Gilmer Preps for Florence

News

ELLIJAY, Ga – Not even two months have passed since Gilmer suffered through one of the worst storms it has seen in decades near the end of July, yet Hurricane Florence threatens to be just as bad, if not worse, according to reports from the National Weather Service and State Governments along the East Coast.

Both South and North Carolina have seen mandatory evacuation orders for residents in certain areas. With the residents continuing to travel west away from the storm, Georgia’s State Government has spoken about accepting those fleeing the path of the hurricane. The National Guard and the Coast Guard have already been mobilized for support as well as forces from Maryland and even New York preparing to help.

With a recent change in direction, the National Weather Service now indicates that North Georgia could see much more impact now. Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett said we are on the “dirtier” side of the storm today in a scheduled Commissioner’s meeting where he warned of potential dangers and damage that Gilmer could see from the southern turn of Hurricane Florence.

The expected impact is so large that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for the state.

Based on the latest 11 a.m. forecast for Hurricane Florence and acting on a recommendation from Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security officials, today I issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in Georgia.

The Gilmer Public Safety Department took to social media today as well to warn citizens of “an enhanced chance of impacts for our area. Potential impacts could include heavy rain and sustained winds. This could very well cause serious flooding impacts and a large amount of downed trees. Roadways washed out and damaged and widespread power outages are all a result of these impacts.”

Officials are asking citizens to prepare for the oncoming storm and for an influx of people attempting to flee the storm, even as we are still recovering from the July storm. Public Works Director Jim Smith told the Commissioners today that his people were also prepared to mobilize in recovery and recuperation efforts.

Public Safety also noted, “Everyone should keep in mind that systems such as this in the past have caused SEVERE damage for our county. Although we hope this is not the case. PLEASE PREPARE NOW! Preparedness includes adequate food and water for a minimum of 72 hours, flashlights and batteries, a full charge on all wireless devices and portable charging options for these devices, generators and fuel if you have them and know the PROPER use and placement.”

Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated that the county is preparing its resources including Pritchett preparing the Emergency Management Program as the county readies itself to open shelters if needed. He also confirmed that while Gilmer is not currently in talks with the State about housing evacuees, it is prepared for the call with those shelters made ready.

Emergency preparedness goes far deeper than just resources and shelters, however. Threats like this are prepared for months and years in advance. Pritchett made special note of the departments swift water training and equipment in a case of an extreme event saying, “We have very advanced, skilled swift-water-trained individuals that are trained to get to most anybody that is trapped or is in a rescue situation.”

Preparing for the worst-case scenario, Pritchett said the Department already has response plans throughout the county, but cautioned citizens against “sounding the alarm” for something that may not be as bad as they are preparing for. Despite the declaration of a State of Emergency, he noted that at this time, preparedness is the best course of action as they have previously stated.

These are the reasons that he encourages citizens to have cell phones charged and to prepare other means of charging in case of a need. Having these devices available to contact emergency response is also a part of survival.

As you continue watching for news and updates regarding Hurricane Florence, it may be wise to go ahead and program the non-emergency response numbers into your phone in case a need arises.  If you have questions, concerns, or a need contact Headquarters at 706-635-1333 or the non-emergency dispatch number 706-635-8911. Pritchett also encouraged citizens to keep an eye on the Gilmer County Public Safety Facebook Page for updates on the storm, shelters, and impact on Gilmer County.

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Teen Maze grows in Gilmer

Bobcat's Corner

Ellijay, Ga. – At the Lion’s Club Fairgrounds, the High School’s annual Teen Maze saw students traversing their mock future through both good and bad decisions by random chance.

Spreading the thoughts across the students, they flip cards and take chance spins of wheels to see how one bad decision spirals into catastrophe for their lives. Though some make it to “graduation,” many fall short as their mock decisions lead to probation, early parenthood, STDs, Jail, or even death.

The event continues to grow over recent years, though it still retains much of the highlights from the past including the ever popular, yet all too realistic, crash involving a drunk teen. The crash kills one and sends two into critical condition, with a third still needing hospitalization. It seems the only one to make it through the wreck without major injury is the drunk teen himself. As the mother of one of the critical students screams at him for what he’s done, she yells out that he should be the one on the ground. Through the continued abuse, emergency responders try to redirect her into an ambulance as the teen is led to the back seat of a police car, and inevitably on to a string of events that many of the students themselves will soon walk through in the maze.

The wreck includes critical care life-flight, firefighters, police, and actual response procedures for the student’s injuries. Around a hundred students watch from each group through the day as the sheet is pulled over the one dead, and the others are placed in neck restraints and emergency response wades through the blood and carnage.

Past the grisly scene, the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office put the students themselves behind the wheel as they attempt to navigate a small driving course in a golf cart while wearing “drunk goggles” to simulate the disorientation. One of the newer additions to the maze, the response to this course went so far as to ask for another course requiring the students to write a text while driving, catering to both the rising concern over texting and driving and Georgia’s new law against it. Having begun the project this year, it is a continuing part of the overall project.

These are the kinds of comments and suggestions that Director Merle Naylor, of Gilmer Family Connections, asks for each year from those involved. Naylor confirmed this year saw 325 students attend the event throughout the day hosted by over 125 different volunteers dedicating time to the event. Most were all day volunteers.

A great chunk of the volunteers, this year saw 47 senior nursing students come from Chattahoochee Technical College, according to Naylor. Some of these volunteers man the hospital zone where Gilmer Students look closer at a medical dummy simulating many of the injuries they saw in the crash outside.

Even with the volunteers and Lion’s Club members aiding in set up, the process begins for Naylor months in advance as she begins writing scripts and conceptualizing the program. Finally, the Friday before the event, she and other Lion’s club members set up everything for the event and spend the next three days decorating and preparing the zones with their displays and the needed supplies.

Over 30 stations are constructed, not including the outside zones like the party scene, the wreck, and the drunk driving course, for the one-day event.

It has become so large that Naylor voices concerns over the size and how she can fit everything in every year. Added stations and courses require more time for students to navigate the entire day, and some don’t even make it through the whole maze before their allotted time is completed. Add in unexpected events and a slight delay in arrival could mean cutting half the program for a group.

On top of that Naylor says one of her biggest desires would be to allow students to navigate the maze a second time to see things or experience stations they may have missed the first time.

As the program’s popularity continues to rise, those involved have been spreading the message, too. Naylor confirms that Pickens County School System has been observing the program over the last few years and are even considering hosting their own day next spring.

 

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On the Town: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Community
On The Town with Lonnie Adams

What is the most important part of a film for you? Does it have to make you laugh? Does it need to touch your heart? Is there one thing that you need to enjoy it? Stop for a moment and really think about this. Surely, you’ve found yourself disagreeing with critics on certain movies. You may even have disagreed with me from time to time. Still, I doubt you rely solely on my opinion to decide if you watch a movie or not.

Seeing a Star Wars movie highlights this feeling of needing something specific. I saw it a little in The Last Jedi, and now I see it prevalently in Solo: a Star Wars Story. Seeing a movie labeled Star Wars carries a certain pedigree, an expectation. I really couldn’t list 1, 2, and 3 on that expectation, but I will say it slapped me in the face when I saw the standardized opening “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” that wasn’t immediately followed by the yellow scrolling text.

My automatic thought was, “Oh my, they changed it!?” Yes, I am a fanboy. No, you may not judge me for it.

I noticed my thought and asked myself if that really ruined the whole movie for me. Of course, I told myself it didn’t, it just surprised me not to see it. Though this thought struck me with the way I’ve viewed Star Wars movies, with expectation instead of anticipation. That said, I wholeheartedly subscribe to the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I believe if you change too much, you lose what people loved about the series. But this is an anthology film, not a mainline story sequel. I should allow them to be different. After all, Rogue One had only a short scene of a single lightsaber in the whole film, and I daresay it’s one of the greatest Star Wars movies since the original trilogy. It kept what it needed to and created the rest.

I honestly found Solo: a Star Wars Story fun and entertaining. The catch is that that’s as far as I can go with it. It felt like a decent heist movie, but not like a Han Solo movie. It’s a repeating message I have heard from people about the films that try to build upon the legacy set forth from previous films years and years ago. Perhaps that’s why Rogue One did so well. It took a plot point from the old films, not a character.

Still, I hold true that I did have fun with this movie. I enjoyed the subtle humor and the blatant jokes. I enjoyed the always popular balance of sad laughter at a Woody Harrelson character. In a role so classicly “him,” Harrelson quips and meanders around the film as Tobias Beckett bringing you along with a constant giggle under your breath that is so natural, it’s like you just exhale chuckles. Right up to the point where his role drops the plot twist so hard that the “aww” escapes your mouth before you even realize what happened. He kept me so close to his character that I may have considered cheering for him at the wrong moment of the film … I admit nothing.

On the other side of Han Solo is his “frenemy” Lando Calrissian. I give great props to Donald Glover for his charisma and a suave demeanor so thick you could spread it on toast. He exuded the perfect air of con-man and friend to befit his character’s gambler/scoundrel persona. It mirrored well against the Solo I know from the original trilogy.

It actually becomes one of the biggest problems I had with the movie that turned against me in the end. I didn’t see any of the classic Han Solo in Alden Ehrenreich’s Han. I struggled with it for a while before I came to a justification that he shouldn’t be the same Han. I’m reminded of a saying, “You become the people you hang out with.”

When I look at the movie as a whole, I see the Han Solo I know, I see his charisma in Lando, I see his smuggler roots in Beckett, I even see the small spark of the goodness inside the anti-hero through Qi’ra, Emilia Clarke. The movie shows his roots in the people that make him who he is.

The downfall comes with a lack of subtlety in certain things. The entirety of the film seemed to be a linear progression of ticking fan-service and forcing it into a narrative. How did Han become a pilot, got it. Next, how did he meet Lando, there we go. Now, how did he get his blaster, check. Okay, how did he get the Falcon, point made?

It’s not a bad thing, I just wanted some newness to the plot instead of one throwback after another. I felt like Ehrenreich was so uncomfortable in the Han Solo skin, but he settles into in a few parts and fits better. While the plot seems regular, and sometimes pedantic, I can’t say it was a bad choice. I admit that I did enjoy seeing where all the little points of Solo’s past lead into his character in the original trilogy. I had fun with it.

That’s exactly my heart on the film. It was good, but not great. It was exciting, but not memorable. It was fun … but just fun. Was that enough? Well, I did have a pretty busy week, so fun was exactly what I needed. It didn’t have some things that I usually look for in films, but I didn’t care. So, it begged the question of me, is there ever one thing that a movie has to have for me to enjoy it? I guess not. I guess I just have to enjoy it.

 

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Planning and Zoning shows off staff at open house

Community, Police & Government
Picture 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.

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.

 

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East Ellijay responds to major leak near 515

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – East Ellijay Mayor Mack West has confirmed a leak as the cause of the work seen this week on state Route 515 in East Ellijay.

The Ellijay-Gilmer County Water and Sewerage Authority responded to a leak in the area near Hardee’s and under the highway. The leak, located on Industrial Boulevard in front of Hardee’s, was losing around 130 gallons of water per minute.

Responding to the leak, West said that certain areas of East Ellijay have been without water nearly three days in the process of redirecting the water flow away from the older pipes during the process. That included boring under state Route 515 as well as including new cutoffs and valves reaching up to and along Laurel Street.

Ellijay-Gilmer County Water and Sewerage Authority Director Gary McVey also confirmed that the work is implanting new piping in the area. Instead of attempting to repair or refurbish the existing cast iron piping in the region, the Authority bored under 515 for new piping in order to avoid and abandon the existing cast iron pipes with the leak.

The final tie-in should be placed tonight, according to McVey, completing the new path. However, with the main work finished, citizens will continue to see workers in the area for a few days next week while they clean up the work and fill in the excavated sites.

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River Park opens new playground

Community, News

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.

The completed playground equipment at River Park is officially opened after today's Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

The completed playground equipment at River Park is officially opened after today’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

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

Left to right, Kevan White, David Ralston, Charlie Paris, and Travis Crouch take a moment to pose in front of the county's new playground.

Left to right, Kevan White, David Ralston, Charlie Paris, and Travis Crouch take a moment to pose in front of the county’s new playground.

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.

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Gilmer High Band looks for new uniforms

Community

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer High School (GHS) Marching Band is looking to replace 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 ring in the new. Director of Bands Joe Pflueger has worked since November on finding the new look and gauging interest of both band members and Band Boosters members. Originally engaging three companies for design bids and ideas, Pflueger has finally come to a definitive design.

Noting the resemblance of the front design to that of our iconic mountains, he said 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 FetchYourNews (FYN) saying he felt the new uniforms, along with the board’s August approval for replacing 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 numerous minor changes to designs before ending on this arrangement. Though the current band stands at 130 students, Pflueger admitted the band could see growth toward 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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