Venue size concerns revisit BOC

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer is once again in issue with rezonings when considering items this month.

Considerations of wineries, tasting rooms, wedding venues, and lot sizes came to discussion in February’s Commissioner meeting.

The major contentions came when considering a conditional use permit for a “large” wedding venue. The item for A-1 Agricultural with Conditional use for 582 Cinnamon Lane created debate between Public Works Director Jim Smith, Planning and Zoning Director Karen Smith, and County Attorney David Clark as the board sought guidance and information about the issue.

The venue actually came as two items, the board unanimously approve the winery and tasting room in one vote, then discussed the conditional use for the large wedding venue at the same location.

Jim Smith warned the board to consider the county roads when allowing the possibility of more vehicles and traffic of a large venue.

Ultimately, it was Attorney David Clark who noted that the current item was a wedding and events venue as opposed to Large Recreational Venues which expected larger crowds.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris noted concerns and calls he had gotten on the issue. He later said in the meeting that he wouldn’t support the larger numbers of over 200 people at the event. However, he indicated he didn’t want to restrict them to less than 100 either.

Smith later raised concerns about the public accessing the venue through Cinnamon Lane, preferring they instead use Old Flat Branch road.

Final approval for the wedding and events venue came with conditions including no more than 200 people, ingress and egress be through Old Flat Branch road, and that expenditures related to it, such a deceleration lanes, be the responsibility of the facility owners at the location.

All three board members voted to approve the conditional use permit.

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BOC splits vote to advertise budget

News, Police & Government

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Splitting the board in two, the final vote after months of work came down 2-1 for approving the advertisement of the Gilmer County Budget.

The $21,711,407 budget is in the advertisement phase right now and available for public comment and perusal. Officially, there will be a Public Hearing the first week in December alongside the Commissioner’s regular meetings.

The county has already waded through several rising issues including a questioned raise for Post Commissioners, questions about elections in the Probate Judge’s Office, and issues with the Hotel/Motel split. They spent another hours-long meeting this month going over one of the two biggest issues, it seems, for this year. Requests in the Capital Budget are being strained and cut. Though these issues have occurred every budget session in recent years, an easier balanced Maintenance & Operations Budget (M&O) has drawn the extra attention to these needs.

Some of the more extreme cuts focused on the larger budget departments and offices like the Sheriff, Road Department, and Fire/EMA.

The road department saw cuts removing the chance for an Asphalt Spreader, a reduction in funding for a new lift station, and two trucks put on lease instead of outright purchases.

Most of the county’s vehicle purchases across departments in the capital budget were either put on lease or straight cut from the budget.

Fire/EMA lost funding for a replacement Rescue truck, EMA Headquarters, and mobile command centers as well as funding for turnout gear for employees. Amid discussions. Post Commissioner Travis Crouch said he had a hard time eliminating funding completely for the gear and was searching for a way to partially fund it over something else.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris noted to the other board members that it was done on the basis of a verbal priority list that Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett gave to the board during individual sessions.

The M&O portion of the budget saw an increase in ammunition for the Sheriff’s Office, decreases in detention center salary raises (still receiving a slight increase overall), an increase to Road Striping for the Road Department, and an increase in Park & Recreation staffing among other things.

The other of the two major issues the county saw in this budget session was a split in the board on a potential change to Gilmer Chamber funding from the Hotel/Motel Tax. As the county has seen increases to this revenue over the years, a rift began forming as Crouch began questioning the return-on-investment the county is seeing from the ‘Chamber-favorable split.’

In opposition, Paris said he felt the split is justified as it is. Several notes were made by Chamber President Paige Green as well as to the increases of the funding and increases in tourism the county has seen. Though she admitted fault in not living up to agreements made to details and information reported in her quarterly attendance to the commissioner meetings, she felt strongly that decreasing the Chamber’s funding from the Hotel/Motel tax would not only adversely affect the Chamber, but the county as a whole.

Crouch stated in a previous meeting as reported in FYN’s Board Splits on Hotel/Motel article;

Ultimately, Crouch noted that he has enjoyed and appreciated the Chamber’s work. Instead, he noted that as a business owner he agrees, but as a Commissioner, he sees the constant people talking about road conditions and similar needs. He went on to say that the change wasn’t by any means a reflection of a poor job by the Chamber, but rather he felt at a certain point, he was seeing diminishing returns alongside greater needs elsewhere.

As the third member of the board, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller seemed conflicted on the issue at first, agreeing with Crouch’s statements as to the struggling needs in other areas. Miller did state earlier in the meeting, separate from this issue, that he was pleased with what he saw as increased attention to the Road Department in the budget, a cause he has championed in recent years.

Ultimately, considering the Hotel/Motel split and the numerous other portions of the county’s budget. Miller sided with Paris in a 2-1 vote to approve the budget for advertising. However, we do not know for sure if it was the Hotel/Motel split that pushed Crouch to the “no” vote as he declined to comment at this time.

As the budget moves forward, it is now the citizens’ turn to question and comment on the budget in the coming month before the new year. Be sure to check out the full budget before these meetings.

 

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Gilmer Preps for Florence

News

ELLIJAY, Ga – Not even two months have passed since Gilmer suffered through one of the worst storms it has seen in decades near the end of July, yet Hurricane Florence threatens to be just as bad, if not worse, according to reports from the National Weather Service and State Governments along the East Coast.

Both South and North Carolina have seen mandatory evacuation orders for residents in certain areas. With the residents continuing to travel west away from the storm, Georgia’s State Government has spoken about accepting those fleeing the path of the hurricane. The National Guard and the Coast Guard have already been mobilized for support as well as forces from Maryland and even New York preparing to help.

With a recent change in direction, the National Weather Service now indicates that North Georgia could see much more impact now. Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett said we are on the “dirtier” side of the storm today in a scheduled Commissioner’s meeting where he warned of potential dangers and damage that Gilmer could see from the southern turn of Hurricane Florence.

The expected impact is so large that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for the state.

Based on the latest 11 a.m. forecast for Hurricane Florence and acting on a recommendation from Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security officials, today I issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in Georgia.

The Gilmer Public Safety Department took to social media today as well to warn citizens of “an enhanced chance of impacts for our area. Potential impacts could include heavy rain and sustained winds. This could very well cause serious flooding impacts and a large amount of downed trees. Roadways washed out and damaged and widespread power outages are all a result of these impacts.”

Officials are asking citizens to prepare for the oncoming storm and for an influx of people attempting to flee the storm, even as we are still recovering from the July storm. Public Works Director Jim Smith told the Commissioners today that his people were also prepared to mobilize in recovery and recuperation efforts.

Public Safety also noted, “Everyone should keep in mind that systems such as this in the past have caused SEVERE damage for our county. Although we hope this is not the case. PLEASE PREPARE NOW! Preparedness includes adequate food and water for a minimum of 72 hours, flashlights and batteries, a full charge on all wireless devices and portable charging options for these devices, generators and fuel if you have them and know the PROPER use and placement.”

Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated that the county is preparing its resources including Pritchett preparing the Emergency Management Program as the county readies itself to open shelters if needed. He also confirmed that while Gilmer is not currently in talks with the State about housing evacuees, it is prepared for the call with those shelters made ready.

Emergency preparedness goes far deeper than just resources and shelters, however. Threats like this are prepared for months and years in advance. Pritchett made special note of the departments swift water training and equipment in a case of an extreme event saying, “We have very advanced, skilled swift-water-trained individuals that are trained to get to most anybody that is trapped or is in a rescue situation.”

Preparing for the worst-case scenario, Pritchett said the Department already has response plans throughout the county, but cautioned citizens against “sounding the alarm” for something that may not be as bad as they are preparing for. Despite the declaration of a State of Emergency, he noted that at this time, preparedness is the best course of action as they have previously stated.

These are the reasons that he encourages citizens to have cell phones charged and to prepare other means of charging in case of a need. Having these devices available to contact emergency response is also a part of survival.

As you continue watching for news and updates regarding Hurricane Florence, it may be wise to go ahead and program the non-emergency response numbers into your phone in case a need arises.  If you have questions, concerns, or a need contact Headquarters at 706-635-1333 or the non-emergency dispatch number 706-635-8911. Pritchett also encouraged citizens to keep an eye on the Gilmer County Public Safety Facebook Page for updates on the storm, shelters, and impact on Gilmer County.

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Rezoning and Repaving Take Focus in November for BOC

News, Police & Government

ELLIJAY, GA – Rezonings and LMIG took a large portion of the Board of Commissioners November Meetings as opposition and details came in abundance for both.

A request to rezone for Lalit Devgan, Tax Map 3150 Parcel 007a, wanted to add a conditional use to the R-1 Residential Zoning. The conditional use would allow for a bed and breakfast home. Though Devgan and the Realtor spoke on behalf of the Bed and Breakfast, numerous others spoke against it. Bill Craig spoke at the meeting about a petition with over 20 names set against the rezone.

Craig also noted the county definition of a bed and breakfast home states the owner must live in the building while maintaining short overnight stays for no more than four guests. Craig and others noted that Devgan openly admitted he would not continually occupy the house as his family lives in Atlanta.

While the idea of “owner occupied” could be overcome by giving a share of the business to a manager. Still more citizens spoke about the business and their opposition to it. Aiden Stuart spoke on the concept of wanting to maintain his area outside of the city to be non-commercial. Saying he moved to Gilmer for the mountain home, he opposed the rezoning as it would be changing the concept of his neighborhood.

As the Commissioners debated the rezoning request, Chairman Charlie Paris stated he would vote to protect what the citizens believe to keep the rural parts of the county in a rural setting. Opposing the rezoning, Paris stated that citizens who move to the county and “do their homework,” to see that the entire surrounding area is marked R1 for a residential zone, want to avoid something commercial coming in later, “I think we have an obligation to protect that for them.”

Post Commissioner Dallas Miller noted he believed the ordinance should be changed to avoid the commercialization of residential zones, but as the ordinance currently stands, he could not vote against it as it is allowed by the ordinance. The application being “pretty cut and dry,” he would have to allow it as a Commissioner. While he noted he really did not want to vote either way, he was not allowed to abstain, therefore voting in favor of the rezoning.

Post Commissioner Travis Crouch also noted the land use ordinance, stating a bed and breakfast home was in the ordinance as an allowed conditional use. He stated he felt conflicted over the issue, but weighing in the ordinance and the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Board as a unanimous decision to approve, Crouch voted in favor of the rezoning.

With the vote, Chairman Paris actually first moved to deny the request, but had no second. Therefore, his motion died. Crouch then motioned to approve with a second from Miller. The final vote came 2-1 with Paris being the dissenting vote.

Another major issue discussed over the month’s meetings came through next year’s LMIG. The County received estimates for the LMIG funds, along with the currently awarded bids for materials next year. Public Works Director Jim Smith originally gave a list of roads he recommended to pave next year. However, seeing the bids in the work session, Smith recalculated and returned to the Regular Session to estimate the county will be able to re-pave 7.63 miles of road in the unincorporated areas. Especially citing stone increasing by a dollar per ton, Asphault increasing on the 12.5 milmeter super pave by $3.76 per ton, and Emulsion expected to increase even after rebidding, Smith recommended the following roads for LMIG next year: Tower Road, Johnson Mill Road, Blackberry Mountain Road, Pisgah Road, and Cherokee Drive in addition to the second half of the Mountaintown Road as Phase 2 from this years paving.

The 2018 LMIG will also return to County Personnel laying and paving the roads as opposed to bidding the projects this year to free up resources and people to continue working on the Cherry Log Fire Station.

The Board also approved an offer for Duplicating Processes for a new copier contract as seen below. The Commissioners noted that several private entities in the county use this company as well as certain offices in the county who already use them.

Additionally in the meeting, the Commissioners appointed Max Holstein to the Whitepath Golf Course Advisory Board. Though the Commissioners originally had another candidate, Chairman Paris noted he would like to not fill the Board with locals around the Golf Course, but instead maintain a variety of people from across the county.

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Gilmer Budget Sessions for 2018

News, Police & Government

ELLIJAY, GA – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held the budget review sessions in preparation for the 2018 Budget.

The videos below document the departments with which the Commissioners spoke. Citizens can attend the Budget Finalization Meeting on Monday, Nov. 6, at 10 a.m. or stay with Fetch Your News for updates after the meeting.

 

Voter Registrar

 

Health Department

 

Probate Court, Elections

 

Magistrate Court

 

District Attorney

 

Library

 

Code & Regulatory Compliance

 

Whitepath Golf Course

 

Tax Assessor, Board of Assessors

 

Public Defender

 

Road Department, Solid Waste, Maintenance Shop, Airport

 

Planning & Zoning

 

Clerk of Superior Court, Board of Equalization

 

Park & Recreation

 

Hotel/Motel

 

Sheriff, Detention Cener, E-911

 

Fire & EMS, EMA

 

Courthouse & Facilities

 

Animal Control

 

Tax Commissioner

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