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.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office has made an arrest this week of a local resident on charges of embezzlement and theft.
The suspect, Tiffany Baker, turned herself in according to the Sheriff’s Office Booking Report. The official list of charges on the booking report states three felony charges of Theft by Taking and one felony charge for unauthorized of a financial transaction card.
The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office Incident Report states, “using a business credit card for personal use, changing deposit slips and keeping the rest of the cash before making the deposits at the bank, ordering items off of Amazon for personal use and turning in the receipts as office supplies.”
The report initially states that the total amount reached $187,000. However, in the same report, this number is later amended saying, “As of 8/29/2019, the initial amount has increased to over $301,000.”
The investigation is still continuing into this incident. According to a Sheriff’s Office representative, Baker has bonded out since her arrest. Sheriff’s files indicate Baker will face these allegations in Superior Court.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Probate Court honored three of its clerks for their state certifications this week.
A process that began with former Probate Judge Anita Mullins, these employees have served for years in the court system and have completed training programs within the system under Judge Scott Chastain.
The three ladies recognized are Jana Grno, Tracy Teague, and Lyndsay Hightower. Chastain says that recognition is given for 30 hours and 60 hours of training for the program, but he wanted to do something special as each of these women now have 90 hours, the final stage of the program and actual certification.
Jana Grno will have been with the Gilmer Probate for five years next week on April 21. Focusing on the vital records and weapons permits now, Chastain says there is very little she cannot do in the Probate Court as she also assists in traffic court. She is also the longest running employee in the Probate Office in Gilmer County.
Tracy Teague will reach her 5 years with the Probate Court this September. Chastain calls Teague a “lifesaver” as he transitioned in the office. He says she was and is constantly there every time he calls for anything the office needs.
Teague has recently been announced as Judge Chastain’s Chief Clerk. Teague had already served as Chief Clerk under Judge Mullins and continues this service now that Chastain has asked her as well. She handles much of the requirements in traffic court, and Chastain says he uses her as Chief Clerk for certain administration needs when he is out of the office.
Lyndsay Hightower was hired into the Probate Court on August 30, 2016. She serves in the front window of the Probate Office, she is the main probate clerk of the office according to Chastain. He noted that he has basically asked her to take on the work of two clerks and she continues to work hard under the stress. With previous experience in law enforcement, he says Hightower brings a different view to the office alongside her coworkers.
Mullins was also present at the celebration for her former employees. She offered a few words on the occasion as she stated, “They worked so hard for me. They were such a blessing because I was going through, at the end, a lot of family issues with my parents. If it hadn’t have been for these girls, I don’t know what I would have done. They are so smart, and they are so capable. I know that they are going to continue on and do great things.”
Both Mullins and Chastain made comments about how little the public gets to see just how much work goes on in the office behind the public sight. Accomplishing the vast amount of work necessary for the office to operate efficiently is next to impossible without the proper staff.
Chastain went on to say that with two other employees in the office, he hopes to become one of the few Probate Offices in the state of Georgia with every clerk state certified in the coming years.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Reports are coming in after school today as a student began threatening Gilmer High School.
According to confirmation from the Gilmer School System, a parent reported the threats to administrators who promptly contacted authorities.
The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office quickly investigated and arrested the individual. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office will also have extra staff monitoring the High School on Wednesday, March 27.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With confirmation of roads in and around Ellijay and East Ellijay, the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office has issued a statement for drivers.
Gilmer Dispatch, deputies, and city police officers are reporting that several of the main roadways in town, as well as others throughout the county, are beginning to flood.
The Sheriff’s Office has suggested you stay in if possible, but if you have to drive, they ask that you please be on the lookout for standing water in the roadways.
DO NOT attempt to drive through roads that are under water!
This rain is in our forecast for at least the next 2-3 days, so we expect there is a possibility that the flooding on the roads may get a lot worse before it gets better.
At this time, Gilmer county remains under a Flash Flood watch until at least Thursday evening.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With only one night into what is expected to become a week long surge of rain and storms, Gilmer County has seen debris and trees down on several roads.
While authorities are urging care and caution in citizens, the Publis Safety Department and Sheriff’s Offices are both continuing warnings about flash floods, high winds, and dangerous conditions that could last until Saturday.
A Flood Watch remains effect through Saturday morning for portions of north and northwest Georgia. As a result of multiple periods with heavy rainfall, some localized flooding of creeks and streams may be possible across portions of northern Georgia.
Additionally, even Gilmer County Schools representatives have reported delays in bus routes and travel because of the debris and trees the county is already dealing with on their roads.
They are asking parents for patience today as drivers are navigating these roads and conditions. Parents should not be concerned if students on buses arrive home a few minutes later than normal.
Please be patient as some bus routes may run slightly later than normal as our drivers exercise extreme caution in transporting our students this morning.
Amicalola Electric company is also reporting major outages in the area as they continue dealing with the storm. With 107 outages, they have reported close to 4,000 homes without power today. While much of these outages came in the area of Talking Rock and Highway 52, there are others affected all over the county. Crews are currently attending to these and working to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.
The National Weather Service is continuing its Flood Warnings for the area through Saturday Morning and has added a sever weather statement saying,
Wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph will be possible through the rest of the day for portions of northern Georgia. These enhanced wind speeds combined with extremely saturated soils from the persistent rain have resulted in conditions very susceptible for trees to become uprooted and blown over. Trees may be blown onto structures, roadways or powerlines causing further power outages across the area.
UPDATE: The Sheriff’s Office reported Fendley found and safe on February 18.
Have you seen DAKOTA FENDLEY or know of his whereabouts?
Dakota is 16 years of age and was last seen on foot in the area of Harold Pritchett Rd. Saturday, Feb. 16th, at approx. 5:00pm. He was wearing a black hoodie, blue jeans, a gray hat and black glasses.
If you have information, please call Gilmer County Dispatch at 911 or 706-635-8911.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – “It’s easy to stand up and be the leader of an agency that is doing so much positive every day,” said Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson on February 7, 2019, as he honored members of his staff.
Emphasizing how much his staff and employees help to make his position easier, Nicholson offered thanks for people who have “turned a job into a profession.”
The awards night saw several GCSO employees and even some officers from Ellijay Police Department honored from recent events.
Nicholson went on to note that discussions and debates among the Command Staff for these awards is one of the hardest discussions he has. He said that so much has changed since he started his time as Sheriff. With increasing issues and dangers in the profession, he took extra effort to express how much he cares and concerns himself over protecting the safety of officers as they perform their duties.
The first award came with from Sid Turner and Jared Ogden of the Sons of the American Revolution who presented their Sons of the American Revolution Commendation Medal to Sergeant Jason Reed.
Turner said, “Sergeant Reed started his career with Gilmer County
Sheriff Nicholson presented the remaining awards for the Sheriff’s Office.
Sarah Raynes received the Communications Officer of the Year award.
Nicholson commented on how upbeat and energetic she has been in 2018 including a jarring move from day shift to night shift to fill a need in the department. He went on to note that her attitude throughout all of the positions hardships and trials makes her a pleasant dispatcher and great worker.
Detective Jeffrey Shelton received the Detective of the Year award.
Nicholson shared the words he received about Shelton saying it was his tenaciousness and his attitude as he was assigned several cases that blew up into much larger ordeals than originally expected. Through these cases, he continued his efforts, “sticking with it” as Nicholson stated.
In a position like Detective, Nicholson said certain cases can be very easy. But, in one day, they can become an investigation spanning several generations.
Corporal Tommy Humphries received the Deputy of the Year award.
Nicholson spoke about Humphries’ specialized talents as Deputy able to go to neighbors dispute, mediate the process, settle the issue, and be invited back for coffee later.
The effort and the nature of a person required to see that kind of success in the role of Deputy is an indispensable member of the office.
Nicholson said that dealing with tense situations is part of the job that Deputies must deal with, but handling those issues so well that you’re invited back, “That’s a good Deputy Sheriff.”
Lieutenant James Knight received the Court Services Deputy of the Year award.
Nicholson stated that most people don’t understand all the work that goes
Kim Rogers received the Civilian Employee of the Year award.
Nicholson admitted the excessive work that gets put on the civilian employees that the office has saying, “They do a lot of work, they give above and beyond. They keep the agency running straight. They keep the agency in good graces with the District Attorney’s Office by providing reports. They keep the jail records straight. They keep bonds straight. They keep the money we take in. They keep everything going in the right direction.”
Nicholson went on to note the Rogers came to the Sheriff’s Office to fill the gap of a big role. She took the spot to a new level in everything she keeps track of. He noted the extra work she has taken in since joining the office and rolling with everything asked of her.
The final award of the night actually hosted several officers and deputies as Nicholson presented Combat Citations along with a ribbon, to be worn on their uniforms, for those involved in the November 6, 2018, incident.
Those receiving the Combat Citation included Ellijay Police Officer Trevor McClure and Sergeant Aaron Mashburn and Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office’s Deputy First Class Lesse Sippel, Corporal Gene Hefner, Sergeant Daniel King, and Lieutenant Joshua Chancey.
These men and women served honorably in the face of danger and threat to their lives this night. Nicholson delivered the award saying, “On November 6, 2018… Members of the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office and the Ellijay Police Department responded to Corals Lane in reference to a man with a gun call. As officers approached the location, a known violent felon, armed with a pistol, attempted to ambush them. When the subject refused to drop the weapon and pointed it at officers while shouting his intent to shoot them, deadly force was employed to protect themselves and the citizens, who were in the residence, from death or harm. The officers’ actions during this life-threatening incident are to be commended.”
There were also two awards not delivered as the recipients were not available at the time of the awards ceremony.
Kurtis Parks received the Detention Officer of the Year award.
Deputy Joshua Easley received the Student Resource Officer of the Year award.