Georgia Governor Nathan Deal visited Fire House 1 in Gilmer County Thursday to officially sign House Bill 146 known as the “Firefigher’s Cancer Insurance Bill.”
Joined by several officials including Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, author of the bill Micah Gravley, District 67 Representative, opened the ceremony by speaking about the two year effort to bring the bill to this point. Gravley related his interactions with two firefighters, Frank Martinez and Brian Scutter, who he said were the honor of the Bill as they fought for and spoke with legislators to get the bill passed, as well as the appropriateness to have the signing in Scutter’s home station in Gilmer County. Scutter was also mentioned by Speaker Ralston who said he had made a promise to Brian that he would give all that was in him to bring this day about. Turning to face Scutter, Ralston said, “I kept my promise.”
Governor Nathan Deal, who originally vetoed last year’s Bill 216 called the new House Bill 146 an “innovative and great solution to the situation.” Deal said the Bill provides relief for firefighters by providing a different method for compensation and money for treatment and care for firefighters who contract cancers during their work. Gravley thanked the Governor for his support of, as he called it, a “better bill.”
The sentiment was echoed by Speaker Ralston who said, “We have arrived at a better solution. By requiring a local government to provide insurance to our firefighters for certain types of cancer, the firefighter can skip the process of litigating a worker’s comp claim. This will allow the firefighter to focus on getting better and recovery rather than having to worry about legal bills and depositions and hearings.”
FYN caught up with Speaker Ralston and Governor Deal to ask them to elaborate on why the bill is better, comparative to last years Bill 216. The Speaker replied saying, “This uses a Health Insurance Model as opposed to a Workman’s Comp model which means instead of having to make a claim and perhaps go through a court type process to get benefits and income, Firefighters in this case will file a claim just like health insurance.”
Governor Deal also spoke on the insurance versus workman’s comp comparison saying it was an awkward and “adversarial way of deciding whether or not compensation is owed.” Deal went on to say the newer Bill is a much better solution “to provide insurance coverage that will define benefits and give some flexibility as to deciding the compensation that will be given to firefighters.”
More than Senators and Congressman came to see Deal sign the Bill, though. Several representatives from neighboring and local emergency services attended the event including Gilmer’s own Director of Public Safety Tony Pritchett who said the Bill “gives you a sense of protection… You can lay your head down and sleep better at night knowing that if you contract cancer because of the job, there’s some protection that will take care of you and your family.”
For more on the Signing of House Bill 146 watch the full ceremony below or find more Photos in our Album:
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners April Meeting saw new plans for two key areas of the county. Finalized approvals will move both the failing 911 system and community pool on their path in the coming months.
The Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve their new 911 system with Communications & Electronics for a Zetron system.
The split came through discussion among the Commissioners whose original budget conversations centered around the idea that the current 911 system is failing and needs replacement. Since, the Commissioners decided instead of just replacing the system, they should upgrade the hybrid system.
The hybrid system is both analog and digital. While the 911 signals are all digital, our county had a conversion system which allowed the interface. The newer system, however, is completely digital and comes with “enhanced 911” capabilities. This term is somewhat loose though as the service is still in development stages through the state and phone companies.
Some of the possibilities the enhanced service could allow are text capabilities to 911, GPS tracking for emergencies, and even Caller ID functions to tie in with a more detailed 911 mapping system for response.
This upgrade was budgeted at $168,525, but the approved bid is $137,695 for the project to replace the current systems. Dallas Miller became the dissenting vote stating, “I don’t like spending $115,000 to do what we’re already doing today.”
The Commissioners tabled a few items in their meeting like their Contract with Piedmont ER for Ambulance Services. AS they did not have the contract in hand for the meeting, the Commissioners put off the approval until they can finalize the contract and its details. According to Director of Public Safety Tony Pritchett, the contract will guarantee Gilmer County first rights to all transportation from the hospital to other facilities as well as provide a guaranteed payment of services.
Another Tabled item was a possibility for Gilmer County to adopt a County Flag. As a point of pride for the county, Chairman Paris told FYN it was actually a citizen who called and offered proposals for the county to consider. However, the meeting showed little interest from the Commissioners who have not received additional support or interest in a flag.
Chairman Paris said he saw no downside for adopting a flag, but also didn’t see much priority for the project compared to other county business. The Commissioners have previously discussed possibilities of incorporating students from the schools to design the flag, citizens input, and other possibilities. However, having been tabled two months in a row, this item may ultimately see the Commissioners dismissing the idea if it does not garner more community support.
Citizens are also moving forward with plans to maintain the community pool through Gilmer’s winter months. Approving a Memorandum of Understanding with the Three Rivers Athletic Club, Inc., the Commissioners are following their promise to citizens that they would take a risk on the project citizens have been requesting since last summer. The Club has purchased a “bubble” to put over the pool and is currently completing installation of the heaters for the pool to provide access for community organizations and school athletes to practice, compete, and excersize year-round.
The Commissioners will be instituting quarterly reviews of the project so as to remain “revenue-neutral” for the county, meaning that the costs of operation of the pool will be offset through fees and such that the organizations will be providing to the county. With everything in place, it appears that the fall of 2017 will start the experiment when the pool extends its usual season.
Though progress is being made, many questions still circle the operations including some citizens questioning the viability as the pool such as the bubble will be heated, but athletes and swimmers will still be traveling from the bubble to the changing rooms wet. Post Commissioner Miller also offered concerns on the topic saying, “I personally think its a good deal for the Three Rivers Athletic Club and not a good deal for the county. We are bearing all the risks and the expense… I think we’re taking a risk, but I am willing to do this. We already have a plan in place to review this… if we find things that are not acceptable.”
Also in the community, the Comissioners did make two appointments in their April meetings, Don Van Landingham has been appointed to the Board for the Kids Kottage as well as Paul Nealey being reappointed to the Gilmer County Library Board of Trustees.
The Commissioners also formalized their newest Bond Refinancing through final paperwork and signatures at Aprils Regular Meeting. Paris told FYN these signings effectively end the refinancing process until the County begins realizing its savings next March with a $50,000 reduction in its payments.
A final approval came for the Commissioner’s change in the “Litter and Waste Control” chapter of ordinances that is incorporating state laws instead of County ordinances. As mentioned in previous meetings and reports, this does leave a place holder in case future Commissions feel the need for one, but the County will now officially be enforcing the state laws as always while not maintaining additional county level ordinances.
For more on the County’s Meetings check out The Trouble at the Tabor House as well as the meeting’s video below.
Gilmer BOC April Work Session:
Gilmer BOC April Regular Meeting:
With the signing of the bond agreement on June 8th, the Board of Commissioners set in a total savings of $1,472,679 on the 2007 G.O. Bonds. (more…)
Gilmer High School senior wrestler, and two time state champion, Cameron Perry, signed a scholarship to wrestle for the University of Virginia. Perry, who is both proficient in Greco-Roman as well as freestyle, spoke briefly to FYN about continuing his wrestling career at UVA. Gilmer head wrestling coach, Sam Snider, also spoke about Perry’s development and future career at the collegiate level. (more…)