ELLIJAY, Ga – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are moving forward with plans to seek state recognition of the school system’s major success in the wrestling world with a proclamation of Gilmer as the State Wrestling Capital.
Parents and Coaches filled the Commissioner’s conference room on Wednesday, September 12, to ask the board for a sign at the county line claiming Gilmer as the wrestling capital of the state in honor of the 17 state titles the county has brought home in the sport.
Coach Mark Waddell spoke first for citizens in the work session saying that what Gilmer has accomplished is “pretty unprecedented.” Noting the 17 team state titles, he said that these were only the team’s titles, not individuals.
As each student practices and becomes part of the team, several parents noted in the work session that their kids have become entirely different people. From the discipline to the camaraderie and the inclusion of faith into the program, many of those present threw support behind the idea, lauding the coaches who have done so much and pushed these athletes to accomplish even more.
One parent even said, “They carry themselves differently.” The changes the students go through during the program was constantly repeated emphasizing its importance to them.
Waddell asked for the support of the Commissioners in placing a sign to highlight the 17 combined titles. He noted that part of the success is that it is a singular program. It doesn’t individualize the middle school, the youth, and the high school. With the whole program on track to a singular vision, the success follows with the students accomplishing everything they can.
Coach Sam Snider also spoke about the program’s state recognition sharing stories about the numerous times that Speaker David Ralston brought Gilmer Wrestling to the capital to highlight their championships. Students from Gilmer are spreading across the country, Snider pointed to those who wrestle on scholarships in college and others who use what the program teaches to further their careers in other areas.
Honoring their success, these and other coaches want to highlight the students with a sign acknowledging them. As Snider said, “A sign that says Gilmer County has accomplished this rewards success.”
Coaches weren’t the only ones pushing for recognition of these students as several parents were present at the Work Session. Some spoke of the program’s influence, but Jim Fox emotionally recalled one of the parades they held for winning the state championship, “The memory I have is right across the square during the parade. People were coming out on the sidewalks from the different stores. And out of the city barbershop comes a man with shaving cream on half of his face and a bib trailing behind him… We were escorting all the trucks down the road and I got a view of the sunrise, the flags, and people cheering and wondering what was going on. They were coming out of the store saying, ‘Why is traffic stopped?'”
Fox continued saying that they were explaining that they were celebrating the young people involved in the state wrestling title when he was asked, “Gilmer County won a state wrestling title?”
Fox says he replied, “No, they won two.”
No less emotion came to the Commissioners Regular Meeting when coaches returned with part of the wrestling team. This time, though, it wasn’t parents or coaches to share what the program meant. It was a wrestler, Thomas Chastain, who stood before the Commissioners saying, “It helps everybody grow as a team. Most people don’t think wrestling is a team sport, but it is because you all have to work together to get a team score to get first. Not just one person can get first in duals.”
Addressing the request for a sign calling Gilmer the capital, Post Commissioner Travis Crouch said the state would only give the county one state-level recognized “capital” sign. Though that didn’t stop the board from planning to seek state-level recognition without the sign.
Additionally, Crouch brought up an older discussion that the county seek a county-owned sign at the line recognizing the Wrestling Capital among other things.
Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris noted that an electronic sign of substantially larger size than requested was something the county could feasibly look at next year as they move forward seeking the state’s recognition as well. Engaging in talks with Speaker Ralston, they hope to have the item in the legislative session early next year.
In the last few moments of discussion during their regular meeting, one of the coaches offered his deepest thanks to the commissioners for listening and for what they do.
Paris responded by saying, “This is not so much something that we are doing as it is something that ya’ll have earned.”
And with that, an unanimous decision was made to move forward with both options.
ELLIJAY, Ga – Not even two months have passed since Gilmer suffered through one of the worst storms it has seen in decades near the end of July, yet Hurricane Florence threatens to be just as bad, if not worse, according to reports from the National Weather Service and State Governments along the East Coast.
Both South and North Carolina have seen mandatory evacuation orders for residents in certain areas. With the residents continuing to travel west away from the storm, Georgia’s State Government has spoken about accepting those fleeing the path of the hurricane. The National Guard and the Coast Guard have already been mobilized for support as well as forces from Maryland and even New York preparing to help.
With a recent change in direction, the National Weather Service now indicates that North Georgia could see much more impact now. Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett said we are on the “dirtier” side of the storm today in a scheduled Commissioner’s meeting where he warned of potential dangers and damage that Gilmer could see from the southern turn of Hurricane Florence.
The expected impact is so large that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for the state.
Based on the latest 11 a.m. forecast for Hurricane Florence and acting on a recommendation from Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security officials, today I issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in Georgia.
The Gilmer Public Safety Department took to social media today as well to warn citizens of “an enhanced chance of impacts for our area. Potential impacts could include heavy rain and sustained winds. This could very well cause serious flooding impacts and a large amount of downed trees. Roadways washed out and damaged and widespread power outages are all a result of these impacts.”
Officials are asking citizens to prepare for the oncoming storm and for an influx of people attempting to flee the storm, even as we are still recovering from the July storm. Public Works Director Jim Smith told the Commissioners today that his people were also prepared to mobilize in recovery and recuperation efforts.
Public Safety also noted, “Everyone should keep in mind that systems such as this in the past have caused SEVERE damage for our county. Although we hope this is not the case. PLEASE PREPARE NOW! Preparedness includes adequate food and water for a minimum of 72 hours, flashlights and batteries, a full charge on all wireless devices and portable charging options for these devices, generators and fuel if you have them and know the PROPER use and placement.”
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated that the county is preparing its resources including Pritchett preparing the Emergency Management Program as the county readies itself to open shelters if needed. He also confirmed that while Gilmer is not currently in talks with the State about housing evacuees, it is prepared for the call with those shelters made ready.
Emergency preparedness goes far deeper than just resources and shelters, however. Threats like this are prepared for months and years in advance. Pritchett made special note of the departments swift water training and equipment in a case of an extreme event saying, “We have very advanced, skilled swift-water-trained individuals that are trained to get to most anybody that is trapped or is in a rescue situation.”
Preparing for the worst-case scenario, Pritchett said the Department already has response plans throughout the county, but cautioned citizens against “sounding the alarm” for something that may not be as bad as they are preparing for. Despite the declaration of a State of Emergency, he noted that at this time, preparedness is the best course of action as they have previously stated.
These are the reasons that he encourages citizens to have cell phones charged and to prepare other means of charging in case of a need. Having these devices available to contact emergency response is also a part of survival.
As you continue watching for news and updates regarding Hurricane Florence, it may be wise to go ahead and program the non-emergency response numbers into your phone in case a need arises. If you have questions, concerns, or a need contact Headquarters at 706-635-1333 or the non-emergency dispatch number 706-635-8911. Pritchett also encouraged citizens to keep an eye on the Gilmer County Public Safety Facebook Page for updates on the storm, shelters, and impact on Gilmer County.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held their Special Called Meeting in which discussion of the county’s Millage Rate and decisions were made.
Considered their calculations of accepting the Rollback Rate at 6.370, the generalized budget for the county would wind up relatively the same, with only a possible $10,000 difference over what they collected this year.
With the continued growth in Gilmer County, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller noted it was one of the bigger rollbacks he has seen. He also noted the Rollback Rate represented over $800,000 dollars in budget difference to the county.
The county has not increased or decreased its Millage Rate in several years, maintaining 6.983 in since 2015.
Miller suggested to the board that he believed they should continue maintaining the current millage rate. Repeating their same argument against the state directive of Rollback Rate and what is called a tax increase, the board as a whole agreed upon the unfairness of calling it a tax increase when they maintain the same rate.
Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch commented on the rate saying they could “split the difference” and lower the rate slightly without going all the way to the Rollback. He went on to note that last year, the commissioners had to cut $2.5 million from the county’s initial proposed budget.
Crouch took a moment to ask Commission Chairman Charlie Paris how he felt this year’s budget would compare.
Paris responded by saying, “That we will probably have to cut a bit more. That’s been the trend.”
Agreeing with Paris, Crouch noted he held similar expectations. The board heard similar arguments from department heads including Public Works Director Jim Smith who noted the increasing costs in gravel and stone. Paris agreed, noting increases to diesel, gas, and salaries as well.
The opposing discussion came from Paris as he said he believes the biggest issue he gets calls on in the county is roads. However, looking at the choice between the services and taxes, he said he felt the citizens would be more dissatisfied with what is called a “tax increase.” He admitted that he was mixed emotions on the topic, but confessed he would come down on accepting the rollback.
Ultimately, as discussion began circling to repetition, a motion came from Dallas Miller to maintain the 6.983 millage rate. Crouch seconded the motion leading to a 2-1 vote with Charlie Paris as the dissenting vote.
The bond millage vote also approved maintaining the current rate with a unanimous 3-0 vote.
Moving forward on this decision, the board will begin advertising the rate before the formal public hearings on the millage rate, and then on to the final adoption.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – As Gilmer continues to clean up and recover from Saturday mornings storm, officials are beginning to assess damage and costs for the county.
According to Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, around 4 a.m. on Saturday morning emergency services began receiving calls for aid around the county.
As one of the hardest hit counties in North Georgia, the damage with downed trees and powerlines alone could have weeklong effects according to reports as power outages continue and line-men continue working around the clock to repair both downed line and downed poles. There have also been reports of mudslides causing damage to areas, but no roads have been blocked or destroyed.
Pritchett reports that the emergency services only had one reported injury as a tree fell on a local woman’s camper in the Coosawattee area. As paramedics reached the woman, she was taken to an area hospital. However, no reports of any fatalities have come in as authorities are still, days later, responding to calls for aid.
As the intensity of the storm increase through the early hours, an estimated 8,000 – 10,000 homes lost power in the county between Amicalola Electric Company and Georgia Power. Public Safety has counted 20 homes with trees on top of them as they continue the survey process. These were just a few of the different situations that Pritchett says they have continued responding to in the days since the storm.
County services are in full swing with the Gilmer County Road Department and Public Safety department both attempting to clear trees from the roads as they find them.
Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FYN that the county is still collecting estimates for exact amounts of costs of the damage. However, their biggest disaster came in the Buckhorn area and the county golf course which lost part of its most recent paving of the cart path, has numerous trees down on the greens, and is still looking at water damage to the course. Early predictions say the course will not re-open to the public until Wednesday or Thursday at the earliest.
Despite the highest damage to county facilities and equipment being there, the hardest hit part of Gilmer County is actually inside Coosawattee, according to Pritchett. While the county continues the clean up in the outer areas of the county and the cities deal with the damage inside their limits, Coosawattee’s Public Works department is dealing with the mass of downed trees and road damage inside the resorts gated community.
Gilmer has also experienced flooding in low-level areas. However, River Park, which has become notorious for flooding and flood damage in recent years, made it through the storm, according to Paris, with minimal damage and little to no flooding through the buildings.
The major damage from the rainfall came with 5 damaged culvert pipes. Director of Public Works, Jim Smith told FYN that four of those pipes had part of their base wash away as water overtook the pipe and began flowing over the road. The fifth pipe, however, was located on Tyler Road, just off of Highway 282, and was completely washed out and carried away. This pipe had to be replaced and reset. However, the Road Department has all five locations repaired and passable for vehicles at this time.
Alongside the continuing official response of the county, citizens are also still out in droves continuing to help neighbors chainsaw trees in driveways and across roads that authorities haven’t reached yet. Citizens across the county are calling it a major storm, the likes of which they have not seen before.
Citizens are also reporting damage tolls in the hundreds of thousands between damage to homes and vehicles being damaged or crushed by falling branches, trees, hail, power poles, and other debris. Reports of damage continue through local farms including at least one chicken house struck by lightning and burnt down.
Continuing reports of high wind, continuous lightning, and heavy rain have locals calling it a “tornado-like storm without the tornado.”
Officials agree as the Public Safety Department is currently sharing all their information collected with the National Weather Service in attempts to classify the storm. Pritchett confirmed that they are collecting damage reports and assessing weather data to assess the possibility of microbursts, straight-line winds, or actual tornadic activity.
Gilmer is not alone in its time of recovery, though. As is common practice with power companies, Gilmer is receiving aid from counties all over Georgia. Crews are in town this week from Volt Power, Amicalola Electic, Pike Electric, Sumter Electric, and Georgia Power among others. Two visiting workers confirmed they were from Columbus, Ga. and Atlanta, Ga. With others coming in from across the state, work is continuing for those parts of Gilmer and North Georgia that are still without power.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – FetchYourNews (FYN) has confirmed with the Gilmer County Probate Court that Danny Hall has removed his name from the Post 2 Commissioner ballot.
Tammy Watkins from the Gilmer County Probate Court confirmed with FYN that the official paperwork has been filed to remove him from the race. However, the name will still appear on the ballots in the election. According to Watkins, there will be notes in the election booths about his retirement from the race.
It is the current understanding that the official reason for Hall backing out of the race is due to work scheduling conflicts that he said would detriment his service to the county. Hall stated that the conflicts would not allow him to make a full commitment to the position.
With only the official statement available, stay with FYN as we seek more details from Hall in the coming days. Hall’s withdrawal from the election leaves three other candidates in the race: Karleen Ferguson, Jerry Tuso, and Woody Janssen.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Creator of Ellijay’s outdoor social club, Stay Active Ellijay, Karleen Ferguson qualified in March to run for the position of Post 2 Commissioner in Gilmer County.
Originally attending the University of Georgia for a degree in early childhood education and graduating from Kean University in New Jersey with the degree, Ferguson actually spent much of her time with her family’s Catering and Events business in Atlanta. While she admits it was not her dream, she said she learned a lot from planning the events alongside her family.
First moving to Ellijay in 2000, she admitted that her and Robert Ferguson, her husband, used to be one of those people who would come to their home in Ellijay but avoid the crowds. Karleen Ferguson returned to Atlanta in 2005 to take care of her family while maintaining a second home in Ellijay. Growing more in the community and becoming more socially active, she said she began to notice more of the “depressed conditions” she found in areas of the community.
In 2010, Ferguson said, she and her husband Robert sold their main home to live in Ellijay full-time. After helping create the concert series Ellijay Under the Stars, she met Paige Green at one of the events. Building on her achievements and events planning, she began working for the Gilmer Chamber as the Tourism and Special Events coordinator.
Along with her husband, Robert, Karleen Ferguson has raised four children, three boys and one girl, while performing duties as a health coach for over 18 years spanning before and after her time with the Chamber. Even after leaving the Chamber to continue her health coach work, she volunteered in the Chamber’s Ambassador program where she served five years. During that time, she grew out of health coaching to create Stay Active Ellijay (SAE) in order to fill what she calls a gap between encouraging people to experience the region and actual programs to facilitate the experience.
Described as an “award-winning outdoor social club” by Ferguson, SAE currently serves over 200 members through activities like hiking, kayaking, cycling, horseback riding, and more.
Ferguson said she draws from all of this in her efforts toward the commissioner’s seat. She drew experience in growth and tourism from her time at the Chamber and financial and logistical experience from planning events with her family. She drew experience in the county’s departments when she helped alongside the Parks and Recreation with Gold Kist and merchant supporters to grow a soccer program in Gilmer. She noted even running Stay Active Ellijay provides her a basis for the community saying, “I feel like I am the best voice and I understand the heartbeat of the community the best.”
If she is elected to the position, Ferguson said, she is a quick learner because “I love to get in and get my hands dirty … I love to fix things.”
Ferguson tells FYN she had not even considered running, but having rolled off of her services in the Chamber volunteer and Ambassador work, she began to look for her next project and service. It was not until she had heard from current Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch that he would not be running again that she thought of running herself.
Furthering the conversation, Ferguson said she sat down with Couch to discuss the position and the possibility of running. Then she went on to sit down individually with both Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris and Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller. After meeting with all three and feeling confident that she could hold the position, she prayed over the move and, feeling it was God’s direction for her, qualified for election.
Maintaining volunteer work and her business with SAE, Ferguson told FYN she will have no problem juggling her responsibilities as she is used to having a lot on her plate in her life. She went on to say, “I don’t commit to anything unless I can give fully of myself.”
Her main goals in the Post 2 Commissioner revolve around protecting the green-space and continuing along the work that she has seen in the last four years. With building, construction, and real estate on the rise, Ferguson said she wants to be a part of the growth, but maintain a view of the thought that Kent Sanford brought up in an earlier meeting saying, “We need to grow in a qualitative way rather than quantitative.”
Mentioning a few ideas to better utilize the county’s resources, Ferguson said she was excited to have the repairs for the walking path and tennis courts while she wants to see better utilization of natural resources like the rivers.
Summing up her feelings on the position in a final thought, she stated, “Trust me to make what I feel is the best decisions for the entire community … I really want to just be a voice for my entire Gilmer County family.”
Karleen Ferguson is one of four candidates running for the Post 2 Commissioner position in Gilmer County. Check out FYN’s other candidate interviews as they become available for Woody Janssen, Jerry Tuso, and Danny Hall.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Having put in his qualification to run for the position of Gilmer County Post 2 Commissioner, G.R. “Jerry” Tuso resigned from his position as chairman of the Gilmer County Republican Party.
He tells FetchYourNews (FYN) he left the chairman position to run for the Post 2 position to be more hands on with the county in his service.
Previous to his time in Gilmer County, Tuso has spent a total 25 years as an air traffic controller. He had four years with the position in the United States Air Force and 21 years in the position with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He noted these positions when speaking to FYN about his choice to run for the Board of Commissioners. He said he is running because he wants to continue serving the community.
Tuso also said he brings business experience to the position without currently having a business to divide his time between. His experience comes from attending Tarrent County Business School in Hurst, Texas, three years spent on the planning and zoning commission in Hurst, and 19 years in national contract negotiation for contractors dealing with the FAA.
Tuso did note one change he wanted to bring to the Board of Commissioners being a change to the “part-time” status of the post commissioners. “In the last ten years, Gilmer County has almost doubled, and we’ve still got the old hat of part-time post commissioners,” said Tuso.
He went on to note that the current commissioners spend upward of 30 hours a week on their positions through all they do. He also pointed out how large their binders are when the commissioners sit down to their monthly meetings. Tuso also noted the exemplary work that the current chairman and post commissioners have accomplished on the county, both financially and physically as the county is building on to itself.
Tuso told FYN that is what he wants to focus his service on, sustainable growth in the county. He noted the wineries as part of the agricultural growth the county has seen but with people continuing to want to live in Gilmer to commute elsewhere for work. His ideas of sustainable growth are what he wants to delve into at the position, if elected.
FYN asked Tuso to sum up his feelings on running for the Post 2 Commissioner. He replied saying, “I just want the chance to serve.”
Jerry Tuso is one of four candidates running for the Post 2 Commissioner position in Gilmer County. Check out FYN’s other candidate interviews as they become available for Woody Janssen, Karleen Ferguson, and Danny Hall.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Local citizen, and owner/operator of the Cartecay River Experience, Woody Janssen has qualified for Post 2 Commissioner in Gilmer County.
Running for the position, Janssen says he hopes to utilize his business and logistics background to move Gilmer forward in its economic process.
Janssen graduated in 1996 from Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) and moved through logistics management for several years before moving to Texas. Returning to Gilmer County, he has operated the Cartecay River Experience since 2009. Janssen tells FetchYourNews he has seen Gilmer County after the recession slowly progressing on its path to recovery and economic stability.
Noting the current commissioners’ progress in expanding the activities of Gilmer, Janssen pointed to an abundance of natural resources in the county to facilitate growth for “family activities” to attract a larger variety of people to the county. However, he tempered his statement on growth saying Gilmer needs to stay rural. He went on to say, “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. That’s how I grew up in Utah when I was a kid. It was a small area, we were all farmers. I was on a farm since I was five years old.”
Janssen pointed to other local communities prospering in the rural parts of the state like Blue Ridge in Fannin County and Helen in White County. The common thing Janssen noted that he wants to see in Gilmer is the variety of activities to see and do.
Accomplishing this is not something one man does alone. Janssen noted the community’s work and great people working alongside other entities. He praised the current commissioner’s work on the Golf Course specifically saying it is the greatest he has ever seen it: “The way Mike Brumby has done this, what he has done with the golf course, it is going to slowly progress.” With definitive and continued progress, it becomes a matter of continuing the hard work to get Gilmer financially into the black.
Janssen continued, “There is a lot of work to be done, but with what Charlie has done, and Dallas and Travis have helped, they are bringing it more into the black.” Janssen said continuing the work of bringing in more commerce would be his focus in taking the position of Post 2 Commissioner.
In a final word towards voters, Janssen took a moment to say, “The progression is awesome with what’s going on. Do I think we can do a little bit better as a community? Yeah, everybody can. You can always progress. You can always get better. Something my coach always said, ‘You have to get better every day. If you don’t, then your competition is.’ There are little things we can always progress on. We can create more.”
Woody Janssen is one of four candidates running for the Post 2 Commissioner position in Gilmer County. Check out FYN’s other Candidate Interviews as they become available for Jerry Tuso, Karleen Ferguson, and Danny Hall.