Lower Cartecay Bridge gains priority in state replacement program

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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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Commissioners nearing decision on tiny homes

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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

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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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Roadside trash concerns rising in Gilmer

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners discussed a rising issue of trash in their February meeting after County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said he had been getting a large increase in calls about the issue in recent time.

While the commissioners discussed possible county solutions, they noted that Keep Gilmer Beautiful works hard on the projects and attempts to help the county. However, Paris stated that the board needed a county response to the problem.

The main solution discussed by the board includes adding four seasonal employees for trash pickup to walk the roads before mowing crews in attempt to clean the trash before it hits the blades of mower. The litter would be picked up and deposited in bags on the side of the road before a vehicle follows after to collect all of the bags.

Going ahead of the mowers, in effect, sets a schedule and path for those employees to follow with a need to stay ahead of mowing crews. Additionally, having the seasonal status aids the county in terms of no benefits package or similar requirements.

Keep Gilmer Beautiful already collects litter on 44 adopted sections of road in the county where they collect litter four times a year. Public Works Director Jim Smith stated these employees would not have to do those roads where Keep Gilmer Beautiful has collected recently. Paris asserted this service was to help the situation above and in addition to what their organization accomplishes.

While the additional employees were discussed, and approved, as a first step, all three commissioners agreed this would not be enough and want to continue looking at opportunities to change the “culture” in the county to make it so that both those who live here as well as visiting tourists avoid throwing trash on the roads.

These four additional employees are set to be a trial basis this year and was roughly estimated during the meeting to cost the county $45,000.

While discussion included possibilities of increased litter fines and additional education, continued research will be required to see what the commissioners are able and allowed to do.

In their regular meeting, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller said, “It’s a behavioral, cultural attitude that our public seems to take these days that they didn’t use to.” Reiterating the need for more than just additional employees was only one part of the issue.

Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch held issue with already considering unbudgeted changes in February after going through the long budget process and having to cut departments severely so recently.

His note tied into another issue related to the trash. In the past, a large portion of litter pickup was handled through community service, a trend that has changed, according to Paris, with changes in probation for crimes. While the commissioners are considering the budget change for litter, they are also considering a budget change for the Probation Office, located in Pickens, and Gilmer’s share of funding that.

Responding to the calls of the citizens to deal with the trash on roads, Paris stated he wanted the people to know the board is responsive to their calls for support.

One final comment from Miller came noting, “I want our citizens to know that we need their help.”

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Hospital Talks Continue in JDA and BOC

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Discussion has continued in this “watershed” situation as some citizens have described it.

Worry and concern over the loss of Gilmer County’s Hospital continues to grow as the June 23rd deadline approaches. Seemingly, the County as a whole has been coming together to discuss strategy and the path ahead.

Post Commissioner and Chairman of the Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority Travis Crouch has been hard at work on the issue, becoming a veritable champion to the cause, as he continues the go-between of the County Commissioners and the Joint Development Authority. However, more continue to rally together as the cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay are set to consider joining the appeal process with representatives already attending this weeks Commissioner’s Special Called Meeting.

The Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority met Tuesday, June 14, for a three-hour strategy session discussing options and consulting with a visiting attorney. Local Community members also attended the session to weigh in on their thoughts and ideas. Though they had already approved moving forward in the appeals process, the Authority took steps to decide how to progress involving potential legal action and possible hiring of legal representation for the process.

The meeting also spoke several issues the County will have due to the approval including disastrous effects on Gilmer County’s Economic Growth Efforts as well as the increase in response times the County is already suffering from and potentially having to exceed an hour for certain remote parts of the County to reach an actual hospital.

While the Letter of Determination includes Piedmont’s claim to be just under the Department of Community Health’s (DCH) $2,878,487 threshold to require a Certificate of Need Review, Crouch states they have not provided any documentation to the Greater Gilmer JDA to back up this claim. This estimated cost does not include the excess expenses the county will endure as they would be forced to bring people into the local Emergency Department and then immediately transport them to another facility for hospitalization. Many of these patients would likely be transported to Piedmont’s Jasper Hospital, a 52 bed facility that would be attempting to house patients from two counties that both had populations close to 30,000 in 2013, not to mention the growth experienced over the last three years.

The Greater Gilmer JDA was officially joined today, June 16, by the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners as they approved their “Letter of Support in Appeal to Georgia Department of Community Health on Approval of Agreement between Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, Inc. and North Georgia Medical Center.” The Commissioners also began discussion for their consideration for answers to funding concerns involving the new staff and equipment the County has been forced to muster in response to the hospitals closing and transfer of care to Jasper.

Chairman Charlie Paris stated he believe the consequences were too significant and the County had to appeal the process. He was echoed by Post Commissioner Dallas Miller who said is a critical situation, but also wanted copies of the appeal sent to state representatives including the Governor, Speaker of the House, Senator and even to Georgia’s US Representatives.

Chairman Paris went further to reassert himself again that his ultimate goal is to have a hospital with all its facilities in Gilmer County, and had no opposition to Piedmont itself, rather to the specific goal of a stand-alone Emergency Department.

Several others were in attendance of the Commissioners Meeting including, Ruth Ann Harding, Missy Ocobock, and Elaine Ballew, all previously employed at the hospital. These ladies brought for the communities concerns regarding the opening of an Emergency Department without a hospital. The ladies are being approached by older citizens asking, “What am I going to do? I can’t travel to Jasper or Fannin” raising concern for the 25% of Gilmer’s population who fall into that age group of 65 and older.

Crouch also noted to citizens, “I think people feel helpless and hopeless… Don’t.” Crouch continues to offer hope to the citizens in the response of other potential healthcare providers very interested in the purchase and maintenance of a full facility hospital. New information provided in the JDA’s meeting also gave hope that a purchaser of the Certificate of Need could actually build into a new facility in certain areas or potentially any area of the County.

However, both Crouch and Attorney Stanley Jones of Nelson Mullins stated the fight for the Certificate of Need requires the citizens help. Marshaling the public opinion is key to this effort. The public can become involved, and potentially be the key to winning, by joining the efforts.

You can contact your State Representatives below or follow the link to a petition started in support, “Save Gilmer County Certificate of Need“.

State Senator Steve Gooch – (404) 656-9221
Speaker of the House David Ralston – 404.656.5020 or 706.632.2221
Governor Nathan Deal – 404-656-1776

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