Addressing disconnects following Light Up Ellijay

News
Crowds flood Downtown Ellijay for Light Up event

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The downtown area of Ellijay was rocked by an historic crowd for its Light Up Ellijay festivities, which echoed throughout the county.

Citizens have responded in various ways and have voiced opinions as to the success or detriment of the Return to Whoville themed event. However, they are not the only ones responding to what some merchants called “Who-mageddon,” a jovial moniker made possible by a lack of major incidents during the event. Indeed, with additional responses from not just Ellijay’s police force, but county fire and rescue personnel as well, the event had only one reported incident, which involved a missing child. According to officials, the child was found within 15 minutes of searching.

This was an outcome Ellijay City Police Chief Edward Lacey said the town was very lucky to have accomplished. While acknowledging the unanticipated crowd, Lacey said his officers performed “admirably,” going so far as to say they gave “150 percent.” Lacey also confirmed with FYN that despite their efforts, the event would have been a lot worse had they not received backup from firefighters helping out with crowd control.

According to the permit issued by the city of Ellijay to the Downtown Ellijay Business and Community Association (DEBACA), the organization expected a maximum of 5,000 people at the event. While no one could confirm details, reports have varied as to the cause of the dramatic increase.

From a few viral videos to a radio station picking up the story in Florida, rumors continue to swirl with no real specific answers. However, DEBACA reported they noticed over 70,000 clicks for Light Up Ellijay in the week leading to the event. After the night was done, license plates were seen from over nine states, according to officials on scene.

Ellijay Mayor Al Hoyle declined to comment about the meetings and processes involved since Light Up Ellijay, but he did speak about the people who attended saying, “That paints a very positive picture of Ellijay. The name ‘Ellijay’ is known, obviously, and it drew that big of a crowd, and that’s great.” He went on to comment that with the quality, he sees future events growing as well.

People already began spilling into the street as earlier as 4:30 p.m. an hour before the tree lighting.

People already began spilling into the street as earlier as 4:30 p.m. an hour before the tree lighting.

Speaking with DEBACA Chairman Steve Cortes, he echoed the sentiment that attracting the crowd was a success on its own. This is the first time the association has hosted the event after transferring the event from the Downtown Development Authority.

Stepping beyond the event itself to identifying the effects a week later, Lacey stated about back-up received, “I think it showed that we were able to admit that we were overwhelmed … A lot of times, agencies that are not willing to ask for help are the ones that get in a lot of trouble … We were able to admit that we needed help and actually request it.”

In fact, not only did the Ellijay Police receive help during the event but also invited members from the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office, Gilmer Fire and Rescue, the Gilmer Chamber, DEBACA, East Ellijay Police, Ellijay Fire, and others to an after action meeting that is usually only held with Public Safety. Lasting more than three hours, the meeting saw members from each entity delving into the event separating out things that did happen versus things that should have happened during the event. Specifying the disconnection between those two ideas led to discussion and thoughts on future events.

A few specific issues came to light in the meeting regarding logistics for things like the addition of vendors for the event, the opening of bathrooms for the event and parking and traffic due to the crowd. Chief Lacey told FYN that the meeting and input from all involved will be considered as he creates his report and in moving towards future events.

Cortes also commented with FYN saying another issue with the crowd comes with future events. Not knowing if they should prepare for a similar crowd to this year or preparing for something lower is part of the stresses of planning. Cortes suggested they would be looking at the upcoming events throughout the year, such as St. PETrick’s Day and Independence Day, to gauge the response they might see at Light Up Ellijay.

One of the bigger points in the meeting  addressed a lack of communication and response from parties involved. Addressing understandings of the permit process and amending it paired with controlling and coordinating the multiple entities became a larger focus. Suggestions on dealing with these issues led towards future events seeing use of Instant Command Structures (ICS) and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

EOC is a fusion center of resources that officials say are used to manage and communicate across the different entities of public safety. Fully activated EOC’s could also include members from all sorts of other entities; in Ellijay, this could include mayors, council members, DEBACA members, or more. As explained in the meeting, this would allow instant access to cross-force resources.

The EOC concept also answered issues with traffic. A crowd of the size seen downtown not only gridlocked traffic after 5 p.m., but also clogged emergency access through the area. One hypothetical example of the EOC given at the meeting suggested an issue arising on Hwy. 282. The EOC could coordinate a nearby sheriff’s deputy to the location faster than any other. A more immediate response from a sheriff’s deputy in the area means far lower response times in the face of gridlocked traffic for citizens.

Somebody tracking and directing all requests would streamline services and resources in that instance to better control and guide arising issues, whether they be safety-focused or logistically focused through those involved.

In addition to the EOC, pre-made ICS would be available to handle situations where pre-planned events escalate to any sort of emergency, for example if a driver had grown so frustrated with the crowd that he or she ran people down.

Crowd size sends one child up the clock downtown in an attempt to see the nights events.

Crowd size sends one child up the clock downtown in an attempt to see the nights events.

While this may seem extreme, Lacey told FYN  these are the issues that police deal with everyday. They must prepare for the potential issues that could grow out of events with crowds like we witnessed this year. An approach that imitates an old saying, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” is one that the city police face daily in protecting and preparing for situations despite a common thought that such instances would not happen in our town.

In fact, part of Lacey’s research into parades garnered 56 total headlines in newspapers, with 55 of those occurring since July 2001, involving parade incidents and injuries. Crowds like the one at this year’s Light Up Ellijay further intensify the possibility of incidents.

While the entire week was spent identifying issues and areas for improvement, Chief Lacey declined to comment further on the entities involved saying, “It’s enough to say that there was a disconnect, and that we’re going to fix that.”

Cortes echoed approval of the cooperation and coordination found through the meetings held in the week after the event. Noting an increase in involvement as DEBACA continues to grow, Cortes tells FYN that he would love to see representatives from the Chamber, the cities and police forces at their meetings and events. He went on to comment on the meeting saying it answered questions: “What can we do if a big event comes to Ellijay? How can we handle that?” He went on to say, “There’s no finger pointing, everybody knows that a lot could have been done better, and a lot needs to be done if we’re going to work together in the future.”

Though Light Up Ellijay is firmly in the city’s rear view, progress and meetings continue as the response and preparation for next year continue. Continuing in growth and popularity, citizens and officials alike will be closely watching downtown over the coming year in anticipation of another night like Nov. 24.

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Ellijay lights up with historic crowd

Community, News
First Baptist Church of Ellijay brought Bethlehem to Ellijay with a stroll through their market and a visit to a very familiar inn and manger.

First Baptist Church of Ellijay brought Bethlehem to Ellijay with a stroll through their market and a visit to a very familiar inn and manger.

ELLIJAY, Ga – Anyone watching social media for our local area on Friday saw part of the major crowds overfilling the downtown area for Light Up Ellijay.

In fact, the event grew so much over recent years, officials were forced to call in extra help to direct the crowd. The parade saw a minor delay to start as crowds spilled out into the street, having nowhere to stand. By the time of the tree lighting at 5:30 p.m., the crowd had deadlocked traffic with some even parking and stepping out of their vehicles for 30 seconds to watch the lighting.

Vendors set up onto Broad Street while First Baptist Church of Ellijay brought the town of Bethlehem to the area with a staged area in their rear parking lot. Hosting people in full costume, complete with Roman solders, basket weavers, shepherds and even an angel or two, the town brought the ancient times to life as visitors were even asked to sign the “census” upon entering the fenced area.

Citizens dressed up to celebrate the Whoville theme for this year's Light Up Ellijay.

Citizens dressed up to celebrate the Whoville theme for this year’s Light Up Ellijay.

Even more poured into the downtown boardwalk as the Grinch himself made an appearance for photos and children. Santa and Mrs. Claus met kids as well on the courthouse steps for photos before all of them retreated to Ellijay Elementary School to prepare for the parade.

The Grinch came as a part of this year’s Whoville theme. Citizens, visitors and parade walkers alike all dressed for the occasion, adding a whimsical look to the already decorated tree and town.

As time drew near for the night time festivities, those in the vendor area, Bethlehem and boardwalk all began moving towards the roundabout, forcing many to stand out in the street.

One family said they had set up their seats on the roundabout at 2:30 p.m. However, that family, and others, were disappointed as no one but the kids in front sat to watch the parade.  Some onlookers complained of the crowds saying they wouldn’t be returning next year. Others wouldn’t let the crowd dampen their spirits, instead welcoming them saying they have never seen the city so popular.

Crowds spilled into the roundabout causing traffic and space issues with an historic crowd downtown.

Crowds spilled into the roundabout causing traffic and space issues with an historic crowd downtown.

Indeed, so many people came downtown that extra hands like Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett voluntarily joined the city police to aid in crowd control. Although no official count could be made, estimates from city police officers soared from 10,000 to 15,000 people before the night had concluded. Festivities began around noon and continued late into the night with Abby’s Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt hosting a dance party in their parking area immediately after the parade.

An overall amazing year brought the crowds out, but is also causing the city to retreat for meetings to respond. A number of people that downtown Ellijay has not experienced at one time during even the Apple Festival Weekends has called for officials to rethink plans for next year.

FYN has requested comments from officials on the night and Ellijay Chief of Police Edward Lacey has already agreed to speak with FYN once their meetings this week conclude.

Make sure to follow us over to our Facebook Album to see more Photos from Light Up Ellijay.

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Health and roads dominate Ellijay’s November council

Uncategorized

ELLIJAY, Ga – Prior to the Ellijay City Council’s November Meeting, they heard a proposal from Russel Brown, local paramedic, for a community welfare program similar to programs in other counties like Floyd County.

According to Brown, patients statistically do better recovering at home. This program would encourage and supervise home health. Different from home healthcare programs, Brown said much of the welfare program is focused on prevention of readmission to hospitals and emergency rooms. They would focus on aspects like vital signs and communication for paperwork. If the program moves forward, it would start out within the Ellijay City Limits.

Funding and grants are available, Brown said, and much of the expense would come from strips for glucometers to measure blood glucose. While he hopes one day it could grow into a community paramedic program, he wished to start at community welfare. Those providing the service would be limited in care, and Brown stated that EMS would still be called for necessary situations.

Specific details for the proposal will come possibly as early as the December City Council meeting as the council requested Brown to return with an official written proposal to detail more things like cost and liability among others.

Signs of Interest is proposing this sign change on behalf of the Gilmer Nursing Home and SunLink Health Systems.

Signs of Interest is proposing this sign change on behalf of the Gilmer Nursing Home and SunLink Health Systems.

Another healthcare entity presented a variance request to change the sign for Gilmer Nursing Home on 1362 South Main St.  While the variance request was submitted to exceed the three-foot sign regulation of the city, it would in fact be lower than the current sign. Standing at 21 feet now, the request states the new sign will only reach 12 feet in height. A representative from Signs of Interest, Andy Lawson, told FYN the sign change was partially to clean up the facilities appearance and simplify the extras to a lower “nicer looking sign.”

Officially approved by the council, the sign will include a small message board to be utilized by the nursing home. Lawson provided FYN with a drawing of what the sign is expected to look like. Though the sign change is indicative of a name change as part of a remodeling project, Lawson told the council that SunLink Health Systems still owns the nursing home.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to abandon part of Highway 382 to rebuild it as a direct line to Highway 515.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to abandon part of Highway 382 to rebuild it as a direct line to Highway 515.

Following the same road further south, Highway 382’s changes came to Ellijay with a formal notification by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) that they will abandon the section of Highway 382 that currently extends from the intersection of 382 and Old Highway 5 to the connection at Highway 515. As seen in the picture, GDOT will be constructing a new connector straight across to Highway 515 with a roundabout at the intersection.

The notification comes with the city of Ellijay needing to accept the abandoned portion of 382 into its responsibility for paving and maintenance. However, a motion was made at the meeting to table the item. Citizens can expect the council to revisit the issue in December.

Along with their discussion of roads, an official petition has reached the council to add speed bumps to Gilmer Street near the Senior Center. The petition garnered 20 names and roused discussion from the council about returning the street to a one-way street as well as discussion on purchasing speed bumps for the street. Continued complaints about the speed of vehicles on the street led to suggestions to officially request the change via petition. Discussion took a turn as Ellijay Police Chief Edward Lacey informed the council that the street was, at one time, a one-way street.

Gilmer Street is a more narrow street and discussion arose  as, if the city returned it to one way, they were unsure of which way to direct the traffic. The council tabled the item and requested an official recommendation from Lacey, on how to return it to a one-way street, to discuss along with the speed bumps option. Again, citizens should look for the council to revisit the item in December.

 

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Accident takes out Fence at Southern Pipe in Ellijay

News

October 30, 2017 ~ Gilmer County Georgia

According to authorities a single vehicle accident occurred on October 30th, 2017 on River Street in Ellijay, GA.   Sources tell FYN a female driver lost control of her vehicle on Monday, mid morning, and hit a curb.  The driver may have been attempting to correct the vehicle and veered off the roadway causing the vehicle to crash through the fence at Southern Pipe & Supply located at 340 River Street.  The vehicle narrowly missed the signage out front of the business.

According to sources at the scene,  the driver of the vehicle may not have been wearing her seat belt and after being helped from the car was taken by ambulance for medical attention to assess her injuries.   Ellijay Police and Georgia State Patrol responded to the accident.  The accident is under investigation at this time.

Incident Report Releases Details on Dog Attack

News

CHERRY LOG, GA – New details have arisen from the dog attack on Goose Island Road that resulted in the death of 61-year-old Kathy Sue Nichelson.

FYN has received the official incident report for both the response to the original dog attack and the arrest of Dante Holloway.

According to Sergeant Jason Newman, he arrived on scene at roughly 1:10 P.M. In his report, he states Nichelson was still breathing shallow and coherent. After Emergency Personnel arrived, Newman reports it was as he was watching out for the dog that they decided to contact the Coroner.

Later in the report, Newman states that Sergeant Blue Patterson was the officer forced to fire upon the dog as he came out from under the porch and began moving towards the him. Witness interviews confirmed in the report the dog had attacked a second victim, Morgan Fountain, who was bitten on the face.

When Dante Holloway was arrested during the investigations, an incident report from Deputy Austin McArthur stated he and another deputy, J. Holcombe, initiated a traffic stop with Holloway to issue warrants for his arrest. However, the report also states they found a bag with white residue which tested positive for methamphetamine.

Check more information in the official report:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dog Owner Arrested in Investigation

News

ELLIJAY, GA – According to official releases from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, an arrest was made earlier today regarding the dog attack and death of 61-year-old Kathy Sue Nichelson in Cherry Log, Georgia.

During their continuing investigation, the Sheriff’s office arrested Dante Holloway, who is now in custody.

He is currently facing two charges, Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Conduct, and has a $50,000 bond for both charges. The charges stem from his responsibility as owner of the pit bull that attacked and killed Nichelson.

According to Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, there is no information at this time to indicate Holloway has any other dogs that citizens need be concerned about. As for the pit bull who attacked Nichelson, as reported in “Details Reveal Victims of Dog Attack,” officers were forced to fire upon the dog at the scene.

Comments on Facebook and FetchYourNews allege other previous victims from the dogs, but no solid evidence has been found at this time.

The official release from the Sheriff’s Office stated:

Today, Detectives with the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office have taken Dante Holloway into custody. He has been booked into the Gilmer County jail and is charged with Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Conduct. The arrest is a result of the investigation into the death of Ms. Kathy Nichelson by a Pit Bull owned by Mr. Holloway. His bond is $50,000 for both charges.

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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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Vehicle Accident at Wal-Mart Leads to Death

News

ELLIJAY, GA – Just after noon, a driver in a black Jeep struck another vehicle on the right side of the Wal-Mart parking lot, nearest the Comfort Inn Suites.

Authorities gave no details on how the Jeep came to rest on the post, but did confirm the driver had to be taken to Kennestone Medical Center.

Authorities gave no details on how the Jeep came to rest on the post, but did confirm the driver had to be taken to Kennestone Medical Center.

According to East Ellijay Police Chief Larry Callahan, after striking the vehicle, the driver put his vehicle in reverse and struck another vehicle and a pedestrian. The pedestrian was killed in the incident.

The driver has since been transferred to Kennestone Medical Center by the Gilmer EMS. While authorities believe the pedestrian to be a local resident, no details are being released to the public.

However, Chief Callahan told FYN that the Georgia State Patrol is conducting the investigation. Stay with FYN as we await more details on the situation.

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