Responses show possible changes to Boardtown Road Power Line Project

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Over the weekend and the past few days, information has circulated among residents on Boardtown Road and the citizens asking for relocations of the project to protect the community and natural beauty of the area.

BoardtownThis group has consistently been writing, calling, and sharing information with Georgia House Speaker and local District Representative David Ralston and State Senator Steve Gooch about the project.

According to an email from Scotty Abercrombie, Ralston responded to citizens about the issue saying that he had heard their concerns and was working on the issue at the capitol. Abercrombie also said that he had responded favorably stating that he appreciated the calls and emails.

Abercrombie said that he was happy with the response and that Ralston had heard the issue on Boardtown Road loud and clear. Abercrombie stated, “I appreciated him reaching out to me to discuss.”

Abercrombie said that Speaker Ralston asked for patience and time to work towards the goal.

However, it was not much time before another update reported that some progress was being made and an extension, as well as a review meeting, had been set.

Meanwhile, another report circulating among citizens stated that a member of the Amicalola Electric Board told a citizen that the longer route could also have negative effects on citizens. This email reported the information on Boardtown from the board member stating that they were told, “Amicalola Electric will have to pay for the line with borrowed money and if the line went the long route, it would result in an increase in our power bill.”

Over last weekend, Georgia Transmission Corporation Public Affairs Director Terry Cole sent an email shared among the residents stating:

In consultation with Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, Georgia Transmission Corporation releases the following statement on the Whitepath Electric Reliability Project:

As we shared with the property owners and others at our public meetings, community voices are an essential part of our process as we develop solutions to electric reliability challenges.  Since those meetings, we have carefully reviewed what the community expressed.  We’ve weighed how best to move forward to achieve the goal everyone can agree on which is to ensure reliable power for the homes, farms, and businesses in the Boardtown Road area.

In direct response, we are undertaking an extensive review and analysis of the two routes the community expressed interest in us examining, GA Hwy 515 and the CSX railroad corridor.  We anticipate this taking several months to properly conduct the examination of existing land use, environmental conditions, engineering constraints, and cost of construction, operation and maintenance.   Impacts to other property owners in the Gilmer County community will also be a factor for consideration.

As a not-for-profit member cooperative, Georgia Transmission is committed to working with the local community to fully explore all options available to reach a solution.  We appreciate your continued willingness to engage in dialogue and open conversation about this challenging situation.  We believe that by working together all of us can arrive at a solution that delivers the needed electric power to your community.

“I appreciate the willingness of Georgia Transmission Corporation to study this project in exhaustive detail before any final decisions are made,” said Speaker David Ralston.  “We all understand and appreciate the need to consider both our infrastructure requirements and preservation of the scenic beauty of our mountain region.  My thanks to all involved for taking the time necessary to reach the best possible solution for our community.”

With the new updates, official letter from Gilmer County have responded to both Speaker Ralston and Senator Gooch for their efforts in the issue along with emails from citizens and residents.

That letter was originally a part of a resolution from the Board of Commissioners to support citizens in their concerns, but has become a letter of thanks in response to the news. Approved by the Board and signed by Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, the letters stated to each representative:

 

Dear Speaker Ralston,

I want to thank you for your response to the people of Boardtown Road, and for your efforts in asking Georgia Transmission to consider alternate routes. You have always been very responsive to the needs of the people of Gilmer County, and it is greatly appreciated.

I do understand the need for increased capacity and reliability of our electrical system, and also appreciate the effort by our EMCs and Georgia Transmission to address this need. Our Commissioners support the project but also feel that a path can be selected that would have less of an impact on quality of life and property values in the county. We do believe that an alternate path would be preferable and are grateful for GTC’s decision to take another look at these options.

Thank you for all that you do for the people of Gilmer County. 

Dear Senator Gooch,

I want to express my gratitude for the support you offered to the people of Boardtown Road in Gilmer County, and for your efforts in asking Georgia Transmission to consider alternate routes. You have always been very responsive to the needs of the people of Gilmer County, and it is greatly appreciated.

I do understand the need for increased capacity and reliability of our electrical system, and also appreciate the effort by our EMCs and Georgia Transmission to address this need. Our Commissioners support the project but also feel that a path can be selected that would have less impact on quality of life and property values in the county. We do believe that an alternate path would be preferable and are grateful for GTC’s decision to take another look at these options.

Thank you for all that you do for the people of Gilmer County

At this time, the meetings will move forward and the representatives are looking into the issues of this project and ways “to preserve the natural beauty of areas in the mountain communities.”

Though it has been stated that the review and re-evaluation of the alternate paths will cause some delays, no specifics have been given at this time to how long those delays will be. Citizens are continuing to talk about the issue with the favorable news to their concerns, and are looking to continue pushing for awareness as the project moves forward and they await the outcome of the review.

BOC supports citizens in opposition to new transmission lines location

News
Transmission

ELLIJAY, Ga. – “It’s going to look like a runway,” said Leon Watkins in the Commissioners August Regular Session. He was speaking about Boardtown Road in Gilmer County and the project for massive poles and a transmission line along the road.

A letter went out last week gathering support and other citizens to speak with locals asking to relocate a project that they say would destroy Boardtown Road. A

Answering that call, numerous citizens appeared before the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners at the August meeting to speak about the Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) and the major project they are undertaking. All of those that spoke at the meeting did so in opposition of the project’s current location.

Some asserted later in the meeting that they didn’t want to publicly oppose the project of improving electrical reliability in Gilmer. However, the common theme that every single speaker of the night on this subject shared was the concept that putting these large poles in the middle of people’s yards and farms would be a detriment to the area. It is the path down Boardtown that is being opposed.

They said that the project would not only individually detriment their own properties in both property value and natural beauty, but spill over into the entire road and surrounding area.

The Citizen’s wishing to speak section started with a question, “Why can’t the county deny permission for the line and right of way?”

The question spilled over into other speakers saying the preferred route should go down Highway 515 as a major road.

As Commission Chairman Charlie Paris explained that he has already looked into the issue trying to see how the county could help, County Attorney David Clark explained that his understanding was that the GTC could use imminent domain on the area to force the project through, leaving both the county and local citizens with no voice in the matter.

The GTC did hold three public meetings encouraging social distancing and an extended format for people to come and go during the hours of those three meetings. Citizens speaking in the Commissioners meeting told the board that the GTC already had their plans and surveys set before the meetings ever started. The meetings, they said, were there providing information to citizens on what is going to happen and not solicit input on a project before planning.

Clark told citizens they should also be speaking with local EMC board members to see if they could also be helping people with the issue in addition to the work they had already done.

Transmission

Robert Armour speaks to the BOC asking for support at their August Regular Meeting

Yet, Melanie Johnson said that she has already spoken with representatives of both Amicalola EMC and GTC. She alleged that many of the Georgia Transmission representatives gave different, misleading, or wrong information as they have pushed into the project. She said that in the beginning they collected signatures for surveys saying alluding that they would simply be replacing and upgrading current poles.

As conversation continued with citizens offering similar complaints against destroying the native beauty or having massive steel and concrete poles put into their properties.

Johnson asked for a public show of support from Commissioners as she hoped to push the issue to state representatives such as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston and State Senator Steve Gooch. A letter of support was one of three actions citizens asked for during the meeting.

Echoed by several citizens including Robert Armour and Develle Frady, the show of support through a letter that citizens could use to have the extra authority was a great step that citizens said they appreciated. Yet, Armour asked the commissioners to take it step further. The second action that he asked for was to not just write a letter, but to have the commissioners physically call them for support.

He later returned to the podium and expanded his request asking the commissioners to initiate a meeting for residents in the area to speak directly with these state representatives to implore them for their support and to assert the importance they hold for the issue.

Frady said he has already seen the issues that road has suffered from the gas line put in. His main concern is the heavy weight traffic this would put on the road with bridges already in poor state and some with maximum 5 ton weight limits. “The bridges and culverts will not hold the 60 ton frames they will need to erect those poles,” he said.

Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson voices support for residents opposed to the large transmission lines to be built on Boardtown Road.

Paris himself said that the Georgia Transmission Corporation is a state level agency. He added, “I have felt frustrated because I am not aware of anything the county can actually do.” Yet, he said that he would have no problem at all supporting citizens in this way that they have requested for the letter. He also told citizens he would work towards a meeting if poss

The third option and request citizens asked for came in several citizens asking for the commissioners to pass an ordinance for some sort of protection against the transmission line in the area. One said they should enforce right of ways against the poles. Frady mentioned county documents claiming 80 feet of right of way, but the GTC told him they had 100 foot right of ways from the road.

Kevin Kell spoke in the meeting saying that he owned 20 acres on the road and is second guessing plans for building a home. He said that people come to Ellijay for the “beautiful, unspoiled views.” He said his experience as a banker leads him to believe that this is not the only option for GTC, but is the cheapest option. Kell also echoed the issue of the effect on property values.

It was suggested by Gilmer Historian that the road be declared a scenic route as she spoke about the Trail of Tears in Ellijay and the historic and archaeological importance of several finds that the county has had on Boardtown Road. She later noted that the road in Fannin County is already declared a scenic route.

Transmission

Boardtown area resident and member of the Board of Education, Ronald Watkins speaks alongside citizens who are asking for help in relocating a project for high voltage transmission lines and poles on Boardtown Road.

Stressing the importance of the issue, Ronald Watkins, current member of the Board of Education and resident in the area, said he wouldn’t be getting a pole on his property, but would be getting one right across the street from him. He repeated the major issue of the utter destruction of the natural scenery and scenic views along the road as one of the major points of living and being in the area. He said he was told it was an issue of money and being more expensive to go elsewhere.

The commissioner discussed several options for the issue and passed a resolution to draft the requested letter, showing their support for those in opposition. Paris began discussing attempting to set up a meeting for citizens, but the board settled to draft the letter first and move into other options one at a time. In fact, both Paris and Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson voiced support for the citizens after just a couple of citizens spoke. While the public continued voicing concerns and requesting certain solutions, the board as a whole was already discussing at several points throughout the comments on what steps they could take and what they could do in support.

In addition to this, another person stepped up to speak during the comments section. Travis Crouch, a resident of an area past Boardtown Road. He said he doesn’t live on Boardtown and would, in fact, be one of the people that would benefit greatly from the project. He noted that his home has had 28 outages already in this year alone.

Crouch stated, “I do not want to see those power lines.”

Crouch referenced both the scenic beauty and the bridge conditions on the road saying that the area is a beautiful drove and needs this protection

He said that his power is an issue that needs to be addressed, but added that if the only solution required doing what the project is calling for on Boardtown Road, then “I would rather deal with the power outages, seriously.”

Commissioners update pool and code enforcement in April

News
BOC, Commissioners

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Nearing the end of demolition at the old pool site, the Board of Commissioners is moving forward with replacement of the foundation in preparation of the currently “on hold” project to construct the new pool.

Reports indicate, according to Chairman Paris, that there is a total of eight feet of “bad soil” under the old pool’s footprint that needs replacing before it can support any structure there. Paris said that the county needs to dig out the older soil and replace it with a combination of new soil and, mostly, stone.

The county has estimated $52,000 to replace the soil and is set to move forward without before they come to a full stop on constructing the new pool. Paris said a major note of their investigations, however, is that they have confirmed the site as a viable location. A determination they have been anticipating for months since deciding to demolish the old pool site for use as the new pool.

Another major note of change came from the final approval of an amendment to Chapter 1 “General Provisions” of the Gilmer County Code.

This item has run the three-month process and has reached final approval with the change allowing Code Enforcement to leave citations on people’s doors when unable to make contact with those people directly.

The change will be placed into effect now, and when code enforcement attempts to deliver citations to people for code violations, they no longer have to physically deliver that citation into people’s hands. Instead, the new change will allow them to place the citations on the door and have them enforced as such.

Also in the meeting, the commissioners continued a resolution to grant authority to the Tax Commissioner to waive Interest and Penalties as they have in recent years past. Approved for another three-year term, the resolution does not require waiving but just grants the authority to the Tax Commissioner.

They continued with a renewal of the contract for the ETC Service Agreement providing broadband at the courthouse. Worked out two or three years ago to support cloud back-ups and the traffic needed at the courthouse, the Commissioners approved a continuation of the contract.

 

Capital spending halted amid shutdowns including pool project

News
Public Works BOC Capital Spending

ELLIJAY, Ga. – During the Board of Commissioners’ work session today, Chairman Charlie Paris spoke in the citizens wishing to speak section addressing concerns and a specific email from the weekend including Capital spending.

During his time speaking, Paris announced that he will be “putting the brakes” on capital spending in the near future. While he did say he wasn’t pointing to anything specific being cut yet, Paris noted that he wanted to look closely at the budget with the understanding that much of the Capital spending is based on estimates from the SPLOST.

Paris said, “I am really concerned with all of this social distancing, all of these shutdowns that are going on, as to what that might translate into in terms of our SPLOST revenue.”

Pointing to the emptiness that Gilmer County has seen recently and people staying home after urgings from health agencies and government.

While some things are already underway, Paris said he will complete these projects. Some things that could be pushed back include the lift stations project from public works. Paris said he doesn’t know when or how far he might look at pushing these items, but the major note from his explanation came when he said that the county will complete the project of demolishing the old pool and will stop there.

Paris said, “Most of you know that I’ve been in a big hurry to get this thing bid out and get it going. I just can’t, in good conscience, continue that without knowing what’s coming.”

Paris said that the pool project is funded through a separate account, but he is concerned that revenue may drop so much that those funds would be temporarily needed somewhere else.

While these projects are major notes, Paris is looking at all budgets with an eye towards the future, not to cut directly, but, according to Paris, to hold off for a little while until they know more.

One citizen, Joene DePlancke, has been a large voice on the issue in recent months, especially on the financial status of the county and their disbursements. DePlancke said she had sent the commissioners and email over the weekend and was prepared to speak further in the meeting on fiscal responsibility. Instead, she thanked Paris on his stance and willingness to listen and respond to the economy and to the needs of citizens.

The county is still taking care of debt service, and DePlancke warned commissioners that the market will have effects on Gilmer and has already has.

 

Gilmer approves GMP for Clear Creek Elementary

News
GMP, Coronavirus

ELLIJAY, Ga. – In a special called meeting in March, the Gilmer Board of Education approved their Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for Clear Creek Elementary School with Charles Black Construction Company.

The GMP is set at $15,910,671. The project is set to begin this spring as reported from the BOE’s February Meeting. According to reports, that date could be as early as late March or early April.

During their meeting, the board confirmed a few extra details including the use of the luxury vinyl tiles similar to those used in the high school. Despite being more expensive to install, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said it is more durable and doesn’t require the same waxing a buffing over summers and holidays that the older style of tiles required.

Some parts of the project will require the school system to follow up with certain internal projects like furnishings, technology, and security which are not a part of the GMP. Downs said the GMP is strictly for the construction of the facility.

As construction begins in the next coming weeks to continue over the summer, the Board of Education has said they will be hosting their groundbreaking ceremony soon. Additionally, the project is still not confirmed on the scale or need for adjustments to nearby county roads for the increase in traffic. However, the Board of Commissioners have held preliminary discussions about possible needs for turning lanes and road widening among others.

Pool design changes again with approval to begin bidding

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s pool has undergone another edit in the weeks since the last meeting where the design was debated at length.

While the last meeting ended with no actual approved design, certain topics were presented as priorities in the pool by citizens and organizations and some of the aspects were left to be “worked in” to the pool by the design team at Premiere Pools & Spas. The design changes allow for a few changes in operations and accommodations, according to Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris.

One of the major, and most obvious, changes is the connection of the two pools into one through a walkway. Paris said, “There are a couple of advantages to this. The first is we can get by with one filtration system rather than having to have two separate… Also, we can get by with one heating system rather than having to have separate heaters both pools.”

The connection will make the one solid pool 160 feet long according to the preliminary plans presented during the meeting. The swim lanes will be 75 feet while the wade in / splash area will reach 73.5 feet at its widest point.

Paris went on to say, “The push behind this particular choice to connect these two pools is, in addition to the cost savings, this provides a better segway into the senior aerobics and any other type of activity like that that requires a varying level of depth depending on how tall the individual may be.”

This does still include the diving well and zero-entry point from previous meetings and designs but changes a few other key points noted from last month. Since it will no longer be two separate pools, the splash area will not grade down in the same direction as the lanes. The splash area will also not reach 4 feet deep, but instead only reach 3.5 feet deep with it continuing deeper into the pathway connecting the pools. The recreation pool will not be 5 feet deep the whole length, but instead rise to a 4.5 feet deep area in the middle, the same area swimmers will be on as they walk through that pathway.

While these items changed from the last meeting, no specifics design had been approved until today. In today’s meeting, not only did the item reignite the debate over the pool, the county, roads, and TSPLOST, but it did also finally see the formal adoption of a design as the Commissioners move towards bidding the project out for construction.

Paris did also say it is starting to look like the roof over to enclose the pool will be pushed as a return project next year. This has, however, been stated as a possibility and a part of the county’s plan in previous meetings as they attempt to see how far they can go in the project with the money available.

However,  the meeting did see a restart on citizens debating the county’s funds and usage. Joene DePlancke specified her concerns and summed up what she called a general feeling amongst citizens as “pool vs. roads.”

She pointed to concerns about the county’s provision of a pool and school usage versus Board of Education financial support for the pool. She also noted that the county is looking at a possible major road project out Yukon Road with the construction of Clear Creek Elementary. As far as shared usage, Paris and Gilmer Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White noted that the county and rec sports do access and use school facilities like the basketball courts and football fields similar to how the school swim team would use the  Recreation Pool. Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson also added that adult tennis programs use the school’s tennis courts.

DePlanke voiced other concerns about funding saying she wants the pool but the project alongside TSPLOST elections is creating the tension of a “pool vs. roads” division.

Paris, and later echoed by Ferguson, noted that much of the management in the county and government is a balancing act.

Paris said he hears the people who say that you shouldn’t build a pool and use all the money for the roads. But he also hears families and others saying they want to have the pool. He noted several equipment purchases for the road department and an equipment shed to help maintain it. He said that much of this progress is slow and he is continuing that process to improve the roads while balancing the wants and needs of all the departments in the county.

He said that the TSPLOST specifically is an option and he doesn’t personally care if it passes as he sees the progress that has been made and the path towards continued growth in that department. With Gilmer’s financial situation and its efforts to continue growing that, as evident by a much larger reserve for the county, he asserts that the progress will be made either way, with TSPLOST making it much faster.

Paris said much of the sentiment, in his opinion, on roads has changed significantly through the recent election process over Dallas Miller’s vacant seat in 2019. Many candidates “hammered” on the topic of roads during that campaign and it became a bigger issue. Paris said he has people call and talk about the need for better roads and immediate action but also how they don’t want a TSPLOST.

Ultimately, with an approved design and move to bid, the progress on Gilmer’s pool is taking steps forward this month. These designs are now what they will use to have engineering performed and construction to begin in the near future after the current demolition of the current pool ends.

Frustrations in BOC over pool project

News
Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting

ELLIJAY, Ga. – County officials are looking deeper into the demolition of the county’s old pool and deciding what to salvage and what to dispose of as they look at placing the county’s new pool project there.

The county is also looking at the plumbing as Maintenance Director D.J. Spagnola said he wanted to be involved with the process as the dig down so that he could look at plumbing for the restrooms and pool project to determine needed fixes and replacements before they move forward with constructing the new pool.

Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said at the December meetings, “Originally, I really wanted to have this done by opening day. I don’t think we’re going to be able to make that… I’m getting really frustrated because it has been seven months now…”

Paris went on to say that most of the county’s time has been spent looking for a location when it started at Clear Creek and then on to River Park. The county began looking for property but came to the conclusion that they didn’t want the old location due to the costs of demolition, a project they could effectively delay until a later date. Now, considering the costs of buying property versus demolishing the old location for the new pool.

The county has almost completely decided on this location for the new pool. However, reservations are still being held as Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson has said in previous meetings that she wants to see what they find during the demolition before setting the location in stone. She did note that she is for the location, but is just wanting to hold a way out in case they find something big and to consider the price of the demolition.

As Paris said he still wanted to expedite the project to attempt to complete it before the season ends, Ferguson said, “I commend you for the work. We’ve tried different avenues. I think this is too important a project to speed through and rush it anyway… I think it’s better that we have taken the time and we have tried different options. We have considered all options that were possibilities.”

The county is focusing on this location, though, and are looking to get out and receive bids on the demolition as soon as possible.

County requesting bids to demolish the old pool site

News
Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The county is moving forward with and advertisement for bids to demolish the old pool after approval this month in their work session.

Despite some slight confusion in having the entire board on the same page about using the location as the site for the coming pool, County Attorney David Clark urged the county to move forward with demolition plans for the site due to hazards and liability issues that could arise with the site.

Chairman Paris said his original understanding was that the board was very much in favor of the location.

And although Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson wanted more discussion on officially declaring the site as the definitive location of the new pool, she did agree that they should go ahead with the demolition proceedings and the vote came unanimously in favor of advertising for bids.

In fact, Ferguson even said she did not have a problem with the location as the new pool site “unless there is something crazy that we find under the pool…” Ferguson’s concerns tended toward unexpected costs that could come through issues they had not found yet or may find as they demolish the old pool.

As she said she didn’t have a problem with the site, she later added that she didn’t realize that they had agreed on the location “no matter what.”

Paris did point out that a lot of time has been spent on site locations and inspections and that the county has yet to even advertise for bids on the project. Continuing along the process, the target of a pool constructed in May is fast approaching. In fact, the Memorial Day target has been spoken of less and less in recent meetings.

However, recalling the original meetings and planning session for the project, Paris did note several times that the Memorial Day opening was not a deadline, but rather a target date that he wanted to shoot for.

Still, progress is continuing on the project with this advertisement, and should the county move forward and accept a bid, it will be one step closer on a long journey that has become the pool project.

County updates Cartecay Bridge progress

News
Cartecay Bridge

With talks of Roads and Bridges at the forefront of citizens’ minds in Gilmer County, another major issue saw updates this week as the county moves towards replacing Lower Cartecay Road Bridge.

The bridge has been closed since April 17, 2017. Since then it has gone through a lengthy process of budgeting from the county for replacement to awaiting the state processing for replacement.

This process began with budget talks and considerations as the county was nearing the end of 2017. In the December meeting, $250,000 was set into a line for the bridge repair. It was also later increased during their regular meeting to $350,000, pulling the extra $100,000 from added revenue in the capital budget from taxes.

This was simply stop-gap budgeting though, as Commissioners attempted to secure state grants for the project. However, in March of 2018, Cartecay Bridge was accepted into a state replacement program. This placed the bridge on a lengthy list of other bridges set to be almost fully funded by the state to be replaced. Again, new progress came in May of 2018 when the bridge went from the bottom of the list to a higher priority.

This week, Commissioner Paris told citizens that the county has since learned that the original plan for the bridge replacement was not viable due to a rare fish in the area called the Goldline Darter. Protected in state regulations as a “threatened” species of fish, Paris said, “The DOT had a whole different idea of a bridge than we did… They are going to have to build a spanning bridge, they can’t put any columns going down into the river because we have the Goldline Darter.”

The conditions of the program when the bridge was added stated that Gilmer County was responsible for half of the costs of gaining the rights of way they would have to get. They estimated $100,000 and invoiced the county for $50,000. The county has paid this invoice and is following up with questions and inquiries into the area. Paris said the county is going through the process as the state is following procedures from rights of way to inquiries of artifacts and similar issues.

Paris said that it is taking longer as they will be replacing the Lower Cartecay bridge with a spanning bridge, but the process is ongoing. The county is currently being told by the state that construction could begin in, as Paris stated, “their fiscal 2021, which begins in June of 2020.”

He went on to say that a lot of people are upset that the bridge is taking so long, but asked for consideration of the change to spanning bridge and the fact that it will have cost the county a total of $50,000 instead of the state’s current projection of over $2.5 million.

Attorney hired for pool project

News
cleaning

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.

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?”

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.

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.

Spring Into Action For The Chimps!

Announcements, Community
In this Issue:

Sustaining Former Research Chimpanzees

It is interesting to ask someone “what is sustainability?” Every person you ask will offer a different explanation of what it means to them. Broadly, “sustainability” is the need to create environmental, economic and social models that will allow both the human race and planet Earth to survive.
Betty enjoys a locally grown apple donated from Mercier Orchards.
At Project Chimps, we incorporate the principles of sustainability in many ways; making decisions about recycling, selecting eco-friendly products, purchasing locally, and more. One of the ways we seek to improve our sustainable practices is to grow and harvest our own food for the chimpanzees. Introducing Project Harvest.

Project Harvest will be a mini farm, carving out approximately 15 acres of our 236 to exclusively focus on high-volume producing varietals of fruits and vegetables.

Initial plans for Project Harvest include 11 planting beds, a small orchard, a new well, solar energy, and a robust apiary (bee hives) to ensure all the plants will be pollinated. The honey from the apiary will be humanely collected and shared with the chimpanzees too! You can help support this project, find out how here
Each chimpanzee at Project Chimps receives 5-6 pounds of produce every day; at least 7 different options are on the daily menu ranging from tomatoes, oranges, kale, sweet potatoes, and even onions. We receive donations in small quantities from local farmers and food distributors, but by and large, we must purchase the food with delivery trucks arriving three times each week. And that is just for 59 chimps!

With our plan to house more than 200 chimps, we realize that we need to find sustainable off-sets to the cost and delivery burden of our chimpanzee food supply.

In addition to Project Harvest, we are also tending to the edible trees and shrubs that grow on our property. These native and invasive plants allow us to provide the chimpanzees with daily “browse” clippings collected from the bamboo, sourwood, willow, and other plants that thrive inside and outside the chimpanzees’ forested 6-acre habitat.

Noel enjoys red cabbage currently purchased from a local store, soon we can offer her home-grown options! Photo by Crystal Alba.
By growing food for the chimpanzees right here on our own property, we will reduce our carbon footprint caused by transporting food from out of the local area. We will reduce our food costs, allowing us to use private donations in other areas. And we will be able to ensure we are not damaging the native wildlife that surrounds us by using only organic and natural pest deterrents.

Most important, we’ll be providing the chimps with a healthy and varied diet!

Our efforts to participate in the growing movements for food sustainability will be accomplished through our Project Harvest Committee; a group of passionate volunteers and funders who have already contributed their knowledge and early support to create the foundation of this farm area. While it is only on paper today, we hope to spend this summer grading and plotting with the goal to be planting by this fall.

We are well on our way to a sustainable food program!

If you are interested in supporting Project Harvest join our volunteer program or select a garden supply from our Amazon Wish List!

With warmest regards,


Ali Crumpacker
Executive Director

Join Us for One or More of our Spring Events!

Cheers for Chimps! Join us as Fannin Brewing Company unveils a new brew to benefit Project Chimps, Saturday, April 13th, from 2 to 8 p.m.

Each ticket holder will receive a limited edition Project Chimps 16oz glass, one pour of the new apple lager and one dish of our award winning Chimp Chili with live music from Gopher Broke. Reserve your ticket here.

Child paints rocks at Project Chimps
Our first-ever Chimps Rock! is on April 26th and 27th will feature two days of art and discovery for kids and kids at heart! Inspired by The Kindness Rocks Project, children and adults are invited to paint a rock with messages of inspiration after touring the sanctuary and enriching the lives of the chimps.

Tickets are only $10 for a child plus one adult.  Secure your tickets today! 
*Saturday is SOLD out*

Former Research Chimps Browse the Menu

At Project Chimps, we strive to enrich the lives of former research chimpanzees by giving them items that encourage their natural behaviors. In the wild, chimpanzees spend a majority of their day travelling and searching for food. Here at the Project Chimps sanctuary, our care team feeds the chimps a variety of fresh produce, the chimps don’t have to worry (like wild chimps would) where their next meal is coming from.

In sanctuary, the chimps’ daily diet of fresh fruits and vegetables are supplemented with a variety of healthy “snacks” that the chimps have to search for. In the sanctuary world, we call it “browse” – leaves and branches from trees and plants that in the wild, chimpanzees would be searching for and munching on all day long.

Samira chews on a bamboo stem in the mesh tunnel that connects her villa to the outdoor Peachtree Habitat at Project Chimps. Photo by Crystal Alba.
Chimpanzee digestive tracks are designed to handle a good bit of fiber, so the benefit of browse for gut health is substantial. On top of hoping the chimps have happy bellies, browse also keeps the chimps occupied and challenged. Members of our team gather stems and branches from native and invasive plants that grow on the grounds of our sanctuary in the Blue Ridge Mountains of north Georgia. Chimpanzee caregivers then lay the cut branches on the tops of the mesh of the chimps’ large group enclosures so the chimps must pull the leaves through the mesh to eat, mimicking the foraging process in the wild.

Read more about how browse supports the chimps health and happiness in this article by Chimpanzee Care Manager Laura Mayo on our Chimp Chatter blog.

To support foraging activities like this and chimp care directly, make a one-time or recurring donation today.

Project Chimps Onesie for $20!

Do you know a mother-to-be? A new Project Chimps fan in the family? Get them a onesie to show their chimp love!

Environmentally friendly phthalate-free soy based inks are used for the printing of this onesie.

  • 100% organic cotton
  • 95% Chimp design printed on front in charcoal.
  • Royal Apparel brand. Made in the USA.
  • Unisex fit, available in green and pink
  • Sizes 3 months to 24 months available

Get our onesie in green!Also available in pink!

Seeing the Forest for the Chimps

Meet Ryan Kennedy, Landscape Specialist at Project Chimps.
Don’t make him choose between plants and primates. Both are equally his passion.

Ryan Kennedy combines his expertise in horticulture with his passion for chimpanzees in the newly created position of Landscape Specialist at Project Chimps. On any given day, you’ll find Ryan bushwhacking through tall stands of invasive bamboo or climbing ladders to carefully prune native trees. His cuttings then become a major source of enrichment for former research chimpanzees.

Find out more about Ryan and how he helps the chimpanzees thrive in sanctuary on our Chimp Chatter blog.

Donate to Project Chimps Today

Postponed budget talks for pool to happen Monday

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – After a recent announcement to keep Gilmer’s Community Pool closed this year, the Board of Commissioners are entering talks to revisit the Capital Budget for 2019 in attempts to expedite construction of a new pool.

Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris likened the current situation with the pool to “Russian Roulette” saying, “Spin the cylinder and pull the trigger, odds are you’re going to be fine. The problem is when that one time comes up that you’re not fine, the results are so devastating that you just don’t do it to begin with.” Paris said he would not take the risk or endanger citizens and children who might use the pool.

Paris has told FYN in a previous conversation that he would almost be willing to have the county put up with the costs of the water loss in order to keep a pool for citizens if not for the danger of a hole.

During their May meetings, the commissioners began looking a budget amendments in capital projects for the county to expedite the plan that was put in place two years ago.

This plan was collecting money on an annual basis to fix the community’s pool issues by building a new facility. However, the current escalation of issues with the current pool will not wait for that plan to come to fruition in 2020. Instead, Paris wants to speed up the process with these amendments to add an extra $300,000 to the pool project this year. This adds onto the already saved $600,000 total from this year and last year. The board will use this $900,000 to begin engineering work, plans, and preparations for the pool while next year’s budget plans to also have $300,000 will finish the project by Memorial Day, opening day for the pool season, of 2020.

The board did not come to an agreement on amendments this month, however, as Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller requested more time to study and look into the plans and the budget.

Now, the board is set to host an additional Special Called Meeting on May 20 at 6:00 p.m. On the agenda for the meeting is one item:

1. Discussion and possible action on Budget Amendments for Pool Funding

It seems at this time that the board is planning to move forward with the proposal to expedite the construction as the discussions are expected to focus on budget amendments. However, Miller has already noted in their Work Session that he did not see the pool as “an acceptable priority.”

Not only has Paris put forth the proposal for funding of a new pool, but he along with Parks and Recreation Department Head Kevan White, have put forth a basic plan for a facility to be added on later. This plan will eventually enclose the pool for an indoor facility. Add on an outdoor zero-entry water play pool, four basketball courts, and have potential for more additions later. However, Paris said he would have it engineered and planned to have the pool built now, with plans to continue saving and building on the extra additions later.

The budget discussion are simply the first step before the county would discuss and finalize what they want the final facility to include. Then they would go forward with stages of construction projects. It all begins Monday with a board decision on what to amend in the budget for the pool or if they even do want to move forward with the proposal.

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.

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