BOC backs off legislative option for Post Commissioner Raises

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Home Rule won out on December 4, 2018, as the Board of Commissioners met for a Public Comments session regarding the 2019 budget.

“I think the citizens have spoken,” said Post Commissioner Dallas Miller after an understood agreement was reached by the members of the Board to forego the idea they’ve held for almost two months. Originally, the Board was going to send the resolution for a raise for the Post Commissioners to Atlanta do be voted on by State Legislation in order to have the issue taken care of by mid 2019.

Due to an overwhelming response by citizens questioning why they were sending this resolution to Atlanta and other details about the raise, the Public Comments meeting lasted more than an hour as Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris and Post Commissioners Travis Crouch and Dallas Miller listened.

Citizens like Joene DePlancke and Brian Pritchard adamantly told the Board they wanted the decision for raises kept in county. Miller has already noted sentiments on the issue in previous meetings, stating that it didn’t feel right that sending the choice to Atlanta would end up with him also receiving the raise. He revisited the concept at this meeting, calling it an ethics issue that he would be voting to give himself a raise.

FYN also weighed in on the issue with a recent article, “Commissioner’s pushing for “Fast Answer” in pay raises,” where the question was raised about a Post Commissioner’s election qualifying fees being paid based on the position’s salary, a salary that would then change after they took office.

By reaching an agreement to consider the raises by home rule, the issue will be pushed into the coming months of BOC meetings as they consider the issue locally.  It also negates the budget line that was placed in anticipation of a possible Atlanta approval for the Post Commissioner salary raise.

This does not mean the Commissioner’s will not be getting the raise. Instead, it places the decision for it back into Gilmer County and its citizen’s hands. If the Board approves the issue, it will begin taking effect with re-election cycles, the next position up for re-election, the Post 1 seat currently held by Dallas Miller, is in 2020.

But the home rule was not the only part questioned by citizens at the public comments meeting. Other questions saw clarification and no change. DePlancke also questioned the board on their 1.5 mill in bond debt service, calling it smoke and mirrors. She stated her concern was that the Board was, in a sense, making sure it had SPLOST money left to use in capital without having to tell the citizens.

Paris explained that his intent with setting a separate millage for bond service was to keep it separate from the general fund saying, “If we were to take that one and half mill and move it over to general account, it could be used in general fund. That’s a situation I don’t want to see happen. The whole point of all this is to improve the capital infrastructure in Gilmer County and I don’t want this money where it could be used in the general fund.”

Pritchard questioned the Board’s allocation of the budget saying he could find a half million dollars to reallocate into the Road Department, an area that Paris called the biggest area of citizens concern in his opinion. He stated that the majority of calls he answers has to do with roads.

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Gilmer inducts new members to Hall of Fame

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – December saw six new members inducted into Gilmer County’s Hall of Fame between Friday’s, December 7,  Girls and Boys Basketball games.

Celebrating the accomplishments of these people both during and after high school, the ceremony honored these individuals and their families. Coming from several different walks of life and spreading to even more after high school, Gilmer welcomed these stars home to the Gilmer’s Court for the special day.

 

Donna Cowart Mousa was in the Class of 1978. She played Basketball, Track, and Tennis. Named as the GHS Basketball MVP for 3 years, she was also voted as Most Athletic Female during her Senior Year. She was later awarded a scholarship to Clemson University where she lettered in Basketball and Field Hockey. She joined All ACC Field Hockey for three years and was named as an All American Honorable Mention for Field Hockey.

 

 

 

 

Pam Gibson was in the Class of 1987. She played Basketball, Tennis, and Softball. Named to All State Basketball in 1987, she also became GHS Lady Cats Player of the Year in both 1985 and 1987. She was also awarded Top GHS Female Athlete of the Year in 1985. She was Basketball Team Captain in 1986 and Co-Captain in 1987. Gibson achieved Top 8 in AA State Singles Tennis Tournament in 1985. She was later awarded a scholarship to Troy State University where she became a Freshman Starter averaging 15 points-per-game.

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Brumby was in the Class of 1988. He played Football, Basketball, Baseball, and Golf. Named All State Honorable Mention for Football in 1987, he was also named All State Honorable Mention for Basketball in 1988. Receiving several GHS Awards in both football and basketball, he became the GHS Basketball Player of the Year in both 1987 and 1988. He is currently a Whitepath Golf Club Pro in Gilmer County.

 

 

 

 

 

Candy Pankey Ledford was in the Class of 1993. She played Basketball, Softball, Tennis, Track, and Cross Country. Named Second Team All State Basketball in both 1992 and 1993, she also was awarded the GHS Female Athlete of the Year Awards in both 1990 and 1991. She also received the GHS Most Athletic Female Award in 1993. She was later awarded a scholarship to Reinhardt College from 1993 to 1995 and was then awarded a scholarship to Augusta State College from 1996 to 1998.

 

 

 

 

 

Neil Gary was in the Class of 1997. He played Football and Wrestling. Named State Wrestling Champion in both 1996 and 1997, he also achieved a total Career Wrestling Record of 63-22 with 41 career pins. He also was named GHS MVP in Wrestling in 1995, 1996, and 1997. He later served eight years in the United States Marines and was Decorated for Valor in Iraq.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert “Bob” Becker is being inducted into the 2018 Support Category for achievements at GHS High School where he taught from 1977 to 2014. He was Public Address Announcer for Band, Football, Basketball, and Baseball. He holds degrees from Jacksonville State, Georgia State, and Lincoln Memorial. To this day, he says he is first to be known as a man of God.

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Gilmer Library unveils 25th Festival of Trees

Community

ELLIJAY, Ga. – What’s better than sitting in a comfy warm chair with a beautifully theme-decorated Christmas tree, some Christmas music playing in the background, a warm drink in your hands, and some friends gathered to enjoy it with you? Well, 34 trees of course.

That is 34 different trees and wreaths gathered from the community to decorate the Gilmer County Library in celebration for the season. Being the 25th consecutive year of the annual Festival of Trees, the library has become experts at celebrating the season as they opened their doors late into the evening on December 3 for people of the community to pack inside for the event. Packing in is exactly what they did to see the first official day of the December-long celebration.

With entities like the Gilmer Chamber, Stay Active Ellijay, THRIFT, Gilmer County Master Gardeners, Kids Ferst, Safe Choice Pregnancy Care Center, Walnut Mtn, Garden, American Legion Auxiliary, Operation Christmas Child, Optimist Club, Dept of Juvenile Justice, Chattahoochee Technical College, Friends of Harrison Park, Southern Flare Antiques, Mountain Education Center, Keep Gilmer Beautiful, Girl Scouts, Re-Max, ABG, Small Batch Garden, North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network, Gilmer County Parks & Rec Department, Marine Toys for Tots, Boys and Girls Club, Apple Contry Quilters Guild, Cub Scout Pack 404, Coosawattee Shrine Club, Friends of the Gilmer County Library, Garden Club of Ellijay, 4-H, Gilmer Genealogical Society, Faith,Hope, and Charity, and more, the Festival grows each year to the massive events it has become with crowds looking to meet Santa for pictures, listen to live music, and enjoy the trees.

This years event saw the Ellijay Elementary Chorus and Mountain Spirit Dulcimer Group playing through the evening while activities continued.

Yet, more than just a one-night event, the Festival of Trees really kicks off the Sequoyah Regional Library’s Christmas Season. Gilmer alone is hosting the Grinch to visit on December 11, a Holiday Card Making event on December 6, and a continuing Winter Literacy Challenge going on until January. Check out more events for Gilmer on their Facebook Calender and the Region and the Regional Library Calendar.

That doesn’t meant you missed your chance to see the trees. Make sure to swing by the Gilmer County Library to enjoy the ongoing Festival of Trees before Christmas to fully enjoy the decorations made possible by the county and community.

Make sure to see photos of the trees by visiting the FYN Facebook Photo Album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rabies Alert issued in Ellijay

News

ELLIJAY, GA – Gilmer County Environmental Health officials are urging residents near the intersection of Board Town Road and Chatsworth Highway in Ellijay, Georgia to call for a rabies risk assessment if they or their children may have been in contact with an orange tabby cat in the area that has now tested positive for rabies.

The phone number for local environmental health is (706) 635-6050, or if calling after hours, the Georgia Poison Control Center toll-free number is 1-800-222-1222.

On Monday, December 3rd, a local resident picked up the cat after finding it in their carport. The cat was behaving sickly and dragging its back legs.

The county environmental health office was notified and sent the cat to the Georgia Department of Public Health Laboratory for rabies testing on Tuesday. The lab confirmed the animal was positive for rabies on Wednesday.

Since the resident who handled the cat was not bitten or scratched, no treatment was required, and no other human exposure is known, at this time. However, environmental health staff will be canvassing that area today, distributing notices to residents to call their office or the Georgia Poison Control Center if they or their children were potentially in contact with the cat within the past two weeks.

Residents are also being notified that several stray cats are in that area, and these cats should be avoided due to the high risk of rabies exposure.

All residents are urged to avoid wild or feral animals and to maintain rabies vaccinations in pets. If a pet receives an initial one-year vaccine, it can receive a three-year rabies vaccination the following year.

A bite or scratch from any wild mammal should cause concern and be reported to a health care provider and the local environmental health office.

Children should be warned to avoid contact with wild animals and any stray dog or cat, and they should report any contact with these animals to an adult right away.

For more information about rabies and its prevention, log onto the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/.

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Fire and Rescue Weekly Status Report 11/25 – 12/1

Police & Government
Dates Structure Fires Brush Fires Fire Alarms Emergency Med Calls (EMS)
11/25/18-12/1/18 2 1 1 82
MVC (Vehicle Accidents Vehicle Fires Haz. Conditions Search/Tech. Rescue Total Calls
10 1 7 1 105

 

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Georgia Election Run-Off Results

Election 2018

 2018 Georgia Election Run-Off Results

Tonight marks the run-offs for election races in Georgia, these results are unofficial until approved by the Secretary of State.

 

Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 756,016 votes   51.97%

John Barrow (D) – 698,770 votes   48.03%

 

Public Service Commission, District 3

Chuck Eaton (R) – 749,805 votes   51.83%

Lindy Miller (D) – 696,957 votes   48.17%

 

 

Check for local results by county here:

 

Gilmer

Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 4,337 votes   83.13%

John Barrow (D) – 880 votes   16.87%

 

Public Service Commission, District 3

Chuck Eaton (R) – 4,250 votes   81.79%

Lindy Miller (D) – 946 votes   18.21%

 

Pickens

Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 4,408 votes   84.01%

John Barrow (D) – 839 votes   15.99%

 

Public Service Commission, District 3

Chuck Eaton (R) – 4,325 votes   82.70%

Lindy Miller (D) – 905   17.30%

 

Fannin

Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 3,522 votes   81.89%

John Barrow (D) – 779 votes   18.11%

 

Public Service Commission, District 3

Chuck Eaton (R) – 3,454 votes   80.57%

Lindy Miller (D) – 833 votes   19.43%

 

Dawson

Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 3,985 votes   85.83%

John Barrow (D) – 658 votes   14.17%

 

Public Service Commission, District 3

Chuck Eaton (R) – 3,939 votes   85.02%

Lindy Miller (D) – 694 votes   14.98%

 

White

Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 4,063 votes   82.78%

John Barrow (D) – 845 votes   17.22%

 

Public Service Commission, District 3

Chuck Eaton (R) – 3,960 votes   80.82%

Lindy Miller (D) – 940 votes   19.18%

 

Union

Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 4,246 votes   80.92%

John Barrow (D) – 1,001 votes   19.08%

 

Public Service Commission, District 3

Chuck Eaton (R) – 4,108 votes   78.65%

Lindy Miller (D) – 1,115 votes   21.35%

 

Towns

Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 2,161 votes   79.95%

John Barrow (D) – 542 votes   20.05%

 

Public Service Commission, District 3

Chuck Eaton (R) – 2,105 votes   78.22%

Lindy Miller (D) – 586 votes   21.78%

 

Murray

Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 2,699 votes   88.99%

John Barrow (D) – 334 votes   11.01%

 

Public Service Commission, District 3

Chuck Eaton (R) – 2,691 votes   88.84%

Lindy Miller (D) – 338 votes   11.16%

 

Lumpkin

Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger (R) – 3,378 votes   78.47%

John Barrow (D) – 927 votes   21.53%

 

Public Service Commission, District 3

Chuck Eaton (R) – 3,337 votes   77.89%

Lindy Miller (D) – 947 votes   22.11%

Author

Commissioners pushing for “Fast Answer” in pay raises

News, Opinion

What’s the rush in Gilmer County for Post Commissioner pay raises? As the issue is moving forward in the Board of Commissioners revolves around three post commissioners, new information has drastically changed how the Board as a whole is attempting to achieve the goal of a raise.

Looking back into recent years, the Administrative Wages stood at $20,685 in 2017. It was then raised in 2018 to $21,083, not an uncommon increase as post commissioner positions gain “Cost of Living” adjustments, certification supplements, or longevity increases.

The current Post Commissioners’ base salary is $7,125.38. If the Post Commissioner has completed the Carl Vinson Institute of Government classes, they gain $1,200 in supplement pay. There is also Cost of Living Increases that have been added in recent years as well as a “Longevity Payment” if the Post Commissioner is re-elected. Additionally, health insurance is included.

However, this raise will only increase the Base Pay, everything else is added on after. So it will take what is considered a part-time position as Post Commissioner from $7,125.38 to $14,250.76.

It has been well documented that Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch is the one who initiated the conversation about a raise for Post Commissioners. He has said that as he looks at the position on his way out, he did not run for re-election, it is something that he feels should be changed. The final agreed amount seemed to fall at doubling the base pay of the position, from 10% of the chairman’s salary to 20%.

When it was originally brought up, the idea was to handle the change by “home rule.” This means that the Board would change its own charter, and it would hold meetings where citizens could speak and comment on their thoughts about the change. Then the board would approve or not approve the change. If approved, the change would take effect at the next election cycle.

The catch came when County Attorney David Clark informed the Board at a later meeting that such a change would have had to be done before qualifying. This was a time when Crouch said he was unsure if he would run again or not.

This is because if the positions pay changes, it will affect qualifying fees for running in the election for that position. A post commissioner candidate pays 3% of the position’s annual salary as a qualifying fee.

However, since this revelation, the county has not decided to move forward with the change to take effect for the next election cycle. They have instead pushed straight for a local legislation answer to the issue by sending it to Atlanta to be approved by the state in their earl 2019 legislative session.

However, if this happens, it will not only push away the opportunity for a public hearing and opinions by locals on the issue as the county’s charter demands, it will also take immediate effect as soon as the Governor signs the bill. It will also take effect for BOTH post commissioner positions instead of just one.

This means the current Board of Commissioners is attempting to rush ahead with an idea that was only raised a little over a month ago through the fastest option possible instead of following their own charter and their own rules to let the home rule change take effect on the next cycle. Why?

The argument was also made that these people aren’t paying attention to what they make annually, instead running for the benefit of the county. Yet, in their public meetings, Attorney David Clark openly said the pay increase would entice more people and more qualified people to the position as he likened it to that of management of a $20 million company.

Additionally, this raise further seems to be only fueled by the idea that it makes the position more attractive and “worth it” as their is no apparent changes in the responsibilities or duties of the Post Commissioner.

Is that a good reason to raise the position’s pay? That is for citizens to decide instead of state legislators.

If this is sent to the state legislation instead of handled at the county level, it also introduces a fault in the law of the county. As it is stated that a candidate should pay 3% of the Post Commissioner annual salary as a qualifying fee. Changing through state legislation puts these people outside of the county’s law as they did not pay the expected 3%.

Yes the Post 1 Commissioner (Dallas Miller) has spent close to two years in the position being paid what he qualified for with the 3%, but the Post 2 Commissioner Elect (Karleen Ferguson) will likely only spend 6 months in office before her salary doubles. The “6 months” comes from estimations from county officials that the Governor may not even sign the bill, if approved, until June or July. Regardless, that is a Post 2 Commissioner spending the vast majority of her term at double the salary that she “qualified” for.

Put aside the people, put aside the question of if the raise should happen or not. The real question is why the Board is so bent on pushing this change through as fast as possible.

Breaking down the options is easy.

Home Rule requires a time frame before qualifying, requires all advertisements and public hearings necessary for changing the county’s charter, and doesn’t take effect until the position is up for election again.

Local Legislation is done in the next three months, is only required to spread the information of the change through state level requirements, and takes effects for all parties immediately.

The moral question at hand is not whether the Post Commissioners deserve a raise, many past Post Commissioners have openly stated that the job is not worth the pay. The question is simple, “WHY THE RUSH?”

Why does the Board not move forward with a suggested change to its charter or ordinances as it should, and as it has with many of its other changes including the River Regulations, Land Ordinance changes, and even its annual budgets.

Why the rush?

Early voting showcases election importance

Election, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Elections office reported a record-setting first day of early voting.

Maintaining high numbers compared to some elections, this mid-term season is shaping up to be just as important and well attended as the 2016 elections as we are already showcasing quite similarly to that year.

Out of 20,491 registered voters in the county, including those deemed inactive at this time, Gilmer has seen 6,804 people voting early either by the 6,308 who voted in person at the Registrar’s Office, 487 voters who mailed in ballots early, or the 9 electronic ballots that were mailed in.

Compare that to the 2016 election who saw 6,833 early voters in person, 660 mail-in ballots, and 30 electronic ballots. With such similar numbers, the small gap could simply be a swing towards voting on election day. However, the numbers for this year could still rise as Head of Voter Registrar’s for Gilmer, Nelda Spires says these could still come in early next week.

Comparing this year’s 6,804 total early voters to 2016’s 7,523 highlights the rising attention people have been paying to recent events and politics. As Gilmer moves into next Tuesday, election night, citizens are closely watching final tallies for both parties. Stay with FYN as we report election night totals in real time for Gilmer County

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