The Ellijay Mountain Bike Association (EMBA) attended the Gilmer County Commissioner’s May meeting to officially request a letter of support for adding and extending trails at Carter’s Lake.
According to their proposal, as a part of the Southern Off-Road Biking Association (SORBA) and the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) this project is looking to construct multi-use trails at the sight which will not only support mountain bikers, but hikers, dog walkers, hunters, runners, and bird watchers as well.
While still very early in the planning process, those involved have already completed a preliminary feasibility study along with Preston York of FlowMotion Trailbuilders, a professional trail builder. Terry Palmieri of EMBA spoke with the Commissioners saying that while Gilmer has been claimed as the Mountain Bike Capital of Georgia, we still lack beginner to intermediate trails for families and groups who may want to mountain bike but can’t quite make the miles of advanced and expert tracks we currently have. Part of the conceptual plan they currently have would add over 15 miles of additional trails that would range in difficulty for those needs.
Part of the addition would also add other types of trails such as what is called a flow trail. York described this type of trail as wider and easier than average mountain trails. Providing a minimal amount of pedaling and braking, this type of trail allows riders to “surf” the trail as you can coast through large portions of the trails. York says flow trails has more “rollers” in the trail to provide varying G-forces to the riders body as well as sloped turns that bikers will take with almost no need for braking or slowing.
There was opposition present at both the Commissioner’s Work Session and Regular Meeting. However, in the work session when the EMBA and FlowMotion representatives said their plan abandoned an idea to add a connector between the Ridgeway and Woodring Branch areas the lawyer representing those in opposition stated “without the connector trail being there, my clients really don’t have a particular issue.” The reasons they gave for abandoning the connector included proximity to homeowners, needed construction for bridges, and a great stress to emergency services attempting to reach the area.
These additions will not only add more trails to attract more bikers through the County’s efforts, but Palmieri also suggested that IMBA is changing their requirements for a special title, “Ride Center Designation.” This designation would have the international organization advertise Gilmer County as one of its best locations for biking. She also stated in the regular meeting that Gilmer could be the only place in Georgia to get this title under the new requirements she had seen.
Mike Palmieri also spoke at both meetings. Speaking of the biking community, Mike stated that through EMBA’s surveys over the years, they have discover that mountain bikers have invested $911,257.68 into this county over 30 years. Through volunteers and work hours donated, locals have upheld this industry, but now they are requesting the county’s support of the project so they can use it for grant writing and other goals they are attempting to achieve. Mike attended the Commissioner’s regular meeting in his fireman’s Class A Uniform. He stated wore the uniform to recognize the sacrifice of locals in the form of volunteer service and countless hours building and upkeep for the trail systems.
Considering the withdrawal of the homeowners opposition, the Commissioners did approve their letter of support. This will allow those involved to take their support and add it to grant requests and applications for the trails. Providing just a letter of support, the County has not committed to any amount of financial support at this time.
The path now, according to Palmieri, will have EMBA turn their conceptual plan over to the Corps of Engineers who will go through their own process to inspect the areas and the plans before any construction can begin. According to Corps of Engineers representative and Operations Manager for Carter’s Lake, Miriam Fleming, who attended the Commissioners regular meeting, since they are just getting the plan, this process could take around two years.
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have officially approved the new changes to the County’s Land Use Ordinance.
The Ordinance changes received approval on their second reading at the County’s December 8th Meeting. Having already gone through a Public Hearing and first reading in addition to several work sessions and input sessions from citizens, this comes as final approval and official adoption of the changes.
However, another change has already been proposed to the Land Use Ordinance as the Post Commissioner Dallas Miller brought an oversight to attention involving locations of Tasting Rooms in relation to “Farm Wineries.”
To that end, the final adoption of Amendments to the Chapter titled “Farm Wineries” was also tabled until February giving the Commissioners a chance to fix the oversight through proper channels before fully adopting the new Amendments.
As the whole thing ties together, the Commissioners felt they could not wait to approve the Land Use Ordinance Amendments and moved forward with them.
The Farm Wineries were not the only discussion tabled as two more items received the same motion. The Awarding of the Tax Anticipation Note was pushed back as the Commissioners considered three responses. With one of the bids “not in the ballpark,” according to Chairman Charlie Paris, the Commissioners considered the lower two bids in their work session.
Though it seemed they had decided on United Community Bank’s bid in the Work Session, their bid was not the lowest bid received. Park Sterling offered their bid at a lower rate as opposed to United Community Banks’ bid.
The decision came at the contingency of Park Sterling’s bid. They stated their offer was “contingent upon moving accounts to their bank.” The Commissioners understanding in their work session was that the savings from the lower interest rate would have been irrelevant considering all the costs and fees of moving their accounts.
More information came up as a representative from Parks Sterling attended Thursday’s meeting to inform the Commissioners on a part of their bid that may not have been considered. Speaking on the TAN bids, the representative from Parks Sterling spoke with the Commissioners about Service Charges and the bank’s offer of what is called “Earnings Credit” to offset the County’s Service Charges for Accounts. This “Phantom Money” could be used in place of those charges and, as he said, “leaves more principle to earn interest on.”
Stating that the County has been drawing on their TAN later and later in the past few years, Chairman Paris stated the Board could table the discussion in order to learn more about the accounts and to find out how to handle the situation with competitive bidders now that the possibility of Accounts is being considered. As they continue researching this, the TAN is set to be reconsidered in January.
As the Commissioners tabled the discussion the bids were not released, but stay with FYN as more information becomes available during this process.
The other tabled item on the Commissioner’s agenda came after the Commissioner’s received an updated copy of their consideration for a “Resolution Approving the Advertising of a New Chapter of the Gilmer County Code of Ordinances Regulating Activities on the Unincorporated Rivers of the County.”
This item has been under consideration for quite some time as the County is continuing to search for ways to legally protect itself as well as regulate the river’s usage and deal with a piece of County owned property on Mulkey Road that is being used as an outtake for those on the river. Ultimately, the Commissioners felt they had received the new documents to late to have sufficient time to look over them before advertising.
These documents have also not been released due to being under review and not approved for advertising yet.
Moving through the rest of their meetings, the Commissioners have made several appointments and re-appointments to Boards and Authorities around the County.
Mary Fuller-Stanley has been appointed to the Board of Public Health.
Alan Davenport has been re-appointed to the Joint Development Authority as one of the County’s Representatives. He is the member whose term is ending and will continue serving uninterrupted.
Lamar Walker and Paul Mooney both have terms ending on the Planning Commission. Chairman Paris indicated both are willing to continue serving and have been re-appointed to their positions.
Scott Stephens has been re-appointed to his position serving on the Emergency Medical Services Council for Northwest Georgia. Stephens attended the County’s Work Session and said, though serving was far more difficult than he originally thought, he felt the County gained great benefits and information from having him on the Council and he was willing to continue his service.
Pamela Rhodes has been appointed for Gilmer County to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) Advisory Council.
One final Appointment came to move the County Clerk position out of an interim clerk and the Board of Commissioners have approved Edwina Daman to the position. However, the County will await her officially taking the position until the 19th of December.
A process that’s taken much longer than the normal two-month meetings to go through the first and second readings, our Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have taken the first step, that is the First Reading, in changing Gilmer’s Land Development Ordinance.
The Comissioners have conferred through work sessions with local farmers, residential citizens, and even Amateur Radio Operators to combine the input and feedback into the new ordinance. Several of these specific groups of people were consulted as major changes have come in areas of farm use, hobby livestock, height restrictions for structures and exemptions.
To help with radio towers for operators, agreements were made to require Conditional Use for heights above 60 ft in order to bring those requests before the Planning Commission and ultimately the Board of Commissioners to inform neighbors and allow them to speak out or speak with those who are wishing to erect these towers to gain a better signal.
Hobby Livestock for residential zoned areas has changed to allow “one large animal (300 pounds or more) per 2 acres of grazable land or two small animals (less than 300 pounds) per acre, or 20 outdoor birds per acre.” However, the Ordinance does allow 6 hens or less in an enclosed or caged space as it has become common for some residents to want a few hens to lay eggs for them without taking on a major farming operation.
While the Commissioners held their Public Hearing before last weeks Regular Session where they adopted the First Reader, Citizens will have one more chance to speak on the issue at December’s Commissioner Meetings before a Final Adoption could be approved.
Make sure to follow our link to see the newly adopted Land Development Ordinance in its present state.
During their regular meeting on September 8, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners awarded bids to five companies for their concrete, emulsion, propane, asphalt, and Stone.
The concrete bid went to Wayne Davis Concrete Co. This is a new company that the county will use for its needs.
Ergon Asphalt and Emulsion received the county’s bid award for Emulsion $1.47 and $1.65 per gallon. The higher being the Emulsion Latex product the County uses in its tar and chip projects.
The county bid for propane went to Appalachian Propane for $0.788 per gallon to be locked for the entirety of 2017.
Vulcan Materials Company was selected for stone for the county. According to Smith, Vulcan came in lower than opponents on all available materials.
For asphalt, CW Matthews Contracting Co. was approved as they were the only bidder for asphalt according to Road Department Director Jim Smith. With two plants this bid will be with the contractor in general in case the county for some reason needs to pull from a different plant.
Holding their final two Public Hearings for the Millage Rate of Gilmer County, the Board of Commissioners listened as citizens delved into questions about the Rate.
Most of the questions focused on attempting to better understand the tax and assessing process including Mike King, who asked more questions from Tax Commissioner Becky Marshall and Head Assessor Theresa Gooch about his personal tax assessment drastically increasing.
Others expressed concerns on the increase, including Elizabeth Hunt who objected to the increase, but asked for the Commissioners to begin actively pursuing more conveniences for citizens. The Commissioner’s and she delved into a few specific possibilities including trash collection and the need for exact change at the county’s collection locations as well as publishing full copies of ordinances and changes on the county’s website for citizens who do not live close to the courthouse or cannot be in attendance of every meeting.
Another citizen, Jim Carr, spoke to the Board expressing his expectation that if the county is rejecting the rollback rate and increasing a half mill on the debt service, there should coincide a betterment of services the county provides. He noted his own road, Old Parker Place Road, falling into serious disrepair over the recent years.
Chairman Paris assured the citizens that the need for this Millage Rate would address these issues as he stated much of the county’s equipment, especially the Road Department, were in serious need of new equipment to provide the services the county needs. He further quoted one situation involving the county’s four dump trucks all being at least 19 years or older.
At their 3rd meeting of the day, the Commissioner’s did approve their 2016 General Maintenance and Operation (M&O) Millage Rate at 6.983, rejecting the rollback rate, as well as adding a half mill to the 2016 General Obligation Bond Millage Rate coming to 1.5 Mils.
Also approved was the Gilmer County Board of Education’s Recommended School Tax Rate at 16.62 Mils
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners debated new proposals during their meetings on Wednesday the 10th and Thursday the 11th.
One major proposal would change the county’s EMS services. Though no formal approval has been made, consideration is underway for the Gilmer County Emergency Medical Services Division to begin charging a fee for repeated EMS calls to locations. EMA Director Tony Pritchett stated the need for fees were due to some citizens of the county continually calling 911 to receive certain medications without going to a doctor’s office.
The structure of these fees were discussed for several different possibilities, but the more probable structure may look somewhat like the following when citizens are calling 911 repeatedly for the same issue every time:
1st Call: No charge
2nd Call: a $75 Fee
3rd Call: a $100 Fee
Further Occurrences would also generate $100 fees and could be investigated for 911 Abuse
While citizens questioned the fees, Director Pritchett assured the citizens that they would not be liable as a 3rd party caller, or “Good Samaritan” situations, where they call 911 because they witness or come upon someone in need. The fees also seem to only be charged on repeat calls that do not result in Ambulance transportation as the effort is to recoup financial expenditures for the medications used.
In addition to the EMS Proposal, the Commissioners also heard a proposal from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Gilmer County. Requesting a lease property, Bill Slaughter, Treasurer, and Michelle Bracken, Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Georgia, represented the organization and its effort to expand the Gilmer County branch due to a lack of space to support the increasing number of enrollments.
Currently, they have 125 children enrolled with an average daily attendance of 83. Bracken also stated the Club has had to turn away prospective students due to the limited space. The proposed solution is the construction of a new 4,000 square foot building across from the clubs current location. They would then remodel the current facility to house the enrolled teens. The building would be constructed by the Boys & Girls Club Board and only needs the County to lease the space for them.
When asked about the continued growth for the club, Bracken assured the citizens the proposal is set to cover the current needs under a two-year-plan. However, “We won’t abandon the building.” Bracken did not speak to a specific future plan, but did say that consideration to add on to the new facility later could be a possibility.
Another proposal before the Board on Wednesday came from Gilmer ARTS. President of Gilmer ARTS, Sharon Watkins came before the Board speaking of security in the their future. Many will recall that former President John Rathbone, also in attendance, has spoken with the Commissioners before about establishing a formal agreement with the County to include support in both public and financial forms. Watkins said the agreement would provide sought after security and “a better platform” as they requested Grants and Donations by allowing others to see the County officially in support of the arts in the community.
While Gilmer ARTS has been included in the County’s budget before, there has been no formal agreement between the two for the support. Watkins’ proposal did include financial support in the form of a proceed from the hotel-motel taxes, though discussion was raised if the county could allocate those funds to the Association.
Currently, the Board of Commissioners indicated they would support some form of agreement and are consulting with Gilmer ARTS and the County Attorney David Clark to formalize the agreement before officially voting on it.
Two final proposals were approved by the Commissioners to abandon a portion of River Hill Road where the bridge washed away and to close a 100 ft section of Kells Ridge Drive due to the December 2015 flood. Director of Public Works and the Road Department for Gilmer County, Jim Smith suggested closing the road instead of repairing due to estimations for repairs ranging into several hundreds of thousands.
To watch the two meetings click on the videos below for the Commissioner’s Work Session and Regular Meeting.
In both their Work Session and Regular Meeting, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners heard plans from citizen Larry Lykins encompassing local organizations and the county to enter an agreement to allow the Community Pool to stay open through the Winter.
Though he said the project was a stop-gap as the community still wants to see a full facility someday, Lykins listed several benefits for winter pool use now, including the school’s swim teams and Parks and Rec uses that could even include community classes. However, to use the pool in winter months would require heating.
Lykins’ plan includes local organizations purchasing a “bubble” for the pool that would enclose a portion of the pool to allow heater systems to be purchased to heat the pool. As Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller countered with concerns about the county’s financial standing and purchasing the new equipment, Lykins said that the interested parties, one of which could be Three Rivers Athletic Club, would raise the funds for the equipment, leaving the county to only be responsible for operating expenses such as electricity, gas, and lifeguards.
Lykins offered a forecast for the project to operate under a “12 month-break even” plan for the county to offer the pool without a financial loss. The plan made inclusions for ideas such as Water Aerobics classes, Swim-Meets, Physical Therapy, and other options to be explored for use.
Gilmer High School Athletic Director Rodney Thurman also attended the work session to represent the School’s willingness to support the project as they could utilize the pool for swim meets, bringing parents and athletes from other counties to our community.
Additionally, this would also mean increased usage for citizens who want to use the pool in Winter Months to continue exercise or recreational use.
During their regular meeting, the Commissioners did vote to move forward with the proposal and collect the funds for the equipment. Though this is not a full agreement reached, citizens attending the meeting applauded the decision. As the interested parties gather, the Commissioners will continue monthly updates and observation of the process to control and monitor the operations to avoid a major financial loss, should the project not bring in the revenue to support itself.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris asserted to Lykins and the citizens that this is a risk for the community, and if the community does not utilize the pool, the lack of revenue could force them to shut the project down.