Cherry Log Fire Station: a promise fulfilled?

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Holding their groundbreaking ceremony over the weekend, Gilmer County has already spent months clearing land and preparing the lot on Pink Pig Lane for a new fire station.

With a contractor moving forward, officials gathered together to formally break ground on the building’s construction. Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston visited with Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller, and Gilmer Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett as they joined with local citizens to celebrate the project.

Officials turn the first shovel of dirt in the groundbreaking ceremony for Cherry Log's Fire Station.

Officials turn the first shovel of dirt in the groundbreaking ceremony for Cherry Log’s Fire Station.

With the original fire station in the area closed several years ago, citizens have continually expressed the importance of replacing it. A fire station in the area was promised but proved to be slow going. According to local resident Ernest Watkins, many of those in the area lost faith and didn’t believe the station would ever be built. Watkins told FetchYourNews (FYN) the station means everything to him as he had two sons who became volunteer firefighters and having the new location represents the culmination of his community coming together and being heard in what they are wanting.

Opening the ceremony, Pritchett spoke on the importance of the project saying, “Community fire and emergency response capabilities for our citizens are the most vital and important services a local government can provide.” He went on to thank the current Board of Commissioners for making the project a priority and following through with the community through consistent hurdles and obstacles they encountered.

Chairman Charlie Paris thanks Cherry Log residents for their patience in building the Fire Station.

Chairman Charlie Paris thanks Cherry Log residents for their patience in building the fire station.

Chairman Paris echoed the sentiments on the community thanking the Sisson Family who donated the land for the fire station as well as the people of Cherry Log saying, “You’ve been promised for years and years now that there is going to be a fire station here. It has been my objective to make that happen … This groundbreaking today is actually a confirmation of our promise to you that this is going to get built. We are going forward on it.”

Paris thanked citizens for their patience in the project as he and the current board have worked through the trials and tougher points of completing it.

The contract sets the station to be completed within six months from now. This sets the station to be open before next winter and available for any needs such as warming centers or shelters like any other station. Paris confirmed the new building will be a volunteer station and that the county already has volunteer firefighters planned at the location. The new location, dubbed Fire Station No. 3, will be an unmanned station that utilizes the volunteers to man the position.

With the ceremony completed and construction underway, Paris said the next step will be preparing equipment and readying the transfer of that equipment to the facility.

Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett looks on as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston offers a few words for the fire station groundbreaking.

Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, right, looks on as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston offers a few words for the fire station groundbreaking.

Ralston praised the community’s efforts throughout the project saying he wanted to show his support for them. The “community spirit and pride” were what Ralston said laid the foundation. The fire station represents a “capstone” on their efforts locally. He went on to say he was very proud of the community and all they had accomplished.

His sentiment was later echoed by Paris who told FYN in a one-on-one interview that it was the community who stayed with the project. Considering some citizens becoming demoralized after the years they had waited for the project, Paris said, “The fact that we have done this, this is hard to ignore … They just wanted it to happen, and now that it is, I think the folks here are pretty happy with it.”

Paris also praised his Post Commissioners Dallas Miller and Travis Crouch for their support in the project saying, “There has never been a question about whether Cherry Log needed to have a fire station.”

Moving forward, citizens will continue to watch the project progress through construction and paving, marching ever closer to finally completing a promise years in the making.

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County issues moratorium on tiny homes

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Specifically stated for tiny homes on wheels, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have issued a moratorium on tiny homes on wheels, tree houses for habitation, or containers for habitation in Gilmer County.

With the commissioners referencing certifications and codes for buildings, it was said that tiny homes built on site were considered the same as any house as they would be built to code and inspected properly. However, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said in their meeting that tiny homes on wheels can be built elsewhere and brought into the county similar to an RV, motor home, or mobile home.

The difference, however, is that those all have processes and associations to inspect and certify them as safe. The commissioners said the pre-fabricated tiny homes they have dealt with have no regulations for inspections or anything of that sort.

Due to the lack of certification, the commissioners are issuing this moratorium officially stating they want to take time to look at the issue and see how to properly handle the situation.

While this issue has been mentioned in their work session for the past three months, the commissioners had recently said they would allow tiny homes on wheels as long as they had been certified and inspected but no specific change or resolution was made. Now, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch indicated the impact and importance of dealing with the item stating, “It’s an up and coming movement with young people trying to get started in life. It’s economical. I understand the appeal. I do recognize the need to define it and adjust the ordinance.”

Part of the discussion for the moratorium came with Crouch specifying he was only okay with the moratorium if the long-term goal was to accommodate the tiny homes on wheels in the future.

Paris echoed the sentiment saying he wanted to accommodate them similar to mobile homes.

Part of their process is to define how the county views these tiny homes on wheels, be that as mobile homes, RVs, or something similar as well as specifying requirements for the buildings for safety and habitation.

The moratorium is set to last 180 days with the option to extend if necessary. Stay with FetchYourNews and continue attending the monthly commissioner meetings as they continue the process for an ordinance change to deal with the issue.

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BOE considers 2018 issues in November

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga – The Gilmer County Board of Education (BOE) is moving forward for a change on one front while maybe avoiding change on another for next year.

First, the BOE has approved a motion to begin the process to change the board members compensation from $50 per meeting to $400 per month. Initial response from citizens have been conflicted with such a drastic increase. However, with this approval, the item will be sent to the General Assembly to be considered in the next session in early 2018. Then, if approved, Gilmer County Board of Education Member Michael Bramlett tells FYN that the change will not take effect for board members until the next time their seat is elected.

This means that the current Board of Education members will have to be re-elected before they, or the newly elected member, could take advantage of the compensation change, and that is if it is approved at the General Assembly.

Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes told FYN the Board has never set anything about compensation previously, which means it was automatically set at $50 per meeting. But a feeling now that the $50 was insufficient for the work put in ushered forth the motion for a change.

Wilkes also stated that this is already being done by neighboring Fannin County. The switch means going from some months with only the work session and regular session and some with at least five or more meetings. Wilkes stated it was likely, more when the Board was searching for a Superintendent before she was hired, to a set rate for the month regardless of the number of meetings.

As for avoiding a change, the BOE listened to one citizen who signed up to speak at their regular meeting. Brian Pritchard spoke to the board to ask them not to change the leadership of their football program. The Gilmer Bobcats football team has seen a lot of change over the last three years with continuing shifts in coaches across two 0-10 seasons. While Pritchard never mentioned names, he stated the current leadership was what the kids needed. It was a leadership “they would play for.”

The point to note came later in the meeting when the Board approved its November personnel changes. No resignations, terminations or retirements were shown on the list. While personnel was discussed earlier in the week during executive session, before Pritchard’s comments, it will be something they say they consider moving forward.

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Citizen’s Speak to Sanctuary County

News

During the Commissioner’s Meeting for July, several citizens stepped forward to speak about an item on the agenda that one citizen requested be put on.

John Williamson spoke first saying his motivation for the topic was his belief in the country and rule of law. With the recent national attention to Sanctuary Cities and Counties, Williamson says he began wondering if Gilmer has become a “de facto Sanctuary County.” Though no resolution has passed to make Gilmer County such, Williamson began questioning if we are not sufficiently enforcing immigration laws.

Citing the 2014 resolution from the County Commissioners instructing law enforcement to enforce immigration laws, Williamson asked those in attendance if they believed there were no illegal immigrants in the county? With no comments, he pointed that question to the county is not whether we want to enforce laws, but that it is necessary to enforce them in following the constitution.

Williamson also noted effects he’s seen on the County including the Board of Education’s addition of two new ESL teachers due to increases in children requiring the service.

Jason Williamson speaks with Gilmer Commissioner during the Sanctuary County topic of the July BOC Meeting.

Jason Williamson speaks with Gilmer Commissioner during the Sanctuary County topic of the July BOC Meeting.

Others spoke at the meeting as well including one citizen who brought up a death on 515, saying the case is still unsolved. He did state his support for anyone from any country moving to our county through the proper paperwork and processes. Offering newspaper cutouts to the Commissioners with Sheriff Reports and notes regarding numerous crime reports involving illegal immigrants, he went on to say that our law enforcement and government services are being added stress through these situations. It is the taxpayers who foot the bill for illegals through these services and crimes involving them.

Still more citizens echoed the sentiments, stating a moral obligation to deal with these situations.

Post Commissioner Dallas Miller commented on the subject reading parts of the resolution he was a part of in 2014. Miller stated the Commissioners have dealt with the issue through that resolution along with the county’s denial to the Federal Government to house illegal immigrants in the county. Chairman Charlie Paris answered citizens questioning the Sheriff’s role saying they should be speaking with him about the level of enforcement and other questions.

Jason Williamson asked the Commissioners if the Commissioner’s Meeting could be used as a venue to speak with Sheriff Stacy Nicholson about the topic. While Paris suggested they make the request of Sheriff Nicholson himself, he did say the Commissioners Meeting would be available as a venue stating, “We would certainly make him feel welcome.”

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