County approves Intergovernmental Agreement

News
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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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Diamond Store Break-in occurs in East Ellijay

News
Break-In

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.”

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East Ellijay to Annex 18 acres

News

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.

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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

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