ELLIJAY, Ga. – Business owners and downtown merchants are being a little more cautious this holiday season as Ellijay is falling under similar situations as so many across the country this season with scam artists.
Laura Thomas, the owner of Green Willow Soap in Downtown Ellijay, has been reporting and raising awareness of a specific scam artist that visited her shop this week. Thomas says that the older-looking woman entered her store complaining that she had lost her atm card and couldn’t access her money in the bank.
According to her story that she told, the woman had also not eaten lately nor had anywhere to sleep the night before. Thomas stated, “I told her that I would call the police to help her. The tears stopped, sobbing stopped, and she all but ran out of my store and up the sidewalk.
Thomas told FYN that as she followed the lady, continuing to ask her to wait for the police, the lady entered a vehicle with a Bartow County License plate.
However, Green Willow Soap is not the only one reporting this scam. Allegedly, similar situations have occurred at the downtown barbershop and other businesses. Marcelle Lowry of the barbershop told FYN that the barbershop had given the lady $20 before she had gone into Green Willow Soap. Lowry then followed with Thomas as they were asking that she wait for the police. Lowry said she kept crying as she was in the shop, but she did not appear to have any tears on her face.
Additionally, as Thomas originally went to social media to share the experience, numerous people have come forth saying they have helped the lady as well or given rides. Allegations continue to say that others have seen her in Cartersville and Canton as well.
In a season focused on sharing and giving gifts, many also take time to also share and help those in need. However, it seems that more and more lately, others continue to take advantage of this season in attempts to prey on those who would help others with scams like this. Citizens and local business owners continue to share these stories to help each other avoid these scams and learn from the situations.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County is moving into the final stages of its budget process as official approval for the advertisement of the 2020 budget came in November.
Coming from the original proposals and requests for each department, the county has cut more than a million dollars to achieve the budget’s current form. Now, with approval to advertise, the county will look to adopt the budget in December, just in time for the start of the 2020 calendar year.
With the board now back to its original three-person format, no resurgence in the budget has come from newly elected Post Commissioner Hubert Parker who was present for most of those original budget meetings as a citizen after qualifying for the election.
November itself saw one last hurdle as the board looked for its last few cuts to balance the budget, considering a smaller contingency fund to make up the difference.
The final form is being advertised as thus:
One item not included in the budget as advertised was raised in recent talks over roads and bridges with citizens where the BOC put forth the idea of a TSPLOST for the county to answer citizen concerns over road issues.
The budget is set to advertise through the beginning of December, citizens can comment on the budget during December’s regular meetings at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, and 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 12, 2019.
ELLIJAY, Ga – Meetings have completed and the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are preparing for the next steps of cuts and adjustments as they move towards a finalized budget in the coming months. With much still to come, the budget meetings now showcase each department and office’s initial proposed budget.
Each holds a meeting specifically for them to highlight requests and changes to their budgets alongside Financial Officer Sandi Holden and, this year, the two current members of the Board of Commissioners.
While the county is planning in the proposed budget for a potential eight percent increase in group insurance, they are still early in planning and may not see that large of an increase.
While much of the Sheriff’s Office budget remains similar to recent years, another increase is being proposed for a change in retirement benefits. This plan sees officers paying into the program over a minimum of 15 years of service, according to Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson. The POAB (Peace Officers Annuity and Benefits Fund) is a retirement for certified law enforcement officers. Any officer in Georgia can join. After the officer retires, a monthly payment created by the number of years your were a member multiplied by 24.
Sheriff Nicholson is asking in his budget to invoke an option for the county. As the Sheriff’s Office has been paying the $20 per month for its officers since 2014, Nicholson is requesting to budget for the option to “buy back” up to 5 years of service in the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office for officers who worked for the office before 2014. Nicholson estimates this could affect between 32 and 34 employees. Not all would be a full five years of service. It could cost an extra $175,000 or more. However, Nicholson also said the purchase could be done in increments, so as not to cost the full price at first.
If the office moves forward with this, Nicholson said that a contract with officers would be created so that should an officer leave the Sheriff’s Office to transfer to another law enforcement agency, they would pay back the money spent to buy back these years of service.
Additionally, there was a budget increase in salaries. However, Nicholson said this change comes from Administrative Salaries and includes zero pay raise. Instead, the change is to cover some oversights due to raises over recent years.
There are also capital expenditures requests including 10 vehicles and 11 portable radios including extra programming, this programming includes repeating frequencies and adaptations for multiple agency on scene situations.
Gilmer’s Fire Department is reporting that they will see some increase expected in their revenue lines. With Minor increase to line items such as contract services, vehicle repairs and maintenance, and supplies and materials, the majority of the changes in the capital budget.
Just like last year, a massive $467,809 was requested on the Capital Budget. Only Roads and Bridges compares in capital expenses at $365,000. Paris also repeated his same question from last year’s budget as he asked Fire Chief Daniel Kauffman to prioritize the items requested.
That priority came to
1. 2020 Dodge Ambulance – $236,000
2. Used Fire Engine to replace a 1976 American LaFrance – $75,000
3. Stryker Stretcher with Warranty and Maintenance – $10,844
4. Hurst Hydraulics Extrication Equipment – $32,000
5. 2 Lucas Devices for CPR compression assistance and training – $53,965
6. 2020 Ford F150 – $25,000
7. Target Solutions
8. 2020 Ford F250 – $35,000
Roads & Bridges
The county is looking at raising wages for employees who are still working at $9 per hour wages. Roads and Bridges saw a proposed increase in wages from $773,563 to $898,106. This has actually reached across multiple years and departments as the county is attempting to have increased all employees in the next few years. County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris has said before that the county sees part of its turnover rate due to low pay.
Another big increase came through striping. The Road Dept is catching up through all the current paving from 2019 alongside other projects. With the budget set to go back and stripe in 2020, the Road Department budget jump[ed on this line item. In the 2019 budget, striping was budgeted at $30,000, but in 2020, the current proposal is set at $120,000. Paris noted later in the meeting that striping costs are estimated per mile at $2,500 for double-yellow lines and two edge lines. Paris stated that Eller Road and Howard Simmons Road would cost more as they use center turn lanes and intersections. Their estimate is $5,000 per mile.
On the Capital Budget, the Road Department reached $365,000. However, the majority of this request comes from two items. A Motorgrader for $240,000 and a Dump Truck for $125,000.
Just like the Road Department, proposed budgets are showing increases in salary lines to bring up those making $9 per hour to a higher wage. The increase goes from 2019’s budgeted $268,576 to 2020’s proposed $335,525.
While they don’t have a specific number yet, the department is also reporting an expected increase from Advanced Disposal for the county’s solid waste disposal. They are also still looking at the leachate issue from the landfill’s lift stations. Additional funds could be required if the situation changes.
With the Board of Assessors requesting pay increases across the department for Tax Assessors, the budget requests could meet push back as the Tax Assessors have seen increases in recent years.
Another increase comes with Contract Services. The increase for a second flight for QPublic and Change Finder program to scan for changes to properties. This program can allow the Assessors to see properties that may be blocked off or gated to where assessors may not normally be able to see the whole property. This program also automatically scans properties within the county to find details and changes that would increase property values and, therefore, revenue in the department.
With major elections coming up, the Probate Court is almost tripling their elections budget, increasing from 2019’s budgeted $65,314 to a proposed $192,304 in 2020. As expected during an election year like this, the increases are reaching to areas like advertising. Supplies and materials is over six times its 2019 budget, from $7,400 to $47,000. Additionally, their proposed budget proposes $111,092 for election workers.
Probate Judge Scott Chastain is still looking for details on operating the elections side of the office, addressing issues like poll workers payments and ballot advertising alongside Chief Registrar Tammy Watkins. As the budget moves into later stages details will become more fine tuned in the elections.
One of the major issues that is still unclear as to how it could affect the budget is the new election machines. Training and security for election ballots for the new machines are not yet fully completed as they continue to await the machines.
This includes new equipment such as required printers for the voting machines including their ink and maintenance.
Also requesting salary increases, the Animal Shelter is looking at a proposed $124,500, opposed to 2019’s budgeted $108,040.
Director Daniel Laukka is also looking to begin accruing a type of contingency on the capital budget fund as he looks to needs for repairs and eventual replacement of the shelter’s transport van. Paris noted that he believes the shelter is going to eventually need to look at possibly hiring another animal control officer, but said that 2020 probably wouldn’t be that time.
Code and Regulatory Department
A major increase in group insurance saw this department go from 2019’s budgeted $613 to the 2020 proposal of $12,500. Another increase in advertising came from “blue cards” advertising.
Recreation and Parks Department
While much of the Recreation and Parks Department budget remains the same, a decrease in Civic Center utilities shows the drop in costs as the pool pumps will no longer run. However, certain items are still in place, such as gate revenue and concessions costs still indicate plans to move forward with the pool construction. However, now, even Chairman Paris said he is starting to doubt whether the county will meet the goal of Memorial Day.
The coroner’s office is requesting an increase in budget for an additional deputy coroner.
The Magistrate Court’s budget shows little change with only slight increases to line items like Insurance and Bonds and Group Insurance. Judge Kincaid is requesting a small increase for clerk training and education as well.
Clerk of Court
A decrease in administration salary was noted as the county switches Clerks of Court after the retirement of Glenda Sue Johnson. However, the nearly $16,000 decrease was offset by a $22,000 increase in group insurance.
Last year’s approval for a pre-trial and probation program shows under Superior Courts budget as $27,509. Though not originally budget for the 2019 budget, discussion is underway whether to keep this line item under Superior Court or move it to Probation department. Additionally, Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver is asking for $3,000 increase in Mental Health Court Program. With increasing numbers of help needed for those with mental issues, Judge Weaver said the money they are receiving is not enough to meet match numbers for state grants.
Planning and Zoning
Planning and Zoning is looking at a few increases in areas such as advertising and insurance, their overall budget is actually decreasing in proposal by just over $2,000.
Minor increases in communications and professional services, with a larger increase to supplies and materials.
Increases to Salary and Wages include and additional run-off election next year that the office is planning for. However, plans could change with coming changes to voting machines. Involving early voting and election night voting, an additional person may be needed to monitor the new machines printed ballots and to direct those who may need guidance on the process of submitting the paper ballots.
Maintenance Department is also looking to increase pay wages in the proposed budget.
The proposed budget for the Chamber highlighted requested features from the BOC including planned audits and reports. The Chamber is also planning to see a slight increase to collections based on years of growth. In the next year, President and CEO of the Chamber, Paige Green indicated they could be looking to improve some cycling capabilities to revisit the idea of becoming an IMBA Ride Center.
In other changes, they are looking for directional signage, maps, other downtown improvements.
For years, there has been a great debate on whether or not college athletes should receive compensation from companies for using their likeness on products. Last week California lawmakers took steps to ensure that this compensation happens, with a bill at the state level that would allow college athletes to receive money for use of their name, image and/or likeness. The bill passed the State Senate by a vote of 31-4.
Although the bill wouldn’t have any effect until 2023, the legislation received an immediate response from NCAA President Mark Emmert. According to USA Today, Emmert implied in a letter to chairs of two State Assembly committees that if the bill became law as it is currently written, then California schools could be potentially prohibited from competing in NCAA championships. Such a possibility would be a huge blow to the state, which is home to 23 NCAA Division I schools, four of which are in the Pac-12.
So here we go again- another back-and-forth between the almighty NCAA and everyone else. In my opinion there are excellent points from both sides of the argument here, many of which I plan to explore throughout this post.
Let’s start from the athletes point of view. If I were in their shoes I would be flattered at first to know that a company believed me talented enough to feature in a video game or on a t-shirt. But everything goes back to the money. And after I found out that they were making a significant profit off of my hard work, I would want my slice of the pie.
Such was probably the thoughts of athletes Sam Keller and Ed O’Bannon when lawyers representing them filed separate antitrust suits against the NCAA in 2009 concerning video games. O’Bannon ended up securing at $40 million settlement with the video game publisher, Electronic Arts.
And while I’m considering this point, besides the fact that companies don’t want to have to share with anyone they don’t want to, why shouldn’t an athlete get paid for using their likeness? Anytime a company wants to use an actor or actress for one of their ads, they have to pay up. I don’t see a difference, other than potentially the age and where they are at in their careers. The way I see it, the only thing keeping student athletes from receiving payment is the rules of the NCAA. Hence the conflict between the association and the current bill in California.
At the VERY LEAST, companies should secure consent from athletes when using their name and/or likeness. And it should come directly from the athlete, even if there are other arrangements that have to be made with the school and/or NCAA. Even if the NCAA controls permission for companies to use an athletes image, I personally believe the athlete should at least be notified and consulted.
Anyone who disagrees with the above point of view probably does such because of the impact it can have on college athletics as we know it. As much as I hate to admit it as a recent college graduate, the whole point of college is to get an education. Sports should be an added benefit, however recruiting has become such a big deal in our nation that often sports become the ultimate priority and education falls to the wayside.
With that being said, we all know the perks that come with going to a D1 college on an athletic scholarship. It’s not like all of the athletes who appear on video games and other products are destitute. In many instances they’re treated like borderline royalty at the colleges they attend, with priority class registration, great dorm locations and tutoring on a whim. And for those who have the potential to go pro, there are even more programs to help assure hefty contracts come draft day. Long story short- many of these athletes who complain about not getting paid also have it MADE. I imagine that if you got right down to it with the board of the NCAA, they would say the same thing.
So speaking of the colleges, where do they fit into all of this mess? And better yet, why does the government care?
If we want to be cynical about it, we could say that colleges want to win championships. And without some of their star players, their chance of winning diminishes. If an athlete gets busted for doing something like accepting money for an autograph, for example, then there ya go. I know that the bill in California primarily focuses on the use of an athlete’s likeness, but if that is allowed then one can assume the rest will probably shortly follow.
But if we don’t want to be cynical then colleges probably see the wisdom in letting athletes accept a part of the money that is made off of their own name. Goodness knows that athletic programs probably receive money from the use of their logos and names.
As far as why the government is getting involved, there’s not a lot of thought I have on that, but I will say I am interested in seeing how this situations pans out. Sounds like enough legislators agree that college athletes deserve compensation if their name or likeness is used, so only time and more news updates will tell what ends up happening in this government/NCAA showdown.
Why do Republicans pretend they are “negotiating” with Pelosi when she is not negotiating and has said so often? She stands pat on “No money for the wall!” The Democrats have absolutely no interest in protecting America, American’s or America’s sovereignty! Their only goal is to regain and keep total power, with illegal voters if that’s what it takes.
Pelosi and Schumer have shown their fear and loathing of Donald Trump. Cancelling use of the House Chamber for the State of the Union was her first shot at Trump and was met with rising resentment. Eight hundred thousand out of work non essential government drones is really of little consequence to the millions of real working Americans who have benefitted from Trumps “Make America Great Again” economic and trade policies.
Pelosi further shows her contempt of the President by allowing New Jersey (12th Dist.) Rep., Bonnie Watson, to invite an illegal alien to the gallery during the rescheduled State of the Union Speech. Trump could send over Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or someone, to read his speech. That would do nicely. After all, we are pretending we hold each other in due respect, aren’t we?
I should suspect that that illegal invader, Morales is her name, would be immediately detained upon her arrival and turned over to ICE for deportation. That would be showing Trump’s belief in enforcing immigration laws as well as a proper contempt for Pelosi leadership. After all she is not an equal to the President. But, he won’t do that, at least not publicly. Too, hasn’t Rep. Watson opened herself up for prosecution by flaunting America’s immigration laws? Will she be held accountable? Naw, of course not! We’re still pretending we respect the rule of law and Democrats can’t be prosecuted because their intentions are good and they only “mean well.”
The Democrats derangement of Donald Trump is reflected daily not only by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority leader, Chuckie Schumer’s actions, but the Never Trump GOP’s reaction, pretending to solve the immigration problem by negotiating with Democrats. It should be clear by now, that that is a needless exercise in futility. The Democrats will not negotiate, period! This was the canard that led John McCain astray, his earnest belief in comity and the hands across the aisle business, i.e.: capitulation to Democrats. It never works!
Our labor force employment rate is 62.3%, and Nancy Pelosi pretended to said: “The GOP attitude disrespects workers, dishonors our values and damages our economy.” Right! That’s the voice of a true believer, a Marxist shouting into a tin cup so she can hear her own echo. That is the message the Democrats want all Americans to accept as the pathway to Socialism.
The Democrats, now openly on board supporting policies of infanticide, are pushing state laws that encourage abortions on demand; by keeping open Americas borders for the invasion of the peasant class; by proposing economic killing policies with their “New Green Deal,” and killing capitalism as a philosophy of theft. That is the Socialist mantra we’ll face during these next two years. In their determination, squads of Democrat politicians, some new ones, are lining up to challenge President Trump in 2020 for the leadership of the our country.
William Pitt once said: “Where law ends, tyranny begins.” We need only look at the events unfolding in Venezuela today to realize that truth. Socialist Venezuela is where Democrats will take us. Where Democrats don’t pretend, as their mask of death has been ripped off, is their hypocrisy is exposed and the future of America, if they succeed, is clearly visible on the streets of Venezuela. Remember, freedom is the goal, the Constitution is the way. Now, go get ‘em!
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Highlighting the L4GA Grant (The Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading in Georgia Grant) in January, Gilmer Schools have been talking about the fruits of the grant, Literacy Nights and Book Donations. These events are a part of Gilmer’s usage of the grant and their attempt to “get the message out that Reading Matters!”
According to Katrina Kingsley, GCCSS Pre-K Director and PBIS District Coordinator, all of Gilmer County Schools were awarded the L4GA Grant this school year in order to promote literacy and language development for children in the community. Kingsley made an official release stating “On January 11th, a total of 250 books were given to the following community members: Gilmer County DFCS, Gilmer County Health Department, Piedmont Urgent Care, East Ellijay Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, and Lifetime Medical Center.”
That’s not all as the school is already planning additional book donations to the community for the spring of 2019.
Additionally, Lottie Mitchell, Chief Academic Officer of the Gilmer County Charter School System, took time during January’s meeting to highlight the points of Literacy Nights, an event that each school in the system has already hosted once this year. A family night of fun and books, the events showcases the importance of reading and its effects on students.
Kingsley also noted that a child who reads 20 minutes per day is exposed to 1.8 million words per year and scores in the 90th percentile on standardized tests. A child who reads 5 minutes per day is exposed to 282,000 words per year and scores in the 50th percentile on standardized tests. A child who reads one minute per day is exposed to 8,000 words per year and scores in the 10th percentile on standardized tests.
The school system’s goal is to encourage parents to read to their children and to encourage their children to read at home in order for students to experience higher levels of academic success. Taking the time to highlight these Literacy Nights and the Book Donations is the next step in accomplishing that goal.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners opted for a refunding savings option from the Series 2014 Bond this month.
Taking ‘Option A’ that was presented by Andrew Tritt, Managing Director at Stifel Financial Corp, will allow approximately $168,000 split between the remaining years. The savings would come to about $15,000 a year until the bonds are paid off.
While Option B ultimately realizes only $128,000, according to Tritt’s presentation, it would defer 2019’s payment in an opportunity to see nearly an extra million dollars in 2019.
However, County Chairman Charlie Paris pointed out that Option B would only defer that payment, meaning it takes that money from next year’s SPLOST. That million dollars is not extra and would put 2020’s SPLOST down a million dollars. Paris noted in the regular meeting that he didn’t think that moving the payment back was worth it. He said that even though the extra million would be great for 2019, it would hurt too much to lose those funds from 2020.
Ultimately, the other Board members agreed with Paris as the vote came unanimously for ‘Option A’ to advertise the movement forward.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners split their opinions on an idea to alter the Chamber and County sharing of the Hotel/Motel tax during budget sessions this year.
Brought up during the Chamber’s meeting with the board by Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch, the two entities delved into what it would mean to possibly shift the current 70/30 split to increase funding for the county as well as a boost in their own ambitions for increasing tourism and county draw.
Crouch mentioned only shifting it by 10% to a 60/40 split in the Chamber’s favor. Among several ideas, the county’s recent agreement and push for better signage at the county line arose. The idea resurfaced after a recent push from citizens to claim Gilmer as the Wrestling Capital of Georgia. The county is actively seeking funding sources for the project. However, the idea of funding it through the capital budget seems less likely as the budget meetings revealed at least two departments whose request could consume the entire budget on their own.
As members of the chamber were present at the meeting, the consistent report was overwhelming support and praise for what the Chamber has accomplished saying, “I love the Chamber, they are so engaged with my needs.”
Ultimately, Crouch noted that he has enjoyed and appreciated the Chamber’s work. Instead, he noted that as a business owner he agrees, but as a Commissioner, he sees the constant people talking about road conditions and similar needs. He went on to say that the change wasn’t by any means a reflection of a poor job by the Chamber, but rather he felt at a certain point, he was seeing diminishing returns alongside greater needs elsewhere.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris disagreed with the idea saying, “My concern would be that we are talking about putting ourselves in a difficult situation in the future to have a better situation in the immediate. I think we have got to look at it long term.”
He went on to add later that he knows the county isn’t where it needs to be on roads. He related a story when he was tasked to go out to the road department and take pictures of junk equipment to be sold off or moved for disposal. Paris said, “When I got back into our meeting and I was showing the pictures, Jim Smith just about had a stroke because ‘No we use that. We use that. We use that.’ That’s what they had to work with.”
Paris noted that the last four years have seen increases from a 16 person crew to 22 people. He noted the equipment replacements including dump trucks, bulldozer, paving roller, road sweeper, and an equipment shed to prolong the life of that equipment. He made a point to note the progress the road department has made saying that the Road Department is continuing along the path of improvement. He said they will continue needing to reverse the department’s neglect for years to come, it can’t be solved in a single year.
Chamber President and CEO Paige Green noted that she expects a plateau at some point. While she agreed with the ideas like gateway signage and organic growth from the county’s location. She added that she understood the “tough decisions” that the board makes, but the hotel/motel money reinvested in an appropriate way would be the long-term solution as opposed to the short-term solution of decreasing funding.
Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller also commented saying he would look at the number if the budget absolutely demanded it.
However, as of now, no changes have been made in the proposed budgets split. The Commissioners still have their October 16 work session and October 17 regular session as well as expected special called meetings before the budget is balanced.