Highway 382 Roundabout continues upgrades and completes demolition

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s newest roundabout has hit two new milestones in the project as it continues along the over $8 million project.

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Despite a light rain shower, work continues on the landscaping for the 382 roundabout project on Friday, October 29, 2021.

With the rainy end to the week leading up to Halloween, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Highway 382 connector project continued with minor additions. While the project has seen the demolition of the old section of 382 reach its very last stages, the main roundabout section is still seeing continuations.

Consistent rain has seen issues for the project, but this week saw workers on the roundabout planting shrubs and small trees despite the a light shower ongoing on Friday, October 29, 2021.

In addition to the interior of the roundabout, work continues for guardrails, road work, and lighting in the area among other things.

The project is already past its original estimated completion date, but could still see completion before Thanksgiving.

roundabout

Safety equipment is still in use for the construction project as lighting has yet to be turned on for the roundabout.

While the lighting is still yet to be turned on, the orange barrels and constructions signs remain to highlight the roundabout for drivers in the night. Additionally, the same is true for the Highway 515 intersection and barrels remaining in the area with the speed  limit remaining at 55 passing the connector.

Drivers are cautioned to remain aware of the new intersection and the use of the U-Turn lanes being utilized by drivers wishing to turn back towards Ellijay from Highway 382.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the use of these u-turns instead of a direct left turn should help cut down on major accidents and drivers being struck in the side as they have seen in areas with low visibility and drivers crossing multiple lanes of traffic.

Gilmer still has no bids for pool project

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Board of Commissioners is reporting another round of advertisements for their ongoing pool project with no official bids.

Despite receiving no bids, the county has gotten interest in the project with contractors questioning and discussing the advertisement. Project Manager Loy Jarrett shared with the the board and the public that many of those showing interest declined to submit a bid as they are very busy with projects currently. He went on to add that the advertisement held a completion date by Memorial Day in 2022.

The board did debate whether they should rerun the advertisements with a completion date. However, the county is not rerunning the advertisement at this time. While this was considered and even thought to possibly have an effect on the bids, other considerations by the board pointed to current costs of supplies and continued fluctuations in those prices. Rerunning the advertisement without a completion date still might not get bids due to the instability of prices.

Chairman Charlie Paris also indicated he wants to see completion sooner rather than later. However, the board as a whole said they want to consider all options and possibilities.

A couple of those possible options on a path ahead could include the county operating as its own general contractor hiring each crew and overseeing the project by themselves. Another option is hiring a construction project manager.

From the public, a suggestion was made to scale back the project to a smaller scale so the county could have something and then added onto later.

Paris noted that a pool like this isn’t something you can put in and then just expand. The county also decided on the current size based on requested uses from swim teams utilizing lanes for competition and practice to some looking for classes like water aerobics. However, the county did discuss the subject as a possibility, whether it scaled back size or just features.

Rebidding could see a halt until at least next year if the county decides to follow other paths or simply wait until some of the contractors are not so backed up, but another possibility could see the county rebidding in the next couple of months.

The county did offer more news in the regular session to point them down the path toward rebidding the project sooner rather than later. Paris noted that the county had been in contact with a commercial pool builder that showed some interest. Paris said that talking further with the company and as they gain more information, the board could reconsider paying for one more round of bidding if given assurances that this company would bid. This way, the county would know they would be getting some kind of bid from at least one company.

County Pool construction receives no bids

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – After four weeks of advertising and spreading the word, Gilmer County has not received any bids on the county swimming pool project.

The county has continued to hit snags and delays in the pool project, and got another delay this week as Commissioner Paris reported this week that the county has not received any bids for the project. As such, they are continuing the advertisement with a new date set for July 6 to end the accepting of bids. That new date also comes with a minor modification to the advertisement.

Chairman Paris said in June’s Work Session that there was concern over some wording in which the county states they wanted the project started “as quickly as possible.” Paris said that the wording could cause issue with some companies that may have other projects lined up in the immediate future. He went on to say that the county has changed this to saying that the want the project completed and ready to open on Memorial Day of 2022.

Setting the completion date is also setting hopes that with an accepted bid, Gilmer County citizens could be returning to the water by early next year. Memorial Day has been used as the regular opening day for the season by the county pool in the past.

Paris said that the project has been a new experience for him as he has usually found companies lined-up for work on projects like this, but now, the funding is available, but he cannot find bids for the project.

In a separate previous statement and several different meetings over recent months, Paris has noted issues with Gilmer County being able to find workers for certain areas. Public Works is still looking to fill available positions related to road crews. Solid waste has had openings. Now, the issue arises with bid packages for the county’s project.

Gilmer is not immune from the national news of staffing issues from local businesses to major corporations. However, the county is relying on the possibility that the lack of bids has less to do with this issue, and more to do with timing. Thus the extension of the bid process and change to the advertisement’s wording.

During the meeting, when speaking on the bid extension, Paris said, “We’re hopeful.”

River Park changes continue with county and Georgia Power

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The completed playground equipment at River Park is officially opened after today's Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, park

ELLIJAY, Ga. – River Park in Ellijay has been uplifted and changed numerous times with upgrades over recent years, from the massive facelift to the playgrounds to upgrades to the walking path and ballfield relocations.

Those changes are continuing this summer as previously approved projects are continuing their progress towards completion. One of those projects includes Georgia Power updating the underground utilities. In February 2021, FYN reported that the county was discussing an easement for excavation and subsequent repairs to areas of the park to install underground utilities.

At that time, County Attorney David Clark noted the county would be making some minor changes to the agreement before returning it to Georgia Power for final approval.

Now, the easement returned to the Commissioners with a change requested. That change that has been going back and forth involves protections for the civil war memorial in front of the civic center. Chairman Charlie Paris said today that the plan does involve some above ground equipment. In the original plan, one of these spots was very close to the memorial. The new plan has the equipment moved. However, Paris said its not enough as he has requested that Georgia Power move it further away from the memorial in order to preserve the site.

Paris said that Georgia Power could have an answer by tomorrow’s meeting. It was originally reported as citizens could be seeing construction at the park and mistake it for construction on the pool. The pool project has seen constant delays and stoppages over the last year as the county officially halted the project early in the COVID-19 pandemic in order to reassess finances and the economic effect of the virus. In March of 2020, the pool project halted.

Then the Commissioners returned to the project in early 2021, but saw another delay as the engineering firm became quarantined in February. But after the short delay, with specifications set, the county approved advertising for bids on the project.

Now, the county is amid the advertising window and accepting bids. Members of the board are considering holding a Special Called meeting in the last week of May as another item may need attention as well. While the board did not officially set a date today, they did say they would be discussing dates.

With the pool construction back in full swing and Georgia Power also seeking to upgrade equipment on site, River Park is continuing its climb in upgrades and renovations through this summer as citizens are continuing to visit the park for sports, training, and personal healt

GTC confirms 515 alternate path to Boardtown road project

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – An official statement from the Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) today has given relief to the Boardtown road community, through Highway 515, who have been vocally opposing the major project’s plans to build on the road.

The community and its leaders often stated that they supported the project and agreed with it being a needed upgrade, but wanted the project relocated to a different location. Many specifically stated Highway 515 as an alternative.

Even GTC said they had originally looked at 515 but were turned down.

515 515Today, with the aid of House Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, the GTC said, “Following months of extensive analysis at the request of the local community, Georgia Transmission has determined that Highway 515 is a viable corridor for the Whitepath Electric Reliability Project. Conversations are underway with the Georgia Department of Transportation to develop a proposed route for the project adjacent to Highway 515 that meets engineering and safety constraints.”

GTC gave specific thanks to Ralston and Gooch and the community saying the result was a culmination of efforts and input from “community partners including citizens, civic organizations, and elected officials.”

As plans continue for the official path the 46 kV sub-transmission line will take, a preliminary path has already been laid out in consultation with Speaker Ralston. GTC said that this new path involves purchasing easements to minimize the impact of the line on rights of way owned by both the public and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

In late September of 2020, GTC said they were beginning “an extensive look” into the 515 and another alternative path. Just over seven months later, they are confirming this path as viable.

The opposition started last year after a series of public information meetings showed a pathway leading down Boardtown road after GTC had already ruled out the 515 path and one along a CSX rail line.

GTC said the Highway 515 path was denied due to limitations including a request denial by GDOT. 

Now, with the path approved, House Speaker Ralston said, “This outcome demonstrates that workable solutions can be achieved when parties come together in cooperative spirit for the betterment of the community. Sen. Gooch and I are pleased that our partners at Georgia Transmission and Amicalola EMC have done their due diligence in service to the community and are now able to take the next step in ensuring reliable electricity for households and businesses in Gilmer County.”

Ralston was brought in on the project discussion after Gilmer County’s Board of Commissioners drafted letters to him and Gooch last year. Citizens flooded into the county’s monthly meeting asking for help in discussions to find an alternative path from Boardtown. With the board’s letters and offers to set up additional meetings for citizens, they pledged to aid in what ways they could.

With the confirmation of this alternative path’s viability, Georgia Transmission Vice President of Project Services John Reese said, “Georgia Transmission is proud that we were able to honor our word to the community while fulfilling our mission of helping to keep the lights on for Gilmer County. Although considerable work remains to be done we appreciate the active engagement of Amicalola EMC and its members, and the leadership of Speaker Ralston and Senator Gooch, in identifying a solution to the critical electric reliability need in the area.”

According to GTC’s statement, they will soon begin undertaking the process necessary for “advancing the route along Highway 515.” This process involves finalizing the route, contacting property owners in the area, and more public meetings.

For citizens wishing to continue following this project, Georgia Transmission will offer updates on the project page of their site.

Pool project hits another delay with COVID

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Reports during a special called meeting of the Gilmer Board of Commissioners (BOC) indicate that the county’s pool project hit another delay this month.

Loy Jarret reported to the board that the engineering firm the county is using has been hit by the COVID virus. Due to this, at least a two week delay is coming to the pool construction project.

According to Jarrett, a large portion of the project is finished but the firm is now awaiting recovery and quarantine periods to end and for the firm to reconvene in order to finish the project. This means Gilmer will also see a delay in the promised 3 weeks originally promised. This could come closer to 6 weeks now.

The board is hoping to have the engineering finalized in February before returning to scheduling on the project which has been plagued with delays and issues including many from the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak and resurgence.

The pool project is attempting to continue under conditions after a major delay saw the Commissioners halt the project completely after demolition of the old pool last year. The commissioners, at that time, wanted to wait and see what the virus outbreak, quarantines, and self isolations  would do to the county’s economy.

In the same area of the county, at River Park, the commissioners also approved an easement for Georgia Power to begin excavation and subsequent repairs to areas of the park to install underground utilities. According to County Attorney David Clark, the county will be making some minor changes to the agreement before returning it to Georgia Power for final approval.

With that, citizens could be seeing more immediate construction work in the area of River Park stretching through different areas. This construction work is not a part of the pool project, but rather Georgia Power performing this installation.

Responses show possible changes to Boardtown Road Power Line Project

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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

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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

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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.

 

Pool design changes again with approval to begin bidding

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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.

Capital spending halted amid shutdowns including pool project

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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

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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.

County updates Cartecay Bridge progress

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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.

Frustrations in BOC over pool project

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Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting, Board, speed

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

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Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting, Board, speed

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.

Attorney hired for pool project

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cleaning, Ordinance

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.

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