UPDATED: East Ellijay follows county 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.

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.

11 Qualify for Ellijay City Council

Election, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Qualifying ended this week in Ellijay with 11 candidates on the ballot for the coming City Council Elections.

While the position of Mayor saw no competition against incumbent Al Hoyle, the positions for council members have become highly contested for the three positions up for election.

According to the official release from the City of Ellijay, those who have qualified include:

AL FULLER (INCUMBENT)
291 Westwood Dr., Ellijay, GA 30540

KATIE LANCEY (INCUMBENT)
86 Oakland Ct., Ellijay, GA 30540

LYNELLE REECE STEWART (INCUMBENT)
85 River St., Ellijay, GA 30540

CHARLES BARCLAY
62 Pine Street, Ellijay, GA 30540

KEVIN DOUGLAS PRITCHETT
342 The Oaks Dr., Ellijay, GA 30540

TOM CRAWFORD
205 Kell St., Ellijay, GA 30540

SANDY D. OTT
387 Old Tails Creek Rd., Ellijay, GA 30540

WILLIAM JERRY BAXTER
260 Gartrell St., Ellijay, GA 30540

JERRY DAVIS
118 North Ave., Ellijay, GA 30540

BRAD SIMMONS
40 River St., Ste. C, Ellijay, GA 30540

BRENT DEFOOR
95 Lucille Ave., Ellijay, GA 30540

City elections hold no partisanship and will be set for November 5, 2019, as election day. According to a recent release from the city, “If there is a need for a runoff election, the date of this election will be December 3, 2019.”

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.

Ellijay advertises qualifying for election

Election, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The city of Ellijay is officially announcing next week, Monday, August 19, 2019, through Wednesday, August 21, 2019, as Qualifying week for the coming November Elections.

Available from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. each day, citizens wishing to run for position of Mayor of Ellijay or one of the five City Council positions can qualify at this time at City Hall, 197 North Main Street, Ellijay, Georgia.

According to Ellijay’s official release, “The qualifying fee for said office(s) will be $716.37 for the office of Mayor and $91.50 for a City Council Member.”

With qualifying set, candidates who qualify by end of day on August 21, 2019, will be placed on the November 5, 2019, Election day. The city states that if a runoff is needed in the election, they have already set December 3, 2019, as the runoff date.

CORE receives grant and state office at ribbon-cutting

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – “This is the kind of project that will spread prosperity throughout our entire region. It is the kind of skin-in-the-game project that deserves support…” Georgia Speaker of the House, David Ralston praised the CORE Facility in Ellijay who hosted their official ribbon-cutting today.

Nestled just off Maddox Drive on the banks of the Coosawattee River in Ellijay, Georgia, the CORE Facility hosts business offices and incubation locations for entrepreneurs and start-ups in need of an office or workspace without the hassles of long-term investment.

Left to right, Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Fannin Commission Chairman Stan Helton, and Pickens Commission Chairman Rob Jones celebrate with Greater Gilmer JDA Executive Director Kent Sanford at the CORE Facility ribbon-cutting in Ellijay, Georgia, on July 24, 2019.

However, the facility’s impact reaches so much farther than the city limits or the county’s borders. Today marked a celebration for the region and for the state. Representatives statewide joined together for this ribbon cutting including Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Gilmer Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, Pickens Commission Chairman Rob Jones, Fannin Commission Chairman Stan Helton, Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, State Senator Steve Gooch, State Representative of District 11 Rick Jasperse, Ellijay City Mayor Al Hoyle, Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, and many representatives from the Ellijay and East Ellijay City Councils and Gilmer Board of Education. Efforts from many organizations have led into combined organizations such as the Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) and the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation.

That Foundation was the birthplace of the initiative to build CORE. According to Kent Sanford, Executive Director of the Greater Gilmer JDA and part of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation, a 14-month birth cycle has finally come to full fruition.

While the celebration was a culmination of efforts so far, it is only the beginning. It is a project that holds great impact on the future, according to Ralston who said, “It will create jobs in our area. The jobs of tomorrow will be possible because of the work that goes on in this building.”

Speaker of the House, David Ralston announces a $420,000 state grant for the CORE facility to applause from attendees at the ribbon-cutting on July 24, 2019.

Ralston also dedicated support to the facility as he announced, “Because of the local commitment to the CORE building the State of Georgia, through our OneGeorgia Authority, is awarding $420,000 to this project to be used for Facility purchase and improvement costs. This $420,000 grant is historic, both in terms of its dollar amount and the impact it will have on this project and community.”

Ralston continued speaking about the economic development and job creation in the county before offering the second announcement of the day regarding the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center.

Ralston stated at the ribbon-cutting, “I am proud to announce that the new North Georgia of the Georgia Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation will be housed right here in Ellijay in this facility. The office will be led by Janet Cochran.”

Ralston’s office later offered a full Press Release on the announcement stating the center serves as a central information and research hub for rural best practices, including community planning, industry-specific assistance and cooperative efforts with community partners. The center was proposed by the House Rural Development Council in 2017 and was created by House Bill 951, which was enacted in 2018.

The Georgia Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center, was officially announced to open a North Georgia Office at Gilmer’s CORE facility during a ribbon-cutitng on July 24, 2019.

These announcements were applauded by those present and praised by the Chairman of the Gilmer Chamber, John Marshall, who said, “Mr. Speaker, once again you have proven yourself to be the very epitome of a stalwart and faithful advocate not only to your hometown and all the other communities in these beautiful North Georgia Mountains, but to each and every corner of the state of Georgia.”

President of the Gilmer Chamber, Paige Green also praised the facility as the realization of a dream for the community that has spread to benefit not only one county but something larger that now spans the region.

Today was a celebration of completing the first steps of a larger plan for the facility. Though it is now open, it is only the first phase of that dream. Director Sanford noted last year that the hopes for the facility include two more phases.

In Phase II, the foundation will continue renovation onto the second floor to open up a larger area for education and training in a 1,200 square foot space upstairs.

In Phase III, hopes for the CORE Facility could extend into the schools for things like STEM Classes, STEM Saturdays, or other forays into education connection. Consolidating resources for these could include shared STEM kits or a shared expense for a STEM subscription service involving 3d-printing necessary components. However, specific details into PHASE III have yet to be finalized.

Ultimately, the CORE wants to continue spreading and growing this larger community where possible. Opportunities that may come have yet to be revealed, but one ribbon-cutting today, one celebration, can lead to something bigger than imagining tomorrow.

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.

New land available for community pool

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – New information has been confirmed by Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris who said that East Ellijay has offered land for the pool to be constructed.

According to a brief statement by Paris during a BOC Special Called Meeting, they can now confirm that the Mayor and Council of East Ellijay have agreed to partner with the county to provide 21 acres of land across the river from River Park, “directly across from the current soccer field.” The location as Paris explained, would be next to the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, but on the opposite side of the river of the current softball field.

Though not an agenda item, the topic was raised during citizens wishing to speak when the Board, and specifically Paris, was questioned on the budget amendments for the pool and the relation to property taxes.

After a resolution from the BOE last week, the county now has two properties available for the pool. The River Park location and land offered by the Gilmer BOE next to the county’s ball fields at Clear Creek, between five and six miles out Yukon Road.

The project is set to begin quickly, but Paris did promise in a Special Called meeting earlier in May that the BOC would be having planning sessions and looking for citizen input into the design of the pool. The county has already seen one presentation from a local pool company and Paris noted that he and Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White did have a design in mind that they liked. However, the board was quick to note that the actual project, including design and engineering, would have to be bid out and awarded by the board as a whole.

East Ellijay plans on possible Election

Election, News
emergency

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The City of East Ellijay is making plans on the possibility of an election for city council members in the coming month as they appointed officers and set qualifying fees for the positions.

During their March meeting, the Council officially appointed City Clerk Linda Wood as Municipal Election Qualifying Officer to oversee the qualifying of candidates. Having run the elections for several times now, she holds experience and familiarity with the requirements at both state and city levels according to East Ellijay Mayor Mack West.

They also appointed Gary Watkins as Election Superintendent. With an agreed fee of $1,500 for services, Watkins has also served several times in this position. West noted that if each position only has one qualifier, they will assume the election completed and settle on a lesser stipend for Watkins as his services would not be required after that.

Another requirement for the elections, the council set qualifying fees for positions including $100 for each council member position and $1,000 for the office of mayor.

As the city moves closer to elections, the possibility of even having elections hinges on the number of qualifiers for positions.

East Ellijay Council continues millage and SPLOST

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Finances became a main focus in a late June meeting of the East Ellijay City Council as they addressed the city’s tax exemption and the new intergovernmental SPLOST referendum.

While simply continuing what has been in effect for East Ellijay for years, the city still needed an official motion for continuing the 3.5 mills on the rate as well as the longtime waiving of personal property tax of citizens as well as the commercial tax for all entities and individuals owning or operating businesses in the city limits.

Approved by the council, the city continues this practice throughout its coming fiscal year.

The Council also approved the new SPLOST split presented by the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners. Moving East Ellijay’s percentage from 1.93% to 2.0%. Noted in the meeting for the council members. East Ellijay Mack West spoke with the council about the meetings he attended and the slight change in percentage.

The Council summarily motioned and approved the agreement. As reported when the referendum was made ready for city approvals, citizens could be looking to see this vote in this year’s election cycles.

SPLOST ready for city approvals

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – In a Special Called Meeting on June 15, a final Resolution was put for consideration of the cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay for an upcoming SPLOST Referendum.

Having received input from each city’s mayor and gone through previous negotiations on percentages, the resolution has now reached the time to be put forth in these city’s council meetings for consideration and approval before the county can officially put it on the ballot as a joint SPLOST between the municipalities.

While the meeting was a formality to provide the final form of the resolution, it did provide the actual document to be put forth to the cities and, if approved, ultimately put to a public vote for the next SPLOST cycle.

The SPLOST referendum is set to continue the current 1% sales tax that is currently in place. Even though the municipalities are preparing early, it will not overlap the current SPLOST cycle.

Below are the six pages of the referendum as it currently exists:

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Gilmer County talks SPLOST with Ellijay and East Ellijay

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A unique meeting saw the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners sitting with Ellijay Mayor Al Hoyle and East Ellijay Mayor Mack West to speak about the possibility of a new SPLOST cycle for the county as a whole.

While the Board of Commissioners could move forward with the SPLOST without the cities, joining together provides many benefits to each municipality including a more expansive list of projects without a state-regulated list of prioritization and a one-year-extension on the SPLOST cycle to make it a six-year program instead of just five years.

One of the major items needed in the meeting was an agreed amount that could be expected from the tax. According to regulations on the program, if a government puts forth a SPLOST and sets its expected return above what it actually receives, there is no penalty. However, if that SPLOST achieves the expected return early, no more collections could be made, causing a gap in collections and revenue from the sales tax.

With that in mind, the meeting came to a conclusion to estimate $31 million in revenue from the tax.

Both Mayors in the meeting looked to increase their city’s portions of the SPLOST in favor of rising costs of major projects, Hoyle spoke on Ellijay’s behalf saying that increase paving costs and projects that the city is in need of accomplishing could greatly benefit from an increase in their percentage.

Likewise, West echoed these concerns siting a specific project as they have repaved the area of Eller Road and the intersection at Highland Crossing before reaching Highway 515.

On the other hand, the county discussed the county’s continued financial pains attempting to pay back their bond debt, looking at the vast majority of their SPLOST collection dedicated to paying back that debt at close to $4 million a year.

Ultimately, the decisions came down very similar to how the SPLOST has been divided currently. With the County currently taking 92.35% of the SPLOST, they backed off the extra part of a percent making the division at an easy round number of the percentage.

The County will receive 92%.

Ellijay will receive 6%.

East Ellijay will receive 2%.

Still, this negotiation is preliminary. Each Mayor will now take the proposal back to their cities for approval before the county can approve the final agreement and move forward with offering the SPLOST option to a vote for citizens. If all goes according to plan and no major obstacles are met, It could mean citizens could see the vote for this on the ballot this November.

East Ellijay responds to major leak near 515

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – East Ellijay Mayor Mack West has confirmed a leak as the cause of the work seen this week on state Route 515 in East Ellijay.

The Ellijay-Gilmer County Water and Sewerage Authority responded to a leak in the area near Hardee’s and under the highway. The leak, located on Industrial Boulevard in front of Hardee’s, was losing around 130 gallons of water per minute.

Responding to the leak, West said that certain areas of East Ellijay have been without water nearly three days in the process of redirecting the water flow away from the older pipes during the process. That included boring under state Route 515 as well as including new cutoffs and valves reaching up to and along Laurel Street.

Ellijay-Gilmer County Water and Sewerage Authority Director Gary McVey also confirmed that the work is implanting new piping in the area. Instead of attempting to repair or refurbish the existing cast iron piping in the region, the Authority bored under 515 for new piping in order to avoid and abandon the existing cast iron pipes with the leak.

The final tie-in should be placed tonight, according to McVey, completing the new path. However, with the main work finished, citizens will continue to see workers in the area for a few days next week while they clean up the work and fill in the excavated sites.

East Ellijay City Council discusses litter and police

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Having hired a contract employee for picking up litter on city streets, the East Ellijay City Council approved the spending for the contract. The employee is working alongside the street department and services the area for litter control. Along with the item of the employee, East Ellijay Mayor Mack West spoke to the council saying, “I, personally, feel like we need to assess different penalties for litter violations applicable to repeat offenders.”

The Gilmer county commissioners have already been discussing the item after an increase of community requests to deal with the issue. Continuing the discussion, East Ellijay is now also on board increasing response and control of the litter.

Though no official action set a specific number increasing from the current $236 public littering fine, Mayor West did ask the members of council if they would be okay with increasing the fines with none speaking out in opposition. Additionally, East Ellijay Police Chief Larry Callahan discussed speaking with officers to pay more attention to the issue and those who they see littering. This discussion came on top of officially approving the policy for litter control and having the extra employee.

Also, in the Police Department, the council approved purchasing three patrol car cameras for the department. Callahan said that with the vast majority of other law enforcement agencies already having cameras, courts are beginning to throw out cases without the video evidence supporting traffic violations. With the estimate Callahan has received, the $10,650 cost of purchasing and installing the cameras will be split. Two of the cameras will be paid out of the city’s hotel-motel fund, and the third camera will be paid for out of the police confiscation fund.

With the change in courts handling of their cases, Callahan spoke with the council about the camera purchases saying, “It’s a ‘have-to’ essentially.” Callahan is also looking to purchase another three cameras next budget year.

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