ELLIJAY, Ga. – As the Gilmer County Board of Education went through usual approvals for administration in January for the coming school year, an unusual take on the votes came as Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said she was requested to go through approvals one at a time instead of all together.
Those individual votes came so a no vote could be given to Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley. She was approved in a 3-2 decision with Tom Ocobock and Ronald Watkins as the dissenting votes. FYN later asked these two why they voted no. However, they simply commented that they had their reasons.
Watkins specifically said, “Hopefully, things will straighten up and next year will be a yes vote.” He did note simply that he wasn’t satisfied with the position, declining to explain further.
Ocobock did agree that he wanted next year to be a yes vote, but also declined further comment.
One other dissension came with the Central Administration positions. As Bob Sosebee was recommended for Director of Facilities and Transportation, Ocobock spoke in the meeting saying, “I’m giving him the yes vote, but I want to see marked improvement in maintenance on these schools in this year.”
Ocobock said he has seen trash and alluded to more as he repeated that he wanted a marked improvement.
With these approvals of administration, the Board will move forward next month with recommendations for staff and contracts for the coming school year.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Highlighting the L4GA Grant (The Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading in Georgia Grant) in January, Gilmer Schools have been talking about the fruits of the grant, Literacy Nights and Book Donations. These events are a part of Gilmer’s usage of the grant and their attempt to “get the message out that Reading Matters!”
According to Katrina Kingsley, GCCSS Pre-K Director and PBIS District Coordinator, all of Gilmer County Schools were awarded the L4GA Grant this school year in order to promote literacy and language development for children in the community. Kingsley made an official release stating “On January 11th, a total of 250 books were given to the following community members: Gilmer County DFCS, Gilmer County Health Department, Piedmont Urgent Care, East Ellijay Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, and Lifetime Medical Center.”
That’s not all as the school is already planning additional book donations to the community for the spring of 2019.
Additionally, Lottie Mitchell, Chief Academic Officer of the Gilmer County Charter School System, took time during January’s meeting to highlight the points of Literacy Nights, an event that each school in the system has already hosted once this year. A family night of fun and books, the events showcases the importance of reading and its effects on students.
Kingsley also noted that a child who reads 20 minutes per day is exposed to 1.8 million words per year and scores in the 90th percentile on standardized tests. A child who reads 5 minutes per day is exposed to 282,000 words per year and scores in the 50th percentile on standardized tests. A child who reads one minute per day is exposed to 8,000 words per year and scores in the 10th percentile on standardized tests.
The school system’s goal is to encourage parents to read to their children and to encourage their children to read at home in order for students to experience higher levels of academic success. Taking the time to highlight these Literacy Nights and the Book Donations is the next step in accomplishing that goal.
It was only a minute. It was only a moment. He was one man. He was a soldier.
Gilmer County paused this afternoon as a procession passed taking Sgt. Christopher J. Lockett, USMC, to Murphy, North Carolina. Having passed away on January 7, 2019 at the age of 26, Lockett is finally coming home from his service.
It wasn’t a lonely drive, however, as a theme spread across several communities. Citizens lined roadways as police stopped traffic for the procession. After landing in Atlanta at about 2 p.m. today, the procession traveled to Townson-Rose Funeral Home in Murphy.
It is a long trip home. Organizers had the citizens who lined roadways to bring American Flags to show support and love for this one who served. Some citizens present at the procession called it “moving and meaningful that people would do this for a man they don’t know.”
Flags of all sizes were present at the passing. Citizens were seen intersections and all the way from the red light in front of Longhorn Steakhouse to the intersection of 515 and 1st Avenue near Hardee’s.
Though it didn’t take long for the procession to pass through, Gilmer gave a special thank you to a young man who gave of himself in service. Law Enforcement and Emergency Responders saluted as civilians held flags and stood silent in a solemn send off to a soldier.
He wasn’t from Gilmer, he wasn’t even from Georgia, but he was honored as expected of one who serves nobly.
It was more than a minute, it was the moment. It was more than a man, it was a soldier.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – After last month’s arguments of legislative versus home rule as the way to go forward with Post Commissioner salaries, this month saw the continuation of that debate.
The next step, a question brought forward from the budget sessions into last months meeting and now into the new year, is the percentage of the raise. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris originally had offered a number of 20%. Though not arbitrarily thrown out, Paris has since said he was offering the number as a consideration.
Since that time, articles and discussion have focused on 20% as the proposed amount for the Post Commissioner salary increase. Even FYN offered analysis based upon that 20% suggestion.
This percentage is a percentage of the Commission Chairman’s salary. Post Commissioners are currently paid 10% of the chairman’s salary.
This month saw the discussion shift after some pushback from the community over “doubling” the salary.
Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson wasted no time in researching the issue and offering the board her own analysis, one of surrounding counties and their boards’ salaries.
Reaching through 2016, 2017, and 2018, these documents from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs showcased salaries of both the Chairperson and the Post Commissioners, organized into population size groups. Ferguson highlighted the Gilmer and its immediate neighbors like Lumpkin, Fannin, and Pickens.
A new percentage offered in the BOC’s January meetings sits fell to 18% with Ferguson saying, “We talked about 18%, I think going any lower than 18%… I’m in favor of at least 18%.”
Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller stated in the meeting that though he thought the raise was deserved, he would be satisfied with not changing the salary at this time saying, “I, personally, think it’s not a good time to be doing this.” Miller did ultimately vote against the motion to advertise the salary increase in a 2-1 vote.
In 2018, Lumpkin County was at $12,005 annually according to this report. Pickens was at $11,205.
Currently, Gilmer County Post Commissioners are paid $7,125.38 as reported in “Commissioners pushing for ‘Fast Answer’ in pay raises.” With an 18% instead of a 20% increase, effectively not quite doubling the salary, the new base pay of a Post Commissioner would become $12,825.68.
Ferguson also noted in the board’s work session that this change would not take effect for two years, when the next elected Post Commissioner will take office.
Approved, 2-1, for advertising, it is now up to the citizens to speak with the Board of Commissioners and attend February’s meetings to voice the county’s opinion on the matter whether in support or opposition of the change.
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.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Despite being ready to go forward with the first reader of changes to the Land Ordinance in Gilmer County, Commissioners listened to a speaker in the Public Hearing who requested they push the ordinance back a month.
Devell Frady stood in Public Comments to ask for the extension as he said he hadn’t heard about it until two days before the public comments.
Agreeing to stall the decision, the board will be re-advertising the ordinance in the next month and holding a new public comments session as well. Having completely restarted the process, Frady said it will give the Builders Association and surveyors more time to read through the changes.
Frady thanked the Commissioners for listening to him and others as they asked for a change to R3 zonings. He also thanked them for listening again as they agreed to allow another 30 days for the public.
The changes will instate new R-4 zoning that all current R-3 could be moved into, and allowing a new R-3 Zoning.
The changes also deal with adding in capabilities for Duplexes and similar structures.
Make sure to see the changes and updates in the Land Use Ordinance before next month’s return to the issue.
The county has already advertised a new Public Hearing for February 14, 2019, at 5:00 p.m.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – A not-unexpected turn of events saw the Board of Commissioners (BOC) strike the two items from their agenda on Thursday that involved an Audit and a Contract Termination for the Gilmer Chamber.
Despite this, it doesn’t mean the end of this issue between the two entities. With both sides having agreed that the Hotel/Motel Tax usage by the Chamber is required to have an audit, and moving forward imposing that requirement, a major issue is being resolved. However, it doesn’t mean that citizens won’t be hearing about the issue again in coming sessions.
As Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson stated in their work session, she is wanting to look deeper at the Chamber, the date of the automatic contract renewal, and the Hotel/Motel Tax split. Though most of the discussion at the work session centered on clarifying “if” and “why” a termination would be required to renegotiate the contract and look at some of the expectations from both parties, the lasting issue is still persisting.
Chamber President Paige Green provided a prepared statement on behalf of the Chamber which asked them to reconsider the termination. But much of its points also addressed the issue of changing the split. One sentence stated, “Defunded or reduced funding towards those efforts or even extended negotiation period without resolution will have immediate and long term effects on the great work that has been done to bring us to this point in time.”
Her statement also reaffirms the Chambers commitment to “an open dialogue this year and to answer any questions you have in regards to our efforts.”
The commissioners did not vote down the termination, however. As previously reported in “Chamber Contract in question at BOC,” Ferguson stated several times during the work session that she thought termination was the only way to renegotiate the contract with its pending automatic renewal. Instead of voting down the termination, all three commissioners unanimously approved an agenda change to remove the items from the agenda with the clarification that it was agreed that the audit was required and would start being provided.
This leaves the state of the Gilmer Chamber in a flux of moving forward with an automatic renewal schedule to take effect next week, but knowing that 2019 will be a year in review as the Commissioners look closer at the Hotel/Motel Tax and the Chamber in general.
Ferguson noted during the work session that the Gilmer Chamber holds one of the highest Hotel/Motel tax split-percentages in the state. It was also noted by several chamber members and chamber board members that the Gilmer Chamber was also noted by people across the state as one of the best and most effective chambers.
As both entities move forward in the year, the discussion of the underlying issue will arise. For now, the preamble comes to a close avoiding what Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said would have been “a very, very serious mistake for Gilmer County.”