Budget continues perks for citizens and employees

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – East Ellijay is continuing more than just property tax waivers for the ‘19-’20 fiscal year as they presented and approved their budget in June’s meeting.

Introducing the new budget, East Ellijay Mayor Mack West noted in his discussion that the ‘18-’19 budget did not need to take money from reserves to balance the budget as projected. The final financial reporting shows approximate revenues at $1,590,000 and actual expenditures at $1,380,000, leaving a $210,000 excess of revenue over expenditures.

Continuing into the next fiscal year, the council approved the waiver of solid waste, semi-weekly, residential curb-side pick-up fees city residents. According to a letter the West provided the council, “business and commercial entities use area contractors for waste disposal” and are not a part of the waiver.

Another item the city is continuing comes as a finish to last year’s budget. The council approved an $800 bonus to city employees, coming in July. Mayor West stated during the meeting that due to the diligence of employees and efforts to keep expenditures low, all employees would receive the bonus.

The bonus has been done for years, so many in fact, that council members could not remember exactly when the tradition began. Continuing the bonus still required the council’s approval,however, as is done every year.

West applauded the city’s staff in the letter saying, “All City Employees, including our many contract employees, are well trained, dedicated individuals with performance levels above and beyond expectations. As long as we have a good team and work together, we can provide the required services to our citizens without any property tax assessements.”

The letter also gave a statement on the city’s current financial status at the end of May 2019. With eight General Fund CD’s, the city holds $2,127,879.51. They also hold two SPLOST CD’s totaling $330,548.54.

Read the Mayor’s letter to the council with Page 1, Page 2, and Page 3.

Author

East Ellijay continues Property Tax Waiver

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The city council of East Ellijay voted this week to formally adopt their 2019 tax year millage rate.

Mayor of East Ellijay, Mack West recommended the council reduce their millage from 3.5 to 3 mils. However, he also recommended a continuation of waiving all personal and business property taxes.

According to West’s letter to the council, “Property Taxes have not been collected in East Ellijay since 1976.”

Approval came in two motions as the city first unanimously approved the millage rate reduction. Then, the second motion approved the waiving of the property tax.

 

Author

Pool or Pools?

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With new information coming from an unrelated meeting last week of Gilmer County’s Board of Commissioners, citizens have been seeking clarifications on issues regarding the community pool that has become a central topic in Gilmer County since the official closing of the current pool this month.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris took measure this week to clarify a few of these questions. Though two of the county commissioners listened to a presentation from a local pool company and later said that they did like the designs in that presentation, Paris said the county must still go through engineering and design processes as a part of the bid process for the county. Paris also sternly said that the project has a budget and many of the talks about things he or other commissioners may “want” to be included, could be left out because of budget constraints.

While holding a Special Called Meeting regarding the possibility of a new pool, seemingly everyone who showed up raised their hand saying they did want construction of a new pool.

However, preliminary discussions, along with a rough design the county presented earlier this month as a visual of how they would like to go, showed that the new recreation center will not have one, but two pools. Each pool would house its own filtration system. But each pool would be drastically different. The primary pool would be five feet deep, would have rope floats to designate swim lanes when used for that purpose but be removed for use by the general public, would host a slide in a side “recessed” area, and would be an indoor pool. The secondary pool would have a ramp entry to wade into the pool, would only reach three feet deep, and could eventually host accessories like fountains, extra slides, or other accoutrements. Additionally, this secondary pool would not be open year-round as the heaters would only be used on the indoor pool.

Paris was adamant that many of these design thoughts were simply preliminary ideas that have come from citizens, board meetings, and his own thoughts. Paris said that he hopes the county could move forward with engineering and designs to have the basics understood and be able to answer questions and make changes for items that citizens want during one more “town hall” meeting, possibly in July or August.

With continued talk of additions, second pools, basketball courts, paved parking lots, fountains, and coverings, Paris specified the plan for the pool as he said all of these things are additional items. What needs to happen by next year is the “primary” pool, dressing rooms, and bathrooms. This is the core of what citizens could see if the county is able to open the pool next year. Paris repeated previous statements to FYN that while he has set the goal of opening by Memorial Day, 2020, he understands the aggressiveness of that plan and the possibility that it may be later.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris

However, Paris did note his personal preferences on the pool should the budget allow for an added items. He said that while priority one is the primary pool with dressing rooms and bathrooms, he did have mixed feelings about the shallow pool and covering saying, “If I have a choice, initially, by this time next year, if I can have the cover or I can have the shallow pool, and then, the following year, I can come back and get the other one. Then I would take the shallow pool. If we don’t have enough for either of those, we’re going to have to come back and add them later on, then I would give priority for adding the cover before adding the shallow pool.”

Though he offered his opinion on this, Paris did state that this is his own opinion. The BOC still has two other commissioners and the citizens input for designs to consider.

When questioned about the priority of paving the parking lot, he noted that the county did a similar thing with the Clear Creek Ball Fields project as they used a gravel parking lot as the fields were completed, and came back the following year to pave the lot.

Paris also repeated the county’s plans to have engineering done all at once and engineered in such a way that the construction projects could be done later when the county is able to fund them. This has become a stressed point in the county’s movement toward construction of this new pool. While plans and engineering designs are to be done all at once, both the county’s current verbal agreement with East Ellijay and the Commissioners meetings have concluded with understandings that the construction of a full “Recreation Center” would come later and in pieces, one project at a time.

More questions have arisen with the possibility of two options for land for the pool location, 29 acres from the Gilmer County Charter School System and 21 acres from East Ellijay. While Paris said that it is currently the county’s intention to move forward with the River Park location, they do still have the option should “extreme need” force them to reconsider. While it is a “Plan B” option, Paris said that it was still their just in case.

Gilmer County’s previous pool, earlier closed for this summer season and now, after resolutions to build a new pool, closed indefinitely.

Some citizens have also raised concerns about the land being so close to the river just as the last pool was. Paris noted that while flooding and weather were never really a major issue with the pool, much of the problems they have encountered recently could be attributed to the pools age. Additionally, the county is currently employing its surveyor to investigate the land. While the current pool sits in a flood plain, Paris said that it is his understanding that part of the land coming from East Ellijay is only partly in the flood plain. Depending on how much of it is in the flood plain, the county could push the parking lot for the center closer to the river while building the center closer to Progress Road, along Soccer Field Road, allowing the pools and part of the center to be out of the flood plain. Later, Paris did also mention a side note that this lot may be used for additional parking during the Apple Festival as well.

He went on to say that this is another part of the process that they will need to deal with during planning and designing. As the county awaits the surveyors reports, Paris said that he would engage the surveyor to provide the report and mark the flood plain with stakes so the county could inspect the size and plan mitigation accordingly.

The county is also working through basic needs for the pool as it talks with the Ellijay Gilmer County Water and Sewerage Authority and insurance liabilities as well. On that note, Paris did say that he does not believe they will pursue options for a diving well and diving board in the new pool due to liability reasons.

FYN also questioned if Paris would use the Road Department again, similar to the Cherry Log Fire Station, to make preparations or clear the land. Paris said it would be something he’d do if needed, but “it’s not something that I would prefer.” He made note that the county used the Road Department during the Cherry Log Fire Station project after they put the project out to bid, but got prohibitively high bids on the project.

Paris did confirm that the county has been offered this land before, but the current agreement from East Ellijay would offer the land free of monetary costs. He also confirmed that the agreement would have the county agreeing to build a full recreation center instead of just a pool. However, he did note that, as previously stated, it is understood that the Recreation Center would come later through stages of construction.

 

 

Make sure to stay with FYN as we continue to reach out to Gilmer’s other commissioners for their opinions and for updated information on the pool project as it becomes available.

Author

Ellijay City Council Meeting – Monday, March 18, 2019.

Business, News

ELLIJAY, Ga.- The Ellijay City Council met on Monday, March 18, 2019, to discuss a number of action items, including a Setback Variance for 171 Skyline Drive, a Resolution and Ordinance to Amend Chapter 6, Articles I through III of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Ellijay, as well as an Urban Redevelopment Plan.

Pictured right to left, Council Member Lynelle Stewart. Council Member Al Fuller, Council Member Ruth Caudell, and Mayor Al Hoyle.

At 5:30 p.m., before the start of the regular meeting, the council introduced Gilmer County’s latest Public Safety Director, Keith Kucera. Kucera stated that his job was to work with all of the entities within the county to try and provide services that we can obtain through grants or other means to assist the county. Coming from a military background (United States Coastguard for 25 years), Kucera states that he’s here to do whatever he can to make things better for this community.

The other order of business that was discussed prior to the regular meeting involved Jodie Beauregard from the Master Gardener Volunteers of the Gilmer County Extension Office, regarding the placement of of a community garden at Harrison Park. The proposed garden is awaiting land clearing, and access to electricity to recharge equipment used throughout the garden. A spigot installation would also be required. Beauregard states that they would need a way to get water into a rain barrel, and so a building with gutters would be preferred if at all possible. Education space is also a request, as Beauregard states they plan on offering education on gardening. The Harrison Park Advisory Board, as well as Mayor Al Hoyle both agree that a Master Plan is an absolute must prior to the installation of the community garden, and so there has been no further action taken at this time.

Pictures from right to left, Council member Katie Lancey and Mayor Pro-Tem David Westmoreland.

At 6 p.m., the Setback Variance for 171 Skyline Drive passed with none opposed. This Setback Variance was a request made by the property owner to encroach 12 feet into the required front residential setback and 10 feet into the side setback.

The Resolution and Ordinance to Amend Chapter 6, Articles I through III of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Ellijay also passed with none opposed. According to Hoyle, this Resolution and Ordinance serves the purpose of removing the 60-day waiting period for the home premise consumption license, as well as changes the Farm winery tasting license, stating that anything the state allows, it puts the licensing under the city instead of under state guidance. It also clarifies the application process for Farm winery tasting rooms, making it the same as an on premise consumption license.

Finally, the Urban Redevelopment plan also passed without any opposition.

Amendment to Code of Ordinances 1/3

 

Amendment to the Code of Ordinances 2/3

Amendment to Code of Ordinances 3/3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urban Redevelopment Plan Part 1/2

Urban Redevelopment Plan Part 2/2

 

 

 

 

 

 

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrVCPWod0HQ[/embedyt]

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City Council to condemn two properties

News

Ellijay, Ga. – The Ellijay City Council held a first of two readings of the condemnation of two properties this month, at 47 Boardtown Rd and 292 Cox Creek Rd.

Councilman David Westmoreland noted that some of the issues have “been in disrepair for years.” With the first reading done, the process is underway and action will be taken in February.

The condemnation, according to the ordinances read, will require the property owners to demolish and remove the structures on the properties with sixty days if passed. If not adhered to, the city will remove the structures at the property owners expense.

The two ordinances for reading are below for both properties.

292 Cox Creek Rd

292 Cox Creek Rd

47 Boardtown Rd

47 Boardtown Rd

 

Author

Harrison Park highlights improvement plans

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Friends of Harrison Park are already moving forward with plans to improve the park after council approval came this week.

Director Linda Lancaster shared a handful of these plans with the public at Ellijay’s City Council. The group has 16 total plans, but is focusing on 4 in the near future. These plans include Project Bluebird, Project Doggie Poop, Project Park Info, and a Master Plan.

A map of Harrison Park with blue 'X' marks for nesting box locations and yellow squares for feeders.

A map of Harrison Park with blue ‘X’ marks for nesting box locations and yellow squares for feeders.

Project Bluebird looks to install bluebird nesting boxes and feeders in Harrison Park to promote a growth in population, community interest, and possible tour programs. Noting a decline in the Eastern Bluebird population since the 1950’s, the Friends of Harrison Park are looking to counter this issue with the creation of Bluebird Trails by strategically location these nesting boxes throughout the park.

Funding for the project comes from donations and yearly sponsorships. While the current planned locations for these nests are tentative at this time, the group has already contacted experts and put plans into motion to install 6 boxes in February and expand to a total of 10 nesting boxes and 3 feeders in the park.

Project Doggie Poop looks to install “dog waste stations” over the course of this Spring. With the creek running along the edge of Harrison Park,concerns over water quality and public health were raised as people are noted to swim and fish there.

For convenience and public concern, they will be installing two stations. Their presentation stated, “One would be attached to or located near the existing park kiosk. The other would be installed further into the park to be easily accessible to those who forgot to get one at the kiosk or who enter the park from a different area.” Each station will be all metal, costing between $200 and $300.

Project Park Info looks to install a glass protected display case in Harrison Park this Spring for info of events, programs, and activities in the park. Seeking permission to modify and use the glass display case mounted on the back side of the Harrison Park Kiosk for this use, the group noted they will have to provide two hinged, locking front panels.

Some examples of items that would be posted include general information about the Friends of Harrison Park, Inc. and its mission, information about special attractions in the park such as the Bluebird trail or special exhibits, History of the Park (including old photographs and items), poster for upcoming events and programs sponsored by Friends of Harrison Park (and other groups approved by the city), and a calendar of events for the park including information about date changes or cancellations.

Funding for the modifications or replacements is planned to come from donations. The group also plans to have one or two members with keys to the case, responsible for posting and removing materials.

Project Master Plan is a request for proposal of a Master Plan for the park. The group is seeking firms to bid on a Master Plan for the park to include preliminary locations of proposed physical structures, detailed landscape architecture designs, infrastructure by municipal electrical and water services, grant proposals, and capital fundraising programs as they look for a 10 year planning horizon.

While the council eagerly approved of three of the projects, no official motion was taken. Additionally, the council did note they wanted further work sessions on the Master Plan and seek to dive deeper into the project in coming months. As the Friends of Harrison Park, Inc. move forward with these projects and others, citizens will notice the changes coming as soon as February with the Bluebird trails and initial work on their other projects.

 

Author

Editorial: Are we still remembering 9/11?

Opinion

Seventeen years ago, I’m certain you were inundated with people saying “Never forget” and newscasts saying “We will always remember.”

Indeed, the entire nation, and even the world, poured out its heart for America and the major wound we were struck with. It is the kind of thing that people everywhere will remember. The kind of thing that I will tell my children about. It is indeed something one cannot easily forget.

Even the numbers dredge up memories of all kinds. And honestly, not all of them are bad. I have fond memories of that day. Shock, gasp. I know you may have anger at hearing that but think of yourself on that day. Did you have people with you? Were you amongst friends? Do you remember people all over the world start saying ‘we.’

Today, we find anything we can to show how different we are from one another. We are a divided country. I don’t want to take a side and tell you that you are wrong, whatever you think. It is honestly probably why we have issues. We can’t disagree without getting angry.

But think back to that day…

I sat among fellow students in a freshman orientation class in high school. It is scarred into the wall of my brain that our desks were placed in a circle and I had only one or two of my “friends” in the class. There was even a guy in that class that I really did not like. We did not get along and we did not like each other at all. My how quickly and easily that melted away in the glow of a tv screen as I, first hand, watched a second plane fly into the building.

I feel its impact even today, and I was nowhere near New York. I couldn’t feel it at the time, but today I can remember my body shook when it hit, as if it hit me just as hard as it hit the building.

I remember hearing the report about another one hitting the Pentagon. I remember not doing anything in any class except one, Algebra. I remember the rage that permeated every person in that school that day. Not just anger, a burning rage threatening to engulf your soul. A rage that broke chains and welled up from somewhere incredibly dark near the bottom of my stomach. It was more powerful because it sensed itself in every other person.

Seventeen years, do you remember?

Do you remember the songs written and speeches made? Do you remember being an American? Forget the conspiracies about it, forget the doubt about what really happened. Do you remember that specific moment of impact?

It’s not a special anniversary, it’s not the ten or twenty year anniversary. This long since something and we as people tend to only really recall things on nice, round-numbered years.

Are we remembering? Have we forgotten even though we said we wouldn’t?

I don’t think so. I think seventeen years later, people still hurt. I know the people you don’t speak to on this day and the people who need you to speak on this day.

I know the guy who plans a trip every September. I know he doesn’t actually go anywhere except into the woods to be alone. We don’t talk about his trips, I just understand his Dad was in New York that day on business. Isolated near a stream maybe, maybe he’s up a tree. I don’t know where he is, but inside I hear him screaming at the top of his lungs in his isolation.

I know the woman who holds her son up like a banner for his service because she never had the chance to see him grow into anything else after he died fighting for us.

I see counties and cities holding memorials on this day, but I see something else. I see the separation. I see the people forgetting something along the way.

I can’t forget that pain. I can’t forget that day. I can’t forget that tv. I can’t forget the faces. I didn’t lose anyone close to me. I had friends who served, but I didn’t lose anyone so close as a brother, sister, father, mother, cousin. I have been so lucky, so why is this day forever seared into my soul?

Maybe I’m being emotional? Maybe I’m thinking too much? Will you judge me for that? Will you think less if I can’t let go? Or would it be worse if I didn’t care?

What if I didn’t write this and you never read it? You’d go about your day and maybe you would think about what today is or maybe it’d slip by as you try to finish that project just get through a tough day. What if we let this day fade into history as a footnote and we never look back to think about the feelings of that day, the pain, the rage, the hurt, the solace, the people?

What if we forgot?

Author

Is Ellijay the “Nicest Place?”

Community, News

ELLIJAY, GA. – A recent listing as a finalist in the Nicest Places in America, Ellijay is garnering extra attention from the nation as a whole.

Hosted on the USA Today 10Best.com website, the poll actually encompasses a cooperation including Reader’s Digest Magazine as well as Good Morning America. Even further, the poll draws in judges from other well-known shows and publications like hidden-camera show Random Acts, the Washington Post, and Project Happiness.

Among 450 nominations nationwide, the pool has at last been narrowed to the top 10 finalists. Ellijay, Ga is one of the cities next to Bothell, Wa, Kalamazoo, Mi, North Riverside, Il, and Katy, Tx. The list also has one county, Mower County, Mn, and four specific spots, Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Md, Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville, Tn, Life Moves Yoga in Killeen, Tx, and North Evergreen Street in Burbank, Ca.

According to Reader’s Digest Magazine, the nomination for Ellijay came from Marie and Steve Cortes who related the story of their first visit to Ellijay one January morning as they stopped into the Cornerstone Cafe. With every table in the restaurant taken, the Cortes’ were invited to sit with strangers as diners “scooched over” to make room.

As someone who has lived here in Ellijay most of my life, I, too, have felt the indescribable pull of the people. Something about the area encourages me to grab a bite at the Cantaberry Restaurant while people watching and inevitably speaking to the people who walk by because we recognize each other.

In fact, one of the recurring themes I hear about the city, and the county as a whole for that matter, is a story about a wave. Whether its Abby’s Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt owner and Downtown Development Authority member, Mark Luchauer, who describes the city’s feel as “small-town USA at its finest, where you can walk down the street and wave at everybody and they’ll wave back,” or the owner/operator of the Cartecay River Experience, Woody Janssen, who said in an interview earlier this year, “It feels like The Andy Griffith Show in a way, everybody waves still. You go down to Atlanta and you wave at somebody, it’s not like that … It brings that down-home feeling,” the same them shows up repeatedly.

There is something so special about a gesture so simple. Why do I hear it as the special memory from visitors and citizens alike? Just a wave back, it is something that transcends language, but it is so meaningful that everyone notices if it happens or not. Maybe we don’t realize it at the time, but a city where I can sit on the side of River Street and wave at people generates that community. It creates that connection. You may not know it, but just waving at someone says so much. It says, “I see you.” It says, “I noticed you.”

While the voting on the poll continues, people who visit the site are encouraged to vote once a day until July 7. As of June 27, Ellijay is in second place of the voting and is continuing to rise in numbers.

The winner of the poll will be named “Nicest Place in America” and featured on Good Morning America and as a cover story in the November issue of Reader’s Digest.

People from all over are encouraging you to vote, everyone from locals to businesses to the Gilmer Chamber have been posting on social media sites about voting and why they love the town. You can join in by voting on the website as well as sharing your vote and story on social media. While you’re sharing the story, make sure to continue sharing the love through everything you do, even with a small wave at a stranger on the street.

Author

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