Shoplifters chase ends in head on collisionNews September 23, 2022
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Authorities have confirmed an collision involving a police chase through East Ellijay. According to reports, officers attempted to stop a car on Highway 515 containing shoplifters from the Walmart in East Ellijay. The vehicle fled law enforcement.
Confirmed by East Ellijay Police Chief Larry Callahan, the vehicle moved into oncoming traffic where he states the Police terminated their pursuit. Callahan stated, “When my guys caught up to them up on 515, they turned their lights on and tried to stop them. They took off and crossed into the southbound lanes, going north in the southbound lanes.”
However, the fleeing vehicle stayed in the southbound lane until it struck another vehicle in a head-on collision before striking the guard rail on the side of Highway 515.
Callahan has confirmed serious injuries involved in the accident. He said that those in the vehicle fleeing the police were critically injured. Those in the vehicle that was struck were also injured, though apparently not as seriously as Callahan said none of them were critical. The full extent of these injuries is not currently being reported except that Callahan confirmed at least one of those in the fleeing vehicle were critical to the point of life-threatening.
Life flights were called in to the scene of the accident and the road has not been cleared as of yet. Callahan also confirmed that they have called in the Georgia State Patrol and their SCRT (Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team). SCRT has specially trained investigators to properly document evidence in collisions to be used for successful court prosecution. Callahan confirmed that if any passengers die from their injuries, it could be prosecuted as a homicide.
Other reports indicate there were three life-flights called in and the fleeing vehicle reached upwards of 95 miles per hour on the highway before the collision. FYN is continue to stay in contact with law enforcement as more details become available.
Grants and Apple Festival preparations in financial approvalsFeatured Stories, News September 18, 2022
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Several financial approvals came from the Board of Education this week with letters for grants, memorandums, bonds, and the Financial Report for the month.
With October weeks away, the board approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Gilmer Chamber utilizing its buses again this year. With an increase in the hourly rate for drivers of the buses, the $56,000 agreement was approved during their regular meeting. The largest event of the year in Gilmer County, the buses typically run between several locations including the downtown area for Apple Arts, the joining event for the Apple Festival, the school’s parking lot for visitors to the festival, and the festival grounds themselves.
The board moved on to grant applications for the College and Career Academy at the Larry Walker Education Center. In support of a $3 million grant for the College and Career Academy, a requirement came up to include a Letter of Support from the Board of Education. The board recently approved the transferring of instructional units in July to bring it into state compliance with the transfer and phase out of buildings in order to put the state credit earnings in there proper place.
The 2022 bond bus approval and September’s monthly financial report rounded out the meeting’s financial approvals alongside purchasing policy information including additional weights for GHS. Board member Joe Pflueger asked about the purchase after the board spent $40,000 in June on new weights for the high school. The purchase came for replacing broken weights as well as 3 additional weight stations due to high volume of students using and waiting on the original stations. With the three additional stations, nine total are now in use at the high school.
Purchases also include $12,000 in inspections for the school system as the board looks to recover from a recent lightning strike that damaged the main administration building and shining a light on a need for an additional or replacement to generators in the system.
Seamless Summer recognized in September BOE meetingUncategorized September 18, 2022
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Fighting childhood hunger, the Seamless Summer program is a Nutrition Department program of the Board of Education looking to extend the school lunch program through June and July. This month, the Board of Education recognize the programs completion of its 2022 operations.
Patricia Partin, Director of School Nutrition, spoke in the September work session for the board, reporting this year saw 25,253 total meals served to just students during June and July. With 8,505 breakfasts in June and 4,221 breakfasts in July and 8,263 lunches in June and 4,264 lunches in July, the program has risen again to this summer as the program also opened a new site. Partin said that July’s numbers are smaller as they only served two weeks in July.
Serving through the Bobcat Cafe mobile site stationed on Dalton Street, Gilmer High School, Tower Road, Ellijay’s 1st United Methodist Church, the Boys & Girls Club, Mulberry Apartments, Gilmer Health Department, and the new location at Sunlight Baptist Church, these 25,000 meals joined volunteers and staff reaching out to students even when out of school. Partin said the eight locations served all new groups of students this year as they were able to work with there partners and move the Bobcat into a permanent location.
Additionally, staff and volunteers made week long STEM camps for the students as well.
Those volunteers were represented and recognized in the work session with thank you certificates from the school system. Partin said, “With countless hours of servant hearts, you could see all the happy, very satisfying, and sweet faces in the pictures.”
Working alongside these locations and their volunteers is what makes Seamless Summer possible. Partin went on to say, “It was truly a blessing to be part of the community, and what an amazing community we have.”
Gilmer EMS transitioning Medical DirectorsNews September 11, 2022
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 CommunityNews September 11, 2022
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 leaseNews September 10, 2022
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.
Gilmer Schools replaces turf on Pettit FieldFeatured Stories, News August 23, 2022
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Originally discussed last year with the end zones appearing to fade and returning to the topic in February 2022, the BOE has been looking to replace the turf on the football field.
Not completely satisfied with the original turf, but also being in the later years of the field’s 10-year lifespan, the BOE began looking at possibly a discounted replacement option. Receiving bids from Shaw SportsTurf, AstroTurf, and FieldTurf, the school system has AstroTurf as the low bidder. Returning later, they held a meeting on the football field in June where they discussed options including further discounting the price of replacement due to considerations on the field and work from AstroTurf on patching the current field. AstroTurf manufactured the field that is currently in use, but SportsTurf originally installed the field in 2016.
With agreements made for a lower price, coming down from AstroTurf’s original bid at $385,000 to the new price of $320,000.
The board will not be replacing the pad under the turf, but will be replacing the field and fill sitting atop it. According to Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley, considering the 10-year life span of the actual turf carpet, and calculating the average cost of replacing that layer ranging between $460,000 to $500,000, he stated that breakdown would come to $45,000 to $50,000 per year. Ridley went on to state that at the end of the 2022 season, GHS will have had seven full seasons played on their field, three years early of the scheduled replacement.
Dr. Ridley stated, “The AstroTurf proposal is roughly $140,000 to $165,000 off the normal price of replacement. And divided across those three years, that brings the excess cost of early replacement to zero.”
As the Board of Education officially approved the AstroTurf proposal, the replacement is scheduled to take place on between December 15 and December 31, 2022. Ridley noted that the shorted timeframe comes as the won’t be replacing or working on the pad or under the field, instead they will be cutting up the turf carpet at the seams, rolling it up and laying down the new turf.
Boardmember Joe Pflueger took the opportunity to ask the Superintendent if he was absolutely sure if this was the right product. To which, Dr. Ridley assured the board that, through his own research and through discussions with other schools and their superintendents, AstroTurf is the right product. He also addressed that they are offering considerations as the board wasn’t completely happy with the previous product. Ridley stated, “They’re treating us right.”
Major Zoning in the cities comes before the BOCNews August 21, 2022
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 issueFeatured Stories, News August 20, 2022
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 2022News August 16, 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 leadershipFeatured Stories, News August 14, 2022
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.
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 SessionNews August 11, 2022
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 WasteProNews August 6, 2022
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 RateNews July 28, 2022
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.
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.
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.
BOE to advertise millage rate tomorrowNews July 27, 2022
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga, – Gilmer County Schools was unable to set its millage rate last week in the July meeting as some issues with the state systems have backed up the process at the county level. However, tomorrow will see special meetings of both the county and school system moving to advertise their millage rates before August.
The county is wrapping up their summer with the usual financials and preparations before their August 4, 2022 return to the new school year. With the budget approved for the year, they move into the millage rate simultaneously with the county commissioners. This annual process will this year see both entities approve advertisement on the same day with the county meeting at 9:30 a.m. and the school meeting at 6:00 p.m.
Historically, the school often gives final approval of their millage rate in special called meetings to align with the county’s meeting as it typically comes before the school system’s monthly session, yet advertising is typically done in the standard meeting. Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley stated that the tax office was finishing up the digest and notified the public that a special meeting would be called.
The millage rate is a large portion of the board’s budget including the $45 million general fund budget.
Gilmer holds meeting for Amicalola Falls Scenic BywayNews July 26, 2022
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is moving forward with a project to designate a scenic byway between Gilmer, Pickens, and Dawson counties. Meetings are being held this month informing citizens about the byway and answering questions on the topic.
Each county is looking to hold one meeting for the the project, allowing their citizens an opportunity to attend a closer location. The counties’ Boards of Commissioners have already approved the initial process of the designation for the byway. Gilmer approved it in November 2021.
Gilmer’s meeting, led by Janet Cochran, saw citizens attending and questioning the projects aims and benefits to the county and balancing them against the costs. Many citizens questioned whether the project might increase traffic on local and state roads as one of the main roads of the byway travels along Highway 52 between Dawson and Gilmer. However, the entirety of the byway involves several offshoots, loops, and branches of the route connecting small roads into it, roads like Orchard Lane.
But the inclusion of many of those side roads are part of the discussion as Executive Director of the Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) Kent Sanford said that is part of what they are asking citizens for. Sanford said that utilizing input from citizens who live in the area, they can not only offer suggestion or requests to move certain sections or alter the route in ways to provide the best scenario as well as offering suggestions on improvements to the route.
That is part of the Georgia Rural Economic Development organization’s process in the byway designation. They will offer recommendations to government entities from local county commissioners to the state and GDOT on the needs of this route to both improve and maintain the scenic nature of the byway. Cochran said that this could be an increase in trash pickup, addition of certain things as a part of the Corridor Management Plan. However, the committee itself has no power to enforce or accomplish these tasks as they can only suggest them to the roads management.
This is all to maintain the six intrinsic qualities of a byway including scenic, natural, historic, cultural, archaeological, and recreational sites. Of which, the route being designated has five qualities. Only archaeological wasn’t found.
Being 81 miles long, the Amicalola Scenic Byway touches jurisdictions of Dawson County, Dawsonville, Gilmer County, Ellijay, Pickens County, and Jasper.
Cochran told citizens that the designation does not come with a widening of the road, construction, or other private property encroachments. There will be signs erected identifying the byway on the roadside, but no major expansions are included. On of the only restrictions that comes with the designation is no new billboards will be erected. Something that Sanford says Gilmer County already has in its ordinances.
Gilmer’s meeting saw both opposition and support for the project as some suggested renaming it to include apples in the name and others worries about the state coming in to widen and control the roads. Still others spoke on the byway’s potential to add traffic to certain roads already under stress and in major need of repair. Countering that, some spoke about the byway’s plan to aid “market share,” a term used by Cochran, as draining tourists from the apple houses and directing them elsewhere. Similar discourse came in November 2021’s Gilmer BOC meeting as the board was questioned on the designation, its benefits, and “ulterior motives.”
In that meeting, Paris said he had begun thinking of something similar to this for Boardtown Road, though it would be a county designation and not a state designation.
Sanford said that the plan is to increase information and as people are likely to see the signs while already visiting the area. This could lead them to following the road after visiting apple houses and traveling in different directions instead of immediately returning via the same road after visiting their original destination. Cochran also assured citizens that the scenic byway doesn’t restrict their rights to develop their land along the road. As the county ordinances still dictate Land Use, citizens will not have any change in that area either. The county is also not required to fund any of the initial process of the designation. The meetings, information distribution, and even putting up the signs, if the designation is completed, is covered by Georgia’s Rural Center.
That process continues now, after this meeting, as the development of the Corridor Management Plan begins. Another meeting will be held to present that plan and it is sent to GDOT for approval and review by the DNR and DCA and then must be approved by the commissioner and board. If approved, it will join the 17 other Scenic Byways designated in the state. Citizens can find all scenic byways on the GDOT’s Scenic Byways page.