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.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With August fast approaching, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) has officially approved the advertisement of their Millage Rate for the year.
Accepting the Rollback Rate at 6.898 mills, a 0.085 mill drop from the current 6. 983, the Commissioners will still realize a decrease of $119,582 between the two rates, according to Financial Officer Sandi Holden.
The Rollback Rate was not the first motion, however. Post Commissioner Dallas Miller first made a motion to maintain the current millage rate despite the state forcing them to call it an increase saying, “For the last five years… we have held that same millage rate constant. I like that and I believe that is some good history because we have fought the battle through the depression and recession and things… We have done what I consider the best job we knew how to do managing what money we get from our citizens.”
Miller went on to say there was only one reason to not keep the current rate. The same debate they have gone through every year at the time to set millage rate. The state forces the county to call it a tax increase even though they do not increase the rate.
Miller also noted that the Board of Commissioners and the Tax Assessors are separated on taxes. Miller made certain to note that even if the Commissioners accept the Rollback Rate, it doesn’t mean that no citizen will see a tax increase from their assessments.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris countered with a similarly repeated thought over the past years when he said that if he did vote to accept what would be called a tax increase, he wanted it to be worth more than what this rollback represents.
As the first motion failed due to the lack of a second, Paris made a motion to accept the Rollback Rate. It was seconded and approved 2-1 with Miller being the dissenting vote.
While discussion did move to the possibility of lowering the Bond Millage with the improving economic health in the county, the official motion came to maintain the rate as it currently sits.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County is still amid disorder this week as Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris confirmed with FYN that the current Gilmer County Interim Fire Chief, Brian Scudder, has left the office.
“We just weren’t on the same page about some things,” said Paris on Thursday as he reiterated the changes he is hoping to see come in the Fire Department of Gilmer County. Scudder is still in the Fire Department but is no longer serving as Interim Chief.
These changes began when former Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett resigned from office in early February. Though originally resigning effective on March 15, Paris said he later had decided that Pritchett’s presence was not coordinating with his plans for the future and made an agreement with Pritchett to pay his original agreement out to March 15, but to remove Pritchett from the county immediately.
Chairman Paris originally wanted to separate the position into three positions including Fire Chief, EMA Director, and Public Safety Director. In Paris’ eyes, the Public Safety Director would have been the Department’s head with managerial responsibilities with EMA Director and Fire Chief serving under him in their areas of expertise with the requirements, technicalities, and skills required in those positions.
However, he settled for two positions instead of three and named Brian Scudder to Interim Fire Chief and Keith Kucera to the Interim Public Safety/EMA Director.
However, in the progressing weeks, conflict and turmoil have arisen in the Fire Department resulting in two internal investigations and several changes in the systems make-up.
Paris states he has had enough with the way things have been in the Fire Department. “There is s a significant amount of turmoil in the Fire Department right now,” says Paris.
Soon after naming the two to the position, an incident at Fire Station 1 occurred with one firefighter finding his bed saturated in water. An investigation ensued immediately into the occurrence. Paris openly admitted that while they did not discover exactly who was behind the act, he felt he did send a message to the department about the changes he wants.
However, the Fire Department’s other investigation went much further as Paris states that on a Friday morning he offered Scudder the position of Fire Chief, Kucera was out of town, so Paris waited until Monday morning to offer the Public Safety Director Position. Paris states that at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, he held a meeting with Tony Pritchett to share his appointments with him.
Then, Tuesday morning, Paris received a complaint about Kucera trying to get people to protest the appointment of Scudder to Fire Chief. After meeting with Kucera and interrogating him on the allegations, Paris called in several firefighters that were set to protest the Fire Chief position. Questioning each individually about how and when they found out about Brian Scudder’s appointment which had not been announced yet. The overwhelming response indicated that all but one had learned about the appointments early Monday morning from Tony Pritchett, having found out about the appointments prior to his meeting with Charlie.
Paris tells FYN that the investigation cleared Kucera of any allegations of protest or antagonism in Department. He continued saying that most of the response he has had is positive about Kucera’s appointment.
Moving past the investigations, Paris says he is confident moving forward with his appointment of Keith Kucera to interim Public Safety Director and his new appointment he is announcing of Mike Dempsey to Interim Fire Chief.
At this point, there is still no indication as to who or what is causing instigations in the Fire and EMS, but Paris seemed to indicate that he doesn’t care. He says he is focused on moving forward and buckling down on the departments’ disciplinary actions.
Naming Mike Dempsey as the new interim Fire Chief, Paris says that he has gone about the appointment slightly different as this time, he has taken recommendations from Kucera and references to consider. Part of the consideration Paris had for Dempsey in the interim position is that Dempsey has no consideration or desire for the permanent position.
2018 Georgia Election Run-Off Results
Tonight marks the run-offs for election races in Georgia, these results are unofficial until approved by the Secretary of State.
Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 756,016 votes 51.97%
John Barrow (D) – 698,770 votes 48.03%
Public Service Commission, District 3
Chuck Eaton (R) – 749,805 votes 51.83%
Lindy Miller (D) – 696,957 votes 48.17%
Check for local results by county here:
Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 4,337 votes 83.13%
John Barrow (D) – 880 votes 16.87%
Public Service Commission, District 3
Chuck Eaton (R) – 4,250 votes 81.79%
Lindy Miller (D) – 946 votes 18.21%
Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 4,408 votes 84.01%
John Barrow (D) – 839 votes 15.99%
Public Service Commission, District 3
Chuck Eaton (R) – 4,325 votes 82.70%
Lindy Miller (D) – 905 17.30%
Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 3,522 votes 81.89%
John Barrow (D) – 779 votes 18.11%
Public Service Commission, District 3
Chuck Eaton (R) – 3,454 votes 80.57%
Lindy Miller (D) – 833 votes 19.43%
Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 3,985 votes 85.83%
John Barrow (D) – 658 votes 14.17%
Public Service Commission, District 3
Chuck Eaton (R) – 3,939 votes 85.02%
Lindy Miller (D) – 694 votes 14.98%
Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 4,063 votes 82.78%
John Barrow (D) – 845 votes 17.22%
Public Service Commission, District 3
Chuck Eaton (R) – 3,960 votes 80.82%
Lindy Miller (D) – 940 votes 19.18%
Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 4,246 votes 80.92%
John Barrow (D) – 1,001 votes 19.08%
Public Service Commission, District 3
Chuck Eaton (R) – 4,108 votes 78.65%
Lindy Miller (D) – 1,115 votes 21.35%
Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 2,161 votes 79.95%
John Barrow (D) – 542 votes 20.05%
Public Service Commission, District 3
Chuck Eaton (R) – 2,105 votes 78.22%
Lindy Miller (D) – 586 votes 21.78%
Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 2,699 votes 88.99%
John Barrow (D) – 334 votes 11.01%
Public Service Commission, District 3
Chuck Eaton (R) – 2,691 votes 88.84%
Lindy Miller (D) – 338 votes 11.16%
Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 3,378 votes 78.47%
John Barrow (D) – 927 votes 21.53%
Public Service Commission, District 3
Chuck Eaton (R) – 3,337 votes 77.89%
Lindy Miller (D) – 947 votes 22.11%
ELLIJAY, Ga – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are moving forward with plans to seek state recognition of the school system’s major success in the wrestling world with a proclamation of Gilmer as the State Wrestling Capital.
Parents and Coaches filled the Commissioner’s conference room on Wednesday, September 12, to ask the board for a sign at the county line claiming Gilmer as the wrestling capital of the state in honor of the 17 state titles the county has brought home in the sport.
Coach Mark Waddell spoke first for citizens in the work session saying that what Gilmer has accomplished is “pretty unprecedented.” Noting the 17 team state titles, he said that these were only the team’s titles, not individuals.
As each student practices and becomes part of the team, several parents noted in the work session that their kids have become entirely different people. From the discipline to the camaraderie and the inclusion of faith into the program, many of those present threw support behind the idea, lauding the coaches who have done so much and pushed these athletes to accomplish even more.
One parent even said, “They carry themselves differently.” The changes the students go through during the program was constantly repeated emphasizing its importance to them.
Waddell asked for the support of the Commissioners in placing a sign to highlight the 17 combined titles. He noted that part of the success is that it is a singular program. It doesn’t individualize the middle school, the youth, and the high school. With the whole program on track to a singular vision, the success follows with the students accomplishing everything they can.
Coach Sam Snider also spoke about the program’s state recognition sharing stories about the numerous times that Speaker David Ralston brought Gilmer Wrestling to the capital to highlight their championships. Students from Gilmer are spreading across the country, Snider pointed to those who wrestle on scholarships in college and others who use what the program teaches to further their careers in other areas.
Honoring their success, these and other coaches want to highlight the students with a sign acknowledging them. As Snider said, “A sign that says Gilmer County has accomplished this rewards success.”
Coaches weren’t the only ones pushing for recognition of these students as several parents were present at the Work Session. Some spoke of the program’s influence, but Jim Fox emotionally recalled one of the parades they held for winning the state championship, “The memory I have is right across the square during the parade. People were coming out on the sidewalks from the different stores. And out of the city barbershop comes a man with shaving cream on half of his face and a bib trailing behind him… We were escorting all the trucks down the road and I got a view of the sunrise, the flags, and people cheering and wondering what was going on. They were coming out of the store saying, ‘Why is traffic stopped?'”
Fox continued saying that they were explaining that they were celebrating the young people involved in the state wrestling title when he was asked, “Gilmer County won a state wrestling title?”
Fox says he replied, “No, they won two.”
No less emotion came to the Commissioners Regular Meeting when coaches returned with part of the wrestling team. This time, though, it wasn’t parents or coaches to share what the program meant. It was a wrestler, Thomas Chastain, who stood before the Commissioners saying, “It helps everybody grow as a team. Most people don’t think wrestling is a team sport, but it is because you all have to work together to get a team score to get first. Not just one person can get first in duals.”
Addressing the request for a sign calling Gilmer the capital, Post Commissioner Travis Crouch said the state would only give the county one state-level recognized “capital” sign. Though that didn’t stop the board from planning to seek state-level recognition without the sign.
Additionally, Crouch brought up an older discussion that the county seek a county-owned sign at the line recognizing the Wrestling Capital among other things.
Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris noted that an electronic sign of substantially larger size than requested was something the county could feasibly look at next year as they move forward seeking the state’s recognition as well. Engaging in talks with Speaker Ralston, they hope to have the item in the legislative session early next year.
In the last few moments of discussion during their regular meeting, one of the coaches offered his deepest thanks to the commissioners for listening and for what they do.
Paris responded by saying, “This is not so much something that we are doing as it is something that ya’ll have earned.”
And with that, an unanimous decision was made to move forward with both options.
ELLIJAY, Ga – Not even two months have passed since Gilmer suffered through one of the worst storms it has seen in decades near the end of July, yet Hurricane Florence threatens to be just as bad, if not worse, according to reports from the National Weather Service and State Governments along the East Coast.
Both South and North Carolina have seen mandatory evacuation orders for residents in certain areas. With the residents continuing to travel west away from the storm, Georgia’s State Government has spoken about accepting those fleeing the path of the hurricane. The National Guard and the Coast Guard have already been mobilized for support as well as forces from Maryland and even New York preparing to help.
With a recent change in direction, the National Weather Service now indicates that North Georgia could see much more impact now. Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett said we are on the “dirtier” side of the storm today in a scheduled Commissioner’s meeting where he warned of potential dangers and damage that Gilmer could see from the southern turn of Hurricane Florence.
The expected impact is so large that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for the state.
Based on the latest 11 a.m. forecast for Hurricane Florence and acting on a recommendation from Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security officials, today I issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in Georgia.
The Gilmer Public Safety Department took to social media today as well to warn citizens of “an enhanced chance of impacts for our area. Potential impacts could include heavy rain and sustained winds. This could very well cause serious flooding impacts and a large amount of downed trees. Roadways washed out and damaged and widespread power outages are all a result of these impacts.”
Officials are asking citizens to prepare for the oncoming storm and for an influx of people attempting to flee the storm, even as we are still recovering from the July storm. Public Works Director Jim Smith told the Commissioners today that his people were also prepared to mobilize in recovery and recuperation efforts.
Public Safety also noted, “Everyone should keep in mind that systems such as this in the past have caused SEVERE damage for our county. Although we hope this is not the case. PLEASE PREPARE NOW! Preparedness includes adequate food and water for a minimum of 72 hours, flashlights and batteries, a full charge on all wireless devices and portable charging options for these devices, generators and fuel if you have them and know the PROPER use and placement.”
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated that the county is preparing its resources including Pritchett preparing the Emergency Management Program as the county readies itself to open shelters if needed. He also confirmed that while Gilmer is not currently in talks with the State about housing evacuees, it is prepared for the call with those shelters made ready.
Emergency preparedness goes far deeper than just resources and shelters, however. Threats like this are prepared for months and years in advance. Pritchett made special note of the departments swift water training and equipment in a case of an extreme event saying, “We have very advanced, skilled swift-water-trained individuals that are trained to get to most anybody that is trapped or is in a rescue situation.”
Preparing for the worst-case scenario, Pritchett said the Department already has response plans throughout the county, but cautioned citizens against “sounding the alarm” for something that may not be as bad as they are preparing for. Despite the declaration of a State of Emergency, he noted that at this time, preparedness is the best course of action as they have previously stated.
These are the reasons that he encourages citizens to have cell phones charged and to prepare other means of charging in case of a need. Having these devices available to contact emergency response is also a part of survival.
As you continue watching for news and updates regarding Hurricane Florence, it may be wise to go ahead and program the non-emergency response numbers into your phone in case a need arises. If you have questions, concerns, or a need contact Headquarters at 706-635-1333 or the non-emergency dispatch number 706-635-8911. Pritchett also encouraged citizens to keep an eye on the Gilmer County Public Safety Facebook Page for updates on the storm, shelters, and impact on Gilmer County.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held their Special Called Meeting in which discussion of the county’s Millage Rate and decisions were made.
Considered their calculations of accepting the Rollback Rate at 6.370, the generalized budget for the county would wind up relatively the same, with only a possible $10,000 difference over what they collected this year.
With the continued growth in Gilmer County, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller noted it was one of the bigger rollbacks he has seen. He also noted the Rollback Rate represented over $800,000 dollars in budget difference to the county.
The county has not increased or decreased its Millage Rate in several years, maintaining 6.983 in since 2015.
Miller suggested to the board that he believed they should continue maintaining the current millage rate. Repeating their same argument against the state directive of Rollback Rate and what is called a tax increase, the board as a whole agreed upon the unfairness of calling it a tax increase when they maintain the same rate.
Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch commented on the rate saying they could “split the difference” and lower the rate slightly without going all the way to the Rollback. He went on to note that last year, the commissioners had to cut $2.5 million from the county’s initial proposed budget.
Crouch took a moment to ask Commission Chairman Charlie Paris how he felt this year’s budget would compare.
Paris responded by saying, “That we will probably have to cut a bit more. That’s been the trend.”
Agreeing with Paris, Crouch noted he held similar expectations. The board heard similar arguments from department heads including Public Works Director Jim Smith who noted the increasing costs in gravel and stone. Paris agreed, noting increases to diesel, gas, and salaries as well.
The opposing discussion came from Paris as he said he believes the biggest issue he gets calls on in the county is roads. However, looking at the choice between the services and taxes, he said he felt the citizens would be more dissatisfied with what is called a “tax increase.” He admitted that he was mixed emotions on the topic, but confessed he would come down on accepting the rollback.
Ultimately, as discussion began circling to repetition, a motion came from Dallas Miller to maintain the 6.983 millage rate. Crouch seconded the motion leading to a 2-1 vote with Charlie Paris as the dissenting vote.
The bond millage vote also approved maintaining the current rate with a unanimous 3-0 vote.
Moving forward on this decision, the board will begin advertising the rate before the formal public hearings on the millage rate, and then on to the final adoption.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – As Gilmer continues to clean up and recover from Saturday mornings storm, officials are beginning to assess damage and costs for the county.
According to Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, around 4 a.m. on Saturday morning emergency services began receiving calls for aid around the county.
As one of the hardest hit counties in North Georgia, the damage with downed trees and powerlines alone could have weeklong effects according to reports as power outages continue and line-men continue working around the clock to repair both downed line and downed poles. There have also been reports of mudslides causing damage to areas, but no roads have been blocked or destroyed.
Pritchett reports that the emergency services only had one reported injury as a tree fell on a local woman’s camper in the Coosawattee area. As paramedics reached the woman, she was taken to an area hospital. However, no reports of any fatalities have come in as authorities are still, days later, responding to calls for aid.
As the intensity of the storm increase through the early hours, an estimated 8,000 – 10,000 homes lost power in the county between Amicalola Electric Company and Georgia Power. Public Safety has counted 20 homes with trees on top of them as they continue the survey process. These were just a few of the different situations that Pritchett says they have continued responding to in the days since the storm.
County services are in full swing with the Gilmer County Road Department and Public Safety department both attempting to clear trees from the roads as they find them.
Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FYN that the county is still collecting estimates for exact amounts of costs of the damage. However, their biggest disaster came in the Buckhorn area and the county golf course which lost part of its most recent paving of the cart path, has numerous trees down on the greens, and is still looking at water damage to the course. Early predictions say the course will not re-open to the public until Wednesday or Thursday at the earliest.
Despite the highest damage to county facilities and equipment being there, the hardest hit part of Gilmer County is actually inside Coosawattee, according to Pritchett. While the county continues the clean up in the outer areas of the county and the cities deal with the damage inside their limits, Coosawattee’s Public Works department is dealing with the mass of downed trees and road damage inside the resorts gated community.
Gilmer has also experienced flooding in low-level areas. However, River Park, which has become notorious for flooding and flood damage in recent years, made it through the storm, according to Paris, with minimal damage and little to no flooding through the buildings.
The major damage from the rainfall came with 5 damaged culvert pipes. Director of Public Works, Jim Smith told FYN that four of those pipes had part of their base wash away as water overtook the pipe and began flowing over the road. The fifth pipe, however, was located on Tyler Road, just off of Highway 282, and was completely washed out and carried away. This pipe had to be replaced and reset. However, the Road Department has all five locations repaired and passable for vehicles at this time.
Alongside the continuing official response of the county, citizens are also still out in droves continuing to help neighbors chainsaw trees in driveways and across roads that authorities haven’t reached yet. Citizens across the county are calling it a major storm, the likes of which they have not seen before.
Citizens are also reporting damage tolls in the hundreds of thousands between damage to homes and vehicles being damaged or crushed by falling branches, trees, hail, power poles, and other debris. Reports of damage continue through local farms including at least one chicken house struck by lightning and burnt down.
Continuing reports of high wind, continuous lightning, and heavy rain have locals calling it a “tornado-like storm without the tornado.”
Officials agree as the Public Safety Department is currently sharing all their information collected with the National Weather Service in attempts to classify the storm. Pritchett confirmed that they are collecting damage reports and assessing weather data to assess the possibility of microbursts, straight-line winds, or actual tornadic activity.
Gilmer is not alone in its time of recovery, though. As is common practice with power companies, Gilmer is receiving aid from counties all over Georgia. Crews are in town this week from Volt Power, Amicalola Electic, Pike Electric, Sumter Electric, and Georgia Power among others. Two visiting workers confirmed they were from Columbus, Ga. and Atlanta, Ga. With others coming in from across the state, work is continuing for those parts of Gilmer and North Georgia that are still without power.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – FetchYourNews (FYN) has confirmed with the Gilmer County Probate Court that Danny Hall has removed his name from the Post 2 Commissioner ballot.
Tammy Watkins from the Gilmer County Probate Court confirmed with FYN that the official paperwork has been filed to remove him from the race. However, the name will still appear on the ballots in the election. According to Watkins, there will be notes in the election booths about his retirement from the race.
It is the current understanding that the official reason for Hall backing out of the race is due to work scheduling conflicts that he said would detriment his service to the county. Hall stated that the conflicts would not allow him to make a full commitment to the position.
With only the official statement available, stay with FYN as we seek more details from Hall in the coming days. Hall’s withdrawal from the election leaves three other candidates in the race: Karleen Ferguson, Jerry Tuso, and Woody Janssen.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Creator of Ellijay’s outdoor social club, Stay Active Ellijay, Karleen Ferguson qualified in March to run for the position of Post 2 Commissioner in Gilmer County.
Originally attending the University of Georgia for a degree in early childhood education and graduating from Kean University in New Jersey with the degree, Ferguson actually spent much of her time with her family’s Catering and Events business in Atlanta. While she admits it was not her dream, she said she learned a lot from planning the events alongside her family.
First moving to Ellijay in 2000, she admitted that her and Robert Ferguson, her husband, used to be one of those people who would come to their home in Ellijay but avoid the crowds. Karleen Ferguson returned to Atlanta in 2005 to take care of her family while maintaining a second home in Ellijay. Growing more in the community and becoming more socially active, she said she began to notice more of the “depressed conditions” she found in areas of the community.
In 2010, Ferguson said, she and her husband Robert sold their main home to live in Ellijay full-time. After helping create the concert series Ellijay Under the Stars, she met Paige Green at one of the events. Building on her achievements and events planning, she began working for the Gilmer Chamber as the Tourism and Special Events coordinator.
Along with her husband, Robert, Karleen Ferguson has raised four children, three boys and one girl, while performing duties as a health coach for over 18 years spanning before and after her time with the Chamber. Even after leaving the Chamber to continue her health coach work, she volunteered in the Chamber’s Ambassador program where she served five years. During that time, she grew out of health coaching to create Stay Active Ellijay (SAE) in order to fill what she calls a gap between encouraging people to experience the region and actual programs to facilitate the experience.
Described as an “award-winning outdoor social club” by Ferguson, SAE currently serves over 200 members through activities like hiking, kayaking, cycling, horseback riding, and more.
Ferguson said she draws from all of this in her efforts toward the commissioner’s seat. She drew experience in growth and tourism from her time at the Chamber and financial and logistical experience from planning events with her family. She drew experience in the county’s departments when she helped alongside the Parks and Recreation with Gold Kist and merchant supporters to grow a soccer program in Gilmer. She noted even running Stay Active Ellijay provides her a basis for the community saying, “I feel like I am the best voice and I understand the heartbeat of the community the best.”
If she is elected to the position, Ferguson said, she is a quick learner because “I love to get in and get my hands dirty … I love to fix things.”
Ferguson tells FYN she had not even considered running, but having rolled off of her services in the Chamber volunteer and Ambassador work, she began to look for her next project and service. It was not until she had heard from current Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch that he would not be running again that she thought of running herself.
Furthering the conversation, Ferguson said she sat down with Couch to discuss the position and the possibility of running. Then she went on to sit down individually with both Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris and Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller. After meeting with all three and feeling confident that she could hold the position, she prayed over the move and, feeling it was God’s direction for her, qualified for election.
Maintaining volunteer work and her business with SAE, Ferguson told FYN she will have no problem juggling her responsibilities as she is used to having a lot on her plate in her life. She went on to say, “I don’t commit to anything unless I can give fully of myself.”
Her main goals in the Post 2 Commissioner revolve around protecting the green-space and continuing along the work that she has seen in the last four years. With building, construction, and real estate on the rise, Ferguson said she wants to be a part of the growth, but maintain a view of the thought that Kent Sanford brought up in an earlier meeting saying, “We need to grow in a qualitative way rather than quantitative.”
Mentioning a few ideas to better utilize the county’s resources, Ferguson said she was excited to have the repairs for the walking path and tennis courts while she wants to see better utilization of natural resources like the rivers.
Summing up her feelings on the position in a final thought, she stated, “Trust me to make what I feel is the best decisions for the entire community … I really want to just be a voice for my entire Gilmer County family.”
Karleen Ferguson is one of four candidates running for the Post 2 Commissioner position in Gilmer County. Check out FYN’s other candidate interviews as they become available for Woody Janssen, Jerry Tuso, and Danny Hall.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Having put in his qualification to run for the position of Gilmer County Post 2 Commissioner, G.R. “Jerry” Tuso resigned from his position as chairman of the Gilmer County Republican Party.
He tells FetchYourNews (FYN) he left the chairman position to run for the Post 2 position to be more hands on with the county in his service.
Previous to his time in Gilmer County, Tuso has spent a total 25 years as an air traffic controller. He had four years with the position in the United States Air Force and 21 years in the position with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He noted these positions when speaking to FYN about his choice to run for the Board of Commissioners. He said he is running because he wants to continue serving the community.
Tuso also said he brings business experience to the position without currently having a business to divide his time between. His experience comes from attending Tarrent County Business School in Hurst, Texas, three years spent on the planning and zoning commission in Hurst, and 19 years in national contract negotiation for contractors dealing with the FAA.
Tuso did note one change he wanted to bring to the Board of Commissioners being a change to the “part-time” status of the post commissioners. “In the last ten years, Gilmer County has almost doubled, and we’ve still got the old hat of part-time post commissioners,” said Tuso.
He went on to note that the current commissioners spend upward of 30 hours a week on their positions through all they do. He also pointed out how large their binders are when the commissioners sit down to their monthly meetings. Tuso also noted the exemplary work that the current chairman and post commissioners have accomplished on the county, both financially and physically as the county is building on to itself.
Tuso told FYN that is what he wants to focus his service on, sustainable growth in the county. He noted the wineries as part of the agricultural growth the county has seen but with people continuing to want to live in Gilmer to commute elsewhere for work. His ideas of sustainable growth are what he wants to delve into at the position, if elected.
FYN asked Tuso to sum up his feelings on running for the Post 2 Commissioner. He replied saying, “I just want the chance to serve.”
Jerry Tuso is one of four candidates running for the Post 2 Commissioner position in Gilmer County. Check out FYN’s other candidate interviews as they become available for Woody Janssen, Karleen Ferguson, and Danny Hall.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Local citizen, and owner/operator of the Cartecay River Experience, Woody Janssen has qualified for Post 2 Commissioner in Gilmer County.
Running for the position, Janssen says he hopes to utilize his business and logistics background to move Gilmer forward in its economic process.
Janssen graduated in 1996 from Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) and moved through logistics management for several years before moving to Texas. Returning to Gilmer County, he has operated the Cartecay River Experience since 2009. Janssen tells FetchYourNews he has seen Gilmer County after the recession slowly progressing on its path to recovery and economic stability.
Noting the current commissioners’ progress in expanding the activities of Gilmer, Janssen pointed to an abundance of natural resources in the county to facilitate growth for “family activities” to attract a larger variety of people to the county. However, he tempered his statement on growth saying Gilmer needs to stay rural. He went on to say, “It feels like The Andy Griffith Show in a way, everybody waves still. You go down to Atlanta and you wave at somebody, it’s not like that … It brings that down-home feeling. That’s how I grew up in Utah when I was a kid. It was a small area, we were all farmers. I was on a farm since I was five years old.”
Janssen pointed to other local communities prospering in the rural parts of the state like Blue Ridge in Fannin County and Helen in White County. The common thing Janssen noted that he wants to see in Gilmer is the variety of activities to see and do.
Accomplishing this is not something one man does alone. Janssen noted the community’s work and great people working alongside other entities. He praised the current commissioner’s work on the Golf Course specifically saying it is the greatest he has ever seen it: “The way Mike Brumby has done this, what he has done with the golf course, it is going to slowly progress.” With definitive and continued progress, it becomes a matter of continuing the hard work to get Gilmer financially into the black.
Janssen continued, “There is a lot of work to be done, but with what Charlie has done, and Dallas and Travis have helped, they are bringing it more into the black.” Janssen said continuing the work of bringing in more commerce would be his focus in taking the position of Post 2 Commissioner.
In a final word towards voters, Janssen took a moment to say, “The progression is awesome with what’s going on. Do I think we can do a little bit better as a community? Yeah, everybody can. You can always progress. You can always get better. Something my coach always said, ‘You have to get better every day. If you don’t, then your competition is.’ There are little things we can always progress on. We can create more.”
Woody Janssen is one of four candidates running for the Post 2 Commissioner position in Gilmer County. Check out FYN’s other Candidate Interviews as they become available for Jerry Tuso, Karleen Ferguson, and Danny Hall.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – This week marks qualifying for the coming 2018 elections in Gilmer County.
This year’s elections include the county Commission Chairman, Post 2 Commissioner, and Post 4 and Post 5 of the Board of Education.
Each day, FetchYourNews will be taking note of those qualifying for the election and the position for which they will be running.
As of Thursday, March 8, those who have qualified are as follows:
Charlie Paris has qualified to run again for Gilmer County Commission Chairman under the Republican Party. He is the current incumbent in this position. According to Paris, this is the first time since leaving the sole commissioner government that a chairman has run unopposed and could possibly be the first time a chairman will fulfill two full terms.
When asked if it was better to run against an opponent and win or to have the county think your doing a good job and have no opposition, Chairman Paris stated it was definitely better to have the county believe in him for another term.
Post 2 Commissioner
Post 2 Commissioner will not see the incumbent Travis Crouch running for the position but instead will see four candidates running for the open seat.
Danny Hall has qualified for Post 2 Commissioner under the Republican Party.
Jerry Tuso has qualified for Post 2 Commissioner under the Republican Party. Since Tuso has been chairman of Republican Party, a member of the party told FetchYourNews that his qualification requires resignation from his party office.
Karleen Ferguson has qualified for Post 2 Commissioner under the Republican Party.
Woody Janssen has qualified for Post 2 Commissioner under the Republican Party.
Board of Education
Post 4 and Post 5 seats on the Board of Education are non-partisan positions according to our Probate Court.
Ronald Watkins has qualified for the Post 5 seat on the Board of Education. He is the current incumbent in this position.
Michael Bramlett has qualified for the Post 4 seat on the Board of Education. He is the current incumbent in this position.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners spent the majority of their January meetings discussing rezoning requests from citizens.
Though three requests were on the agenda, the two that took the most attention involved a change from R-1 residential low density to A-1 agricultural for Russell Moss Jr. and Vicki Moss (Tax Map 3050K, Parcel 013) as well as an A-1 agricultural to A-1 agricultural with conditional use for Neil Gary (Tax Map 3083, Parcel 034C).
The Moss request involved planning for three structures on the property as Vicki Moss originally stated she wanted to plan on having ultimately one house as well as two tree houses for rent but was not trying to build a trailer park or similar setup. Though she bought the property as R-1 and stating she initially had no thought to change it, Moss stated she had later learned the restrictions of structure numbers for R-1 zone when she thought about building the additional structures.
Moss stated she only wanted to rezone to agricultural to put three structures on the one lot without paying an engineer to subdivide the lot and make room for the structures individually. A sentiment that Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris had earlier, in the commissioners work session, opposed due to making an agricultural lot on a road among numerous other residential lots. Though she stated her intended use, Paris commented he did not want to “open up” the lot to potential uses approved under agricultural with a later owner or something of the sort.
Citizens from the area spoke in opposition to the request as well. Property owner Bill Stucker echoed the chairman’s comments asking for the board to protect them as neighbors and the feel of their neighborhood as it is.
Jason Hoffsteader, owner of 35 acres on Stillwell Road, noted the road’s current condition and narrowness. Noting Moss’ idea of renting properties, he said he was concerned with extra drivers who did not know the road coming through the neighborhood. The extra congestion of continuous “new-to-the-road” drivers could cause added stress of accidents due to the road’s condition. Hoffsteader also noted he chose his location when he bought the property due to large tracts with single houses in the neighborhood.
A very unusual occurrence came as Stillwell resident Albert Goode came to the commissioner’s podium to speak. He asked Moss if he could question her in the meeting. As she agreed, Chairman Paris allowed the questioning in the meeting. However, after roughly five minutes of questioning, Paris stepped in to end the questioning. Though he noted he originally allowed the questioning because he wanted to hear the citizens speak, he directed public comments to return to being addressed to the commissioners.
During the questioning, Goode questioned Moss’ intended uses for the properties she owned in the area. With three properties in total, the issue Goode questioned was having mobile tiny homes on the lots. Goode’s opposition was based on quality of life in the area with the extra buildings in use. Moss informed those present that while the one zone in question was requested for three rental properties, she would be ultimately building her retirement home on one of the other properties. The rental property she wanted to build would also access the creek for floating for anyone renting the property.
Before finalizing their vote 3-0 to deny the request, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller commented saying, “The preponderance of the number of parcels is residential. So, I look at that as a rural part of our county, as a residential, single family, R-1 zoned area … Our job as commissioners, I think, is to preserve, as much as possible, the residential and rural areas of our county.”
Despite the denial, Moss can still return to her property and, having enough space in the lot, subdivide it into three lots to continue forward with her plans for rental property with tiny homes after the commissioners finish their moratorium on tiny homes on wheels.
The second item of note, also denied, came from the rezone request for Neil Gary to add a conditional use on his agricultural zone property. The conditional use was to allow a gun range to be put on the property. The Planning Commission recommended denial of the request.
Paris commented on the item saying, “I support people’s ability to shoot their guns on their property if they can do it safely and without disrupting the lives of their neighbors. I don’t see this particular request as one that would be conducive to a quality of life for the neighbors nearby, and I also don’t see that the standard of safety in an area that congested could be maintained properly.”
Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch echoed the sentiments saying, “It is the setting of this particular parcel that brings doubt in my mind … It’s not an opposition to the concept of this business, it’s just the location that I object to.”
In Gary’s application, he noted his “extensive and verifiable backgrounds in special operations, law enforcement and armed security.” Wanting to offer training and services to both law enforcement and civilian clients, Gary stated he wished to offer training in several areas in addition to “how to shoot” including how to carry safely, when not to take one’s gun out, and when not to shoot.
Though denied for the rezone for conditional use, the commissioners noted this application for rezone was for a commercial setup and does not weigh on a person’s personal right to firearms practice and similar activities.
There was also an approved request for Dogwood Financials, LTD, (Tax Map 3082, Parcel 072) to downgrade the plot from R-3 residential multi-family to R-2 high density.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Planning and Zoning Department is seeing major change this week as Director Shannon Bassett announced his resignation last week.
Working through this week, Bassett is preparing the transition and providing extra training to employees. With this Friday, Jan. 12, as his final day, the office is already utilizing Karen Henson as interim director. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FetchYourNews (FYN) he had high hopes for Henson but is utilizing her in the interim position so he and the other commissioners may see how she does in the position before a final decision on properly filling the position can be made.
Henson has 10 years of experience in Gilmer’s Planning and Zoning Office. She tells FYN she wants to make the full transition to director. As administrative assistant for her 10 years, Henson tells FYN she has had an abundance of experience for the position.
As she transitions, Henson tells FYN it has been nice to have Bassett present this week as she prepares for the commissioners meeting and daily work at the office for questions and last-minute information.
Paris tells FYN Bassett received an offer from a development company that the county cannot compete with. While the county has endured several losses in its ranks as employees move for better offers, Paris says this loss will affect the county differently as it comes from a department head.
The announcement comes too late to be added to this month’s agenda, but Paris stated he would not want it on this month’s agenda anyway. Wanting the time for the board to contemplate its decision and look closer at Henson, citizens could see this item addressed in February or March’s meeting.
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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.