BOC to sell old Planning and Zoning Building

News

Downsizing its facilities due to moving offices around, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is now looking to sell their building on the square that has been used recently as the Planning and Zoning office.

Sell,

Gilmer’s former Planning and Zoning building is located in the square immediately south of the courthouse.

The property disposal came before the commissioners in a Special Called meeting under an agenda item that encompassed both the “disposal of the property” as well as engaging a real estate agent.

Gilmer Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris stated that engaging a real estate broker will begin with a bid process to the board to find an agent to use in the process. However, engaging the bid should follow broad language on usage. County Attorney David Clark encouraged this option of specificty to allow the Commissioners options down the road. He stated, “That gives you the option to consider it, but you don’t have to use the agent with the additional piece of property.”

This means that the county could use the agent to sell the Planning and Zoning building, but wouldn’t have to go through the agent for every piece of property that may come up.

Paris also clarified further saying that if they get another piece of property they need to sell, but wish to just auction it off, they could do this. However, if they do wish to go through the real estate agent again, they would not need to complete the bid process again at that time.

Having the bid process set one agent into this position, the county is also looking to only extend the contract by a specific time period. After that time they would need to rebid the services of real estate agent. With that in mind, Clark also suggested the contract would terminate after a year unless the agent was amid a selling process at the time.

The final decision came through two motions, the first came to take bids for a real estate agent to handle disposing of county property while reserving rights to dispose of property in other ways. The second came to dispose of the building previously referred to as the Planning and Zoning building. Both were approved by the two present commissioners, with Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson absent.

Along with the disposal in this meeting, another issue arose that could become a major issue. While the office of the Board of Commissioners is attempting to satisfy requirements for a DOT audit with regards to Gilmer’s Airport Professional Services Agreement. According to Paris, Georgia’s Department of Transportation is going through an audit process.

As such, Gilmer has used grants they have used at the airport from the FAA. Part of those grants cover engineering requirements. The state’s audit saw a request for the master contract with the engineering firm from Gilmer County. Paris said that the county didn’t have a contract in 2015, but the county specified it was to be done under the contract of 2012. However, in 2012, the engineering firm, Croy Engineering, signed the contract and sent it to the county. The county at the time tabled the item to investigate. However, the county never revisited the contract.

With no contract, Gilmer County could be held responsible for reimbursement of all the engineering costs since 2012. Clark explained that the county has tried other options to resolve the issue, but have been rejected. Now, the county will authorize the chairman to sign the contract with a retroactive effective date to satisfy the needs.

The county has been operating under the contract over the years, but has simply not signed the contract.

Commissioners advertise Millage Rate and Bond Millage

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners discussed their Millage Rate in a Special Meeting this July without one of its members.

Having contracted COVID-19, the board’s third commissioner, Karleen Ferguson, was absent from the meeting for health and safety. The two remaining commissioners discussed accepting the rollback rate versus not accepting it.

Very early, Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris voiced his opinion to accept the rollback rate saying, “My personal position would be that we should take the rollback rate. It’s not going to hurt us terribly and I don’t think this is the year to be trying…”

Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker agreed saying that he was good with the Rollback as well.

Millage Rate

The worksheet showing the preparation of the 2020 Digest and formula calculating the Rollback Rate for Gilmer County.

However, additional discussions turned to the Bond Millage Rate for the county. With discussions last year on reducing the rate, the Commissioners ultimately decided against it, keeping the 1.5 mills, but promising to revisit the idea in 2020. Now, Parker and Paris began discussions by immediately moving to a debate on whether to reduce it by .25 or .15 mills. Paris noted that work still needs to continue in capital projects and expenditures coming in the Road Department as well. Having the Bond Millage pay off part of the bond debt service allows more SPLOST funds for those expenditures.

Parker offered his opinion on the Bond Millage saying, “I would be fine going with .25.” However, he did mention a desire to look at it again later. Looking at the decreases, Paris said he didn’t have a problem with reducing it by .25 mills to a Bond Millage Rate of 1.25 mills.

The rates were approved by two separate motions as Paris made a motion to approve advertising, it came to accept the Rollback Rate of 6.783 mills. The rate was approved by the two present commissioners.

Then came another motion from Paris to have “the Bond Millage Rate be reduced from 1.5 mills to 1.25 mills.” The rate was approved by the two present commissioners.

Moving forward, the Commissioners are looking for another Special Called meeting towards the end of August to formally adopt the Millage Rate. They have to wait for the Board of Education to adopt their rate in August before the County can formally adopt both rates.

 

Health Department Responds to positive test in Courthouse

News
GIlmer Health Department, Public Health

ELLIJAY, Ga – Gilmer’s Health Department and Courthouse are working closely together this week after a confirmed positive test was reported by the county Probate Judge, Scott Chastain.

FYN reached out to the Health Department and spoke with Gilmer Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris about the Health Department’s involvement. Both entities noted that the Georgia Department of Public Health already has guidelines and directions in the case of positive exposure and the Courthouse is already taking measures in its own way.

Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator for the North Georgia Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health, Jennifer King said, “COVID-19 is still transmitting in Gilmer County… and while we don’t refer to any specific cases or locations unless we have reason to believe the public is at a higher level of risk, we do share the latest Governor’s Executive Orders relating to COVID-19 protocols with the public, businesses, organizations, and agencies to follow, including information that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and how to respond if cases occur.”

Second Amendment, Officials

Gilmer County Courthouse

King asserted that Gilmer’s local Health Department is working closely with the community in every way possible. Paris also noted that he had been in contact with the Health Department as the courthouse was responding to the exposure.

Continuing communication reaches far beyond just the courthouse, though, as King said, “Our local health department and environmental health office work very closely with community partners, including EMA, Family Connections, government agencies, businesses, churches and schools to remind residents of measures they can take to prevent the spread of the virus and protect against COVID-19.”

King said that public health is urging people to get tested for COVID-19. She went on to note that the department is also attempting to provide that opportunity to do so for free. She said, “We are attempting to prevent further spread of the transmission through contact tracing and repeatedly reminding residents of the critical need to always wear a mask in public, wash their hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer, avoid large crowds, social distance away from others by at least 6 feet, avoid physical contact with others by not shaking hands or giving hugs, and stay home and call their doctor if they feel they may have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive over the past 14 days.”

Public Health is urging people to get tested for COVID-19 through options like Drive-Thru Testing sites providing free testing for citizens.

The Health Department is reaching out across all platforms of media to spread the information of options like the drive-thru testing sites and schedule postings

Citizens who feel they have been in contact or may have been in the courthouse recently are also encouraged to visit the Testings Website. Gilmer has their own testing site times, on Mondays and Fridays, but there are other sites in our nearby counties in case some residents find it more convenient to register for an appointment at one of those.

King also stated, “Because the number of cases in our Hispanic/Latino population in Gilmer County is disproportionally high, local public health works with community leaders, partners, churches and schools to increase outreach to this community by sharing translated information, encouraging free COVID-19 testing, and providing education about the need to prevent the spread of the virus and how to protect against it.”

The Public Health website offers information in both English and Spanish as well as several flyers in both English and Spanish.

Board of Commissioners cancels July Work Session meeting

News
Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting

ELLIJAY, Ga. – As the nation continues watching numbers fluctuate and news reports of the the state and national governments commenting and putting forth orders in response to the COVID-19 virus, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have cancelled their July Work Session.

Citing the recent spike in cases of the Coronavirus, the Board of Commissioners released an email through County Clerk Edwina Daman saying that they will cancel the work session on Wednesday July 8, 2020, at 9:00 a.m.

They will still be holding Thursday’s Regular Meeting at 6:00 p.m. The statement in the email said, “We plan on having the Public Comment Meeting and Regular Meeting on Thursday in the Courthouse parking lot.

The Public Comment Meeting starts at 5:00 p.m. and the Regular Meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. While no other statements have been made at this time, rumors have circulated that certain members of the courthouse may have been potentially exposed to COVID-19 as well.

County seeks to help farms to support recovery

News
farms, farm winery, BOC,

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners made two approvals this week for farms to, as Chairman Charlie Paris said, “try to recover as quickly as possible.”

While Paris said they are looking at several areas of the county’s economy, two of the approvals in June focused solely on farms and agriculture including the first steps of a change and easing of the ordinance for Farm Wineries and a Resolution supporting the “Right to Farm Act” in legislation.

With local farm wineries, Paris said the only way the county can really help with this is through lessening regulations. To that end, the Commissioners voted to approve moving forward with advertising to change the ordinance to allow local wineries in the unincorporated parts of the county “to serve local Georgia craft beer in their tasting rooms. They would not be allowed to sell the beer packaged and there will be no Sunday sales.”

Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson said, “I know that the winery owners have requested this for some time and we were waiting to bring it up and to see when the right time was. I do think it is a great time to put that gesture in… I also love the fact that we are restricting it to Georgia Craft beers, so it is not any of the name brand national or international brands.”

Gary Engel speaks to Commissioners in June of 2020 about easing the ordinance restrictions for local Farm Wineries and allowing craft beer sales of Georgia Craft Beers.

Gary Engel speaks to Commissioners in June of 2020 about easing the ordinance restrictions for local Farm Wineries and allowing craft beer sales of Georgia Craft Beers.

Gary Engel spoke to the Commissioners in the work session noting that a few wineries were represented in the audience. He said that other counties in the state are already selling beers. He also noted that it would not equate to a great surge in sales, but rather it allows a service to different tastes. Engel said that sometimes a couple will come up to listen to music, one doesn’t like wine but would enjoy a cold beer. He did say that the small increase in sales could aid in the wineries business as well.

He also said they are wanting to increase and pursue the business as Gilmer is increasing in popularity with these as well. Engel said, “From a perspective of the state, with the number of wineries that are going into Gilmer County, this county will soon be the most populated county, south of Virginia, with wineries.”

Additionally, the other approval for farms came in support of a legislative Act in Georgia, the “Right to Farm” Act. Paris said that lawsuits come often against farms as people move in nearby and then sue over the smells or noise. Paris explained that through discussions with farmers, he found that these are not often won, but are often filed and can be expensive to fight against in courts.

In support of local farmers and through discussions with them, Paris said that they asked for support for this Act in protection of some of what he called “nuisance lawsuits.”

The Act increases requirements to file lawsuits against farms according to Paris, in attempt to protect them from some of these filings.

The approval came for Resolution to support the Act at the state level in efforts to help it pass.

River Ordinance exception and TAN note approved for 2020

News
Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A short but important meeting, the Board of Commissioners held their May Meeting officially approving the 2020 Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) and a change to the river ordinance for the year among others.

The TAN saw only one bid this year according to the board, United Community Bank’s bid for tax exempt rate at 1.9 percent. The board unanimously approved the new TAN after Financial Officer Sandi Holden said they could get the tax exempt rate this year because they don’t have any larger property funds or similar needs this year.

The next approval just for this year came with a change to River Outfitters. Chairman Charlie Paris said that the idea is to still collect the tax and continue as normal in the coming years. However, due to shutdowns and quarantining, the board is looking to help these businesses recover. The motion came to change the collection from a dollar per person to one cent per person just for the year of 2020.

The commissioners discussed the businesses with Post Commissioner Ferguson bringing up the topic of social distancing and the transportation needs. Paris said he had discussed it with one outfitter who said he planned to just make more trips, transporting families and small groups together without other strangers packed into the same vehicles.

Additionally, another outfitter spoke in the meeting saying they would only be putting different groups on one vehicle with their longer buses to allow social distancing during transport.

Also in the meeting, the board re-appointed Don VanLandingham to the Kids Kottage Commission and approved the naming of a bridge on Highway 15 in Honor of Billy Burnette, an action done by the general assembly but requiring a motion from the county.

Commissioners update pool and code enforcement in April

News
BOC, Commissioners

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Nearing the end of demolition at the old pool site, the Board of Commissioners is moving forward with replacement of the foundation in preparation of the currently “on hold” project to construct the new pool.

Reports indicate, according to Chairman Paris, that there is a total of eight feet of “bad soil” under the old pool’s footprint that needs replacing before it can support any structure there. Paris said that the county needs to dig out the older soil and replace it with a combination of new soil and, mostly, stone.

The county has estimated $52,000 to replace the soil and is set to move forward without before they come to a full stop on constructing the new pool. Paris said a major note of their investigations, however, is that they have confirmed the site as a viable location. A determination they have been anticipating for months since deciding to demolish the old pool site for use as the new pool.

Another major note of change came from the final approval of an amendment to Chapter 1 “General Provisions” of the Gilmer County Code.

This item has run the three-month process and has reached final approval with the change allowing Code Enforcement to leave citations on people’s doors when unable to make contact with those people directly.

The change will be placed into effect now, and when code enforcement attempts to deliver citations to people for code violations, they no longer have to physically deliver that citation into people’s hands. Instead, the new change will allow them to place the citations on the door and have them enforced as such.

Also in the meeting, the commissioners continued a resolution to grant authority to the Tax Commissioner to waive Interest and Penalties as they have in recent years past. Approved for another three-year term, the resolution does not require waiving but just grants the authority to the Tax Commissioner.

They continued with a renewal of the contract for the ETC Service Agreement providing broadband at the courthouse. Worked out two or three years ago to support cloud back-ups and the traffic needed at the courthouse, the Commissioners approved a continuation of the contract.

 

Gilmer BOC will hold April Regular meeting in person

News
exposures

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Both cities and counties carry on amid the shutdown, and Gilmer is also moving forward in this time with their April meeting, but with a few changes.

Gilmer has already made changes over March as meetings saw a distancing line in the meeting room, and all meetings have been held in the Jury Assembly Room in the Gilmer County Courthouse. However, this month will see another change as the Board is only sending one agenda. Gilmer’s BOC will still meet is person, as of now, but will not be holding their usual work session.

Gilmer is continuing monitor situations during the shutdown and two agenda items stick out among the agenda as potential ramifications of the nations current situation.

Among the items is listed “Discussion and possible action to grant authority to the Tax Commissioner to waive Interest and Penalties” and “Discussion and possible action regarding the upcoming May General and Presidential Primaries.”

Elections have been a growing topic as we draw closer to May during a Presidential Election year which has, historically, been one of the highest turnout years for elections.

Not holding a work session, the public will be hearing discussion and votes in the same day for April. The rest of the meeting is set to proceed as normal with usual items like Citizens wishing to speak and the financial statement. The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 9, 2020, at 6 p.m., in the Jury Assembly Room of the Courthouse.

Meeting

Meeting

 

 

Gilmer Officials delve deeper into the shutdown

News
Second Amendment, Officials

ELLIJAY, GA. – Yesterday’s Declaration of Emergency from the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners and the response from officials has been hotly debated and concerns are still high over what it means for Gilmer County.

Today, Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson and Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris are speaking out to explain a little more on the shutdown and what the next steps are for citizens and businesses in the county.

Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said this does not mean Gilmer is becoming a “police state.” While he said most of the shutdown is focused on businesses, he did add that the focus is to slow large interactions of people to slow the spread of the virus. He reiterated this again stressing that people can go out if the have to saying, “You can go to the grocery store. You can still go to the gas station and get gas. If you work for or own a business that is deemed essential, you can still go to work.”

Focusing instead on strongly encouraging people to follow suit with the Shelter-In-Place order, this entire effort is to promote the issue of awareness and support for isolation to kill the virus.

Nicholson also noted that the order for businesses is being enforced through the Officials of the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) as they continue spreading the information. Nicholson spoke about the county taking a stance of asking for compliance right now to encourage businesses and citizens to comply. Only in extreme circumstances, he said, would they resort to anything like citations or licensing revocations.

This was also noted in the meeting as the Board said they could eventually reach a level of revoking business licenses for all businesses not following the order’s closures or restrictions on those still open.

The last major point he stressed today was to say that this isn’t like snow days. It hasn’t taken a full hold yet. But it very well could. Nicholson said he does not intend to operate as an occupying force. Instead he wants the Sheriff’s Office to run like a county police force and support the community in these hard times.

It was a sentiment echoed by Chairman Charlie Paris who said the reason he felt the need for the Declaration of Emergency and the order to Shelter-In-Place is to separate the people as much as possible. The order is in place for two weeks to “not necessarily break the cycle of infection, but slow it down.”

Paris also acknowledge that the order is a drastic measure and not something he really wanted to do. However, the need for action was clear. This was also pointed out in the meeting when public safety authorities spoke saying that they understand no one wants to be the person to incorporate such measures, but serious action has to be taken to address the issue.

Paris also noted that hospitals, EMA Officials, and medical teams in Gilmer are considering all possible answers to the health needs. Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp has already instituted allowances for specific people with previous medical licenses and some recent graduates to practice medicine during this time as well as some Certificate of Need restrictions. Locally, these steps include talks about using rooms from Gilmer’s old hospital facility and possibly bedding patients there should a need arise.

Paris said that this is a hard time, but called it a time of sacrifice for the county in an effort to slow this infection down to get a handle on it. He also said that the neighboring counties need to join the effort to really make the shutdown effective and expedite a return to normal life much faster.

Commissioner declare emergency and order shutdown

News
shutdown

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A state of emergency has been declared for Gilmer County by the Board of Commissioners, immediately followed by a “shelter-in-place” order and businesses shut down.

Through discussions and deliberations on Tuesday, March 24, the order for citizens to shelter-in-place will proceed from 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday morning, March 25, through 11:59 p.m. Tuesday night, April 7, due to the Coronavirus.

The most important details of this order come through the ordered shutdown of non-essential businesses. The order covers all “unincorporated parts of the county.” However, Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris did state in Tuesday’s meeting that he had spoken with the mayors of Ellijay and East Ellijay and felt that they were supportive of this action.

While citizens are ordered to take shelter at their own places of residence, the resolution clearly states, “When people need to leave their places of residence, whether to obtain or perform vital services, or to otherwise facilitate authorized activities necessary for continuity of social and commercial life, the should at all times reasonably possible comply with Social Distancing Requirements.”

Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson confirmed that deputies will be informing citizens about the order who are loitering in places unreasonably or blatantly disregarding the order. The order urges people at high risk of severe illness or people who are sick to not leave their residences except to seek medical care.

The other half of the shutdown comes through non-essential businesses. All businesses with a facility in the county, except essential businesses, are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the unincorporated areas of GIlmer except “Minimum Basic Operations.” The board listed in the order’s definitions, “Essential businesses means:

  • Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure;
  • Grocery stores, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other nongrocery products, and products necessary to maintining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;
  • Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing;
  • Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
  • Newspapers, televisions, radio, and other media services;
  • Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities;
  • Banks and related financial institutions;
  • Hardware stores;
  • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses;
  • Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;
  • Educational Institutions – including private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities – for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible;
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
  • Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Farm wineries shall be allowed to sale packaged wine at curbside. Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under this Order on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take-away basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site;
  • Businesses that supply products need for people to work from home;
  • Businesses or manufacturers that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;
    Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods, or services directly to residences;
  • Airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers providing transportation services necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized in this Order;
  • Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children;
  • Residential Facilities including hotels, motels, shared rental units and similar facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children, except for short-term cabin rentals (provided that current guests may complete their stay);
  • Professional services, such as legal, accounting services, real estate services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities;”

The board also added to the shutdown conditions for childcare facilities (stated in the order) and added all businesses not identified but are listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s website as Essential Critical Infrastructure workforce.

The Commissioners were asked by citizen Larry Lykins to understand “the magnitude” of what they were proposing in shutting down these small businesses. He said that some of those businesses are “just not going to come back from this.

Still, others supported the decision, saying the decision was necessary and that a shut down now would be better than worse conditions and widespread sickness later.

Additionally, both Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson and Public Safety Director Keith Kucera offered their opinions saying that these hard decisions need to be made.

Despite the closure of businesses and activities, Paris did answer a question about the courthouse saying, “The courthouse cannot be closed.”

The commissioners worked over details including wineries and cabins, going back and forth on these issues and including advice from citizens and county agents. Ultimately, approving and signing the order as it stands. However, should conditions change, this order could be revisited and revised as needed.

Gun Permits frozen under Judicial Order

News
Gun Permits

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Under last Friday’s Judicial Order from Chief Judge Brenda Weaver over court processes and business, Probate Judge Scott Chastain clarified today that new gun permits and applications will not be accepted until the order ends on April 11, 2020, according to the order.

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and in an effort to “keep people from coming to the courthouse,” Chastain said that he originally was going to continue as normal on permits, but as the order halts non-essential duties. The process includes citizens going to other offices in the Sheriff’s Office for fingerprinting as well.

Chastain did further explain that those permits already in process will be sent through the mail, so those already in process should not worry about not getting theirs. Additionally, Chastain said that to help those who might expire under the freeze, they, too, should not worry as he will be including expirations in the freeze as well.

What this means is that if your permit expires while the freeze is in effect, it will still be considered valid until the freeze concludes and new permits and renewals are accepted again.

Chastain said, “We’re going to freeze that time frame so you’re not carrying around an invalid permit until this order has ended.”

He went on to say he has had discussions with other judges and sheriff’s associations about the Gun Permits and temporarily denying the new permits.

Additionally, the Probate Court offices are supposed to be putting out a list of the essential duties they will be maintaining such as marriage licenses, later today. FYN has requested a copy and will be posting these when available.

 

Judicial Order p1, Gun Permits

Judicial Order p1

 

 

Judicial Order p2, Gun Permits

Judicial Order p2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judicial Order p3, Gun Permits

Judicial Order p3

Judicial Order p4, Gun Permits

Judicial Order p4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judicial Order p5, Gun Permits

Judicial Order p5

Judicial Order p6, Gun Permits

Judicial Order p6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judicial Order p7, Gun Permits

Judicial Order p7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pool design changes again with approval to begin bidding

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s pool has undergone another edit in the weeks since the last meeting where the design was debated at length.

While the last meeting ended with no actual approved design, certain topics were presented as priorities in the pool by citizens and organizations and some of the aspects were left to be “worked in” to the pool by the design team at Premiere Pools & Spas. The design changes allow for a few changes in operations and accommodations, according to Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris.

One of the major, and most obvious, changes is the connection of the two pools into one through a walkway. Paris said, “There are a couple of advantages to this. The first is we can get by with one filtration system rather than having to have two separate… Also, we can get by with one heating system rather than having to have separate heaters both pools.”

The connection will make the one solid pool 160 feet long according to the preliminary plans presented during the meeting. The swim lanes will be 75 feet while the wade in / splash area will reach 73.5 feet at its widest point.

Paris went on to say, “The push behind this particular choice to connect these two pools is, in addition to the cost savings, this provides a better segway into the senior aerobics and any other type of activity like that that requires a varying level of depth depending on how tall the individual may be.”

This does still include the diving well and zero-entry point from previous meetings and designs but changes a few other key points noted from last month. Since it will no longer be two separate pools, the splash area will not grade down in the same direction as the lanes. The splash area will also not reach 4 feet deep, but instead only reach 3.5 feet deep with it continuing deeper into the pathway connecting the pools. The recreation pool will not be 5 feet deep the whole length, but instead rise to a 4.5 feet deep area in the middle, the same area swimmers will be on as they walk through that pathway.

While these items changed from the last meeting, no specifics design had been approved until today. In today’s meeting, not only did the item reignite the debate over the pool, the county, roads, and TSPLOST, but it did also finally see the formal adoption of a design as the Commissioners move towards bidding the project out for construction.

Paris did also say it is starting to look like the roof over to enclose the pool will be pushed as a return project next year. This has, however, been stated as a possibility and a part of the county’s plan in previous meetings as they attempt to see how far they can go in the project with the money available.

However,  the meeting did see a restart on citizens debating the county’s funds and usage. Joene DePlancke specified her concerns and summed up what she called a general feeling amongst citizens as “pool vs. roads.”

She pointed to concerns about the county’s provision of a pool and school usage versus Board of Education financial support for the pool. She also noted that the county is looking at a possible major road project out Yukon Road with the construction of Clear Creek Elementary. As far as shared usage, Paris and Gilmer Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White noted that the county and rec sports do access and use school facilities like the basketball courts and football fields similar to how the school swim team would use the  Recreation Pool. Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson also added that adult tennis programs use the school’s tennis courts.

DePlanke voiced other concerns about funding saying she wants the pool but the project alongside TSPLOST elections is creating the tension of a “pool vs. roads” division.

Paris, and later echoed by Ferguson, noted that much of the management in the county and government is a balancing act.

Paris said he hears the people who say that you shouldn’t build a pool and use all the money for the roads. But he also hears families and others saying they want to have the pool. He noted several equipment purchases for the road department and an equipment shed to help maintain it. He said that much of this progress is slow and he is continuing that process to improve the roads while balancing the wants and needs of all the departments in the county.

He said that the TSPLOST specifically is an option and he doesn’t personally care if it passes as he sees the progress that has been made and the path towards continued growth in that department. With Gilmer’s financial situation and its efforts to continue growing that, as evident by a much larger reserve for the county, he asserts that the progress will be made either way, with TSPLOST making it much faster.

Paris said much of the sentiment, in his opinion, on roads has changed significantly through the recent election process over Dallas Miller’s vacant seat in 2019. Many candidates “hammered” on the topic of roads during that campaign and it became a bigger issue. Paris said he has people call and talk about the need for better roads and immediate action but also how they don’t want a TSPLOST.

Ultimately, with an approved design and move to bid, the progress on Gilmer’s pool is taking steps forward this month. These designs are now what they will use to have engineering performed and construction to begin in the near future after the current demolition of the current pool ends.

Gilmer’s pool design debate

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the bid for demolition awarded and proceeding, the county is starting to look closer at the projects designs and details as they prepare to take the next step towards construction of the pool design in the coming months with bids for construction.

However, a Special Called Meeting this week saw the BOC revisiting the design aspect of the pool. Many things have changed since the plans for the pool were presented to the county. While the county approved a proposal in June 2019 to have Premier Pools & Spas be the pools designed and a design was presented, County Attorney David Clark has recently informed the Commissioner that no actual approval or adoption of the design was given.

So, in preparation of bidding out a design for engineering and construction, the Commissioners set to discussing that design this week. The largest topic debated this week became the depth of the deeper end of the smaller “splash” pool. While plans originally had the deepest section of this at 2.6 feet, according to County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, aerobics and therapy classes need this to be 4 feet deep.

The county went through discussions on several design changes and ideas, debating pros and cons of each. Some of these included combining the two pools, making part of the lap pool more shallow for this, creating to “L”s on the pool similar to the county’s old pool, and simply altering to splash pool. The discussion also grew to include general changes to the aquatic center idea for the county including covering both pools and heating both pools for year round access.

The project has also seen other changes, Paris confirmed after the meeting that placing the pool in the same location as the old one would obviously not allow for the full recreation center originally planned and designed. However, he did say this hasn’t killed that idea, but rather forced it further down the line to possibly placed elsewhere. Regardless, the county is focusing on the pools design at this time.

pool design Kevan White Parks Recreation Gilmer CountyConsidering all of these changes, the options will be sent to Premier to redo the pool design, through the numerous discussions, the Board will be sending the changes and are expected to be ready for the March meetings. Current understanding is that while the pools will still be separate, the “Rec Pool” and the “Zero-Entry Pool,” as the county decide to call the main pool with lanes and the smaller, shallower pools respectively, will see other changes.

The Rec Pool will be 5 feet deep instead of previous reports of four feet and, at one time, four feet in the middle and five feet on the ends.

The Zero-Entry Pool will slope down for nearly half of the pool and have a four feet deep area for aerobics and activities. It will also be squared off instead of the rounder shape in previous designs.

While these changes are the understanding from this special called meeting, nothing is finalized until the design is brought back before the county in March and approved.

Gilmer’s resolution makes county Second Amendment Sanctuary

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Second Amendment Sanctuary

ELLIJAY, Ga – Gilmer County’s approval of the Second Amendment Sanctuary came last Thursday with all three commissioners voting yes for the resolution and sparking further debate over the issue’s future.

That resolution states, “The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners will not authorize or appropriate funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of any unconstitutional acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations that infringe on the right by the people to keep and bear arms.”

Following the work session’s crowd of people and numerous people stating their support of the resolution, the debate arose on whether to adopt a resolution or an ordinance.

Jason Williamson spoke at both the Work Session and Regular Meeting of the Gilmer BOC speaking on the petitions gathered and the need to make this statement as a county. He said in the regular meeting that over 700 people had signed the petition asking for the Second Amendment Sanctuary status.

Taking a “proactive” approach, Williamson said he and others want to step out ahead of any problems which they see are inevitable in today’s political climate.

Jason Williamson speaks about the Second Amendment Sanctuary at the Commissioners' Thursday meeting, February 13, 2020.

Jason Williamson speaks about the Second Amendment Sanctuary at the Commissioners’ Thursday meeting, February 13, 2020.

However, Williamson was not the only person speaking on behalf of the resolution as Joene DePlancke was also present in both meetings to support it. DePlancke asked that everyone at the Regular Meeting who supported the resolution to stand and nearly every person present, filling over half of the County’s Jury Assembly room in the courthouse, stood.

DePlancke went on to say, “The reason that we feel so strongly right now is that, over the years, we keep losing more and more of our freedoms by not doing anything.”

More people spoke as well in the meetings saying they supported the resolution with one individual saying he felt it wasn’t just the Second Amendment, but rather all of citizens’ rights in the Amendments are under attack.

The commissioners assured citizens in the work session that this wouldn’t mean the county would stop doing background checks or gun permits, but rather would oppose any state or federal law that would infringe on the Second Amendment. The Resolution states, “All federal acts, laws, orders, rules, regulations that violate the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States or Article I, Section I, Paragraph VIII of the Constitution of the State of Georgia, violate the true meaning and intent of those constitutions are hereby declared to be invalid and are specifically rejected in Gilmer County, Georgia and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in Gilmer County, Georgia.”

FYN previously reported that the board approved a resolution and did have some talk in their work session about looking further into the possibility of an ordinance. Williamson, as one of the leaders of the movement, stated before the meeting that he wanted an ordinance over a resolution because it would be harder to change and require more opportunities for citizens to fight any changes.

FYN reached out to Williamson after the resolution passed for his response. Williamson stated, “A resolution will suffice, but we will actively pursue the ordinance once we can navigate the state laws and create an ordinance that will reflect current law and assist in maintaining our rights.”

The debate continues to flow on social media as people on both sides of the debate offer opinions.

Gene Levine stated, “Even if it’s symbolic, do it. I think Virginia will be a test bed for the effectiveness of sanctuary counties, I hear something like 90 county sheriff’s are proposing this. I realize that the feds can enforce these laws in any of these counties, but they don’t have the resources to enforce these laws on thousands of gun owners and they don’t even know who has these guns.”

On the opposite side, Andy McClure stated, “It only states that no county official or employee can enforce any federal or state law that infringes upon the rights of Gilmer citizens. It does not mean that the state cannot send the GBI, or the feds could send the FBI or ATF to enforce such laws.”

As citizens continue the debate, it seems this issue is still not completed as the Commissioner’s left room to discuss a possible ordinance and some like Williamson have already said they want to pursue more in terms of the ordinance.

County Approves Second Amendment Sanctuary

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Officially, Gilmer County has declared itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary. With the urging of citizens and submitted petitions to the county, the vote came unanimously in support of a resolution declaring the official adoption of this moniker of Second Amendment Sanctuary.

County Commissioner Charlie Paris stated during the meeting, “This is, essentially, the very same resolution that was presented to us initially. We’ve just had two or three very minor, one-word type changes.”

Jason Williamson speaks to to the Board of Commissioners about the Second Amendment Sanctuary at Thursday Night's, February 13. 2020, meeting.

Jason Williamson speaks to to the Board of Commissioners about the Second Amendment Sanctuary at Thursday Night’s, February 13. 2020, meeting.

The minor changes were not unexpected as even Jason Williams, one of the initiators of the agenda item and the one who submitted the collected petition signatures to the county, told FYN last week that he expected the County Attorney, David Clark, to have a few such changes for legal wordings or clarifications.

Applause came from the crowd as the motion and second came and was finalized by a yes vote from all three commissioners for the resolution to support the second amendment in Gilmer County.

The county has approved a resolution at this time, but said they would look an actual ordinance change in time. Williamson previously said that an ordinance change is what specifically he wanted as it is harder to take out or change than a resolution.

Stay with FYN as we delve into the citizens comments and responses to the approval along with the actual resolution wording over the next few days.

County approves Intergovernmental Agreement

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Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Now that both cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay have approved their sides of the Intergovernmental Agreement for the TSPLOST, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners have followed suit by also approving approving the agreement.

The resolution approving the agreement establishes an estimated collection of up to $25 million from a one percent TSPLOST tax. As reported from the joint meeting between the cities and the county, the resolution also states the split of the proceeds between the three entities, “92.35% to the County, 5.72% to Ellijay and 1.93% to East Ellijay.”

While there are still more steps to complete after this Intergovernmental Agreement, such as preparing the ballot question and each entity fully describing the projects anticipated to be accomplished by these proceeds, the TSPLOST tax is well on its way to the spring voting ballot for citizens to offer their final word on the subject.

In a previous meeting, County Attorney David Clark urged the board set project and details before the county puts the option on the ballot for public vote as the public needs to know everything possible and everything being considered in the TSPLOST.

Following the newly approved Intergovernmental Agreement, the county and both cities have individually approved the following list under “Transportation Purpose” as items to be accomplished by the TSPLOST:

Road, street, and bridge purposes, including but not limited to: (i) acquisition of rights of way for roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (ii)  construction of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (iii) renovation and improvement of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths, including resurfacing; (iv) relocation of utilities for roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (v) improvement of surface-water drainage from roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (vi) patching, leveling, milling, widening, shoulder preparation, culvert repair, and other repairs necessary for the preservation of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (vii) roadside mowing; (viii) intersection improvements; (ix) road striping; (x) road signage; (xi) borrow pit materials used for constructing and maintaining roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (xii) a capital outlay project or projects consisting of any of the foregoing to be owned, operated, or administered by the sate and located, in whole or in part, in Gilmer County; (xiii) equipment used for constructing and maintaining roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; and (xiv) all accompanying infrastructure and services necessary to provide access to roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths.

Furthermore, in that same meeting, County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris mentioned wanting more town halls on the TSPLOST for specific regions of the county to ‘go to the people.’ He explained that he wanted to make it far easier for those in the local area to attend and discuss the topic, holding four different meetings in four different sections of Gilmer.

Despite this, several work sessions, regular meetings, and special called meetings have been held along the process offering citizens information on the subject. Additionally, the county has more meetings upcoming to speak with Commissioners such as this weeks Wednesday, February 12, Work Session at 9:00 a.m. and Thursday, February 13, Regular Meeting at 6:00 p.m.

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