Comprehensive Plan development continues with community survey

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The process that began last year with former Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch, now continues as the Gilmer BOC (Board of Commissioners) is asking for citizens to comment and help direct them on this plan with a survey.

They survey is being disseminated through several outlets and interested parties in the development of this plan. In August of 2018, the Board began seeking to do more with the annually updated document as both Crouch and Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller began questioning what more they could accomplish and utilize the document for.

At that time, Miller had noted in the Regular Session that he was disappointed that there was no resolution needed on the plan. He clarified that as a strategic planning document, it did not address the counties highest priorities, its infrastructure, or anything about revenue or funding for those projects.

The next step and current pursuit is to have as many citizens of the county complete the survey as possible. The survey is short requiring only 10 minutes to complete, and poses questions for opinions on things from housing to growth and recreation for citizens.

Current Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson said, “This helps us to plan for future growth and the direction we want to go in as a community.”

As the board moves forward, there will be meetings and times made available for continued input as they meet with both cities, the Chamber, and other “stakeholders” within the community. 

Completing the survey and offer your opinions on the future of the county.

Author

BOC changes time for 2019 meetings

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – An official release from the Board of Commissioners will see a small change in next year’s meetings.

Although the days will stay the same with work sessions on Wednesdays before the Regular Meetings, which are scheduled for the second Thursday of each month, the time of those work sessions will move from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FYN the one-hour pushback is not to accommodate something new, but rather the ending of an accommodation. The Board has held there work sessions at 8 a.m., according to Paris, as an attempt to help complete their business and get Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch back to his business.

Since Crouch is now rotating off the Board of Commissioners, the time is resetting one hour later.

Work Sessions – 9 a.m. Regular Meeting – 6 p.m.
Wednesday, January 9, 2019 Thursday, January 10, 2019
Wednesday, February 13, 2019 Thursday, February 14, 2019
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 Thursday, March 14, 2019
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 Thursday, April 11, 2019
Wednesday, May 8, 2019 Thursday, May 9, 2019
Wednesday, June 12, 2019 Thursday, June 13, 2019
Wednesday, July 10, 2019 Thursday, July 11, 2019
Wednesday, August 7, 2019 Thursday, August 8, 2019
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 Thursday, September 12, 2019
Wednesday, October 9, 2019 Thursday, October 10, 2019
Wednesday, November 13, 2019 Thursday, November 14, 2019
Wednesday, December 11, 2019 Thursday, December 12, 2019

Author

Budget discussions not done with approval

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller called the budget “workable” as he promised citizens to continue working on the budget in 2019.

Calling it the biggest financial decision of the year, Miller said he wished that more people had dedicated more time to the budget process and discussions. As opposed to an expected split decision after their work session, the Commissioners put forth a 3-0 vote for approval.

The vote came shortly after Miller’s comments, but also after a lengthy work session on Tuesday with much discussion dedicated to the topic. An understanding seemed to be reached during the work session as Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch spoke about a need for a change in the process as a whole and Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris agreed he would be willing to look at the process, even putting it on the agenda for January.

This budget comes in a transition time as Crouch prepares to step down from his position as Post 2 Commissioner-Elect Karleen Ferguson will step into the office. This means that Crouch is not only resting on promises from Miller and Paris to continuing working on the budget, but he rests on the experience, training, and dedication of the Ferguson as well.

Along with the budget, Ferguson will also step into another major decision as the Board tabled the decision on the Post Commissioner’s Salary. As reported in “BOC backs off legislative option for Post Commissioner Raises,” the Commissioners have stated they will be looking at home rule for the discussion. But as that backs it off from a push to get it in Atlanta in early 2019, it also allows the change in the Post 2 Commissioner position. These financial decisions are likely to be the first major decisions she will vote on.

Author

BOC bids farewell to Travis Crouch

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – “Privileged to have Travis Crouch as our Post 2 Commissioner” is how Chairman Charlie Paris described the four-year term of his colleague.

During their December Regular Session, and consequently Crouch’s final meeting as a Post Commissioner, the Board of Commissioners offered a token of gratitude to Crouch for his service. A plaque was given to Crouch as Paris and Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller offered their thanks and pride in serving alongside him.

Miller offered a few words as well saying, “You’ve done well, I appreciate it. I know our citizens have been better because of your service. I thank you.”

As Crouch begins to step down at the end of this month, he will still be Gilmer’s Post 2 Commissioner until January 1 should a situation arise needing a special called meeting or similar requirement.

Crouch spoke of his term by noting that he enjoyed working with the Board saying, “We’ve seen eye-to-eye sometimes and sometimes we haven’t, but I feel like we’ve worked together well and I appreciate that.”

 

Author

Forecasting the Budget Vote

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Questions are continuing about the Gilmer County 2019 budget. With a 2-1 vote to advertise behind us, it seems like another split decision will send the Board of Commissioners into 2019.

Citing concerns over the budgeting process, Travis Crouch answered a question in citizens wishing to speak at today’s, December 12, Commissioners Work Session that he believed he would be voting “no” on tomorrows Regular Session agenda item to approve the budget. He said that, though he felt the Chairman had done a lot of work on the budget, he did not feel the post commissioners had enough time with it and enough discussions with it before they voted to advertise.

Chairman Paris said he disagreed and noted that Crouch had even asked for one meeting. They set the date and held that requested meeting.

Despite his disagreement, Paris said he was open to further changing the budgeting process later, and even instructed the County Clerk to place the item on January’s agenda to set dates and hold more discussion on the budget process for next year.

 

Author

Parks and Rec Authority Dissolved

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With rising tensions on the specific Parks and Recreation Board, the Board of Commissioners have officially dissolved the authority while simultaneously revisiting the Advisory Board Member Policies.

That may be a little confusing to some as this entity is referred to as Authority and Advisory Board. In fact, part of the issue lies in that confusion as Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said he was shocked to find out just how much authority this “advisory board” had.

With an early December Special Called Meeting, the Commissioners met to re-clarify the people they do and don’t want to serve on these advisory boards in order to avoid conflicts of interests. In addition, they sought to reset some of the make-up of these boards as they added a point for a liaison between them and the advisory boards.

This practice is actually already been used without policy in some entities. Jim Smith, Director of Public Works, spoke at the meeting saying he was already a liaison for the Airport Advisory Board. Additionally, Mike Brumby, Director of Whitepath Golf Course, echoed the sentiment as he offered advice on how he has been the communications “hub” between the Golf Course and the Commissioners.

Some of the restrictions on board members came into question including an item about volunteers and employees. Smith offered advice saying that when board members get into the work, they seem to gain more insight. He stated, “I think the more they know about what that operation entails, the better they appreciate it.”

They left in an addition to the policy which said, “Board Members may take part in their respective departments as a volunteer only with no supervisory role.” In order to keep the ability to volunteer while excluding them from any decision making or higher responsibilities that could conflict with there roles on the board.

As the BOC came to agreement on the policy for board members, they moved on to the new business of dissolving the Parks and Rec Board. Paris began the item saying, “I want to say that I am perfectly happy with every person that serves on the Parks and Rec Board. I don’t have a problem with any one of them. What I have a problem with is the resolution that created the Parks and Rec Board… It is not an Advisory Board.”

As discussion moved forward, the sentiment was agreed on by both Post Commissioners. However, when Paris made a motion to rescind the resolution and dissolve the Parks and Rec Board, a second did not immediately come. Post Commissioner Travis Crouch stated he didn’t want to second the motion because he wouldn’t be around to recreate the board later since December is his last meeting.

Though Paris agreed he wanted to revisit the Board later, he did not want to make it a part of the same motion to dissolve it. Miller also stated he didn’t like the idea of a gap in the service of an advisory board, he did second the motion saying he understood the need to rescind the resolution.

After the second, the Board did vote 3-0 for the motion.

 

Those policies for Advisory Boards were read into the meeting as such:

  1. Member shall be appointed by the Board of Commissioners.
  2. Member cannot be a Department Head.
  3. Member cannot be a County employee.
  4. Member must be a resident of Gilmer County.
  5. Member must serve a specific term.
  6. Members can be reappointed.
  7. Members shall not miss a majority of meetings in a year to remain on the Board.
  8. Attendance shall be taken at each meeting.
  9. Chairs shall be elected or re-elected each year by the Advisory Board.
  10. Boards shall have By-Laws, and those By-Laws shall be approved by the Board of Commissioners.
  11. Boards shall keep written minutes of all proceedings, shall be approved by the Advisory Board, and shall be maintained as public records.
  12. Boards shall report all proceedings in writing to the Board of Commissioners within 30 days of any meeting.
  13. All meetings shall be open to the public and duly advertised in accordance with the public meeting law.
  14. Board recommendations shall be presented to the Board of Commissioners in writing.
  15. Board members may take part in their respective department as a volunteer, only with no supervisory role.

Item No. 16 institutes the creation of a liaison between the Advisory Board and the Board of Commissioners that could be a department head.

Author

BOC backs off legislative option for Post Commissioner Raises

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Home Rule won out on December 4, 2018, as the Board of Commissioners met for a Public Comments session regarding the 2019 budget.

“I think the citizens have spoken,” said Post Commissioner Dallas Miller after an understood agreement was reached by the members of the Board to forego the idea they’ve held for almost two months. Originally, the Board was going to send the resolution for a raise for the Post Commissioners to Atlanta do be voted on by State Legislation in order to have the issue taken care of by mid 2019.

Due to an overwhelming response by citizens questioning why they were sending this resolution to Atlanta and other details about the raise, the Public Comments meeting lasted more than an hour as Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris and Post Commissioners Travis Crouch and Dallas Miller listened.

Citizens like Joene DePlancke and Brian Pritchard adamantly told the Board they wanted the decision for raises kept in county. Miller has already noted sentiments on the issue in previous meetings, stating that it didn’t feel right that sending the choice to Atlanta would end up with him also receiving the raise. He revisited the concept at this meeting, calling it an ethics issue that he would be voting to give himself a raise.

FYN also weighed in on the issue with a recent article, “Commissioner’s pushing for “Fast Answer” in pay raises,” where the question was raised about a Post Commissioner’s election qualifying fees being paid based on the position’s salary, a salary that would then change after they took office.

By reaching an agreement to consider the raises by home rule, the issue will be pushed into the coming months of BOC meetings as they consider the issue locally.  It also negates the budget line that was placed in anticipation of a possible Atlanta approval for the Post Commissioner salary raise.

This does not mean the Commissioner’s will not be getting the raise. Instead, it places the decision for it back into Gilmer County and its citizen’s hands. If the Board approves the issue, it will begin taking effect with re-election cycles, the next position up for re-election, the Post 1 seat currently held by Dallas Miller, is in 2020.

But the home rule was not the only part questioned by citizens at the public comments meeting. Other questions saw clarification and no change. DePlancke also questioned the board on their 1.5 mill in bond debt service, calling it smoke and mirrors. She stated her concern was that the Board was, in a sense, making sure it had SPLOST money left to use in capital without having to tell the citizens.

Paris explained that his intent with setting a separate millage for bond service was to keep it separate from the general fund saying, “If we were to take that one and half mill and move it over to general account, it could be used in general fund. That’s a situation I don’t want to see happen. The whole point of all this is to improve the capital infrastructure in Gilmer County and I don’t want this money where it could be used in the general fund.”

Pritchard questioned the Board’s allocation of the budget saying he could find a half million dollars to reallocate into the Road Department, an area that Paris called the biggest area of citizens concern in his opinion. He stated that the majority of calls he answers has to do with roads.

Author

Commissioners pushing for “Fast Answer” in pay raises

News, Opinion

What’s the rush in Gilmer County for Post Commissioner pay raises? As the issue is moving forward in the Board of Commissioners revolves around three post commissioners, new information has drastically changed how the Board as a whole is attempting to achieve the goal of a raise.

Looking back into recent years, the Administrative Wages stood at $20,685 in 2017. It was then raised in 2018 to $21,083, not an uncommon increase as post commissioner positions gain “Cost of Living” adjustments, certification supplements, or longevity increases.

The current Post Commissioners’ base salary is $7,125.38. If the Post Commissioner has completed the Carl Vinson Institute of Government classes, they gain $1,200 in supplement pay. There is also Cost of Living Increases that have been added in recent years as well as a “Longevity Payment” if the Post Commissioner is re-elected. Additionally, health insurance is included.

However, this raise will only increase the Base Pay, everything else is added on after. So it will take what is considered a part-time position as Post Commissioner from $7,125.38 to $14,250.76.

It has been well documented that Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch is the one who initiated the conversation about a raise for Post Commissioners. He has said that as he looks at the position on his way out, he did not run for re-election, it is something that he feels should be changed. The final agreed amount seemed to fall at doubling the base pay of the position, from 10% of the chairman’s salary to 20%.

When it was originally brought up, the idea was to handle the change by “home rule.” This means that the Board would change its own charter, and it would hold meetings where citizens could speak and comment on their thoughts about the change. Then the board would approve or not approve the change. If approved, the change would take effect at the next election cycle.

The catch came when County Attorney David Clark informed the Board at a later meeting that such a change would have had to be done before qualifying. This was a time when Crouch said he was unsure if he would run again or not.

This is because if the positions pay changes, it will affect qualifying fees for running in the election for that position. A post commissioner candidate pays 3% of the position’s annual salary as a qualifying fee.

However, since this revelation, the county has not decided to move forward with the change to take effect for the next election cycle. They have instead pushed straight for a local legislation answer to the issue by sending it to Atlanta to be approved by the state in their earl 2019 legislative session.

However, if this happens, it will not only push away the opportunity for a public hearing and opinions by locals on the issue as the county’s charter demands, it will also take immediate effect as soon as the Governor signs the bill. It will also take effect for BOTH post commissioner positions instead of just one.

This means the current Board of Commissioners is attempting to rush ahead with an idea that was only raised a little over a month ago through the fastest option possible instead of following their own charter and their own rules to let the home rule change take effect on the next cycle. Why?

The argument was also made that these people aren’t paying attention to what they make annually, instead running for the benefit of the county. Yet, in their public meetings, Attorney David Clark openly said the pay increase would entice more people and more qualified people to the position as he likened it to that of management of a $20 million company.

Additionally, this raise further seems to be only fueled by the idea that it makes the position more attractive and “worth it” as their is no apparent changes in the responsibilities or duties of the Post Commissioner.

Is that a good reason to raise the position’s pay? That is for citizens to decide instead of state legislators.

If this is sent to the state legislation instead of handled at the county level, it also introduces a fault in the law of the county. As it is stated that a candidate should pay 3% of the Post Commissioner annual salary as a qualifying fee. Changing through state legislation puts these people outside of the county’s law as they did not pay the expected 3%.

Yes the Post 1 Commissioner (Dallas Miller) has spent close to two years in the position being paid what he qualified for with the 3%, but the Post 2 Commissioner Elect (Karleen Ferguson) will likely only spend 6 months in office before her salary doubles. The “6 months” comes from estimations from county officials that the Governor may not even sign the bill, if approved, until June or July. Regardless, that is a Post 2 Commissioner spending the vast majority of her term at double the salary that she “qualified” for.

Put aside the people, put aside the question of if the raise should happen or not. The real question is why the Board is so bent on pushing this change through as fast as possible.

Breaking down the options is easy.

Home Rule requires a time frame before qualifying, requires all advertisements and public hearings necessary for changing the county’s charter, and doesn’t take effect until the position is up for election again.

Local Legislation is done in the next three months, is only required to spread the information of the change through state level requirements, and takes effects for all parties immediately.

The moral question at hand is not whether the Post Commissioners deserve a raise, many past Post Commissioners have openly stated that the job is not worth the pay. The question is simple, “WHY THE RUSH?”

Why does the Board not move forward with a suggested change to its charter or ordinances as it should, and as it has with many of its other changes including the River Regulations, Land Ordinance changes, and even its annual budgets.

Why the rush?

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