EMBA Looking for Commissioner Support to Add Trails at Carter’s Lake

News

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 PalmieriMike 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.

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BOC Begin Final Steps in Alterations to Land Use

News

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.

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Commissioners Receive Judgement on Deep South

News

A final order has been released by Senior Judge Fred A. Bishop in the Civil Action against the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners and Deep South Farms. It has been a year since Deep South Farms applied for a conditional use permit and went before the Board of Commissioners.

The Permit was originally sent back to Planning and Zoning for technical issues involving printed dates on advertisements. It eventually came back to the Commissioner who gave a decision granting the Permit.

In the ensuing litigation, involving cases Euel V. Reece, Et al (Plaitnitffs) vs. RFF Investents, LLC. (Defendants) and John Fountain, Et al (Plaintiffs) vs. Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (Defendants), Judge Bishop offered up his decisions stating,

Based upon these stipulations and factual findings, as well as the evidence presented, the Plaintiff is not entitled to an Injunction against RFF Investments, LLC, Deborah Jones, Denise Mosley, Dawn Totherow, Charity Davenport and Deep South Designs Inc. prohibiting the us of the property as a wedding and event venue…the demands made in Plaintiffs Complaint for Injunction and Other Equitable Relief are DENIED.

and

Based upon the stipulations and additional factual findings, as well as the evidence presented, the Plaintiff is not entitled to Declarative or Injunctive relief against Gilmer County; and the Appeal and Mandamus are unwarranted. Therefore, the demands made in the Plaintiffs’ Complaint for Declaratory Judgement and other Equitable relief, and Appeal and Action for Mandamus are DENIED.

You can also read the full, seven page, Final Order for more details including the Factual Stipulations.

FYN spoke with Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris who said, “I’m very pleased. It appears the Board of Commissioners and Deep South Farms were exonerated.” When questioned about an appeal, Chairman Paris said he did expect an appeal as he heard a comment at one point that they would, but he hated the idea that an appeal would cost the county even more in legal fees.

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Gilmer Budget Session Falls Short

News

With the Board of Commissioners devoting the majority of their day to balancing their budget, it seems they still have not made it to the goal of crossing the gap.

That budget gap began the day at $872,000. As the Commissioners once again combed through the details line by line, progress was made to trim off a large portion. However, ending the day at $723,756, the budget has a long way to go for balance.

During the course of the meeting, the Commissioners commented that they could balance the budget immediately if they wanted. Rather, they said they wanted “realistic” numbers for this years budget. This is why they have gone through several meetings with department heads trying to find what is available for cut backs.

They did find several points throughout the meeting including maintenance to $130,00 and overtime to $400,000 in the Sheriff’s Department. Cuts in training to $5,000, food to $166,000, supplies to $80,000, utilities to $88,000, and overtime to $125,00 were made in the Detention Center.

The Tax Assessors had cuts to salary, $363,717, and Contract Services, $65,600. This included delaying Flyovers and Tectometry studies as well as a reduced offer for a new Deputy Director promotion, though the Commissioners were agreeable to revisiting this position’s salary in future budgets.

Parks and Recreation cut salaries to $160,00 and electricity to $38,000 while the Road Department took overtime to $15,000 and pipe and tile to $10,000.

While these cuts are just a small sum of the total cuts the Board has made over the course of this budget, it was still not enough to bridge the gap. Post Commissioner Dallas Miller offered up a long term solution being a closer look at outside services, contract services, in attempt to save money on services that could be performed in house at a cheaper cost.

For now, however, the Commissioners believe they have exhausted the line-by-line search through their budget for cuts. While many might think the detailed searches and long meetings were the hardest part of the budget process, the Commissioners indicated the hardest part is yet to come.

Staring down a $723,756 gap in budget brings up tough choices like furlough days or department level cuts. Meanwhile, citizens of Gilmer County will likely be looking at a resolution to extend the budget spending into January of 2016 as the Board of Commissioners weigh the options on how to move forward with this situation.

Check out the Budget as it currently stands after its cuts here (Pg 1 / Pg 2) and the video of the Budget Work Session here.

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Gilmer BOC 12-7-15 Budget Worksession

Videos

The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners meet for a Budget Work Session on Monday, December 7, 2015.

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Ad Valorem Tax Issue to be Repaid to BOE

News

A clerical error was brought forth at Monday Night’s, August 10, Board of Education Work Session pointing out $926,708 being distributed incorrectly over the last 3 years.

During the meeting, Dr. Shanna Wilkes spoke of an error made in the TAVT (Title Ad Valorem Tax) Distribution. This error, which has persisted since the change in the Ad Valorem Taxes 3 years ago, was discovered in early July by Tax Commissioner Rebecca “Becky” Marshall after it ended up sending the Board of Education’s portion of the TAVT to the Board of Commissioners and the Ellijay and East Ellijay city governments.

With the error discovered and corrected, each entity is now receiving their correct portions. Marshall is also setting up plans to repay the previous money back to the BOE from the other governments. According to Tax Commissioner records, in total, the Board of Commissioners owes $843,169.36, Ellijay owes $67,700.44, and East Ellijay owes $15,910.23.

The stark difference in money owed, according to Marshall, comes from the amount mis-distributed to each entity. When normally distributed between the BOC, Ellijay, and East Ellijay, this distribution mirrors the LOST and SPLOST percentages.

Though it’s unclear at this time exactly how all the payments will be handled as FYN spoke with different representatives from each government. Marshall suggests the payments should be made through a partial withholding from the future TAVT distributions until the balances are equalized. Such a method would fluctuate month to month, based on the breakdown of distribution for each entity, while allowing each government to still receive parts of its TAVT Distribution. This plan could calculate out to 14 moths for the BOC, 9 months for Ellijay, and 4 months for East Ellijay to pay off their respective amounts.

But with each government well into their fiscal years, it stands to question if the budgets can sustain this drop in funding.

Chairman Paris has indicated a desire to meet with Becky Marshall and Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes in efforts to speak on the issue and set up a plan for repayment. He has also suggested two members of the Board of Education and Financial Officers of each entity to be present.

Marshall also states discussions with the Department of Revenue suggests that Gilmer is not the only county facing these issues with the changes to Ad Valorem.

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Changes Come In Commissioners Meeting

Featured Stories, News

Many changes arose in Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
(more…)

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A Wake-up Letter to the Taxpayers of Gilmer County by Joene DePlancke

Opinion

Are you guilty, too??? (more…)

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