Commissioner Parker sworn-in

News
Parker Sworn-in Nov 14 2019

ELLIJAY, Ga. – After last week’s Post 1 Commissioner election results, a quick turn around after the state’s verification of the results saw election winner Hubert Parker sworn-in today as Gilmer County’s newest Post 1 Commissioner.

With the resignation of former commissioner Dallas Miller, the special election was drawn in quickly for the November ballots.

Now, Parker has officially taken his oath of office before Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain, completing the final steps before officially stepping into the position just in time for November’s Board of Commissioner Meetings.

However, Parker has already been attending meetings in recent months, and though his oath wasn’t until today, Parker did sit with the Commissioners during their Work Session yesterday morning, November 13, 2019. As a work session, the meeting held no votes, action, or even an executive session, but Parker did speak very little during discussions in anticipation of the Regular Meeting tonight, November 14, 2019,

Parker will be sitting in the meeting tonight as a verified voting member of the Board of Commissioners.

With Parker sworn-in now, many of the major issues the county has been dealing with lately and to which he offered opinions during the campaign, will continue as the BOC returns to its normal three-person board instead of the two members it has made due with for 62 days including major events like the 2020 budget meetings and the October Meetings.

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REACH signing in Gilmer

Bobcat's Corner, News
REACH Signing 2019

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Five new inductees have joined the Gilmer County REACH (Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen) program this week with the official REACH Signing Ceremony on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.

The ceremony was hosted at Clear Creek Middle School’s media center with special guests Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston and Brad Bryant from the Georgia Student Finance Commission.

2019 REACH Signing Student Scholars

Left to Right, Sarah Enfinger, Eduardo Gonzalez-Santos, Emma Heaslip, Sandra Pantoja, and David Rafael-Garcia are honored as the newest Gilmer REACH Scholars at a ceremony on November 12, 2019.

The inductees, Sarah Enfinger, Eduardo Gonzalez-Santos, Emma Heaslip, Sandra Pantoja, and David Rafael-Garcia, signed their agreements during the ceremony as did their parents to adhere to the requirements of the agreement and move toward their choices for post-secondary education.

Speaker Ralston said during the ceremony that this year’s students are joining a group of more than 2,400 students in Georgia who have been a part of the program over recent years.

Ralston said, “The REACH program exemplifies what can happen when communities come together and the public and private sectors work hand in hand to support our young people. REACH is also an example of the state’s continuing commitment to supporting our students and public education. Whether it has been fully funding public schools through QBE, paying for school security improvements, or raising teacher salaries, our general assembly continues to invest in education all across the state.”

REACH Signing 2019 David Ralston

Georgia Speaker of the House, David Ralston speaks to students and families at Gilmer’s REACH signing on November 12, 2019.

The REACH signing is a part of Georgia’s program as a needs-based scholarship that begins in 8th grade. REACH Scholars are paired with a mentor and an academic coach throughout high school. Scholars must maintain good grades (2.5 GPA in core courses), behavior, and attendance throughout middle and high school. Scholars who successfully complete the program and graduate from high school are awarded a $10,000 scholarship that can be used at HOPE-eligible institution in Georgia.

Bryant also took a moment to offer special thanks to the school board members and the mentors to these students for the time and effort they put forth to help the students saying the children are the future, but “it’s the adults that serve the children that are the future.”

Another surprise for the day’s events, the students saw a video message from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp congratulating them on the ceremony and their steps toward the future. Kemp said, “Today’s ceremony is the beginning of a journey. Your REACH scholarship puts you in the fast lane on a road to the future of success. I look forward to watching you accelerate into that future.”

 

See more photos from this event at FYN’s REACH 2019 Photo Album on Facebook.

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ACCG weighs in on Carters Lake and Corps of Engineers

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Carters Lake ACCG Mike

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Continuing the conversation about the county’s future with Carters Lake, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners hosted a representative from ACCG (Association of County Commissioners in Georgia) to speak on other counties involved in the process of taking control and responsibility for lakeside recreation areas from the Corps of Engineers.

Mike O’Quinn, the ACCG’s County Consulting Services Associate in the areas of County Law, Negotiations,  and Inter and Intra Governmental Relations, offered two other counties going through similar situations.

“For better or worse, the Corps seems to be getting out of the recreation business,” said O’Quinn as he was speaking on the topic of Gilmer taking over these areas. He offered a point of reassurance saying that ig Gilmer does move forward with taking over the areas, they would not be alone in these operations.

McDuffy county took over Raysville Campground from the Corps of Engineers nearly three years ago. It had been closed previously, whereas Gilmer County is looking to intervene before permanent closure. O’Quinn said that now McDuffy is looking at taking over a second campground. A county smaller than Gilmer in population, says O’Quinn.

Bartow County also took over a previously closed campground Clark Creek on Lake Allatoona. A larger county in population than Gilmer, they, too, are looking at taking over a second campground.

O’Quinn told Gilmer’s Commissioner that both of these operations have been successful in their operations of the areas as they have used county employees for operations and maintenance instead of contracted services.

O’Quinn went on to say that he has camped and visited these sites as well as Doll Mountain in Gilmer and other Corps owned sites. He added that he hasn’t noticed any differences in operations controlled by the county and those controlled by the Corps.

However, both of these counties noted have gone with full lease options for their sites. Chairman Paris and Post Commissioner Ferguson have tentatively agreed in previous meetings that they will be looking to pursue cooperative management options with Carters Lake instead of a lease. However, no official resolution has been made as they both continue to investigate the issues.

The topic has picked up in public response and attention as numerous citizens on both sides of the debate weigh in. Many have already spoken in favor of the take-over including Angela Mays who spoke about the handicap access and the ease of getting her family out to the locations. She noted how she has run into boy scouts and groups using the trails as well as low-income families who use the recreation areas, trails, beach, and other facilities as a major recreation source for their families at lower costs.

Additionally, Larry Alonso defended Carters Lake and its access as a major resource in teaching and furthering exercise in people both young and old.

On the other side, many citizens have taken to social media to voice opposing opinions including Kathy Collins who said “The Army Corps is loosing money trying to maintain them. That’s why they’re trying to pawn them off on us.”

Additionally, Sukochi Ward Lee voiced concerns of increasing costs if fees do not cover the costs that could result in increased taxes down the road.

Many others have compared the campgrounds to the County Golf Course saying that it will become another financial drain on the county to maintain. While some counter that the golf course is very nearly revenue neutral, others point to it taking nearly two decades to even get close to the point it is now.

As the county awaits the state verification of election results and the arrival of its newly elected third member, Hubert Parker according to unofficial results, the discussion is continuing towards a resolution. The county could make a decision as early as next week during its November Meetings (Work Session: November 13. 2019, at 9 a.m.. Regular Meeting: November 14, 2019, at 6 p.m.) In fact, the advertised agenda has the item listed for discussion and possible action. But this item has been listed for several months and tabled as discussion continues.

 

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Budget talks consider smaller contingency fund

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Moving closer to the November meetings of the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners, a special called meeting this week revealed that budget cuts are not yet completed.

Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said in the meeting that he has gone over the budget numerous times and cut everywhere he thinks he can. As with recent years, the budget process has reached similar points before when previous commissions had to cut a percentage across the entire budget. Looking to cut a total of a million dollars from the proposed budget, the chairman has come to needing another $330,000 cut to balance.

One option that Paris and Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson are considering is reducing the contingency line item. Paris stated, “If we don’t find another dollar to cut somewhere, we’d be looking at a contingency of $170,000 rather than $500,000.”

Paris said he wants to mitigate this as much as possible. At the very least, he’s looking to keep the contingency line at $200,000 and looking for the extra $30,000 elsewhere. Ferguson said they may need to go over the whole budget again with “a fine-toothed comb” to find the needed cuts. She also said she would continue looking into the budget as well before next weeks regular meetings.

A different option would be to look at rolling back on the raises the Board is trying to give this year on positions at the lower end of the pay scale. Paris said the county has already been advertising three job openings in the road department for months and not received new employees.

Ferguson agreed saying the raises were important to the county and needed to keep its focus on improving the area.

As the county continues looking at these option, it is likely that a final decision will come next week to allow time for advertisement and adoption in December’s meetings before the first of the new year.

Also as the discussion continues on the budget overall, similar issues will come into play with the board listening to special town hall meetings next week on the Road Department and listening to citizens input on options. Ferguson had brought up the subject of TSPLOST option for the county. While Paris said he didn’t want to rely on a TSPLOST that runs a 5-year cycle for things like salaries, the board did not further discuss the idea overall. Instead the citizenry will continue discussions next week at the special meetings on Wednesday, November 13, at 6 p.m. and Saturday, November 16, at 10 a.m.

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Gilmer County’s 2019 Election Results

Election, News
Election Results

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s 2019 Election Results are rolling in tonight, November 5, 2019, as citizens elect a replacement Post 1 Commissioner for the vacancy left by Dallas Miller’s Resignation last month as well as a new Ellijay City Council.

This article will continued to be updated throughout the night until final results come in.

With 13 of the 13 voting precincts in Gilmer County reported and early votes counted, the results follow:

Post 1 Commissioner 2019 Election Results:

Jason Biggs: 227 votes

Al Cash: 249 votes

Hubert Parker: 1360 votes

Ed Stover: 206 votes

Jerry Tuso: 91 votes

 

Having received 63.70%, Probate Judge Scott Chastain has stated there will not be a runoff.

Hubert Parker offered a comment on the victory saying, “I’m elated at the confidence the voters expressed in me. I’ll do my best to serve all the citizens of Gilmer County.”

When asked if he was happy to not be going to a runoff. Parker said he was obviously happy to have it done now and to the county can move on with their business.

 

Ellijay City Council: 2019 Election Results

Charles Barclay: 71 votes

Jerry Baxter: 64 votes

Tom Crawford: 82 votes

Jerry Davis: 54 votes

Brent Defoor: 78 votes

Al Fuller (incumbent) : 110 votes

Katie Lancey (incumbent) : 81 votes

Sandy Ott: 126 votes

Kevin Pritchett: 109 votes

Brad Simmons: 74 votes

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Gilmer School Buses affected by recall

News
Bus Recall

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has confirmed that they have been affected by a bus recall on Thomas Built Buses.

Downs stated that 17 of system’s 78 buses (21.79 percent) have been affected by the recall and are awaiting a field repair saying that the current understanding is “Thomas Bus Company plans to visit districts and fix the issue onsite, but dates and times are not available yet.”

According to documents sent to Gilmer County Schools, this voluntary recall is over the cushioning placed around the seats edges along the frame. The cushioning does not meet the knee impact requirements of NHTSA’s (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 222.

The document stated “During testing for compliance to FMVSS 222; section S5.3.2.2 it had been determined that the resulting force at certain locations in the proximity of the seat frame exceeded the specified requirement. Following these performance requirements, this recall has been initiated to address and remedy the affected population of Syntec seats as specified in the standard.”

They do report that all other areas do meet the requirements. Additionally, Thomas Built Buses state in the document that the NHTSA has not made a “do not drive” warning with this recall.

Bus RecallAccording to an acknowledgment letter from the NHTSA, the affected products in the Bus Recall include:
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/MINOTOUR/2014-2020
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/SAF-T-LINER C2/2014-2020
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/SAF-T-LINER EFX/2014-2020
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/SAF-T-LINER HDX/2014-2020

Thomas Built Buses states, “No seats with 3 point seat belts or integrated child restraints are affected.”

The buses are moving forward with field repairs to correct this issue by adding “additional impact absorption material” to the back of these seats. According to the NHTSA, “The recall is expected to begin December 2, 2019.”

With the small area affected by the recall and considering the NHTSA not issuing a “do not drive” warning, Downs said that the school system has little choice but to continue to use the buses for now. Affecting 17 out of the 78 buses in the school system’s fleet, this represents over a fifth of the entire buses available in Gilmer County School System being listed under this recall.

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Post 1 Commissioner Election in Final Stages with Candidate Forum

Election, News
Post 1 Candidate Forum

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With five days left to election day, many citizens are still deciding who to vote for in the county’s Post 1 Commissioner campaign after the recent Candidate Forum.

The five candidates in the race, Jason Biggs, Al Cash, Hubert Parker, Ed Stover, and Jerry Tuso, are still making strides in these final days up to the election as Gilmer still has some undecided and wavering votes. One voter told FYN, “I really wanted to early vote this week, but I have absolutely no idea who to vote for.”

The Republican Party’s Candidate Forum from last week is also continuing to provide one last glimpse into the candidates before ballots are cast. The event also held a straw poll showing results of those who attended the forum. Those results had Jason Biggs and Hubert Parker tied at 40 percent. Al Cash at 14 percent. Both Jerry Tuso and Ed Stover collected 3 percent.

One commenter on Social Media, Ted Barrett stated, “To me Cash and Biggs were running neck to neck until the last two questions. That’s when Biggs separated himself to take a big lead.”

The Candidate Forum ran from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with each candidate taking 5 minutes to speak directly about themselves and their campaign. Then, they took turns answering questions posed by the crowd as they originally entered the venue.

The night concluded with extra time for the candidates to mingle and speak with people at their tables for more personal conversations. With the election so close, some may think the candidates are coasting to the end, but FYN has still seen these candidates working hard on the campaign trail in numerous events including last weekend’s Chili Challenge and this week’s Gilmer Chamber Ellijay City Council Candidate Forum.

With only five days left to the election, the one common theme among the candidates and we at FYN share, citizens need to find time through these last two days of early voting or on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, Election Day, to get out and vote. Make your voice heard as a part of Gilmer County and its direction into our future.

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Sheriff’s Office issues BOLO for missing juvenile

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office is asking citizens today to be on the lookout for a missing teenager.

Dakota Fendley, 16, has been reported missing and is currently being sought by the Sheriff’s Department today, October 30, 2019. Fendley is pictured to the right in a photo dispersed by authorities.

According to their social media, they are asking citizens to contact Gilmer County Dispatch at 706-635-8911 or Gilmer County CID at 706-635-4646 if you have information on the whereabouts of Fendley.

 

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