Gilmer County is currently undertaking a large re-striping project both on their own and with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) in addition to this summers LMIG.
Originally, Gilmer applied every year for its Local Maintenance and Imporvements Grant (LMIG) for paving. The $629,234.66 grant, along with the counnty’s $270,025 match, will pave Burnt Mountain Road (6.5 miles), Mountaintown Road (4.65 miles), and Sunlight Road (3.1 miles). This grant will also cover fresh new striping and new signs on all three roads.
In addition to that original project, Gilmer also applied for an “Off-System Safety Program Grant” of $250,000 to add nine more roads as a separate project for striping and small additions such as guard rails and signage according to Commission Chairman Charlie Paris. Those roads include Boardtown Road, Big Creek Road, Double Head Gap Road, Turniptown Road, Knight Road, Tails Creek Church Road, and Progress Road with Clear Creek Road and Yukon Road to also be done after the Atlanta Gas Light construction on those two roads is completed.
This project will be fully managed by GDOT through it’s own contracts. However, citizens may not see the work being done on these roads as the striping work is being conducted at night. According to Paris, the night work for this striping is set to help avoid any traffic congestion for citizens as they go about their regular days for work and around town.
Finally, a third application for up to $100,000 has been made by Gilmer that was not included in either project. The project was put forth to Gilmer’s Road Department by Chairman Paris.
According to Public Works Director Jim Smith, this “Supplemental LMIG” currently includes Homer Wright Road and Whitepath Road and is being undertaken by the County itself. Now, while Smith assured citizens in a recent meeting that these two roads will see completion by April 26th, he also told FYN that further projects could be added to the grant later. This project, like the original LMIG, requires a 30% match from the County that Paris stated would be covered in the Road Department’s budget.
With one project almost complete and more underway, citizens should be noticing improvements to our roads lines in the coming months.
FYN has been informed of a Georgia DOT (Department of Transportation) inspection on the bridge on Lower Cartecay Road that has deemed it “Unsafe.”
Due to this, FYN has confirmed with Commission Chairman Paris that the bridge is closed at this time to public use. Authorities will be attempting to further inspect the bridge to see if it is possible for repairs, or if a full replacement is necessary.
As for the closing of the bridge, Chairman Paris expects it will be weeks before it could be open due to the current condition.
Paris assured FYN he would continue updates as decisions are made about the future of the bridge.
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners April Meeting saw new plans for two key areas of the county. Finalized approvals will move both the failing 911 system and community pool on their path in the coming months.
The Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve their new 911 system with Communications & Electronics for a Zetron system.
The split came through discussion among the Commissioners whose original budget conversations centered around the idea that the current 911 system is failing and needs replacement. Since, the Commissioners decided instead of just replacing the system, they should upgrade the hybrid system.
The hybrid system is both analog and digital. While the 911 signals are all digital, our county had a conversion system which allowed the interface. The newer system, however, is completely digital and comes with “enhanced 911” capabilities. This term is somewhat loose though as the service is still in development stages through the state and phone companies.
Some of the possibilities the enhanced service could allow are text capabilities to 911, GPS tracking for emergencies, and even Caller ID functions to tie in with a more detailed 911 mapping system for response.
This upgrade was budgeted at $168,525, but the approved bid is $137,695 for the project to replace the current systems. Dallas Miller became the dissenting vote stating, “I don’t like spending $115,000 to do what we’re already doing today.”
The Commissioners tabled a few items in their meeting like their Contract with Piedmont ER for Ambulance Services. AS they did not have the contract in hand for the meeting, the Commissioners put off the approval until they can finalize the contract and its details. According to Director of Public Safety Tony Pritchett, the contract will guarantee Gilmer County first rights to all transportation from the hospital to other facilities as well as provide a guaranteed payment of services.
Another Tabled item was a possibility for Gilmer County to adopt a County Flag. As a point of pride for the county, Chairman Paris told FYN it was actually a citizen who called and offered proposals for the county to consider. However, the meeting showed little interest from the Commissioners who have not received additional support or interest in a flag.
Chairman Paris said he saw no downside for adopting a flag, but also didn’t see much priority for the project compared to other county business. The Commissioners have previously discussed possibilities of incorporating students from the schools to design the flag, citizens input, and other possibilities. However, having been tabled two months in a row, this item may ultimately see the Commissioners dismissing the idea if it does not garner more community support.
Citizens are also moving forward with plans to maintain the community pool through Gilmer’s winter months. Approving a Memorandum of Understanding with the Three Rivers Athletic Club, Inc., the Commissioners are following their promise to citizens that they would take a risk on the project citizens have been requesting since last summer. The Club has purchased a “bubble” to put over the pool and is currently completing installation of the heaters for the pool to provide access for community organizations and school athletes to practice, compete, and excersize year-round.
The Commissioners will be instituting quarterly reviews of the project so as to remain “revenue-neutral” for the county, meaning that the costs of operation of the pool will be offset through fees and such that the organizations will be providing to the county. With everything in place, it appears that the fall of 2017 will start the experiment when the pool extends its usual season.
Though progress is being made, many questions still circle the operations including some citizens questioning the viability as the pool such as the bubble will be heated, but athletes and swimmers will still be traveling from the bubble to the changing rooms wet. Post Commissioner Miller also offered concerns on the topic saying, “I personally think its a good deal for the Three Rivers Athletic Club and not a good deal for the county. We are bearing all the risks and the expense… I think we’re taking a risk, but I am willing to do this. We already have a plan in place to review this… if we find things that are not acceptable.”
Also in the community, the Comissioners did make two appointments in their April meetings, Don Van Landingham has been appointed to the Board for the Kids Kottage as well as Paul Nealey being reappointed to the Gilmer County Library Board of Trustees.
The Commissioners also formalized their newest Bond Refinancing through final paperwork and signatures at Aprils Regular Meeting. Paris told FYN these signings effectively end the refinancing process until the County begins realizing its savings next March with a $50,000 reduction in its payments.
A final approval came for the Commissioner’s change in the “Litter and Waste Control” chapter of ordinances that is incorporating state laws instead of County ordinances. As mentioned in previous meetings and reports, this does leave a place holder in case future Commissions feel the need for one, but the County will now officially be enforcing the state laws as always while not maintaining additional county level ordinances.
For more on the County’s Meetings check out The Trouble at the Tabor House as well as the meeting’s video below.
Gilmer BOC April Work Session:
Gilmer BOC April Regular Meeting:
Gilmer recently became host to seven representatives from the Republic of Georgia as they visited our state to study and learn agriculture and entrepreneurship from our local businesses.
The delegates met at the Bank of the Ozarks at Highland Crossing to begin their day as they have traveled to several counties in Georgia, and spent an entire day in Gilmer County. Dedicating two hours before noon, the representatives Nana Bagalishvili, Ketino Khvedelidze, Shalva Lagadze, Mindia Kavtaradze, Tinatin Gholadze, Nini Panjikidze, and Ketevan (Kety) Gviniashvili-Reaves met with County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Chairman of the Joint Development Authority and Post Commissioner Travis Crouch, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller, and Executive Director Debbie Sadler.
The Open World Leader Center (OWLC) administers the Open World Program as an independent government agency of the United States Congress and is in the Legislative Branch.
The Open World program builds the groundwork for enduring cooperation by bringing emerging government and civic leaders to the United States to work with their American counterparts and facilitates continued relations. They have hosted more than 24,000 leaders in all 50 states since 1999.
According to Sadler,
The Mission of the OWLC is to introduce rising leaders of emerging countries to the importance of legislative functions in creating and sustaining democracies. This is done through the introduction of young foreign leaders to the American democratic governing systems and free market operations at every level: federal, state, and local. The Center also maintains a continuing relationship with the network of leaders it has enlisted, especially with those from countries critical to American national security interests.
As they met with our local leaders, Chairman Crouch began the meeting formally welcoming the visitors to our county and extending our great pleasure to host them for this trip. Telling the delegates a little about Gilmer County, Crouch compared one of Georgia’s highest mountains, Shkhara, standing at 17,000 feet to our local mountains closer to 4,000 feet.
Chairman Paris spoke next, introducing our visitors to Gilmer County’s different types of agriculture, business, and industry. He walked them through Gilmer’s poultry going from the farms to the local processing plant as well as our growing grape industry and vineyards. Discussion continued in detail to explain how these industries are affecting Gilmer’s Agri-Tourism as well as the Apple Festival in October.
Questioning the way we advertise and promote the “Agri-Tourism” concept, the discussion continued as our visitors began thinking of how to incorporate these ideas and take them home to the Republic of Georgia. The delegates began asking if they could be invited back to our county in order to see the festival as well as opportunities to send workers here to work in our orchards and local farms to learn and see some of the farming technology they do not have access to at home.
As the meeting continued, two delegates offered thanks by offering gifts to Chairman Paris including Mindia Kavtaradze giving him one of his jars of honey from his homeland as Kavtaradze owns one of the largest Bee farms in the country “hosting 1,500 Bee Families.” Paris also was given a postcard from the delegates depicting the Village of Shovi and Barakoni Church.
After their meeting and a following Lunch at the Davis House, the delegates toured the Water Vendors By Us on Progress Road and stopped into R&A Orchards before ending their day at Cartecay Vineyards on Clear Creek Road. Each stop allowed the delegates to look closer into our county’s industry, but also to ask questions and dig deeper into the entrepreneurs who have built these businesses.
At Cartecay, the delegation sat down to a wine tasting comparing Gilmer’s wines to some of their own as well as European wines. Each visit became more than just teaching the delegates from Georgia, however. Speaking back and forth, they became very open and shared their own ideas and techniques with their hosts. Kavtaradze applauded Gilmer saying he could not imagine a country more hospitable than his own, but being in Gilmer exceeded his expectations saying, “I think these two Georgia’s are actually a part of one heart.”
With Piedmont’s recent ribbon cutting ceremony, FYN delved behind the scenes to take a closer look at some of Piedmont’s equipment and changes to the facilities as they move closer to opening their doors to the public.
During their Ribbon Cutting, Piedmont was welcomed into Gilmer County by Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stating, “We’re very thankful to have an ER coming into Gilmer County. In addition to health care considerations, there are a lot of cost savings that will apply…”
One of the biggest upgrades that Piedmont Mountainside CEO, Denise Ray mentioned during the ceremony was a 64-slice CT Scanner with a Double Injector function. This device replaces an older 16-slice scanner allowing for far better detail in the scans. The Double Injector is used during things like PE (Pulmonary Embolism) Studies. Nestor walked us through the aid this provides as the contrast dye is injected into patients needs to be immediately flushed.
The double injector allows the flush without requiring technicians to re-enter the room and provide the flush themselves. The upgrade from 16 to 64-slice also improves speed of the scan translating to patients as less time on the table.
Piedmont is also currently using a portable X-Ray machine in addition to its normal machine. This device can be moved into a patient’s ER room to take an x-ray and utilize that mobility to expedite care to its emergency patients. While Ike Ichite, Director of Imaging, stated the portable x-ray aids greatly in emergency care situations, he is still looking forward to a digital upgrade expected to come early next year. The digital upgrade would allow Doctor’s to quickly view the x-ray results bypassing to time to process the shots in radiology and being instantly accessed on screen of the machine.
The full digital images would also greatly increase image quality according to Jennifer Nestor. Having images of high quality instantly available will even further help doctors immediately respond to issues they find through the x-rays.
Also utilized at the local Emergency Department (ED) is the Ultrasound study. Usually utilized in blood studies such as DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), blood clot, or gall bladder issues. This device rounds out the “big three” devices used in Piedmont’s ED.
As the new Emergency Department draws closer to opening its doors, greater attention is drawn daily as Ray even commented an expectation that all of Georgia will be focusing on Gilmer County to see if free-standing ER’s could be a solution to Georgia’s rural hospital problems.
State Speaker David Ralston, in attendance at the Ribbon Cutting, spoke on that subject saying, “The whole issue of Healthcare, particularly in rural Georgia, is very challenging. Over the last three or four years, we’ve had about fifteen or sixteen rural hospitals close in Georgia.”
Ralston jokingly continued saying, “I’ve been able to brag over the last month or two that I’ve got the only one that re-opened.”
However, that was not the only message Speaker Ralston brought to Gilmer County. Thanking the local community for their support in the transition and renovations to the ED, he said, “This whole fear of the clock, the Certificate of Need and the license that was going to expire, is over. It is over, that clock has been turned off.”
The central focus of that fear has been maintaining healthcare in Gilmer County indefinitely.
Piedmont is reinforcing its ED health care with additional support throughout Gilmer County through Medical Offices, local Doctors, as well as an imaging center and local lab, for blood draws and other outpatient studies, located in the Piedmont offices behind Wal-Mart.
These supporting offices will be connected to the ED through Piedmont’s Epic System. This integrated records network will allow for all admissions and care at the Emergency Room to be instantly accessible by Piedmont’s local Doctors as well as vice versa for Emergency Care Physicians to have instant access to the records of Piedmont Doctor’s patients for pertinent information such as drug allergies.
However, Piedmont did say that other Doctors will be able to tie into the Epic System as well. While Emergency Departments can access a Doctor’s Patient files through requests, the Epic System will provide instantaneous access to those reports and files providing an expedited process.
This Epic System will effectively connect the Piedmont “Community of Healthcare” that seems to have been growing in Gilmer County over the last year. State Senator Steve Gooch stressed the importance of healthcare and its growth in community when he said, “It is very important, not only for our health care, but for our economic development, our communities, and our children… We’re grateful to Piedmont for all their investments, millions of dollars that they’ve spent here in Gilmer County.”
Piedmont is also planning to continue their training and classes they offer through Piedmont Mountainside and are expecting to grow this effort through its growth into Gilmer County. Stay with FYN as we continue our series on Piedmont Healthcare and look deeper at some of their plans for Community Growth through classes, internships, training, participation with local entities, and even their hope for the future in the possibility of two acute-care rooms in the Emergency Department.
As the Piedmont Stand-Alone Emergency Department enters the final stages of preparation and inspections, they held a celebration with local and state officials to honor the occasion.
Construction is complete and renovations are over, the near $2 million project is now awaiting final inspections and approval of the actual ED (Emergency Department) itself. Upon completion of those, Piedmont will be officially declaring its opening date.
The Ribbon Cutting ceremony was attended by not only local officials like Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Post Commissioner and Greater Gilmer JDA (Joint Development Authority) Chairman Travis Crouch, and Director of Public Safety Tony Pritchett, but also state officials State Senator Steve Gooch and House Speaker David Ralston.
Piedmont is also already looking to the future of the Emergency Department with suggestions of providing an upgrade to digital for the X-Ray machines in 2018 as well as integration into its Epic System for the local Piedmont Healthcare Offices in Gilmer County that citizens have seen on Industrial Boulevard and on Eller Road behind Walmart in East Ellijay.
This Epic System is an integrated records network that will allow for all admissions and care at the Emergency Room to be instantly accessible by Piedmont’s local Doctors as well as vice versa for Emergency Care Physicians to have instant access to the records of Piedmont Doctor’s patients for pertinent information such as Drug Allergies.
Stay tuned to FYN in the coming days as we delve deeper into the Emergency Department including a look behind the scenes at some of new changes Piedmont is bringing to Gilmer County’s Emergency Care as well as a closer look at the equipment and Epic System.
Meanwhile, check in with the Gilmer Chamber below to watch the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
Chairman Charlie Paris read to the Students at North Georgia Christian Academy on Read Across America Day on March 2, 2017 proving “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild to pick up a book and read to a child.”
HATS OFF TO CHARLIE PARIS
Several items are setting the path for the Commissioners to move through the end of the year and even to already begin looking into next year in the county.
Even what some call minor items like the Commissioner’s Memorandum of Understanding to allow the Gilmer County Boys and Girls Club to start processes for attaining the County’s Lease Agreement to expand their facilities at the Civic Center show that the Board is looking forward to the process. While Chairman Paris mentioned at the meeting that this is not a full resolution for the agreement, it is a type of agreement to say they will offer the lease in an effort for the Club to begin fund-raising for the project and processes before the County sits down to formally enter an agreement with the Club. This process also allows the early processes for the Club to begin such as designs. Basically, a “pre-agreement” allows these situations to develop with the understanding that the lease will be offered at the correct time. The Commissioners also set the Memorandum of Understanding to include that the Boys and Girls Club will follow Building Code Regulations and regulations on the Flood Zone as they look to construct a new building next to the Civic Center. This agreement has been discussed over the last severl Commissioner Workshops and will continue as the process develops into rest of this year and on into 2017.
Another item many citizens were paying attention to may have surprised many. A failure to motion may actually be considered by citizens as a type of Approval. Indeed, the Board allowed an item to fail at the meeting with a specific reason. As consideration was held for an ordinance to allow registration and use of UTVs (Utility Task Vehicles, otherwise known as “Side-by-Sides”) on the County Roads, Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated, “We don’t find anything prohibiting this and we see no need for a county ordinance specifically allowing it.” The Commissioners then moved to take no action on the item, however, the statement seems to allow the usage of these vehicles as there is no restriction against it currently.
New action came for the EMS and Ambulance Transport Fees Ordinance as a Public Hearing and First Reading for the Ordinance were held Thursday, October 13. No citizens came to speak at the Hearing, and the Commissioners approved the First Reader. However, there is still time to contact Chairman Paris at the Board of Commissioners office or to attend November’s Commissioner Meeting to voice any questions citizens may have. If the second reading is approved, Gilmer County could see these Fees implemented as early as December 1st, pending the actual language in the Approval. As they are collected, these fees will be put into the General Fund of the County, credited as revenue generated from Emergency Medical Services for Budget purposes.
Financially, the Commissioners also made moves to support future services in the County by awarding a bid to Pictometry as part of a proposal for Ortho and Oblique Imagery Deliverables. This is a part of the Counties recent moves toward updating the aerial photography for the County. Another item discussed over several months, this item began with an initial proposal from Pictometry, but was later put to Bid as required by County Ordinance. The project comes on the heels of a previous Consent Order to the County, but also as the County looks forward to using this in Planning and Zoning to verify information as well as other possible County departments including a potential Law Enforcement usage once discussed in specific situations requiring an area view including buildings. While Pictometry was not the lowest bid offered, Chairman Paris offered a description stating the two received bids were not actually an “Apples-to-Apples” comparison. Meaning the other bid did not include all wanted options in its base bid. After adding in all desired options put in the Bid Requests, Pictometry became the lowest bid.
The Road Department is also receiving budget amendments as they seek to move forward on projects. One such project was approved up to $25,000 to cover repairs to the Parks Road Bridge. The Bridge was primarily damaged in the early December floods of last year, but has continued slowly degrading in the proceeding months as continued use and heavy trucks wore on the damage.
The second approval covered up to $40,000 for the cost of a Paving Roller to continue maintenance of Gilmer’s Roads. The County’s previous Roller’s bearings were damaged. Due to the age and difficulty to find parts, Chairman Paris has said it is a question of reliability and cost-effectiveness of continuing to repair the current Roller, and instead the Board has decided to began looking for a newer used Roller for usage.
For more information about these stories or to follow the Commissioners process through both its Work Session and Regular Meeting, check out FYN’s videos of the Meetings below.