Ferguson talks the “community” side of the pool

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“It’s important to me… I think it’s a service to the community.” Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson speaks on the priority of the pool in her own opinion.

Ferguson spoke about the balance the county has to maintain as they face the needs of the county versus the availability of funds in the budget. Ferguson also noted how important physical activity is to her. Owning Stay Active Ellijay, Ferguson has spent years in the business of keeping people active and healthy. She points to her history here as she says how important a pool, and later a full recreation center, is to her.

While acknowledging that she is one-third of the board, Ferguson said her own priorities for the coming project is to focus on both pools as a single thought as she wants to have the children’s play area and ramp entry to be easier for those who need it. The “zero-entry” concepts plays a special role as Ferguson wants the growing senior population to have just as much access as any others.

But it’s not just the pool, according to Ferguson, who says, “One of my things with the whole River Park, is to build community. The pool is a place where we can build community, where we can come together, all ages, all economic backgrounds, and be a community there. To me, it fits so many of our needs, in my mind, of what’s important for the county, for the community.”

With such a large project originally being planned for Clear Creek, but now looking more and more like it will be located at River Park, Ferguson was excited to look at a partnership with East Ellijay for a closer location as well as the chance to save money on the project with both locations not costing the county money for the land.

While she said she is more responsible for the unincorporated parts of the county, Ferguson looks at the citizens inside and outside of the city limits as the same body of Gilmer County.

Despite the positivity and optimism, Ferguson said she is “crossing her fingers” on the River Park location as the county continues investigations into its viability. Even though it “fits very well there,” says Ferguson, “It’s all about the flood plain.” Ferguson acknowledged the planning phase is still in motion and she emphasized that the county is still answering questions to make sure it will not raise the expense of the project to make the land viable. She said the county still has a budget to follow and must stay within that budgeted amount.

Ferguson also said she wants to stay positive and is “hopefull” when looking at the Memorial Day opening goal. However, she also said she would not be willing to rush it just to get it open by then. While having a goal is great for projects, she wants to take her time and do it right.

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Pool will stay closed this year

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Confirmed reports indicate that due to a high volume of water loss, Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) Chairman Charlie Paris has decided to keep the county’s public pool closed this year.

Paris told FYN that the decision was made after county authorities tested the pool and began preparations for the summer season. It was discovered that the pool’s leak, which the county has dealt with for years now, has worsened. He said that the pool is leaking about 5,000 gallons of water a day with nothing running. However, when they turned on the water pumps and systems, that amount increased to roughly 22,000 gallons of water a day. Paris said they expect to lose over 1.5 million gallons of water over the three month season if they were to remain open.

This translates to the water level of the pool dropping by six and a half inches every single day that they are open to the public and a possibly needing refilling several times a day with public use.

A 2015 inspection of the pool for leaks and voids by Ground Penetrating Radar Systems representative Jeff DeHart.

A 2015 inspection of the pool for leaks and voids by Ground Penetrating Radar Systems representative Jeff DeHart.

Paris noted that even more important to him than the costs and maintenance, he is concerned about where the water is going. He noted an inspection the county had done with Ground Penetrating Radar in 2015 which found two leak areas, but no major issues of voids or spaces where all the water could be going. Paris said this week that the only place not checked by the radar or other investigations is under the pool. His biggest concern now is that pushing 22,000 gallons of water a day into the ground could lead to failure in the pool bottom and collapse into a large void below.

Paris said he has discussed the issue with Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White who said that a collapse like that is not unheard of and, in fact, a very real possibility.

Paris went on to say that while he felt it necessary to keep the pool closed, he does understand how much value and importance the county’s citizens place on having a public pool. As such, Paris pointed out that the last two year’s budgets have set aside $300,000 each for the county to save towards the pool. This has been done with the expectation that the current pool would eventually become unsustainable.

Paris said that his plan now is to expedite the process as the issue has “come to a head.” The original plan was to begin construction on the new pool in 2021. However, now, Paris wants to have the construction project completed by the beginning of the pool’s season in 2020, one year from now. He did note that if it could not be completed by opening day, then he would open it as soon as the project completed.

From left to right, Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller, Chairman Charlie Paris, and Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson.

From left to right, Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller, Chairman Charlie Paris, and Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson.

The catch is that this plan will require the Board of Commissioners to return again to their 2019 budget and look at amendments and a reallocation  of funds for the project. Changing the budget is a Board decision. Paris asserted that his plans and hopes were his own, and he will have to bring the subject before the board as a whole to decide on funding and budget changes. The subject is sure to arise in tomorrow’s, May 8, work session for the Gilmer County BOC.

Citizens have already noted their desire for a new pool numerous times. In 2015, citizens spoke in the BOC May meeting with many asking for a new facility and local Amy Woodring even offered a petition of over 80 families asking for such. In 2016, citizens again returned with members of the Three Rivers Athletics Club looking to upgrade the current pool with a “bubble top” that could then be moved to a new pool.

Despite the years of public support, as the subject comes to this month’s meeting, discussion will adjust away from the established desire of a new pool, and on to the financial resources available to fund the project. Citizens have already split on the issue with some wanting the county to push forward while others are hesitant to look at more financial adjustments before the county has even reached the year’s midpoint. During the 2015 meetings, some citizens even suggested the county look at possible funding from the school system as it would support a swim team and athletics there.

No clear picture on the path forward will be available until the commissioners discuss the issue during their two meetings this week, the Work Session on May 8 at 9 a.m. and the Regular Session on May 9 at 6 p.m., at the courthouse, 1 Broad Street in Ellijay. As always, these meetings are open to the public and time is available for citizen’s input at each meeting.

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Spring Signing Day sees four commitments from Gilmer athletes

Bobcat's Corner, Community

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer High School celebrated today, April 29, with family and friends of four athletes who ceremonially signed commitments to colleges and universities, advancing their sports careers to the next level.

The special day saw not only those friends and family members, but coaches, school administrators, and even Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs present to honor the work and achievements of these four at the “Spring Signing Day” event.

Tyson Elliott signs to the University of the Cumberlands for football.

Tyson Elliott signs to the University of the Cumberlands for football.

Tyson Elliott signed his commitment to the University of the Cumberlands, located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, where he plans on playing football. Elliott is currently looking to play Right Tackle. He says his next goal is to join the travel squad his freshman year and hopes to continue working hard towards that goal. He will be studying to major in Mathematics Education and possibly minoring in Coaching as he hopes to one day become a coach at either the middle school or high school levels.

As he transitions into collegiate sports, Elliott said he is excited about the coming challenges. Having put in the effort to get to this point, he said that he feels like it’s all paid off to have a college offer him a spot and to take that step to the next level. He went on to add, “Pretty much it’s everything I’ve been looking forward to. It’s kind of hard to explain, honestly.”

Grace Pleasant signs to Berry College for swimming.

Grace Pleasant signs to Berry College for swimming.

Grace Pleasant signed her commitment to Berry College, located in Rome, Georgia, where she plans on competing on the swim team. She swims the 100-meter breaststroke and some freestyle. Attending Berry College, Pleasant said that she plans on completing the dual-degree program. Then she plans on transferring to the Georgia Tech. She wants to major in Environmental Engineering.

As she transitions into collegiate sports, Pleasant said it has been a major impact on her life as she never thought she would be able to keep swimming into college. She started swimming at 10-years-old and also swam for a club team in Dalton. Noting the passion she has had for swimming all her life, Pleasant was excited to have Berry College give her the chance to continue that saying, “I’m really honored that they would want me.”

David Smith signs to the University of the Cumberlands for football.

David Smith signs to the University of the Cumberlands for football.

David Smith signed his commitment to University of the Cumberlands, located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, where he plans on playing football. Smith is currently looking to play at the Quarterback and Receiver positions. He said he is excited for the challenge of the next level of his sports career as he faces harder challenges and what he calls the “learning experience” as he sees the differences between high school and collegiate football. He plans on majoring in Education in order to come back to the high school level to coach football.

As he transitions into collegiate sports, Smith is looking forward to both aspects of college as he says he will get to play the sport he has been a part of his entire life while also having that pay for part of his tuition. He went on to say, “It’s gonna be a big step, like the workouts are going to be harder. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting to be on a bigger team.”

Austin Daman signs to Reinhardt University for baseball.

Austin Daman signs to Reinhardt University for baseball.

Austin Daman signed his commitment to Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia, where he plans on playing baseball. He plans on pitching for the team. Coming off of a tear of his UCL tendon in his arm, Daman has already conquered one challenge as he recovered faster than expected and is already pitching again in preparation for his collegiate years. He plans on majoring in Business and minoring in Sports Management. Though he didn’t comment on any future plans after college, he did not he wants to see where life takes him.

As he transitions into collegiate sports, Daman said it means a lot to even be able to play college baseball after his injury, even more that his hard work has paid off to continue pitching and to be in the position he is now. He said, “All glory to God for him to be able to get me to where I am. I couldn’t have done it without him.” Daman also gave credit to his Dad for his pushing and support and instilled his drive and belief to put forth the effort that was necessary to achieve this goal.

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Payton Woodring Represents GA at Southern Zone Championships

Team FYN Sports

IMG_1671Payton compteted in Cary, North Carolina during the week long competiton representing the state of Georgia along with other top swimmers chosen at the 2016 14U Long Course Championship meet held at GA Tech Aquatic Center the weekend of July 14-17th. Payton secured her spot on the Zone Team with her first place finishes in the 50 M freestyle, 100M freestyle and the 100M Butterfly. She placed second in three other events (200M Free, 50M Fly, 200MFly). Overall Payton compteted in 9 events placing in the top 7 of each event for the 11/12 age group. USA Swimming is divided into 4 zones. In the Southern Zone there are 11 states from Texas to West Virginia and south through Florida.

Payton Woodring Zone Championship

IMG_1754The top swimmers from each Local Swim Committee met in Cary, NC at the championship from August 3-6th. Payton competed in 6 total events and qualified for finals in 4 events. In each of those events she place in the top 5 swimmers. Payton’s top finishes were in the 50M Backstroke and the 100M Free where she placed 3. Payton swam the anchor leg of the 400 Freesyle Relay with 3 of her teammates where they finished first place setting a new Southern Zone Record. Payton would like to thank Larry Lykins, Gilmer County Parks and Recreation swim coach, for introducing her to the sport. Payton currently swim for Coach Jason Meszaros with Carpet Capital Aquatic Club in Dalton, GA.

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