Gilmer EMS transitioning Medical Directors


GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Transitioning away from its current Medical Director, Gilmer EMS told the Board of Commissioners that they would be gaining certain capabilities that even Piedmont’s local Emergency Room does not apply.

Fire Chief Daniel Kauffman and EMS Chief Andrew Burnette told the board that the transition to a new medical director would allow for new vision and direction. However, that comes at an increase in costs. An increase of $500 per month according to the board. Chief Kauffman said that he has found some space in his budget to cover the remainder of 2022 and would look to add the increase into future budgets, possibly under contract services.

Post Commissioner Hubert Parker questioned the change, noting that documentation said that the current Medical Director’s affiliations with Piedmont was also a question for the change. Kauffman noted that they will be looking at a new director specially trained in disaster management, pre-hospital care, and ems care. With this transition, he also noted that it will widen the scope of care in our county and benefit us as our medical personnel are usually with patients much longer. While we have the local emergency department, certain emergencies are beyond their scope of treatment, meaning that ems will take patients directly to another location further away.

Broadening the scope of care in transit will not exceed state mandates as Kauffman noted the current direction is more limited than what the state allows.

Chief Burnette stated, “With this being an ER only up here, they don’t have all the cutting edge treatments and stuff that paramedics are allowed to do.”

Some of these situations include heart attack treatment in ambulance, an earlier response than waiting for arrival at a hospital. With state allowances far beyond what is being locally allowed, the new director focused on those issues would change the county’s protocols in ambulance and immediate responses. This could range from practices and procedures to applications of certain drugs. The full changes have not been explored yet.

As the county approved the change, the specific protocol changes will take effect in coming months with a new director once contracted.


Gilmer becomes Benton MacKaye Trail Community

Benton MacKaye

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Continuing to build the county’s image for outdoors, hiking, and biking, the Board of Commissioners approved a designation in this month’s meeting as a Benton MacKaye Trail Community.

Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson spoke to the item saying that not only is there no cost to the county but also a communal benefit would come from additional advertisement for our community. The Benton MacKaye Trail Association looks to organize charitable and educational purposes to construct, maintain and protect the Benton MacKaye Trail and, according to their website, “to inform (by newsletter, brochure, correspondence, guidebook, map, and other means) its members and the general public of opportunities for outdoor recreation and public service; to conduct workshops, seminars and work trips to foster skills in trail construction and maintenance; to promote hiking, camping and a wilderness experience in the Southern Appalachian Mountains; to instill in its members and the general public a conservation ethic.”

Ferguson noted that the Benton MacKaye Trail begins in Gilmer County. Starting on Springer Mountain, which rests on the boarder between Gilmer and Fannin Counties. It then stretches over 300 miles long. In the county’s meeting, Ken Cissna, President of the Benton MacKaye Trail Association, spoke to the board about the project and the many landmarks along the trail including Three Forks, the Toccoa River Suspension Bridge, and  Long Creek Falls among others.

Adding on to the Appalachian Trail Community that Gilmer already has, the new Benton MacKaye Trail Community designation was also reported by Ferguson to be supported by the Gilmer Chamber as well. The board discussed the benefits including inviting more hikers to the area will further encourage those tourists to our local businesses along with purchasing supplies and other items that visitors need.

With the official approval in Thursday’s meeting, Gilmer has officially added the designation in cooperation with the association, which will continue its scheduled minimum of two hikes per month, one of five to eight miles and moderate difficulty as well as a leisurely, shorter, easier hike that may be somewhat slower paced. In addition, more information about the association, the trail itself, conservation efforts, and other scheduled hikes can be found on the Association’s website.

Gilmer denies park lease


ELLIJAY, Ga. – With fall sports in full swing, the county’s River Park is increasing activity this season and one business has turned to county property at the park while looking for a lease. A lease that the county firmly denied in its September Meeting.

However, the denial came with clarification in the meeting for the county. Concerns focused on for profit business leasing county property for it, a similar situation as to the county’s rivers as tubing companies use the Mulkey Road takeout. This situation was brought up in the meeting as discussion on businesses using county property was the main focus.

The business, this time, focuses on practicing, training, and lessons for baseball and for students in travel teams. While this doesn’t seem a major deal now, Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White said that the issue could come in main baseball season as many teams will be wanting to use any available fields. White called it “opening Pandora’s box” as he said major issues could come from a lease and conflicting schedules.

On top of scheduling, the county debated what to do about a for-profit business utilizing county facilities. With comparisons to private lessons in other sports and rentals of other facilities, the county ultimately set aside the concept as the board said renting would be the same for any renters regardless of usage, so long as they didn’t damage facilities. White also noted that other counties rent fields to travel teams.

Chairman Charlie Paris noted though that renting fields is different than leasing as leasing the facilities removes much of the control from the county.

Ultimately, the board agreed with this and opted to officially voted to deny the lease, but also strongly encouraged anyone wishing to use the fields in this manner to pursue rental and the county would follow through that way. In efforts to maintain county management for the time and fields usage, they said that White could even go into regularly scheduled rentals as he sees fit.

Major Zoning in the cities comes before the BOC


GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – With concerns over traffic and access from both cities, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners worked in conditions to an approval for a zoning change to R-5 Residential Multi-Family High Density Re-Zoning in the area of Progress Road and Coosawattee Drive.

Coosawattee Drive is the road where Ronnie Thompson Ford sits, the road connects Progress Road to Highway 515, Mountain View Drive comes off of Coosawattee Drive and has the Best Western and Appalachian Beverage before intersecting Highway 515. All three roads are important as the development sits between the three roads. Discussiong also arose for multiple access points connecting to at least two of the three roads.

The development, known as Gilmer Village, is expected to house up to 100 units for single family homes and townhomes.

Taking into account both cities concerns, and with input from Jim Smith, the county’s new Planning and Zoning Director who was still Public Works Director at the time, the largest issue that brought the three entities together was road access and maintenance. While the county has jurisdiction on the land and, therefore, the zoning, the cities own the surrounding roads. With Progress Road lying in the city of Ellijay and Mountain View Drive in the city of East Ellijay.

This means that while the county does make the ultimate decision for the zoning, it is up to the cities to grant road access and to carry the burden and maintenance on those roads from the extra traffic and the safety of potential foot traffic.

With East Ellijay adamantly opposed to Mountain View Drive access, Ellijay’s concerns rested on improvements being made.

Within the county, Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson stated that this location was prime for this type of development. She spoke on the accessibility of water and sewer as well as its location among the higher density areas. Her only concern was the length of rentals as she requested an additional condition to prohibit short term rentals which eventually became restated as rentals under 90 days.

A recent traffic study in the area also suggested right turn lanes on Coosawattee Drive at both ends, according to Smith, in order to aid in turns onto Highway 515 and Progress Road.

With most of the attention on Mountain View Drive and East Ellijay’s stance against access to the road, alternatives were presented with multiple access points on Progress Road or connecting a access onto Coosawattee Drive. Thus, conditions were eventually set on the re-zoning. Originally, the motion required two entrances with one on Mountain View and one on Progress, but that was later amended.

In final form, the motion was approved with conditions to include two entrances connected to “one or more public roads” and the developer funding right turn lane upgrades on Coosawattee Drive as pointed out in the traffic study.

In addition, the development could host even more changes as Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson discussed studies about a potential traffic light at the intersection of Highway 515 and the two side roads of Mountain View Drive on one side and Highland Crossing on the other. While this isn’t pressing, Ferguson noted that the increase in traffic could help sway the Department of Transportation in putting one there.

Appeal filed as BOC and BOE discuss Tax Assessors issue

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Both the BOC’s special meeting and the BOE’s monthly work session saw discussion after falling median sales ratios in the Tax Assessors Office could set the county up for another state consent order and penalties in fees.

Chief Appraiser, Theresa Gooch stated that if the county’s median falls below a 38, the first consequence comes as the possibility of losing some public utility money or tax revenue. This number comes from the state’s Department of Audits and Accounts (DOAA) studies that occur annually. This means the Audit will look at samples of sales in the year and look at the sale value and compare that to what the county Tax Assessors assessed the value at. Since the state expects the assessors to set there evaluations at 40 percent of the property’s value. The optimum ratio, according to the state, is set between 38 and 42 percent so that there is no major variations.

However, to “pass” the audit, a term presented by BOE Finance Director Trina Penland, the assessed evaluations must fall between 36 percent and 44 percent, allowing for a 4 percent margin of error on either side as some might say. The report of the test samples for 2021 in Gilmer County fell to 35.88 percent, according to Penland’s report.

The study lags, however, according to Gooch who explained that the Department uses 2021 sales to set 2021 values while the county must use 2020 sales to anticipate and set expected 2021 values. The time lag also comes as the county has to have its values set by January 1, 2021. The state, however, comes later as Gooch said in the August 2022 meeting that the county just received the study results. Since the county’s and the states values are at odds, the discrepancy arises. The difference is so stark this year with the rising inflation and market values in just the course of one year.

There is no immediate consequence this year as the county is not under an official review year, Gooch said that will take place next year with regards to the 2022 assessments currently in their final stages. The Tax Assessors will use this information to set the expected 2023 values, but the state will wait until the end of 2023 to set those values based on actual sales.

With the current issue, she urged the county to formally file an appeal to have their concerns on record that Gilmer is “not happy with the findings.” Additionally, Gooch noted that the county could rise up again and make the requirement by next year’s review, but she has concerns if the state continues studies with the time difference allowing major influences to change market values drastically between the county’s anticipatory values from 2022 and the states actuals from 2023.

Not meeting the state required study median causes a fine, County Chairman Charlie Paris noted $174,000. The option is going under a consent order. Paris also noted that the last time the county was under a consent order, “it cost us more than paying the fine.”

In addition to those, Penland reported to the BOE that the Tax Assessors will also have to change their ratios for the digest in coming years, further reducing the money collected for both the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners budgets.

Gilmer County is not the only county going through this issue currently as Penland showed reports from 2019, 2020, and 2021 audits with more and more counties falling out of compliance each year. In the 2021, the majority of North Georgia along with counties all over the state are facing this same issue of being out of compliance.

Gooch reported that the last time Gilmer County was out of compliance, with a median percentage below 36, was “prior to 2010” and the last time it was out of optimal range, with a median percentage below 38, was 2013.

BOC approves county millage rates for 2022


GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Set for final approval this week, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held a special called meeting approving both theirs and the Board of Educations approved millage rates.

The Board of Education advertised their millage rate at 11.099 mills. Approved by the county, the BOE’s millage rate calculates for a tax levy of $20,123,750. After advertisement and approval from the Board of Education last week, the item must be approved by the Board of Commissioners after as the county government is the official tax collection entity.

After the motion for the BOE, the commissioners moved on to their own rates, originally motioning to approve the rate at 5.541 mills. However, after the motion from Chairman Charlie Paris and a second from Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, Post Commissioner Hubert Parker again advocated for a further reduction past the Rollback Rate. Officially advocating for a tax cut, Parker said that with the rising inflation, the county needed to make an effort, even a small one, to relieve some of that stress.

Paris has noted in previous meeting that the inflation is a concern for both the citizens and the county, who is still facing rising costs and contract renegotiations due to inflation. However, he joined discussions and said he had the county Finance Officer, Sandi Holden, look into further decreases. Parker originally spoke about options of going further down to 5,45 mills and later noted the even 5.50 mills would send a good message.

Acquiescing to the option of 5.50 mills, the board voted down the original motion of 5.541 mills. Then, a new motion by Paris came for approval of 5.50 mills. Seconded by Parker, the motion passed unanimously. In addition to the millage rate, Post Commissioner Parker suggested a letter to constitutional officers and department heads in the county to hold in mind the rising inflation in the final months of this budget and entering the budget process for next year.

Parker read a suggestion for that later stating, “As you are aware, the county is operating a tight budget and unusually high inflation has caused it to be even tighter. This may be a good time to review your budget for the current year and adjust accordingly.”

Additionally, the county continued its 1 mill General Obligation Bond Millage Rate.

Gilmer County restructures two department’s leadership

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – An Executive Session late Thursday night at the end the Gilmer Board of Commissioners Regular Meeting saw the board return with formal motions and approvals that moved one department director affecting three people.

As the meeting’s regular agenda ended, the board approved a motion for executive session and said they anticipated action. Upon return, Chairman Charlie Paris made a motion to move Public Works Director Jim Smith to Planning and Zoning Director, a position held by Karen Henson.

With the motion, Paris explained that current Planning and Zoning Director Karen Henson would take on a role as Smith’s assistant in the department. In Public Works, the former Assistant Director Ryan Steingruber will step up as the new Director.

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Newly appointed Planning and Zoning Director Jim Smith

Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson took a moment to thank all three people for their service in the county. Ferguson stated, “I’ll say thank you all for your service. Jim, Karen, Ryan, much appreciated. This has been a difficult, challenging year. Now that we’ve got a little adjustment, we’ve got the dream team back.”

This is not Smith’s first time in the Planning and Zoning Department as he did previously hold positions within it as it used to be Planning and Community Development in the early 2000’s. Smith was formerly the Director of this department.

Likewise, as the newly appointed Public Works Director, Steingruber is not unfamiliar with his position either as he stepped in to the role when Smith dealt with health and family issues in recent years. Steingruber not only stepped in to deliver updates and reports to the county in meetings, but served as the Director in formal capacities with contracts and other day to day operations.

With the motion seconded and unanimously approved, these changes will be taking place immediately as the department undergo the transitions to their new directors.

Infrastructure Fees discussed in County Work Session


GILMER COUNTY, Ga. –  Though not a new topic, Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners delved into infrastructure fees during their August Work Session as developments continue to come to the county. While much of the vocal opposition to continually increasing developments spreads across a number of issues, one issue that Chairman Charlie Paris has noted in different meetings is the need for more infrastructure as these subdivision increase population and density in the areas away from the city.

In fact, all of the Board of Commissioners have discussed fees in other meetings. Much of the time using the term “Impact Fees.” The effect that an increasing number and size of developments has on the county is something that Paris said needs to be addressed. Specifically addressing a development with, possibly, over a thousand homes, the need for fire stations and services in the area is only a part of the impact these developments continue to have.

Paris said, “The bottom line on this is that once these things are built out, we’re looking at having to build additional fire houses, we’re going to have to buy fire engines, ambulances, all that to fill those fire houses. We’re definitely going to need more ambulances because we’ve got to place them a little bit closer in to some of these developments than what they are. We’ll have to staff those firehouses. We’re going to have to improve roads. We’re looking at a potential nightmare here for Gilmer County down the road.”

Paris explained that developers wanting to build in areas where services don’t reach, there needs to be aid offered in terms of upgrading infrastructure, thus the “infrastructure fees.”

Whether impact or infrastructure, the fees will be used to offset what Paris called putting “taxpayer’s on the hook” for those costs.

Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson supported the idea saying that she has been talking about impact fees for years. Indeed, it has been a topic of debate multiple times in recent years with the county. Post Commissioner Hubert Parker cautioned adding staffing to the wording for the fees as the taxes generated by those residents coming to those homes would be for that. But infrastructure fees would be for the tangible material costs of roads, buildings, and equipment.

While the discussion was brief, all three commissioners indicated a willingness to broach the subject. However, with no action to be taken this month, the board is individually considering and researching the item and are expected to return in September for a deeper discussion and possibly beginning the process of adding impact fees to the county.

The board was also cautioned by Public Works Director Jim Smith to not limit this to residential developments. He said that developments like shopping centers or other commercial or other developments requiring special needs from roads, emergency, and other county services could and should be included in the topic. Public Works will also be developing research on additional inclusions. Smith stated, “It’s certainly past time that we start looking at that. All you have to do is talk to the communities around us and you’ll see that it’s a standard.”

County finalizes new contract to be delivered to WastePro


GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – The county has been very happy with the services of WastePro since the transition to them for solid waste haul off. It is one of the reasons the Board of Commissioners has stated that they want to be helpful in recent negotiations as WastePro has returned in the last two months seeking a change to their contract.

With inflation continuing and gas prices higher than normal, the company has sought to change the contract rates. During talks with the county, this has taken the form of a diesel fuel surcharge to be included in the contract. In a Special Called Meeting on August 4, 2022, the Board of Commissioners received calculations from WastePro and looked to establish a base price that the surcharge would use as an anchor point.

They way that County Attorney David Clark explained the surcharge in this meeting, the base rate of $4.29 unit price was established from an average in July. This $4.29 is before added taxes. Originally planning to use a higher price that included taxes, the board decided against it as Georgia’s State Government has a fuel tax suspension that is still in place and the county did not want to have an “artificial increase” when the suspension is lifted.

As such, this base rate will be used in comparison for future months, each month’s cost for fuel as the company hauls off full dumpsters will be calculated as it increases or decreases from this base rate. Then, a surcharge will be added to the county’s monthly fees based on a percentage of that increase or decrease, meaning that increases will charge more, but the county has included decreases in fees in the contract should the average price of diesel fuel for a month go below the $4.29 base rate. The contract still includes charges based on taxes paid, but they will be calculated separately according to Clark.

The contract change discussed in the meeting, they did discuss these changes specifically for the diesel fuel costs, it will not include regular gasoline as is contracted for maintenance vehicles and such that visit sites when needed rather than the continual hauls.

From here, the county will move into regular session next week, giving Clark the time to prepare the contract and write it, then an approval will be needed to allow the chairman to sign the contract. At that point, the BOC will send the contract to WastePro for their signature putting the final approval on the changes to the adjusted contract to be set for three years.

Those meetings will be held on Wednesday, August 10, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. for the Work Session and Thursday August 11, 2022, at 6:00 p.m. for the Regular Meeting.

County advertises Rollback Rate for 2022 Millage Rate

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – With a special called meeting today, July 28, 2022, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners advertised their Rollback Millage Rate at 5.541 mills.

This is down 0.681 mills from last year’s 6.222 mills. According to calculations from Gilmer’s Finance Department this represents a growth of $1.3 million that the rollback rate covers.

The five year history of the digest shows that the millage has decreased since 2018 when the millage rate was kept at 6.983 from the previous year. Post Commissioner Hubert Parker voiced an opinion to provide a further decrease past the Rollback Rate in the Special Called Meeting.


Gilmer County’s Five Year History of the Tax Digest and Levy

With a motion from Chairman Charlie Paris seconded by Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, discussion opened for the commissioners to discuss the topic. Parker proposed the further decrease siting inflation as a real issue that citizens are facing. Paris responded that the county has also been feeling the pressure of inflation noting several increases the county is already dealing with through changes from prices originally bid to the county in January and its new solid waste management company, Waste Pro, currently under renegotiations of their contract due to rising costs of gasoline. Ferguson agreed with Paris saying that this was also her thinking when considering the rollback rate.

Paris noted that further reductions past the Rollback could see the county using its operational reserves as rising prices are continuing to grow. Paris noted that even with the Rollback Rate he has concerns over creating the 2023 budget and funding the county’s services. The 5.541 mills is estimated to levy $11 million in property taxes from the $2 billion 2022 Net Digest. This Net Digest has nearly doubled since 2017 when it sat at $1.2 billion. Even with the 5.541 mills Rollback Rate, the county is estimating over $600,000 added to the county budget.


Calculation of the Rollback Rate with the 2022 Tax Digest for Gilmer County.

Yet, the county is already looking at rising costs affecting the current 2022 budget. Chairman Paris stated, “I’m very much concerned that we’re going to have to dip into our reserves in our 2022 budget, nevermind the 2023.

Not reaching a full consensus, the board said that advertising at 5.541 mills would be the first step, but they could decrease it at a later date before the final approval. The only thing they couldn’t do is increase it before then. With that they unanimous approval came for the Rollback Millage Rate. The Board of Education will hold a meeting to approve advertisement of their Millage Rate and then another Special Called Meeting will see the school give final approval of their rate before the county approves their own and the school’s millage rate together.

Currently, the county said they are expecting to hold their meeting for final approval of the rate on August 15, 2022, at 2 p.m. with the assumption that the Board of Education will hold their meeting for final approval on August 11, 2022.

Pool construction bid could come by August


ELLIJAY, Ga. – Among several bid and contract agenda items in July, the BOC heard an update that the engineering is completed and they could call for bids on the county pool by August.

As the county is ready to bid, they currently have the documentation with County Attorney David Clark who said that he has some final touches to do but the county should be able to move forward in the bid process on or close to Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

Clark also informed the Board of Commissioners that the bids will go out in several different sites both locally and statewide including the state procurement website and utilizing the architect to help solicit contractors in addition to the county’s efforts.

The commissioners have previously made statements aiming for Memorial Day 2023 as opening day for the new pool. Also, the BOC’s October Budget Sessions will reveal more about the pool’s future as the board discusses additional upgrades, buildings, the future rec-center, and funding or savings for those potential projects and if they will happen in the coming year.

In addition to the pool, the county also dealt with bids on HVAC and facilities in the July session. The county approved to collect quotes for the Jail air system and the Learning Center but then bid out other systems that needed repair. With changes since the last bid process, the bids came in higher than expected as the county is incorporating them into a computer control system. The county avoided a bid do to requests for pre-payment and went with a slightly higher base price bid. The approved bid was for QT Contracting for $785,777.

The Jail system is still looking for a second quote and the Learning Center was approved for a quote just under $20,000.

County to begin closing for Juneteenth next year

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Ellijay, Ga. – No official action has been taken by Gilmer County’s Board of Commissioners, but discussions over the 2023 Holidays came as the county mirrors the state holidays. In the July 2022 meeting, Chairman Paris said the county has been asked during some grant processes about the county’s holidays. Specifically, the county has been asked on its handling of Juneteenth.

Historically, Paris noted that the county “mimics state holidays” in order to maintain a similar schedule with court dates and other official functions. The state does recognize the holiday now.

The prevailing thought in the short discussion amongst the board was to simply continue the same Gilmer always has, following state holidays. This does mean, as pointed out in the meeting, that Gilmer will move from 12 to 13 holidays in its calendar.

With agreement from the board along that path, no action came in the county’s regular meeting. The board did not approve adding Juneteenth, instead allowing the policy to stay on as is. This, in turn, means that Gilmer County offices will close for Juneteenth in 2023 as it follows the state calendar adding one new holiday without replacing any others.

For those who don’t know, Juneteenth, as stated by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), is representative of African American freedom from slavery. They state:

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas. He informed the enslaved African Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. This momentous occasion has been celebrated as Juneteenth — a combination of June and 19 — for over 150 years.

Many other businesses and offices have already closed for the now-recognized holiday such as the North Georgia Health District who posted announcements of closing in mid June before the holiday’s arrival.

BOC pushes back nominations for Park and Rec Board


ELLIJAY, Ga. – Nominations for the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board did not see approval this month as the Board of Commissisoners (BOC) decided to wait for more defined information before submitting their names for nominations.

As the BOC discussed the agenda item, several areas of representation were discussed including youth sports, the walking trail, overall condition and facilities, Tennis, Pickleball, Pool, Civic Center, and soccer.

The BOC also discussed including the school system’s High School Athletic Director as the youth sports lead into school sports.

One of the discussion came as the county will be looking at other areas of inclusion for representation. They also noted that while the advisory board should cover the whole park and each person makes up the whole, this would allow each representative to have an area of expertise.

Additionally, the BOC is still discussing the exact parameters of the advisory board’s responsibility for recommendations, plans, changes, and other areas the county may be seeking advisement on. Paris noted that he specifically did not want the board to have the authority to make any changes themselves.

Post Commissioner Parker stated he had names that he would nominate, but wanted to see the official documentation and responsibilities first so that anyone joining the board would know exactly what was expected. The commissioners discussed each member coming up with a list of responsibilities and expectations to help build the starting documentation for the advisory board. With that document in construction and due to return in August, this could mean that actual nominations could potentially be pushed back until September as the BOC establishes the board’s responsibilities in August and takes time to speak to people before nominating them. However, if the BOC adds the item to a special called meeting expected to take pace in late July, then nominations could come in the August meeting.

Within youth sports, ideas came to split representatives or have multiple representatives for either male and female sports or potentially splits between a parents representatives and coaches or officials or some other need.

Discussion also focused on the advisory board creating a master plan or 5 year plan for the commissioners similar to the airport advisory board.

River Outfitters speak after complaints and Chairman’s comments


ELLIJAY, Ga. – “I’m tired of the fight.” Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris said this Wednesday, July 13, 2022, when he began the discussion of River Outfittrer’s licenses along the Cartecay River where the county owns property used as a takeout spot for river tubers.

The county has placed ordinances on the rivers within the last several years reaching back to previous Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch as the county dealt with a range of issues like increasing trash, intoxicated people and glass debris, complaints from property owners, and major injuries along the area. Banning alcohol and enforcing certain rules, many have said that the state of the river has improved and gotten cleaner and prettier. These additional ordinances also placed a one dollar tax on every tuber going down the river that has since paid for several improvements at the takeout location, including adding signs and clearing trees and debris for easier access.

Paris noted in the July Work session that is still getting complaints on the area with crowding and other infractions. He added that these recent complaints have been accompanied by photos and videos of the infractions. Private property flanks the river along the course that tubers use as well as pushes up to the takeout point.

With shortages in deputies in the Sheriff’s Office, the board discussed that an officer could cut off some of the issues, a topic that has been discussed before and would be revisited numerous times in July’s work session and regular meeting as the board discussed the issue amongst themselves and river supporters flocked in to speak at the regular meeting. With the two businesses making profit off of the river and the county property as a takeout, discussion turned to how much the county and its taxpayers should financially put into the area.

Paris noted that he didn’t want the county to have nobody operating on the river as he didn’t want visitors to arrive and “find the doors closed.” However, he stated he was done with the back and forth over rules, ordinances, adherence, and attitude with certain operators.

Supporters, owners, and employees from both Ellijay River Outfitters and Cartecay River Experience spoke in Thursday night’s, July 14, 2022, meeting saying that they have been adhering to county ordinances and noted several times that many of the complaints come from a single homeowner who has harassed and even released a dog on them in the area.

One speaker said he owned property close to the takeout and has not had issues and had also spoke with a couple neighbors who also haven’t had issues. Another spoke on private tubers who either own property or are renting a cabin on the river also use the takeout as well as other residents who don’t live on the river but use their own equipment and put in at different locations bypass the outfitters and the large signs the put up at their launch locations. These private citizens don’t see the ordinances posted or have employees telling them not to bring banned items and to follow county ordinances.

As the outfitters cannot control everyone or even see everyone, it was noted that the county could potentially be punishing the businesses for people not using their operations. Paris also noted that the numbers using the outfitters are far disparate than those of private citizens.

Matt Bond spoke specifically on the issue saying that he understands the county’s point and told them “you aren’t alone.” Bond went on to speak about the ordinances saying that he the outfitters should and are informing people about the rules and there has been a marked improvement on the river due to that. However, he cautioned the county not to make the outfitters become “enforcers” of the ordinances as he said the county has people with the authority to address that. Bond stated, “I think what, more than anything, I fear is asking the outfitters to be enforcement. That’s a little scary if they have to become the peace officer, the one who enforces these rules.”


BOC Chairman Charlie Paris discusses the river outfitters with citizens during the July 14, 2022, Regular Meeting.

Enforcement was also addressed by Tripp Janssen of Cartecay River Experience. He noted that every single person using the outfitter he works at is both told and shown the sign with the rules. He said that they operate within the ordinances everyday. As discussions continued on enforcement between him and the board, Janssen stated, “What about the Security Guard deal, because I would like to do that so we can get no more complaints. Cartecay River is willing to pay half of that.”

Janssen had also stated that Cartecay River Experience customers are identifiable by their black vests and labels. Something that could help with a guard at the location.

With many speakers pointing to one complainant, Paris noted that he hasn’t been hearing from only one person. Janssen stated that they have been hearing consistantly good comments on the state of the river and the outfitters operations to maintain it and the takeout.

Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson also made note of the river’s improvement over the years, she also called for outfitters to be responsible in their operations and adhering to the ordinances. She also showed some support for the idea of the guard as she discussed the option in the work session and asked for the item to be added to a special called meeting as the river season is drawing closer to its end in the coming months and mentioned how busy labor day can be.

Rachel DeShields spoke about her experience tubing the river in two locations, one not kept up by the outfitters and the section where outfitters operate. She noted the major difference as her and her family lost tubes that kept popping or getting stuck under downed trees or under overgrowth from the banks. Conversely, she said that when they started using the outfitters’ section, a much cleaner and safer option for them. DeShields told the board that they do a lot to keep the river in good maintenance.

DeShields asked the board to continue fighting for the rivers and working with the outfitters to aid in what they do, she stated, “It’s worth it. We all have this beautiful thing here that we get to share and I think its worth the challenge. It’s worth the fight.”

Gilmer Parks and Recreation to continue restoration in July meetings

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s Parks and Recreation Department is continuing along a path following a theme of restoration. The department has been undergoing a project restoring the old tennis courts into something usable for citizens, it was approved to restore its Advisory Board in a new capacity last month, and this month’s agendas sees the board once again looking at the department to help it grow.

Not only is the Board of Commissioners (BOC) returning again to the discussion of re-establishing the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board with nominations for appointments to that board, but it also looking to address an agenda item for a request to add an additional employee to the department.

During the June 2022 meeting, BOC Chairman Charlie Paris suggested the board be made up of nine people with each commissioner nominating three members to the board in order to cover the many different branches of citizens who use the park differently. With this, nine new names will be put forward this month as the commissioners build the advisory board they previously approved. Then the board will begin action on its own, adopting its bylaws and similar motions before it takes on the official role to advising the BOC.

The BOC has already established that the board will have far less authority than it previously held and will look to bring in people from a wider variety of park users. In addition, details will come in the work session on the reasoning for an additional part time employee.

Parks and Rec are not the only recreational areas that the county is dealing with this month as other agenda items include suspension of a River Outfitter’s license. The meetings will be held with the work session this Wednesday, July 13, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. and the regular meeting on Thursday, July 14, 2022, at 6:00 p.m.

County issues emergency need to replace HVAC systems


ELLIJAY, Ga. – Three units in the Gilmer Detention Center and another unit at the learning center connected to the Health Department have failed with no possibility of repairs for these systems.

Gilmer’s BOC has previously bid out HVAC systems to fulfill needs amongst the courthouse and other facilities. However, they rejected the bid they received at the time. Now, the board is returning to readdress the issue as these new system failures have occurred.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris said, “What I would like to do would be to make a motion that we deem this to be an emergency situation and find somebody, get a couple quotes, and get it done as quickly as we can because we are about to head into July and we can’t have these folks in 100 degree buildings.”

Paris also noted that the learning center system is at least 33 years old. Similar to many of the systems in the courthouse, these older systems are reaching the end of their lifespans. The courthouse has been suffering system failures that have caused some offices to begin closing early, but has since repaired them to working order. The county will still continue seeking the bid to repair those but will not add them into the emergency order.

Done in a special meeting in June 2022, the Board of Commissioners will be putting out the order for replacements ahead of the main bid, which is being advertised now. Additionally, the board noted that while two of the systems in the detention constitute the emergency, they are going to go ahead with the extra system in that facility instead of going through two different contracts and costing the county more in the long run.

The county’s July agenda should return to the normal process for the remaining systems.

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