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.”
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