Frustrations in BOC over pool project

News
Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement

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.

Author

County requesting bids to demolish the old pool site

News
Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement

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.

Author

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.

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

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

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

‘Pool’ing the county’s time and resources

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County is continuing discussions on the community pool with plans forthcoming and progress towards an initial design. FYN sat down with Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller to speak on the subject and his views as one-third of the board.

Jumping straight to the point, Miller said that he feels like most people are looking at the question, “What happens now?” While some still question the closing of the previous pool so close to the summer season, Miller also said he, personally, felt the county lacked any hard facts on closing the pool.

Gilmer County Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller

Miller did note that he felt the pool should have been closed in previous years, he is more concerned now with the speed of action by the county and how quickly it has gone from closing the old pool to expediting a plan for a new one to budget amendments to design plans.

Miller noted a saying he has throughout his life as he said, “Anything you have got to do in a hurry is probably going to be done over.” He said he doesn’t want this to happen. He called it an issue with an early warning to citizens so that they do not have adequate time to respond to address the issue as well as having a vote on the subject at a Public Comments Hearing. Another point of debate as he noted it was advertised correctly as a meeting, but he felt it wasn’t said that a vote would happen in that meeting and the county isn’t used to voting on things during public comment meetings.

When questioned about the properties available at both Clear Creek and River Park, he admitted that he would likely still be looking for another location. Several Commissioners meetings and public comments have well established that many citizens were not thrilled with the Clear Creek property being so far from the city, though he did say that the size of clear creek and correlation to the baseball fields there would be a good point of growth for that site.

The River Park location has its own concerns despite being primely located in town and adjacent to the already under renovation River Park. That location has seen changes over the last year, with playgrounds and an extended walking path, and plans for future changes, like the planned tennis/pickleball courts, and features still being discussed and pursued by the county.

Many of Miller’s concerns on the River Park location revolve around preparation for the project. He said, “We haven’t done, in my opinion, a full good job of due diligence on either Clear Creek’s proposed site or the East Ellijay proposed site. There has not been a rigorous research and rigorous vetting or looking into those properties.”

He furthered concerns about the floodplain, public access, utilities, and railroad crossing when accessing the East Ellijay property, River Park location, from Progress Road.

Miller says he wants time and opportunities to address these issues. For example, there is not an official public road past the railroad tracks. Miller said that while a road is there. The official right-of-way extends,  to his knowledge, to the railroad tracks and no further. Additionally, crossing the railroad and building on that land must respect a 100-foot right of way on the railroad tracks, and an 80-foot right of way on the road.

If there is no maintained road with right of way across the tracks, questions still linger on what would have to be done to bring that crossing to proper code. Miller said it could be as simple as a sign or could require more. He did say that railroad crossings have certain standards, and that crossing would require updating of some sort.

As far as the concerns of the location being in a floodplain, Miller noted that there are different levels of flood plains depending on the land’s slope and elevation. Building inside of floodplains requires its own standards. As part of the land is in different levels, he said he wants soil samples on the site showing the quality of the ground, foundation, leveling, and needs that the land itself would require.

Miller said he wants to bring up these issues simply because he doesn’t know the answers fully. With time and studies, more answers could be gathered before dedicating to this location. He also asserted that the county has not fully committed to either property. With final agreements requiring the full board vote, the county is still looking into the land. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris had already noted this early when he pointed out that no IGA (Inter-Governmental Agreement) has been signed. As details are being finalized with both entities of the County and East Ellijay, the IGA would be the document sealing the agreement of using the land, and what would be expected.

Being responsible for the budget and going through amendments are a part of processes of government. Miller says the issue arises when you look at the influence that a Commissioner has over the county’s offices. Being responsible for those revenues and expenses of the county as a whole is hard when we start changing these budgets regularly and often. “I contend that that is what contingencies are for, to avoid those kinds of situations where you have to rearrange somebody else’s budget just to handle an emergency.”

Miller said that the county has created contingency funds in the last couple of years to handle these situations and has improved their budget process over those years, pulling out capital projects, trimming requests, forecasting revenues. They also continue to improve the process as steps are underway to improve the 5-year plan, looking at budget meeting dates and time frame this year.

In fact, the first contingencies were set with the understanding that the money was set into contingency and understood that whatever wasn’t used for a specified emergency, would be kept to build a pool in 2021.

While Miller said there were ways the county could adjust and fit the pool budget if situations arise like the Cherry Log Fire Station where the county used Road Department workers to clear land, the county has to do these things publicly and transparently. Situations like this aren’t free labor. They cost the county money and time as they redirect those labor resources. Similarly, adjusting budgets redirects funding promised to one department into a different department. Miller said he wanted to keep the process as public as possible, but also to take time to analyze, study, and prepare for the pool properly.

As such, he felt strongly that the idea of completing the project before Memorial Day 2020 is not feasible. “There is no slack in this thought of open by Memorial Day,” said Miller. Without time contingencies, without similar county pools built in similar time frames, without comparables to guide and show what to expect with it, there is no real way to see the project being done that quickly.

Looking to the future plans for the pool, Miller speaks on the county’s integrity saying he wants to do everything he can to keep the county’s promises. While the pool is a priority in the county, he does not want this to become a “do it at all costs” kind of project.

Author

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.

Author

Pool will stay closed this year

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Confirmed reports indicate that due to a high volume of water loss, Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) Chairman Charlie Paris has decided to keep the county’s public pool closed this year.

Paris told FYN that the decision was made after county authorities tested the pool and began preparations for the summer season. It was discovered that the pool’s leak, which the county has dealt with for years now, has worsened. He said that the pool is leaking about 5,000 gallons of water a day with nothing running. However, when they turned on the water pumps and systems, that amount increased to roughly 22,000 gallons of water a day. Paris said they expect to lose over 1.5 million gallons of water over the three month season if they were to remain open.

This translates to the water level of the pool dropping by six and a half inches every single day that they are open to the public and a possibly needing refilling several times a day with public use.

A 2015 inspection of the pool for leaks and voids by Ground Penetrating Radar Systems representative Jeff DeHart.

A 2015 inspection of the pool for leaks and voids by Ground Penetrating Radar Systems representative Jeff DeHart.

Paris noted that even more important to him than the costs and maintenance, he is concerned about where the water is going. He noted an inspection the county had done with Ground Penetrating Radar in 2015 which found two leak areas, but no major issues of voids or spaces where all the water could be going. Paris said this week that the only place not checked by the radar or other investigations is under the pool. His biggest concern now is that pushing 22,000 gallons of water a day into the ground could lead to failure in the pool bottom and collapse into a large void below.

Paris said he has discussed the issue with Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White who said that a collapse like that is not unheard of and, in fact, a very real possibility.

Paris went on to say that while he felt it necessary to keep the pool closed, he does understand how much value and importance the county’s citizens place on having a public pool. As such, Paris pointed out that the last two year’s budgets have set aside $300,000 each for the county to save towards the pool. This has been done with the expectation that the current pool would eventually become unsustainable.

Paris said that his plan now is to expedite the process as the issue has “come to a head.” The original plan was to begin construction on the new pool in 2021. However, now, Paris wants to have the construction project completed by the beginning of the pool’s season in 2020, one year from now. He did note that if it could not be completed by opening day, then he would open it as soon as the project completed.

From left to right, Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller, Chairman Charlie Paris, and Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson.

From left to right, Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller, Chairman Charlie Paris, and Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson.

The catch is that this plan will require the Board of Commissioners to return again to their 2019 budget and look at amendments and a reallocation  of funds for the project. Changing the budget is a Board decision. Paris asserted that his plans and hopes were his own, and he will have to bring the subject before the board as a whole to decide on funding and budget changes. The subject is sure to arise in tomorrow’s, May 8, work session for the Gilmer County BOC.

Citizens have already noted their desire for a new pool numerous times. In 2015, citizens spoke in the BOC May meeting with many asking for a new facility and local Amy Woodring even offered a petition of over 80 families asking for such. In 2016, citizens again returned with members of the Three Rivers Athletics Club looking to upgrade the current pool with a “bubble top” that could then be moved to a new pool.

Despite the years of public support, as the subject comes to this month’s meeting, discussion will adjust away from the established desire of a new pool, and on to the financial resources available to fund the project. Citizens have already split on the issue with some wanting the county to push forward while others are hesitant to look at more financial adjustments before the county has even reached the year’s midpoint. During the 2015 meetings, some citizens even suggested the county look at possible funding from the school system as it would support a swim team and athletics there.

No clear picture on the path forward will be available until the commissioners discuss the issue during their two meetings this week, the Work Session on May 8 at 9 a.m. and the Regular Session on May 9 at 6 p.m., at the courthouse, 1 Broad Street in Ellijay. As always, these meetings are open to the public and time is available for citizen’s input at each meeting.

Author

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

Harrison Park highlights improvement plans

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Friends of Harrison Park are already moving forward with plans to improve the park after council approval came this week.

Director Linda Lancaster shared a handful of these plans with the public at Ellijay’s City Council. The group has 16 total plans, but is focusing on 4 in the near future. These plans include Project Bluebird, Project Doggie Poop, Project Park Info, and a Master Plan.

A map of Harrison Park with blue 'X' marks for nesting box locations and yellow squares for feeders.

A map of Harrison Park with blue ‘X’ marks for nesting box locations and yellow squares for feeders.

Project Bluebird looks to install bluebird nesting boxes and feeders in Harrison Park to promote a growth in population, community interest, and possible tour programs. Noting a decline in the Eastern Bluebird population since the 1950’s, the Friends of Harrison Park are looking to counter this issue with the creation of Bluebird Trails by strategically location these nesting boxes throughout the park.

Funding for the project comes from donations and yearly sponsorships. While the current planned locations for these nests are tentative at this time, the group has already contacted experts and put plans into motion to install 6 boxes in February and expand to a total of 10 nesting boxes and 3 feeders in the park.

Project Doggie Poop looks to install “dog waste stations” over the course of this Spring. With the creek running along the edge of Harrison Park,concerns over water quality and public health were raised as people are noted to swim and fish there.

For convenience and public concern, they will be installing two stations. Their presentation stated, “One would be attached to or located near the existing park kiosk. The other would be installed further into the park to be easily accessible to those who forgot to get one at the kiosk or who enter the park from a different area.” Each station will be all metal, costing between $200 and $300.

Project Park Info looks to install a glass protected display case in Harrison Park this Spring for info of events, programs, and activities in the park. Seeking permission to modify and use the glass display case mounted on the back side of the Harrison Park Kiosk for this use, the group noted they will have to provide two hinged, locking front panels.

Some examples of items that would be posted include general information about the Friends of Harrison Park, Inc. and its mission, information about special attractions in the park such as the Bluebird trail or special exhibits, History of the Park (including old photographs and items), poster for upcoming events and programs sponsored by Friends of Harrison Park (and other groups approved by the city), and a calendar of events for the park including information about date changes or cancellations.

Funding for the modifications or replacements is planned to come from donations. The group also plans to have one or two members with keys to the case, responsible for posting and removing materials.

Project Master Plan is a request for proposal of a Master Plan for the park. The group is seeking firms to bid on a Master Plan for the park to include preliminary locations of proposed physical structures, detailed landscape architecture designs, infrastructure by municipal electrical and water services, grant proposals, and capital fundraising programs as they look for a 10 year planning horizon.

While the council eagerly approved of three of the projects, no official motion was taken. Additionally, the council did note they wanted further work sessions on the Master Plan and seek to dive deeper into the project in coming months. As the Friends of Harrison Park, Inc. move forward with these projects and others, citizens will notice the changes coming as soon as February with the Bluebird trails and initial work on their other projects.

 

Author

GHS renovations near completion

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the majority of the renovations complete and everything ready for the students, it is confirmed that the project will not reach 100% before Tuesday’s start of term.

However, the project has not moved construction into classrooms and only minor details remain in student areas. During a special called meeting of the Board of Education, Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs told the board that the biggest remaining item is that the staff furniture will not arrive before the start of school.

With that said, Downs informed the board that critical staff will be in the front office utilizing a built-in desk in the front office and utilizing what they have available as opposed to moving in older furniture just to moved out again.

With rising concern over the project’s student readiness, Downs assured the board that the student areas, as well as the secured, single-point entry, would be ready before Tuesday.

This means some administrative faculty will utilize the school’s media center while they await the new desks and furniture.

One minor setback saw relief at the meeting as well for the media center as the project survived a surprise rain during roof work. Insurance replaced the carpet after the area flooded. With the new carpet installed, the media center is already repaired and ready for use.

Walking through the building certainly shows the area with a feeling of an upgrade. The cafeteria and commons area have combined for an open space. The commons murals are gone, but as of this point, it is not certain if the school will repaint the murals or seek a different decoration for the area.

The commons area now caps with a centralized trophy case that will soon showcase all the trophies the school has acquired and those yet to come.

The new flooring and roofing reach throughout the administrative offices. A new administrative conference room and renovations to the nurse’s station are just two of the expansions allowed by pushing the offices forward against what used to be the glass of the entrance area.

With the new single-point, secured entrance, those taking the front entrance to the school will walk right past the Linda Miller Memorial Theater into the commons area. The other hallway students and visitors are used to traveling down now reaches a dead-end just past the back edge of the media center allowing an emergency exit onto the grass.

While talks continue about the next phase of renovations to come, exact plans have not been drawn, but discussion indicated a possibility to angle the corner of the media center and adding glass along the hallway, giving the media center more of an internet cafe styling.

As for this year, the construction is wrapping up in the hallways of the offices and awaits the last details and finishing touches to prepare for the students’ arrival in four days.

 

 

Enjoy the full album of photos on FYN’s Facebook Page.

Author

BOC discusses new school zoning for BOE

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – During their June meeting, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners saw an item requesting a rezoning to PI-1 for the Gilmer County Board of Education.

This item is a part of planning and preparations for a new school to be built on the school’s Clear Creek property next to Clear Creek Middle School (CCMS). The school is set to replace the current Ellijay Primary School (EPS) as part of a plan to reorganize the school system.

This item is far ahead of any concrete plans on construction as the BOE is awaiting approval of a new ESPLOST referendum before they could move forward with this construction project.

During their work session, the Board of Commissioners discussed the item. With all three in favor of the school, the only discussion came from understanding what impact the project would have on the counties surrounding infrastructure. Post Commissioner Dallas Miller asked what changes would need to be done to the roads like Clear Creek Road and Yukon Road. Miller inquired if they would need deceleration lanes or traffic lights. While no solid answer is available at this time due to the project not even being out of idea stages without ESPLOST money to support it, there did become an understanding between the two entities for continued communication.

With CCMS already at the location, there may not be much, if any, change in school vehicle traffic like buses on the road, however, effectively “moving” EPS to the new location would obviously increase traffic on Yukon Road and Clear Creek Road from staff and parents.

While the BOC did approve the rezoning request, Miller’s comments at the work session made it apparent that they will be looking for constant communication on the project so that they may prepare the streets accordingly. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and two members of the Board of Education, Chairman Michael Bramlett and Vice Chair Ronald Watkins, were on hand during the BOC Regular Meeting to speak with the Commissioners before the meeting.

FYN’s current understanding of the project is that discussion is still going on how to maintain the communication. There is no information yet on if this would take the form of a report during commissioner’s meetings, a liaison between the two boards, or something else.

Author

JDA Meeting Sees Sanford’s Start as Executive Director

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) met for the first time with their new executive director, Kent Sanford, Nov. 6.

Along with the new director, the JDA is moving forward with swapping employment of the executive director from a listed Gilmer Chamber employee to a direct employment with the JDA. Since the move has already been approved by the Board, the process is simply awaiting the time needed to complete the paperwork and finalize the logistics of the transition.

Sanford updated the Board about his first days saying he has spent a lot of time speaking with counterparts in surrounding counties, local project meetings for progress, and potential project meetings for future growth.

Sanford also met with local mayors as well as Pickens County officials as the new Gilmer-Pickens JDA begins coming together. While plans for training and classes are being made, Sanford is already integrating himself into the projects of the Greater Gilmer JDA.

Those projects continue with the JDA as well, involving one that Chairman Travis Crouch called Project X. While allusions were made to involvement with the school system, no definitive confirmation was made.

Another project underway is involving the Georgia Department of Transportation regarding a traffic light in the county. The JDA did mention the state is requiring a “warrant study” of the intersection in question. Avoiding winter and holiday traffic, the study may wait until February to be undertaken.

Again, with projects like these, the Board declines to add details to their projects as there are sensitive topics, financial deals, and non-disclosure agreements that could be negatively affected if details were given.

Author

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