EMBA Looking for Commissioner Support to Add Trails at Carter’s Lake

News

The Ellijay Mountain Bike Association (EMBA) attended the Gilmer County Commissioner’s May meeting to officially request a letter of support for adding and extending trails at Carter’s Lake.

According to their proposal, as a part of the Southern Off-Road Biking Association (SORBA) and the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) this project is looking to construct multi-use trails at the sight which will not only support mountain bikers, but hikers, dog walkers, hunters, runners, and bird watchers as well.

While still very early in the planning process, those involved have already completed a preliminary feasibility study along with Preston York of FlowMotion Trailbuilders, a professional trail builder. Terry Palmieri of EMBA spoke with the Commissioners saying that while Gilmer has been claimed as the Mountain Bike Capital of Georgia, we still lack beginner to intermediate trails for families and groups who may want to mountain bike but can’t quite make the miles of advanced and expert tracks we currently have. Part of the conceptual plan they currently have would add over 15 miles of additional trails that would range in difficulty for those needs.

Part of the addition would also add other types of trails such as what is called a flow trail. York described this type of trail as wider and easier than average mountain trails. Providing a minimal amount of pedaling and braking, this type of trail allows riders to “surf” the trail as you can coast through large portions of the trails. York says flow trails has more “rollers” in the trail to provide varying G-forces to the riders body as well as sloped turns that bikers will take with almost no need for braking or slowing.

There was opposition present at both the Commissioner’s Work Session and Regular Meeting. However, in the work session when the EMBA and FlowMotion representatives said their plan abandoned an idea to add a connector between the Ridgeway and Woodring Branch areas the lawyer representing those in opposition stated “without the connector trail being there, my clients really don’t have a particular issue.” The reasons they gave for abandoning the connector included proximity to homeowners, needed construction for bridges, and a great stress to emergency services attempting to reach the area.

These additions will not only add more trails to attract more bikers through the County’s efforts, but Palmieri also suggested that IMBA is changing their requirements for a special title, “Ride Center Designation.” This designation would have the international organization advertise Gilmer County as one of its best locations for biking. She also stated in the regular meeting that Gilmer could be the only place in Georgia to get this title under the new requirements she had seen.

Mike PalmieriMike Palmieri also spoke at both meetings. Speaking of the biking community, Mike stated that through EMBA’s surveys over the years, they have discover that mountain bikers have invested $911,257.68 into this county over 30 years. Through volunteers and work hours donated, locals have upheld this industry, but now they are requesting the county’s support of the project so they can use it for grant writing and other goals they are attempting to achieve. Mike attended the Commissioner’s regular meeting in his fireman’s Class A Uniform. He stated wore the uniform to recognize the sacrifice of locals in the form of volunteer service and countless hours building and upkeep for the trail systems.

Considering the withdrawal of the homeowners opposition, the Commissioners did approve their letter of support. This will allow those involved to take their support and add it to grant requests and applications for the trails. Providing just a letter of support, the County has not committed to any amount of financial support at this time.

The path now, according to Palmieri, will have EMBA turn their conceptual plan over to the Corps of Engineers who will go through their own process to inspect the areas and the plans before any construction can begin. According to Corps of Engineers representative and Operations Manager for Carter’s Lake, Miriam Fleming, who attended the Commissioners regular meeting, since they are just getting the plan, this process could take around two years.

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Road Projects and Grants Get Underway

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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.

 

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The Trouble at the Tabor House

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During their recent meetings, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners brought up discussion of what to do with the Tabor House.

The building is in advanced disrepair and the Commissioners are seeking options. One interested party has already been looking into the building as a historical building, but it is uncertain that the anonymous party will actually undertake necessary renovations for the building.

While Chairman Charlie Paris told FYN he was interested in the historical context of the building, there is a large need as the building is currently in no shape to host visitors or tours due to structural damage. However, Paris did say the county would continue to maintain the building as it is for people to view from the outside.

Post Commissioner Dallas Miller stated, “I would like to find someone to take it.” as he agreed to a historical significance of the building, but wanting to now have it under County funds. The general consensus of the Commissioners was that the county can not afford to fully renovate, under historic renovation standards, the Tabor House.

The building also sits on county land that could offer greater value due to its proximity to the courthouse and county offices. However, accessing the land while saving the building would be a great feat, according to Chairman Paris, due to the state of the building. This would require some method of transporting the building to a separate location allowing the County to utilize the property.

Another obstacle in the Commissioner’s path involves the Tabor House’s tie-in to the County’s Bonds. A legal hurdle that would require the County to somehow remove the building from its obligation before selling it or leasing it to a party interested in the building. However, Chairman Paris did suggest to FYN that this could be possible if an interested party came forward.

With no set future, it seems one of Gilmer County’s remaining Historical Landmarks could be on unstable foundation in several manners.

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Success for Gilmer’s Tire Amnesty Month

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Free Tire Collection

As a part of the joint efforts in Gilmer County to clean up in honor of the Earth Day on April 22, Gilmer County’s Tire Amnesty Program has found resounding success.

Having already brought in over 5,400 tires, this program is continuing at the Tower Road location out Highway 52 for solid waste. Exempting professional businesses, any citizen or group can bring these tires to the location to have them disposed of free of charge. Additionally, there is no limit to the number of tires citizens are allowed to bring in.

The event is made possible through a Grant the County applied for and is continuing through April 29. If you have your own tires or if you find discarded old tires, you can bring them in for disposal.

Continuing past the day this event will also coincide with the Gilmer Clean-up Day planned for April 22.

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Gilmer Refinancing More G.O. Bonds

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In a special called meeting, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners met with Andrew Tritt, Managing Director, and others from Stifel, Nicolaus and Company, Inc.

The meeting culminated with approval from the county to finalize their resolution in order to complete refinancing on the remainder of the 2007 G.O. Bonds, but this also represents the final outstanding bonds that the county can refinance according to Chairman Charlie Paris who said the county has saved a little over $4 million including this new refinance.

The main reason for refinancing? The county is receiving a lower interest rate on the debt, 2.82% as opposed to the original 5%. This lower interest rate translates to less money coming from the county as they continue paying the debt. According to Stifel, Nicolaus and Company, Inc. the county will realize a gross savings, from this specific set of Bonds, of $969,017. That gross savings will be realized at $50,000 per year with the exception that in the final two years before maturity, 2030 and 2031, it will increase to $60,o00 per year in savings.

Moving forward with the refinancing, Chairman Charlie Paris said, “It means money savings pure and simple.” By getting the extra savings every year, Paris said the county is easing budget processes and helping the county deal with crisis situations as equipment might breakdown or an emergency occur. The savings also means the county does not have to finance certain equipment which translates to less debt for the county.

And speaking on the county’s debt, Paris went on to say, “We have not made an appreciable reduction in our Bond debt… but were able to reduce the short term debt which helps.”These steps allow balanced budgets each year and progress to reverse our financial situation to manage the long term debt.

Now, the County may be setting up to actually have a contingency fund planned in the next budget process for emergencies which exemplifies the progress. With continued growth, the county may look to the distant future where the county’s financial situation dictates a balanced budget with a sizeable contingency fund translating, according to Paris, into an opportunity to lower taxes for citizens.

Along with Stifel, Nicolaus and Company, Inc. The Board of Commissioners is also using Gray, Pannell and Woodward, LLP. as the Attorneys for the legal side of the refinance.

Make sure to find out more by watching the Special Called Meeting below:

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Commissioners Begin New Year

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While Gilmer County was set to fully approve their revamped Land Use Ordinance this month, the item was tabled, as expected, as the county remedies an error for the Farm Wineries and Tasting Rooms. Meanwhile, the County did move forward on several formalities and required resolutions for the coming year.

Their first approvals came to reappoint Post Commissioner Dallas Miller to the Building Authority, David Clark as the County Attorney, and Edwina Daman as the County Clerk. David Clark did note no changes would come with the reappointment as far as fees or costs to the county. Many readers will also remember that Edwina Daman was just appointed to the position of County Clerk as the end of 2016. However, these appointments are annual and the Gilmer Board of Commissioners Officially appoint these positions at the beginning of every year.

The Commissioners also moved forward with approval of the 2017 Organizational Chart. Tied into this also came a Resolution to Appoint a new Department Head. Chairman Charlie Paris stated that Dallas Miller pointed out and suggested making the Whitepath Golf Course to be its own Department instead of being tethered to the Recreation and Parks Department. This required a Department Head which the Commissioners unanimously approved Mike Brumby for.

A couple of items left over from last years meetings were also addressed during the meeting, the 2017 Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) was awarded by bid to United Community Bank this month. The Commissioners did not award this bid at last months meeting as they considered one bid requiring the county to move all its accounts over. While Chairman Paris said that bid was the lowest bid, the requirement to move all accounts basically made it an invalid bid. “We tabled that to discuss whether or not we wanted to maybe rebid and have all the accounts rebid, and decided that while we probably will want to do that next year, we did not want to do that this year. So, we will have to eliminate that particular bid.” Paris went on to say that the bid was awarded with hopes that the county may not utilize the TAN until September or October. This is very close to the time that county begins collections. The indication of the county means Gilmer could see the County not using the TAN as early as next year.

The County also approved advertising for a new Chapter of the Gilmer County Code of Ordinances Regulating Activities on the Unincorporated Rivers of the County. This item has been considered by the county in different forms for several months. While the advertising was approved, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller requested a further Work Session for the item before the County moved on to Readers for the New Chapter. The Work Session is to be held on January 25th at 9:00am. The County is to dive deeper on discussions of a $1 fee for those using the river, incorporation of Cabin Rentals and private boaters, Enforcement of the Ordinance, and possible changes for County Permits relating to the River.

Make sure to stay with FYN as we continue coverage on that meeting. You can also view both the Work Session and Regular Meeting for the County below.

Work Session

Regular Meeting

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Ordinances See Problems in December BOC

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The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have officially approved the new changes to the County’s Land Use Ordinance.

The Ordinance changes received approval on their second reading at the County’s December 8th Meeting. Having already gone through a Public Hearing and first reading in addition to several work sessions and input sessions from citizens, this comes as final approval and official adoption of the changes.

However, another change has already been proposed to the Land Use Ordinance as the Post Commissioner Dallas Miller brought an oversight to attention involving locations of Tasting Rooms in relation to “Farm Wineries.”

To that end, the final adoption of Amendments to the Chapter titled “Farm Wineries” was also tabled until February giving the Commissioners a chance to fix the oversight through proper channels before fully adopting the new Amendments.

As the whole thing ties together, the Commissioners felt they could not wait to approve the Land Use Ordinance Amendments and moved forward with them.

The Farm Wineries were not the only discussion tabled as two more items received the same motion. The Awarding of the Tax Anticipation Note was pushed back as the Commissioners considered three responses. With one of the bids “not in the ballpark,” according to Chairman Charlie Paris, the Commissioners considered the lower two bids in their work session.

Though it seemed they had decided on United Community Bank’s bid in the Work Session, their bid was not the lowest bid received. Park Sterling offered their bid at a lower rate as opposed to United Community Banks’ bid.

The decision came at the contingency of Park Sterling’s bid. They stated their offer was “contingent upon moving accounts to their bank.” The Commissioners understanding in their work session was that the savings from the lower interest rate would have been irrelevant considering all the costs and fees of moving their accounts.

More information came up as a representative from Parks Sterling attended Thursday’s meeting to inform the Commissioners on a part of their bid that may not have been considered. Speaking on the TAN bids, the representative from Parks Sterling spoke with the Commissioners about Service Charges and the bank’s offer of what is called “Earnings Credit” to offset the County’s Service Charges for Accounts. This “Phantom Money” could be used in place of those charges and, as he said, “leaves more principle to earn interest on.”

Stating that the County has been drawing on their TAN later and later in the past few years, Chairman Paris stated the Board could table the discussion in order to learn more about the accounts and to find out how to handle the situation with competitive bidders now that the possibility of Accounts is being considered. As they continue researching this, the TAN is set to be reconsidered in January.

As the Commissioners tabled the discussion the bids were not released, but stay with FYN as more information becomes available during this process.

The other tabled item on the Commissioner’s agenda came after the Commissioner’s received an updated copy of their consideration for a “Resolution Approving the Advertising of a New Chapter of the Gilmer County Code of Ordinances Regulating Activities on the Unincorporated Rivers of the County.”

This item has been under consideration for quite some time as the County is continuing to search for ways to legally protect itself as well as regulate the river’s usage and deal with a piece of County owned property on Mulkey Road that is being used as an outtake for those on the river. Ultimately, the Commissioners felt they had received the new documents to late to have sufficient time to look over them before advertising.

These documents have also not been released due to being under review and not approved for advertising yet.

Moving through the rest of their meetings, the Commissioners have made several appointments and re-appointments to Boards and Authorities around the County.

Mary Fuller-Stanley has been appointed to the Board of Public Health.

Alan Davenport has been re-appointed to the Joint Development Authority as one of the County’s Representatives. He is the member whose term is ending and will continue serving uninterrupted.

Lamar Walker and Paul Mooney both have terms ending on the Planning Commission. Chairman Paris indicated both are willing to continue serving and have been re-appointed to their positions.

Scott Stephens has been re-appointed to his position serving on the Emergency Medical Services Council for Northwest Georgia. Stephens attended the County’s Work Session and said, though serving was far more difficult than he originally thought, he felt the County gained great benefits and information from having him on the Council and he was willing to continue his service.

Pamela Rhodes has been appointed for Gilmer County to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) Advisory Council.

One final Appointment came to move the County Clerk position out of an interim clerk and the Board of Commissioners have approved Edwina Daman to the position. However, the County will await her officially taking the position until the 19th of December.

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Approvals and Failures Set Commissioners October Meeting

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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.

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