County looks to overcome obstacles for pool

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s march towards the construction of the new pool at River Park is continuing as they continue facing two major obstacles.

It has been well established that two of the county’s three commissioners see great promise and benefit in the River Park location discussed for the county’s pool project. One hurdle facing that location received an update this month and Commission Chairman Charlie Paris informed the board at their meeting that conversations with the specialist attorney Matt Williams revealed that the proposed contract with Patriot Rail is looking promising.

Williams did say they currently have a standard agreement contract that they are looking at. However, Paris told the board, “He mentioned that in terms of a railroad crossing, the main concern is the question of liabilty.”

The area currently has a private crossing. If it was a public crossing, the county would come into the liability issue as well. Paris said that the county cannot indemnify the railroad with a public crossing. But with standardized government documents, this crossing would fall under standardized signage and warnings that are common across the country.

He went on to say that the county would undergo a diagnostic study to find what government requires for the crossing. As such, Paris said the county “would be covered” in cases of liability as they follow DOT and traffic engineer standards.

As such, Williams has reportedly suggested the county move forward in pursuit of a public crossing at the location and could see better terms in the agreement with that angle. However, this means the county would have to carve out space for a public road instead of the private road, complete with easements and right of way.

Paris recommended the county move forward with this option if the county could get a “more favorable agreement.”

The railroad is not the only obstacle that saw updates this week. The county is facing much of the land at that location in a flood plain. Public Works Director Jim Smith updated the county on progress beginning on the Highway 382 project just getting underway by the State Department of Transportation. As they carve out, flatten, and prepare the area for relocating the highway, the contractors are looking for a place to put the dirt they remove.

Smith told the board that they had offered to move the dirt to a location of the county’s choice. The county could have the dirt moved to the River Park location to use as fill dirt. However, questions arose and the county is set to first investigate and take samples to see if the quality is good enough for such a use.

Post Commissioner Dallas Miller continues to question the location as he raised questions about the soils composition, the locations foundation, and the repetition of the same plan used in the old pool. He further asked why the DOT would be giving away good soil?

Miller said he would support the creation and construction of a pool for the county, but would not support this site for the pool.

Paris agreed with wanting to test all the soil they are looking to use for the location. He also addressed what he called an incorrect statement about the land being free. While the land would be free to them, it will actually be East Ellijay paying for the land, Paris said $270,000, in order to make sure the pool would be built in town instead of at Clear Creek.

He went on to note the most all of the current River Park is inside a flood plain. While he admitted that he said the pool has problems in that flood plain, he noted that the pool was over 40 years old. He said, “If we build a pool there, and 40 years from now we have problems with it leaking, then my suggestion… will be ‘time to build a new pool.'”

Post Commission Karleen Ferguson thanked Miller for his concerns and suggesting the soils testings. However, she said, “I do believe I am kind of here and ready for us to face our rivers and to enjoy our rivers more, more than turn our backs on our rivers. The River Park is already started. It is a beautiful park for our citizens to enjoy and I do think it makes sense to have the pool there if all the other ‘ifs,’ you know we have this railroad issue that has come up and we’ll see how that goes and the soil testing that is being done. Ideally, I do think it’s the best location because it makes sense to continue on for our River Park and even across to our soccer fields.”

Despite the differences, the county is moving forward looking at both the available soil and the railroad agreements as they attempt to overcome these hurdles.

Author

Attorney hired for pool project

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The hiring of a specialised attorney for railroad agreements was approved by the county in a Special Called Meeting this week with concerns over the planned agreement.

As the county continues pursuing the agreement to cross the railroad tracks at the expected location of the pool project just off of Progress Road, the hiring of this attorney is expected to bring two major benefits.

The first being to have someone more specialised and experienced in these types of agreements to look at and make changes needed for the county side of the agreement.

The second being having this attorney ready to pursue the agreement on the county’s behalf if the need should arise.

The attorney would have no retainer fee, but a $300/hour charge.

During the Special Meeting, Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said he had spoken to the attorney already to gather what information he would need.

As the county continues awaiting the response from the railroad, approval for the attorney is preparing the county for the next step in either situation, review or further pursuit.

Author

Playing in the county’s pool?

Opinion

With over two months since Gilmer County first announced they would keep the pool closed this year, a lot has been said, debated, changed, and changed again.

Much of the angst in the situation can be narrowed down to three topics though; time, finances, and responsibility. These three subjects have been the foundation for numerous meetings and countless hours of discussion. And while the topic hasn’t quite reached its conclusion, there is a sense of finality as the county moves towards bidding out the engineering process in the next two months.

Yet, the county is doing this with some citizens still in rather vocal opposition. A certain phrase comes to mind about pleasing all the people all the time. Naivete has its own blissful selfishness, but to think the entire county would 100 percent agree on something as major as this could be considered beyond naive and just straight ignorant.

One of the most vocalized oppositions to the county’s plan that you will hear in the monthly meetings isn’t about whether the county should do the pool, but rather if it can be done by the goal of Memorial Day 2020. It is a fair question, but Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris has noted numerous times that it is simply a goal he specifically wanted. Admittedly, this leaves the opening that the county may not finish it by then and doesn’t have a hard deadline. On the other hand, with constant changes, debates, and additions to the plans even into this month, it may not be entirely the county’s fault if the deadline is missed.

So, should people stop giving ideas and addressing what they, as taxpayers, want from the pool that they, as taxpayers, are buying? No, of course not. Ultimately, I think Memorial Day of next year is more of an attempt to let people know the county is avidly working towards quickly answering a very vocal portion of the community pushing for this project.

That said, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller also raised a very good point that shooting for that quick answer and deadline could cause issues as rushing tends to mean mistakes. Like fire tempering steel, this opposition is good for the county as a balancing act of speed and caution may be reached… “may.”

The topic vocalized evenly in and out of these county meetings, finances are always on the minds of citizens, especially those living in the far reaches of the county’s borders or those on dirt or otherwise unpaved roads. “Why is the county spending money on a pool when my road needs paving?” or maybe “… when we have so much debt?”

The answer to this is obvious. There isn’t one. The county can show how much improvement the road department has made in recent years. They can also show the bond refinancing and the work towards paying that off while also addressing capital needs. This is all very good. It is progress towards what many want, a debt-free county. Still, there is no specific answer, no singular reason. There is a county of reasons. There isn’t one, there are several.

A very vocal portion of the county is asking, quite loudly, for this to be done. And why shouldn’t they? It is what they want. They have kids that use that pool. They have families that want to cool off. So, why should the county listen to them and not to those asking for the money elsewhere? According to the Board of Commissioners, they are. Progress is a beautiful thing, but it is not a quick one. It is slow, it is tiring, and it is arduous.

Making a personal budget to take care of one’s bills and debts is not fun. And most who make those budgets wouldn’t make the entire budget and leave literally nothing for entertainment of some kind, some sort of fun. Similarly, With so many voices asking for this, there has not been comparable numbers of those asking not to do it. Granted, there have been a few singular voices loud enough to count for many, but when looking at a few loud voices versus many combined, one simply cannot be loud enough. What do you want? Where does your support lie? And who knows about it?

Financially, the commissioners have found enough money to “make it happen.” The county is about to see in the next few months if that $1.2 million is going to be enough. Then the voices heard will be the deciding factor on what gets built, what gets added, and what gets left on the table for later.

Ultimately, the county has made the motions, found the money, and they definitely are moving forward on this project. This is one of the few issues that has somewhat been decided, but that hasn’t stopped the community and people in it from asking why the county is building a pool. Some have asked why the school system isn’t building the pool for the swimmers. Others are saying it should be solely private entities who are responsible for building a pool. Where does the responsibility lie for this project?

First off, let’s start by saying that the county already had a pool. Citizens have gotten use to seeing and using that pool. The “responsibility” was already there. However, it is fair to question things in a time of change and transition. Some even pointed to the recent Board of Education ESPLOST survey to say that citizens had an opportunity to get a new pool there. One consideration there is that a school facility is specifically for that… school. The high school has a gym, basketball courts, and baseball fields. These are not county used facilities.

True, that doesn’t mean the county has not used or cannot use these facilities. Park and Recreation have partnered with the school system, held tournaments, and done other things. But when it comes down to a conflict of the Parks and Recreation teams and the school team, where does and should the priority go to. It’s not wrong to give priority of school facilities to school usage.

More than that, if citizens are wanting this to be a year-round facility, then year-round control should go to the people with the year-round responsibility. Would county citizens want to work with a private-organization to schedule or use the facility, or would they want government elected officials to control it, government officials that they as citizens can go talk to, complain to, and fire by election. At least, that’s what my education taught me.

As the county continues on in this project, these questions are going to continue. There won’t be an end even when the project is done. There are still going to be those who question things and question the pool. Should we have the pool? Should we do it now? Should we wait? Should we pay for it through the amendments that were approved? Should we really try and finish by Memorial Day? Should this guy be in charge? Should it be at this location or that one?

Ultimately, another phrase comes to mind, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” Considering that, the only question that really matters in this debate is, “Why aren’t you squeaking?”

Author

Pool Debate jumps into the deep end

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The story is continuing with Gilmer County’s pool as the debate received another change in the July Board of Commissioners meetings.

Questions arose to revisit the idea of a deeper area in the pool with a diving board for citizens and children use to jump into the pool. This idea was originally not at all a part of the plans for the pool as liability and insurance issues made each member of the board question the addition.

As such, until now, plans have never included the area, instead having an offset area with two slides set up for play. The offset area was, and still is, connected to the “competition pool,” the first pool to be put in during the construction project that is now almost certain to span years to ultimately achieve a full recreation center.

Concern was also raised about continued debates on designs and inclusions for the project. Commission Chairman Charlie Paris noted how late in the year we are without the county having even put out requests for bids. Paris is continuing to try to hold to his plans to meet a Memorial Day 2020 deadline or sometime soon after to open the basic pool for the public. Tempering the plans with cost concerns, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller continued the debate questioning exactly how much extra the addition would cost the county in building a diving well in addition to the slide area and the pool.

Plans have only inflated since the pools’ original design was released early last week. Citizens are continuing to debate, question, change, and increase plans for the pool despite many of them being against beginning construction of the pool this year.

Paris commented on the changes that citizens are requesting as he said in an earlier meeting he didn’t want to wind up spending millions of dollars on a pool “that doesn’t meet our needs.” Miller also said he would rather spend $4 million on the pool that people want even if it adds years to the completion time.

County Attorney David Clark offered an answer to the debate as the county is still early in the design phase. Clark suggested the county request bids for both options including and excluding the diving well.

The county is also holding fast to the $1.2 million budget for the pool for now as they march towards Memorial Day. Debate is starting to grow if the county will stay within the $1.2 million. Constantly being asked over and over again, Paris has simply repeated his statement saying that he wants to get everything he can for the pool for $1.2 million. He has taken several opportunities at several meetings and interviews to list the county’s priority of getting the main pool in with all the extra they can, but coming back in subsequent years for the other additions like a cover, a kids pool, a splash pad, and other items.

With designs set and citizens already speaking out on their plans, the county is already hearing and changing ideas. It seems the presentation of the design proposal has already doubled as the town hall meeting promised to citizens to consider design changes. Despite that, the county’s monthly meetings are also seeing comments and changes right up to the last minute before bids are received.

Author

Citizens and Commissioners ask for changes to pool design

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County is submerging into discussion on the county’s pool design and what they each want from the design, including changes to the presented design.

One major change came during the Commissioners meeting when local swimming coach Larry Lykins asked about the lane widths. The plan held the inner six lanes at 6.5 feet wide and the two outer lanes at 8 feet wide. However, Lykins said he thought the design would be better served with minimum 7 feet wide lanes. He suggested all lanes be 7 feet and it would only add 1 foot to the total pool width.

The competition pool will be 5 feet deep with one end rising to a 4 feet deep section in favor of possible aerobics or similar activities. The kids pool will be “Zero Entry” but reach a depth of 3 feet on the opposite end.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris assured citizens who questioned priorities, saying that the county will build the competition pool, then cover it, and then build the kids pool. He did make a stipulation that if they didn’t have the money to build the cover but did have enough to build the kid pool then they would consider that option.

While the pool construction will include a heater pad for the pool off to one side and construction of the bathrooms and concessions stands, but not the entire recreation center. While some points were included, but not shown in the video, Lykins also noted that during construction, they should go ahead and put in the anchors in the concrete for backstroke flags, lane dividers, and dive posts. This means the county needs to go ahead and decide which types and/or brands of this equipment they want to use so they can know which equipment and anchors may be needed.

Additionally, the design currently expects to utilize ozonation for water sanitation. This method, according to Scott Walk of Premier Pools & Spas, is slightly more expensive to install but saves money over the life span of the system as it removes the cost for chemicals like chlorine. It was also stated that if the cost makes the option prohibitive, they could use salt solutions instead. He also said the ozonation is better for the finish on the pool.

Citizens have already begun commenting on articles and social media posts asking for shaded areas and fans for those who may be there with family but not getting into the water.

During the meeting, Paris told citizens that the only major issue they could be facing with the East Ellijay land near River Park would be getting permission from the railroad to cross the tracks at that location. While he did say that they have had verbal discussions that seem promising, Paris said they don’t have anything in writing yet.

The board will move forward with the pool design this week as they hold their monthly work session on Wednesday, July 10, at 9:00 a.m., and the regular meeting on Thursday, July 11, at 6:00 p.m.

Any and all citizens wishing to speak on the matter can attend these meetings to discuss their opinions of the issue as well.

Author

Gilmer County sees pool proposal

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County finally has an actual image of what their future pool might look like when built.

The proposal was approved last month for Premier Pools & Spas (PPAS) to be the designer. Now, nearly a month later, the team has returned with a video presentation of a walk-through of both pools and a priority list set for what citizens should expect in the coming months. The design showcased the basic layout, but still a few issues were mere placeholders as Scott Walk, PPAS Representative, said there will be both an adult and a kid slide, but the computer program only shows the adult slide.

Walk also said that the building representing the Recreation center is just a placeholder in the video and does not represent an actual design. One addition since last months meeting is the design added a “splash pad” near the kids pool. This pad is a fountain like zone with no depth for kids to play in who may not be ready for the actual pools.

Additionally, if you watch the video, the showcase will be of the uncovered pool. However, if you look at the 5:30 mark of the video, you can see what the covering for the pool is designed to look like in the background off to the far end of the “Recreation Center.” Complete with “garage-style” doors to open when needed and allowing a makeshift “breeze-way,” the cover is part of the priority lists that the commissioners have mentioned in meetings before.

Author

Designer Selected for Pool Construction

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – An official motion, and a somewhat unusual unanimous decision, has led Gilmer County into a contract with Premier Pools & Spas.

The company, located in Ellijay, Georgia, already presented a concept to the commissioners during their June meeting, but will now alter, detail, and finalize a design for the board to use as they move forward with a town hall meeting for citizens to look at the design and provide input, then return to design before giving the plans over to an engineer for building plans.

Premier Pools & Spas preliminary design was meant to show the companies capabilities and expertise. Approved at $3,500, the company will now spend the next few weeks designing both pools expected in the new recreation center. However, the design would end with planning the enclosure for the main pool. The County will still look for another designer for the remainder of the recreation center as they have previously stated they want the entire facility designed before construction begins.

The main pool will likely be four feet deep to accommodate swimming laps as well as water aerobics classes. Included in the building enclosing the pool would be concession stands and bathrooms. These will also be designed to prevent moisture transfer to the rec center to help protect other possibilities like basketball courts.

One change the commissioners have already asked for from the initial concept is to incorporate eight swim lanes at 8-feet-wide each for competitions. Additionally, for practices, Swim Coach Larry Lykins said this width could also allow for two swimmers in the lanes.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman also said he wanted to accommodate those wanting to swim laps at the same time. Lykins said that eight lanes could also allow extra space to have half the pool set for laps and the other half for classes, therapy, or aerobics at the same time.

When finished, the pool design will provide the county with a completed design to guide with layout and construction documents and engineering plans, as well as estimations of building costs. Post Commissioner Dallas Miller confirmed that these would be good enough for bid specs, but they will not be the actual Architectural Plans.

Author

Ferguson talks the “community” side of the pool

News

“It’s important to me… I think it’s a service to the community.” Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson speaks on the priority of the pool in her own opinion.

Ferguson spoke about the balance the county has to maintain as they face the needs of the county versus the availability of funds in the budget. Ferguson also noted how important physical activity is to her. Owning Stay Active Ellijay, Ferguson has spent years in the business of keeping people active and healthy. She points to her history here as she says how important a pool, and later a full recreation center, is to her.

While acknowledging that she is one-third of the board, Ferguson said her own priorities for the coming project is to focus on both pools as a single thought as she wants to have the children’s play area and ramp entry to be easier for those who need it. The “zero-entry” concepts plays a special role as Ferguson wants the growing senior population to have just as much access as any others.

But it’s not just the pool, according to Ferguson, who says, “One of my things with the whole River Park, is to build community. The pool is a place where we can build community, where we can come together, all ages, all economic backgrounds, and be a community there. To me, it fits so many of our needs, in my mind, of what’s important for the county, for the community.”

With such a large project originally being planned for Clear Creek, but now looking more and more like it will be located at River Park, Ferguson was excited to look at a partnership with East Ellijay for a closer location as well as the chance to save money on the project with both locations not costing the county money for the land.

While she said she is more responsible for the unincorporated parts of the county, Ferguson looks at the citizens inside and outside of the city limits as the same body of Gilmer County.

Despite the positivity and optimism, Ferguson said she is “crossing her fingers” on the River Park location as the county continues investigations into its viability. Even though it “fits very well there,” says Ferguson, “It’s all about the flood plain.” Ferguson acknowledged the planning phase is still in motion and she emphasized that the county is still answering questions to make sure it will not raise the expense of the project to make the land viable. She said the county still has a budget to follow and must stay within that budgeted amount.

Ferguson also said she wants to stay positive and is “hopefull” when looking at the Memorial Day opening goal. However, she also said she would not be willing to rush it just to get it open by then. While having a goal is great for projects, she wants to take her time and do it right.

Author

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