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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Calendars approved in Board of Education’s March meetings

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Final tallies have been made and the Gilmer County Board of Education (BOE) have officially approved their calendar for the 2018-2019 school year.

The 2018-2019 Calendar Poll Results (click to enlarge).

A stark change this year showed one calendar was far above the others. Calendar 2 collected 859 votes, accounting for 48.18 percent of the vote. Approved by the board, this calendar is set as the plan for the next school year and will be utilized to plan everything for the coming year.

The votes were collected over the last month online on the BOE’s website through polling from public citizens, but the candidate calendars were created by teams within each school before being submitted for consideration.

Be sure to look below to find the Draft 2 Calendar approved in the board’s March meeting.

Also set for next year, schedules were set for salaries and supplements. The workforce continues to see rises in insurance as well as minor changes for positions in transitions as well as the step up raises for staff and teachers hitting milestones in their careers.

Financial reports were presented at the meeting setting the board’s status as of the end of January with revenue coming in over expenditures by $5,168,037. Just past the fiscal year’s midpoint, the finances still reflect expectations to see that number drop under expenditures to -$1,298,797. Though no one showed for the board’s first scheduled budget session for next year, there will be another meeting set for citizens to speak closer to June as the budget gets set into detail for the next fiscal year.

Along with finances, the board ratified a purchase approved by poll for equipment purchases for the elementary and primary schools. Mountain View’s approved expense equaled $85,179 from Southeast Outdoor Solutions. Ellijay Elementary’s approved expense equaled $71,88o from Superior Play Systems. Ellijay Primary’s approved expense equaled $76,493 from Hasley Recreation Inc. All three purchase funding comes from the Local Capital Projects budget.

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River Park making progress on new playground

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – After several months of budget hearings, and new information from the Commissioners monthly meetings, the Gilmer County Parks and Recreation Department is nearing completion of new playground equipment at River Park.

The equipment is currently being installed an unusable at this time. However, with weather permitting, the playground will be open and accessible within the next two to three weeks.

The playground is located next to the parking lot across the street from the Piedmont Emergency Department. It is next to the ball fields and walking path of river park.

Continuing the work of the park, the Commissioner’s have also approved a paving contract to lay new asphalt on the walking path to repair and improve the spot. Though they originally wanted to change from asphalt to concrete, the project would have seen too many obstacles due to the “land disturbing activity.” It was labeled as such due to the path’s proximity to the river.

Discussions last year also indicated the Commissioner’s were considering renovating the tennis courts to include pickle ball as well. This along with the work on the playground and path, Gilmer citizens may be seeing future changes to transform River Park into something unrecognizable compared to what we are used to at the site.

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Apple Ridge Woodturners donate saw to Gilmer High School

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – More than just a saw, Gilmer High School students in Dennis Wilson Jr.’s class are enjoying the perks of a new table saw utilizing a SawStop.

According to Gordon Brewer, of the Apple Ridge Woodturners, the club was in need of a new place to meet as the fire station at which they normally met was a bit too far for some members. As they searched, Brewer stated that the school was kind enough to allow them to meet at the school. Strengthening the relationship, the Woodturners began discussing classes and mentorships for students who wished to take advantage of them.

However, discussion continued as the Woodturners began looking at the high school’s construction class equipment. Wilson spoke of the class’ table saw and issues with safety devices on the saw.

Noticing the need, the Apple Ridge Woodturners Club donated money from within the club, as well as one donation from an outside citizen Mac Logan, to provide a new table saw with several additions for the students utilizing the equipment. The entire package included the SawStop Contractor Saw with the cartridge that drops the blade below the table with any moisture, according to Wilson, who says the system works by grabbing the blade with a cartridge under the table that drops the blade under to prevent serious injury to the operator. While this does ruin both the blade and the cartridge, it holds injury to the operator to between a slight cut to a deep cut instead of possibly losing the entire finger.

The new saw also comes with a new plastic blade guard and a “writhing knife” behind the blade to separate the cut wood from pinching the blade and getting caught which could launch a piece of wood back at the operator.

Apple Ridge Woodturners President Richard Byers told FetchYourNews (FYN) that the club’s 45 members joined together for the $1,799 purchase for the construction class. Typically meeting once a month, the club has been planning since August and moving toward this week as when to officially donate the device. Byers told FYN, should the SawStop device ever be used, it would be, roughly, $200 to replace, which is comparatively cheap in relation to major injury and medical costs.

Moving into the new semester, teacher Dennis Wilson told FYN the main thing he was excited for was the safety upgrade. Stating the most common injury on such a tool is running one’s hand into the blade. Having the state-of-the-art saw helps every one of the 100 students in the shop daily.

“It’s huge,” said Wilson, who commented about constantly being asked by community members who are seeking students who are trained and ready to join construction jobs. Noting the help he gets from the community, Wilson hinted at future projects to return to the community. The constant cycle not only strengthens the relationship, but Wilson said, it is a huge success for the students who are completely responsible for projects from communicating with a client requesting the project to a final in the class that requires them to fully build two sheds like they would a house.

As students move further into the new semester, Wilson told FYN that the saw will be constantly used in his class. Reiterating what the donation means, Wilson noted the age of some of his equipment.

Having the community invest into its own future through the training of students not only shows the course importance but also shows that the community recognizes that importance and cares to improve the quality.

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Purchases and Donations at East Ellijay’s Council

News

EAST ELLIJAY, GA – The East Ellijay City Council’s September Meeting saw the purchase of a new Vehicle, Replacing a Copy Machine on Lease, and accepted a lot donation to the city.

The city has been having continued issues with the man copier at the office. Looking into replacements, the council’s options ranged from $5369 to $1800. That lowest price came from Duplicating Products, Inc. out of Gainesville, Georgia. With a 36-month lease, the the copier would come with 3-hour turn around maintenance.

The council was informed that Duplicating Products is already being used by our local schools, the Gilmer Chamber, and local churches. With the extra references, the council unanimously approved the 36-month lease with Duplicating Products at $50 a month. However, the city will be paying the lease annually instead of monthly.

Another purchase came with a retroactive approval of purchasing a 2017 Explorer for the Police Department. Within the last month, the city hit an issue with three vehicles being out of service at one time. According to Mayor Mack West, the city traded in an older 2007 Ford F150 for a $5,000 credit at Jacky Jones Ford in Cleveland, Georgia. Previously approved to spend $27,000 in the budget on a vehicle, the trade in credit brought the original $27,500 down to $21,700 final cost.

Mayor West also stated that the police are installing much of the needed equipment into the vehicle as well, which is driving down additional costs for the vehicle as well. Utilizing old surplus equipment and doing much of the work in house, Mayor West stated that Police Chief Larry Callahan reduced an expected cost of $6,700 down to an estimated $3,200 for equipping the vehicle.

Moving past the purchases, East Ellijay is being offered a lot donation on First Avenue. While discussions began on what the city could possibly do with the property including a commercial building or a park area, no real discussion could begin before officially accepting the property into the city.

The lot officially measures at 0.84 acres and is being donated after it was originally declared not “buildable” due to setbacks and other issues the land presents against a residential building. The city is expecting to perform a quick claim deed in the coming days to finalize the transaction.

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Canning Gilmer’s Future

News

Along with the new Agriculture Facility, Gilmer Schools has also moved their Cannery to the new location at Clear Creek Middle School.

Serving people from several counties including Pickens, Fannin, and Murray among others with even a few from both North and South Carolina according to Mike Bushey who runs the facility. Though the facility is used by numerous citizens, it is the students who Bushey says benefit the most from the facility.

FYN recently returned to the Agricultural Center to take a closer look at the new cannery and talk with Bushey about the effect on our students.

Cooker at The Gilmer County CanneryAs a part of the FFA program, students become very hands-on with all they do through raising and caring for animals, to studying farming, to the recent nationally-renowned Parliamentary Procedure Team. While the cannery is already a staple in Gilmer’s Community, a few newer additions have come since relocating.

One of these great new additions actually came as six additions. Six new large cookers replace the older ones at the previous location and not only allow the students to increase the volume of fruits and vegetables they could prep for canning, but come fully equipped with an overhead lift to help with the heavy loads. Additionally, these cookers are tied to a recording system for temperature, Bushey says, that give an actual proven schedule for the required 240 degrees as well as the duration of the temperature.

According to Bushey, Gilmer is the only Community Cannery in the state that has this equipment and is fully certified to can apple sauce and apple butter.

BlancherHowever, some of the improvements come from even little things as Bushey said they purchased  a second blancher. With certain items requiring to be run through the blancher, a second hugely expedites the process as Bushey says they may have 35-40 people in the cannery on some days. Small things like hot water on tap instead of boiling all the needed hot water will further expedite procedures to push the new facility further.

Much of the additional equipment, from the de-seeders to the can press, is all hands on for both students and community members who utilize it as well. Bushey praised the Gilmer Board of Education’s support for the facility and specifically the cannery as he says it’s not just farming and extracurricular activity, this program reinforces every lesson students learn in regular classes as well.

Many lessons allow students to utilize their other courses such as math when they go for land measurements or science with the vast animal and plant science programs. As Gilmer’s Board of Education is beginning to look at incorporating STEM programs into their education, Bushey said they already are learning through application with the FFA program. It’s real world applications of the lessons they pick up every day.

SeedsStill more comes as Bushey says students get ownership of their programs in FFA. The new facility reinforces that as they may raise animals and learn to budget for them, take care of them, and deal with issues as they occur. The Cannery itself requires maintenance, upkeep, and supplies. Though they do charge community members a small fee for using the facility, those funds go towards the equipment’s maintenance and replacements parts when needed. Students go hands on in the Cannery to process food from start to finish, ending with a product they own.

“It shows how much the School System is behind Agriculture. I think this is a testament to all the people, the teachers and the thousands of students that have gone through that program. It’s a culmination.” said Bushey about the new Agriculture Center.

The program began in Gilmer County in 1930 and it is the community support, the kids at the high school showing what they could accomplish, and the culmination of those factors that have made this agricultural county known not only statewide, but nationally.

WallBushey is not the only one excited about the cannery as Dr. Barbara Wall, Georgia Department of Education State Director for Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education, spoke at the ribbon cutting after touring the cannery. Dr. Wall offered her recall of her first time she truly realized what Agriculture Education was all about. She had visited a cannery and was amazed by its tools and capabilities. She was so excited that she contacted several media outlets and told everyone she could until the cannery director called her and told her to stop because he was too busy.

Dr. Wall went on to praise Gilmer’s facilities as well and her excitement at the “mileage you will get out of this facility.”

Can PressWhile the mileage seems to already show in Gilmer’s illustrious agriculture programs, Bushey says the real highlight every year is the banquet, which is also set to be held in the Agriculture facility this year. “Unlike a lot of teachers, we have these kids for four years, most of them. Sometimes more than once during a school year. Seeing them in a lot of cases as that shy ninth-grader turn into that great speaker and great leader. Just making them better people.” Seeing his students’ accomplishments over four years, seeing them grow, watching them on their way to being really successful and great community members is what Bushey pulls from the banquet.

On average, the cannery has run an average of 20,000 units that can be a quart, a pint, or a half-pint, in the past. Bushey estimates roughly 1,000 people use the cannery every year with many being repeat customers. But with new equipment and new capabilities, it seems only time will tell the true benefit this facility brings not just to our students, but to the community as a whole.

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