BOC names full time Public Safety Director and Fire Chief

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – “Solidarity” was the word used by one fireman who spoke at Thursday’s, March 14, Commissioners Meeting.

Keith Kucera, Public Safety Director of Gilmer County

Keith Kucera, Public Safety Director of Gilmer County

That show of solidarity included 15 members of public safety’s fire and ems divisions as the stood together to tell the BOC that they are happy with the direction and way the Public Safety Department is moving.

To take that one step further, Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris skipped ahead on his agenda to return the favor by officially announcing  Keith Kucera as the full-time Public Safety Director. Kucera has served as interim since February 12, 2019, and now begins his service as the full time Director, leaving the interim title behind.

Kucera also released information to FYN that an official announcement has also been made about the full-time Fire Chief. Kucera was proud to announce Daniel Kauffman will be taking the position as Kucera tells FYN he comes from Ocala, Florida.

Kucera said that Kauffman brings 30 years of fire service experience from Marion County in Florida as a District Chief and a Battalion Chief. He also has a Master’s Degree in Human Resources and a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Science.

Despite recent issues in the Fire Department, Paris stated to those present that they had no idea how much their public display meant to the Board.

Further, those fire and ems staff present offered standing applause to the announcement of Kucera to the Director position during the meeting.

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Dempsey steps down as Interim Fire Chief

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Less than a day after Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris announced Mike Dempsey as the new Interim Fire Chief, he has stepped down as well.

This makes the third Fire Chief to have left the position in the month of March counting previous Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, first-interim Brian Scudder, and, now, second-interim Mike Dempsey. Just like Brian Scudder, Dempsey will continue his service in the Fire Department, but is not going to serve as interim chief.

Paris has not indicated who he will name as interim Fire Chief next. With the continuing issues in the Department, it is unclear if he will seek another interim from within the ranks or if he will look elsewhere.

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Light-Up Ellijay shines through clouds and rain

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga – Despite numerous weather and climate hurdles including a cold evening sharpened by winds and rain at times, the Downtown Ellijay Business and Community Association (DEBACA) is reporting a very successful year.

With some changes like the absence of the town of Bethlehem that First Baptist Church hosted at last year’s event and added security measures, this year’s event was noticeably different than 2017. Changes that both DEBACA Chairman Steve Cortes and Ellijay Police Chief Edward Lacey praise as improvements to the event.

One major safety improvement that both parties noted separately was barricades set up to block the parking spaces on the roundabout, allowing pedestrians to safely view both the tree lighting and parade apart from traffic and parade vehicles. While these barricades have been used for the majority of 2018, this is the first Light-Up Ellijay event they have been used. The major difference being that this parade is largely held in the dark with lights on the float and the town decorations illuminating the area.

Chief Lacey noted this year’s event went “very smooth” as they conducted safety and traffic control with six on-duty officers. He also reported no traffic issues during the event and the after-event surge.

The parade hosted around 35 different groups, according to Cortes, and just under 20 vendors in the temporary market throughout the day. Though he says DEBACA did scale back on certain things, the event still pulled in one of the best business days for downtown merchants despite the tree-lighting ceremony being interrupted with a 5-minute rain shower and a continuing sprinkling of rain until the parade.

Lacey referred to the event as a “more traditional Light-Up Ellijay event.” With Santa Claus appearing on the city steps just before 2:00 p.m. and the market on Broad Street quickly following, citizens and merchants in downtown seem to agree saying, “no question its safer and more efficient.”

Along the lines of balancing Light-Up Ellijay between a tourism event and a local event, Cortes told FYN that despite cancelling the Whoville earlier in November, there are still plans to return to it in coming years. However, he did add that DEBACA has been considering multiple options including hosting Whoville in partnership with another organization with available manpower to host the event on a separate day from Light-Up Ellijay and more cosplay actors to enlarge it on its own.

With possibilities for the future of Light-Up Ellijay being discussed, Cortes also noted the he, personally, thinks that the events success could continue into next year by adding to the parade size and seeking opportunities for the marching band or live-music of some sort.

Citizens, law-enforcement, and business owners all seem to agree that Light-Up Ellijay was indicative of continuing a bright future for Ellijay’s Downtown Events.

 

 

Make sure to check out FYN’s Facebook Photo Album for more pictures from the event as well as the Facebook page for videos that we streamed live from Light-Up Ellijay.

 

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Ellijay’s Night Out Against Crime shows off Police

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Most of the time, when you meet a police officer, it really isn’t a pleasant experience. It has nothing to do with the people, and everything to do with their job.

You may meet them when you’re getting a ticket because you were in a big hurry and may have gone a bit over the limit, or maybe you called because you were robbed and need help, you may have even called to report a wreck and need to give your statement. In any case, the vast majority of the time, police respond to bad situations, it’s really part of the job description.

This year the Ellijay Police Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting the police force, hosted a night in an effort to change that. The National Night Out is a nation-wide community-building event that supports officers and organizations across America, but as Ellijay’s original plan for the date of the event in early August, the rain forced a reschedule.

This weekend, the Ellijay Police Foundation made good on that promise by hosting the event Saturday between 4 and 8 p.m. The event saw many of Ellijay’s Officer’s hosting or dropping by to say hello to citizens and share their time to allow the people to speak with them, play with them, and eat with them, all free of charge.

With music flowing across North Main Street and into the parking lot next to First Baptist Church, the Ellijay Police Department partnered with the Ellijay Fire Department, the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office, The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) Task Force, and its sponsors to set up the police motorcycles, police cruisers, the fire truck, a hummer, and a sheriff’s cruiser for citizens to view, sit in, play with, and climb through. Kids and parents alike were allowed to set off the sirens and lights and try on the equipment that these men and women wear every day.

There was also a golf cart with a driving course and the standard test that citizens could go through while wearing “drunk goggles” simulating inebriation.

Pilgrim’s of Ellijay donated chicken and hot dogs for grilling along with the manpower and the grill to cook for the event. Country Corner Kitchen and Coca-Cola donated a trailer and people to hand out cold drinks. North Georgia Party Rentals donated a bounce house and a dunk tank to help celebrate as well.

That dunk tank saw major attention from citizens as officers climbed in. For a one dollar donation, a person could take three shots at the target to dunk the officer in the tank.

A surprise arose as a donation came from the department’s own Chief Edward Lacey to dunk one of his officers. What many citizens didn’t hear at first was that Lacey had jokingly called it “insurance” as he would be in the tank himself later in the day.

His “insurance” was response to a few people that had managed to run up and hit the button by hand instead of throwing a ball at the dunk tank. The terms were that no one was allowed to hit the button by hand unless they beat his own donation.

The protection was short-lived, however, as his officers found a “generous donor” that offered $100 to allow two officers to hit the button together to drop the Chief by hand.

The event came in partnership as the brain-child of Chief Edward Lacey and hosted by the Ellijay Police Foundation. The foundation’s purpose is to build and foster community with the police as well as gathering funds and donations to provide more training to these officers. Lacey has since reported that over $500 was raised by the dunk tank in support of these efforts.

According to Detective Colburn of the Ellijay Police Department, this is set to become an annual event for the Ellijay Police Department, though it will likely return to its original August date next year as the rain delay pushed it back to September this year.

Check out more photos from the event with our Album on FYN’s Facebook.

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Man Arrested for Sexual Battery at Food Lion

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – East Ellijay Police Chief Larry Callihan has confirmed an arrest during last night’s incident at the Food Lion in East Ellijay.

According to the police report, Officer Harold Crowder responded to a call at 7:21 p.m. on July 1 involving a female subject being attacked in the restroom.

David James Gravley

David James Gravley

Upon arriving on the scene, the officer was escorted into the building by the store’s manager who pointed out the suspect. The report identifies the suspect as David James Gravley. Crowder’s report states that when he put his cuffs on Gravley and asked him what happened, “he stated she mumbled something that pissed him off so he hit her.”

The report also reveals that the victim stated she was in the bathroom when “she heard someone else come in behind her and as she walked out of the stall, a man grabbed her from behind…”

The victim reported that the person attacking her forcefully held her, kept grabbing her, groped her, and punched her in the face. The report also notes several injuries including blood from her nose, swelling in her face, and several scratches on her neck, throat, arms, and back.

Later, at the Gilmer County Detention Center, Gravley stated that all he would say without his lawyer was, “All I have to say is all I wanted was her money.” The report goes on to say that he later said he was broke and needed the money to buy some Marijuana.

According to the Detention Center Booking Report, Gravley is facing charges of Robbery, Disorderly Conduct, Sexual Battery, False Imprisonment, and Simple Battery.

 

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East Ellijay City Council discusses litter and police

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Having hired a contract employee for picking up litter on city streets, the East Ellijay City Council approved the spending for the contract. The employee is working alongside the street department and services the area for litter control. Along with the item of the employee, East Ellijay Mayor Mack West spoke to the council saying, “I, personally, feel like we need to assess different penalties for litter violations applicable to repeat offenders.”

The Gilmer county commissioners have already been discussing the item after an increase of community requests to deal with the issue. Continuing the discussion, East Ellijay is now also on board increasing response and control of the litter.

Though no official action set a specific number increasing from the current $236 public littering fine, Mayor West did ask the members of council if they would be okay with increasing the fines with none speaking out in opposition. Additionally, East Ellijay Police Chief Larry Callahan discussed speaking with officers to pay more attention to the issue and those who they see littering. This discussion came on top of officially approving the policy for litter control and having the extra employee.

Also, in the Police Department, the council approved purchasing three patrol car cameras for the department. Callahan said that with the vast majority of other law enforcement agencies already having cameras, courts are beginning to throw out cases without the video evidence supporting traffic violations. With the estimate Callahan has received, the $10,650 cost of purchasing and installing the cameras will be split. Two of the cameras will be paid out of the city’s hotel-motel fund, and the third camera will be paid for out of the police confiscation fund.

With the change in courts handling of their cases, Callahan spoke with the council about the camera purchases saying, “It’s a ‘have-to’ essentially.” Callahan is also looking to purchase another three cameras next budget year.

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McClure resigns amid allegations

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Amid charges of theft by taking and violation of oath of office, East Ellijay Police Chief Larry Callihan has confirmed Michael McClure has resigned from the East Ellijay Police.

Recalling the arrest record of McClure, he was originally placed on administrative leave by the department, but recent developments show the former officer resigning his post. According to the arrest record, McClure is accused of taking a money order from a woman’s purse, after arresting her, and later cashing it.

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Pritchett responds to new position in Andrews

News, Police & Government

(Photo by Kelsey Richardson of the Andrews Journal)

ELLIJAY, Ga. – After a news story in the Andrews Journal today, one sentence has caused confusion among Gilmer County’s citizens and officials.

FetchYourNews (FYN) has confirmed with Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett that he is indeed taking a job in Andrews, North Carolina, as police chief for the department.

The Andrews Journal states, “Pritchett, who has family throughout Cherokee County, is from Gilmer County, Ga. He is transitioning from his role as the Gilmer County Public Safety director to Andrews police chief. Pritchett additionally has experience as chief of the Gilmer County Volunteer Fire Department.”

FYN reported the article to Gilmer County. Additionally, Pritchett has confirmed with FYN that he is transitioning away from the East Ellijay Police Department where Pritchett says he has worked shifts for eight years. Moving his police work to Andrews, Pritchett says he has taken the position for flexibility in his schedule. While he usually had night shifts in East Ellijay, Andrews will allow a less rigid schedule meaning less affect on his main position of public safety director in Gilmer, which he is not leaving.

Coming out of executive session, Pritchett was voted to be hired by the town’s Board of Aldermen. FYN has also checked with Gilmer County Chairman Charlie Paris who stated he confirmed with the town’s mayor that the new position will allow Pritchett to expand and support their police force as chief.

The Andrews Journal did report that Pritchett spoke about bringing a “good respectable and professional police force” to the city and later noted that when the new police force is hired, Pritchett would be focusing on the town’s drug crisis.

When FYN caught up with Pritchett about possibly transitioning away from Gilmer, he responded, “I love the county too much, and I ain’t going nowhere.”

The Andrews Police Department has diminished in the last year after the casino opened. Pritchett told FYN he would be adding his training and expertise to rebuild the department. While the new position will help to grow their department, Pritchett declined to say if there was a set period that he would be there saying, “As long as it is something that doesn’t take away from my responsibilities as public safety director, I don’t mind staying, helping out, and being a part of the department for a while. As long as it doesn’t place too much weight on me from here because Gilmer County, the citizens of Gilmer County, being public safety director and fire chief is my primary duty.”

Summarizing the entirety of the new position, Pritchett summed up his move as “swapping his extra job.”

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