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.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – It has been several months since Gilmer County’s budget session where the Board of Commissioners set aside contingency funds in their capital budget with the idea that they would not be there this year unless they could find funding to replace the Lower Cartecay Road bridge.
Good news came during the county commissioners meeting when Chairman Charlie Paris officially announced that Gilmer County has been accepted into the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) program it has been applying for. This means that the DOT will come and replace the bridge along with numerous others across the state.
The original estimate that Gilmer received to replace the bridge was $1.2 million. With this program, Gilmer will be responsible for pairing 50 percent of the costs to obtain additional rights of way, which is a “minimal cost” as Paris stated in relation to the original estimate.
Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch asked if the county could do any preliminary work to fast track the project. Gilmer will be in contact with the DOT to see if they can prepare any work ahead of time.
The one “catch” in this approval is that it will fall into the state’s schedule, meaning it still could be some time before Gilmer sees the bridge replaced.
This is actually the second bridge the county will have on the program as the bridge near Turniptown on Vanilla Lane has previously been approved some time ago. The commissioners discussed flipping their priority for the two bridges in effort to move Lower Cartecay up the list to an earlier replacement.
Chairman Paris spoke with FetchYourNews privately about the issue saying that if we had not gotten into the program, we still wouldn’t be able to begin replacing it this year due to our budget. We would still need over $700,000 next year just to begin the project.
Speaking on the relief he feels the approval gives Gilmer, Paris stated, “It’s a pretty big impact for us, and it will impact us for several years.”
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners April Meeting saw new plans for two key areas of the county. Finalized approvals will move both the failing 911 system and community pool on their path in the coming months.
The Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve their new 911 system with Communications & Electronics for a Zetron system.
The split came through discussion among the Commissioners whose original budget conversations centered around the idea that the current 911 system is failing and needs replacement. Since, the Commissioners decided instead of just replacing the system, they should upgrade the hybrid system.
The hybrid system is both analog and digital. While the 911 signals are all digital, our county had a conversion system which allowed the interface. The newer system, however, is completely digital and comes with “enhanced 911” capabilities. This term is somewhat loose though as the service is still in development stages through the state and phone companies.
Some of the possibilities the enhanced service could allow are text capabilities to 911, GPS tracking for emergencies, and even Caller ID functions to tie in with a more detailed 911 mapping system for response.
This upgrade was budgeted at $168,525, but the approved bid is $137,695 for the project to replace the current systems. Dallas Miller became the dissenting vote stating, “I don’t like spending $115,000 to do what we’re already doing today.”
The Commissioners tabled a few items in their meeting like their Contract with Piedmont ER for Ambulance Services. AS they did not have the contract in hand for the meeting, the Commissioners put off the approval until they can finalize the contract and its details. According to Director of Public Safety Tony Pritchett, the contract will guarantee Gilmer County first rights to all transportation from the hospital to other facilities as well as provide a guaranteed payment of services.
Another Tabled item was a possibility for Gilmer County to adopt a County Flag. As a point of pride for the county, Chairman Paris told FYN it was actually a citizen who called and offered proposals for the county to consider. However, the meeting showed little interest from the Commissioners who have not received additional support or interest in a flag.
Chairman Paris said he saw no downside for adopting a flag, but also didn’t see much priority for the project compared to other county business. The Commissioners have previously discussed possibilities of incorporating students from the schools to design the flag, citizens input, and other possibilities. However, having been tabled two months in a row, this item may ultimately see the Commissioners dismissing the idea if it does not garner more community support.
Citizens are also moving forward with plans to maintain the community pool through Gilmer’s winter months. Approving a Memorandum of Understanding with the Three Rivers Athletic Club, Inc., the Commissioners are following their promise to citizens that they would take a risk on the project citizens have been requesting since last summer. The Club has purchased a “bubble” to put over the pool and is currently completing installation of the heaters for the pool to provide access for community organizations and school athletes to practice, compete, and excersize year-round.
The Commissioners will be instituting quarterly reviews of the project so as to remain “revenue-neutral” for the county, meaning that the costs of operation of the pool will be offset through fees and such that the organizations will be providing to the county. With everything in place, it appears that the fall of 2017 will start the experiment when the pool extends its usual season.
Though progress is being made, many questions still circle the operations including some citizens questioning the viability as the pool such as the bubble will be heated, but athletes and swimmers will still be traveling from the bubble to the changing rooms wet. Post Commissioner Miller also offered concerns on the topic saying, “I personally think its a good deal for the Three Rivers Athletic Club and not a good deal for the county. We are bearing all the risks and the expense… I think we’re taking a risk, but I am willing to do this. We already have a plan in place to review this… if we find things that are not acceptable.”
Also in the community, the Comissioners did make two appointments in their April meetings, Don Van Landingham has been appointed to the Board for the Kids Kottage as well as Paul Nealey being reappointed to the Gilmer County Library Board of Trustees.
The Commissioners also formalized their newest Bond Refinancing through final paperwork and signatures at Aprils Regular Meeting. Paris told FYN these signings effectively end the refinancing process until the County begins realizing its savings next March with a $50,000 reduction in its payments.
A final approval came for the Commissioner’s change in the “Litter and Waste Control” chapter of ordinances that is incorporating state laws instead of County ordinances. As mentioned in previous meetings and reports, this does leave a place holder in case future Commissions feel the need for one, but the County will now officially be enforcing the state laws as always while not maintaining additional county level ordinances.
For more on the County’s Meetings check out The Trouble at the Tabor House as well as the meeting’s video below.
Gilmer BOC April Work Session:
Gilmer BOC April Regular Meeting:
FYN has been informed of a Georgia DOT (Department of Transportation) inspection on the bridge on Lower Cartecay Road that has deemed it “Unsafe.”
Due to this, FYN has confirmed with Commission Chairman Paris that the bridge is closed at this time to public use. Authorities will be attempting to further inspect the bridge to see if it is possible for repairs, or if a full replacement is necessary.
As for the closing of the bridge, Chairman Paris expects it will be weeks before it could be open due to the current condition.
Paris assured FYN he would continue updates as decisions are made about the future of the bridge.
As the Piedmont Stand-Alone Emergency Department enters the final stages of preparation and inspections, they held a celebration with local and state officials to honor the occasion.
Construction is complete and renovations are over, the near $2 million project is now awaiting final inspections and approval of the actual ED (Emergency Department) itself. Upon completion of those, Piedmont will be officially declaring its opening date.
The Ribbon Cutting ceremony was attended by not only local officials like Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Post Commissioner and Greater Gilmer JDA (Joint Development Authority) Chairman Travis Crouch, and Director of Public Safety Tony Pritchett, but also state officials State Senator Steve Gooch and House Speaker David Ralston.
Piedmont is also already looking to the future of the Emergency Department with suggestions of providing an upgrade to digital for the X-Ray machines in 2018 as well as integration into its Epic System for the local Piedmont Healthcare Offices in Gilmer County that citizens have seen on Industrial Boulevard and on Eller Road behind Walmart in East Ellijay.
This Epic System is an integrated records network that will allow for all admissions and care at the Emergency Room to be instantly accessible by Piedmont’s local Doctors as well as vice versa for Emergency Care Physicians to have instant access to the records of Piedmont Doctor’s patients for pertinent information such as Drug Allergies.
Stay tuned to FYN in the coming days as we delve deeper into the Emergency Department including a look behind the scenes at some of new changes Piedmont is bringing to Gilmer County’s Emergency Care as well as a closer look at the equipment and Epic System.
Meanwhile, check in with the Gilmer Chamber below to watch the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
Monday, December 19, saw Judge Brenda Weaver appearing in Gilmer County’s Courthouse to swear in newly elected and returning officials for their offices in our county.
The day began with Probate Judge elect Scott Chastain taking his oath in his soon to be courtroom before officially donning is black robe for the first time.
Be sure to follow those sworn in and also watch the oaths below.
Scott Chastain Sworn in as Probate Judge.
Roger Kincaid sworn in as Chief Magistrate.
Glenda Sue Johnson sworn in as Clerk of Superior Court.
Stacy L. Nicholson sworn in as Sheriff.
Rebecca A. Marshall sworn in as Tax Commissioner.
Jerry B. Hensley sworn in as Coroner.
Dallas Howard Miller sworn in as County Commissioner Post 1.
Jeffery T. Vick sworn in as Surveyor.
Thomas A. Ocobock sworn in as Board of Education, Post 1.
James Parmer sworn in as Board of Education, Post 2.
Nick Weaver sworn in as Board of Education, Post 3.
Ronald Watkins sworn in as Board of Education, Post 5.
A Special Called meeting for the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners turned into an impromptu Budget Discussion Friday.
The so called budget discussion followed the Commissioners discussing the Millage rate and approving their advertisement for the rate. The rate which will be advertised as 6.983 mills on the Maintenance and Operations Millage and then 1.5 mills on the Bond Millage Rate.
The Commissioners spent over two hours discussing different options for the Millage Rate. Ultimately, the Commissioners came down to two Scenarios. Scenario A was to accept the rollback rate which would include a slight decrease of close to $30,000 in the County’s revenues, which, according the Chairman Charlie Paris, accumulates over the last several years as the county has continually accepted rollback rates with property value increases. Scenario B was to set the M&O (Maintenance and Operations) to 6.983 mills and the Bond Millage Rate to 1.5 mills.
Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller articulated worries over the County’s Economy and Market Values and the instability of those in the future.
Post Commissioner Travis Crouch also commented saying the issue is not the budget, but the county’s many departments who are understaffed and ill-equipped. The Commissioners refused further budget cuts to employees and staff indicating that more staff cuts would eventually lead to certain services to the county being shut down.
Crouch also presented his personal research to the Board about the County’s current position in the state with regards to taxation. As you see these documents, your first tab will show the county’s in alphabetical order, the second tab indicates the county’s ordered by the lowest mill rates with Gilmer at position 19 of the 159 listed counties. Scan the third tab for a population comparison and the last two tabs for Board of Education inclusion who separately set their Millage Rate. You can also follow FYN’s story of Gilmer’s Board of Education Setting their Millage Rate.
As you follow the advertised increase, the Commissioner’s consulted Gilmer Tax Commissioner Rebecca Marshall when asked what this would mean to an average taxpayer. The final amount that average taxpayer will currently expect to see on their bill is an increase of $33.72 per $100,000 of Fair Market Value.
The approval that came from the Commissioners on Friday will begin the process as they advertise the rates and the public meetings to discuss them.
After letters of opposition were submitted in February, the Department of Community Health has finally issued its reply on election day, May 24th. The decision by the Department of Community has moved the Letter for Determination forward in its process pending several issues.
Wednesday, May 25, saw the Commissioners in a special meeting to talk about Piedmont CEO Greg Hurst asking for a Letter of Support from the Board. At the time the Board had not been given notice of the Department of Community Health’s reply. While the letter was never written, the Dept of Health went ahead with its confirmation in spite of several letters of opposition including the Board of Commissioners, the Ellijay City Councils, East Ellijay, the Board of Education, and the Joint Development Authority. In fact, the letters of opposition were only mentioned once in the reply and only in a single sentence stating, “Opposition to the project was received by several independent parties.”
During the meeting, Chairman Charlie Paris discussed the intentions of Piedmont as stated by CEO Hurst, was to operate the new stand-alone Emergency Department. Hurst was reported by Paris to have said they don’t even believe they can operate the Emergency Department at a profit. Relying on their size and presence they hope to “break even” with the Ellijay location as they look for a profit to come from the flow of patients to Jasper’s Piedmont Hospital location.
If allowed to move forward, Piedmont will operate its Ellijay stand-alone Emergency Department under a lease. Without actually purchasing the property, Piedmont will not be actual owner which would leave an opening for Piedmont to abandon its Emergency Department at a later date. Piedmont’s establishment of the Department will have already removed Gilmer County’s Certificate of Need if they abandoned the building leaving Gilmer County to rely on Jasper’s Hospital for all of its healthcare needs causing further problems for not only the community, but for Gilmer County’s Nursing home as Gilmer’s EMA would be required to transport every resident via ambulance service to Jasper instead of having the convenience of a wheelchair ride to an adjacent building.
Further, Governor Nathan Deal’s own Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee agreed that stand-alone Emergency Departments were not only a bad idea for the communities, but also financially unviable.
“One of the main areas of focus for the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee was to address Emergency Department (ED) stressors in rural hospitals that can contribute and lead to their closure. In an effort to address this issue, a process to scale down hospital operations and create a stand-alone ED was proposed. After testimony and research it was determined that stand-alone EDs are not financially viable, due to several reasons. There are issues with the reimbursement mechanisms and there are extremely high labor costs and capital investments. National trend data also shows most of these being developed in wealthier, suburban areas as opposed to rural areas. It was determined that it takes approximately 15,000 ED visits to break even which equates to a needed population of approximately 35,000. However, Georgia has virtually no rural hospitals in counties capable of supporting an ED without outside subsidies.”
Post Commissioner Travis Crouch, also Chairman of the Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority, is also looking for the long term future of Gilmer county. With close to 25% of Gilmer County being 65 or older, healthcare facilities are critical to our community. While many mention the previous facilities and their loss of over one million dollars a year, Crouch states, “It’s not the marketplace. This market will support a hospital that is run well and maintained well.”
As the county has been seeing economic growth recently, the loss of medical facilities could devastate the efforts of the county as a whole and march us backwards. As former JDA Executive Director Chuck Scraggs stated in a previous interview potential business owners always ask to see the school systems and the hospitals when they visit.
Additionally, Piedmont is not the only hospital service option in Gilmer County as continuous reports from Commissioner Crouch involve another interested party stating, “I am optimistic for the possibility of a hospital in Gilmer and that will be key to our future development,” and “It’s worth the time and effort for a strong possibility of a hospital in our community versus the certainty there there will not be.”
Indeed, the whole of the situation comes down to Gilmer County’s Certificate of Need. If lost, recovering a Certificate of Need is just short of impossible according to Chairman Paris.
Further, citizens need to understand that if Piedmont’s request is denied, the Certificate of Need would give Gilmer and its municipalities the power to search for a Health Provider to service the county with a full facility instead of just a stand-alone Emergency Department which the Governor’s office has already warned against.
Indeed, the county seems to be the only entity considering this as the lack of a full hospital and Emergency Room has already cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars as they have reacted and responded to the citizens needs. They have increased there workforce and are still working on plans to increase the fleet of emergency vehicles to cope with the loss of facilities. Costs that could be redirected to other needs again with a full facility.
With so many issues and every major municipality of the county in opposition to Piedmont’s Emergency Department, citizen’s are asking what more can be done to tell the Department of Community Health that they want a stand alone Emergency Department, but a full facility to further Gilmer County’s economic, community, and healthcare growth, especially since we have an alternative company looking into our community and definitely wanting to support a full hospital.
Follow up with more as FYN attends the Greater Gilmer JDA’s Meeting. Look below as FYN gets a chance to sit down with Post 2 Commissioner and Greater Gilmer JDA Chairman Travis Crouch and further down for a copy of the Georgia Department of Community Health’s Reply.