ELLIJAY, Ga. – Early Voting is well underway in Gilmer County with lines stretching around the block some days. Citizens are adamant in exercising their right to vote in this major election.
As people prepare and plan on their trips to the ballot box through either early voting or on election day, November 3, 2020, the Registrar’s Office of Gilmer County is providing all the information available.
Staying open later in the day until 6:00 p.m. and even opening this Saturday, the office is following requirements by law and attempting to maintain social distancing while providing this service. According to Chief Registrar and Gilmer County Elections Manager, Tammy Watkins, the full operation times for early voting are:
Monday October 19th thru Friday October 23rd 8:30am – 6:00pm
Saturday October 24th 9:00am until 4:00pm
Monday October 26th thru Friday October 30th 8:30am – 6:00pm
As people are continuing to gather in large droves at the Gilmer County Registrar Office (1 Broad St Suite 107 Ellijay, GA 30540) the office is also providing sample ballots in multiple locations including inside the office, through local media, through the county website, and below this article.
Another new addition comes in the form of the Absentee Ballot Box drop-off located at the Gilmer County Courthouse. Located around the corner from the office, the drop-off box is next to the main entrance of the courthouse (pictured right).
Citizens who wish to find out more or wish to ask questions can contact the Registrars Office at 706-635-4617.
Additionally, for those preparing for voting on Election Day, the Voter Registration page of the County Website provides locations for each of the voting precincts in the county near the bottom of the page.
Written and submitted by: Gilmer GOP – Reece Sanford
On November 3 rd , 2020, Americans will go to the polls to vote for the President of the United States.
Election Day is an event that has occurred every four years in our nation since the first Presidential
election in the winter of 1788-1789. Through world wars, pandemics, civil unrest, recessions,
depressions, and even the Civil War, Americans have gone to the polls every four years to elect a
national leader. After so many elections, it might be easy to view this event as routine as the changing of
the seasons. However, we should not take the right to vote for granted. Our Founding Fathers revolted
over “taxation without representation.” They understood the importance of having influence over those
who governed them. Throughout time and history, millions, perhaps billions, of people have not had a
say in their government. But in America, every citizen regardless of gender, race, religion, education, or
income has a right to select their representatives. This right should not be taken lightly. As the human
rights activist Loung Ung once said, “Voting is not only our right – it is our power.”
This summer I read “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” by Daron
Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. The book theorizes that a nation is on the path to failure when its
political institutions fail to include large groups of the nation’s people. When the politics of the nation
are controlled by the elite, then inevitably the economic institutions will eventually cater to the elite at
the expense of those who are excluded from the nation’s politics. When politics exclude the average
person, eventually the elite, whether they be nobles or simply bureaucrats, will use their power to take
economic resources from the common man. This taking is called economic extraction. Economic
extraction has played out time and time again throughout history. Today, the US is exceptional because
it has been the most politically inclusive nation in the history of the world. As time has passed, the
nation has become more and more inclusive. When people are permitted to participate in their nation’s
politics, they will find themselves able to succeed economically. If you can count on the government to
protect your property rights, you can have confidence to take economic risks. This form of government
is why the US has found so much economic success. We are truly blessed to live in a nation like America.
While everyone has a right to vote in America, not everyone exercises that right. A vote is a horrible
thing to waste. A vote gives you a voice, but when you choose not to vote, you choose to silence
yourself. History has shown how the powerful can abuse the voiceless. Our Founding Fathers revolted
from a nation with a poor history of protecting the weak from the powerful. For centuries, English
peasants were the majority population, but they found themselves voiceless and defenseless against the
powerful English royals and nobles. The common people suffered under centuries of high taxes and
flimsy at best property rights. Without a doubt, English peasants suffered from economic extraction.
This system was forced upon them by a government empowered by force, not democracy. These people
would have held the right to vote in great esteem, but their political system was not inclusive. If millions
of people choose not to vote, our political systems become exclusive by choice. If you do not vote, you
are unable to ensure that your elected officials represent your best interests. If this happens, you too
could experience economic extraction.
If elected, Joe Biden and the Democrats will practice economic extraction and make our political system
less inclusive. Mr. Biden’s economic plan calls for a radical increase in corporate taxes and dividend
taxes. In many cases, the combined effect will be the government laying claim to 56 cents of a dollar of
profit earned. You need to understand that taxation is not creation. New money is not created when the
government taxes. They are simply taking a dollar from your pocket and placing it in their pocket. They
do this because they believe they can spend that dollar more efficiently than you can. This is economic
The Democrats will not stop at economic extraction. They will move to practice political exclusion. For
years, Democrats have expressed their desire to abolish the Electoral College in favor of a nationwide
popular vote. Our Founding Fathers opposed a nationwide popular vote because they understood that
the Electoral College was the only way to protect the voice of citizens in small town America. If a
nationwide popular vote determined the President, a candidate could strictly campaign to the major
population centers in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Seattle, and San Diego. The
population is so large in these cities that the people in these metropolises could determine an election
on their own. If this were the case, politicians would cater to these communities and ignore the needs of
small towns across the country. If the Electoral College were abolished, small town America would lose
its voice. If small town America lost its voice, how much more economic extraction would we face?
This election is very important. Do not think that you are just one person in a nation of 329 million
people. Your one vote has more value than you think. In America, we effectively do not have a national
Presidential election. Truly, the Electoral College is the sum of 50 statewide elections. Electoral votes
represent points earned across 50 statewide elections. Realizing this, Georgia’s conservatives must focus
on the outcome in Georgia. We cannot fall into the trap of believing that Georgia is a lock for President
Trump. For the past decade, Georgia’s elections have been trending in the wrong direction for
Republicans. Early in the 2010s, Republicans could count on 53% of the vote in Georgia. Nathan Deal
(2010 and 2014), Mitt Romney (2012), and David Perdue (2014) all won 53% of the vote across the State
of Georgia. This was a sharp drop off from the 2006 Governor’s race where Sonny Perdue won 58% of
the vote. By 2016, the gap had closed even more. Four years ago, President Trump won Georgia with
only 50.4% of the vote. In the 2018 Governor’s race, the election was even closer. Brian Kemp won the
Governor’s Mansion with only 50.2% of the vote, with a winning margin of just 54,723 votes. In Gilmer,
Fannin, Pickens, Dawson, Lumpkin, and Union Counties alone, Governor Kemp received 60,117 votes. In
each of these counties, he received at least 79% of votes cast. Kemp won similar amounts of the vote
throughout the counties that make up the 9 th and 14 th Congressional districts – the rural north Georgia
districts. Conversely, Fulton and Dekalb Counties alone cast a combined 567,991 votes for Stacey
Abrams representing 30% of her total votes. To overcome the Atlanta vote and prevent the Democrats
from overtaking Georgia, it is going to take the combined efforts of every small town in this state.
Sadly, Georgia has become a battleground state. If people in rural north Georgia stay at home, Georgia
is an attainable victory for any Democrat. This year’s election is projected to be very close. If President
Trump loses the Peach State, Georgia’s sixteen electoral college votes very well could be the reason he
loses the election. Moreover, we have two US Senate seats currently held by Republicans up for election
this year. Republicans have a slim majority in the US Senate but losing the two Georgia seats could hand
the Senate to the Democrats. It is possible that the State of Georgia could hand control of the White
House and the US Senate to the Democrats. North Georgia, we cannot let that happen.
It is my hope that you understand how important it is that you vote this year. You do not need to stop
there though. Once you vote, you need to make sure your friends and family vote. North Georgia
conservatives need to realize that a Republican victory in Georgia is no longer a given. Do not assume
everyone votes. We must be more active as our counties could very well decide who governs our
country for the next four years. Our community must have a strong voter turnout. Early voting will last
until October 30 th . Saturday voting is on October 24 th . If you would like to vote by mail, you must apply
for your ballot by October 30 th . This should be done as soon as possible and can be done online or
through the mail. Finally, in person voting on Election Day will take place on November 3 rd from 7 AM to
7 PM at your assigned polling station. To find your polling station, please visit mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do.
Please share this information with your friends. Voter turnout in our community could determine this election.
The Gilmer County Republican Party is ready and willing to help you feel comfortable voting this year. Should
you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the party through our website or Facebook page.
This year, our nation is given a choice between the party of freedom and the party of economic
extraction. Elections are determined by those who show up. North Georgia, can we count on you to
show up for Republicans this fall? God Bless!
Chairman of The Gilmer Trump Campaign, a subcommittee of the Gilmer County Republican Party
Reece Sanford, CFA is the Chairman of The Gilmer Trump Campaign, Assistant Secretary –
Communications of the Gilmer County Republican Party, and a native of Ellijay, GA. He holds a BBA in
Finance from The University of Georgia and an MBA from Kennesaw State University. Mr. Sanford also
holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. He is a career community banker currently
working in small business lending. He has served on the boards of several non-profits throughout north
Georgia. He has served as Youth Engagement Director of the Gilmer County Republican Party, holds an
advisory role with a trade association Political Action Committee, and has consulted on multiple political
campaigns. He and his wife, Kerri Ann, enjoy spending their free time exploring north Georgia, running,
traveling, and cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are strictly those of the author. They do not necessarily
reflect the views of the Republican Party, its members, any other organization the author may be
associated with, nor his family members.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With more cloud based back-ups, traffic, and meetings thanks to the COVID-19 virus, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is updating their broadband internet again after a recent upgrade nearly four years ago.
According to Commissioner Chairman Paris, at that time, the major push towards cloud computing saw a major increase in need as internet speeds and traffic slowed majorly with more and more departments upgrading and integrating with cloud based software and storage.
However, this year, another boom has hit the county. Paris stated, “What we’re seeing now is sort of a variation of that. First of all, for the last few years that migration to the cloud has really accelerated. We’re seeing a lot more of that. But, with COVID, what we’re seeing now is just a massive number of video conferences, Zoom conferences. And those things just require ‘mega-bandwidth.’ So, what we’re seeing is we’re back to being slowed down again.”
Currently at 50 Mbps (Megabits per second), the county looked to upgrade to the next step up. Also, the county is currently paying $985 a month. According to Paris, he looked at the next step being 100 Mbps. This had a 36-month term costing $1,395 a month. However, there is also a 60-month term option costing $1,275 a month. Another major point of the plans that Paris said made him lean towards a 60-month term was the option to upgrade or downgrade at anytime as well as cancel at anytime “without any penalty.”
In previous meetings, members of the board have voiced concerns over long term contracts that might bind a future board.
Ultimately approving the bandwidth change for their internet, the board did decide for the longer 60-month term with the cheaper per-month cost.
Paris stated that over the past five years, the county has absorbed increasing costs in healthcare insurances, usually opting to attempt to keep employee premiums and costs to a similar area as the county increased their part. With only one of the recent years showing a decrease in health costs as the county’s negotiations were able to find a point of competition between companies, most of these years have increased through rising costs and the Affordable Care Act.
This year followed suit with rising costs, yet the county chose their option to stay with the plan they are currently on rather than opt for changes. Yet, Paris said that both options this year held increases for employees.
Staying with the current plan, the changes include a 14.7 percent increase for the plan. Employees on a base plan will see the rise from $47.10 to $54.10 on their bi-weekly deductions. Employee plans will see similar increases in each plan.
According to the presentation made to the BOC, the vision, dental, and life plans would not see any major change.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the presidential election less than a month away, yesterday saw Gilmer County’s first day of early voting with lines stretching far out the door and down the sidewalk in front of the courthouse.
According to Chief Registrar Tammy Watkins, the county saw a total of 470 people vote early on the first day.
This is no shock, however, as the Registrars Office also reported record breaking turnouts this year in the June elections. At the time, Registrar Sherri Jones said that Friday, June 5, 2020, the final day of early voting, was their busiest day of the entire cycle.
However, that busiest day ended with 161 voters casting their ballots. This Presidential Election is already shattering any expectations from citizens and authorities. The line stretched long well past noon yesterday, and was wrapping around the square today as citizens lined up in the opposite direction.
Early voting has also taken up extra space. The Board of Commissioners, amid budget meetings this week, held their meetings in the Jury Assembly Room. While most of their meetings are being held there currently, due to needs for Social Distancing amid the Coronavirus, they also said their conference room is being used by elections and office staff as the early voting machines are spreading out through the Registrar’s Office to supply enough machines for early voting while also maintaining the same Social Distancing guidelines.
Citizens don’t seem to mind as some, who have never voted, are showing up for the first time ever. One person, who declined to give his name, said he searched and registered this year just to vote against those he saw as attacking the president and the current office.
Gilmer is also adding a new drop-off box this week for absentee ballots. Set in the parking lot of the courthouse, the new box is to be bolted into the ground allowing those dropping off ballots to not have to wait in line.
Watkins said in a meeting with the commissioners last week before early voting that absentee ballots could also be seeing minor issues with some as they originally request an absentee ballot or are on a rollover absentee list, but want to cancel their absentee ballot and vote in person.
Watkins explained that this happened in the last election as a large number of ballots request forms were sent out.
Additionally, if a request is marked with certain health or physical disabilities, these people can be put on a rollover list for absentee ballots as well.
While not an issue to handle and fix, the massive turnout already seen will inflate problems in this election as staff are keeping up with the number of people while also dealing with the usual corrections and details that come normally with early voting.
With no clear number on the amount of absentees that could be since we are so early in the cycle, the first day of early voting nearly tripled the busiest day from the last election. As the campaigns continue and more people find time to go to the Gilmer County Courthouse, 1 Broad St., in Ellijay, the numbers are looking like they will only go up from here to shatter previous records in early voting for the county.
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ELLIJAY, Ga. – According to the Directors of both Public Safety and Public Works, Gilmer County may see minimal to no immediate costs for repairs to the Gilmer Airport runway after this week’s incident.
After a single-engine Super Decathlon crashed on the runway on Monday, authorities have been dealing with the incident, the pilot, and an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) investigation.
Today, in a Board of Commissioners meeting, Public Works Director Jim Smith said that it appears that the incident is not due to a fault in the airport. Although he said it could have been caused by something like pilot error, he told FYN that he had no specific details or answers as the FAA is in charge of the investigation.
When asked about the runway damages, Smith said that the Public Works Department has engineers looking at the area as minor surface damage including small grooves that had been sustained by the runway. Smith said that the damages would be covered by the insurance of the pilot.
Additionally, FYN reported that a runway light had been damaged during the issue. According to Public Safety Director Keith Kucera, a light was struck, but it only damaged the lens and did not completely destroy the light. As such, the airport keeps spare lenses for minor replacements as needed, so the light repair was handled by the airport crew.
Kucera also said that the cause of the incident was not in the information available to him as the FAA performed all the interviews and investigation and he was not a part of that process.
Smith said that Public Works could fill in the scratches and grooves with a rubberized caulk material similar to what citizens might see on highway cracks. He indicated that the runway was fine for use either way as the FAA reported yesterday that the facility and runway were cleared for use. However, he did note that the FAA inspector pointed out that repairs may be needed for these areas. He reiterated that they are awaiting the engineers to inspect the site and report back.
With damage assessments able to be handled in-house, the county has not seen any immediate damages costs from the incidents. This along with the fact that both occupants of the plane were able to walk away from the crash with only minor injuries, the largest part of the accident seems to be the plane itself that, according to current understanding, lost part of its landing gear and had its prop hit the runway before
Just after 3:00 p.m. yesterday, the plane, a single-engine Super Decathlon, holding two people, a pilot and one passenger, crashed during a landing process. Fire and Rescue responded immediately to the overturned plane still stuck on the runway’s edge.
According to a statement released by Gilmer County’s Public Safety, they released both people on the scene after treatment from paramedics. Authorities are not releasing their names at this time but did confirm that both of the plane’s occupants sustained minor injuries.
The statement said the plane “approached the runway from the south, bounced on a hard landing and veered sharply. The plane flipped upside down on the runway, causing minor injuries to the pilot and passenger.”
During the incident, the plane suffered minor damage, it has been cleared. The runway also saw damage as the incident resulted in the destruction of one runway light along with superficial scratches along the paved surface. However, since the incident, Public Safety’s Public Information Officer Al Cash said the area has been swept and cleaned of debris.
At this time the FAA has cleared the facility for further use and the Gilmer County Airport has re-opened to the public. However, the FAA is still at the airport today. According to authorities, they are conducting interviews with those involved or witnesses to the event.
This includes at least one witness, the pilot and passenger, and possibly members of the airport staff. However, no specific details have been released on these as the FAA continues its efforts.
Reports indicate a air plane crash has occurred in Gilmer County. The small plane has overturned on the runway leaving the occupants with minor injuries. As more information comes in FYN will keep you updated.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Partnerships and people coming together, these are the ideas stressed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp as he visited the CORE (Collaboration on River’s Edge) Facility this week along with Great Gilmer JDA Executive Director Kent Sanford.
Speaking to local officials, citizens, and media about business and thriving past the COVID-19 virus, Kemp began his remarks by commenting on Georgia’s status as the top state in the nation for doing business for the seventh consecutive year. A point that Kemp said isn’t something the state has done, but he said, “We only win that title because of so many people that are working on that every day at the local level.”
He made note of the Chambers, the economic development, university system, the technical college system, k-12 education, and small business owners as just a few of those people coming together to make Georgia such a powerhouse.
Kemp said he has been in the small business/entrepreneur position and he understands that people are looking for answers with concerns about their jobs and their businesses. He lauded these businesses and the connection that the CORE Facility holds in their future. Speaking on success and the outbreak, Kemp said the most successful projects that his office has been a part of have had good local support and community partners. “It makes us much more competitive.”
Ga Governor Brian Kemp visits CORE Ellijay
Posted by Fetch Your News on Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Rural Georgia was another focus during his remarks, bringing opportunity and innovation can bring better opportunities with people working hard towards providing the tools needed. Kemp pointed out projects like rural broadband as part of the push to provide the opportunities necessary to fuel that innovation.
Kemp called the CORE Facility an asset to the county as it has provided a great service in its collaborations with a small footprint. He said it is “pretty remarkable and very efficient.”
With four new projects yet unannounced, Kemp’s push for an economic pipeline in Georgia is seeing progress. He noted Papa John’s moving their headquarters to the state alongside a 30 percent increase in projects outside the metro area.
This is the evidence, Kemp says, that the efforts of the Georgia Legislature is paying off. He also included all Georgians in the level of growth as the state has set records in July and August amid the pandemic.
Kemp said, “I think it says a lot about who we are as a state and who we are as a people. We are resilient. We knew that we couldn’t continue to shelter in place forever. We had to figure out how to fight the virus and work on saving lives. But we also had to fight the virus and work on saving livelihoods.”
Just as devastating as the virus, Kemp said losing those is why he is looking at suicide rates, child abuse, mental illness, and so much other outlying effects.
Kemp said the state still has a long way to go in the future, but we cannot “take our foot off the gas.” He said the state is going to keep moving forward through the virus and through growing business.
Part of that business is tourism. He pointed that the best way to support that is to keep the virus numbers going down, but he was also glad to hear successes in rural areas of Georgia like the CORE Facility.
Kemp is pushing for continued reopening as he later said that we all need to continue following guidance in order to “methodically reopen the economy.” With lower numbers, he said we need to keep going on with what we are doing. It will take time for some businesses to recover.
Keeping those numbers down will include rapid-tests as Kemp said they are looking for places to deliver hundreds of thousands of those tests a week. He noted long-term care facilities, hospitals, and schools. He noted the citizens support and efforts to avoid a spike on Labor Day. Though not “declaring victory” yet, he is optimistic as Georgia moves forward through the virus.
Pleased with what he has been seeing in Gilmer County despite closing larger events like the Apple Festival, Kemp said certain industries are doing better than others, but he said its public confidence that can change and needs to be able to change to support industries like tourism.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Over the weekend and the past few days, information has circulated among residents on Boardtown Road and the citizens asking for relocations of the project to protect the community and natural beauty of the area.
According to an email from Scotty Abercrombie, Ralston responded to citizens about the issue saying that he had heard their concerns and was working on the issue at the capitol. Abercrombie also said that he had responded favorably stating that he appreciated the calls and emails.
Abercrombie said that he was happy with the response and that Ralston had heard the issue on Boardtown Road loud and clear. Abercrombie stated, “I appreciated him reaching out to me to discuss.”
Abercrombie said that Speaker Ralston asked for patience and time to work towards the goal.
However, it was not much time before another update reported that some progress was being made and an extension, as well as a review meeting, had been set.
Meanwhile, another report circulating among citizens stated that a member of the Amicalola Electric Board told a citizen that the longer route could also have negative effects on citizens. This email reported the information on Boardtown from the board member stating that they were told, “Amicalola Electric will have to pay for the line with borrowed money and if the line went the long route, it would result in an increase in our power bill.”
Over last weekend, Georgia Transmission Corporation Public Affairs Director Terry Cole sent an email shared among the residents stating:
In consultation with Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, Georgia Transmission Corporation releases the following statement on the Whitepath Electric Reliability Project:
As we shared with the property owners and others at our public meetings, community voices are an essential part of our process as we develop solutions to electric reliability challenges. Since those meetings, we have carefully reviewed what the community expressed. We’ve weighed how best to move forward to achieve the goal everyone can agree on which is to ensure reliable power for the homes, farms, and businesses in the Boardtown Road area.
In direct response, we are undertaking an extensive review and analysis of the two routes the community expressed interest in us examining, GA Hwy 515 and the CSX railroad corridor. We anticipate this taking several months to properly conduct the examination of existing land use, environmental conditions, engineering constraints, and cost of construction, operation and maintenance. Impacts to other property owners in the Gilmer County community will also be a factor for consideration.
As a not-for-profit member cooperative, Georgia Transmission is committed to working with the local community to fully explore all options available to reach a solution. We appreciate your continued willingness to engage in dialogue and open conversation about this challenging situation. We believe that by working together all of us can arrive at a solution that delivers the needed electric power to your community.
“I appreciate the willingness of Georgia Transmission Corporation to study this project in exhaustive detail before any final decisions are made,” said Speaker David Ralston. “We all understand and appreciate the need to consider both our infrastructure requirements and preservation of the scenic beauty of our mountain region. My thanks to all involved for taking the time necessary to reach the best possible solution for our community.”
With the new updates, official letter from Gilmer County have responded to both Speaker Ralston and Senator Gooch for their efforts in the issue along with emails from citizens and residents.
That letter was originally a part of a resolution from the Board of Commissioners to support citizens in their concerns, but has become a letter of thanks in response to the news. Approved by the Board and signed by Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, the letters stated to each representative:
Dear Speaker Ralston,
I want to thank you for your response to the people of Boardtown Road, and for your efforts in asking Georgia Transmission to consider alternate routes. You have always been very responsive to the needs of the people of Gilmer County, and it is greatly appreciated.
I do understand the need for increased capacity and reliability of our electrical system, and also appreciate the effort by our EMCs and Georgia Transmission to address this need. Our Commissioners support the project but also feel that a path can be selected that would have less of an impact on quality of life and property values in the county. We do believe that an alternate path would be preferable and are grateful for GTC’s decision to take another look at these options.
Thank you for all that you do for the people of Gilmer County.
Dear Senator Gooch,
I want to express my gratitude for the support you offered to the people of Boardtown Road in Gilmer County, and for your efforts in asking Georgia Transmission to consider alternate routes. You have always been very responsive to the needs of the people of Gilmer County, and it is greatly appreciated.
I do understand the need for increased capacity and reliability of our electrical system, and also appreciate the effort by our EMCs and Georgia Transmission to address this need. Our Commissioners support the project but also feel that a path can be selected that would have less impact on quality of life and property values in the county. We do believe that an alternate path would be preferable and are grateful for GTC’s decision to take another look at these options.
Thank you for all that you do for the people of Gilmer County
At this time, the meetings will move forward and the representatives are looking into the issues of this project and ways “to preserve the natural beauty of areas in the mountain communities.”
Though it has been stated that the review and re-evaluation of the alternate paths will cause some delays, no specifics have been given at this time to how long those delays will be. Citizens are continuing to talk about the issue with the favorable news to their concerns, and are looking to continue pushing for awareness as the project moves forward and they await the outcome of the review.
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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Last week’s news of a teacher’s arrest on charges of allegedly carrying out an inappropriate relationship with a student resulted in the following day a letter of resignation submitted to the Gilmer County Board of Education.
This culminated at the Board’s meeting when voting on personnel. Nathan Sutton’s, the teacher in question, resignation was a part of the agenda item.
Board member Ronald Watkins asked to vote on Sutton’s resignation separate from the other personnel changes. While the general personnel passed without issue, Sutton’s resignation was questioned.
Watkins said he wanted the Board to not accept his resignation as it allows him to part from the school board with a letter of resignation rather than being fired for the incident. Watkins referenced another recent resignation, saying it was similarly a situation of allowing a resignation before an investigation could prove any improper behavior.
While the Board was originally split with Board member Tom Ocobock saying he agreed that he wanted it to say on record that he was fired. Ocobock also indicated that he didn’t want Sutton “let off” with a resignation after the alleged incident. This was stressed even further as they both noted Sutton’s alleged confession.
However, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs suggested to the board that the school system would proceed with whatever they voted, she counseled them to accept the resignation on the grounds that the if the Board wished to proceed with firing him instead, they would reject the resignation and continue paying Sutton as a teacher and keeping him as an employee, at least on paper, until the proceeding could go forward with the schools firing policy. With the investigation and the school board’s process to fire him. It could take up to a couple months or even 90 days was suggested as an extreme possibility.
Some of the complicating factors revolved around the victim not being a student anymore, new policy updates for Title 9 with the schools, and proceeding with the termination in face of a resignation letter.
Downs said that she has already filed paperwork with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC) for an ethics complaint on record regarding the incident, and that the police would be moving forward with their investigation. The complaint with the GaPSC also requested to pull Sutton’s certificate for education.
According to the GaPSC website:
Title 20, Education, of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), outlines the legal guidelines, which govern the state education program.
Title 20 creates the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC) and assigns it responsibility for providing a regulatory system for “certifying and classifying” professional employees in public schools. Title 20 also requires the professional employees of all Georgia public schools to hold state certification.
Downs added that the resignation allows the board to separate from Sutton immediately without the full process of investigating themselves and firing Sutton on those grounds. She said that as far as him going to another school or getting another job, there was little difference in firing Sutton or accepting the resignation. The difference was in paying him until they could fire him or terminating the contract now.
Ocobock said that he still wanted him fired, but with Downs saying she had filed the complaint and as long as he could not go to another school for a job, he was okay with the resignation path of separation.
However, Watkins still pushed for the official process saying that he was really discouraged that he has had two people know that will be allowed to resign instead of being fired. He stated, “I want to know how bad something has got to be to where I can fire someone.”
Indeed, with a motion on the floor to accept the resignation, Watkins made his official motion to proceed with the firing process. The motion did not receive a second and died. However, the Board then proceeded with approving the motion to accept Sutton’s resignation 4-0 with Watkins abstaining.
Watkins did make one comment saying he felt he was appearing like “the bad guy” because he abstained from the resignation, but was reassured by other Board members. Ocobock told him he wasn’t the bad guy saying, “You’ve got to think about what it’s going to cost the school and the disruption in the high school where now we’ve got to find another teacher to replace him.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – In speaking with Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, FYN has confirmed that a teacher at Gilmer High School has been arrested after allegations came in regards to an “inappropriate relationship.”
A former student of Gilmer High School came forward to speak with Principal Carla Foley about the situation and to voice concerns about the possibility of it continuing with others now.
This female student, that will not be named, spoke with both Foley and the Sheriff’s Office about her time in the school and her relationship with the teacher. Downs confirmed the teacher to be Nathan Sutton, a Technology Teacher focused in audio/visual and the Film Program Instructor.
According to Downs, the student originally offered to come and speak with Principal Foley and share her story. However, upon arrival, she was asked if she would be willing to speak to officers as well. Downs said that the former student was willing to speak with officers at the same time as Foley.
Downs stated that, normally, the school system would investigate itself and share their information with the Sheriff’s Office, they asked deputies to be present from the start this time because the female is not currently a student in Gilmer. The school also declined to say when the student graduated.
According to Downs, the school system was informed of the situation yesterday and spoke with the student. After this, she immediately placed Sutton on administrative leave.
She said that deputies went to speak with Sutton last night, at which point he allegedly confessed to the relationship. Downs said that she went immediately to speak with Sutton today, at which point he resigned from teaching at Gilmer High School. Sutton’s resignation will be brought before the Board of Education tomorrow night at their regular meeting as is procedure with all resignations.
Dr. Downs said that she will be filing further with the Georgia Profession Standards Commission. While the Sheriff’s Office is taking the investigation, Downs said the school system will be filing an ethics complaint against Sutton.
According to the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office website, Sutton is currently being held at the Gilmer County Detention Center having been arrested in less than twelve hours after allegations were brought against him. He is being held on a Felony Charge of “Sexual Assault by Persons with Supervisory or Disciplinary Authority.”
FYN has requested details about his arrest and the ongoing investigation.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Originally considered for Class D and Class E roads, Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners is placing a moratorium on green space subdivisions as they work on details before planning to release the moratorium with a modified ordinance in early 2021.
According to Planning and Zoning Director Karen Henson, Gilmer has a couple subdivision projects currently approved in R2 that are abiding by lot sizes. However, the concern is if these lots are sold and then divided and resold. Class E Roads are only allowed to have 10 lots on them. The county will be looking at options to prevent such a process that would ultimately result in an larger number or lots on roads that cannot support them.
Discussion of the agenda item saw more focus on the moniker of “inferior roads” and right of ways than specific Class E roads. However, Henson indicated in the meeting that all Class E designated roads would be considered a part of the moratorium and later clarified as such.
As approved in the meeting, Henson herself clarified in an email that the Moratorium will be for:
The suspension of Class E roads.
The suspension of subdivisions of land along inferior County roads, which are roads with less than 40 foot right of way and 20 foot surface width with 3 foot shoulders (except for the 2 annual splits).
The suspension of greenspace developments.
During the meeting, with advice from Henson and County Attorney David Clark, the Board is setting the moratorium to take effect later, and will begin the process of the ordinance change that will take several months to complete through advertising, First Reading, a Public Hearing, and a Second Reading with Final Adoption.
As contractors move into the moratorium, it will not shut down developments in areas as it was stated that they can continue developments with upgraded road systems. It will not affect Class D roads in general unless they fall into the county termed “inferior roads.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – “It’s going to look like a runway,” said Leon Watkins in the Commissioners August Regular Session. He was speaking about Boardtown Road in Gilmer County and the project for massive poles and a transmission line along the road.
A letter went out last week gathering support and other citizens to speak with locals asking to relocate a project that they say would destroy Boardtown Road. A
Answering that call, numerous citizens appeared before the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners at the August meeting to speak about the Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) and the major project they are undertaking. All of those that spoke at the meeting did so in opposition of the project’s current location.
Some asserted later in the meeting that they didn’t want to publicly oppose the project of improving electrical reliability in Gilmer. However, the common theme that every single speaker of the night on this subject shared was the concept that putting these large poles in the middle of people’s yards and farms would be a detriment to the area. It is the path down Boardtown that is being opposed.
They said that the project would not only individually detriment their own properties in both property value and natural beauty, but spill over into the entire road and surrounding area.
The Citizen’s wishing to speak section started with a question, “Why can’t the county deny permission for the line and right of way?”
The question spilled over into other speakers saying the preferred route should go down Highway 515 as a major road.
As Commission Chairman Charlie Paris explained that he has already looked into the issue trying to see how the county could help, County Attorney David Clark explained that his understanding was that the GTC could use imminent domain on the area to force the project through, leaving both the county and local citizens with no voice in the matter.
The GTC did hold three public meetings encouraging social distancing and an extended format for people to come and go during the hours of those three meetings. Citizens speaking in the Commissioners meeting told the board that the GTC already had their plans and surveys set before the meetings ever started. The meetings, they said, were there providing information to citizens on what is going to happen and not solicit input on a project before planning.
Clark told citizens they should also be speaking with local EMC board members to see if they could also be helping people with the issue in addition to the work they had already done.
Yet, Melanie Johnson said that she has already spoken with representatives of both Amicalola EMC and GTC. She alleged that many of the Georgia Transmission representatives gave different, misleading, or wrong information as they have pushed into the project. She said that in the beginning they collected signatures for surveys saying alluding that they would simply be replacing and upgrading current poles.
As conversation continued with citizens offering similar complaints against destroying the native beauty or having massive steel and concrete poles put into their properties.
Johnson asked for a public show of support from Commissioners as she hoped to push the issue to state representatives such as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston and State Senator Steve Gooch. A letter of support was one of three actions citizens asked for during the meeting.
Echoed by several citizens including Robert Armour and Develle Frady, the show of support through a letter that citizens could use to have the extra authority was a great step that citizens said they appreciated. Yet, Armour asked the commissioners to take it step further. The second action that he asked for was to not just write a letter, but to have the commissioners physically call them for support.
He later returned to the podium and expanded his request asking the commissioners to initiate a meeting for residents in the area to speak directly with these state representatives to implore them for their support and to assert the importance they hold for the issue.
Frady said he has already seen the issues that road has suffered from the gas line put in. His main concern is the heavy weight traffic this would put on the road with bridges already in poor state and some with maximum 5 ton weight limits. “The bridges and culverts will not hold the 60 ton frames they will need to erect those poles,” he said.
Paris himself said that the Georgia Transmission Corporation is a state level agency. He added, “I have felt frustrated because I am not aware of anything the county can actually do.” Yet, he said that he would have no problem at all supporting citizens in this way that they have requested for the letter. He also told citizens he would work towards a meeting if poss
The third option and request citizens asked for came in several citizens asking for the commissioners to pass an ordinance for some sort of protection against the transmission line in the area. One said they should enforce right of ways against the poles. Frady mentioned county documents claiming 80 feet of right of way, but the GTC told him they had 100 foot right of ways from the road.
Kevin Kell spoke in the meeting saying that he owned 20 acres on the road and is second guessing plans for building a home. He said that people come to Ellijay for the “beautiful, unspoiled views.” He said his experience as a banker leads him to believe that this is not the only option for GTC, but is the cheapest option. Kell also echoed the issue of the effect on property values.
It was suggested by Gilmer Historian that the road be declared a scenic route as she spoke about the Trail of Tears in Ellijay and the historic and archaeological importance of several finds that the county has had on Boardtown Road. She later noted that the road in Fannin County is already declared a scenic route.
Stressing the importance of the issue, Ronald Watkins, current member of the Board of Education and resident in the area, said he wouldn’t be getting a pole on his property, but would be getting one right across the street from him. He repeated the major issue of the utter destruction of the natural scenery and scenic views along the road as one of the major points of living and being in the area. He said he was told it was an issue of money and being more expensive to go elsewhere.
The commissioner discussed several options for the issue and passed a resolution to draft the requested letter, showing their support for those in opposition. Paris began discussing attempting to set up a meeting for citizens, but the board settled to draft the letter first and move into other options one at a time. In fact, both Paris and Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson voiced support for the citizens after just a couple of citizens spoke. While the public continued voicing concerns and requesting certain solutions, the board as a whole was already discussing at several points throughout the comments on what steps they could take and what they could do in support.
In addition to this, another person stepped up to speak during the comments section. Travis Crouch, a resident of an area past Boardtown Road. He said he doesn’t live on Boardtown and would, in fact, be one of the people that would benefit greatly from the project. He noted that his home has had 28 outages already in this year alone.
Crouch stated, “I do not want to see those power lines.”
Crouch referenced both the scenic beauty and the bridge conditions on the road saying that the area is a beautiful drove and needs this protection
He said that his power is an issue that needs to be addressed, but added that if the only solution required doing what the project is calling for on Boardtown Road, then “I would rather deal with the power outages, seriously.”