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.
ELLIJAY, GA – October became very unusual for the Board of Commissioners. A shorter order of business saw few things on the agenda for the Board as they move into the final quarter of the year.
However, fewer items presented no less importance as the commissioners discussed a serious change to their ordinance that is exempting fuel purchaes from the bid process for the year. Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FYN that environmental issues preventing the use of previous underground tanks to stock fuel for the year has actually caused the Commissioners an inability to open and receive bids for gas.
Currently, the Commissioners approved the ordinance change as it was the second reading and no citizens spoke at the public hearing. However, Paris also indicated in the meeting a desire to return to bidding fuel once the county is able to construct new above ground storage tanks. Though he stated a desire to move towards construction with the 2019 budget, he did not see a possibility of it fitting into the 2018 budget.
With approval of the change, the county is now compliant with its ordinances again having not bid for fuel.
Budget discussion continued as the Commissioners turned their attention to the continuing story of the Tabor and Watkins houses. Recent inspections have revealed termites in both buildings. However, the damage has not reached an extreme yet according to reports. As the Board nears the later part of October, they will begin detailed discussions of the 2018 budget. At this time, the Board has officially tabled any action on treatment for the termites as they are attempting to fit it into the 2018 budget instead of the current 2017.
This could mean that treatment may begin as early as January for the infestation, but citizens will not know the definitive time tables until October 26 after the budget work sessions.
As for the Watkins house, the County has begun moving Planning and Zoning Offices into their new building. While discussion has gone on for two months now as to three different requests for space at the Watkins house, Paris stated in the County’s Work Session that one option could include simply leasing the property to the Gilmer Chamber and allowing them to sub-lease space to the other two as they see fit.
Those other two requests include a request to hold and display some of the museum pieces from the Tabor House and a request to display art and other things from Gilmer ARTS.
Additionally, the October Meetings saw the Board approve Mark Troxell to the Airport Advisory Board, and approval for an Alcoholic Beverage License to Park’s Place Convinient Store & More LLC.
ELLIJAY, GA – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have officially adopted the 6.983 Millage Rate.
The final vote came 2-1 with Chairman Charlie Paris being the dissenting vote. Later he told FYN there was very little difference between the Rollback Rate and current Millage Rate. “If we stick with the current rate instead of the rollback rate you have to advertise it as a tax increase. I disagree with that. I feel its not. So, my feeling is I did not want the people of Gilmer County to see that we are raising their taxes. I don’t like a tax increase… I wanted to set the Rollback Rate and move on.”
The official motion to adopt came from Post Commissioner Travis Crouch who stated, “I listened to the Special Called Meeting and both arguments and perspectives… At the end of the day, I find, at the end of the day, that the points that Dallas made are compelling in our situation. So, I feel like keeping the Millage Rate where it has been for the past two years is appropriate for our situation.”
This will make the third year in a row that the millage rate has been at 6.983. Previously, it sat at 7.224 before that.
After the motion was seconded, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller opted to comment on the action before votes were cast. “I hope that something as serious as this, as what we decide on property taxes, should not be, [sic] and I’m just going to ask the public to not make this a political issue. This is a financial decision we need to make. We need to do, to the best of our knowledge, what we think is best for our county.”
ELLIJAY, GA – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is moving heavily onto the topic of roads and paving in August with bid approvals and an Eminent Domain on a right of way.
Due to issues involving the Cherry Log Fire Station, Gilmer County is adjusting projects in August. During their meeting, the Commissioners put final approval on its new amendment to Purchases of the Board of Commissioners in the County Code. This amendment is allowing the Commissioners to increase the spending limit with a single vendor in a year without bidding from $20,000 to $50,000 if the capital project is already in the County Budget. Additionally, the Commissioners added a new requirement that any purchases over $25,000 would require two separate signatures from the County Commissioners.
The next step of the Fire Stations effect on the county came with a stall after the county bid out the project to clear the land. With the one bid received being close to $100,000 over the expected cost, the Board of Commissioners declined the bid and are now set to have the Road Department clear the land instead.
With the Amendment to Purchases, additional materials and asphalt will be bought by the County as they accepted Bartow Paving as the low bidder for paving projects. While Public Works Director Jim Smith said the Road Department will still prep everything for the projects, they will have Bartow Paving actually pave certain roads while our County Department clears the land for the Fire Station. One addendum was added to the award taking 1.9 miles of road off of the projects, on Mountain Town Road. The original bid of $318,000 was cut down by $45,099.69 in order to place the paving within the county budgeted expenditures.
Post Commissioner Dallas Miller originally stated he wanted the County to find an extra source of money so they would not cut out any of the paving project. However, at the regular session, Director Smith said there was additional cost for materials that would cost the county more in addition to the extra $45,000 for the bid. As such, the board approved the bid with the addendum.
Another paving project for the year is Ridgeway Church Road. Ridgeway has seen issues in the County’s attempt to pave an extra portion up to the end of County Maintenance in the form of one resident failing to sign off on the right of way. However, Smith stated they have been in contact with the property owner before and even showed him on site the county’s need for the right of way. Smith states the only issue with signing is that the owner lives out of town and has not responded to the County’s attempts to contact him again.
Along those lines, August saw the board approve Eminent Domain on the Right of Way, approximately 0.77 acres, to move forward with paving the road. The county has collected Right of Ways for every other property on the road.
ELLIJAY, GA – Coinciding with the “Commissioner’s Discussion of the Millage Rate After Recalculation“, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have released the following documents informing citizens of the Millage Rate and their opportunity to speak at public meetings about it. Also, be sure to check out the Current 2017 Tax Digest and Five Year History of the Levy for more information on the Millage Rate and the Agenda for the Special Called Meeting on August 17 to see the final meeting planned for adopting the Millage Rate.
PRESS RELEASE ANNOUNCING A PROPOSED PROPERTY TAX INCREASE
Each year, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is required to review the assessed value for property tax purposes of taxable property in the county. When the trends of prices on properties that have recently sold in the county indicate there has been an increase in the fair market value of any specific property, the Board of Tax Assessors is required by law to re-determine the value of such property and adjust the assessment. This is called a reassessment.
When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred.
Gilmer County Board of Commissioners has made the decision to keep the 2017 Maintenance and Operation (M& O) millage rate at 6.983 mills which is the same as the 2016 millage rate. However since this millage rate exceeds the calculated rollback millage rate it is deemed a tax increase for 2017. Before the Board can set a final millage rate, Georgia law requires three public hearings to be held to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on the increase.
All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearings on this tax increase to be held at the Gilmer County Jury Assembly Room located on the 2nd floor of the Gilmer County Courthouse, 1 Broad Street, Ellijay, Georgia on August 10, 2017 at 5:00pm and August 17, 2017 at 9:00am and 6:30pm.
Notice of Property Tax Increase
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners has tentatively adopted a Maintenance and Operation (M&O) millage rate which will require an increase in property taxes by 1.94 percent.
All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearing on this tax increase to be held at the Gilmer County Courthouse Jury Assembly Room on August 10, 2017 at 5:00pm.
Times and places of additional public hearings on this tax increase are at the Gilmer County Courthouse Jury Assembly Room on August 17, 2017 at 9:00am and 6:30pm.
This tentative increase will result in a Maintenance and Operation (M&O) millage rate of 6.983 mills, an increase of .133 mills. Without this tentative tax increase, the millage rate will be no more than 6.850 mills. The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $150,000 is approximately $7.71 and the proposed tax increase for a non-homestead property with a fair market value of $75,000 is approximately $3.99.
ELLIJAY, GA – After recalculations for Gilmer County’s Millage Rate, the Board of Commissioners came to another special meeting in July to re-discuss the Rollback Rate.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated the newer rate of 6.850 was a “much more palatable” rollback. The newer rate could mean about a $5,513 loss to the County Budget.
Discussions continued with the Board of Commissioners debating whether a rollback rate was to be accepted. While all of the Commissioners agreed the Rollback Rate was far better than the original 6.617 representing close to $300,000 lost in the budget, they began speaking about the use of a Rollback Rate compared to the County’s continued efforts to increase the tax digest.
Post Commissioner Dallas Miller stated he didn’t want citizens to think a rollback meant lower taxes or that staying with the current rate meant higher taxes. However, continuing to use the Rollback Rate every year meant that any efforts to grow the county or the digest would effectively throw away all of the work of the county. He went on to say that just following the Rollback Rate “has the same effect as if we never even re-evaluated or re-assessed our property. Why did we spend a lot of time and money reassessing property and then throw that work away basically?”
Post Commissioner Travis Crouch mentioned that the difference between the Rollback Rate and maintaining the current Millage Rate was not a large amount of money, but also that Miller had not mentioned the increasing costs facing the county in the coming years like health insurance costs, personnel, and others that the county cannot necessarily control.
Chairman Paris agreed that the rollback was an issue with the county’s efforts to increase the digest, but he felt the amount of money in difference between the rollback and the current rate was not worth having to run advertisement, by law, as a tax increase.
With a motion from Travis Crouch to maintain the current Millage Rate for a third year in a row and a second from Dallas Miller, the Commissioners officially voted 2-1 to maintain the current Millage Rate of 6.983. Chairman Paris was the dissenting vote of the three.
The official action from the meeting will begin advertising for the millage rate so that citizens will have an opportunity to speak to the Commissioners before the final vote.
ELLIJAY, GA – Two meetings in July have tentatively set the tax future for Gilmer County.
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting to discuss the Rollback Rate of 6.617 and the County’s decision on its millage. During the meeting. their discussion centered around a $291,048 loss to the budget if the Rollback Rate was approved. However, since the meeting, FYN has discovered that a recalculation could mean a drastically different number with the Rollback.
Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris stated in the meeting that while he was used to Rollback Rates coming with a roughly $30,000 loss to the budget, but the nearly $300,000 loss would be a serious hit to the county.
Post Commissioner Travis Crouch made note of serious issues the County is still facing including rising insurance costs and the Lower Cartecay Road Bridge that needs replacing. Currently, Director Jim Smith has not been able to obtain additional funding for the bridge.
However, with the new information of a recalculated rate, a new meeting is being called for the Commissioners to revisit the discussion with the newer information.
On the Board of Education side, the calculated Rollback Rate suggested 16.24 as the Rollback Rate. Recommending the process to begin with advertising the rate, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes said, after extended discussion with the Board, she was recommending a rate lower than the Rollback at 16.12.
As the meeting moved forward discussing the rate, the final vote came to approve advertising for the rate at 16.12. However, the vote split at 3-1 with Board Member Nick Weaver as the dissenting vote. Board Member Ronald Watkins was absent from the meeting and did not vote.
FYN caught up with Weaver to ask about his vote. Weaver stated, “I think it should be lower.”
With the lower rate, the BOE should see taxes decrease by $392,870 according to the Board’s documentation.
As the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners continue moving to construct the Cherry Log Fire Station, new issues and obstacles arise.
Bidding out their project to clear the land that the Fire Station will sit on, Commissioner Charlie Paris reports they received only one bid. That $295,468.25 bid from BM&K Construction and Engineering, out of Braselton, was deemed unacceptable by the Commissioners. Paris stated that he is expecting to return to the idea of utilizing county workers to clear the land and expects a far reduced price because of it.
However, currently, capital projects like this cannot use a single vendor to purchase over $20,000 within the year without bidding according to county ordinances.
The Commissioners have called a special meeting on June 21 to address this issue with a possible change to the ordinance to specifically allow capital projects, like the Fire Station, that have been fully approved by the Board of Commissioners and already within the budget to increase that cap for vendors without bidding.
Chairman Paris stated that the Fire Station is budgeted around $350,000 and even if this change passes, that would not change. Instead, they would be using the budgeted money in the same manner as they budgeted, but with set vendors for materials needed as the county completes the clearing project.
When asked why the Commissioners were considering the change, Paris stated that the completion date, set for June 1, would likely be pushed back if they had to bid out each material needed and he did not expect a vast difference in costs. Since the project has already seen delays from last year, Paris did not want this project to take any more time than necessary as he said he had promised the people of Cherry Log that he would have a fire station for them.
He also stated he didn’t want to have the fire station become like the Clear Creek Ball fields and take years to complete.
The Board has already approved advertisement of this ordinance change and is meeting on the 21st to discuss and detail parameters such as what amount of money would be acceptable for this one exception to the ordinance to be set at.
If the change is set during the meeting on the 21st, then citizens could expect the first reader to appear in July’s Commissioner’s Meeting depending on when the advertisement is set to meet the 14 day requirement.