Lower Cartecay Bridge gains priority in state replacement program

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris officially announced at the May BOC meeting that he received word that the State DOT (Department of Transportation) program replacing bridges across the state will move the Lower Cartecay Road bridge further up the list.

Originally, the commissioners were seeking to swap places of the Vanilla Lane Bridge, which was third on the list, and the Lower Cartecay Road bridge, which has only been added since last year. However, Paris commented on Thursday, May 10, that the bridge is set to move up the list. Though he didn’t know for sure exactly how it would work, he did say, “Right now, what it looks like is that the Lower Cartecay will be moved to the top of the list, but Vanilla Lane will continue at number four.”

Paris told those at the meeting that he had contacted Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston about interceding on the county’s behalf to get the bridge added to the list. He stated the Speaker’s help in the county’s sudden need was integral to the process that has now seen the bridge added to the list and moved to a priority position.

Having received a Memorandum of Understanding from the DOT for Vanilla Lane, the commissioners discovered that while they were originally estimating their half of the costs of obtaining the right of way to be somewhere around $15,000 to $20,000, the official estimation of the total costs according to the memorandum would be $207,000 bringing Gilmer’s half to $103,500.

Now the county will be looking at another memorandum in the coming weeks for the Lower Cartecay Road bridge since it has been moved up. Aside from the movement of Lower Cartecay, Paris recommended the Board move forward with sending the $103,500 to the DOT for Vanilla Lane to keep it from being dropped from the list.

As the county moves forward with both bridges it will be awaiting news on both sides as they find out if Vanilla Lane does maintain its position on the list and the progress of site visits and preliminary work on Lower Cartecay Road.

Officially approved by unanimous decision, Paris stated the excess expense will be funded out of the capital contingency fund as the expense was larger than expected.

Previously, during budget sessions last year, the members of the board discussed dedicating their entire capital contingency to be saved for replacing Lower Cartecay Road bridge if it was unable to be added to the programs list. It was stipulated as a “back-up plan” to ensure the funding would at least begin the process of saving for the replacement while the commissioners were hoping to add the bridge to the DOT program.

Now, with the bridge not only added but moved up the list, the contingency fund appears as if it will be used to fuel both bridges at a substantially lower cost. Paris stated in the meeting that with the original estimate the board received on the Lower Cartecay bridge replacement rising past $1,250,000, any “reasonable figure” the DOT provides for the costs of right-of-way would be a vast improvement worth supporting.

Additionally, if the county had not gotten onto the list with Lower Cartecay, they would have been saving their entire contingency funds for at least 2018 and 2019 pushing back the project to begin, at the earliest, in 2020. Now, this program places the Lower Cartecay bridge at the number one slot. Even with the late start, the project will begin its process with engineering and architecture this year. Citizens could potentially see construction beginning as early as next year.

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Road Median Flowers

Outdoors

Before the cold turned them brown, I was getting questions about the flowers planted in the road median between Blue Ridge and Ellijay.  As it turns out the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is teaching all of us about an old floral favorite that needs to be brought back to the garden: cosmos. This year they were planted in medians and roadsides all across the state.

 

If you have ever wondered, “Do those specialty license plates pay off?” The answer is yes, and of course, on display. What is even more exciting is that the future is bright for these types of floral plantings. GDOT is revved up on planting pollinators along the highway system, and this should have everyone doing the happy dance.

 

But let’s go back to the cosmos. This is not the orange cosmos, instead it is the Cosmos bipinnatus. This cosmos is native to Mexico and is related to coreopsis and rudbeckias. It is the quintessential cottage garden flower and brings in the pollinators.  It is so good that the University of Georgia has put them in their promotional seed packs labeled the “Pollinator Blend.” The pack states that pollinators will make a beeline to your garden when you plant this beautiful flower mix.

 

These cosmos have daisy-like flowers 2 to 4 inches wide in shades of burgundy, pink, lilac and white with orange centers, and they are borne on stems of airy, fern-like foliage for weeks on end during the growing season. As GDOT and UGA would testify, these are easy to grow from seed. In fact, they are so easy to grow from seed, you can sow successive plantings to have blooms the entire growing season, especially if you want to have a bounty of flowers for the vase too.  You might get lucky and find nursery plants, but seeds seem to be readily available.

 

Plant your seeds or nursery-grown transplants into loose, well-drained soil once the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees.  Fertility need not be high for this Mexico native. Seeds germinate in five to seven days with blooms, bees and butterflies in eight to 10 weeks. Thin the seedlings or space transplants 12 to 36 inches apart depending on your variety.

 

Yes, there are varieties like the 1936 All-America Selections Award Winner ‘Sensation’ that tops out in the 4- to 5-foot range.  But if you are into the more diminutive cosmos, then you might want to try the 2-foot-tall ‘Sonata,’ which was a Fleuroselect Award Winner. There are plenty of others to try as well.

 

Although considered an annual, the cosmos gives a perennial-like performance by reseeding, which is perfect for the highway system and your pollinator garden too. These are tough plants, so water sparingly but when you do, water deeply, training those roots to go deep. Your volunteer seedlings may look a little different than what you originally planted when it comes to height, but they will nonetheless be dazzling.

 

If GDOT can have success with cosmos, you can too. I hope you’ll give them a try next spring.

 

An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution

 

Yukon bus wreck report released

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Georgia State Patrol has released its official report for the Yukon Road bus incident last Monday, Jan. 22.

According to the report, officials say the bus driver, 71-year-old Harold Moody, says he drifted onto the shoulder as he was reaching for his microphone and looking into his mirror at the students on his bus.

The report states Moody was “distracted” while he was driving by using the microphone and causing him to drift off the east side of Yukon Road before striking a culvert and veering back across both lanes before overturning and coming to rest blocking the road. Moody was not injured in the accident.

Vehicle 1 was traveling north attempting to negotiate a curve on Yukon Road. Vehicle 1 drifted and traveled off the east side of Yukon Road causing the driver to lose control.
Vehicle 1 traveled north on the east shoulder into a ditch. The undercarriage of vehicle 1 struck the ditch culvert. Vehicle 1 veered left and travel west across both lanes of the
roadway. Vehicle 1 overturned and came to an uncontrolled rest facing west on its right side across both lanes of Yukon Road.

Driver 1 stated that he reached up to grab the microphone and looked at the rearview mirror to address the student passengers. He stated that the student passengers were being loud and using profanity. Driver 1 became distracted by using the microphone and looking at the rearview mirror while attempting to negotiate a downhill curve.

School officials have already confirmed the use of a substitute driver after having placed Moody on administrative leave. Read more about the accident with “Bus wreck on Yukon injures students,” “Responding to Gilmer’s bus wreck on Yukon Road,” and “Ralston speaks on Yukon bus crash.”

 

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Ralston speaks on Yukon bus crash

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – While local citizens continue discussion of Monday’s incident involving a bus overturning on Yukon Road, the discussion has spread to the state capital as Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston released an official comment today.

“I’m so thankful no one was hurt in this week’s school bus accident.  While the road the accident occurred on is maintained by the county government, I’m willing to discuss state involvement in addressing any safety concerns with the road if the county feels that state involvement would be helpful.  I’m just glad that there was an emergency medical facility in the county which could treat the children who were injured.  The last time a serious bus accident occurred in Gilmer County, that wasn’t the case.”

As some have addressed concerns over the area of Yukon road where the accident occured, FetchYourNews has learned that county officials have been looking into the road this week since the wreck. While no official statement on their progress is available at this time, this comment from Ralston could open discussion for possibilities in the future.

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Responding to Gilmer’s bus wreck on Yukon Road

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With more questions than answers, the current investigation into the bus wreck on Yukon Road cannot complete fast enough.

Citizens are continuing to debate the incident with the information available. FetchYourNews (FYN) sat down to discuss the situation further with Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes. Though she reiterated that details such as the name of the bus driver and the specifics of the State Patrol were unavailable, she did update that the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) required investigation of the bus proved the bus sound and complete excluding the damage caused by the wreck.

This means that while some had questioned the bus’s condition at the time of the incident, a formal investigation has stated the bus itself was not at fault. Of course, with the damage to the vehicle, Wilkes tells FYN that the bus will obviously not be put back on the road. Instead, the system has put one of its back-up buses into use and is utilizing a substitute driver on the route. No other bus routes or drivers have been affected by the incident, and Wilkes confirmed that the school utilizes substitute drivers regularly in its operations.

Going deeper into the bus condition, Wilkes commented that the bus maintenance program follows stringent schedules regularly inspected by the GDOT, which also inspected the bus after the wreck. As the bus garage adheres to those schedules, they monitor each bus’s engines and details down to measuring the tread on tires.

The driver of the bus that wrecked has been with the school for over three years but has been placed on administrative leave for now. Wilkes said that such leave is common but would not comment on the driver’s permanent status with the school until the investigation completed.

Wilkes also took time with FYN to deny a rumor of a fight on the bus distracting the driver saying, “I can tell you that there was no fight on that bus at the time. That is one rumor I can completely squelch.”

Though not every question is seeing answers at this time, details continue to reveal as more unfolds.

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Bus wreck on Yukon injures students

News
Gilmer, County, Charter, School, Clear Creek, Middle, Shann Wilkes, Superintendent, Sheriff, Public Safety, Emergency, Crash, Wreck, Overturned, Bus, Yukon, Road
A Gilmer school bus is overturned on Yukon Road blocking both lanes of traffic.

A Gilmer school bus is overturned on Yukon Road blocking both lanes of traffic.

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A Gilmer County Charter School System bus has crashed roughly three miles out of town on Yukon Road.

The road is currently shut down and drivers need to find alternative routes as they attempt to travel. The bus was not involved with another vehicle. According to Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes, the bus overturned on the wet, rainy road resulting in minor injuries to children on board.

She did confirm the only students on board were from Clear Creek Middle School. With only minor, non-life-threatening, injuries, emergency services are transporting seven students to the emergency department in Ellijay and eight are being transported to the emergency room in Jasper. However, the other students on board were uninjured or only received scrapes or bruises and, having been checked by emergency response units, are being transported back to Clear Creek Middle School for parent pick-up.

Uninjured students from the bus crash are returned to Clear Creek Middle School for parent pick-up.

Uninjured students from the bus crash are returned to Clear Creek Middle School for parent pick-up.

According to the Gilmer County Charter School System, they are working to notify parents and are not releasing names of the students injured.

Witnesses on scene are reporting officers from Gilmer Fire, Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia State Patrol are still working on the vehicle which is blocking both lanes of the road.

While emergency services are on scene, there is no set time expected for re-opening the road. Stay with FetchYourNews (FYN) as we continue to follow updates from authorities.

 

 

UPDATE: According to Dr. Shanna Wilkes, the accident coupled with response from parents to the schools delayed bus routes today, causing many students to arrive home far later than usual. With State Patrol undertaking a formal investigation into the incident, the use of this bus would demand a halt whether it is operational or not as authorities’ investigation will entail a full inspection in addition to questioning and investigating those involved.

While it is FYN’s understanding that the bus overturned after an over-correction by the driver, possibly trying to return to the road from the shoulder, it has not been confirmed by officials.

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Public Health Release Confirms Rabies in Gilmer County

News
Georgia Department of Public Health

ELLIJAY, Ga – An official release from the Georgia Depart of Public Health and its District 1- 2 office has confirmed a case of rabies in Gilmer County.

Specifically, a stray beagle, tested by health officials, tested positive for the virus. Although the beagle was found in the area of Flat Branch and Weeks Road, officials are warning everyone in the county to be wary of stray animals.

Additionally, they are encouraging any in the area who think they or their family have been exposed to the beagle, to call either the Gilmer County Environmental Health office at (706) 635-6050 or the Georgia Poison Control Center at 1 (800) 222-1222 for a free rabies exposure consultation.

The full release given by the department is as follows:

A Gilmer County couple learned today that a stray beagle that had been near their home tested positive for rabies; however, county environmental health officials determined neither the couple nor their pets had been exposed to the virus the dog carried.

“We’re constantly reminding the public to avoid contact with both stray and wild animals,” said Andrea Martin, Gilmer County Environmental Health Manager. “If you don’t know the rabies vaccination status of an animal, you’re putting yourself at risk just by handling it. But in this case, we ascertained that the couple and their pets had not been licked, scratched or bitten by the dog.”

The couple, who lives alone in a residence near the intersection of Flat Branch and Weeks Roads in Ellijay, noticed the beagle on their property on November 25and saw that it exhibited signs of illness, including lethargy and the inability to walk. They tried to tend to the animal but were concerned it could be rabies-infected, so they contacted the local veterinarian hospital.

The dog was prepared for rabies testing and the specimen was sent to the Georgia Public Health Laboratory on November 29. The positive test result was reported to local officials on December 1.

Martin urges anyone living near the intersection of Flat Branch and Weeks Roads, who think it is possible that they or their children could have been exposed to the beagle at any time since November 11, to call either the Gilmer County Environmental Health office at (706) 635-6050 or the Georgia Poison Control Center at 1 (800) 222-1222 for a free rabies exposure consultation.

Anyone who may have lost the beagle should contact officials immediately to be evaluated for possible rabies exposure.

If there are pets in the area that have never been vaccinated or are not currently vaccinated against rabies, they should be vaccinated or given a booster vaccination right away.

“Rabies is nearly 100% fatal in humans,” warned Martin. “Once rabies symptoms are present, it is too late to treat the human victim for rabies. If, however, exposure is known, then rabies post-exposure vaccinations are given to prevent the onset of rabies, saving the person’s life.”

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Commissioners Start Discussing Whitestone Road

News

ELLIJAY, GA – Citizens have been talking for years about the intersection of Whitestone Road and Highway 515.

A new chapter is underway as citizen, Gary Ferguson, asked for it to be put on the agenda for the Commissioners October 2017 Meeting. While Ferguson originally spoke about prohibiting trucks on Whitestone Road, the Commissioners quickly included the effects the prohibition could have on the Whitestone / 515 intersection.

Ferguson’s main complaint is that the trucks are coming across the county line from Pickens for the access to the Highway. In doing so, they are allegedly speeding along the road through a small community causing dangers. Ferguson reported to the Commissioners that the trucks could be taking a road in Pickens to access Highway 515 that is a shorter distance, but they take his road due to a smaller hill providing less of an incline to climb.

With the trucks loaded, they avoid the higher climb due to the added weight, according to Ferguson.

One of the County’s major issues is sight distance on 515. Many will recall numerous accidents with fatalities at the intersection including a Deadly Tour Bus Accident in October of 2016.

Post Commissioner Dallas Miller mentioned he wanted to talk with DOT about possibly placing a no left turn restriction on the intersection to help avoid traffic issues with all vehicles at the location.

Post Commissioner Travis Crouch stated he would be meeting with a member of the Georgia DOT (Department of Transportation) and would discuss the issue. Coming back in the regular meeting, he noted the DOT representative stated Whitestone is a county road and the DOT would have no input on whether they prohibited certain traffic.

DOT still could bring an engineer to the county to investigate the 515 intersection and safety issues involved with it. However, the Board of Commissioners indicated they were set to do more homework on their own and revisit the idea themselves in November.

They officially tabled the motion in the October Meeting as they all wished to look further into different options.

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