BOC discusses new school zoning for BOE

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – During their June meeting, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners saw an item requesting a rezoning to PI-1 for the Gilmer County Board of Education.

This item is a part of planning and preparations for a new school to be built on the school’s Clear Creek property next to Clear Creek Middle School (CCMS). The school is set to replace the current Ellijay Primary School (EPS) as part of a plan to reorganize the school system.

This item is far ahead of any concrete plans on construction as the BOE is awaiting approval of a new ESPLOST referendum before they could move forward with this construction project.

During their work session, the Board of Commissioners discussed the item. With all three in favor of the school, the only discussion came from understanding what impact the project would have on the counties surrounding infrastructure. Post Commissioner Dallas Miller asked what changes would need to be done to the roads like Clear Creek Road and Yukon Road. Miller inquired if they would need deceleration lanes or traffic lights. While no solid answer is available at this time due to the project not even being out of idea stages without ESPLOST money to support it, there did become an understanding between the two entities for continued communication.

With CCMS already at the location, there may not be much, if any, change in school vehicle traffic like buses on the road, however, effectively “moving” EPS to the new location would obviously increase traffic on Yukon Road and Clear Creek Road from staff and parents.

While the BOC did approve the rezoning request, Miller’s comments at the work session made it apparent that they will be looking for constant communication on the project so that they may prepare the streets accordingly. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and two members of the Board of Education, Chairman Michael Bramlett and Vice Chair Ronald Watkins, were on hand during the BOC Regular Meeting to speak with the Commissioners before the meeting.

FYN’s current understanding of the project is that discussion is still going on how to maintain the communication. There is no information yet on if this would take the form of a report during commissioner’s meetings, a liaison between the two boards, or something else.

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SPLOST ready for city approvals

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – In a Special Called Meeting on June 15, a final Resolution was put for consideration of the cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay for an upcoming SPLOST Referendum.

Having received input from each city’s mayor and gone through previous negotiations on percentages, the resolution has now reached the time to be put forth in these city’s council meetings for consideration and approval before the county can officially put it on the ballot as a joint SPLOST between the municipalities.

While the meeting was a formality to provide the final form of the resolution, it did provide the actual document to be put forth to the cities and, if approved, ultimately put to a public vote for the next SPLOST cycle.

The SPLOST referendum is set to continue the current 1% sales tax that is currently in place. Even though the municipalities are preparing early, it will not overlap the current SPLOST cycle.

Below are the six pages of the referendum as it currently exists:

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Gilmer County talks SPLOST with Ellijay and East Ellijay

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A unique meeting saw the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners sitting with Ellijay Mayor Al Hoyle and East Ellijay Mayor Mack West to speak about the possibility of a new SPLOST cycle for the county as a whole.

While the Board of Commissioners could move forward with the SPLOST without the cities, joining together provides many benefits to each municipality including a more expansive list of projects without a state-regulated list of prioritization and a one-year-extension on the SPLOST cycle to make it a six-year program instead of just five years.

One of the major items needed in the meeting was an agreed amount that could be expected from the tax. According to regulations on the program, if a government puts forth a SPLOST and sets its expected return above what it actually receives, there is no penalty. However, if that SPLOST achieves the expected return early, no more collections could be made, causing a gap in collections and revenue from the sales tax.

With that in mind, the meeting came to a conclusion to estimate $31 million in revenue from the tax.

Both Mayors in the meeting looked to increase their city’s portions of the SPLOST in favor of rising costs of major projects, Hoyle spoke on Ellijay’s behalf saying that increase paving costs and projects that the city is in need of accomplishing could greatly benefit from an increase in their percentage.

Likewise, West echoed these concerns siting a specific project as they have repaved the area of Eller Road and the intersection at Highland Crossing before reaching Highway 515.

On the other hand, the county discussed the county’s continued financial pains attempting to pay back their bond debt, looking at the vast majority of their SPLOST collection dedicated to paying back that debt at close to $4 million a year.

Ultimately, the decisions came down very similar to how the SPLOST has been divided currently. With the County currently taking 92.35% of the SPLOST, they backed off the extra part of a percent making the division at an easy round number of the percentage.

The County will receive 92%.

Ellijay will receive 6%.

East Ellijay will receive 2%.

Still, this negotiation is preliminary. Each Mayor will now take the proposal back to their cities for approval before the county can approve the final agreement and move forward with offering the SPLOST option to a vote for citizens. If all goes according to plan and no major obstacles are met, It could mean citizens could see the vote for this on the ballot this November.

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Gilmer County and State Election Results 2018 (Final Unofficial)

Election 2018

*These election results are unofficial until being certified by the Secretary of State’s office.

2018 Gilmer County Primary Election Results

Gilmer County Post 2 Commissioner

Karleen Ferguson (R) – Totals – 1,677 votes at 61.27%

Woody Janssen (R) – Totals – 359 votes at 13.12%

Jerry Tuso (R) – Totals – 701 votes at 25.61%

Danny Hall officially withdrew from the election race. An official comment from the elections representatives in Gilmer stated that while they did post notices as to his withdrawal at polling sites, his name did appear on the ballot. As such, Hall received votes during the election. However, the representatives did confirm that they had spoken with officials at the state level and were instructed not to count his votes as part of the process. This count stands with the three candidates at their current percentage of the votes counted. FYN has requested the total votes cast for Hall, but have not received them at this time.

 

Gilmer County Commission Chairman

Charlie Paris (R) – Totals – 2995 votes at 100.0%

 

Gilmer County Board of Education Post 4 Seat

Michael Bramlett – 3,424 votes at 99.22%

27 Write-in votes

 

Gilmer County Board of Education Post 5 Seat

Ronald Watkins – 3,429 votes at 99.22%

27 Write-in Votes

 

Georgia House of Representative District 7 

David Ralston (R) – 2,757 votes at 72.23%

 

Margaret Williamson (R) – Totals – 1,060 votes at 27.77%

 

 

Rick Day (D) – Totals – 458 votes at 100.0%

2018 Georgia Primary Election Results 

GOVERNOR CANDIDATES:

Casey Cagle (R) – 1,471 votes at 38.46%

Hunter Hill (R) – 708 votes at 18.51%

Brian Kemp (R) – 1,065 votes at 27.84%

Clay Tippins (R) – 383 votes at 10.01%

Michael Williams (R) – 198 votes at 5.18%

 

Stacey Abrams (D) – 296 votes at 53.05%

Stacey Evans (D) – 262 votes at 46.95%

 

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR CANDIDATES:

Geoff Duncan (R) – 838 votes at 24.72%

Rick Jeffares (R) – 940 votes at 27.73%

David Shafer (R) – 1,612 votes at 47.55%

 

Sarah Riggs Amico (D) – 402 votes at 76.57%

Triana Arnold James (D) – 123 votes at 23.43%

 

SECRETARY OF STATE CANDIDATES:

David Belle Isle (R) – 965 votes at 28.98%

Buzz Brockway (R) – 465 votes at 13.96%

Josh McKoon (R) – 574 votes at 17.24%

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 1,326 votes at 39.82%

 

John Barrow (D) – 293 votes at 56.13%

Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D) – 159 votes at 30.46%

R.J. Hadley (D) – 70 votes at 13.41%

 

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER CANDIDATES:

Jim Beck (R) – 2,062 votes at 61.59%

Jay Florence (R) – 699 votes at 20.88%

Tracy Jordan (R) – 587 votes at 17.53%

 

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER CANDIDATES:

District 3 – 

Chuck Eaton (R) – 2951 votes at 100.0%

 

Lindy Miller (D)  – 342 votes at 68.13%

John Noel (D)  – 119 votes at 23.71%

Johnny White (D)  – 41 votes at 8.17%

 

District 5 – 

John Hitchins III (R) – 1,557  votes at 47.54%

Tricia Pridemore (R) – 1,718 votes at 52.46%

 

Dawn Randolph (D) – 347 votes at 71.40%

Doug Stoner (D) – 139 votes at 28.60%

Lower Cartecay Bridge gains priority in state replacement program

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris officially announced at the May BOC meeting that he received word that the State DOT (Department of Transportation) program replacing bridges across the state will move the Lower Cartecay Road bridge further up the list.

Originally, the commissioners were seeking to swap places of the Vanilla Lane Bridge, which was third on the list, and the Lower Cartecay Road bridge, which has only been added since last year. However, Paris commented on Thursday, May 10, that the bridge is set to move up the list. Though he didn’t know for sure exactly how it would work, he did say, “Right now, what it looks like is that the Lower Cartecay will be moved to the top of the list, but Vanilla Lane will continue at number four.”

Paris told those at the meeting that he had contacted Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston about interceding on the county’s behalf to get the bridge added to the list. He stated the Speaker’s help in the county’s sudden need was integral to the process that has now seen the bridge added to the list and moved to a priority position.

Having received a Memorandum of Understanding from the DOT for Vanilla Lane, the commissioners discovered that while they were originally estimating their half of the costs of obtaining the right of way to be somewhere around $15,000 to $20,000, the official estimation of the total costs according to the memorandum would be $207,000 bringing Gilmer’s half to $103,500.

Now the county will be looking at another memorandum in the coming weeks for the Lower Cartecay Road bridge since it has been moved up. Aside from the movement of Lower Cartecay, Paris recommended the Board move forward with sending the $103,500 to the DOT for Vanilla Lane to keep it from being dropped from the list.

As the county moves forward with both bridges it will be awaiting news on both sides as they find out if Vanilla Lane does maintain its position on the list and the progress of site visits and preliminary work on Lower Cartecay Road.

Officially approved by unanimous decision, Paris stated the excess expense will be funded out of the capital contingency fund as the expense was larger than expected.

Previously, during budget sessions last year, the members of the board discussed dedicating their entire capital contingency to be saved for replacing Lower Cartecay Road bridge if it was unable to be added to the programs list. It was stipulated as a “back-up plan” to ensure the funding would at least begin the process of saving for the replacement while the commissioners were hoping to add the bridge to the DOT program.

Now, with the bridge not only added but moved up the list, the contingency fund appears as if it will be used to fuel both bridges at a substantially lower cost. Paris stated in the meeting that with the original estimate the board received on the Lower Cartecay bridge replacement rising past $1,250,000, any “reasonable figure” the DOT provides for the costs of right-of-way would be a vast improvement worth supporting.

Additionally, if the county had not gotten onto the list with Lower Cartecay, they would have been saving their entire contingency funds for at least 2018 and 2019 pushing back the project to begin, at the earliest, in 2020. Now, this program places the Lower Cartecay bridge at the number one slot. Even with the late start, the project will begin its process with engineering and architecture this year. Citizens could potentially see construction beginning as early as next year.

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River Park opens new playground

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Officials from both the county and state met today in Gilmer’s River Park to join with the Gilmer Chamber in officially cutting the ribbon on the new playground at River Park.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris and Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch met with Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston for the event celebrating the work of all parties. “The grant from the state really made it all possible,” said Crouch who added that seeing the county with successes like the new playground gives him a sense of accomplishment after the hard work the Board of Commissioners has put into directing the county over the last four years.

Paris took note at the ceremony to thank Kevan White, Gilmer County Recreation and Parks Department Director, for his vision and direction in the project. Despite the project taking a little longer than originally expected due to weather and unexpected costs, Paris said the park looked “more spectacular than I thought it was going to be.” Paris told FYN the entire playground was White’s vision as he took the main brunt of design and layout for something he could not have imagined.

The completed playground equipment at River Park is officially opened after today's Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

The completed playground equipment at River Park is officially opened after today’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

During the ceremony, Speaker Ralston took a moment to say he was proud to have played a small part in the project of the new playground but thanked Chairman Paris and the County for their hard work in making the project a reality, specifically noting White’s leadership role.

Crouch also mentioned a special thanks to the community for their patience in both this project and the county’s progress as a whole. He commented saying, “We had a lot of challenges. I think we’ve turned a corner and are heading in a positive direction on a lot of different

Left to right, Kevan White, David Ralston, Charlie Paris, and Travis Crouch take a moment to pose in front of the county's new playground.

Left to right, Kevan White, David Ralston, Charlie Paris, and Travis Crouch take a moment to pose in front of the county’s new playground.

fronts, especially in a financial front. We had to start somewhere, and people have been pretty patient. They’ve understood the situation we’ve had. I feel like progress has been made.”

Paris echoed his sentiments thanking the public for their support and patience in the time up to now as well as in the coming months when the county moves forward on the other projects planned for River Park.

 

See more details on what’s coming next for the park with FYN’s recent article, “County’s River Park moving closer to upgrades” or check out more photos of the playground as well as a few members of the county enjoying the new equipment on FYN’s Facebook Page.

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Earth Day in Gilmer showcases citizens and clean-ups

Community

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Last weekend saw citizens and volunteers in the community celebrating Earth Day with a Saturday of work and reward across the county.

The county reports 169 volunteers spread out across our area to collect trash and roadside debris in an effort to reduce the community blight, but also to improve and maintain the beauty that we have become known for. In recent news stories, the county has seen a large push in the last three months on the issue of roadside trash and in government response to the issue by reinstating inmate work detail picking up the litter.

Taking a moment from their day's work informing people on compost, representatives from the University of Georgia's exhibit pose for an Earth Day photo in their booth.

Taking a moment from their day’s work informing people on compost, representatives from the University of Georgia’s exhibit pose for an Earth Day photo in their booth.

However, this week citizens stood behind their desires for a cleaner community by stepping out themselves to clean up. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FYN the county had collected between 3 and 5 tons of garbage on Saturday through the efforts of those involved.

That is not the only garbage collected, though. The week leading up to Earth Day saw the county hosting Amnesty Tire Week. They accepted, free of charge, old tires to be discarded at the county dump. Paris reports the county, through that program, collected 2,702 tires during the weeklong event to go along with the collected trash on Saturday.

Additionally, volunteers were treated to a celebration in the county’s parking lot behind Dalton State College, next to the county courthouse. Hosted by Keep Gilmer Beautiful, the day’s clean up and celebration event saw live music, exhibits, and free pizza for those in attendance.

Local exhibitors showcased information and projects for maintaining a clean county, composting, and recycling as well as the Keep Gilmer Beautiful’s Adopt-A-Road Program, the Pleasent Hills Montessori School, Kids Ferst in Gilmer County, and the Girl Scouts.

Part of the exhibits, the Beekeepers of Gilmer County show a finished "Bee Waterer."

Part of the exhibits, the Beekeepers of Gilmer County show a finished “Bee Waterer.”

The Beekeepers of Gilmer County showed citizens how to build a waterer plate for bees to sit on while they drink water, effectively helping to, as they say, “hydrate the pollinators.”

Ellijay Rocks held a rock painting station for citizens to sit under a tent and cool off in the shade as they painted rocks to hide around the community.

The Mountain Light Unitarian Universalist Chuch hosted a station to teach citizens how to turn old paper into a seed disc they can toss out into the yard to plant seeds. The disc, made from paper, water, and seeds folded together into a slurry, is flattened with a roller or a can to be thrown out into your yard. Without even a need to bury it, rain is held close by the paper slurry helping the seed to get started.

Chairman Paris took a moment with FYN to say how proud he was of the turnout the county saw at the event. He went on to comment on the citizens’ involvement with clean-up saying, “People care and that’s good… It makes all the difference in the world.”

Be sure to head over to FYN’s Facebook Page for more photos from Earth Day 2018.

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Amending the county’s budget amendments

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Budget adjustments are some things the county has grown accustomed to over the years as the Board of Commissioners continue running the county through unexpected expenses throughout the year.

A disputation arose in the board’s April meetings when the subject of amending the county’s 2017 budget for final amendments was discussed. While the county has moved to less amendments over the last few years in an effort to make the budget audits look better, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller began the debate saying he felt the amendments degraded the integrity of the budget and made much of the work that the commissioners and their staff completed meaningless.

Every month, the commissioners’ Financial Officer Sandi Holden delivers an update on the budget. When adjustments come before the commissioners, if they approve the amendment, they have typically agreed on amending the budget, but put off the official resolution so they are not continually amending the budget over and over throughout the year.

Miller called the budget a “promise” to the county about their plans for the coming year. He went on to say the budget was meaningless as they “zero” the budget at year’s end, effectively rewarding those over budget.

The budget has been a point of contention over the last two years in the board as countless hours are spent near year’s end on preparing for the next year. This month’s discussion on the budget grew into two topics as Post Commissioner Travis Crouch branched the discussion into another point when he mentioned that the commissioners approve unexpected expenditures and he felt they should reflect that so as not to “punish” those who may be over their original budget, but due to a commissioner-approved expense. Crouch said that approving the amendments in April expose some of these departments and offices to appear over budget in reports for numerous months before they are finally changed.

Crouch noted the county’s recent un-budgeted expenditures, including those for the deputy to supervise inmate trash pickup as well as a change in probation funding for the three-county organization. Crouch said, “It’s not a perfect science,” but pushed for more amendments throughout the year to reflect those changes.

Delving deeper into the issues, the concerns of departments heads echoed Crouch’s concerns saying they hoped the county would respect those who stay under budget by amending their budgets with those approved by the board during the year.

Finalizing their approval at their regular session, the commissioners approved the amendments on which they had agreed throughout 2017, movement of funds to contingency, and agreed to move forward with quarterly amendments instead of one or two per year to more compromise between keeping the number of amendments through the year lower and keeping the monthly report as real and up-to-date as possible.

Author

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