ELLIJAY, Ga. – As Gilmer continues to clean up and recover from Saturday mornings storm, officials are beginning to assess damage and costs for the county.
According to Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, around 4 a.m. on Saturday morning emergency services began receiving calls for aid around the county.
As one of the hardest hit counties in North Georgia, the damage with downed trees and powerlines alone could have weeklong effects according to reports as power outages continue and line-men continue working around the clock to repair both downed line and downed poles. There have also been reports of mudslides causing damage to areas, but no roads have been blocked or destroyed.
Pritchett reports that the emergency services only had one reported injury as a tree fell on a local woman’s camper in the Coosawattee area. As paramedics reached the woman, she was taken to an area hospital. However, no reports of any fatalities have come in as authorities are still, days later, responding to calls for aid.
As the intensity of the storm increase through the early hours, an estimated 8,000 – 10,000 homes lost power in the county between Amicalola Electric Company and Georgia Power. Public Safety has counted 20 homes with trees on top of them as they continue the survey process. These were just a few of the different situations that Pritchett says they have continued responding to in the days since the storm.
County services are in full swing with the Gilmer County Road Department and Public Safety department both attempting to clear trees from the roads as they find them.
Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FYN that the county is still collecting estimates for exact amounts of costs of the damage. However, their biggest disaster came in the Buckhorn area and the county golf course which lost part of its most recent paving of the cart path, has numerous trees down on the greens, and is still looking at water damage to the course. Early predictions say the course will not re-open to the public until Wednesday or Thursday at the earliest.
Despite the highest damage to county facilities and equipment being there, the hardest hit part of Gilmer County is actually inside Coosawattee, according to Pritchett. While the county continues the clean up in the outer areas of the county and the cities deal with the damage inside their limits, Coosawattee’s Public Works department is dealing with the mass of downed trees and road damage inside the resorts gated community.
Gilmer has also experienced flooding in low-level areas. However, River Park, which has become notorious for flooding and flood damage in recent years, made it through the storm, according to Paris, with minimal damage and little to no flooding through the buildings.
The major damage from the rainfall came with 5 damaged culvert pipes. Director of Public Works, Jim Smith told FYN that four of those pipes had part of their base wash away as water overtook the pipe and began flowing over the road. The fifth pipe, however, was located on Tyler Road, just off of Highway 282, and was completely washed out and carried away. This pipe had to be replaced and reset. However, the Road Department has all five locations repaired and passable for vehicles at this time.
Alongside the continuing official response of the county, citizens are also still out in droves continuing to help neighbors chainsaw trees in driveways and across roads that authorities haven’t reached yet. Citizens across the county are calling it a major storm, the likes of which they have not seen before.
Citizens are also reporting damage tolls in the hundreds of thousands between damage to homes and vehicles being damaged or crushed by falling branches, trees, hail, power poles, and other debris. Reports of damage continue through local farms including at least one chicken house struck by lightning and burnt down.
Continuing reports of high wind, continuous lightning, and heavy rain have locals calling it a “tornado-like storm without the tornado.”
Officials agree as the Public Safety Department is currently sharing all their information collected with the National Weather Service in attempts to classify the storm. Pritchett confirmed that they are collecting damage reports and assessing weather data to assess the possibility of microbursts, straight-line winds, or actual tornadic activity.
Gilmer is not alone in its time of recovery, though. As is common practice with power companies, Gilmer is receiving aid from counties all over Georgia. Crews are in town this week from Volt Power, Amicalola Electic, Pike Electric, Sumter Electric, and Georgia Power among others. Two visiting workers confirmed they were from Columbus, Ga. and Atlanta, Ga. With others coming in from across the state, work is continuing for those parts of Gilmer and North Georgia that are still without power.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the heat continuing to rise, citizens are braving the recent rains to cool off in the waters of the county’s public pool again.
With the season upon us again and school out for the summer, families are ready to dive back into the pool to beat the heat in any way possible. Those seeking the relaxation are able to visit daily from 12 p.m to 6 p.m. for $3 per person. Lifeguards are on duty during these times as well.
However, for those seeking to take care of their entire summer all at once, a season pass is available for $75 with an additional $25 added for each additional family member on the pass. Or take a day of celebration for $150 to facilitate pool parties.
As a part of the programs offered by the pool, for those looking to relax in the sun while the kids learn to swim, the Recreation and Parks Department facilitates swim lessons for citizens at $75 per week or private lessons at $30 per hour.
Flocking back to the pool is an annual pilgrimage for locals looking to lose some time in the sun. Crowds are already beginning to fill the area earlier in the day as well. For those wanting more information or to make plans for any of the offered programs, visit the Recreation and Parks Department Website or call 706-276-7700.
Pictured above, from left to right, the Planning and Zoning staff includes Matt Green, James Holloway, Yvette Feliberty, Karen Henson, Loy Jarrett, and Andrew Mathis. Not pictured is Suzanne Mullinax.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Settling in after losing a director in December and going through the interim as well as a move to a new building, Gilmer County’s Planning and Zoning office hosted an open house today, May 23, to showcase its current staff and building.
Welcoming citizens with refreshments and raffles, the entire staff was on hand to answer questions, introduce themselves and host the day between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Director Karen Henson, who was confirmed as the new director from her interim position in April, told FetchYourNews she is grateful for the new location as it is better oriented to operate as an office for the department’s needs.
The new office is also continuing the Planning and Zoning department’s increase in construction as the economy continues its growth. The month of May alone has already seen 18 new houses permitted with a week still to go in the month.
While the day celebrates the staff and their hard work, it also serves to remind citizens of the new location on the roundabout across the street from the courthouse, located at 9 Southside Square.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – May 3 saw exciting news for Gilmer county as State School Superintendent Richard Woods made the announcement of Gilmer County Charter School System as the second highest score in the Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) grant by the Georgia Department of Education.
Over sixty districts applied for funding and a panel of trained reviewers scored the applications. The districts with the highest scores received the grant.
Chief Academic Officer of the Gilmer County Charter School System Lottie Mitchell said, “We are so very proud of the hard work and dedication of our site facilitators, district, community and school literacy teams.”
According to Mitchell, Georgia was awarded a total of $61,579,800 over three years through the federal Striving Readers grant competition. Ninety-five percent of the funds are sub-granted to 38 districts. The funds are distributed on per-pupil allocations to achieve the goal of the L4GA initiative, to improve student literacy learning.
With this grant in our county, Gilmer will receive approximately $1.46 million dollars over the next three years. These funds are allocated for students in schools within a feeder system (including birth-age 5 childcare providers and elementary, middle, and high schools).
Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes expanded on the excitement saying, “As your superintendent, I could not be any prouder of this team! The dedication and commitment to the students and teachers in our district is overwhelmingly outstanding! I am so proud to work alongside of all of you every day!”
Though the school system does not have specific details yet on exactly how the money will be spent, Mitchell states it is to be dedicated specifically to the improvement of literacy in the schools.
“It’s a great day for literacy in Georgia,” said Woods. “I am confident the $61 million Georgia is now able to invest in local schools and communities to support literacy will impact the lives of thousands of students. I commend each L4GA grant recipient – the competition was fierce as we received an unprecedented number of applications. Making sure Georgia students are reading on grade level remains mission-critical, top-priority work for us and I have no doubt these districts – who submitted clear, focused, student-centered plans to improve literacy outcomes – are going to use these funds to make a tremendous difference for kids.”
Additionally, the $61,579,800 Georgia received through the federal Striving Readers grant competition, the “parent grant” Georgia received from the federal government and is subgranting to 38 of its districts, was the highest award received by any state. Georgia was one of three states to receive the funding a second time after the initial grant cycle (2011-2016).
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.
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
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.
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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ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Planning and Zoning Department is seeing major change this week as Director Shannon Bassett announced his resignation last week.
Working through this week, Bassett is preparing the transition and providing extra training to employees. With this Friday, Jan. 12, as his final day, the office is already utilizing Karen Henson as interim director. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FetchYourNews (FYN) he had high hopes for Henson but is utilizing her in the interim position so he and the other commissioners may see how she does in the position before a final decision on properly filling the position can be made.
Henson has 10 years of experience in Gilmer’s Planning and Zoning Office. She tells FYN she wants to make the full transition to director. As administrative assistant for her 10 years, Henson tells FYN she has had an abundance of experience for the position.
As she transitions, Henson tells FYN it has been nice to have Bassett present this week as she prepares for the commissioners meeting and daily work at the office for questions and last-minute information.
Paris tells FYN Bassett received an offer from a development company that the county cannot compete with. While the county has endured several losses in its ranks as employees move for better offers, Paris says this loss will affect the county differently as it comes from a department head.
The announcement comes too late to be added to this month’s agenda, but Paris stated he would not want it on this month’s agenda anyway. Wanting the time for the board to contemplate its decision and look closer at Henson, citizens could see this item addressed in February or March’s meeting.
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