UPDATED: East Ellijay follows county to for emergency and shutdown

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emergency

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – An emergency special called meeting came today from the East Ellijay City Council as they declared a state of emergency similar to that of the county yesterday.

According to Mayor Mack West, the ordinance passed with only a few council members, the mayor, and the clerk in the meeting as the emergency meeting was called after last nights declaration from the county. County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris confirmed yesterday that he had discussed the issue with the mayors and his plan for the declaration.

Now, both cities are following suit, passing their own declarations and shutdowns for their own jurisdictions. Mayor West said that East Ellijay’s shutdown is virtually the same as the county’s with only a few modifications that they felt were needed within the city limits.

The city of East Ellijay has provided the following copy of their ordinance for the public:

 

AN ORDER FOR THE DECLARATION OF A LOCAL STATE OF EMERGENCY RELATED TO COVID-19; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

WHEREAS, The City of East Ellijay, Georgia has experienced an event of critical significance as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease (“COVID-19”); and

WHEREAS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (the “CDC”) indicates that COVID-19 is a new and contagious respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in more than 100 locations around the world, including in the United States; and

WHEREAS, as reported by the World Health Organization (“WHO”) effective as of March 23, 2020, the world has experienced a deep humanitarian crisis with more than 334,981 cases and more than 14,652 deaths due to COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, COVID-19 is officially a global pandemic according to the WHO; and

WHEREAS, on March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency for the United States of America in response to COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, on March 14, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp declared a public health Emergency due to COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, as reported by the CDC effective as of March 23, 2020, Georgia now has 800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 26 COVID-19 related deaths; and

WHEREAS, the CDC has issued guidance on the emerging and rapidly evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, including how to protect oneself from illness; and

WHEREAS, social distancing is recommended by the CDC to prevent the continued spreading of the illness in the community; and

WHEREAS, on March 16, 2020, President Donald Trump issued his Coronavirus Guidelines for America which instructs people to listen to their local authorities and to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people; and

WHEREAS, cities, states, and counties, including but not limited to, Athens-Clarke County,
Georgia, Sumter County, Georgia, Dougherty County, Georgia, the City of Atlanta, Georgia,
Alameda County, California, the City of Los Angeles, California, the City of Seattle,
Washington, and the states of New York, New Jersey, California, Delaware, Kentucky,
Louisiana, and Connecticut have imposed temporary restrictions related to public and private
gatherings to stop large numbers of people from gathering and staying in close proximity during
the COVID-19 pandemic; and

WHEREAS, the CDC expects that additional cases of COVID-19 will be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States, and that person-to-person spread is likely to continue to occur; and

WHEREAS, local emergency hospital personnel have reported that they are treating patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and that there is shortage of personal protective equipment which places the health, safety, and welfare of emergency medical personnel at risk and the general public; and

WHEREAS, medical professionals have advised that if COVID-19 spreads in Gilmer County and the cities therein at a rate comparable to the rate of spread in other affected areas, it may greatly strain the resources and capabilities of county and municipal governments, including public health agencies, that provide essential services for containing and mitigating the spread of contagious diseases, such as COVID-19, and the situation may become too large in scope to be handled in its entirety by the normal county and municipal operating services in some parts of this State, and this situation may spread to other parts of the State; and

WHEREAS, in the judgment of the East Ellijay City Council, as of the date of this Order, there exists emergency circumstances as a result of COVID-19 within the geographical boundaries of Gilmer County, Georgia requiring extraordinary and immediate corrective actions for the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Gilmer County, Georgia and the two cities therein; and

WHEREAS, to prevent or minimize injury to people resulting from this pandemic, the East Ellijay City Council hereby finds that certain actions are required, including but not limited to, the social distancing measures set forth herein; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to Article II, Section 2-102 thru 2-107 entitled Legislation of the City in the City Charter, the East Ellijay City Council is authorized to enact Orders, rules, resolutions and regulations implementing the powers granted by the Constitution and laws of the State of Georgia to the governing authorities of the various cities in the State of Georgia; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to O.C.G.A. Sec. 38-3-28, the City Council is authorized to make, amend, and rescind orders, rules, and regulations as necessary for emergency purposes and to supplement carrying out the emergency management laws; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to O.C.G.A. Sec. 38-3-51, the Governor’s declared public health emergency authorizes City of East Ellijay to use emergencies powers in O.C.G.A. Sections 38-3-1 through 38-3-64; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to O.C.G.A. Sec. 38-3-6, during an emergency, O.C.G.A. Sections 38-3-1 through 38-3-64 are supposed to be liberally construed to effectuate their purposes.

NOW, THEREFORE, the East Ellijay City Council hereby orders that a Local State of Emergency be declared within City boundaries and said State of Emergency shall continue until the conditions requiring this declaration are abated.

THEREFORE, BE IT ORDERED:

Article 1

That Social Distancing and Closed or Restricted Areas during Emergency as Ordered below:
1. The intent of this Order is to ensure that the maximum number of people self-isolate in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible, while enabling essential services to continue, to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible. When people need to leave their places of residence, whether to obtain or perform vital services, or to otherwise facilitate authorized activities necessary for continuity of social and commercial life, they should at all times reasonably possible comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in Section 10 below. All provisions of this Order should be interpreted to effectuate this intent. Failure to comply with any of the provisions of this Order constitutes an imminent threat to public health.
2. All individuals currently living within the unincorporated areas of City of East Ellijay, Georgia shall shelter at their place of residence. To the extent individuals are using shared or outdoor spaces, they must at all times as reasonably possible maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person when they are outside their residence. All persons may leave their residences only for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to operate Essential Businesses, all as defined in Section 10. Individuals experiencing homelessness are exempt from this Section, but are strongly urged to obtain shelter, and governmental and other entities are strongly urged to make such shelter available as soon as possible and to the maximum extent practicable (and to utilize Social Distancing Requirements in their operation).
3. All businesses with a facility in the City, except Essential Businesses as defined below in Section 10, are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the County except Minimum Basic Operations, as defined in Section 10. For clarity, businesses may also continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own residences (i.e., working from home). All Essential Businesses are strongly encouraged to remain open. To the greatest extent feasible, Essential Businesses shall comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in Section 10 below, including, but not limited to, when any customers are standing in line.
4. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited purposes as expressly permitted in Section 10. Nothing in this Order prohibits the gathering of members of a household or living unit.
5. All travel, including, but not limited to, travel on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, automobile, or public transit, except Essential Travel and Essential Activities as defined below in Section 10, is prohibited. This Order allows travel into or out of the County to perform Essential Activities, operate Essential Businesses, or maintain Essential Governmental Functions.
6. This Order is issued based on evidence of increasing occurrence of COVID-19 throughout the State of Georgia, scientific evidence and best practices regarding the most effective approaches to slow the transmission of communicable diseases generally and COVID-19 specifically, and evidence that the age, condition, and health of a significant portion of the population of the County places it at risk for serious health complications, including death, from COVID-19. Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in the general public, which is now a pandemic according to the World Health Organization, there is a public health emergency throughout the County. Making the problem worse, some individuals who contract the COVID-19 virus have no symptoms or have mild symptoms, which means they may not be aware they carry the virus. Because even people without symptoms can transmit the disease, and because evidence shows the disease is easily spread, gatherings can result in preventable transmission of the virus. The scientific evidence shows that at this stage of the emergency, it is essential to slow virus transmission as much as possible to protect the most vulnerable and to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. One proven way to slow the transmission is to limit interactions among people to the greatest extent practicable. By reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, this Order helps preserve critical and limited healthcare capacity in the County.
7. This Order also is issued in light of a high probability of COVID-19 cases occurring within the City of East Ellijay, Georgia and likely subsequent further significant increases in transmission after the initial occurrence of COVID-19. Widespread testing for COVID-19 is not yet available but is expected to increase in the coming days. This Order is necessary to slow the rate of spread and the City Council will re-evaluate it as further data becomes available.
8. This Order is issued in accordance with, and incorporates by reference, the March 16, 2020, Proclamation of a State of Emergency issued by Governor Brian Kemp as well as the two Orders issued by the Governor on March 23, 2020.
9. This Order comes after the release of substantial guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and other public health officials throughout the United States and around the world, including a variety of prior orders to combat the spread and harms of COVID19. The City of East Ellijay will continue to assess the quickly evolving situation and may modify or extend this Order, or issue additional Orders, related to COVID-19.
10. Definitions and Exemptions.
a. For purposes of this Order, individuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the following “Essential Activities.” But people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and people who are sick are urged to stay in their residence to the extent possible except as necessary to seek medical care.
i. To engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members or partners or significant others (including, but not limited to, pets), such as, by way of example only and without limitation, obtaining medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home.
ii. To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others, such as, by way of example only and without limitation, canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.
iii. To engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in this Section, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, running, or bicycling.
iv. To perform work providing essential products and services at an Essential Business or to otherwise carry out activities specifically permitted in this Order, including Minimum Basic Operations.
v. To care for a family member or pet in another household.
b. For purposes of this Order, individuals may leave their residence to work for or obtain services at any “Healthcare Operations” including hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, home healthcare services providers, mental health providers, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services. “Healthcare Operations” also includes veterinary care and all healthcare services provided to animals. This exemption shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of healthcare, broadly defined. “Healthcare Operations” does not include fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities.
c. For purposes of this Order, individuals may leave their residence to provide any services or perform any work necessary to the operations and maintenance of “Essential Infrastructure,” including, but not limited to, public works construction, construction and all related activities (in particular affordable housing or housing for individuals experiencing homelessness), airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services), provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with Social Distancing Requirements as defined this Section, to the extent possible.
d. For purposes of this Order, all first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, and law enforcement personnel, and others who need to perform essential services are categorically exempt from this Order. Further, nothing in this Order shall prohibit any individual from performing or accessing “Essential Governmental Functions,” as determined by the governmental entity performing those functions. Each governmental entity shall identify and designate appropriate employees or contractors to continue providing and carrying out any Essential Governmental Functions. All Essential Governmental Functions shall be performed in compliance with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in this Section, to the extent possible.
e. For the purposes of this Order, covered businesses include any for-profit, nonprofit, or private educational entities, regardless of the nature of the service, the function they perform, or its corporate or entity structure.
f. For the purposes of this Order, “Essential Businesses” means:
i. Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure;
ii. Grocery stores, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other nongrocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;
iii. Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing;
iv. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
v. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
vi. Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities;
vii. Banks and related financial institutions;
viii. Hardware stores;
ix. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses;
x. Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;
xi. Educational institutions—including private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities—for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible;
xii. Laundromats, drycleaners, and laundry service providers;
xiii. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Farm Wineries shall be allowed to sale packaged wine at curbside. Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under this Order on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take-away basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site;
xiv. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home;
xv. Businesses or manufacturers that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;
xvi. Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods, or services directly to residences;
xvii. Airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers providing transportation services necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized in this Order;
xviii. Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children;
xix. Residential facilities including hotels, motels, shared rental units and similar facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children, except for short-term cabin rentals (provided that current guests may complete their stay);
xx. Professional services, such as legal, accounting services, real estate services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities;
xxi. Unless otherwise preempted by state law, childcare facilities providing services that enable employees exempted in this Order to work as permitted. To the extent possible, childcare facilities must operate under the following mandatory conditions:
1. Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of 12 or fewer (“stable” means that the same 12 or fewer children are in the same group each day).
2. Children shall not change from one group to another.
3. If more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room. Groups shall not mix with each other.
4. Childcare providers shall remain solely with one group of children. For the purposes of this Order, “Minimum Basic Operations” include the following, provided that employees comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined this Section, to the extent possible, while carrying out such operations:
xxii. All businesses not identified above but are listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s website as Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.
g. For the purposes of this Order, “Minimum Basic Operations” include the following, provided that employees comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in this Order to the extent possible, while carrying out such operations.
i. The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions.
ii. The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.
h. For the purposes of this Order, “Essential Travel” includes travel for any of the following purposes. Individuals engaged in any Essential Travel must comply with all Social Distancing Requirements as defined in this Section below.
i. Any travel related to the provision of or access to Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, Essential Businesses, or Minimum Basic Operations.
ii. Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.
iii. Travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services.
iv. Travel to return to a place of residence from outside the jurisdiction.
v. Travel required by law enforcement or court order.
vi. Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the County. Individuals are strongly encouraged to verify that their transportation out of the County remains available and functional prior to commencing such travel.
i. For purposes of this Order, residences include hotels, motels, shared rental units and similar facilities.
j. For purposes of this Order, “Social Distancing Requirements” includes maintaining at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and not shaking hands.
11. Enforcement and Remedies.
a. Individuals: In recognition that City of East Ellijay, Georgia does not have the personnel or resources to monitor and police distancing or gathering limitations or shelter in place requirements for all individuals currently living within the territorial limits of the City of East Ellijay Georgia, the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office is authorized to support compliance with this Order through information delivery and education of individuals regarding the imminent threat to public health posed by COVID-19.
b. Covered Businesses: Any violations of this Order by covered businesses shall be considered Order violations subject to the general penalty provisions outlined in the City Charter.
c. Guidance Contact: The City Council directs the Mayor to provide guidance to any business within the City Limits of East Ellijay, Georgia, as to whether said business meets the definition of Essential Business, or is exempted from this Order.
d. The City of East Ellijay, Georgia shall seek reimbursement from the State of Georgia and from Federal Emergency funds for all eligible expenditures.
12. Copies of this Order shall promptly be available at East Ellijay City Hall.
13. If any provision of this Order to the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held to be invalid, the reminder of the Order, including the application of such part or provision to other persons or circumstances, shall not be affected and shall continue in full force and effect. To this end, the provisions of this Order are severable.

Article 2

1. It is hereby declared to be the intention of the City of East Ellijay that all sections, paragraphs, sentences, clauses, and phrases of this Order are and were, upon their enactment, believed by the City Council be fully valid, enforceable, and constitutional.
2. It is hereby declared to be the intention of the City Council that, to the greatest extent allowed by law, each and every section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of this Order is severable from every other section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of this Order. It is hereby further declared to be the intention of the City Council that, to the greatest extent allowed by law, no section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of this Order is mutually dependent upon any other section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of this Order.
3. In the event that any phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph or section of this Order shall, for any reason whatsoever, be declared invalid, unconstitutional or otherwise unenforceable by the valid judgment or decree of any court of competent jurisdiction, it is the express intent of the City Council that such invalidity, unconstitutionality or unenforceability shall, to the greatest extent allowed by law, not render invalid, unconstitutional or otherwise unenforceable any of the remaining phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs or sections of the Order and that, to the greatest extent allowed by law, all remaining phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and sections of the Order shall remain valid, constitutional, enforceable, and of full force and effect.

Article 3

All Orders or parts of Orders in conflict with this Order are, to the extent of such conflict, are hereby repealed or set aside.

Article 4

This Order shall become effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 26, 2020 and will continue to be in effect until 11:59 p.m. on April 7, 2020, or until it is extended, rescinded, superseded, or amended in writing by the East Ellijay City Council.

SO ORDERED this _25_ day of March, 2020.

Chamber creates new “Chalk Ellijay” event amid isolations

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Building, coordinating, and energizing a social function can be quite difficult, but doing one amid widespread quarantines and self imposed isolation is a completely different order, such as “Chalk Ellijay.”

We are here to support our community and lift the spirits of those around us. Please tune in until the end of this video for a fun way to stay positive and brighten someone’s day. We have always said that the Gilmer Chamber is a family and now it is time to show our community what this family is all about! #ThisIsEllijay

Posted by Gilmer Chamber on Friday, March 20, 2020

Gilmer County’s Chamber of Commerce has taken on exactly that task as they began a new event over the weekend. After an earlier video post from President/CEO Paige Green promising to help coordinate resources and business in the time of need. But, the video ended on a very different note.

Green said the Chamber’s two locations, the Downtown Welcome Center on the Square in Ellijay and the main office just off 515 in East Ellijay, now have baskets of chalk. What they are pushing to do with this chalk is building community and a neighborhood feeling by using the chalk to “Chalk Ellijay.”

A later post offered more details stating,

“(We get by with a little help from our friends.) In an effort to help lift our community’s spirit, we invite you to chalk your sidewalk or driveway with an encouraging message, snap a picture, and post it using #ThisIsEllijay so the community can see! Need chalk? Visit the downtown welcome center or Chamber office! We have chalk inside buckets for you. (Please only take one or two and leave some for your neighbor!) want to go the extra mile? Leave an encouraging message in the driveway of an at-risk/elderly/immune compromised friend and give them a call afterwards to let them know you’ve been by. (Let’s maintain social distancing 💪🏻) We will get through this together in heart.”

Chalk EllijayThe idea of the chalk use is simple, but social media has been flooded over the last week from across the country with stories and videos of people do small things to build greater feeling and community.

From a man playing music in the common garden of an apartment complex for people to list to from their balconies to signs and gifts of people visiting elderly relatives outside the windows of their homes and apartments.

The local step is incorporating far more than just a few select groups though. The Chamber said, “We are here to support our community and lift the spirits of those around us… We have always said that the Gilmer Chamber is a family and now it is time to show our community what this family is all about!”

People are starting to take to social media, posting their own chalk art and messages, with even a few local businesses and restaurants joining in, too.

Chalk Ellijay

East Ellijay Walmart modifying hours and Georgia cases rise

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Citizens are waking up and some are skipping church today as new reports from the statewide media are increasing the reported number of cases to 99 in the Georgia and businesses like Walmarts modifying hours for stocking and cleaning.

modifying hours

Delilah Arnold stands in front of a completely empty shelf in East Ellijay’s Food Lion store after citizens prepare to stay home to avoid the Coronavirus. (Photo by Robie Arnold)

Other businesses are doing the same, closing down or modifying hours in the face of both businesses and government entities shutting down. Grocery stores like Walmart have had bare shelves all weekend as people stock up for a week at home to avoid the spread of the Coronavirus.

Authorities are telling citizens not to panic, but are encouraging anyone feeling sick to self-quarantine in efforts to avoid possible spread.

Just over the last two days, Walmart has repeatedly run out of items and some citizens are even going to employees stocking shelves, asking them if there is more stock ready to be put out.

However, in Ellijay and nearby counties, all the grocery stores including Ingles and Food Lion are being effected by the shortages as well.

modifying hoursIn response, East Ellijay’s own Walmart has modifying hours with signs posted saying they will only be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. A major change from a national business known for its 24-hour operations.

According to news reports and public releases, Dacona Smith, Walmart Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, said in a release, “This will help ensure associates are able to stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing.”

Citizens in Ellijay should take note of this change as it is currently in effect, but has no published or stated end date to these new hours.

 

modifying hours

Ingles shelves are bare, running out of much more than just toilet paper and sanitizers over the weekend, as citizens respond to concerns and reports of the Coronavirus in East Ellijay, Georgoa. (Photo by Christopher Scott)

 

County approves Intergovernmental Agreement

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Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Now that both cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay have approved their sides of the Intergovernmental Agreement for the TSPLOST, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners have followed suit by also approving approving the agreement.

The resolution approving the agreement establishes an estimated collection of up to $25 million from a one percent TSPLOST tax. As reported from the joint meeting between the cities and the county, the resolution also states the split of the proceeds between the three entities, “92.35% to the County, 5.72% to Ellijay and 1.93% to East Ellijay.”

While there are still more steps to complete after this Intergovernmental Agreement, such as preparing the ballot question and each entity fully describing the projects anticipated to be accomplished by these proceeds, the TSPLOST tax is well on its way to the spring voting ballot for citizens to offer their final word on the subject.

In a previous meeting, County Attorney David Clark urged the board set project and details before the county puts the option on the ballot for public vote as the public needs to know everything possible and everything being considered in the TSPLOST.

Following the newly approved Intergovernmental Agreement, the county and both cities have individually approved the following list under “Transportation Purpose” as items to be accomplished by the TSPLOST:

Road, street, and bridge purposes, including but not limited to: (i) acquisition of rights of way for roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (ii)  construction of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (iii) renovation and improvement of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths, including resurfacing; (iv) relocation of utilities for roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (v) improvement of surface-water drainage from roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (vi) patching, leveling, milling, widening, shoulder preparation, culvert repair, and other repairs necessary for the preservation of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (vii) roadside mowing; (viii) intersection improvements; (ix) road striping; (x) road signage; (xi) borrow pit materials used for constructing and maintaining roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (xii) a capital outlay project or projects consisting of any of the foregoing to be owned, operated, or administered by the sate and located, in whole or in part, in Gilmer County; (xiii) equipment used for constructing and maintaining roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; and (xiv) all accompanying infrastructure and services necessary to provide access to roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths.

Furthermore, in that same meeting, County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris mentioned wanting more town halls on the TSPLOST for specific regions of the county to ‘go to the people.’ He explained that he wanted to make it far easier for those in the local area to attend and discuss the topic, holding four different meetings in four different sections of Gilmer.

Despite this, several work sessions, regular meetings, and special called meetings have been held along the process offering citizens information on the subject. Additionally, the county has more meetings upcoming to speak with Commissioners such as this weeks Wednesday, February 12, Work Session at 9:00 a.m. and Thursday, February 13, Regular Meeting at 6:00 p.m.

East Ellijay approves TSPLOST

News
East Ellijay TSPLOST

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The final steps are being prepared for the coming vote for a TSPLOST in May as East Ellijay City Council approves their resolution for an intergovernmental agreement.

This intergovernmental agreement is set to support the TSPLOST if approved on the May voting ballot. This agreement approves of the TSPLOST and the city’s percentage of the tax collection.

In January, a special called meeting between all three entities set the split for the TSPLOST as such, Gilmer County receives 92 percent, Ellijay receives 5.72 percent, and East Ellijay receives 1.93 percent.

The item now goes back to the Commissioners to approve the intergovernmental agreement on their end before officially moving forward to the next steps.

TSPLOST negotiations highlight cities’ split

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Paving roads and the amount of spending came into debate as the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners met with Mayors and members of City Hall from both Ellijay and East Ellijay today to discuss TSPLOST negotiations.

The discussion centered on the split that each entity wanted to see with the upcoming possible TSPLOST tax. Each entity vied for an increase to their portion over and above what they got for the previous SPLOST split. Debate arose around the idea of the cities increasing to a flat 2 percent for East Ellijay and 6 percent for Ellijay. This would be up from the 1.93 percent that East Ellijay has with the SPLOST split and up from 5.72 percent that Ellijay has.

However, as the discussion progressed, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said he also wanted the county’s percentage to go up considering the 500 miles of road in the unincorporated parts of the county, roads maintained by the county.

The two mayors countered with arguments of their own. Mayor of Ellijay, Al Hoyle noted that many of the roads they maintain in the city are used more than those in the outer parts as people travel out of town on city-maintained roads to reach the county roads.

East Ellijay Mayor Mack West added to the notion saying that East Ellijay has a constant need for Eller Road as an example. Due to the high traffic and usage, the road is already showing cracks after only three years since paving.

However, the topic ultimately came to rest at proceeding with the same split that each entity sees on the normal SPLOST, Gilmer County receives 92 percent, Ellijay receives 5.72 percent, and East Ellijay receives 1.93 percent.

However, the negotiations of percentage were not the only discussion held in the meeting as citizens debated the TSPLOST in the Citizens Wishing to Speak section.

Bill Craig, of North Georgia Diamond, voiced his opinion that the retail business community may have been left out of the discussion on the topic. Saying that the county hasn’t considered the impact to businesses that more sales tax might have. He offered scenarios to consider that people visiting might go elsewhere or stop early to buy groceries or similar necessities if they visit Ellijay, or that someone might visit another county to buy larger items like his store provides, being jewelry and diamonds.

While Paris did say he met with one retailer privately to discuss the topic, Craig repeated that he felt the county had not done enough to understand the business impact.

Mayor West commented on possible impact saying if he was going to buy something like a diamond, he would shop with North Georgia Diamond over driving to Atlanta for only a $100 difference, coming from the 1 percent sales tax increase.

Craig went on to say that adding TSPLOST would make Gilmer one of the highest sales tax percentages in the state.

Georgia Sales and Use Tax Rate Chart - Gilmer TSPLOST Negotiations

Georgia Sales and Use Tax Rate Chart

In fact, according to the Georgia Sales and Use Tax Rate Chart (pictured to the right) published, for January 2020, by the Georgia Department of Revenue, of the 159 counties in Georgia, just over half of them have an 8 percent sales tax.

Actually, 83 counties have an 8 percent sales tax, while 69 counties (including Gilmer) have a 7 percent sales tax, 4 counties have a 6 percent sales tax, and only one county, Ware County, has a 9 percent sales tax. This does exclude Fulton and DeKalb counties with split sales tax in parts of the county according to this document.

Also, there are 87 counties that currently have some form of a TSPLOST, whether it is the original state TSPLOST or a locally added TSPLOST after that statewide vote.

Looking more specifically to the Highway 515 corridor, as some have called it, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, and Union Counties all, currently, have a sales tax rate of 7 including LOST (Local Option Sales Tax), SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), and ESPLOST (Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).

One more comment of major note came from Chairman Paris who said, “I’m fine with it either way,” when discussing if the TSPLOST will pass on the ballots. Paris admitted a large amount of pressure on him from the public. He has stated in previous meetings that he feels the road department and the county’s roads are progressing. He ultimately simplified the discussion and the TSPLOST vote as he summed it up by saying its a decision on if we want our roads fixed over the next 25 years or the next 5 years. The TSPLOST, as he described, is simply a way to achieve the same results faster.

 

TSPLOST debate moves to include cities

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is advertising a meeting early in the new year with the city governments of Ellijay and East Ellijay.

This Special Called Meeting, set for January 7, 2020, at 10 a.m., has only one agenda item, “Discussion and possible action of Intergovernmental Agreement for a proposed T-SPLOST with the Cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay.”

Recent months have seen the TSPLOST progress from an idea in the Roads and Bridges Town Hall to approval to be on the ballot in less than two months.

The meeting is actually set the day before the county is set to hold its January Workshop, scheduled for January 8, 2019, at 9 a.m.

While not fully confirmed, the county has held similar meetings in the past when discussing their SPLOST renewal in 2018 where they negotiated each of the cities’ percentage that they would take from the tax. At that time, it was confirmed that the county could have moved forward without the cities, but noted several benefits to cooperating and negotiating their involvement.

With the TSPLOST, there has been no specific discussion on the need, benefits, or reason for involving the cities since the Board already approved the TSPLOST to go for a vote on the ballots without them. However, County Attorney David Clark did say at that meeting that the county needed to finalize details and work on a few more items before they would be ready to put it on the ballot.

In any scenario, at this time, it appears the county will be reaching out to the cities for their support of or involvement in the TSPLOST in the coming week.

Kids ‘Shop with a Hero’ in preparation of Christmas

Bobcat's Corner, Community, News
Gilmer Shop with a Hero kids

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County had plenty to celebrate this weekend during “Shop with a Hero” as volunteers from all over the county, and some outside the county, joined forces to provide a memorable and excited Saturday morning for local kids.

The First Annual “Shop with a Hero” event punctuated the Christmas season in Gilmer with a special note as not only a sign of continued cooperation between agencies but as a magical answer to families providing a special day to hang out with heroes from public service and to spend some time shopping for Christmas clothes and toys.

Kids were bused from Ellijay Elementary School to Walmart with police escorts in celebration of Gilmer's First Annual "Shop with a Hero" event on December 14, 2019.

Kids were bused from Ellijay Elementary School to Walmart with police escorts in celebration of Gilmer’s First Annual “Shop with a Hero” event on December 14, 2019.

In years past, many will recall ‘0Shop with a Cop’ events that operated similarly to this. The major difference is that, now, every agency offers representatives and volunteers to come together and share time with the public apart from their daily capacities.

Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said on Saturday that this is what law enforcement is really about. Coming together to help the community and to be with the community. Days like this weekend’s Shop with a Hero are the key points of their service to the public as well as a way to be seen in uniform but outside of the common interactions like traffic stops, fighting fires, medical emergencies, and other duties they perform.

The day proceeded with a morning breakfast with the children and their families as Mr. P’s donated over 200 biscuits to feed everyone. As they ate, the heroes walked around introducing themselves and spoke with many of the families while Santa Claus also visited. With breakfast completed, a full procession paraded through Ellijay and East Ellijay with full lights and sirens as the children rode a bus through town, down Maddox Drive, then onto Highway 515 and on to Walmart where each volunteer was paired with a child to shop with. Some volunteers brought their family members as well to share in the experience.

But the focus of the day was on the children as they spent nearly two hours with their officer, deputy, firefighter, or official they were paired with. Each child received a gift card of $150. They had to spend at least $75 on clothes and $75 on whatever they wanted, be it more clothes, toys, snacks, or whatever else.

As the day progressed, each child and their hero spent their time shopping and talking along with their family before moving to two designated check out lanes only for use with the Shop with a Hero event. And that still wasn’t enough for the event and those involved. That morning, the children were given a “Shop with a Hero” t-shirt to wear throughout the day and keep. As the children finished their day of shopping, most of them just after noon, they turned in their event badges and were given a stocking to take home, already holding some small stocking stuffer toys and candy.

GBI Agent Renea Green, left, and Ellijay Police Department Cpt. Ray Grace, right, speak at the breakfast kickoff for Gilmer's First Annual Shop with a Hero event.

GBI Agent Renea Green, left, and Ellijay Police Department Cpt. Ray Grace, right, speak at the breakfast kickoff for Gilmer’s First Annual Shop with a Hero event.

Going even further, certain volunteers including Sheriff Stacy Nicholson himself, manned donation tables for people who just happened to be in Walmart that day. The store pre-made 486 bags of food to be sold for donation. As citizens bought these bags, they were moved from the tables to a donation bin to be donated to the Gilmer High School food pantry. They sold every single bag and still had people donating more on top of that. The excess funds were put into holding accounts to be used for next year’s event.

The event was sponsored by the Ellijay Police Foundation as a 501c3, but the event was the brainchild of Cpt. Ray Grace of the Ellijay Police Department and GBI (Georgie Bureau of Investigation) Agent Renea Green. It sponsored 52 kids to go shopping with local heroes.

The event saw representatives from the Ellijay Police Department, the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office, East Ellijay Police Department, Ellijay Fire, Gilmer Fire & Rescue, Gilmer County Public Safety, the GBI, Georgia State Patrol, and the Department of Natural Resources as they came to spend time with these families.

But more than just these men and women, volunteers from the Gilmer Board of Education and the county’s elementary and middle school administations, along with donations and volunteers from local businesses donating time and money all came together to create the special day.

In just six weeks of preparation, Gilmer County raised $13,000 in locally sourced money that went right back into a local event helping local people.

These sponsors included Southern Customs, Parks Truck Center, United Contracting, Chateau Meichtry Vineyard, Bryant Physical Therapy, Aaron Family Orchards, Ott Farms and Vineyard, CMB Management Company, King Mechanical Services, Engelheim Vineyards, Ellijay Wood Fired Pizza, Artful Ellijay, Walmart, Ellijay Convenient, B.J. Reece Orchards, Nancy Cochran Maddox Attorney at Law, Pilgrim’s, David P. Garner DBA Garner Group Enterprises, United Community Bank, Cartecay Baptist Church, Winslow Real Estate Services, and many other anonymous business and private citizen donations including Sheriff’s Deputies who donated $100 to be allowed to grow beards during December while serving on duty.

With the major success that this event saw, talks are already working towards next year. Though nothing is set for next year yet, the event coordinators have said that many of the donations have already promised the same or more to the event. They did say they have had such an overwhelming response they could already have enough to at least duplicate the event next year.

 

 

See more photos from the event at FYN’s Facebook Photo Album.

Diamond Store Break-in occurs in East Ellijay

News
Break-In closings

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Owners of North Georgia Diamond in Gilmer County have confirmed a break-in and theft occurred in their showroom last night, December 4, 2019.

According to a statement by North Georgia Diamond, the business is already beginning to recover and are looking to return to business this weekend.

So far, East Ellijay Police, Gilmer’s Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) have all been reported to be involved in the investigation. FYN has reached out to these agencies for comment and is awaiting a response.

Additionally, North Georgia Diamond has confirmed that with the break-in happening overnight, no injuries came from the incident. However, there was damage to the building and equipment.

With the investigation ongoing, North Georgia Diamond released a statement saying, “Nobody got hurt and we will get through this. Thanks to all of the law enforcement personnel that have been on the seen this morning. East Ellijay PD, Gilmer County Sheriffs Office, GBI, and anyone else I am leaving out. They are the best. Stay tuned for more info as to when we can get back up and running. We have a wonderful community and we will have a Merry Christmas.”

East Ellijay to Annex 18 acres

News
emergency

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the Public Hearing and first reading in August, the city of East Ellijay is set to annex new property into the city.

Totaling 18.66 acres, Mayor Mack West said the land is “part of the old Reece property.” It will convert from an Agricultural property to R1 – Residential as it becomes part of East Ellijay.

However, as only the first reading, citizens still have a chance to comment or discuss the annexation at the final reading and adoption during the council’s September meeting.

Additionally, in the meeting, the council is moving forward with purchasing a used Ford truck for the street department. The city is looking to purchase the vehicle owned and being used for city work by one of its employees.

City Manager Mack Wood told the council that this truck would save some money in gas usage as the current truck utilizes diesel fuel. The city will use the truck for trash pick-up, putting out signs when needed, and other needed city uses as they arise.

The city also approved an engagement letter from Welch Walker and Associates for the city’s audit. Mayor West called the $9,500 “a bargain” as he told the council the company has not changed the prices in six years. With this approval, Welch Walker and Associates will move forward with the audit of the fiscal year having ended on June 30, 2019.

West also said this would be the tenth year that the city has used this company.

Qualifying shows no election in East Ellijay

Election, News

EAST ELLIJAY – With Qualifying finished and the names gathered, East Ellijay will officially skip the elections process once again this year.

Each member of the current council has requalified with no one running against them. With no contest, City Manager Mack Wood tells FYN that the city will not be moving forward with any of the remaining processes for voting booths, early voting,  or campaigning.

The current council will remain with the following incumbents having qualified:

Mayor –
Mack West

Councilmembers –
Don Callihan
Ed Forrester
Harold Crump
Linda Smith

East Ellijay advertises qualifying for election

Election, News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Next week, the City of East Ellijay will hold qualifying for the coming November elections.

Qualifying will be available from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., from Monday, August 19, 2019, until Wednesday, August, 21, 2019. Those wishing to qualify for the office of Mayor or one of the four City Council Members positions can do so at City Hall, 107 Oak Street, East Ellijay, Georgia.

According to East Ellijay’s official release, “The qualifying fee shall be $100.00 for the office of City Council and $1,000.00 for the office of Mayor.”

With qualifying set, candidates who qualify by end of day on August 21, 2019, will be placed on the November 5, 2019, Election day.

Budget continues perks for citizens and employees

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – East Ellijay is continuing more than just property tax waivers for the ‘19-’20 fiscal year as they presented and approved their budget in June’s meeting.

Introducing the new budget, East Ellijay Mayor Mack West noted in his discussion that the ‘18-’19 budget did not need to take money from reserves to balance the budget as projected. The final financial reporting shows approximate revenues at $1,590,000 and actual expenditures at $1,380,000, leaving a $210,000 excess of revenue over expenditures.

Continuing into the next fiscal year, the council approved the waiver of solid waste, semi-weekly, residential curb-side pick-up fees city residents. According to a letter the West provided the council, “business and commercial entities use area contractors for waste disposal” and are not a part of the waiver.

Another item the city is continuing comes as a finish to last year’s budget. The council approved an $800 bonus to city employees, coming in July. Mayor West stated during the meeting that due to the diligence of employees and efforts to keep expenditures low, all employees would receive the bonus.

The bonus has been done for years, so many in fact, that council members could not remember exactly when the tradition began. Continuing the bonus still required the council’s approval,however, as is done every year.

West applauded the city’s staff in the letter saying, “All City Employees, including our many contract employees, are well trained, dedicated individuals with performance levels above and beyond expectations. As long as we have a good team and work together, we can provide the required services to our citizens without any property tax assessements.”

The letter also gave a statement on the city’s current financial status at the end of May 2019. With eight General Fund CD’s, the city holds $2,127,879.51. They also hold two SPLOST CD’s totaling $330,548.54.

Read the Mayor’s letter to the council with Page 1, Page 2, and Page 3.

East Ellijay continues Property Tax Waiver

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The city council of East Ellijay voted this week to formally adopt their 2019 tax year millage rate.

Mayor of East Ellijay, Mack West recommended the council reduce their millage from 3.5 to 3 mils. However, he also recommended a continuation of waiving all personal and business property taxes.

According to West’s letter to the council, “Property Taxes have not been collected in East Ellijay since 1976.”

Approval came in two motions as the city first unanimously approved the millage rate reduction. Then, the second motion approved the waiving of the property tax.

 

‘Pool’ing the county’s time and resources

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County is continuing discussions on the community pool with plans forthcoming and progress towards an initial design. FYN sat down with Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller to speak on the subject and his views as one-third of the board.

Jumping straight to the point, Miller said that he feels like most people are looking at the question, “What happens now?” While some still question the closing of the previous pool so close to the summer season, Miller also said he, personally, felt the county lacked any hard facts on closing the pool.

Gilmer County Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller

Miller did note that he felt the pool should have been closed in previous years, he is more concerned now with the speed of action by the county and how quickly it has gone from closing the old pool to expediting a plan for a new one to budget amendments to design plans.

Miller noted a saying he has throughout his life as he said, “Anything you have got to do in a hurry is probably going to be done over.” He said he doesn’t want this to happen. He called it an issue with an early warning to citizens so that they do not have adequate time to respond to address the issue as well as having a vote on the subject at a Public Comments Hearing. Another point of debate as he noted it was advertised correctly as a meeting, but he felt it wasn’t said that a vote would happen in that meeting and the county isn’t used to voting on things during public comment meetings.

When questioned about the properties available at both Clear Creek and River Park, he admitted that he would likely still be looking for another location. Several Commissioners meetings and public comments have well established that many citizens were not thrilled with the Clear Creek property being so far from the city, though he did say that the size of clear creek and correlation to the baseball fields there would be a good point of growth for that site.

The River Park location has its own concerns despite being primely located in town and adjacent to the already under renovation River Park. That location has seen changes over the last year, with playgrounds and an extended walking path, and plans for future changes, like the planned tennis/pickleball courts, and features still being discussed and pursued by the county.

Many of Miller’s concerns on the River Park location revolve around preparation for the project. He said, “We haven’t done, in my opinion, a full good job of due diligence on either Clear Creek’s proposed site or the East Ellijay proposed site. There has not been a rigorous research and rigorous vetting or looking into those properties.”

He furthered concerns about the floodplain, public access, utilities, and railroad crossing when accessing the East Ellijay property, River Park location, from Progress Road.

Miller says he wants time and opportunities to address these issues. For example, there is not an official public road past the railroad tracks. Miller said that while a road is there. The official right-of-way extends,  to his knowledge, to the railroad tracks and no further. Additionally, crossing the railroad and building on that land must respect a 100-foot right of way on the railroad tracks, and an 80-foot right of way on the road.

If there is no maintained road with right of way across the tracks, questions still linger on what would have to be done to bring that crossing to proper code. Miller said it could be as simple as a sign or could require more. He did say that railroad crossings have certain standards, and that crossing would require updating of some sort.

As far as the concerns of the location being in a floodplain, Miller noted that there are different levels of flood plains depending on the land’s slope and elevation. Building inside of floodplains requires its own standards. As part of the land is in different levels, he said he wants soil samples on the site showing the quality of the ground, foundation, leveling, and needs that the land itself would require.

Miller said he wants to bring up these issues simply because he doesn’t know the answers fully. With time and studies, more answers could be gathered before dedicating to this location. He also asserted that the county has not fully committed to either property. With final agreements requiring the full board vote, the county is still looking into the land. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris had already noted this early when he pointed out that no IGA (Inter-Governmental Agreement) has been signed. As details are being finalized with both entities of the County and East Ellijay, the IGA would be the document sealing the agreement of using the land, and what would be expected.

Being responsible for the budget and going through amendments are a part of processes of government. Miller says the issue arises when you look at the influence that a Commissioner has over the county’s offices. Being responsible for those revenues and expenses of the county as a whole is hard when we start changing these budgets regularly and often. “I contend that that is what contingencies are for, to avoid those kinds of situations where you have to rearrange somebody else’s budget just to handle an emergency.”

Miller said that the county has created contingency funds in the last couple of years to handle these situations and has improved their budget process over those years, pulling out capital projects, trimming requests, forecasting revenues. They also continue to improve the process as steps are underway to improve the 5-year plan, looking at budget meeting dates and time frame this year.

In fact, the first contingencies were set with the understanding that the money was set into contingency and understood that whatever wasn’t used for a specified emergency, would be kept to build a pool in 2021.

While Miller said there were ways the county could adjust and fit the pool budget if situations arise like the Cherry Log Fire Station where the county used Road Department workers to clear land, the county has to do these things publicly and transparently. Situations like this aren’t free labor. They cost the county money and time as they redirect those labor resources. Similarly, adjusting budgets redirects funding promised to one department into a different department. Miller said he wanted to keep the process as public as possible, but also to take time to analyze, study, and prepare for the pool properly.

As such, he felt strongly that the idea of completing the project before Memorial Day 2020 is not feasible. “There is no slack in this thought of open by Memorial Day,” said Miller. Without time contingencies, without similar county pools built in similar time frames, without comparables to guide and show what to expect with it, there is no real way to see the project being done that quickly.

Looking to the future plans for the pool, Miller speaks on the county’s integrity saying he wants to do everything he can to keep the county’s promises. While the pool is a priority in the county, he does not want this to become a “do it at all costs” kind of project.

Pool or Pools?

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With new information coming from an unrelated meeting last week of Gilmer County’s Board of Commissioners, citizens have been seeking clarifications on issues regarding the community pool that has become a central topic in Gilmer County since the official closing of the current pool this month.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris took measure this week to clarify a few of these questions. Though two of the county commissioners listened to a presentation from a local pool company and later said that they did like the designs in that presentation, Paris said the county must still go through engineering and design processes as a part of the bid process for the county. Paris also sternly said that the project has a budget and many of the talks about things he or other commissioners may “want” to be included, could be left out because of budget constraints.

While holding a Special Called Meeting regarding the possibility of a new pool, seemingly everyone who showed up raised their hand saying they did want construction of a new pool.

However, preliminary discussions, along with a rough design the county presented earlier this month as a visual of how they would like to go, showed that the new recreation center will not have one, but two pools. Each pool would house its own filtration system. But each pool would be drastically different. The primary pool would be five feet deep, would have rope floats to designate swim lanes when used for that purpose but be removed for use by the general public, would host a slide in a side “recessed” area, and would be an indoor pool. The secondary pool would have a ramp entry to wade into the pool, would only reach three feet deep, and could eventually host accessories like fountains, extra slides, or other accoutrements. Additionally, this secondary pool would not be open year-round as the heaters would only be used on the indoor pool.

Paris was adamant that many of these design thoughts were simply preliminary ideas that have come from citizens, board meetings, and his own thoughts. Paris said that he hopes the county could move forward with engineering and designs to have the basics understood and be able to answer questions and make changes for items that citizens want during one more “town hall” meeting, possibly in July or August.

With continued talk of additions, second pools, basketball courts, paved parking lots, fountains, and coverings, Paris specified the plan for the pool as he said all of these things are additional items. What needs to happen by next year is the “primary” pool, dressing rooms, and bathrooms. This is the core of what citizens could see if the county is able to open the pool next year. Paris repeated previous statements to FYN that while he has set the goal of opening by Memorial Day, 2020, he understands the aggressiveness of that plan and the possibility that it may be later.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris

However, Paris did note his personal preferences on the pool should the budget allow for an added items. He said that while priority one is the primary pool with dressing rooms and bathrooms, he did have mixed feelings about the shallow pool and covering saying, “If I have a choice, initially, by this time next year, if I can have the cover or I can have the shallow pool, and then, the following year, I can come back and get the other one. Then I would take the shallow pool. If we don’t have enough for either of those, we’re going to have to come back and add them later on, then I would give priority for adding the cover before adding the shallow pool.”

Though he offered his opinion on this, Paris did state that this is his own opinion. The BOC still has two other commissioners and the citizens input for designs to consider.

When questioned about the priority of paving the parking lot, he noted that the county did a similar thing with the Clear Creek Ball Fields project as they used a gravel parking lot as the fields were completed, and came back the following year to pave the lot.

Paris also repeated the county’s plans to have engineering done all at once and engineered in such a way that the construction projects could be done later when the county is able to fund them. This has become a stressed point in the county’s movement toward construction of this new pool. While plans and engineering designs are to be done all at once, both the county’s current verbal agreement with East Ellijay and the Commissioners meetings have concluded with understandings that the construction of a full “Recreation Center” would come later and in pieces, one project at a time.

More questions have arisen with the possibility of two options for land for the pool location, 29 acres from the Gilmer County Charter School System and 21 acres from East Ellijay. While Paris said that it is currently the county’s intention to move forward with the River Park location, they do still have the option should “extreme need” force them to reconsider. While it is a “Plan B” option, Paris said that it was still their just in case.

Gilmer County’s previous pool, earlier closed for this summer season and now, after resolutions to build a new pool, closed indefinitely.

Some citizens have also raised concerns about the land being so close to the river just as the last pool was. Paris noted that while flooding and weather were never really a major issue with the pool, much of the problems they have encountered recently could be attributed to the pools age. Additionally, the county is currently employing its surveyor to investigate the land. While the current pool sits in a flood plain, Paris said that it is his understanding that part of the land coming from East Ellijay is only partly in the flood plain. Depending on how much of it is in the flood plain, the county could push the parking lot for the center closer to the river while building the center closer to Progress Road, along Soccer Field Road, allowing the pools and part of the center to be out of the flood plain. Later, Paris did also mention a side note that this lot may be used for additional parking during the Apple Festival as well.

He went on to say that this is another part of the process that they will need to deal with during planning and designing. As the county awaits the surveyors reports, Paris said that he would engage the surveyor to provide the report and mark the flood plain with stakes so the county could inspect the size and plan mitigation accordingly.

The county is also working through basic needs for the pool as it talks with the Ellijay Gilmer County Water and Sewerage Authority and insurance liabilities as well. On that note, Paris did say that he does not believe they will pursue options for a diving well and diving board in the new pool due to liability reasons.

FYN also questioned if Paris would use the Road Department again, similar to the Cherry Log Fire Station, to make preparations or clear the land. Paris said it would be something he’d do if needed, but “it’s not something that I would prefer.” He made note that the county used the Road Department during the Cherry Log Fire Station project after they put the project out to bid, but got prohibitively high bids on the project.

Paris did confirm that the county has been offered this land before, but the current agreement from East Ellijay would offer the land free of monetary costs. He also confirmed that the agreement would have the county agreeing to build a full recreation center instead of just a pool. However, he did note that, as previously stated, it is understood that the Recreation Center would come later through stages of construction.

 

 

Make sure to stay with FYN as we continue to reach out to Gilmer’s other commissioners for their opinions and for updated information on the pool project as it becomes available.

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