BOC to sell old Planning and Zoning Building

News

Downsizing its facilities due to moving offices around, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is now looking to sell their building on the square that has been used recently as the Planning and Zoning office.

Sell,

Gilmer’s former Planning and Zoning building is located in the square immediately south of the courthouse.

The property disposal came before the commissioners in a Special Called meeting under an agenda item that encompassed both the “disposal of the property” as well as engaging a real estate agent.

Gilmer Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris stated that engaging a real estate broker will begin with a bid process to the board to find an agent to use in the process. However, engaging the bid should follow broad language on usage. County Attorney David Clark encouraged this option of specificty to allow the Commissioners options down the road. He stated, “That gives you the option to consider it, but you don’t have to use the agent with the additional piece of property.”

This means that the county could use the agent to sell the Planning and Zoning building, but wouldn’t have to go through the agent for every piece of property that may come up.

Paris also clarified further saying that if they get another piece of property they need to sell, but wish to just auction it off, they could do this. However, if they do wish to go through the real estate agent again, they would not need to complete the bid process again at that time.

Having the bid process set one agent into this position, the county is also looking to only extend the contract by a specific time period. After that time they would need to rebid the services of real estate agent. With that in mind, Clark also suggested the contract would terminate after a year unless the agent was amid a selling process at the time.

The final decision came through two motions, the first came to take bids for a real estate agent to handle disposing of county property while reserving rights to dispose of property in other ways. The second came to dispose of the building previously referred to as the Planning and Zoning building. Both were approved by the two present commissioners, with Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson absent.

Along with the disposal in this meeting, another issue arose that could become a major issue. While the office of the Board of Commissioners is attempting to satisfy requirements for a DOT audit with regards to Gilmer’s Airport Professional Services Agreement. According to Paris, Georgia’s Department of Transportation is going through an audit process.

As such, Gilmer has used grants they have used at the airport from the FAA. Part of those grants cover engineering requirements. The state’s audit saw a request for the master contract with the engineering firm from Gilmer County. Paris said that the county didn’t have a contract in 2015, but the county specified it was to be done under the contract of 2012. However, in 2012, the engineering firm, Croy Engineering, signed the contract and sent it to the county. The county at the time tabled the item to investigate. However, the county never revisited the contract.

With no contract, Gilmer County could be held responsible for reimbursement of all the engineering costs since 2012. Clark explained that the county has tried other options to resolve the issue, but have been rejected. Now, the county will authorize the chairman to sign the contract with a retroactive effective date to satisfy the needs.

The county has been operating under the contract over the years, but has simply not signed the contract.

Board of Education advertises Millage Rate

Board of Education, News
rate

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s Board of Education presented advertising for their 5 year Tax history and a Tentative Millage Rate to seek final approval in August.

Looking back over recent years and comparing to 2020, the digest saw an overall 4.6 percent increase countywide. According to Director of Finance Trina Penland, the county’s exemptions increase by 3 percent as well. Part of the increase came from a senior’s exemption increase of roughly 10 percent.

According to Penland, Gilmer is the only county that has unlimited senior exemptions in the tax digest. But because that exemption is a local exemption, the school still pays taxes to the state on the funds not collected due to the exemption.

The current millage rate sits at 14.248 mills for the Board of Education. As they look at the calculated rollback rate to prevent them from collecting any more that last year, Penland presented the Rollback Rate to the board at 13.963 mills.

If the board does not accept the Rollback Rate, Penland stated they would be collecting an additional $351,000.

Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs presented her recommendation that the board accept the Rollback Rate, and with a motion and second, the board unanimously approved the rate.

Millage Rate

Gilmer County Board of Education’s Director of Finance Trina Penland

Additionally, Board Member Jim Parmer, stated that he appreciated the work that the finance staff and Dr. Downs put in. He went on to say, “Honestly, If we were going to do furlough days, I would say let’s keep our rate. But ya’ll have said you’re not doing that…”

Through additional discussions, Penland stated that the Rollback should collect just over $17 million. But adding in a look at the history, Penland stated, “If you look back at the history. When you look back in 2009, that was before the first recession, the school collected $24.7 million in property tax revenue. We have cut back. We have cut programs, benefits. We have cut everything to be as close as we can on the budget.”

She also noted several rollbacks including one that rolled back more than the recommended rate.

The Rollback Rate will go through the advertisement process and see final approval in August before sending the rate to the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners for their approval alongside their millage rate and implementation into the new tax year.

Commissioners advertise Millage Rate and Bond Millage

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners discussed their Millage Rate in a Special Meeting this July without one of its members.

Having contracted COVID-19, the board’s third commissioner, Karleen Ferguson, was absent from the meeting for health and safety. The two remaining commissioners discussed accepting the rollback rate versus not accepting it.

Very early, Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris voiced his opinion to accept the rollback rate saying, “My personal position would be that we should take the rollback rate. It’s not going to hurt us terribly and I don’t think this is the year to be trying…”

Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker agreed saying that he was good with the Rollback as well.

Millage Rate

The worksheet showing the preparation of the 2020 Digest and formula calculating the Rollback Rate for Gilmer County.

However, additional discussions turned to the Bond Millage Rate for the county. With discussions last year on reducing the rate, the Commissioners ultimately decided against it, keeping the 1.5 mills, but promising to revisit the idea in 2020. Now, Parker and Paris began discussions by immediately moving to a debate on whether to reduce it by .25 or .15 mills. Paris noted that work still needs to continue in capital projects and expenditures coming in the Road Department as well. Having the Bond Millage pay off part of the bond debt service allows more SPLOST funds for those expenditures.

Parker offered his opinion on the Bond Millage saying, “I would be fine going with .25.” However, he did mention a desire to look at it again later. Looking at the decreases, Paris said he didn’t have a problem with reducing it by .25 mills to a Bond Millage Rate of 1.25 mills.

The rates were approved by two separate motions as Paris made a motion to approve advertising, it came to accept the Rollback Rate of 6.783 mills. The rate was approved by the two present commissioners.

Then came another motion from Paris to have “the Bond Millage Rate be reduced from 1.5 mills to 1.25 mills.” The rate was approved by the two present commissioners.

Moving forward, the Commissioners are looking for another Special Called meeting towards the end of August to formally adopt the Millage Rate. They have to wait for the Board of Education to adopt their rate in August before the County can formally adopt both rates.

 

Gilmer calls Special Meeting for Millage Rate

News
Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Millage Rate is one of 5 items on the agenda this week during a special called meeting of the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners to be held on Friday, July 24, at 10 a.m.

The other items include the Swimming Pool, Vehicle Financing Documents, a Review of Roles and Responsibilities of the Board of Commissioners, and disposing of Surplus Real Property.

Meeting

Agenda for Gilmer County’s July Special Called Meeting

Property taxes and the millage rate are set into the agenda discussing a “Resolution Authorizing the Advertisement of the Rollback Rate.” Set at 6.898 mills last year by adopting the rollback rate, the county went through discussions over both the Millage Rate and the 1.5 mills Bond Rate.

Last year discussion came from then-commissioner Dallas Miller and Citizens Joene DePlancke over the Bond Millage. After refinancing bonds in previous years, Holden said in August of 2019 that the 2020 payment is expected to total just over $4 million. Still, discussions were made about, specifically, about the .5 mill on that bond payment millage rate to cover the payments.

As discussions will move forward with the Millage Rates for County and the Board of Education, who each have their own rates, the county approve its rates and awaits the BOE to set their rate, before final approval of both rates together  can come in August, if the county follows the same schedule as previous years.

The swimming pool has been put on hiatus since near the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak as the Commissioners look to see what financial fallout would come from the shutdowns. However, discussions have started up again this month as the Board of Commissioners look for Bid specifications to begin the next step in the project.

The project got as far as the demolition of the old pool before stopping. The commissioners approved finishing that stage before coming to a full halt.

The bid process could start as early as next month with authorizing to advertise, however, to reach that point, obtaining the proper specifications is the current hurdle. Some discussion came during their regular July meeting voicing their disappointment that the designers of the pool came with estimates but are not going to deliver bid specifications. Paris said, “It surprised me that they couldn’t give us those specs…”

Disposing of Real Property is the other new business on the special meeting agenda. Agenda items like this sometimes do not specify a specific property in case multiple properties need to be discussed. However, an earlier copy of the agenda stated disposing of the former Planning and Zoning office as at least one of those properties.

Board of Commissioners cancels July Work Session meeting

News
Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting

ELLIJAY, Ga. – As the nation continues watching numbers fluctuate and news reports of the the state and national governments commenting and putting forth orders in response to the COVID-19 virus, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have cancelled their July Work Session.

Citing the recent spike in cases of the Coronavirus, the Board of Commissioners released an email through County Clerk Edwina Daman saying that they will cancel the work session on Wednesday July 8, 2020, at 9:00 a.m.

They will still be holding Thursday’s Regular Meeting at 6:00 p.m. The statement in the email said, “We plan on having the Public Comment Meeting and Regular Meeting on Thursday in the Courthouse parking lot.

The Public Comment Meeting starts at 5:00 p.m. and the Regular Meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. While no other statements have been made at this time, rumors have circulated that certain members of the courthouse may have been potentially exposed to COVID-19 as well.

Flint Mountain Holding Development before the Commissioners this week

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Many citizens are still discussing the topics around the Flint Mountain Holdings, LLC. development project on Highway 282 this week as some voice concerns on social media or with their elected commissioners.

This week sees a small part of the development before the commissioners, our current understanding is the commercial re-zoning on this month’s agenda revolves around lake usage, such as boat storage or equipment. It is not a part of the 305 lot total development.

The “Whole Development Site Plan” for High River was filed with Gilmer County Planning and Zoning.

While recent months have seen the Commissioners not accept comments in meetings on Planning and Zoning, citizens can still phone their Chairman and message their Commissioners with concerns or questions. The public comments in the meetings have been skipped in recent months as legal counsel suggested the commissioners should not be holding a second planning and zoning hearing in the commissioner meetings. Indeed, some zoning issues have become equivalent to this in the past.

Despite this, citizens are taking to social media saying that they have just recently learned of the development and are wanting to voice their opinions as citizens of the county to their officials. Others are already voicing opinions on both sides, comments on FYN’s article “Flint Mountain Holdings files for 305 lot subdivision” have seen some citizens indicating they are fine with the additional large subdivision saying, “Development is a fact of life! Just hope this development will follow all guidelines & not harm our beautiful Coosawattee river!”

Others on social media are calling the development a large step away from Gilmer’s style and appeal as a smaller mountain town.

Indeed one popular post shared by several people states,

“Other projects under way in Gilmer County include Watersong Phases 1, 2 and 3 – located on Gates Chapel Road on the western side of Gilmer County, with 43 lots; and The Hammock with 88 lots sized 1 acre or larger located off Roundtop Road in the southern portion of the county.

Located in the north central portion of Georgia, Gilmer County is known for its mountains and annual Apple Festival. More than 55,000 acres of the county lie in national forest. The county’s population grew from 13,368 in 1990 to 30,674 as of 2017, and its population is projected to exceed 32,000 by the year 2040, according to the U.S. Census.”

Indeed, when questioned about current and previously approved multi-lot developments in the last 12 months, Karen Henson, Planning and Zoning Director for Gilmer County said in an email::

There are 9 multi-lot developments that currently have plans filed in Gilmer County;

  1. Cherry Lake Phase 30 – 16 lots – 1 acre or less – R-2(Residential High Density) –  paved roads – off  Joanne Sisson Road – Northern section of Gilmer

  2. Frosty Mountain – 17 lots – 3+ acre tracts – A-1(Agricultural) – off Old Bucktown Road – gravel roads –  Eastern section of Gilmer

  3. Walker Reserve – 10 lots – 5+ acre tracts – A-1(Agricultural) – off 52 West – gravel road – near  Murray County Line

  4. Red Oak Estates (fka The Falls) – 22 lots – 1+ acres – R-2(Residential High Density) – paved roads – off Roberts Ridge Road – Western section of Gilmer

  5. Highland Pointe – 19 lots – 1+ acre tracts – R-2(Residential High Density) – paved road – off Eller Road & Stone Road – East section of Gilmer

  6. The Hammock – 88 lots – 1 acre or less – R-2(Residential High Density) – paved roads – off Roundtop Road – Southern section of Gilmer

  7. Oakhill Farms – 6 lots – 1.5+ acre tracts – (Residential High Density) – paved road – off Mulkey Road – Eastern section of Gilmer

  8. Watersong Phases 1,2&3 – 43 lots – 1.5+ acre tracts – A-1(Agricultural) – Greenspace Development – gravel roads – off Gates Chapel Road – Western section of Gilmer

  9. High River – Phases 1-4 – 123 lots – 3+ acre tracts – R-2(Residential High Density) – gravel roads – off Crossroads Church Road – Western section of Gilmer – More phases to come – total of 305 lots at completion

All 9 of the above have been approved by the Gilmer County Planning Commission within the last 12 months according to Henson. This is only the unincorporated parts of the county as the cities have their own zoning ordinances.

Further, Henson did confirm with FYN that the development will be requiring the previously reported DRI study, mentioned in our previous article, as the total project will collectively surpass the 125 lot minimum.

Flint Mountain Holdings re-zoning for commercial use will be before the Board of Commissioners this week during their work session on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. and Thursday during their regular meeting at 6:00 p.m.

 

Work Session:

development development

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regular Meeting:

developmentdevelopment

County seeks to help farms to support recovery

News
farms, farm winery, BOC,

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners made two approvals this week for farms to, as Chairman Charlie Paris said, “try to recover as quickly as possible.”

While Paris said they are looking at several areas of the county’s economy, two of the approvals in June focused solely on farms and agriculture including the first steps of a change and easing of the ordinance for Farm Wineries and a Resolution supporting the “Right to Farm Act” in legislation.

With local farm wineries, Paris said the only way the county can really help with this is through lessening regulations. To that end, the Commissioners voted to approve moving forward with advertising to change the ordinance to allow local wineries in the unincorporated parts of the county “to serve local Georgia craft beer in their tasting rooms. They would not be allowed to sell the beer packaged and there will be no Sunday sales.”

Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson said, “I know that the winery owners have requested this for some time and we were waiting to bring it up and to see when the right time was. I do think it is a great time to put that gesture in… I also love the fact that we are restricting it to Georgia Craft beers, so it is not any of the name brand national or international brands.”

Gary Engel speaks to Commissioners in June of 2020 about easing the ordinance restrictions for local Farm Wineries and allowing craft beer sales of Georgia Craft Beers.

Gary Engel speaks to Commissioners in June of 2020 about easing the ordinance restrictions for local Farm Wineries and allowing craft beer sales of Georgia Craft Beers.

Gary Engel spoke to the Commissioners in the work session noting that a few wineries were represented in the audience. He said that other counties in the state are already selling beers. He also noted that it would not equate to a great surge in sales, but rather it allows a service to different tastes. Engel said that sometimes a couple will come up to listen to music, one doesn’t like wine but would enjoy a cold beer. He did say that the small increase in sales could aid in the wineries business as well.

He also said they are wanting to increase and pursue the business as Gilmer is increasing in popularity with these as well. Engel said, “From a perspective of the state, with the number of wineries that are going into Gilmer County, this county will soon be the most populated county, south of Virginia, with wineries.”

Additionally, the other approval for farms came in support of a legislative Act in Georgia, the “Right to Farm” Act. Paris said that lawsuits come often against farms as people move in nearby and then sue over the smells or noise. Paris explained that through discussions with farmers, he found that these are not often won, but are often filed and can be expensive to fight against in courts.

In support of local farmers and through discussions with them, Paris said that they asked for support for this Act in protection of some of what he called “nuisance lawsuits.”

The Act increases requirements to file lawsuits against farms according to Paris, in attempt to protect them from some of these filings.

The approval came for Resolution to support the Act at the state level in efforts to help it pass.

Superintendent releases email to parents and seniors about graduation

News
Gilmer BOE 2019, school closed, Graduation, Board, Education, Spending Resolution

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Seniors received good news about Graduation during the Board of Education’s April Regular Meeting as Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs read an email that was sent from Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley.

The email noted details about the plans for graduation as well as a recognition on May 22, 2020. While some of these are similar to plans discussed earlier in the week at the work session, final details came through the email.

Foley said, “While we must wait to hold a large gathering, we do not want to let May 22nd pass without celebration.”

The school will give each senior an opportunity to walk across the field and receive their diploma with their parents and family members close by. They will video each senior having their name announced and receiving their diploma. Then, after having the videos = edited together, the plan is to air the Class of 2020 commencement proceedings on ETC 3 at 7 p.m. on May 22nd.

While these are the current plans as Gilmer will not be returning to class this year, the plans are in effort, according to Downs, to provide some closure to the year for these students through a graduation as well as a recognition day.

Downs did provide the specific details from the email later: 

  • Seniors will be able to pick up their caps and gowns at GHS on Thursday, April 23rd, between 12-3pm. Please enter the GHS campus via Old 5 and Bobcat Trail, and follow the signs and directions.

  • At that time, each senior will be given a paper with a number (1-265), date (May 6th-8th), and time (9am-3pm) to arrive at Huff-Mosely Stadium, via Bobcat Trail, behind the Larry Walker Education Center. You will not be allowed to enter the stadium via Old 5 or Legion Road.

  • Seniors and their family members (1 carload – maximum 6 occupants, including the senior) will arrive at LWEC no earlier than 15 minutes before your assigned time.

  • We will be working in groups of 5 seniors at a time. The first 5 cars, in numeric order, will be lined up and directed around the LWEC toward the visitor entrance of the stadium.

  • The first senior and his/her family will enter the stadium and check in at the table, and proceed to the podium. In order for seniors to participate in the walking ceremony/taping, all fines and fees must be paid in full. Look for an email indicating if your child owes any money for fees or fines.

  • Once that senior leaves the check in table, the next senior and their family will get out of their car, enter the stadium, and check in, and so on. Please do not leave your car until directed to do so by a Gilmer County Sheriff’s officer.

  • At the podium, the senior’s name will be announced, along with any academic awards and scholarships from the Gilmer Education Foundation they have received. (Applications for Gilmer Education Foundation scholarships are due by noon, on Monday, April 20th, to your child’s counselor)

  • The senior will then proceed to the middle of the field to receive their diploma cover and a folder with additional awards and scholarship information from me, and Superintendent, Dr. Downs. Actual diplomas will be mailed to students after May 22nd. Students need to complete the following Google Form to indicate where their diploma should be mailed: https://forms.gle/RFVfJEVViSNpRwsZA

  • Next, the senior will go to a table to pick up their yearbook. If you haven’t ordered your child’s yearbook yet, it is not too late. You can order online at: https://tinyurl.com/y8rz5q8y , or you can order and pay in person when your child comes to pick up their cap and gown on April 23rd.

  • Finally, there will be a place on the field where parents and family members can take pictures with your senior.

  • Each senior will be given 15-minutes on the field from check-in to picture taking. Please honor this time in order to keep the number of people on the field to a safe capacity for all involved.

  • If you cannot make the date/time you have been assigned, please let me know ASAP. A few time slots will be available on Saturday, May 9th, from 10:30-12:00.

  • If your child will not be participating in this ceremony, please have your child notify their counselor ASAP.

 

Foley also said that the school will plan a graduation event in which all seniors and their families can meet on the field and celebrate their accomplishments should current circumstances change over the summer. “We just don’t want to miss the opportunity to provide something at this time.”

Gilmer BOC will hold April Regular meeting in person

News
exposures

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Both cities and counties carry on amid the shutdown, and Gilmer is also moving forward in this time with their April meeting, but with a few changes.

Gilmer has already made changes over March as meetings saw a distancing line in the meeting room, and all meetings have been held in the Jury Assembly Room in the Gilmer County Courthouse. However, this month will see another change as the Board is only sending one agenda. Gilmer’s BOC will still meet is person, as of now, but will not be holding their usual work session.

Gilmer is continuing monitor situations during the shutdown and two agenda items stick out among the agenda as potential ramifications of the nations current situation.

Among the items is listed “Discussion and possible action to grant authority to the Tax Commissioner to waive Interest and Penalties” and “Discussion and possible action regarding the upcoming May General and Presidential Primaries.”

Elections have been a growing topic as we draw closer to May during a Presidential Election year which has, historically, been one of the highest turnout years for elections.

Not holding a work session, the public will be hearing discussion and votes in the same day for April. The rest of the meeting is set to proceed as normal with usual items like Citizens wishing to speak and the financial statement. The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 9, 2020, at 6 p.m., in the Jury Assembly Room of the Courthouse.

Meeting

Meeting

 

 

Will Gilmer become a Second Amendment Sanctuary?

News
Second Amendment Sanctuary

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Debate has risen among some in the county after the Gilmer Board of Commissioners published the agenda for their February meetings as people are noticing an agenda item to discuss becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary.

The official discussion with the BOC will occur during their work session this Wednesday, February 12. 2020, at 9:00 a.m and continue during the Regular Meeting with a final vote on Thursday, February 13, 2020, at 6:00 p.m.

Gilmer County's Board of Commissioners at a previous meeting. From left to right, City Clerk Edwina Daman, Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker, Chairman Charlie Paris, Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, and County Attorney David Clark.

Gilmer County’s Board of Commissioners at a previous meeting. From left to right, City Clerk Edwina Daman, Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker, Chairman Charlie Paris, Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, and County Attorney David Clark.

The item, listed as “Discussion and possible action of Gilmer County becoming a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary,” would declare Gilmer County as an official protection for the second amendment. It would be public statement against the Federal Government that if they should ever pass a law we consider to hinder or damage the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

One of the people leading this charge, Jason Williamson, spoke with FYN about the Resolution. He said he has seen many other counties passing similar resolutions. Williamson said he and another submitted the resolution alongside petitions to show the communities desire for support. Williamson said the petitions are key in showing “a presence of support.” While he hasn’t completed the petitions and doesn’t know exactly how many supporters have signed so far, he will be turning these petitions in as part of preparation for Wednesday.

With the meeting only days away, the Gilmer Sheriff, Stacy Nicholson, has also shown support for the resolution. Williamson said he is glad to have his support saying he felt confident going into the meeting.

Williamson said, “I am very big on the Second Amendment. I realized, and most people do, that the Second Amendment is the only protection we have from tyranny. When I started seeing what the state leadership of Virginia was doing, and hearing some of the other things from friends of mine that live there, we, the people, need to speak out.”

He went on to say that while Georgia hasn’t officially passed anything that he sees directly threatening yet, this is a message to other counties and other states that we support this and to also push the point to expose our leadership’s views on the subject in Georgia and in our counties.

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson

Part of that leadership, Sheriff Nicholson told FYN that he was fully in support saying, “I support, wholeheartedly, these resolutions being passed by counties in Georgia… I think it sends a good message to our legislatures in Washington and to those in Atlanta.”

Nicholson offered that while he hasn’t read the specific resolution being put forward in Gilmer, yet, he is very pro second amendment.

FYN questioned exactly what kind of power or pushback this resolution would legally give in the event of State Legislation. To which, Nicholson replied, “I think it’s more about sending a message to the entire nation where we stand on protecting our citizens’ constitutional rights.”

It was a sentiment separately repeated by Williamson who agreed the resolution was a preemptive move to put Gilmer in the position of being proactive rather than reactive to any such legislation.

Additionally, he went on to say the topic also “to make sure that our Sheriffs understand that they’ve got our support just as much we ask for their support as they are the supreme authority as the constable of the county.”

Williamson said he wants everyone who can attend to show support for the resolution to be present at this weeks meetings. Some have already offered counter points to the resolution saying that as a sanctuary nation by right due to the second amendment being a part of the constitution. Williamson said he has had some calling the resolution a “waste of time” because of this. But his response comes as he points to both the state and federal governments offering “interpretations” of the law and constitution. He said that much has been degraded through these people constantly picking apart these amendments to “what they think is reasonable.”

Instead, Williamson said, “I think this is just, hopefully, going to put that debate to bed.”

East Ellijay approves TSPLOST

News
East Ellijay TSPLOST

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

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

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

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

Pool Demolition Bids approved at BOC

News
County 2020 budget, Pool Demolition

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Though short, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners’ Special Called Meeting saw a large step forward as demolition on the county’s old pool is set to start before February 1.

During the meeting, the Board announced Jacob Anderson Co. LLC. as the lowest bidder for the demolition project. Their bid was reported in the meeting at $76,000.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said in the meeting that the county has had previous dealings with this company. They were awarded the demolition project of chicken houses on county property.

Additionally, Public Works Director Jim Smith also commented on the company saying even the few smaller problems that were raised with previous projects, he noted an example of mud on the road, were quickly dealt with as soon as he brought them up. Smith went on to say he had nothing but good things to say about the county’s experiences so far with the company.

Moving forward with this project, demolition beginning no later than February 1, 2020, the county will be inspecting the project closely as they look for issues and concerns to address before it starts bidding out the coming construction of the new pool.

Chamber enters 2020 with annual meeting

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer Chamber is wasting no time in 2020 preparing for another “successful” year as President and CEO Paige Green called 2019.

During their annual meeting, the Chamber recounted many of their successes and honored members with the annual awards before looking to the future with induction of new ambassadors, the passing of the chairman’s gavel, and the new board.

The Chamber did have plenty to celebrate in 2019 according to, now Past-Chair, John Marshall who noted two major projects completed in 2019 when the Chamber cut the ribbon on their Downtown Welcome Center on the square in downtown Ellijay in March and also cut the ribbon on the new CORE (Collaboration On River’s Edge) Facility in July.

Both of these ventures have already seen large numbers of support and activity in 2019 alone with more than 5,500 people visiting the Welcome Center. Additionally, the CORE Facility caught support and acknowledgement from the state the same day it cut the ribbon as they were awarded $425,000 grant for future operation of the facility.

However, these were not the only projects and ribbon cuttings in the year. Marshall went on to note the Chamber cut the ribbon and celebrated the opening of 28 new businesses and welcomed 110 new members to the Chamber.

Also recognizing the successes of 2019, the Chamber awarded several awards including a brand new award that saw its first recipient ever at the banquet meeting.

Tiffany Camp Watson, recipient of the Gilmer Chamber Member of the Year Award for 2019.

Tiffany Camp Watson, recipient of the Gilmer Chamber Member of the Year Award for 2019.

The Chamber awarded Member of the Year to Tiffany Camp Watson. The Chamber said, “Member of the Year is an award given to Chamber members who truly go above and beyond in service to our Chamber and the community as a whole. Tiffany Camp Watson with Endless Ink exemplifies this spirit wholly. Whether it is serving as a Chamber Ambassador, rallying our community to care for those in need, or advocating for causes that matter to her, Tiffany puts her everything into all she does. Congratulations to Tiffany for being named the 2019 Member of the Year!”

 

 

Chattahoochee Technical College, recipient of the Gilmer Chamber Business of the Year Award for 2019.

For 2019’s Business of the Year, the banquet saw Chattahoochee Technical College receive the award. The Chamber said, “Chattahoochee Technical College’s investment in Gilmer County and commitment to equipping Gilmer citizens to enter the workforce is something that we are so thankful for. We consider this awesome institution of energized individuals a true partner in developing Gilmer’s workforce. Congratulations to Chattahoochee Tech for being named the 2019 Business of the year!”

 

 

 

Merle Naylor, recipient of the Gilmer Chamber Citizen of the Year Award for 2019.

Awarding the Citizen of the Year award highlights one specific citizen and their accomplishments in service through the year. This year’s recpient was Merle Naylor. The Chamber said, “Congratulations to our 2019 Citizen of the Year Merle Naylor! With decades of service to Gilmer County, we can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award. Thank you, Merle, for all that you have done for our county and all the children and families who call Gilmer home. Welcome to the COTY family!”

 

 

 

Dr. Shanna Downs, recipient of the Gilmer Chamber Community Champion Award for 2019.

Usually, these three awards are the major awards the Chamber gives for the year. However, 2020 saw the introduction of something new. A brand new award honoring an especially dedicated community member with exceptional genorosity in their communal efforts. In it’s first year ever, the award was given to Dr. Shanna Downs, Superintendent of Gilmer County Schools. The Chamber said, “This year, we unveiled a new award: The Community Champion award. This award is intended to recognize an overall commitment to Gilmer County through collaborative efforts, philanthropy, investment or humanitarian efforts. These four categories that the Community Champion Award encompass come together in the commitment of it’s Inaugural recipient: Dr. Shanna Downs. Since becoming Superintendent of the Gilmer County Charter School System, Dr. Downs has shown an intense commitment not only to her staff and students, but also to our community at large. Thanks to Dr. Downs’ tireless work and dedication, Gilmer County will have a steady pipeline of hardworking and highly-qualified citizens who are ready to pour back into our community for years to come. Congratulations, Dr. Downs!”

Past-Chair John Marshall, left, passes the Chairman’s Gavel to Chris Wang, 2020’s Gilmer Chamber Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Transitioning from 2019 to 2020, the Chamber introduced new Ambassador, a new board, and a new Chairman. During the meeting, Past-Chair John Marshall introduced and then officially passed the Chairman’s gavel to the new Chairman, Chris Wang, agent for State Farm Insurance. Marshall passed the gavel saying, “Chris Wang is wise beyond his years, he has a servant’s heart, and he is brimming with innovation and creative ideas to continue to move our Chamber and  community forward. We are excited about the future with Chris at the helm.”

Additionally, the Chamber later took to social media welcome Wang saying, “We are so excited to have our 2020 Chairman of the Board, Chris Wang, on our team. Chris brings energy and enthusiasm to everything he does and always gives 100%. Chris has been actively involved with the Chamber since he started his business here several years ago and has been investing in our community from day one. Chris has previously participated in Leadership Gilmer, the Ambassador program, and was named the 2017 Member of the Year. Chris, we are so excited to have you on board and can’t wait to see what you do this year!”

 

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.

Budget and Airport discussed in year end special meeting

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Two days before Christmas, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners met to discuss last-minute items of the 2020 Budget and an Airport lease before the end of 2019.

Approving the 2020 Budget, the Board is officially ready for the year after a process starting in September preparing for Budget Hearings with Department Heads and Elected Officials.

With discussions over the Road Department from Public Works Director Jim Smith, the topic of attracting people for positions came up as Smith requested confirmation of budgeting for two unfilled positions.

The county has been looking for people to hire into these positions for months and still has not hired anyone. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris did say the funding was there, but voiced concerns over the possibility of filling the positions after the long period.

The board is also moving forward with a lease to the Georgia Forestry Commission. Public Works Director Jim Smith is finalizing details alongside County Attorney David Clark as they divide one back room and split between the airport and the commission without granting access to the entire area for the commission.

The county is awaiting a response on changes to the agreement and should be finalizing the lease in the coming months. One detail still in flux is a request for control over a full hangar, another is an issue with credit cards and the county’s card reader for the purchase of fuel. With several possibilities being discussed, the board left Smith to work through the operational details over the office space, hangar space, and buying fuel. The item will return to the January agenda for the board to see the agreement and vote on approval.

BOC Meeting called two days before Christmas

News
Second Amendment, Officials

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are calling for one last meeting in 2019.

Next week will see a special called meeting for the board, but it will come two days before Christmas Day. The schedule sets the meeting to begin at 8:30 a.m. on the morning of December 23, 2019.

While the meeting agenda is set with only three items, it almost got bigger last week with the Board of Commissioners looking to add a few items tabled from their regular meeting.

With Public Works Director Jim Smith returning to the meetings after taking personal time, the Commissioners had originally tabled the Concrete Bid agenda item from November. Commission Chairman Charlie Paris asked to table the bid again until this meeting on December 23 to give Smith more time to analyze the bids. However, taking time as the meeting progressed Smith worked on the bid submissions to make sure to give the board an answer. The board wound up awarding the bid in the meeting and cancelling its addition to this meeting.

However, the meetings’ second addition did not get canceled as new information is arising from the agenda item to consider possible action to rent Airport space to the Georgia Forestry Commission. The board is taking extra time to investigate issues with the Forestry Commission’s previous rental space in Pickens and agreement details.

The meeting will go forward with three agenda items;
1.Discussion and possible action to rent Airport space to the Georgia Forestry Commission
2. Discussion and possible action on approval of an MOU with SORBA/IMBA
3. Resolution to Adopt the 2020 Budget.

 

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