Community development on agenda in commissioners’ March meetings


ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners addressed community development this month with a possible final solution to roadside trash pick-up as well as applying for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

Trash pick-up has been a developing issue over the last two months now as the board originally planned on hiring five seasonal employees for trash pick-up to work through the summer preceding the county’s mowing teams. However, a special called meeting in February saw new ideas as the commissioners began considering a new deputy in the Sheriff’s Department, similar in costs, to put inmates on the roads picking up trash.

During that meeting, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated this crew would consist of four or five non-risk inmates under the supervision of one deputy. He described this option as a better long-term solution and one that is typically more favorably viewed in the public perception.

At their regular March meeting, the idea was restated for the public saying the Sheriff’s Department would not need a new vehicle for the added deputy. The county will receive reports of the progress of the program to monitor and are still expected to have the teams move ahead of mowers in the summer months. This item was officially approved this month, so citizens should be seeing these teams on county roads, not state-owned roads, in the coming months. They will also be skipping over roads already cleaned and maintained by the Keep Gilmer Beautiful organization.

March also saw the commissioners approve a CDBG for the area of Sunlight Road and Roundtop Road. Proposed by the Ellijay-Gilmer Water Sewage Authority, the approval by the board is the first step in the grant application process, meaning this is still early stages of a competitive grant process that the county will be entering into application for.

If accepted, it would allow expansion of the water/sewer system closer to the southwest corner of Gilmer County, closer to the county line, according to Ellijay-Gilmer Water Sewage Authority Director Gary McVey. He estimated 200 residents of the area could be affected by the expansion. With the application due April 1, late fall could see the beginning of construction if approved with an expected one-year construction time.

In addition to these items, the Board of Commissioners approved applications for 2018 River Outfitter’s licenses for Cartecay River Experience and Coosawattee River Resort and an Alcoholic Beverage license for Mohammad Nizar Tharani at Ellijay Mini Mart.


Honoring Officer Brett Dickey


ELLIJAY, Ga. – Today marks 22 years since the passing of Deputy Brett C. Dickey, killed in the line of duty with the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office.

Today also saw Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office remember this officer by laying a wreath at his monument. A now annual memento of service in the county, Nicholson said he would continue the memorial service as long as he remains sheriff of Gilmer County as Dickey was “very deserving of being honored.”

The sheriff’s office also posted a note to social media saying:

Today we honor his memory as Sheriff Nicholson and the GCSO Honor Guard place this wreath at his monument and fly the flag at half staff at the Gilmer County Courthouse. The monument dedicated to him reads “Through the hearts and lives he touched and his fellow officers, this HERO lives on.”

Nicholson called his death a devastating loss to his family, to the sheriff’s office, and to the community. “He was not just any old police officer, he was a true public servant, and he was good guy,” Nicholson said.

Service like this is not something entered into lightly. Officers know of the risks involved in the job. Many claim a “calling” to the position. It may be a need to help others or perhaps an obligation knowing that the job has to have someone. It is always a loss to a community when tragedy strikes. However, memorials like this become a drive for those who remain. A loss can be motivation, a loss can lead to strength. A loss can be so much more than just pain.

Citizens can visit the courthouse to see the wreath for Dickey and honor him next to the main entrance at the foot of the flagpole.


Update on school threat


ELLIJAY, Ga. – As the incident of the school threat continues in Gilmer, FetchYourNews (FYN) sat down with Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes to discuss the incident.

Wilkes told FYN the school system would not be identifying any of the students or current details about the case. However, Wilkes did take time to share with FYN the incident basically occurred when a student, student one, took a photo of himself with what appears to be a gun. Student one then shared the photo with a peer, student two, who shared it with another peer, student three.

Wilkes tells FYN this student, student three, was the one who added text to the photo representing a possible threat and shared it through social media with others. While administration assumes the photo was originally taken prior to this school year, it was not shared until this weekend.

Additionally, student one, who took the photo without any text, was not arrested or disciplined and is currently still in class. As student three admitted to adding the text and sending it to multiple individuals, he faces school-level disciplinary action as well as charges filed against him by law enforcement.

Wilkes has previously stated that the school treats all threats seriously and continues to assert the importance of student safety to school and system administration.

Follow more on this story as FYN continues to update you and by reading our previous article, “Threat resolved at Gilmer High School.”


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Deputy sheriff arrested in Gilmer

Deputy McClure Arrested
Gilmer County Sheriff's Sgt. Greg McClure

Gilmer County Sheriff’s Sgt. Greg McClure

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Sgt. Greg McClure, a Gilmer County deputy sheriff, was arrested on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, by agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and Gilmer Sheriff’s deputies.

According to a public release by Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, the investigation and subsequent arrest stems from a report of rape forwarded to the sheriff on Dec. 27, 2017. Upon learning of the report, Nicholson contacted the GBI and requested that they conduct the investigation.

Sheriff Nicholson stated that the allegations against McClure are all “off duty” in nature, meaning McClure was not on duty at the time the alleged events occurred.

McClure was booked and processed at the Gilmer County Jail on Jan. 5, 2018, and then transferred to another jail to be housed. At this time, McClure is being held without bond. Charges are aggravated sodomy (two counts), aggravated assault, and interference with government property.

For more, check out the booking report below and stay with FYN as we continue to update this story.


Threat resolved at Gilmer High School

Gilmer High School, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Rumors continue circulating this morning about messages students have been receiving on SnapChat. Allegedly, a child has threatened the school and others inside it.

According to Gilmer County Charter School System Administration, the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office became involved during the night and have identified the suspect. As administration has continued working with the sheriff, they stated on social media, “The safety of our students and staff is always our main priority. All appropriate action will be taken to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”

Today, administration stated progress had been made and the Sheriff’s Office had made an arrest in the case stating, “At this time, there is no credible risk to students and staff of Gilmer High School.”

However, claiming laws for student confidentiality, administration is declining to comment further on the student involved or more information on the incident.

In light of the continued rumors about the credibility of the threat, administration did offer this: “It is imperative for students and everyone to know that credible or not, threats of this type against our schools cannot be tolerated or accepted.”

Repeated comments from citizens and students claim the threat came as a picture on SnapChat of a student holding a gun and saying not to come to school Monday.


Commissioners grant final approval to 2018 budget


ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners met Thursday, Dec. 21, for final approval of their 2018 budget before the new year.

Before the official vote, the commissioners presented a couple of final clerical notes to the budget where they changed language on one item to reflect the money allocation. The board changed a Public Works line item to phrase its project as lift station and/or scale as Public Works Director Jim Smith brought to light a recent issue with one of the solid waste department’s scales. In need of repair or replacement, this could preclude the lift station project from next year’s budget. Additionally, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris added an item in the capital budget for an upgrade to the county’s digital storage and the 146 gigabyte share of the county server they have. The server does not have sufficient space. Therefore, an upgrade to storage was already included in the allocated money, but Paris stated he had not listed it as an item.

None of these items actually changed any money allocation or lines of the budget.

Citizens speaking at the meeting brought up discussion on items for the budget in the county. Gilmer resident Joene DePlancke asked about the county’s golf course funding and revenue. Paris offered that this year represents the first year that the course is standing alone, meaning revenue will be equal to expenditures. However, it was also noted the “break even” did not include capital expenditures for the facility. Still, the commissioners noted confidence that the facility is continuing its progress towards a revenue generation for the county.

Citizen Dan Meadows commented on the county’s work session and Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller’s comments about the budget and funding for Public Works versus Public Safety. Seeking alternative paths to funding, Meadows questioned possibilities to utilize SPLOST or grants for employee funding. Much of the citizens’ input revolved around the conversations of funding raises and employee retention while avoiding inter-department tensions or funding re-allocations as mentioned in the county’s December work session. Additionally, DePlancke suggested utilizing volunteers throughout the county when possible.

Citizen Donald Patrick echoed the same sentiments stating the county needs to keep good people in these departments. He noted the issues with training and paying an employee but losing a potential employee to neighboring counties who may offer $1000 to $2000 more in pay.

Commissioners confirmed to those present that no additional changes had been made to Public Safety after the suggestions, and Paris reaffirmed previous comments about the progress the road department had made through capital funding in recent years. Find out more on the topic and discussion with “December meetings continue commissioners’ budget conversation.”

Final approval came for the 2018 budget with a motion from Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch and a second from Miller.


December meetings continue commissioners’ budget conversation


ELLIJAY, Ga. – While considerations continue for Gilmer County’s 2018 budget, new changes and suggestions have been considered through the commissioners’ December meetings.

Some changes came with an expected increase in property tax revenue that was mirrored with a increase to contingency fund in relation to each other. While the expected increase is based on the current standing for property taxes in 2017, the commissioners decided placing the increase in contingency would allow for some extra room on the exact number fluctuation.

The contingency also further supports the back-up funds for buildings and maintenance that Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller has been requesting as Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris tells FYN that contingency could be used for any unexpected expenses for repairs or other items.

Funding has begun being set aside for the Lower Cartecay Road Bridge as well. In the county’s capital budget, $250,000 was set into a line for the bridge repair. It was also later increased during their regular meeting to $350,000, pulling the extra $100,000 from added revenue in the capital budget from taxes.

The commissioners are still assuring the public they are actively pursuing a federal grant to repair the bridge. However, as the funding is not guaranteed, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch further urged these funds allocation.

As Miller brought the additional $100,000 in the Capital Budget to light in their regular session, his original recommendation was to use the funds to support capital purchases for the public works department. Crouch responded saying, “Since we have a bridge that’s been out for nine months or so, it should go there until we nail down alternative financing.”

Crouch went on to confirm that as soon as they could confirm the grant funds or other means of financing the $1.2 million project, he was in agreement with Miller’s suggestion.

Pursuing an increase to financing for the public works department, Miller had previously made suggestions as to accomplishing that during their work session saying the county is behind in providing roads and bridges for public works as public safety in whole gets three times the funding as public works.

While initially stating he wanted to increase the percentage of the budget that public works receives, Miller specifically stated he wanted to take a flat number out of the public safety budget and move it into the public works. Miller later mentioned $200,000 as a number.

Paris took a moment to say that he had repeatedly cut all the departments under the public safety budget and could not feasibly see any possibility of further cuts.

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson adamantly opposed the suggestion saying the department didn’t have it. Nicholson told the commissioners that he is already going to lose staff because he cannot give raises to everyone. He further commented saying they would be the lowest paid Sheriff’s office in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit starting Jan. 1.

Nicholson vehemently defended his current budget after major cuts adding that issues continually arise in the county that affect his budget. Referencing a couple of medical issues that have arisen, he noted major expenses that came through errors at other areas.

Nicholson also noted, “I have not increased my deputies staffing, my patrol staffing, probably, in ten years.”

Furthering the discussion, Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchet added, “If we cut anything out of ours, it’s going to have to come out of salary and wages. And you can take two to four hundred thousand dollars out of the revenue this next year because we won’t be able to handle the transports we have from the hospital.”

Pritchett also noted that the revenue each year for the emergency services offsets about half of their budget. He noted strain on their salary and wages already and any more cuts would make the work load unsustainable.

As Miller responded, he noted the great work public safety, as a whole, has accomplished, alongside the major needs of the county’s infrastructure. While Paris spoke about the strides the county has made in public works in the last couple years, Miller noted the strides they still need.

Gilmer County Public Works Director Jim Smith also spoke against the suggestion saying although he appreciated the acknowledgement of the needs public works has, he didn’t feel it would accomplish anything to improve public works at the detriment of public safety.

Smith stated, “I don’t feel like that you take from the gains that you have made in other deficient areas to give to another.”

Smith went on to comment on the progress his department has made saying that in his 16 years with the county, public works has been treated better in recent years than it has ever been.

While this specific suggestion never came to approval, Miller alluded at the regular meeting that the $100,000 in the capital budget, which he agreed to be put into the Lower Cartecay Road bridge project, would be returned towards public works investments as funding for the bridge was obtained.

Commenting on the budget, Chairman Paris called it a “bare bones” budget for its departments.


Looking deeper into Gilmer’s 2018 budget


ELLIJAY, Ga. – With discussions upcoming on the 2018 proposed budget, citizens are taking a closer look at the finances.

FYN has also delved deeper into a more detailed look at the 2018 Proposed Budget.

First, a comparison with the current standing of the 2017 budget will show the most general changes as the 2018 proposed Maintenance and Operations (M&O) budget at $28,729,313.00, up from the current 2017 M&O budget at $27,037,174.00. While this represents an increase of $1,692,139.00, citizens will need to remember that the 2017 is still to go through final amendments at the beginning of next year when the final records and tallies are taken into account.

The 2018 budget is proposed at this point, allowing still for changes before final adoption, which is scheduled next week on Dec. 21.

The largest increases fall where expected in the largest departments. The Sheriff’s Office will increase $127,755 (2018 total: $3,406,009). Roads/Bridges will increase $214,023 (2018 total: $1,522,758). 911 Dispatch will increase $111,017 (2018 total: $918,140). Fire and Rescue sees the largest increase without comparison at $221,517.

However, as citizens look at smaller departments, increase seem be just as large relative to current budgets. Tax Assessors will see a $77,523 increase. While this may seem a smaller number, comparing it to their previous 2017 budget of $780,086 represents almost a 10 percent increase. The Tax Assessors Department was among those asking for raises this year as they have seen a higher than average turnover rate for employees in the past who, similar to other departments, find better financial opportunities elsewhere. While, usually, assessors have different levels based on knowledge, experience and training, Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris has previously stated the raises this year are being spread in an attempt to bring up the lowest paid employees in the county, not just individual departments.

Additionally, Probate Court will see a $60,880 increase (2018 total: $373,222), and Solid Waste will see a $68,013 increase (2018 total: $787,992).

Another major change comes in from Elections. Considering the coming federal, state and county elections in May, possible run-off in July, November and another possible run-off in December, the $97,030 increase is not unexpected over the 2017 budgeted $33,442. The 2017 year had no county positions up for election.

One department saw a major decrease in budget. The Parks and Recreation Department will see a $57,449 decrease (2018 total: $606,172). Having recently lost an employee, the department decided not to replace the person. While not all of the decrease is attributed to this loss, the majority is accounted through payroll as well as benefits and healthcare.

While these changes are not fully approved yet, the meetings set for Wednesday at 8 a.m., Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and Thursday at 6 p.m. will have time set for citizens to speak about the budget to the Board of Commissioners. See more when you read “Commissioners comment on budget, cuts, and process.”

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