always been my absolute, all-time favorite song by the Judds.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, you are not alone. If you or someone you know are thinking about suicide, in the USA please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime, about any type of crisis! If in the 7 county area around Owensboro/Daviess County, Call or TEXT the 24/7 Crisis & Information Line: 800-433-7291. To find a suicide helpline outside the U.S., visit https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

Russian advance into Ukraine faltering, says Nato chief

A senior Nato official has said Russia’s military advance in Ukraine appears to be faltering and he expressed hope that Kyiv can win the war.Top Nato diplomats are meeting on Sunday in Berlin to discuss providing further support to Ukraine and moves by Finland, Sweden and others to join the western alliance in the face of threats from Russia.Nato deputy secretary-general Mircea Geoana told reporters: “The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum.“We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian peop...

A senior Nato official has said Russia’s military advance in Ukraine appears to be faltering and he expressed hope that Kyiv can win the war.

Top Nato diplomats are meeting on Sunday in Berlin to discuss providing further support to Ukraine and moves by Finland, Sweden and others to join the western alliance in the face of threats from Russia.

Nato deputy secretary-general Mircea Geoana told reporters: “The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum.

“We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”

Mr Geoana, who was chairing the meeting while Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg recovers from Covid, said Ukraine’s supporters are “united, we are strong, will continue to help Ukraine in winning this war”.

One key issue being discussed in Berlin is expansion of Nato beyond its current 30 member states.

Finland and Sweden have already taken steps towards joining the alliance, while Georgia’s bid is again being discussed despite dire warnings from Moscow about the consequences if its neighbour becomes part of Nato.

“Finland and Sweden are already the closest partners of Nato,” Mr Geoana said, adding that he expects allies to view their applications positively.

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said her country and others made clear during a dinner late on Saturday that they are willing to fast-track the national ratification process for Finland and Sweden.

“If these two countries are deciding to join, they can join very quickly,” she said.

Denmark’s foreign minister Jeppe Kofod dismissed suggestions that objections from Russian President Vladimir Putin could hinder the alliance from letting in new members.

“Each and every European country has a fundamental right to choose their own security arrangement,” he said.

“We see now a world where the enemy of democracy number one is Putin and the thinking that he represents.

He added that Nato will also stand with other countries, such as Georgia, which he said are being “instrumentalised” by Russia.

The meeting follows a gathering of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading economies on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast this week. Officials there expressed strong support for Ukraine and warned that Russia’s blockade of grain exports from Ukrainian ports risks stoking a global food crisis.

‘American Pickers’ is coming to New Jersey

It’s time to check the attic, rummage through the basement, and check grandma’s closet for anything that looks antique-y, as the TV show “American Pickers” is coming to New Jersey in August looking for treasures.“American Pickers” is a reality series on the History Channel that explores the world of antique picking. The pickers travel the U.S. as they hunt for America’s most valuable antiques. They look through barns, sheds, garages, wherever people store their junk. They operate under the old...

It’s time to check the attic, rummage through the basement, and check grandma’s closet for anything that looks antique-y, as the TV show “American Pickers” is coming to New Jersey in August looking for treasures.

“American Pickers” is a reality series on the History Channel that explores the world of antique picking. The pickers travel the U.S. as they hunt for America’s most valuable antiques. They look through barns, sheds, garages, wherever people store their junk. They operate under the old motto of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Of course, they’re also businessmen. In the show’s open, they say: “We're looking for amazing things buried in people's garages and barns. What most people see as junk, we see as dollar signs. We'll buy anything we think we can make a buck on.”

According to a press release issued by the network:

As they hit the back roads from coast to coast, the Pickers are on a mission to recycle and rescue forgotten relics. Along the way, they want to meet characters with remarkable and exceptional items. They hope to give historically significant objects a new lease on life while learning a thing or two about America’s past along the way. The Pickers have seen a lot of rusty gold over the years and are always looking to discover something they’ve never seen before. They are ready to find extraordinary items and hear fascinating tales about them.

The pickers are Mike Wolfe, Robbie Wolfe, and Danielle Colby; they work out of a shop called Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa (they now have a location in Nashville, as well).

I know what you’re thinking: Hey, I’ve got some junk I bet is worth something! Well if you want to try to get a spot on the show while they’re here in August, here are the details:

If you or someone you know has a large, private collection or accumulation of antiques that the Pickers can spend the better part of the day looking through, send us your name, phone number, location, and description of the collection with photos to: americanpickers@cineflix.com or call (646) 493-2184. facebook: @GotAPick

Mike and Danielle, ready to go picking.

Mike sifting his way through another batch of forgotten relics.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle only.

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Savannah's best neighborhoods: beaches, bourbon and brunch

Savannah's small size doesn’t mean it lacks distinct neighborhoods, each with their own character and reasons to visit.From the picturesque Downtown to the artsy Starlands, each neighborhood has its own distinct charm. It's the perfect city to explore on foot as there's so much to discover and the green spaces and parks are among the best you'll find in an urban setting. Here’s everything you need to know about the top neighbo...

Savannah's small size doesn’t mean it lacks distinct neighborhoods, each with their own character and reasons to visit.

From the picturesque Downtown to the artsy Starlands, each neighborhood has its own distinct charm. It's the perfect city to explore on foot as there's so much to discover and the green spaces and parks are among the best you'll find in an urban setting. Here’s everything you need to know about the top neighborhoods in Savannah.

Downtown / Historic Savannah

Best for history buffs

Best for being in the heart of the hustle and bustle, Downtown Savannah is full of charm and Southern hospitality but its also one of the nation's most notable historic districts. The neighborhood is composed of Savannah's historic squares, museums, homes, restaurants and other structures dating back hundreds of years.

The 22 historic squares, each located within the downtown historic district, provide common areas for public use and recreation, which include benches and shaded areas for picnics. They are mostly 200 x 200 ft.

The neighborhood boasts some of the best museums in the country like the Telfair Academy – the oldest public art museum in the South, dating back to 1886. There are over 6300 works of art ranging from American Impressionism to European sculpture.

The Savannah History Museum contains more than 10,000 artifacts dating back to 1733 when Savannah was incorporated. The Railroad Museum is a National Historic Landmark and is located in the former Central of Georgia Railway.

For a killer brunch, visit The Collins Quarter (don’t miss their Lavender Mocha either); for dinner head to a.Lure for low-country gourmet or B. Matthew’s Eatery for some southern fusion fare. A few perennial Savannah favorites include The Olde Pink House or Mrs Wilkes Dining Room. Local favorite Zunzi’s serves South African sandwiches of all types. People line up around the block at peak times for these sandwiches, especially the Godfather. Top places to stay in the neighborhood include the Alida or the Tryp by Wyndham.

Starlands District

Best for art lovers

About a mile south of Forsyth Park is the Starlands District. Though the streets are lined with art galleries and other creative establishments, it’s the beautiful homes and even office buildings that draw visitors in. Filled with character, there aren’t your average ho-hum residences.

When not marveling at the architecture, visitors also love taking pictures of the many murals found throughout the neighborhood. For the best tiki oasis (yes, a tiki bar in Savannah) you could ever hope to find, head to the Water Witch Tiki, named after a famed (and possibly haunted) Union ship that was burned off the coast of Savannah in 1864. Try the Banana Spliff made with dark rum, bourbon, banana liquor, Mezcal, bitters and smoked or the Witch's Stash made with gin, chartreuse tincture, pear liquor, agave syrup, citrus and grapefruit bitters.

Save time for a pitstop at Back in the Day Bakery to try one of the Biscones, a cross between a biscuit and a scone. Starland is also fantastic for shoppers, especially those with a penchant for vintage items. Check out The Cottage Shop and Graveface Records & Curiosities.

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Victorian District

Best for romantic getaways

The dreamy Victorian-style homes are abundant in this neighborhood, just south of the Historic District. Check out Ardsley Park, the oldest subdivision in Savannah, where you can catch a glimpse of classic Victorian architecture. For those who prefer a B&B over a huge hotel, there are plenty of delightful options to be found here. This is an especially nice area for couples on a romantic trip.

The neighborhood is also home to the 30-acre Forsyth Park, with the prominent white fountain, that’s the focal point of many visitors’ photographs. The luxurious Mansion on Forsyth is the perfect choice for an indulgent stay, while the Printmaker’s Inn is more subtle, though no less beautiful in its own discreet way, option for those who prefer a more homely feel.

For upscale dishes visit 700 Drayton – connected to the Mansion on Forsyth – and for a local favorite that’s more casual check out Betty Bomber’s for terrific burgers and sandwiches.

Moon River District

Best for nature lovers

Moon River District is just 20 minutes south of downtown. Here’s where you’ll find Skidaway Island State Park where you can walk the six miles of trails and later on visit the Wormsloe Historic Site also in the neighborhood.

This beautiful natural landscape is located between the village of Isle of Hope, which is bordered by Skidaway River, and the Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge – one of the largest islands in the Savannah region. For eats, there are wonderful seafood restaurants like Pearl’s Saltwater Grill, Wyld and Castaways, which is dog-friendly.

Midtown Neighborhood

Best for shopping

You'll find incredible restaurants, and a number of locally owned shops, just about three miles from downtown. The 12 Oaks shopping center, Habersham Village and Abercorn Walk are all fun options for shopping. Locals love the nearby Bella's Italian Cafe, Hirano's, and Bar Food in Habersham Village. For southern food, visit Sweet Potatoes Kitchen. The corn pudding and the homemade biscuits are always a good decision. Oh and please don’t forget the fried chicken.

In terms of lodging, you won’t find any boutique hotels in this neighborhood but the Hampton Inn and Fairfield Inn are solid options.

Tybee Island

Best for families

Savannahians love Tybee Island. Located just a half hour's drive from Downtown Savannah, the five-mile beach town remains family-friendly, but in recent years has become a tourist hotspot. From the restaurants and bars to the shops and hotels, everything is casual on Tybee, whether you're looking for relaxation or a good time. Many hotels, like the historic DeSoto Beach Hotel or the full-service Hotel Tybee, provide direct access to the beach.

The Tybee Marine Science Center and the Tybee Island Light Station are great for a change of pace from the beach. The center also offers an eclectic selection of art galleries and stores.

Tybee boasts a variety of casual restaurants that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters, from the Caribbean-inspired North Beach Bar & Grill to the superb lunch and dinner spot Sundae Cafe. The Crab Shack serves some of the best steamed seafood in town. A half-pound snow crab and half-pound shrimp make up the “Half & Half”, a heaping platter of food that will satisfy even the biggest appetite.

The Islands

Best for getting away from it all

Some of Savannah's most desirable residential neighborhoods are located on its islands, which offer lovely marsh views and a retreat from the thriving city center. Wilmington and Whitemarsh are larger islands with thousands of residents, whereas Talahi Island is smaller and more rural.

About six miles outside of downtown Savannah, Whitemarsh Island (pronounced “witmarsh”) is made up of a series of islands south of the Savannah River. Nearby Whitemarsh Preserve provides hiking and biking trails.

Approximately 15,000 permanent residents live on Wilmington Island, roughly 11 miles northeast of downtown Savannah. Visitors to Wilmington Island can go on boat tours, fishing charters and Daufuskie Island day trips from Bull River Marina. If you prefer to stay on dry land, check out golf and other recreational amenities at Savannah Country Club.

A second island between Savannah and the sea, Talahi Island lies along US 80 (the Islands Expressway) near Wilmington Island and is about eight miles from the center of Savannah. There are fewer than 2000 permanent residents on the island, which is predominantly residential.

It’s a heavily wooded area and quite rural – perfect for those looking to get away from it all in nature. During the warmer months (March through June and September through December), the Islands Farmers Market operates every Saturday.

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Chatham County still in talks over fire ordinance for unincorporated residents

Chatham County is still weighing all options when it comes to a possible fire subscription ordinance for unincorporated residents, according to Commission Chairman Chester Ellis. The county first began discussing the move in late 2020....

Chatham County is still weighing all options when it comes to a possible fire subscription ordinance for unincorporated residents, according to Commission Chairman Chester Ellis. The county first began discussing the move in late 2020.

The ordinance along with several other options were presented by county leadership earlier this year. The measure is meant to aid local fire protection service providers who are grappling with budget shortfalls due to lack of subscription payments.

More:You might experience delays when calling the Chatham County 911 call center. Here's why

“I’m still waiting on input from some of the commissioners. We’re going to (discuss) it in the open, it’s not going to be a vacuum type thing,” Ellis said this week.

“Right now I can’t tell you what shape it’s going to take, but we’re looking at several different drafts of how we think we’re going to handle it.”

Chatham Emergency Services approached the county last year after discovering that nearly 10,000 of approximately 35,000 properties they serve in unincorporated Chatham County weren’t paying the subscription fee.

County staff researched and presented multiple options, to include the ordinance. They also outlined the viability of a fire fee placed on property tax bills; fire districts with a corresponding millage levy; the cost of fire services included in the Special Service District millage rate; or the formation of a county fire department.

“We’re still hopeful that the county will pass an ordinance to help support fire services and thankful to Chairman Ellis for being willing to even have the discussion,” said Chuck Kearns, CEO of Chatham Emergency Services, which serves as an umbrella for Chatham Fire and Chatham EMS.

The options aim to help streamline the fire subscription costs to residents and businesses in Chatham County.

The Pooler fire department, which covers 30 square miles in the unincorporated area, is also facing shortfalls. Chief Wade Simmons said he felt that a fire fee on property tax bills would be the most efficient way to ensure that people are opting into the subscriptions.

“It also allows them to be the collection arm for it to make sure that people are paying for it,” he said.

A survey conducted by the county earlier this year revealed that unincorporated residents are split on how to tackle the issue. About 1,100 people participated in the survey.

When it came to having the county add the cost of fire protection services onto tax bills, 479 people were in favor while 504 people were against the idea. The remainder of the respondents, 202 people, didn’t answer the question.

There was a similar split on the issue of the county creating its own fire department. There were 376 people in favor of the idea and 466 people against it. The formation of a county fire department would be the most costly option, according to estimates by county staffers..

The majority of people surveyed by the county said they paid their fire services subscription fee, but 60 people answered that they did not. Another 75 opted not to answer the question.

The majority of those who responded, 854 participants, are served by Chatham Fire; Another 241 are covered by the Isle of Hope Fire Department and 31 by Pooler Fire.

For subscribers:Isle of Hope fire department ends emergency medical call first responder program

The unincorporated area covered by the Pooler department includes two subdivisions with a combined 764 homes. Less than 300 of them paid the subscription fee last year, Chief Wade Simmons told the commission in December.

Speaking this week, Simmons said the number of those paying their subscription has increased this year and they are a few subscriptions ahead compared to previous years.

“Almost every single additional subscription was because we were able to get with one of the large companies that owns actually 32 properties and they actually paid us for the first time for all 32 of those properties,” Simmons said Thursday.

But that payment didn’t come until there was a fire. The company obtained a copy of the fire report and paid the fee for all 32 homes.

"So that helped us but we're about 5% ahead of where we were. We were at about 35% and this year we're right at 40%,” Simmons said, adding that it amounts to 322 out of the 764 homes paying the subscription.

There are nine departments that provide service in Chatham County. Chatham Fire and Isle of Hope Fire are non-profits while the other seven are operated by municipalities: Bloomingdale, Garden City, Pooler, Port Wentworth, Savannah, Tybee Island and Thunderbolt.

"I really feel like our relationship with the county is symbiotic. We need their help and they need high-quality emergency public services for the community, so it really is a symbiotic relationship," Kearns said of working with the county.

Isle of Hope reports high participation when it comes to paying for services.

“Last year 92% of the people participated,” Isle of Hope Chief Tom Christiansen said recently.

“There are some people who just won't pay and we contact them, and we urge them to do it. Because if you don't pay and you have a fire, a lot of times the insurance company won't even cover your cost of the fire.”

Like other departments, Isle of Hope, Pooler, Chatham Fire and others will respond to structure fires of non-subscribers but bills them for the cost of the run, which is often in the thousands of dollars. A recent law change also allows departments to put a lien on the property if the owner refuses to pay.

“(If you’re not a subscriber) we're going to bill you for a minimum of $1,000. And then for every truck, and then all the personnel, it just goes on and on,” Christiansen said.

While county leaders examine the possible paths forwards, they're also taking a look at federal funding received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

“We’re trying to find out exactly how we’re tied to the funds we got from the CARES Act because there are things that we’ll be able to do with that,” Ellis said.

The county will receive a total of $56 million in ARPA funds, which provides assistance to businesses and individuals as well as federal aid to states and local governments to counter the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first half of Chatham County’s federal funding was received in May.

Katie Nussbaum is the city and county government reporter for the Savannah Morning News. Contact her at knussbaum@savannahnow.com. Twitter: KmartSMN

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