Grants and budget bring upgrades to the fire department

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upgrades to the fire department

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s Fire Department is finally seeing the fruition of over a year of planning, adjustments, and applications as they catalog the many upgrades to the fire department.

It’s not just the fire protection that has seen these improvements, however, as Public Safety Director Keith Kucera and Gilmer Fire Chief Daniel Kauffman showcased the new purchases.

Carrying nearly 80 pounds in extra weight, Gilmer Firefighters rely on the gear for safety and protection in their daily service.

“It’s been a busy year,” said Kauffman, “Purchasing equipment and updating to safer and more reliable equipment.”

While the uniforms and the turnout gear came from the county budget after a request came to repurpose capital funds from a pumper tanker truck for the department. Instead of that truck, the county has outfitted the safety turnout gear for fire and rescue as well as new uniforms for members of the department.

In a concerted effort, Kucera, Kauffman, and County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris all said they wanted the new uniforms to be a sign of Gilmer’s professionalism. The county purchased 114 Flying Cross brand uniforms that bear the county name and one patch on the shoulder. Confirming that some employees had used uniforms from other places, Kauffman noted the new uniforms are to show off effort and hard work they do. Having upgrades to the fire department is one thing, but outfitting the employees’ uniforms is a matter of pride.

The new air packs host a special standardized feature to allow other firefighters to hook up to them to share their air in cases of pack failure.

The upgrades include everything in the outfit. Everything from head to toe on these firefighters is new. New jackets, pants, and boots are only the foundation. The department received new air tanks to double capacity from 2216 PSI to 4500 PSI. The tanks are the same size, not increasing the weight, but the extra capacity and pressure allow these men and women to operate longer in firefights.

These new tanks are also a part of a new statewide standard that has the capability for firefighters to go to a fellow firefighter, who may have fallen, blacked out, or is just having issue with his tank, and connect their line to his tank as well. This provides air to someone in a dire situation with tank failure. This system is already in use by the Ellijay Fire Department, improving the cooperation between the two agencies.

The new handheld thermal imaging cameras, left, are much smaller in size, but come with a shorter range than the larger, older versions, right.

Additionally, a firefighter is equipped with a pass device. If one stands still in their equipment for 15 seconds, alarms go off notifying those nearby alerting others through audio and visual alarms. They also come with newer voice amplifiers that are now constantly on and better quality sounds to facilitate communication. New Nomex hoods go under the jacket covering the head as well.

Through the Emergency Management Performance Grant, the department has purchased eight handheld thermal imaging cameras. Much smaller than the average camera used. With a 300 foot range, these cameras clip to the gear to be easily carried and used amid structure fires to both search for hot spots in order to protect firefighters and search for people through smoke or low visibility situations. Additionally, these cameras could also be used outside of structure fires in specific need situations like hiker falling off a bank. Though the technology has been around for years, the compact devices are more affordable now, as such the grants have made purchasing possible.

Much lighter, these Forestry Nomex Coveralls are used in cases of wildfires and similar, holding no air pack and much lighter, wildlands firefighter gear.

New upgrades to the fire department does not mean disposing of the old, however. Kauffman said, “Guys want to train in their gear. It allows them to train in gear that’s not designed for firefighting. And they don’t have to use their gear where they may damage it, rip it, or get it sweaty or smelly. We’ll actually mark the gear as training so it doesn’t get mixed up for fire fighting purposes.”

Kucera also said the department uses older gear like this for the Rangers Program and public events like last year’s appearance and gear tryouts at the Apple Festival.

This isn’t the only gear that’s new to the department, either. Through other grants, other sets of specialty gear of been purchased including forestry and chainsaw safety gear.

With the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia Grant, the Gilmer County Fire Department, 14 Forestry Nomex Coveralls were purchased for safety in the woods as these firefighters aid in controlled burns or find themselves fighting a wildfire as Gilmer has seen in recent years. A different process than structure fires, this gear provides different functionality. Wildfires are about control and containment instead of structure fires where they would enter for search and rescue and focus on extinguishing fires. This gear is also far more lightweight.

Arborist gear, purchased from recent grants in 2019, is used when utilizing chainsaws on downed trees and similar situations in Gilmer County.

Just as Gilmer aided in the wildfires in the past year, they are also on standby with the damage from hurricane Dorian coming through. With the department’s boats, usually used in rescue operations in nearby lakes and rivers, being on standby has specific travel supplies and equipment made ready and in staging positions if a need is called for.

The last set of gear, also from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia Grant, eight sets of arborist gear will be used for storms, wind damage, and other needed situations as fallen trees are very common in Gilmer County.

A firefighter packs on an average of 60 – 80 pounds according to Kucera, but this new gear, including the expanded capacity air packs, handheld thermal imaging cameras, and standardized hosing and connectors, its 80 pounds of safety and protection. adding extra capabalities without massively increasing weight is just a part of these upgrades for the fire department as these men and women serve the community in what they do.

Their service is not just Gilmer County, but any in need through grants and agreements for mutual aid as well as disaster situations like so many communities are facing against Hurricane Dorian.

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CTAE Local Plan and other Reports approved in August BOE

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CTAE Local Plan

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education is moving forward with the first month of the new school year as they prepare last minute personnel, plans, and financial reports in the August Meeting.

The board approved personnel but could still see another hire next month as Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said they are looking at another Kindergarten teacher. As such, she did say she will be polling the board for this approval later. The poll will be later confirmed in the next meeting.

Approving the CTAE (Career, Technical, and Agriculture Education) Plan, the board presented a list of Federal and State Grants, along with local funds, to put into the program. The plan, according to Downs, is based on numbers provided by the state through the school system’s consolidated application. Board approval will now return the plan for finalization for these grants.

The plan is similar to last years according to Downs, combined with local matches, the application is an annual process that the board undergoes on routine.

Alongside the Financial Report, ESPLOST Expenditures, and Nutrition Finances, the board approved Purchasing Policy Expenditures including numerous purchase from the L4GA Grant.

Purchasing Policies

Additionally, a purchase came to re-order a maintenance truck from Ronnie Thompson Ford. According to the report, the purchase was originally submitted in FY 19, but the truck was not available by year end, prompting a re-submission now.

Another financial came with an adjustment to the Transportation Salary Schedule. According to Downs, they have been looking for a diesel mechanic for the buses for a long time. Downs said, “We are finally able to find someone, and in order to pay for his credentials we need to make a slight change to that salary schedule to add a supplement.”

Downs informed the board that approval would make the county fully staffed in mechanics. The school system would now be able to do all necessary work in house, excepting warranty work.

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Purchases and Donations at East Ellijay’s Council

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EAST ELLIJAY, GA – The East Ellijay City Council’s September Meeting saw the purchase of a new Vehicle, Replacing a Copy Machine on Lease, and accepted a lot donation to the city.

The city has been having continued issues with the man copier at the office. Looking into replacements, the council’s options ranged from $5369 to $1800. That lowest price came from Duplicating Products, Inc. out of Gainesville, Georgia. With a 36-month lease, the the copier would come with 3-hour turn around maintenance.

The council was informed that Duplicating Products is already being used by our local schools, the Gilmer Chamber, and local churches. With the extra references, the council unanimously approved the 36-month lease with Duplicating Products at $50 a month. However, the city will be paying the lease annually instead of monthly.

Another purchase came with a retroactive approval of purchasing a 2017 Explorer for the Police Department. Within the last month, the city hit an issue with three vehicles being out of service at one time. According to Mayor Mack West, the city traded in an older 2007 Ford F150 for a $5,000 credit at Jacky Jones Ford in Cleveland, Georgia. Previously approved to spend $27,000 in the budget on a vehicle, the trade in credit brought the original $27,500 down to $21,700 final cost.

Mayor West also stated that the police are installing much of the needed equipment into the vehicle as well, which is driving down additional costs for the vehicle as well. Utilizing old surplus equipment and doing much of the work in house, Mayor West stated that Police Chief Larry Callahan reduced an expected cost of $6,700 down to an estimated $3,200 for equipping the vehicle.

Moving past the purchases, East Ellijay is being offered a lot donation on First Avenue. While discussions began on what the city could possibly do with the property including a commercial building or a park area, no real discussion could begin before officially accepting the property into the city.

The lot officially measures at 0.84 acres and is being donated after it was originally declared not “buildable” due to setbacks and other issues the land presents against a residential building. The city is expecting to perform a quick claim deed in the coming days to finalize the transaction.

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Redirected Resources and Eminent Domain Shadow Paving Projects

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ELLIJAY, GA – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is moving heavily onto the topic of roads and paving in August with bid approvals and an Eminent Domain on a right of way.

Due to issues involving the Cherry Log Fire Station, Gilmer County is adjusting projects in August. During their meeting, the Commissioners put final approval on its new amendment to Purchases of the Board of Commissioners in the County Code. This amendment is allowing the Commissioners to increase the spending limit with a single vendor in a year without bidding from $20,000 to $50,000 if the capital project is already in the County Budget. Additionally, the Commissioners added a new requirement that any purchases over $25,000 would require two separate signatures from the County Commissioners.

The next step of the Fire Stations effect on the county came with a stall after the county bid out the project to clear the land. With the one bid received being close to $100,000 over the expected cost, the Board of Commissioners declined the bid and are now set to have the Road Department clear the land instead.

With the Amendment to Purchases, additional materials and asphalt will be bought by the County as they accepted Bartow Paving as the low bidder for paving projects. While Public Works Director Jim Smith said the Road Department will still prep everything for the projects, they will have Bartow Paving actually pave certain roads while our County Department clears the land for the Fire Station. One addendum was added to the award taking 1.9 miles of road off of the projects, on Mountain Town Road. The original bid of $318,000 was cut down by $45,099.69 in order to place the paving within the county budgeted expenditures.

Post Commissioner Dallas Miller originally stated he wanted the County to find an extra source of money so they would not cut out any of the paving project. However, at the regular session, Director Smith said there was additional cost for materials that would cost the county more in addition to the extra $45,000 for the bid. As such, the board approved the bid with the addendum.

Another paving project for the year is Ridgeway Church Road. Ridgeway has seen issues in the County’s attempt to pave an extra portion up to the end of County Maintenance in the form of one resident failing to sign off on the right of way. However, Smith stated they have been in contact with the property owner before and even showed him on site the county’s need for the right of way. Smith states the only issue with signing is that the owner lives out of town and has not responded to the County’s attempts to contact him again.

Along those lines, August saw the board approve Eminent Domain on the Right of Way, approximately 0.77 acres, to move forward with paving the road. The county has collected Right of Ways for every other property on the road.

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Gilmer BOC Worksession 3/9/16

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Offer your congratulations to Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch. As he completes his final class next week he will become a fully Certified Commissioner under the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia. After the class, Commissioner Crouch will have completed 66 hours of training total, in addition to additional training he will complete every year as a part of the Continued Education Program. He has been working on this certification since he took office and was recognized by his fellow commissioners who were “very proud of his accomplishment.”

 

The Commissioners highlighted a discussion on a change to their timber ordinance to start the meeting. Having listened to several citizens concerns at their hearing last week, they will be adding words to their ordinance to allow certain exceptions by enforcement officers, but they must be written and presentable. Also, the ordinance will protect citizens from having to follow these rules as they landscape their properties, which could involve the removal of trees.

 

Several purchases were discussed for the county involving a 4 wheel drive Toyota Tacoma for Planning and Zoning Offices with the low bid of $31,380 from North Georgia Toyota, which is out of Dalton, and a 4-wheel drive Jeep Wrangler for the Tax Assessors with the low bid of twenty-five thousand four hundred sixty-nine ($25,469) from Mountain Valley Motors. Another discussion came as Public Safety is looking to purchase a Custom Cab Pumper Fire Engine for Fire House #1. Director Tony Pritchett stated this Fire Truck would be a “front-line” truck capable of responding to almost every fire in the county. Dallas Miller noted that while he believed in providing for our emergency services, he didn’t want to forget that these purchases were creating liabilities in the budget that future Boards would be responsible for. Several citizens spoke out in the discussion adamantly supporting the members of our emergency services and stating the purchase was worth it to maintain higher quality equipment for our county.

 

Citizens also spoke out vehemently on the the topic of the alcohol ordinance. Having resurfaced after August’s meeting due to a continuous stream of requests from citizens to revisit the subject without opening up to state standards, the commissioners heard several citizens words including those of former Commissioner Del Land who spoke of the history of the ordinance and the thoughts of his Commission as they originally passed the ordinance. Discussion from last week’s hearing came as some said they wanted to preserve their protection of a church located close to one convenience store while other spoke out for fairness of competition as only a couple stores are forbidden from selling alcohol due to the current “overly restrictive ordinance.”
Commissioner Dallas Miller spoke yesterday saying he was worried that if the Commissioners loosened their ordinance too much, they would invite in larger chain stores which could put some of our locally owned shops out of business. However, Commissioner Crouch responded, going so far as to say he was a local business owner and welcome the larger box stores into competition as he held a knowledge, service, and ‘personability’ that they could not compete with.

 

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