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.

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Will Gilmer become a Second Amendment Sanctuary?

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Second Amendment Sanctuary

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Debate has risen among some in the county after the Gilmer Board of Commissioners published the agenda for their February meetings as people are noticing an agenda item to discuss becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary.

The official discussion with the BOC will occur during their work session this Wednesday, February 12. 2020, at 9:00 a.m and continue during the Regular Meeting with a final vote on Thursday, February 13, 2020, at 6:00 p.m.

Gilmer County's Board of Commissioners at a previous meeting. From left to right, City Clerk Edwina Daman, Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker, Chairman Charlie Paris, Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, and County Attorney David Clark.

Gilmer County’s Board of Commissioners at a previous meeting. From left to right, City Clerk Edwina Daman, Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker, Chairman Charlie Paris, Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, and County Attorney David Clark.

The item, listed as “Discussion and possible action of Gilmer County becoming a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary,” would declare Gilmer County as an official protection for the second amendment. It would be public statement against the Federal Government that if they should ever pass a law we consider to hinder or damage the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

One of the people leading this charge, Jason Williamson, spoke with FYN about the Resolution. He said he has seen many other counties passing similar resolutions. Williamson said he and another submitted the resolution alongside petitions to show the communities desire for support. Williamson said the petitions are key in showing “a presence of support.” While he hasn’t completed the petitions and doesn’t know exactly how many supporters have signed so far, he will be turning these petitions in as part of preparation for Wednesday.

With the meeting only days away, the Gilmer Sheriff, Stacy Nicholson, has also shown support for the resolution. Williamson said he is glad to have his support saying he felt confident going into the meeting.

Williamson said, “I am very big on the Second Amendment. I realized, and most people do, that the Second Amendment is the only protection we have from tyranny. When I started seeing what the state leadership of Virginia was doing, and hearing some of the other things from friends of mine that live there, we, the people, need to speak out.”

He went on to say that while Georgia hasn’t officially passed anything that he sees directly threatening yet, this is a message to other counties and other states that we support this and to also push the point to expose our leadership’s views on the subject in Georgia and in our counties.

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson

Part of that leadership, Sheriff Nicholson told FYN that he was fully in support saying, “I support, wholeheartedly, these resolutions being passed by counties in Georgia… I think it sends a good message to our legislatures in Washington and to those in Atlanta.”

Nicholson offered that while he hasn’t read the specific resolution being put forward in Gilmer, yet, he is very pro second amendment.

FYN questioned exactly what kind of power or pushback this resolution would legally give in the event of State Legislation. To which, Nicholson replied, “I think it’s more about sending a message to the entire nation where we stand on protecting our citizens’ constitutional rights.”

It was a sentiment separately repeated by Williamson who agreed the resolution was a preemptive move to put Gilmer in the position of being proactive rather than reactive to any such legislation.

Additionally, he went on to say the topic also “to make sure that our Sheriffs understand that they’ve got our support just as much we ask for their support as they are the supreme authority as the constable of the county.”

Williamson said he wants everyone who can attend to show support for the resolution to be present at this weeks meetings. Some have already offered counter points to the resolution saying that as a sanctuary nation by right due to the second amendment being a part of the constitution. Williamson said he has had some calling the resolution a “waste of time” because of this. But his response comes as he points to both the state and federal governments offering “interpretations” of the law and constitution. He said that much has been degraded through these people constantly picking apart these amendments to “what they think is reasonable.”

Instead, Williamson said, “I think this is just, hopefully, going to put that debate to bed.”

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Pool Demolition Bids approved at BOC

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County 2020 budget, Pool Demolition

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Though short, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners’ Special Called Meeting saw a large step forward as demolition on the county’s old pool is set to start before February 1.

During the meeting, the Board announced Jacob Anderson Co. LLC. as the lowest bidder for the demolition project. Their bid was reported in the meeting at $76,000.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said in the meeting that the county has had previous dealings with this company. They were awarded the demolition project of chicken houses on county property.

Additionally, Public Works Director Jim Smith also commented on the company saying even the few smaller problems that were raised with previous projects, he noted an example of mud on the road, were quickly dealt with as soon as he brought them up. Smith went on to say he had nothing but good things to say about the county’s experiences so far with the company.

Moving forward with this project, demolition beginning no later than February 1, 2020, the county will be inspecting the project closely as they look for issues and concerns to address before it starts bidding out the coming construction of the new pool.

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TSPLOST negotiations highlight cities’ split

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Paving roads and the amount of spending came into debate as the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners met with Mayors and members of City Hall from both Ellijay and East Ellijay today to discuss TSPLOST negotiations.

The discussion centered on the split that each entity wanted to see with the upcoming possible TSPLOST tax. Each entity vied for an increase to their portion over and above what they got for the previous SPLOST split. Debate arose around the idea of the cities increasing to a flat 2 percent for East Ellijay and 6 percent for Ellijay. This would be up from the 1.93 percent that East Ellijay has with the SPLOST split and up from 5.72 percent that Ellijay has.

However, as the discussion progressed, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said he also wanted the county’s percentage to go up considering the 500 miles of road in the unincorporated parts of the county, roads maintained by the county.

The two mayors countered with arguments of their own. Mayor of Ellijay, Al Hoyle noted that many of the roads they maintain in the city are used more than those in the outer parts as people travel out of town on city-maintained roads to reach the county roads.

East Ellijay Mayor Mack West added to the notion saying that East Ellijay has a constant need for Eller Road as an example. Due to the high traffic and usage, the road is already showing cracks after only three years since paving.

However, the topic ultimately came to rest at proceeding with the same split that each entity sees on the normal SPLOST, Gilmer County receives 92 percent, Ellijay receives 5.72 percent, and East Ellijay receives 1.93 percent.

However, the negotiations of percentage were not the only discussion held in the meeting as citizens debated the TSPLOST in the Citizens Wishing to Speak section.

Bill Craig, of North Georgia Diamond, voiced his opinion that the retail business community may have been left out of the discussion on the topic. Saying that the county hasn’t considered the impact to businesses that more sales tax might have. He offered scenarios to consider that people visiting might go elsewhere or stop early to buy groceries or similar necessities if they visit Ellijay, or that someone might visit another county to buy larger items like his store provides, being jewelry and diamonds.

While Paris did say he met with one retailer privately to discuss the topic, Craig repeated that he felt the county had not done enough to understand the business impact.

Mayor West commented on possible impact saying if he was going to buy something like a diamond, he would shop with North Georgia Diamond over driving to Atlanta for only a $100 difference, coming from the 1 percent sales tax increase.

Craig went on to say that adding TSPLOST would make Gilmer one of the highest sales tax percentages in the state.

Georgia Sales and Use Tax Rate Chart - Gilmer TSPLOST Negotiations

Georgia Sales and Use Tax Rate Chart

In fact, according to the Georgia Sales and Use Tax Rate Chart (pictured to the right) published, for January 2020, by the Georgia Department of Revenue, of the 159 counties in Georgia, just over half of them have an 8 percent sales tax.

Actually, 83 counties have an 8 percent sales tax, while 69 counties (including Gilmer) have a 7 percent sales tax, 4 counties have a 6 percent sales tax, and only one county, Ware County, has a 9 percent sales tax. This does exclude Fulton and DeKalb counties with split sales tax in parts of the county according to this document.

Also, there are 87 counties that currently have some form of a TSPLOST, whether it is the original state TSPLOST or a locally added TSPLOST after that statewide vote.

Looking more specifically to the Highway 515 corridor, as some have called it, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, and Union Counties all, currently, have a sales tax rate of 7 including LOST (Local Option Sales Tax), SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), and ESPLOST (Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).

One more comment of major note came from Chairman Paris who said, “I’m fine with it either way,” when discussing if the TSPLOST will pass on the ballots. Paris admitted a large amount of pressure on him from the public. He has stated in previous meetings that he feels the road department and the county’s roads are progressing. He ultimately simplified the discussion and the TSPLOST vote as he summed it up by saying its a decision on if we want our roads fixed over the next 25 years or the next 5 years. The TSPLOST, as he described, is simply a way to achieve the same results faster.

 

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TSPLOST debate moves to include cities

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is advertising a meeting early in the new year with the city governments of Ellijay and East Ellijay.

This Special Called Meeting, set for January 7, 2020, at 10 a.m., has only one agenda item, “Discussion and possible action of Intergovernmental Agreement for a proposed T-SPLOST with the Cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay.”

Recent months have seen the TSPLOST progress from an idea in the Roads and Bridges Town Hall to approval to be on the ballot in less than two months.

The meeting is actually set the day before the county is set to hold its January Workshop, scheduled for January 8, 2019, at 9 a.m.

While not fully confirmed, the county has held similar meetings in the past when discussing their SPLOST renewal in 2018 where they negotiated each of the cities’ percentage that they would take from the tax. At that time, it was confirmed that the county could have moved forward without the cities, but noted several benefits to cooperating and negotiating their involvement.

With the TSPLOST, there has been no specific discussion on the need, benefits, or reason for involving the cities since the Board already approved the TSPLOST to go for a vote on the ballots without them. However, County Attorney David Clark did say at that meeting that the county needed to finalize details and work on a few more items before they would be ready to put it on the ballot.

In any scenario, at this time, it appears the county will be reaching out to the cities for their support of or involvement in the TSPLOST in the coming week.

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Budget and Airport discussed in year end special meeting

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Two days before Christmas, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners met to discuss last-minute items of the 2020 Budget and an Airport lease before the end of 2019.

Approving the 2020 Budget, the Board is officially ready for the year after a process starting in September preparing for Budget Hearings with Department Heads and Elected Officials.

With discussions over the Road Department from Public Works Director Jim Smith, the topic of attracting people for positions came up as Smith requested confirmation of budgeting for two unfilled positions.

The county has been looking for people to hire into these positions for months and still has not hired anyone. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris did say the funding was there, but voiced concerns over the possibility of filling the positions after the long period.

The board is also moving forward with a lease to the Georgia Forestry Commission. Public Works Director Jim Smith is finalizing details alongside County Attorney David Clark as they divide one back room and split between the airport and the commission without granting access to the entire area for the commission.

The county is awaiting a response on changes to the agreement and should be finalizing the lease in the coming months. One detail still in flux is a request for control over a full hangar, another is an issue with credit cards and the county’s card reader for the purchase of fuel. With several possibilities being discussed, the board left Smith to work through the operational details over the office space, hangar space, and buying fuel. The item will return to the January agenda for the board to see the agreement and vote on approval.

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Frustrations in BOC over pool project

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Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement

ELLIJAY, Ga. – County officials are looking deeper into the demolition of the county’s old pool and deciding what to salvage and what to dispose of as they look at placing the county’s new pool project there.

The county is also looking at the plumbing as Maintenance Director D.J. Spagnola said he wanted to be involved with the process as the dig down so that he could look at plumbing for the restrooms and pool project to determine needed fixes and replacements before they move forward with constructing the new pool.

Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said at the December meetings, “Originally, I really wanted to have this done by opening day. I don’t think we’re going to be able to make that… I’m getting really frustrated because it has been seven months now…”

Paris went on to say that most of the county’s time has been spent looking for a location when it started at Clear Creek and then on to River Park. The county began looking for property but came to the conclusion that they didn’t want the old location due to the costs of demolition, a project they could effectively delay until a later date. Now, considering the costs of buying property versus demolishing the old location for the new pool.

The county has almost completely decided on this location for the new pool. However, reservations are still being held as Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson has said in previous meetings that she wants to see what they find during the demolition before setting the location in stone. She did note that she is for the location, but is just wanting to hold a way out in case they find something big and to consider the price of the demolition.

As Paris said he still wanted to expedite the project to attempt to complete it before the season ends, Ferguson said, “I commend you for the work. We’ve tried different avenues. I think this is too important a project to speed through and rush it anyway… I think it’s better that we have taken the time and we have tried different options. We have considered all options that were possibilities.”

The county is focusing on this location, though, and are looking to get out and receive bids on the demolition as soon as possible.

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TSPLOST vote will be on ballot in 2020

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Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A unanimous vote this week from the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) gave final approval to put a new tax of TSPLOST to public vote in the new year as they prepare to address Roads and Bridges issues.

The new tax will be a TSPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) specifically designed to bring in new funding to address the 501 miles of paved roads within Gilmer County that the county is responsible for paving and maintaining.

Citizens have been debating this issue in earnest since November 13 when a Roads and Bridges town hall meeting turned to a TSPLOST discussion after Commission Chairman Charlie Paris put the idea forth saying he could not find any alternative to address the issues as quickly as people have been wanting. However, the discussion has been going in the BOC since budget sessions and talks of shrinking the contingency fund in late October and early November.

This week, the Chairman said that the recent Post 1 Commissioner campaign really “stirred the pot.” The campaign highlighted an issue that many people understood that progress was being made slowly. Now, people are getting more vocal about the issues. Paris said, “And they’re right. We need to do something about this.”

The board appears to agree that raising the millage rate to fund the roads is completely out of the question. Instead of raising the taxes of the millage rate, a new TSPLOST tax is coming forward to be voted on by the public.

As discussion from the work session continued on the TSPLOST, the commissioners discussed the difference between the TSPLOST and continuing as-is. The major note came to be speed. Paris has stated several times since November that he believes the progress will continue as they strengthen the road department. Paris said this week that a TSPLOST will allow us to accomplish over the next 5 years what we will accomplish over the next 25 years.

Also mentioned in the meeting, Paris said he believes the option of bonding the TSPLOST is out. He explained that if approved the county will pursue rights of way, begin collections that are allocated quarterly, and citizens would really see a big effort increase in the Road Department by Spring of 2021. In fact, Paris said later in the meeting, “If these folks approve this TSPLOST, I am going to be paving in the Spring of 2021.”

This discussion also restated Paris’ desire to switch future projects in the county to start bidding out asphalt paving projects across LMIG and new projects and having the Road Department continue with tar and chip and other roads.

County Attorney David Clark urged the commissioners to continue talks in the coming months to focus and list all possible projects for the TSPLOST as the discussion has ignored the bridge issues in the county, many of which have come from failures in the maintenance of those bridges

Paris clarified that while they have not been specifically mentioned, thoughts for bridges has definitely been on his mind.

Still, Clark said the board should get their projects set and details set 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 a TSPLOST.

With approval to be put on the ballot done, many questions are still out there on the topic. 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.

Additionally, estimated collections are still to be calculated and details worked out for the coming vote.

Newly elected Post 1 Commissioner, Hubert Parker also spoke in the meeting saying, “You’ve identified the situation and the options. SPLOST is the only tax I know of where the voters have a direct voice rather than going through an elected representative. So, I think it’s up to them…”

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