Brush fire erupts in Gilmer threatening at least one home

News
fire

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Smoke is billowing into the sky above Gilmer County’s mountains as Fire and Rescue are rushing to the scene today. Fighting the fire right now, Gilmer has six response units on scene when Gilmer Public Safety’s Information Officer Al Cash spoke to FYN.

These six units are the core of Gilmer’s response right now, however, Cash confirmed that volunteers are also helping on scene and that Pickens County is also responding with units. Cash did not say how many units Pickens is sending as he noted they are still in the early stages of fighting the blaze

Citizens in town are pointing towards Talona Mountain as response against the brush fire is already underway. Currently Fire Rescue is sending up drones and working towards gaining more information on the fire in terms of size and intensity.

Cash did confirm that at least one house is in serious danger and authorities are working to contain the blaze as fast as possible.

Gilmer’s Public Safety put up a warning yesterday on Social Media about the potential danger for such a blaze due to conditions. A special weather statement noted low relative humidities in North and Central Georgia. The statement posted said, “Humidities of 25 percent or less can be expected for 4 or more hours this afternoon into the evening.” Though that statement spoke only to yesterdays conditions, the current fire broke out earlier today.

So early into the fight against the fire, no information will be available as to a specific cause or whether the current weather conditions contributed to it.

Citizens should avoid the area as emergency response vehicles are continuing to move through the area. Heavy equipment could also be brought in, including bulldozers to help establish a fireline.  Public Safety said they will offer more information once they have ascertained the magnitude of the fire and fully mobilized their resources against it.

FYN will post new stories when updates are available.

Funding projects through the American Rescue Plan

News
American Rescue Plan

ELLIJAY, Ga. – While mostly focused on Hazard Pay for county employees, Gilmer County discussed possible areas of need and opportunity for the funding from the American Rescue Plan to go towards. The county discussed a number of options including HVAC Repairs, workforce housing, an ambulance, possibly passing on some funding to non-profits in the county, and even using funding to reimburse some salaries.

While keeping in mind that directly spending funds on certain areas of the county not approved in the funding resolution is prohibited, the funding does allow for reimbursements of salaries which could free up some standard M&O Budget for some other needs.

The first project discussed in the Commissioners Special Called Meeting, outside of the prioritized Hazard Pay funding for employees, was a major need for HVAC repairs and possible replacements across the county. An important issue for both COVID health and employee general health standards, Paris noted that many of the systems used by the county are “very old and inefficient.”

Replacing them with new systems would allow for better efficiency, but the new systems would also utilize, according to Paris, a UV sterilization system for air that is cycled. Paris noted that rough estimates totaled $300,000 for the every county building. However, Paris did note that $300,000 seemed low to him. This was later echoed by others with estimates close to $75,000 to $80,000 per unit.

An option arose to simply attempt the replacements one at a time to see how far the money could go and allow the county better understandings of prices and the process before they get too deep into the project. Paris agreed but suggested prioritizing the courthouse and then the jail as the most interactions occur in those two county buildings. However, the board along with other elected officials like Sheriff Nicholson all stated that these systems need replacing, whether utilizing American Rescue Plan funds or placing them as line items in the budget, the county needs to replace the systems.

Acknowledging that the replacements will have to be bid out, Paris requested Facilities Maintenance Director Eric Playford to acquire estimates for the project to give the board a better understanding before committing to bids and the project.

Another item discussed for expenditure addressed workforce housing in the county. An item that has been debated and deliberated on in county meetings for months now, workforce housing has always asked on where such a project could go in the county. As citizens have brought up the issue in county meetings, the BOC can only consider options outside of the city limits. Discussing locations and possibly purchasing property, the idea in the meeting came to purchase property to prepare for higher density zoning toward triplexes or quadplexes. The idea would have builders construct the buildings for sale. Upon sale the county would be reimbursed.

Specifically developing for triplexes and quadplexes could answer one issue in the past as developers have not tended to develop these kinds of higher density housing.

However, in discussing with Public Safety Director Keith Kucera, the current understanding of the county along with the current ruling on the resolution, would not allow the county to use the funds to purchase new property. However, it is believed that if the county already owns property, then developing the housing project could be funded through the funds.

Paris noted two properties the county could utilize in that manner. One being out Yukon and one near Highway 515. However, Paris said he couldn’t see the county adding to traffic on Yukon Road. The property just off of Highway 515, near Whitepath, does not have water or sewer ran to it.

Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker suggested utilizing some funds to expand the water system into new areas of the county.

Discussion continued as Paris noted and the board approved an ambulance for Public Safety. With a cost of $230,000, Director Kucera returned to a formerly approved vehicle for community outreach saying he now believes he could find it for less than the originally approved cost. Adding the Ambulance to the list, the board approved the funding through the American Rescue Plan funds.

With no specific amount set, the board is also looking to reimburse salaries and wages for public safety personnel. The county is still looking at its other projects and are looking to return to the discussion in general during its October meeting next week, with the Work Session on October 13, 2021, at 9:00 a.m. and the Regular Meeting on October 14, 2021, at 6:00 p.m.

The board approved reimbursement and is looking to pursue this “as much as possible” while looking at their other projects as well in order to maximize the accomplishments covered with the American Rescue Plan funding.

Authorities offer statement to warn of possible severe weather conditions

News
weather

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – The National Weather Service (NWS), Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), and Gilmer County Public Safety are alerting citizens to a possible hazardous weather condition over the coming weekend.

According to the statement released, areas of North Georgia could see increased risks of Flooding “Saturday night through Tuesday.” Public Safety told FYN that they receive their information directly from and work closely with these agencies like GEMA in preparing and readying the local response.

Authorities over the North Georgia Region are currently looking for more information to better estimate the exact amount of rainfall. The current information predicts between 3 and 7 inches of rainfall but the NWS did say there remains a large amount of uncertainty regarding the rainfall totals.

The NWS stated, “The combination of a Gulf tropical low and a cold front will create a one-two punch for Georgia beginning late Saturday and continuing through Tuesday. There remains a good deal of model uncertainty with the timing and coverage of the heaviest precipitation and changes to the forecast rainfall totals can be expected with subsequent forecast packages.”

GEMA’s release was also shared by local Public Safety as they are attempting to give citizens information about the possibility. The release stated, “The highest amounts of 5 to 7 inches are expected over portions of north and northeast Georgia where the topography will enhance rainfall activity.”

Part of the reason for concern comes as the recent storms in the area have kept streamflow normal at most river gage locations. The heat and dryness could help soil absorb some rain, but “persistent heavy rainfall over an area will create runoff issues quickly, especially across urban areas and north Georgia’s complex terrain.”

With this advisory, authorities are suggesting that people consider the possibility and prepare by cleaning drainage systems on or around their homes and property. As Gilmer is heavily rural, quickly accumulating rainfall can also produce widespread flooding of smaller, fast-responding creeks in the area.

Stay alert to changing forecasts. “A Flash Flood or Flood Watch may be issued for portions of north and central Georgia in the next 24 to 48 hours if forecast totals remain similar.”

Gilmer has had a number of devastating storms in recent years, many locals know which creeks and rivers will rapidly rise, for those aware and those unaware, Public Safety is sharing information at this point to keep citizens from potentially being caught off guard.

Grease fire shuts down Hardee’s in East Ellijay

News
Hardee

ELLIJAY, Ga. – According to witnesses, the Hardee’s in East Ellijay on Industrial Blvd suffered a fire in the early hours of today, November 25, 2020.

While it is unclear if anyone was hurt by the fire, there appears to be no major damage to the exterior. However, it is our current understanding that the fire forced the restaurant to close for the day.

FYN has reached out to Gilmer County’s Public Safety and Gilmer Fire for details and is currently awaiting more information about the incident. FYN has been told that the fire started in the grease trap, but Gilmer Fire has not confirmed this.

Authorities were on scene this morning, but have since left the location.

 

Airport reopened today after plane crash injures two

News
plane

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Following yesterday’s plane crash at Gilmer County’s Airport, investigations were held earlier this morning by representatives of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

Just after 3:00 p.m. yesterday, the plane, a single-engine Super Decathlon, holding two people, a pilot and one passenger, crashed during a landing process. Fire and Rescue responded immediately to the overturned plane still stuck on the runway’s edge.

According to a statement released by Gilmer County’s Public Safety, they released both people on the scene after treatment from paramedics. Authorities are not releasing their names at this time but did confirm that both of the plane’s occupants sustained minor injuries.

The statement said the plane “approached the runway from the south, bounced on a hard landing and veered sharply. The plane flipped upside down on the runway, causing minor injuries to the pilot and passenger.”

During the incident, the plane suffered minor damage, it has been cleared. The runway also saw damage as the incident resulted in the destruction of one runway light along with superficial scratches along the paved surface. However, since the incident, Public Safety’s Public Information Officer Al Cash said the area has been swept and cleaned of debris.

At this time the FAA has cleared the facility for further use and the Gilmer County Airport has re-opened to the public. However, the FAA is still at the airport today. According to authorities, they are conducting interviews with those involved or witnesses to the event.

This includes at least one witness, the pilot and passenger, and possibly members of the airport staff. However, no specific details have been released on these as the FAA continues its efforts.

County finalizing CARES Act Grant for ambulance among other projects

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is finalizing items this week and filing paperwork for the CARES Act Grant Funding.

With the August 31 deadline, the county is trying to push through the paperwork and finalizations for the approved projects to the state and have the purchases made before that time.

The major discussion came during a special called meeting as board members discussed purchasing an extra ambulance due to increases in calls and increase times on and between calls for Public Safety as they attempt to deal with calls involving the coronavirus and sanitize and clean the vehicles between calls.

The questions involved requirements needing a showing of increase in calls due to the Coronavirus, because while the specific number of calls has decreased this month according to reports. Public Safety said that this time of year usually sees a dip in calls before ramping up again closer to October. Despite the reported increase in call times and safety measures, the discussion boiled down to concerns that the purchase has a slight chance to not be approved due to the recent dip.

The other side of the debate considers putting the entire Grant towards reimbursement for salaries and pay of Public Safety workers, not administrators, as they are explicitly named as approved expenditures. The board said they could then use the money originally budgeted for these salaries to provide some of the needed equipment and similar expenses due to the outbreak.

Grant

Purchasing a new ambulance to help with the increase in time on calls and between calls could see the new vehicle in service at stations by September 1, 2020.

The time-crunch only applies to the advanced sum of $456,775 the county has received. Having applied earlier this month, the application will also see another sum just over a million dollars coming through purchases approved one-at-a-time in the coming months for a total, both sums together, of $1,522,585.

However, the board was hesitant to wait on the ambulance as they found one with all the specifications that the needs for their ambulances and at a somewhat lower price. If they wait, they run the risk of the ambulance being bought by another entity before they return for it.

Approvals came in two motions to approve pursuing the ambulance and submitting the remainder of the grant for reimbursement of salaries to the limit of what is available.

The county is moving forward with the purchase and putting that ambulance in the rotation for use before September 1, 2020.

However, moving past the immediate purchases for the advanced grant. Other options for consideration that the county will be looking at in the coming months include a new stretcher, some newer equipment, and possible one-time payment of Hazard Pay for public safety employees. These additional options will continue through discussion in the coming months.

Community Paramedicine meets students in schools offering

Bobcat's Corner, Community
Paramedicine

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – As many are beginning to talk about the possibility of returning to school, some are still attempting to wrap up the previous year.

Paramedicine

Members of Gilmer’s Community Paramedicine offer masks and informational flyers for students and parents in schools.

In Gilmer, part of that process occurred this week as students returned to the buildings to collect left-behind belongings. Planned in April, the Board of Education and Superintendent had the day set in order to offer a better sense of closure to the school year as the virus ended normal classes mid-semester. But as they returned, they were met by some unexpected people.

Gilmer County’s Public Safety offered a statement today saying. “It’s nearly school-time with many preparations underway. Part of those preparations is helping our kids understand the importance of good health practices. Gilmer County Community Paramedicine, with the generosity of Parkside Ellijay Nursing Home, paired together for a fun project this week at our elementary and middle schools.”

Paramedicine

Students returned to school this week to collect belongings, but were met with Gilmer’s Community Paramedics offering a community support service during this time of viral outbreak.

The project was to meet students in the schools and hand out face masks and flyers. According to Public Safety, the Community Paramedicine team visited three of our schools across the county supplied with the generous donation of 1,000 face-covering masks donated by Parkside Ellijay, and 1,000 informational flyers in English and Spanish.

The team handed out all the masks and 700 of the flyers to students and parents who arrived over the three-day period to collect their end-of 2019 school year belongings.

Public Safety was grateful for its partners in the endeavor, saying, “Many thanks to Michael Feist, Director & Part-Owner of Parkside Ellijay for the wonderful donation of the face covering masks, and to Dr. Shanna Downs, School Superintendent, for allowing our Community Paramedicine team to conduct this very successful service to our school children.”

Public Safety opens shelter amid storm

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Ravaged by a storm across North Georgia, counties across the region are responding tonight to provide for citizens as best as possible.

The Gilmer County Public Safety Department has enacted plans late this evening due to the storm.

A shelter has been opened for anyone displaced from their home, or otherwise needing a place to stay. The shelter is located at the Civic Center, 1561 S Main St.

Much of Gilmer County suffered high winds and heavy rainfall throughout the night. Outages for Amicalola alone reached a total outages number between 11,000 and 12,000. The vast majority of those were in Gilmer County, reading 7,210 just before 3:00 a.m. according to their site.

Families sheltered in bathrooms and safe zones just after 1:00 a.m. as emergency warnings and tv weather reports urged immediate action with a tornado warning.

The National Weather Service also stated, “At 107 AM EDT, a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located over Ranger, or 13 miles east of Calhoun, moving east
at 60 mph.”

While downed trees, power lines, and other wind damage have already been reported from the storm, no reports on any extreme damage have been seen yet.

A helping-hand gets sanitized amid health concerns

Community
sanitizer

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Many have taken time in the recent weeks to say a special thank you to law-enforcement and emergency workers who are still at risk and cannot always maintain a “social distance” during their work.

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the Ellijay Police Department.

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the Ellijay Police Department.

This week saw another highlight in the community as two business owners stepped up to not only say thank you to those in service, but to provide a real need for them.

Laura Thomas is the owner and founder of Green Willow Soap in Ellijay. Her and her staff have been working hard this week to provide hand sanitizer to the public safety agencies in Gilmer. In fact, Gilmer Fire & Rescue, Ellijay Police, Ellijay Fire, East Ellijay Police, and the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office have all received hand sanitizer for their agents.

Thomas said, “All of the First Responders have received hand sanitizer to help them through their difficult jobs. GOD Bless them and protect them as they serve the people of Gilmer County.”

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the East Ellijay Police Department.

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the East Ellijay Police Department.

Heads of these agencies told FYN that the donation has answered a need as they have had difficulties purchasing and providing enough sanitizer during shortages. Creating and supplying the donation, Thomas said “My ladies have been working so hard to make this happen for our community.”

Gilmer County Fire & Rescue has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our private citizens, as well as our local business leaders.  On Wednesday 4/1/2020 Green Willow Soap generously donated around 100 bottles of individual hand sanitizers for each of our fire and rescue crew members.  This donation of hand sanitizer will greatly assist with our mission of keeping our hands clean when soap and water may not be readily available at the conclusion of a 911 call.  We greatly appreciate them thinking of us during a time when anti-bacterial supplies are in short demand and hard to obtain.”

Danny Postell and Huff's Drugs donate hand sanitizer to the Gilmer Sheriff's Office.

Danny Postell and Huff’s Drugs donate hand sanitizer to the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office.

But Green Willow Soap is not the only business answering this need. Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said that earlier this month, around March 20, Danny Postell and Huff’s Drugs donated handmade hand sanitizer as well.

Sheriff Nicholson stated, “These generous donations of hand sanitizer have been huge in respect to our deputies’ safety.   We have had a hard time buying it because of the high demand.  But Huffs and Green Willow came through not only with the “product” but provided it in a manner that we could give individual bottles to deputies to keep with them.  The donation from both was very much appreciated.”

Kauffman noted another donation for Gilmer Fire & Rescue saying, “We would also like to thank The Majestic Bee Bakery for dropping off boxes of individually wrapped cookies.  While it is a small gesture of kindness, the smiles from the crews are huge and show how much they appreciate these care packages.”

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the Gilmer Fire Rescue.

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the Gilmer Fire & Rescue.

In addition to local businesses donating, Kauffman said they have had private citizens show their support in many ways.  Some of the items that have been donated to Gilmer County Fire Rescue include; N-95 face masks, surgical face masks, homemade face mask, gift cards, and baked goods.  Nicholson also pointed to several donations, the Sheriff’s office have added thank you notes to their social media for donations from Pizza King and Mindy K’s Bakery.

Gilmer’s public safety professionals have said they are very appreciative of our local citizens and businesses thinking of them and supporting them during this crisis.

What to do if you show signs of infection from COVID-19

Health, News
infection, National Guard

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Gilmer’s new Public Safety Coalition has offered information for citizens to be informed and not worry even if they do show signs of infection that have been noted for the Coronavirus.

Offering a statement yesterday, the Coalition said that any who develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 infection should get medical attention immediately. Those Emergency warning signs include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse from sleep
  • Bluish lips or face

However, as FYN followed up on how to seek medical attention without further spreading, the Coaliton offered a Center for Disease Control (CDC) document explaining more in-depth about actions to be taken if you are or think you have the infection.

infection

The CDC document for What to do if you are sick with COVID-19.

That document, pictured to the right, draws specific attention that Gilmer’s Coalition also wanted to point out.

Keith Kucera, Director of Gilmer County Public Safety, said, “One particular thing the document speaks to is calling ahead to your Primary Care Manager (Doctor).  During this call, most offices will ask a series of screening questions specific to your sickness.  At that point they will make further recommendations for treatment and/or possible testing.”

Much of the community has already heard about or seen others wearing face masks, even if they aren’t infected. The CDC recommends such for those who believe they are infected along with a high focus on isolation and extreme sanitization of self, surfaces, and items.

Check out more information on the CDC’s COVID-19 Page.

Public Safety Coalition offers advice on how to stay healthy and signs to watch fo

Community, News

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – A coalition of public safety, government entities, and service agencies in Gilmer County has been meeting to respond to the threat and concerns of COVID -19 (Coronavirus) and is reaching out to citizens for information, response, prevention, and overall health during this time.

The coalition consists of Gilmer County Emergency Management Agency, Gilmer County Fire and Rescue, Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, City of Ellijay Police Department, City of Ellijay Fire Department, City of East Ellijay Police Department, and the Gilmer County School Board.

After a meeting on March 13 to address the community’s current concerns over the corona virus outbreak, many business, government entities, and agencies have either closed down or closed public access.

According to a recent release from this coalition, “Some of those concerns called for tough decisions that, in an abundance of caution, resulted in the temporary closing of our schools and the cancellation of some local events. These are temporary in nature and will be evaluated on a daily or weekly basis as the virus runs its natural course.”

They have also reiterated that no COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Gilmer, Fannin, or Pickens county at this time and urged citizens to “remain calm, keep our wits about us and make reasonable purchases at our markets to allow other family members and neighbors to make similar purchases.”

The Coalition will meet every two weeks, and more frequently if necessary.

They have also made a release with helpful information to protect yourselves, your loved ones, and your neighbors:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

 

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse from sleep
  • Bluish lips or face

Storms continue to wreak havoc in Gilmer with Flood Watch

News

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – As the snow melt sits on top of Gilmer’s already saturated soil, the continuous storm moving across North Georgia is once again causing closures and emergency responses across the area, now with a Flood Watch.

Gilmer County Schools stated earlier tonight that they will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, February 11th for students. Staff will have a professional learning day starting at 9:00am.

Additionally, the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued yet another advisory for the county. This time, the official statement said, “The first round of heavy rain will be moving in this afternoon and continue through midday Tuesday. Two to four inches of rain is expected with local amounts approaching six inches. With saturated soil and very high streamflow, runoff from the heavy rain will be enhanced, leading to a greater threat of flash flooding.”

While, currently, the advisory is a Flood Watch, the NWS added that flash flooding and minor to moderate flooding of larger creeks and rivers is expected. This will close some roads and could flood homes and businesses in flood-prone areas. Along larger creeks and rivers, flooding could last for several days.

Reports are coming in that the Gilmer County Public Safety Department is still running through prepared emergency conditions during the Flood Watch. Should the main rivers through the county rise much more, a state of emergency could be declared.

Gilmer’s Public Safety also issued a statement saying,

The National Weather Service will be issuing a SIGNIFICANT FLOOD WARNING – by their own admission, a rare occurrence from their office.

The first of several waves of rain is underway across North GA this morning. Rain will shift southward across parts of Central GA this afternoon & evening. Isolated non-severe storms are possible. The highest rainfall totals thru early Tuesday AM will be across North GA.

Unfortunately, the most significant rainfall and danger will be during the overnight hours. Persons living on creeks and rivers should find a way to monitor their surroundings frequently, and be prepared to evacuate. Have a plan!

Remember – if you encounter water on streets and highways, do not attempt to cross unless you already know it is safe to do so. Don’t drown – Turn around!

While much of the county is still trying to recover from last weeks storms and the snow over the weekend, runoff is not going to stop soon. Citizens are urged to keep a close eye on nearby water sources including streams, creeks, rivers, and ponds.

Flood to Ice Gilmer’s weather turns again with Winter Storm

News
Winter Storm Warning

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – In less than 24 hours, Gilmer County has gone from heavy rains and high winds under a Flash Flood Warning to Heavy Snow and Ice under a Winter Storm Warning.

Winter Storm Warning Feb 2020 GilmerThe National Weather Service has issued the Winter Storm Warning until 7 p.m. tonight calling for up to 4 inches of accumulation. The NWS stated, “Accumulating snow on area roadways, and reduced visibility in snow, could make travel very difficult. Temperatures should drop below freezing again tonight…making black ice possible on Sunday morning.”

Gilmer Citizens are encouraged to stay off the roads not only tonight, but in the morning as well with ice from both the snowfall and the several inches of rain from the last two days.

While the Gilmer County Public Safety department had already prepared storm shelters and emergency preparations yesterday for the flood, they are continuing shelter operations through this change in the storm as it continues to hit Gilmer. The Public Safety Department issued a statement saying, “Many people are becoming stranded on the roads due to impossible driving conditions. We have opened a warming shelter at the Civic Center for those who cannot get home or to any other warm location. For information, please call our non-emergency number at 706-635-8911.”

The weather has already cause accidents on the roads including major accidents. The Gilmer Sheriff’s Office has reported a semi truck wrecked at Hwy. 515 at the 382 connector. While this accident is cleared at this time, more accidents could come from worsening road and ice conditions.

Winter Storm Warning Feb 2020 GilmerEmergency Responders are ready to respond to people in medical needs, emergency situations, and stranded families.

Gilmer County Public Safety released information this morning about closed and barricaded roads.

Maddox Dr. – Barricaded
Howard Simmons Rd. – Barriacaded
Main Gate Coosawattee – Closed
Ellenton Gate Coosawattee – Closed
Most streets inside Coosawattee are impassable

Vehicle accidents are occurring all over the county. Statements have been issued that the Georgia Department of Transportation and  Gilmer County Road Department are working vigorously to keep up with the rapidly changing road conditions.

Authorities are asking citizens to “please stay home for a few hours. Conditions should improve by mid-afternoon.”

Authorities address storm damage in Gilmer

News
(All photos provided by the Gilmer County Public Safety Department.)

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Authorities are still finding damage and reports from the last two days of storms, meanwhile volunteers and citizens are banning together to clear roadways, driveways, and yards from debris.

According to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, “60 mph wind gusts and penny size hail” were the main concerns from the storms. Authorities also fought with heavy rains and visibility on roads.

Coosawattee River Resort dealt with numerous downed power lines and both Pike Electric and Amicalola EMC workers were seen across the county yesterday before the second round of storms came through.

While FYN has not received reports from citizens or county authorities on any casualties and no public releases have been made, there has been on major note of damage inside the city limits. The clock tower, of Clocktower Crossing, was destroyed.

Authorities are saying that the damage was caused by the storms in the early morning on Saturday. Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office reports that Holden Road and Wood Ridge Drive are impassable at this time.

In addition to clean up efforts for the tower, business and county personnel, specifically Road and Power crews, have been working the damage for nearly 35 hours today. As of 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation is still reporting 703 homes without power in Gilmer alone, plus an additional 610 in surrounding counties.

They have also issued the following statement,

Severe storms with high winds blew through last night, leaving downed power lines across our service area. Outages are down from around 10,000 members at the peak, to currently around 4100, primarily in Gilmer County. Amicalola EMC crews have been working through the night and additional crews, from other companies, have been called in to assist restoration efforts. Use extreme caution if you are near a downed power line. Never go near a downed line, always assume lines are still energized. To report an outage please call one of the following: 706-253-0359, 706-276-0359 or 706-864-0359. All power will be restored as soon as is safely possible.

While no definitive statement has been made, public statements and statistics indicate that Gilmer may have been hit the worse of the 515 corridor at least.

Gilmer County Public Safety has also offered citizens a reminder list of Damage Control Contacts:

Emergency – City and County: Dial 911
Non-Emergency: Dial 706-635-8911

Road Department – County: 706-635-4589
Street Department – City:
Business Hours: 706-635-4711
After Business Hours: 706-635-8911

Georgia Power: 888-891-0938
Amicalola EMC: 706-253-0359 or 706-276-0359
Tri-County EMC: 866-254-8100 or 478-986-8100

Fire Department Budget Amendments changes priorities

News
Precinct

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Fire Department is continuing with changes to budget recommendations since last October.

While discussions at that time had former Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett prioritizing a pumper truck higher on the list, the new Public Safety Director Keith Kucera, along with Fire Chief Daniel Kaufman, have urged the Commissioners to reconsider this budget priority.

Instead of the truck, Kucera and Kaufman are asking the Board of Commissioners (BOC) to prioritize the upgrading and replacement of older turnout gear for firefighters. The new gear will be funded from the same money that was set for the truck. However, Board of Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris states that there is expected to be a difference in the financial allocations. Therefore, an amendment will be needed.

With 30 complete sets of gear, three vendors have been looked at. The cheapest vendor offers Lion Brand gear at $61,705.50.

The department is also looking to replace 28 air packs for the firefighters to transition from 2216 PSI to 4500 PSI. Kaufman said this allows longer work times on scene as well as better compatibility with Ellijay’s Fire Department.

The estimates for the 28 air packs with spare masks and cylinders, along with extras like voice amplifiers and larger batteries, totaled $215,740, according to Kaufman who spoke during the BOC April Meeting.

Kaufman went on to say that the Fire Department wants to get to a point where they may rotate this gear among volunteer stations or other places of need. With this, the department would potentially only be looking to buy ten sets every 3 years instead of making large purchases like they are looking at now.

Additionally, the county Fire Department’s ladder truck failed an inspection with an issue in the turntable at the base of the ladder that allows it to rotate. Kucera stated the truck is from 1986 and it has just “failed over time.”

Due to the age of the truck, Kucera said there is a sole source bid situation for repairs. That bid came in at $39,150. Paris questioned what the cost of replacing the truck completely could total. Kucera and Kaufman both said it would be around $500,000.

While the Commissioners agreed on the severity of the need, allowing Paris and Chief Financial Officer Sandi Holden to look deeper into the budget and find the difference between the originally budgeted pumper truck and the need for the gear, air packs, and ladder truck repair.

Kucera speaks on Public Safety Director position

News, Police & Government

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A surprise even to him, he says, the Board of Commissioners officially announced Keith Kucera as the Public Safety Director of Gilmer County.

FYN caught up with Kucera to ask him how he felt about moving from his months as Interim into the full-term position.

He called it an honor to serve the citizens of the county in this position and looks forward to the coming months as he builds relations between the county and state and other local agencies. Kucera moves into the full term position alongside Daniel Kauffman as the Fire Chief of Gilmer.

Gilmer County Public Safety Director, Keith Kucera

Gilmer County Public Safety Director, Keith Kucera

Kucera retired from military after 25 years of active duty, where he served in the U.S.  Coast Guard, and moved to Ellijay where he says he never expected or looked to become a Director, yet when the opening came, he put forth his name and served in the interim. He lives here with his wife, Pamela.

It is a move that many firefighters seem happy with. As reported in “BOC names full time Public Safety Director and Fire Chief,” many members of emergency services showed up at the commissioners meeting to show support for the direction the BOC was taking in their departments, though they didn’t know Kucera was being named as Director, FYN has come to understand that  it had been internally announced before the meeting that Daniel Kauffman was taking the position of Fire Chief.

Kucera said the show of support “means the world” to him. Having the support of the men and women of the departments, and his family’s support as well, is “second to none. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and I look forward to many years to come.”

According to Kucera, their support and the support of the Fire Chief is what will allow him to open up more to the duties of a Public Safety Director and allow the fire department to focus on what they do with a chief who can focus on that as well.

This is something Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris has said before as he wanted to separate, at least, the fire chief position so as to not have one person pulled into too many directions and possibly detracting from the service offered to the department.

Kucera said, “The Public Safety Division is going to be able to branch out to the other agencies within the county and build more of a coalition-type group within the county to serve the public better as a whole.” Kucera went on to note that some other benefits could include a better chance at obtaining and retaining grants from the federal and state governments as well as combining into a consolidated public safety group in times of need.

Besides the day to day work, Kucera said one of his major projects to tackle as the Public Safety Director is building community relations. He stated, “I continue to pledge my service to the community, to the citizens, and I look forward to meeting every single person I possibly can.”

Throughout the entire time speaking with him, Kucera never mentioned how he wanted to lead the department or the type of leadership he wanted to show. Instead, numerous times, he repeated that he was anxious to continue “serving with” the firefighters and emergency response workers of the county.

Back to Top