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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Amending the county’s budget amendments

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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

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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

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(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

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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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Lower Cartecay bridge approved for Department of Transportation replacement

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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.”

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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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