Gilmer High Band looks for new uniforms

Community

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer High School Marching Band is looking at replacing their uniforms after 13 years of use.

The legacy of the current uniforms stretches across over a decade of champion level performances, nation-spanning shows like Hollywood for the Christmas Parade, and growth into new avenues such as this year’s inaugural Winter Guard Competitive Season.

After all the events these uniforms have been showcased at, the time has come to hang up the old and reign in the new. Director of Bands Joe Pflueger has worked since November on finding the new look and gauging interest of both band member and Band Boosters members. Originally engaging 3 companies for design bids and ideas, Pflueger has finally come to a final design.

Noting the resemblance of the front design to that of our iconic mountains, he says he has decided on the final design from Fruhauf Uniforms, Inc. The competition line uniform will bear the school’s emblematic G as seen in the photo.

Achieving this goal, however, is something the band team is still working towards. Pflueger took time to speak with FYN saying he felt the new uniforms, along with the board’s August approval for replace percussion instruments, bear a rewarding feeling for the students after the constant work and successes in recent years.

The uniforms are more than just a new design for some though. Band Mom Bobbi Leigh Mullins said it represented the chance to have her son “sparkle and shine” as he marched for the Band.

Consisting of 130 musicians, the GHS Band has always grown from support from its band boosters, support from the school and school board, and support from the community to further its efforts. Pflueger spoke with FYN confirming that the band has already raised half of the funds necessary to purchase the uniforms. However, if they are to meet their hopes of fielding these uniforms at the opening show next season, this fall, they need to garner another $30,000 to finish the project.

Attempting to raise the necessary funds, the Band has turned to its community for help. An official release from the organization has offered game-time announcements and program recognition for sponsorship at different “star levels.” Each level represents a part of a uniform up to “5 Star” level at $395 for a full uniform.

Pflueger said the process has included over 20 designs and a numerous minor changes to designs before ending on this arrangement. Though the current band stands at 130 students, Pflueger admitted the could see growth towards 140 in the coming years, making it the largest band Gilmer has fielded to date. Pflueger told FYN, “With all the organizations, it’s just getting the kid involved. It makes for a better, well-rounded kid. And it provides those kids with memories they can keep the rest of their lives… That’s the satisfying part of it.”

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County’s River Park moving closer to upgrades

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Parks and Recreation Department is coming close to the final stage of erecting its new playground.

District 7 Representative and Speaker of the House David Ralston tours the new facilities during a day at the park celebrating the baseball season.

District 7 Representative and Speaker of the House David Ralston tours the new facilities during a day at the park celebrating the baseball season.

Though seeing a few delays with the rain and weather the county has seen lately, the park’s new equipment should be completed within the next two weeks according to Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White. Originally, discussion of the park in the commissioners meetings planned for completion by this weekend. Less than a month delay from weather will still have the new playground open before the height of summer.

The new equipment will be lit by LED lights and could see cameras used for security in the area. The cameras and lighting are being considered throughout the park, but no set date or action has been made on that expansion yet.

Furthering the progress, White tells FetchYourNews that this is not the end or even midway into the renovations he is hoping to see for the River Park. The department has already begun renovations on the large pavilion between the other newer playground and the current tennis courts. Setting a retaining wall and resolving the drainage issue was the major part, but the department is also fixing the columns inside the pavilion and replacing doors, stalls, and handrails in the bathrooms.

The Gilmer Board of Commissioners approved a bid this month for Johnson Paving, located in Blue Ridge, to repave the walking trail in the park for $31,932. White says the walking trail will not be affected by the playground and the project is free to move forward without delay. As soon as the paperwork goes through, citizens could see the trail improved by end of May.

This repaving will replace the current 3/4 mile track and add another quarter mile to create a full mile-long track. The trail has also already received new lighting from a Georgia Power project as well.

Additionally, White is waiting for an approval for the county’s application for an USGA grant. If the grant is approved, the county will move forward with not just replacing the current tennis courts, but building a new pair next to the civic center. With grant approval, this will replace the smallest ball field to the left of the civic center (from the road) next to Old Highway 5.

Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White shows the new upgrades to Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston.

Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White shows the new upgrades to Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston.

The new tennis courts will hold an additional use as well. White echoed a comment from Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris saying that he is hopeful for the grant and having a little left over. If the county has any money left over after these projects, then they will have one court host both a junior court and a use as a pickle ball court.

The old tennis courts would be removed and used for parking. White mentioned that he hoped for an option to add something more to the area at a later date. He mentioned an open-air stage as something he would hope for, but said it was too far off to give any real thought or ideas.

White went on to say that once the new playground is completed, they will look to remove the older equipment across the parking lot with the pavilion connected and could move to replacing the pavilion at the very end of the park near the spring. The intentions to replace these pavilions indicate the department’s movement away from the wood structures of the area for a more concrete foundation in hopes to better resist flooding and weather damage in the future.

Concrete options not only help fight flood damage but are designed for easier cleaning and maintenance as well.

These projects and options are all designed, White said, to be independent of each other, making the progress move as quickly as possible. He even noted that they are already looking to the other end of the park near Veteran’s Memorial Bridge but have no set plans yet.

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Gilmer Prepares for Severe Storms

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued warning for most of Georgia involving the coming severe storms.

Gilmer is included as the eastern half is set for severe storms, wind, and possibly hail. However, the western half of Gilmer is included in the NWS “Enhanced Risk” warnings, meaning citizens should be prepared for massive rainfall, large hail, potential tornadoes, and damaging wind reaching up to 60 mph.

While citizens are preparing for all the potential dangers, most are afraid of the possibility of flooding in their area. One citizen reported pea sized hail already falling outside at the East Ellijay Walmart.

The Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett spoke with FYN about the coming storms saying, “Hopefully, it  will move through the county without incident. Nevertheless, our people are geared up and ready to go.”

Being aware of the warnings, Pritchett says the Public Safety Department is ready, but waiting to gauge the intensity of the storms. He suggested extra preparations for all citizens living near creeks and other waterways saying that in Gilmer county, “Small creeks and other waterways could rise quickly. We just ask everyone to be prepared.”

As Public Safety continues preparations and monitoring of the potential risks, the National Weather Service is continuing updates to the storm, “At 1243 PM EDT…a strong thunderstorm was near Roy, or 11 miles east of Ellijay…moving east at 40 mph.”

Some locationsthe NWS indicated in the path of this storm include “Dahlonega, Suches, Amicalola Falls State Park, Camp Merrill, Springer
Mountain Shelter, Len Foote Hike Inn, Black Gap Shelter, Stover Creek Shelter, Hawk Mountain Shelter, Nimblewill, Roy, Gaddistown, Gooch, and Mountain Shelter.”

Gilmer Schools have even cancelled all afternoon activities for today, March 19, due to the storms, although they are planning to move ahead with their scheduled Board Meeting at 6 pm.

Stay with FetchYourNews as update continue on the storm’s severity and potential damage in the county. Again, if you begin to see water rising near your homes, seek shelter elsewhere to avoid being trapped. This became a real issue to citizens with flooding over recent years.

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Box truck shuts down Highway 515

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A box truck heading north on Highway 515 stopped traffic when it wrecked late Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 27.

Authorities on scene worked quickly to clear the right lane of northbound traffic as nobody was seriously injured in the accident. The truck went off the road and came to rest on the guard rail near Highway 515 Auto Auction.

According to Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, two people were in the truck at the time of the crash. At this time, Highway 515 is open to traffic again while workers are clearing the road.

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Pritchett responds to new position in Andrews

News, Police & Government

(Photo by Kelsey Richardson of the Andrews Journal)

ELLIJAY, Ga. – After a news story in the Andrews Journal today, one sentence has caused confusion among Gilmer County’s citizens and officials.

FetchYourNews (FYN) has confirmed with Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett that he is indeed taking a job in Andrews, North Carolina, as police chief for the department.

The Andrews Journal states, “Pritchett, who has family throughout Cherokee County, is from Gilmer County, Ga. He is transitioning from his role as the Gilmer County Public Safety director to Andrews police chief. Pritchett additionally has experience as chief of the Gilmer County Volunteer Fire Department.”

FYN reported the article to Gilmer County. Additionally, Pritchett has confirmed with FYN that he is transitioning away from the East Ellijay Police Department where Pritchett says he has worked shifts for eight years. Moving his police work to Andrews, Pritchett says he has taken the position for flexibility in his schedule. While he usually had night shifts in East Ellijay, Andrews will allow a less rigid schedule meaning less affect on his main position of public safety director in Gilmer, which he is not leaving.

Coming out of executive session, Pritchett was voted to be hired by the town’s Board of Aldermen. FYN has also checked with Gilmer County Chairman Charlie Paris who stated he confirmed with the town’s mayor that the new position will allow Pritchett to expand and support their police force as chief.

The Andrews Journal did report that Pritchett spoke about bringing a “good respectable and professional police force” to the city and later noted that when the new police force is hired, Pritchett would be focusing on the town’s drug crisis.

When FYN caught up with Pritchett about possibly transitioning away from Gilmer, he responded, “I love the county too much, and I ain’t going nowhere.”

The Andrews Police Department has diminished in the last year after the casino opened. Pritchett told FYN he would be adding his training and expertise to rebuild the department. While the new position will help to grow their department, Pritchett declined to say if there was a set period that he would be there saying, “As long as it is something that doesn’t take away from my responsibilities as public safety director, I don’t mind staying, helping out, and being a part of the department for a while. As long as it doesn’t place too much weight on me from here because Gilmer County, the citizens of Gilmer County, being public safety director and fire chief is my primary duty.”

Summarizing the entirety of the new position, Pritchett summed up his move as “swapping his extra job.”

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Cherry Log Fire Station: a promise fulfilled?

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Holding their groundbreaking ceremony over the weekend, Gilmer County has already spent months clearing land and preparing the lot on Pink Pig Lane for a new fire station.

With a contractor moving forward, officials gathered together to formally break ground on the building’s construction. Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston visited with Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller, and Gilmer Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett as they joined with local citizens to celebrate the project.

Officials turn the first shovel of dirt in the groundbreaking ceremony for Cherry Log's Fire Station.

Officials turn the first shovel of dirt in the groundbreaking ceremony for Cherry Log’s Fire Station.

With the original fire station in the area closed several years ago, citizens have continually expressed the importance of replacing it. A fire station in the area was promised but proved to be slow going. According to local resident Ernest Watkins, many of those in the area lost faith and didn’t believe the station would ever be built. Watkins told FetchYourNews (FYN) the station means everything to him as he had two sons who became volunteer firefighters and having the new location represents the culmination of his community coming together and being heard in what they are wanting.

Opening the ceremony, Pritchett spoke on the importance of the project saying, “Community fire and emergency response capabilities for our citizens are the most vital and important services a local government can provide.” He went on to thank the current Board of Commissioners for making the project a priority and following through with the community through consistent hurdles and obstacles they encountered.

Chairman Charlie Paris thanks Cherry Log residents for their patience in building the Fire Station.

Chairman Charlie Paris thanks Cherry Log residents for their patience in building the fire station.

Chairman Paris echoed the sentiments on the community thanking the Sisson Family who donated the land for the fire station as well as the people of Cherry Log saying, “You’ve been promised for years and years now that there is going to be a fire station here. It has been my objective to make that happen … This groundbreaking today is actually a confirmation of our promise to you that this is going to get built. We are going forward on it.”

Paris thanked citizens for their patience in the project as he and the current board have worked through the trials and tougher points of completing it.

The contract sets the station to be completed within six months from now. This sets the station to be open before next winter and available for any needs such as warming centers or shelters like any other station. Paris confirmed the new building will be a volunteer station and that the county already has volunteer firefighters planned at the location. The new location, dubbed Fire Station No. 3, will be an unmanned station that utilizes the volunteers to man the position.

With the ceremony completed and construction underway, Paris said the next step will be preparing equipment and readying the transfer of that equipment to the facility.

Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett looks on as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston offers a few words for the fire station groundbreaking.

Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, right, looks on as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston offers a few words for the fire station groundbreaking.

Ralston praised the community’s efforts throughout the project saying he wanted to show his support for them. The “community spirit and pride” were what Ralston said laid the foundation. The fire station represents a “capstone” on their efforts locally. He went on to say he was very proud of the community and all they had accomplished.

His sentiment was later echoed by Paris who told FYN in a one-on-one interview that it was the community who stayed with the project. Considering some citizens becoming demoralized after the years they had waited for the project, Paris said, “The fact that we have done this, this is hard to ignore … They just wanted it to happen, and now that it is, I think the folks here are pretty happy with it.”

Paris also praised his Post Commissioners Dallas Miller and Travis Crouch for their support in the project saying, “There has never been a question about whether Cherry Log needed to have a fire station.”

Moving forward, citizens will continue to watch the project progress through construction and paving, marching ever closer to finally completing a promise years in the making.

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Planning and zoning director resigns

News

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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House fire injures one and destroys home

News

ELLIJAY, Ga – A fire broke out at 1975 Old Flat Branch Road yesterday, Dec. 6.

According to Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, the fire had reached advanced stages when 911 was contacted and response arrived on scene. While residents fled the fire, one female was transported for treatment of smoke inhalation and is still hospitalized.

Having already increased in size and threat, fire fighters immediately began containing the blaze in efforts to prevent further spread through the woods and into other homes. However, damage to the house was already spreading and the structure was consumed as well as part of the woods around the house.

At this time the area is completely extinguished, Pritchett stated the workers on scene have cleared any hot spots in the area so no flare ups will occur. However, an investigation is ongoing into the incident as he states they have not ascertained the cause at this time.

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