Board splits on Hotel/Motel

News, Police & Government

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners split their opinions on an idea to alter the Chamber and County sharing of the Hotel/Motel tax during budget sessions this year.

Brought up during the Chamber’s meeting with the board by Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch, the two entities delved into what it would mean to possibly shift the current 70/30 split to increase funding for the county as well as a boost in their own ambitions for increasing tourism and county draw.

Crouch mentioned only shifting it by 10% to a 60/40 split in the Chamber’s favor. Among several ideas, the county’s recent agreement and push for better signage at the county line arose. The idea resurfaced after a recent push from citizens to claim Gilmer as the Wrestling Capital of Georgia. The county is actively seeking funding sources for the project. However, the idea of funding it through the capital budget seems less likely as the budget meetings revealed at least two departments whose request could consume the entire budget on their own.

As members of the chamber were present at the meeting, the consistent report was overwhelming support and praise for what the Chamber has accomplished saying, “I love the Chamber, they are so engaged with my needs.”

Ultimately, Crouch noted that he has enjoyed and appreciated the Chamber’s work. Instead, he noted that as a business owner he agrees, but as a Commissioner, he sees the constant people talking about road conditions and similar needs. He went on to say that the change wasn’t by any means a reflection of a poor job by the Chamber, but rather he felt at a certain point, he was seeing diminishing returns alongside greater needs elsewhere.

Commission Chairman Charlie Paris disagreed with the idea saying, “My concern would be that we are talking about putting ourselves in a difficult situation in the future to have a better situation in the immediate. I think we have got to look at it long term.”

He went on to add later that he knows the county isn’t where it needs to be on roads. He related a story when he was tasked to go out to the road department and take pictures of junk equipment to be sold off or moved for disposal. Paris said, “When I got back into our meeting and I was showing the pictures, Jim Smith just about had a stroke because ‘No we use that. We use that. We use that.’ That’s what they had to work with.”

Chamber President/CEO Paige Green

Chamber President/CEO Paige Green

Paris noted that the last four years have seen increases from a 16 person crew to 22 people. He noted the equipment replacements including dump trucks, bulldozer, paving roller, road sweeper, and an equipment shed to prolong the life of that equipment. He made a point to note the progress the road department has made saying that the Road Department is continuing along the path of improvement. He said they will continue needing to reverse the department’s neglect for years to come, it can’t be solved in a single year.

Chamber President and CEO Paige Green noted that she expects a plateau at some point. While she agreed with the ideas like gateway signage and organic growth from the county’s location. She added that she understood the “tough decisions” that the board makes, but the hotel/motel money reinvested in an appropriate way would be the long-term solution as opposed to the short-term solution of decreasing funding.

Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller also commented saying he would look at the number if the budget absolutely demanded it.

However, as of now, no changes have been made in the proposed budgets split. The Commissioners still have their October 16 work session and October 17 regular session as well as expected special called meetings before the budget is balanced.

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Gilmer “survives” the storm

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – As Gilmer continues to clean up and recover from Saturday mornings storm, officials are beginning to assess damage and costs for the county.

According to Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, around 4 a.m. on Saturday morning emergency services began receiving calls for aid around the county.

As one of the hardest hit counties in North Georgia, the damage with downed trees and powerlines alone could have weeklong effects according to reports as power outages continue and line-men continue working around the clock to repair both downed line and downed poles. There have also been reports of mudslides causing damage to areas, but no roads have been blocked or destroyed.

Pritchett reports that the emergency services only had one reported injury as a tree fell on a local woman’s camper in the Coosawattee area. As paramedics reached the woman, she was taken to an area hospital. However, no reports of any fatalities have come in as authorities are still, days later, responding to calls for aid.

As the intensity of the storm increase through the early hours, an estimated 8,000 – 10,000 homes lost power in the county between Amicalola Electric Company and Georgia Power. Public Safety has counted 20 homes with trees on top of them as they continue the survey process. These were just a few of the different situations that Pritchett says they have continued responding to in the days since the storm.

County services are in full swing with the Gilmer County Road Department and Public Safety department both attempting to clear trees from the roads as they find them.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FYN that the county is still collecting estimates for exact amounts of costs of the damage. However, their biggest disaster came in the Buckhorn area and the county golf course which lost part of its most recent paving of the cart path, has numerous trees down on the greens, and is still looking at water damage to the course. Early predictions say the course will not re-open to the public until Wednesday or Thursday at the earliest.

Despite the highest damage to county facilities and equipment being there, the hardest hit part of Gilmer County is actually inside Coosawattee, according to Pritchett. While the county continues the clean up in the outer areas of the county and the cities deal with the damage inside their limits, Coosawattee’s Public Works department is dealing with the mass of downed trees and road damage inside the resorts gated community.

Gilmer has also experienced flooding in low-level areas. However, River Park, which has become notorious for flooding and flood damage in recent years, made it through the storm, according to Paris, with minimal damage and little to no flooding through the buildings.

The major damage from the rainfall came with 5 damaged culvert pipes. Director of Public Works, Jim Smith told FYN that four of those pipes had part of their base wash away as water overtook the pipe and began flowing over the road. The fifth pipe, however, was located on Tyler Road, just off of Highway 282, and was completely washed out and carried away. This pipe had to be replaced and reset. However, the Road Department has all five locations repaired and passable for vehicles at this time.

Alongside the continuing official response of the county, citizens are also still out in droves continuing to help neighbors chainsaw trees in driveways and across roads that authorities haven’t reached yet. Citizens across the county are calling it a major storm, the likes of which they have not seen before.

Citizens are also reporting damage tolls in the hundreds of thousands between damage to homes and vehicles being damaged or crushed by falling branches, trees, hail, power poles, and other debris. Reports of damage continue through local farms including at least one chicken house struck by lightning and burnt down.

Continuing reports of high wind, continuous lightning, and heavy rain have locals calling it a “tornado-like storm without the tornado.”

Officials agree as the Public Safety Department is currently sharing all their information collected with the National Weather Service in attempts to classify the storm. Pritchett confirmed that they are collecting damage reports and assessing weather data to assess the possibility of microbursts, straight-line winds, or actual tornadic activity.

Gilmer is not alone in its time of recovery, though. As is common practice with power companies, Gilmer is receiving aid from counties all over Georgia. Crews are in town this week from Volt Power, Amicalola Electic, Pike Electric, Sumter Electric, and Georgia Power among others. Two visiting workers confirmed they were from Columbus, Ga. and Atlanta, Ga. With others coming in from across the state, work is continuing for those parts of Gilmer and North Georgia that are still without power.

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Inmate trash pickup returns

News

(Photo by Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office)

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) has been considering litter in the county for over three months now.

As FetchYourNews originally reported in February, “Roadside trash concerns rising in Gilmer” and further discussed in a Special Called Meeting, the BOC was set to hire seasonal employees to cover trash pickup ahead of the county’s mowing team. With a cost close to $45,000, the board was all approved and ready to move forward with the hiring when Chairman Paris returned with another option that was approved in the March Regular Meeting. For a similar cost, the county could hire one extra sheriff’s deputy to supervise prison inmates to travel the roads instead.

This option would serve the county year-round instead of a specified summer season. Additionally, the program enlists inmates of the prison system to provide service to the county during incarceration.

According to the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, “Despite a very cool and wet last two weeks, Sheriff’s Office inmate work detail has performed litter pick up on Big Creek Road and as of April 9, 2018, has moved on to Roy Road. The inmate workers have picked up 117 bags of litter and have delivered 2,300 pounds of garbage to the Gilmer Landfill.”

The project was approved in the March meeting of the BOC with set expectations to analyze and monitor the progress so that the commissioners could keep track of the project.

The Sheriff’s Office has utilized an inmate workforce to pick up litter on the county’s roadways in the past. However, according to the Sheriff’s Office, “Budget cuts beginning in 2009 caused the program to come to an end.”

With the new funding allocation covering salary and benefits of a deputy sheriff, the office is utilizing equipment it already possessed to operate the transportation and needs of the job.

Originally, the BOC stated that with the mowing season upon us, these crews would travel ahead of the mowing teams. Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson confirmed the immediate goal for the inmate work detail will be to go ahead of the county’s Road Department mowing crews, so the litter can be picked up before the mowers shred and scatter it.

He went on to add that on inclement weather days, the inmates will be utilized to accomplish “inside” jobs. As the work detail gets caught up ahead of the mowing schedule, it will be bounced around to address problem areas when possible.

With an ongoing concern by citizens and businesses about the issue of litter in the county, Chairman Paris has stated that this is not the end answer, but a step towards a solution.

Sheriff Nicholson would like to remind everyone that there are pretty costly fines for anyone convicted of littering and that “intent” is not a requirement of the offense, meaning trash blowing out of the bed of a pickup truck is just as much “littering” as someone purposely throwing it out the window of his or her car. Fines for someone caught littering can reach $1,000.

 

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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.

 

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Ellijay accepts two roads to maintenance system

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Updates to the project on Victory Circle came in Ellijay’s December Council Meeting.

The project, officially named the Victory Christian Center, requested the city take a new road into its maintenance system. The road will connect Victory Circle, behind the old Blue Ridge Carpet Mill, to Progress Road. This new connection will become the main entrance to the facility, and one of three access points, as Victory Christian continues plans to add another entrance on Maddox Drive near the city limits sign, to decrease traffic stress at the four-way stop of Progress Road and Maddox Drive. Following the back side of the old carpet mill, the road will connect from the first curve on Victory Circle.

The project, according to Randy Durden from the North Georgia Christian Foundation, will be paid for by combining donations, including property from the neighboring PDQ Manufacturing and Waterwheel and money from the Victory Christian Center for construction of the road pending the council’s agreement to accept the road for maintenance. The official approval came as a motion for agreement in principal that the city would accept the road contingent upon it being built to Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) specifications with 60-foot right-of-ways and Ellijay City requirements.

However, this was not the only addition to the city’s road systems. The council officially approved accepting 1.6 miles of state Route 382 into the city street system.

After consideration in November, the council further investigated and attained confirmation that the state would repave the road. According to Ellijay Mayor Al Hoyle, the Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner assured him they would resurface the road and make sure everything is in good shape, including striping and guard rails.

Along with the accepting of the state road, the council separately approved accepting the Lighting Agreement. The new roundabout being built at the intersection of Highway 382 and Old Highway 5 will have street lights for the roundabout for which the city is agreeing to pay the lighting bill.

Ellijay City Councilman David Westmoreland requested consultation from Ellijay City Police Chief Edward Lacey if there would be a negative consequence. Lacey suggested he could not see anything negative stating, “It is contiguous with our current city system of roads.”

Lacey was also requested to speak on a second item, a request for speed bumps on Gilmer Street near the senior center. The council asked last month for Lacey to investigate and speak at this meeting. Officially recommending the street return to a one-way street as it has been in the past, Lacey suggested do not enter signs to prevent traffic from traveling toward Delaware Street. The council did not grant the speed bump request for the street, but instead went with Lacey’s recommendation to make it one way. This means traffic on Gilmer Street must flow toward Broad Street and toward the courthouse.

Cartecay Vineyards is moving downtown with approval for Cartecay Wine and Craft Pub at 19 South Main Street in Ellijay for a wine tasting room.

After an executive session, Ellijay’s city council approved three members to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). With four openings and only three filled, the city is still looking to fill another position on the authority board. Those three approved were Josh Quigley, Mark Luchauer and Joshua Moyer.

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Snow in Gilmer could cause further issues with refreezing

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Authorities continue to monitor and patrol the area, but citizens are even beginning to venture back out into town today.

While officials have reported the main roads to be clearing, others are still fighting the slush and ice that is following the melt seen across the county today. The Sheriff’s office is still encouraging those traveling on the roads today to “use common sense and take extra time that may be needed if you drive today.”

Additionally, as the sun sets tonight, the dangers will return according to the Sheriff’s office: “The temperatures are expected to drop into the teens tonight, so be cautious of black ice that may form as a result of any moisture remaining on any roadways.”

While the snow is melting, citizens and county and city workers are proceeding with clean up and repairs from last night. People are finding situations like this photo on Holden Road showing a tree across the power lines. Many citizens still do not have power. One report from the Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) early this morning reported Gilmer County alone is seeing 4,695 members without power.

Crews are out working on these issues as quickly as possible in the current conditions.

Other reports are coming in as to how people prepared for the snowfall. One report from the Volunteers Helping the Gilmer County Animal Shelter said the shelter’s director took matters upon himself saying, “Well, we have a wonderful director, who spent the night and will be taking care of the shelter today.”

Others are venturing into town for warmer places and taking the day to enjoy the winter weather amidst the issues.

Make sure to stay with FYN as we continue to monitor for updates and changes to the storm. Officials are suggesting that citizens once again avoid the roads tonight due to the possibility of black ice.

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Gilmer Budget Sessions for 2018

News, Police & Government

ELLIJAY, GA – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held the budget review sessions in preparation for the 2018 Budget.

The videos below document the departments with which the Commissioners spoke. Citizens can attend the Budget Finalization Meeting on Monday, Nov. 6, at 10 a.m. or stay with Fetch Your News for updates after the meeting.

 

Voter Registrar

 

Health Department

 

Probate Court, Elections

 

Magistrate Court

 

District Attorney

 

Library

 

Code & Regulatory Compliance

 

Whitepath Golf Course

 

Tax Assessor, Board of Assessors

 

Public Defender

 

Road Department, Solid Waste, Maintenance Shop, Airport

 

Planning & Zoning

 

Clerk of Superior Court, Board of Equalization

 

Park & Recreation

 

Hotel/Motel

 

Sheriff, Detention Cener, E-911

 

Fire & EMS, EMA

 

Courthouse & Facilities

 

Animal Control

 

Tax Commissioner

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East Ellijay looking at roads in November

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga – The East Ellijay City Council met for what became a road-focused meeting on Nov. 14. Three major issues saw progress in the meeting.

East Ellijay tied up the end of their Highland Parkway project. Resolution 17-04 to repave sections of Highland Parkway came with a finished cost close to $9,000 below the expected $131,000. East Ellijay Mayor Mack West reported in their November meeting that the city spent $42,639 from Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) funds for the project. The remaining $79,318 was remitted to the 2004 SPLOST fund, meaning that balance is still just over $100,000. According to West, the city has yet to use the 2014 SPLOST funds.

The City Council also approved their re-striping expenditures with the addition of the thermoplastics. Pro-Stripe, out of Blairsville, finished striping with costs at $8,920. The project included 24 feet of the thermoplastic striping bars, 14 arrows on Highland Parkway, and six arrows at the Highland Crossing intersection. East Ellijay City Manager Mack Wood reported in the meeting that the extra cost for thermoplastics would increase the life span as they are now “interstate quality.”

An additional purchase for roads came with the city’s approval for purchasing speed bumps. The city will be placing these bumps on Greenfield Road. Consistent notes of high speeds past the S-curves were the reason given. Residents close to the city limits, and even some who live past the city limits, have complained for the need of the additions. Purchasing four total bumps, Wood stated the city would be purchasing six-foot long “humps” to be placed on both sides of the roads. The humps are wider than bumps meaning cars should not have the usual issue of the immediate bounce of a smaller bump.

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