Ethics and Security questioned in Gilmer Administration

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Citizens are questioning the Gilmer County Board of Education this week after reports have surfaced of the involvement of and connections between the school systems Superintendent, Dr. Shanna Downs, and her husband’s, Jeff Downs, career in a company that the school is now engaging to install a security system in the schools.

Jeff Downs

Jeff Downs,  Senior Vice President of Sales

While allegations pointed that Shanna Downs financially benefited from this contract between the school and the company known as Centegix, where sources say Jeff Downs serves and Senior Vice President of Sales.

FYN looked deeper into the contract and Request for Proposals (RFP) process that was headed up by Gilmer Schools Director of Technology John Call. According to hid RFP listed, the criteria of the RFP included:

1. Bidder’s total proposed price
2. Product quality/appropriateness/compatibility/performance
3. Bidder’s qualifications/experience
4. Bidder’s ability to provide support/service
5. Bidder’s warranty/maintenance
6. Proposed product meeting the district’s present needs as well as future needs through
enhancements and upgrades.

Call headed the reviews and RFP process, according to Downs, who said, “When I realized that my husband would likely accept a position with Centegix in November,  I notified the board and I placed our technology director, John Call, in charge of the competitive bidding process for the security system.  I asked that I be left completely out of the process.”

Downs further stated that Call and Stuart Sheriff, Assistant Superintendent, contacted Harbin, Hartley and Hawkins Attorneys at Law on November 12 for legal advice. As they saw no problem after Downs recusal, Downs says she informed the Board of her husband’s potential future employment with Centegix.  She says, “Mr. Call assembled a committee of building level administrators to review and score the responses to the Request for Proposals (RFPs).   Details of that process can be found in our board minutes from December 13, 2018.  Until that process was complete, I stayed unaware of the selection of the product.”

Gilmer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs

Downs made one further note on her husband’s involvement saying, “My husband began work with Centegix on December 3rd and will not make any commission off of the purchase.”

The RFP continued under Call and received two proposals, one from Centegix and one from ETC in Ellijay. When questioned as to why only two proposals were received, Call noted that other companies did inquire about the RFP, but never submitted a proposal. Without an official submittal, there is no record of these inquiries and their company’s interests in the request.
The RFP advertisement did reach statewide as Call publicized the request in not only the school’s website, but on the state procurement website as well. According to the Georgia Procurement Registry, they directly emailed 231 contacts over 122 companies about the RFP while also being searchable to any vendors accessing the website.
Call further stated that the full product and network that Centegix offered isn’t easily found in other places. He indicated that Centegix, LLC, together with its parent, 34ED, LLC, and affiliates Kloud-12 and Dooley Education Solutions, has done something that many companies are just beginning to get into.
It isn’t so much any individual technology they have that others don’t, according to Call, but rather the way they “marry the technology together.”
Centegix’s proposal offered an alert button system alongside classroom camera systems that operates on a singular network incorporating a campus-wide CrisisAlert System, classroom cameras, and classroom educational video capabilities. It also provides exact location information through ID Badges that hold the alert button system with configurable presses to notify emergencies on two levels, campus-wide emergencies and local individualized incidents.
ETC’s proposal offered Camera system integration and wearable IneractWear control buttons to initiate camera recording and notifications to administrators for incidents or sever emergencies requiring 911 intervention.
According to Call’s recorded scoresheets filed with Gilmer Schools, the difference between the two proposals came down to only $10,698. However, with a full 1.742 points difference, the scoring was based on the six criteria of the RFP noted earlier.
FYN has also received the individual scorecards of each of the six people on the committee to judge the RFP responses, including Ashley CoatesTiffany Boyette,  Stephanie BurnetteNicole Pike John Call, and  James Jones.
With the final vote having been taken for the security proposals in December, Call presented these results to the Board who accepted Centegix’s proposal and are already well into the installation process in every school except Gilmer Middle School and a partial install in Ellijay Primary.
The school system has decided to move forward with installing the CrisisAlert system buttons as they attach easliy to the drop ceilings and operate on battery. With the ease of removal and moving the system, they intend to transfer this system to the Clear Creek Elementary School when constructed.

Centegix Proposal:

ETC Proposal:

ETC – Alert System – RFP – Additional InformationETC – Alert System – RFP – Additional Information

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Ellijay City Council Meeting – Monday, March 18, 2019.

Business, News

ELLIJAY, Ga.- The Ellijay City Council met on Monday, March 18, 2019, to discuss a number of action items, including a Setback Variance for 171 Skyline Drive, a Resolution and Ordinance to Amend Chapter 6, Articles I through III of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Ellijay, as well as an Urban Redevelopment Plan.

Pictured right to left, Council Member Lynelle Stewart. Council Member Al Fuller, Council Member Ruth Caudell, and Mayor Al Hoyle.

At 5:30 p.m., before the start of the regular meeting, the council introduced Gilmer County’s latest Public Safety Director, Keith Kucera. Kucera stated that his job was to work with all of the entities within the county to try and provide services that we can obtain through grants or other means to assist the county. Coming from a military background (United States Coastguard for 25 years), Kucera states that he’s here to do whatever he can to make things better for this community.

The other order of business that was discussed prior to the regular meeting involved Jodie Beauregard from the Master Gardener Volunteers of the Gilmer County Extension Office, regarding the placement of of a community garden at Harrison Park. The proposed garden is awaiting land clearing, and access to electricity to recharge equipment used throughout the garden. A spigot installation would also be required. Beauregard states that they would need a way to get water into a rain barrel, and so a building with gutters would be preferred if at all possible. Education space is also a request, as Beauregard states they plan on offering education on gardening. The Harrison Park Advisory Board, as well as Mayor Al Hoyle both agree that a Master Plan is an absolute must prior to the installation of the community garden, and so there has been no further action taken at this time.

Pictures from right to left, Council member Katie Lancey and Mayor Pro-Tem David Westmoreland.

At 6 p.m., the Setback Variance for 171 Skyline Drive passed with none opposed. This Setback Variance was a request made by the property owner to encroach 12 feet into the required front residential setback and 10 feet into the side setback.

The Resolution and Ordinance to Amend Chapter 6, Articles I through III of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Ellijay also passed with none opposed. According to Hoyle, this Resolution and Ordinance serves the purpose of removing the 60-day waiting period for the home premise consumption license, as well as changes the Farm winery tasting license, stating that anything the state allows, it puts the licensing under the city instead of under state guidance. It also clarifies the application process for Farm winery tasting rooms, making it the same as an on premise consumption license.

Finally, the Urban Redevelopment plan also passed without any opposition.

Amendment to Code of Ordinances 1/3

 

Amendment to the Code of Ordinances 2/3

Amendment to Code of Ordinances 3/3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urban Redevelopment Plan Part 1/2

Urban Redevelopment Plan Part 2/2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gilmer County Sheriffs Office Arrest Report 03/10 to 03/17

Arrest Reports

FYN publishes the arrest reports provided by the GCSO.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 50-18-70) allows for www.fetchyournews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Gilmer County. Those arrests are posted on www.fetchyournews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Chamber opens Downtown Welcome Center

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County is celebrating a five-year-long project completion today with the opening of the Downtown Welcome Center in Ellijay, Georgia.

From left to right, Chamber President Paige Green and Commission Chairman Charlie Paris listen as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston speaks words of congratulations for Gilmer.

From left to right, Chamber President Paige Green and Commission Chairman Charlie Paris listen as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston speaks words of congratulations for Gilmer.

A new branch for the Chamber and a “needed presence” downtown according to community leaders like Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris and Gilmer Chamber President Paige Green, this new building will work across town from the Chamber home office and welcome center on Craig Street, just off of Highway 515 between the Waffle House and Advance Auto Parts.

Today’s celebration marks the completion of the preparations and renovations, according to Green, who said the day also serves as the beginning of the Chamber’s return to downtown. A “homecoming” of sorts as the Chamber has been in the Watkins House before, located on the downtown square next to the courthouse.

Green said it wasn’t only the Chamber’s efforts, but a collective involving the Chamber, the Board of Commissioners, and State Legislative involvement from Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston. This alliance’s dedication has pushed the project across the year’s to come to today’s fruition.

While that dedication has stretched five years since conversations first began about the Chamber re-opening the Watkins House as a Welcome Center, Green noted that the Board of Directors’ recent Chairman Trent Sanford and current Chairman John Marshall have made the major push through these last two years to begin and finish the actual renovations on the building.

Back left to right, John Marshall, David Ralston, and Trent Sanford. Front left to right, Dallas Miller, Karla Roper, Charlie Paris, Karleen Ferguson, and Paige Green.

Back left to right, John Marshall, David Ralston, and Trent Sanford. Front left to right, Dallas Miller, Karla Roper, Charlie Paris, Karleen Ferguson, and Paige Green.

As a part of the Chamber’s return to downtown, Green said publicly that the Chamber is planning more downtown events through their new center and extended hours. She stated, “We do intend to be open Wednesday through Saturday. We want to be a leader in hoping that our merchants will join with us in opening until six or seven o’clock to greet our guests on the weekends as well.”

Green went on to say that the Downtown Center will also be opened for meeting space needs, or for those visitors who simply need a place to sit and rest. She wants the Downtown Welcome Center to be open in this sense for both tourists and locals.

The celebration also saw visits from each of the Gilmer County Commissioners, Chairman Charlie Paris and Post Commissioners Dallas Miller and Karleen Ferguson, as well as Speaker Ralston. Paris offered his thanks to Ralston as well saying that without his help, the community might still be waiting for a downtown center.

Paris spoke about the many “dominoes” that needed to fall in order to accomplish what they have. From relocating the Planning and Zoning Office on the other side of the square to needing help from the Department of Transportation and Ralston for logistics. Paris praised the Chamber and community volunteers and merchants who were integral in making the Welcome Center look as amazing as it does now.

Ralston also offered a few words as he congratulated the county on the facility. He spoke about the history of the Watkins House and its journey through generations and his personal memories of hanging out at the courthouse and walking past the Watkins House everyday after school. Ralston went on to note the significance of the statement the Chamber is making to the citizens of Ellijay and the investment they are making in the community.

Brenda Davis, former Director of the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce, poses with her picture from the early 90's in front of the Welcome Center.

Brenda Davis, former Director of the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce, poses with her picture from the early 90’s in front of the Welcome Center.

However, the day held more meaning than most understood, as they sipped wine from local vineyards and snacked of food from local restaurants, one family shared a moment around a special picture as former Chamber Director Brenda Davis, the lady in the picture, returned to her former offices and joined the celebrations of the changes and growth the building has seen since her last days in it.

The photo, taken in the early 90’s according to Davis. She said it feels good to be back in the building as she pointed out the meetings she held in the large front room and secretary’s office in the room with her photo. She recalled how here entire family got recruited to “volunteer” for events and needs when she held the office and the Welcome Center was there. She chuckled as she pointed out she had an intern, at the time, named Sandy Ott. Now working for University of North Georgia and its expansion campus, Davis recalls her working for the Gilmer Chamber stuffing fliers and mailers for the Chamber.

Davis also recalled a special memory at the Watkins House as they prepared for the Olympics in Atlanta. Davis said it was two years prior and Gilmer was hosting visitors from all over the world. They had received one foreign visitor whose interpreter was not available. He sat on the square as C Lloyd Smith began speaking with him and trying to make him happy with his visit despite the lack of a translator. Davis recalls Smith trying so hard to make this visitor feel welcome despite the major hurdle of language.

Memories like this are built into the bricks of the Watkins House. It seems anyone who lived or worked in Ellijay at the time has some memory tied to the building. As the Chamber returns to its former home, employees, citizens, and even those who no longer live in the county, will return with them to revisit old times, old memories, and tie them together with a new gateway in our community and new visitors creating new memories.

Chairman of the Gilmer Chamber’s Board of Directors, John Marshall offered his thanks for the legacy and the generosity that the Watkins’ family showed years ago when they had donated the building for the public good. Marshall stated, “It is altogether fitting and appropriate that the formerly private residence of this pioneer and progressive family has been transformed into a place to welcome the public.”

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Register Now for Alzheimer’s Association Free Caregiver Workshop

Community

Gilmer County Sheriffs Office Arrest Report 03/02 to 03/09

Arrest Reports

FYN publishes the arrest reports provided by the GCSO.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 50-18-70) allows for www.fetchyournews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Gilmer County. Those arrests are posted on www.fetchyournews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

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Bobcat Trail repair hits gas line

News
A 2-inch natural gas line was hit, causing a leak, during repairs on Bobcat Trail in March.

A 2-inch natural gas line was hit, causing a leak, during repairs on Bobcat Trail in March.

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Repairs on Bobcat Trail came to a halt Monday evening, March 4, as the contractor on the project struck a gas line hidden under the pavement.

It appears that a backhoe struck the line when digging under the roadway and began leaking the gas as a section was torn out. According to an on-site Supervisor for DRS Contracting, an emergency locate had been called in. He further stated that an unnamed subcontractor for Atlanta Gas Light gave the “all-clear” for DRS to go ahead with the project.

He asserted that Atlanta Gas Light’s report didn’t show any line in the area.

The line that was struck was four feet below the damaged roadway that was shut down by Gilmer County Charter School System last week. Work had just begun on repairing the damage today before hitting the line.

While digging out under a section of road on Bobcat Trail, DSR Contracting struck the gas line.

While digging out under a section of road on Bobcat Trail, DSR Contracting struck the gas line.

Emergency Servcies were immediately contacted as well as Atlanta Gas Light. The Ellijay Fire Department responded to the scene to monitor threats during repairs.

According to Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, Atlanta Gas Light has arrived on scene tonight and estimates that the line repair should be completed “fairly quickly.”

Downs further stated that the lines must be cleared and all pilot lights re-lit in the kitchens of both Gilmer Middle School and Gilmer High School. She said, “At this point we are thinking that everything will be fixed and ready for school in the morning.”

Stay with FYN for updates on Bobcat Trail and the continuing repairs near Gilmer High School.

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