Lower Cartecay Bridge gains priority in state replacement program

News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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River Park opens new playground

Community, News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Earth Day in Gilmer showcases citizens and clean-ups

Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Amending the county’s budget amendments

News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Amnesty Tires return for one week

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Reviving its previous program from last year, Gilmer County has applied, and been approved, for its grant to run the Amnesty Tire Program from April 16 through April 21.

The program allows residents and citizens to bring old tires to the county’s landfill in order to dispose of the tires free of charge to the citizen. The program will only run one week this year leading up to Earth Day.

Keep Gilmer Beautiful Committee, in cooperation with the Gilmer County Solid Waste Department, is hosting “Amnesty Tire Week” for our residents as the program is in conjunction with the Keep Gilmer Beautiful Committee’s EARTH DAY EVENT, scheduled for Saturday, April 21, 2018.

Used tires can be taken to the Gilmer County Landfill at 456 Tower Road and dropped off free of charge during normal operating hours.

The following are the rules for Gilmer County residents only to take advantage of this free program:

  • Program is for non-commercial only;
  • Tires must be off the rim and free of water; and
  • Each household will be limited to 20 tires.

The county is also asking that if citizens have any questions, please call 706-635-7696 or 706-635-4589.

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Inmate trash pickup returns

News

(Photo by Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office)

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) has been considering litter in the county for over three months now.

As FetchYourNews originally reported in February, “Roadside trash concerns rising in Gilmer” and further discussed in a Special Called Meeting, the BOC was set to hire seasonal employees to cover trash pickup ahead of the county’s mowing team. With a cost close to $45,000, the board was all approved and ready to move forward with the hiring when Chairman Paris returned with another option that was approved in the March Regular Meeting. For a similar cost, the county could hire one extra sheriff’s deputy to supervise prison inmates to travel the roads instead.

This option would serve the county year-round instead of a specified summer season. Additionally, the program enlists inmates of the prison system to provide service to the county during incarceration.

According to the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, “Despite a very cool and wet last two weeks, Sheriff’s Office inmate work detail has performed litter pick up on Big Creek Road and as of April 9, 2018, has moved on to Roy Road. The inmate workers have picked up 117 bags of litter and have delivered 2,300 pounds of garbage to the Gilmer Landfill.”

The project was approved in the March meeting of the BOC with set expectations to analyze and monitor the progress so that the commissioners could keep track of the project.

The Sheriff’s Office has utilized an inmate workforce to pick up litter on the county’s roadways in the past. However, according to the Sheriff’s Office, “Budget cuts beginning in 2009 caused the program to come to an end.”

With the new funding allocation covering salary and benefits of a deputy sheriff, the office is utilizing equipment it already possessed to operate the transportation and needs of the job.

Originally, the BOC stated that with the mowing season upon us, these crews would travel ahead of the mowing teams. Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson confirmed the immediate goal for the inmate work detail will be to go ahead of the county’s Road Department mowing crews, so the litter can be picked up before the mowers shred and scatter it.

He went on to add that on inclement weather days, the inmates will be utilized to accomplish “inside” jobs. As the work detail gets caught up ahead of the mowing schedule, it will be bounced around to address problem areas when possible.

With an ongoing concern by citizens and businesses about the issue of litter in the county, Chairman Paris has stated that this is not the end answer, but a step towards a solution.

Sheriff Nicholson would like to remind everyone that there are pretty costly fines for anyone convicted of littering and that “intent” is not a requirement of the offense, meaning trash blowing out of the bed of a pickup truck is just as much “littering” as someone purposely throwing it out the window of his or her car. Fines for someone caught littering can reach $1,000.

 

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Commissioners nearing decision on tiny homes

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – After a previous meeting in February, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners convened on March 29 for the second of three planned meetings discussing options and facets on how they wish to handle the tiny home trend in our county.

Early in the meeting, the commissioners seemed to come to an agreement about possibly creating a new zoning, dubbed “RT” in their discussions. However, through the next hour of discussing that option and accepting input from citizens present, a suggestion was made to simply increase the minimum requirements for R1 zoned housing to 600 to 650 square feet on the main level.

The meeting progressed upon the idea stated by Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller about the trend becoming very popular in our region: “We need to manage it.”

Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch offered his thoughts saying his intention was to make tiny homes available as an option for starter housing. He gave an example of a young couple wanting to build a tiny home to start out while wanting to continually build onto the structure.

Even though the board ended the meeting in favor of not adding the new zoning district but raising the minimum square footage for R1 zoning, they continued separating tiny homes on wheels into a separate category with a general comparison to recreational vehicles. The one concession the commissioners discussed was allowing tiny homes on wheels for a short period of time if the residents possess an active building permit indicating their plan to build a permanent structure on site.

In detail, tiny homes on wheels shall not be considered for permanent or long-term residential use, if such a building is on the lot for more than 30 days, they will revert to requiring the active building permit showing construction of a permanent residence. Large groups of tiny homes for rental use revert to campground requirements.

While all of this is still in the working section, citizens are expected to see the item on the county’s May agenda with another possible work session before then. That said, the commissioners are not expecting to move forward with the originally planned third meeting on tiny homes. Instead, the next work session is expected to see discussion on the wording and finer details of these changes.

Stay with FetchYourNews as more comes to light on the county’s consideration and resolutions on tiny homes in the county.

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Community development on agenda in commissioners’ March meetings

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners addressed community development this month with a possible final solution to roadside trash pick-up as well as applying for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

Trash pick-up has been a developing issue over the last two months now as the board originally planned on hiring five seasonal employees for trash pick-up to work through the summer preceding the county’s mowing teams. However, a special called meeting in February saw new ideas as the commissioners began considering a new deputy in the Sheriff’s Department, similar in costs, to put inmates on the roads picking up trash.

During that meeting, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated this crew would consist of four or five non-risk inmates under the supervision of one deputy. He described this option as a better long-term solution and one that is typically more favorably viewed in the public perception.

At their regular March meeting, the idea was restated for the public saying the Sheriff’s Department would not need a new vehicle for the added deputy. The county will receive reports of the progress of the program to monitor and are still expected to have the teams move ahead of mowers in the summer months. This item was officially approved this month, so citizens should be seeing these teams on county roads, not state-owned roads, in the coming months. They will also be skipping over roads already cleaned and maintained by the Keep Gilmer Beautiful organization.

March also saw the commissioners approve a CDBG for the area of Sunlight Road and Roundtop Road. Proposed by the Ellijay-Gilmer Water Sewage Authority, the approval by the board is the first step in the grant application process, meaning this is still early stages of a competitive grant process that the county will be entering into application for.

If accepted, it would allow expansion of the water/sewer system closer to the southwest corner of Gilmer County, closer to the county line, according to Ellijay-Gilmer Water Sewage Authority Director Gary McVey. He estimated 200 residents of the area could be affected by the expansion. With the application due April 1, late fall could see the beginning of construction if approved with an expected one-year construction time.

In addition to these items, the Board of Commissioners approved applications for 2018 River Outfitter’s licenses for Cartecay River Experience and Coosawattee River Resort and an Alcoholic Beverage license for Mohammad Nizar Tharani at Ellijay Mini Mart.

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