First Avenue bridge closed for repairs

News
Bridge Closed

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The N. A. West bridge next to Hardee’s at the end of First Avenue is closed this morning, February 13, 2020.

Crews are working on the power poles on the bridge. Similar work is going on across the county this morning as Gilmer continues repairs and clean up from its recent storms.

While no official statement is available as to how long the repairs will last, the process is likely to last through most of the morning. The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office stated, “Hwy. 52 East is closed in the area of 1st Avenue down to the Hwy. 52 ramp area due to the traffic light and a utility pole both being down. Avoid the area and find an alternate route.”

 

Suspect from Ellijay arrested in Hit and Run

News

WOODSTOCK, Ga. – Reports from the Woodstock Police Department have confirmed the arrest of an Ellijay man for alleged involvement in a hit and run in Cherokee County.

According to their public release yesterday, February 3, the “Woodstock Police, in partnership with the Cherokee County Multi-Agency Crash Investigation Unit, arrested Tracy Lee Wilson, 47, of Ellijay following an investigation into a pedestrian fatality accident this morning. Wilson is charged with Felony Hit and Run with additional charges possibly pending.”

Those additional possible charges could come as Police also reported that the Hit and Run Victim was pronounced dead later that day.

They stated the accident occurred at approximately 6:50 on the morning of February 3, officers were dispatched to a call of a person struck by a vehicle on Highway 92 at Sharon Way. “The pedestrian, identified as 18-year-old Sarahfina Okole, was transported to a local hospital where she was later pronounced deceased.”

Other reports indicate that Investigators followed up on leads, and Wilson was located through the investigation at a Woodstock business where he was taken into custody.

Wilson was taken into custody and held at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center with an $8,450.00 bond. It is FYN’s understanding that Wilson has since been released on that bond, but has not confirmed this at this time.

The investigation is ongoing at this time.

Power outages causing traffic trouble

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office has made a public release addressing the issue near the downtown area involving traffic lights and deputies presence.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, “Two transformers have blown in the city limits causing power outages including traffic lights.”

As authorities continue addressing the issue and attempt to minimize additional incidents as they ask citizens to, “Please try to use alternate routes until power has been restored.”

They are not allowing any traffic on South Main, in the area of Letch Drive, completely shutting down the road in both directions.

Additionally, there are deputies at the traffic light by Dairy Queen on Highway 282 directing traffic for both Highway 282 and Old Highway 5.

Wreck on 515 closes intersection

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Citizens are being encouraged to avoid the intersection of Highway 515 and First Avenue right now as authorities are responding to a major accident.

Police, Fire, and Rescue personnel are on scene as usual with accidents like this but no reports are available yet as to the injured.

Additionally, the accident has spread debris across most of the northbound lane of the intersection. Traffic is at a standstill right now as the accident happened within the last 30 minutes. Authorities are tending to those involve while attempting to clear a path and redirect traffic.

If at all possible, avoid this intersection at this time until authorities can address the accident.

Bobcat Trail repair hits gas line

News
A 2-inch natural gas line was hit, causing a leak, during repairs on Bobcat Trail in March.

A 2-inch natural gas line was hit, causing a leak, during repairs on Bobcat Trail in March.

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Repairs on Bobcat Trail came to a halt Monday evening, March 4, as the contractor on the project struck a gas line hidden under the pavement.

It appears that a backhoe struck the line when digging under the roadway and began leaking the gas as a section was torn out. According to an on-site Supervisor for DRS Contracting, an emergency locate had been called in. He further stated that an unnamed subcontractor for Atlanta Gas Light gave the “all-clear” for DRS to go ahead with the project.

He asserted that Atlanta Gas Light’s report didn’t show any line in the area.

The line that was struck was four feet below the damaged roadway that was shut down by Gilmer County Charter School System last week. Work had just begun on repairing the damage today before hitting the line.

While digging out under a section of road on Bobcat Trail, DSR Contracting struck the gas line.

While digging out under a section of road on Bobcat Trail, DSR Contracting struck the gas line.

Emergency Servcies were immediately contacted as well as Atlanta Gas Light. The Ellijay Fire Department responded to the scene to monitor threats during repairs.

According to Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, Atlanta Gas Light has arrived on scene tonight and estimates that the line repair should be completed “fairly quickly.”

Downs further stated that the lines must be cleared and all pilot lights re-lit in the kitchens of both Gilmer Middle School and Gilmer High School. She said, “At this point we are thinking that everything will be fixed and ready for school in the morning.”

Stay with FYN for updates on Bobcat Trail and the continuing repairs near Gilmer High School.

Updates to Bobcat Trail and GHS

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Repairs are beginning today, March 4, on Bobcat trail at Gilmer High School.

As citizens have already been using the Legion road entrance to the high school, they will continue with one major difference. According to authorities in the Gilmer County Charter School System, “these repairs require that both lanes of Bobcat Trail coming north from the Civic Center be closed. GCSS buses will access the High School via the back of Gilmer Middle School, past the stadium and up the hill with student and parent drivers.”

The school system has made additional changes to parent and student traffic for arrival and dismissal this week as follows:

Arrival: All car riders will continue to be dropped off in the student parking lot. Please pull forward to the far set of stairs before circling through the parking lot to exit. When exiting Bobcat Trail towards Legion Road, all cars will be required to turn right at the stadium parking entrance. No cars will be permitted to go straight and exit behind Gilmer Middle School.

Dismissal: For this week, ALL student drivers will be dismissed at 2:30, Car Riders will be dismissed at 2:45, and Bus Riders will be dismissed at the regular 3:20 dismissal time. Again, as cars exit Bobcat Trail, via Legion Road, all cars will be required to turn right at the stadium parking entrance, and no cars will be permitted to go straight and exit behind Gilmer Middle School.

While current information points to the repairs being finished by week’s end, it is likely that parents and students will be able to access Bobcat Trail next week. However, no specific statements from the school have fully confirmed this yet.

High School closes Bobcat Trail

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County High School is shutting down one of its two entrances to the high school. Bobcat Trail, the entrance across from the Gilmer Civic Center, has seen road damage recently.

Due to the road damage on Bobcat Trail, the school needs to divert all traffic coming to the High School to ensure student safety. Beginning today, February 27, “only school buses will be allowed to enter Bobcat Trail from Old 5 (Main Street at the Civic Center). All car traffic will need to enter Bobcat Trail from Legion Road.”

Parents/Guardians dropping off students will need to have students exit their cars at the base of the main stairs in the lower student parking. Drivers will then need to circle through the student parking lot in order to exit back onto Legion Road. No cars will be allowed beyond the Noah Harris Center between 7am-8:15am and 2:30pm-3:45pm.

FYN currently understands that there is expected to be officers at Legion Road, just as they would be at Bobcat Trail, directing traffic onto Old Highway 5.

No changes are needed in how student drivers enter and exit the school grounds. Student drivers will need to be extra cautious when driving and parking in the student parking lots due to the extra vehicles that will be coming through.

These changes are to set to be in place for a few days at least, according to the Board of Education.

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.

Truck Accident stalls traffic at Maddox Drive

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A logging truck has overturned at the intersection of Maddox Drive and Highway 515.

According to authorities on scene, no major injuries were sustained. However, traffic is suffering from the accident that occurred at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon, February 7. Chief Callahan told us the driver had turned to go southbound from Maddox when his load shifted which caused him to turn over.

Law enforcement has asked citizens to find another route and expect delays as they attempt to respond to and clean up the accident. They are unsure how long the delays could last at this time.

Variance packs council meeting with contention

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Disputes arose in Ellijay this week during a meeting of the Ellijay City Council over a variance request at 50 Depot Street. Could this variance bring trains to Ellijay?

The council discussed the request from Michael Duke, owner of the business at 50 Depot Street. However, Duke does not own the land on which his building sits. This detail was the core of the debate as Duke leases the land from the well-known CSX Railroad company. In order to purchase the land, Duke needed the variance request approved.

Many arose in opposition of the request as nearly 45 to 50 people attended the meeting with the vast majority there for the variance request. Fifty Depot Street is behind Southern Customs on River Street and in front of the Cajun Depot Grill, also on Depot Street.

The item for discussion focused on the land size being on 0.28 acres. With streets on all sides, the landlocked business would not be able to be approved with the minimum being 0.5 acres required. However, discussion rose to include the future of the project at that location as Duke plans on renovating the building to become the “Ellijay Express Railroad.”

With hopes to see railroad tourism similar to that of Blue Ridge, Duke is looking to possibly move in that direction in the future. This became the main focus of discussion by those in attendance.

One of those in opposition was Dennis Haynes, who said he owned the Cajun Depot Grill. In full opposition, Haynes claimed approving the request and allowing the changes would take parking from him, which he has used for numerous years. A deal, Duke stated, was in place before he took ownership of the building. Haynes went on to say that losing the property would put his restaurant in “definite jeopardy.”

Stating the loss of parking would be detrimental to his business to the point of shutting down, Haynes asked the council to deny the request.

He was not the only opposition. However, two others spoke saying they loved the idea and wanted to support the project in a different location. Mike Kirkpatrick and Pamela Thomas Jones both called the project an amazing idea, but for somewhere else. Kirkpatrick told the council he owned lots on Depot Street and wanted them to deny the request due to it being “ill-conceived” in planning for parking and traffic concerns.

Kirkpatrick went on to say that though he wants success for the city and for this project, the council should consider the problems and undue stress they would be putting on local business owners from the congestion such a business would cause.

Pamela Thomas Jones spoke on behalf of her father, Bob Thomas, who owns the property where Southern Customs sits. Jones also echoed the sentiments of the project being a great idea. However, she fervently requested the council not to approve the variance in the meeting. While she did not outright ask for denial, Jones instead plead for the council to look further and deeper at the issue by performing studies and investigations into the effect the business would have on the area.

Based on the need for requirements to approve a variance request, Jones quoted the city’s own ordinance in the meeting while saying that the city needed to understand there are already parking issues in the area as discussed in their meeting from the other speakers.

Duke spoke again saying that they are already looking to improve safety to the lot, he also mentioned he did not want to “block any parking” from the other businesses in the area. He mentioned there were already signs asking people not to park in the depot lot until after a certain time, and he wanted to continue alongside those in Ellijay to increase safety and promoting “what’s right for Ellijay.”

Ellijay Mayor Al Hoyle put the discussion to the agenda item saying that the issue at hand was a variance of minimum lot size. Despite the conversation of the project and the future of the business, Hoyle stated that they were there to discuss minimum lot size.

Throughout the discussion, it became clear Duke owns the building and leases the property. The topic at hand allowed him to purchase the property from CSX Railroad, but it appears that much of the business decisions would not necessarily be stopped by denying the request.

Regardless, the council officially, and unanimously, approved the request. Despite some concerns from the council as to what could have been done earlier in the process for mediation they did allow the variance with the lot being locked in position and unable to increase lot size through additional tracts. So, with the approval, the owner of the building can also become the owner of the property under the building.

Some in opposition to the request walked out of the meeting as soon as the vote finalized. After this, Ellijay can look to the area for changes in the near future. Duke told the council during the meeting that the Blue Ridge line is already set to send some of their engines to Tate, via Ellijay, for repairs and maintenance. However, if Duke follows through with the plans mentioned in the meeting, citizens of Ellijay may see more trains on our tracks sooner than we think.

McCutchen rezoning raises traffic questions

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Ellijay City Council held their February meeting with few items on the agenda, but a zoning request still raised plenty of discussion with a subdivision coming to McCutchen Street.

The zoning request is actually a reduction in density as it was approved to change from an R-3 to an R-1. The two men present at the meeting, Steve Wadley and Paul King, represented the zone change requester 548 MCC, LLC. and the community called The Ridge.

Minor opposition came during the meeting as citizens living on McCutchen Street questioned what would be done about an increase in traffic on the street. Their answer came as Wadley revealed part of their plan in construction was to widen Barclay Street to become a two-lane road. Barclay will be the main entrance to the community and is expected to have most of its traffic using a short spot of McCutchen to connect to Old Highway 5 and North Main Street.

The request for changing 548 McCutchen Street was approved unanimously during the meeting.

Also during the meeting, the council approved a Brew Pub License for River Street Tavern Inc. and its licensee Heather Simmons. The Brew Pub License will allow the Tavern to brew beer on premises for sale in the restaurant. With no comments or questions, the license was approved during the meeting unanimously.

One final note for the city’s business was approval to dispose of one 2006 Ford Crown Victoria at public auction. The vehicle is an older police vehicle that has been replaced.

Ellijay accepts two roads to maintenance system

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Updates to the project on Victory Circle came in Ellijay’s December Council Meeting.

The project, officially named the Victory Christian Center, requested the city take a new road into its maintenance system. The road will connect Victory Circle, behind the old Blue Ridge Carpet Mill, to Progress Road. This new connection will become the main entrance to the facility, and one of three access points, as Victory Christian continues plans to add another entrance on Maddox Drive near the city limits sign, to decrease traffic stress at the four-way stop of Progress Road and Maddox Drive. Following the back side of the old carpet mill, the road will connect from the first curve on Victory Circle.

The project, according to Randy Durden from the North Georgia Christian Foundation, will be paid for by combining donations, including property from the neighboring PDQ Manufacturing and Waterwheel and money from the Victory Christian Center for construction of the road pending the council’s agreement to accept the road for maintenance. The official approval came as a motion for agreement in principal that the city would accept the road contingent upon it being built to Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) specifications with 60-foot right-of-ways and Ellijay City requirements.

However, this was not the only addition to the city’s road systems. The council officially approved accepting 1.6 miles of state Route 382 into the city street system.

After consideration in November, the council further investigated and attained confirmation that the state would repave the road. According to Ellijay Mayor Al Hoyle, the Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner assured him they would resurface the road and make sure everything is in good shape, including striping and guard rails.

Along with the accepting of the state road, the council separately approved accepting the Lighting Agreement. The new roundabout being built at the intersection of Highway 382 and Old Highway 5 will have street lights for the roundabout for which the city is agreeing to pay the lighting bill.

Ellijay City Councilman David Westmoreland requested consultation from Ellijay City Police Chief Edward Lacey if there would be a negative consequence. Lacey suggested he could not see anything negative stating, “It is contiguous with our current city system of roads.”

Lacey was also requested to speak on a second item, a request for speed bumps on Gilmer Street near the senior center. The council asked last month for Lacey to investigate and speak at this meeting. Officially recommending the street return to a one-way street as it has been in the past, Lacey suggested do not enter signs to prevent traffic from traveling toward Delaware Street. The council did not grant the speed bump request for the street, but instead went with Lacey’s recommendation to make it one way. This means traffic on Gilmer Street must flow toward Broad Street and toward the courthouse.

Cartecay Vineyards is moving downtown with approval for Cartecay Wine and Craft Pub at 19 South Main Street in Ellijay for a wine tasting room.

After an executive session, Ellijay’s city council approved three members to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). With four openings and only three filled, the city is still looking to fill another position on the authority board. Those three approved were Josh Quigley, Mark Luchauer and Joshua Moyer.

JDA Meeting Sees Sanford’s Start as Executive Director

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) met for the first time with their new executive director, Kent Sanford, Nov. 6.

Along with the new director, the JDA is moving forward with swapping employment of the executive director from a listed Gilmer Chamber employee to a direct employment with the JDA. Since the move has already been approved by the Board, the process is simply awaiting the time needed to complete the paperwork and finalize the logistics of the transition.

Sanford updated the Board about his first days saying he has spent a lot of time speaking with counterparts in surrounding counties, local project meetings for progress, and potential project meetings for future growth.

Sanford also met with local mayors as well as Pickens County officials as the new Gilmer-Pickens JDA begins coming together. While plans for training and classes are being made, Sanford is already integrating himself into the projects of the Greater Gilmer JDA.

Those projects continue with the JDA as well, involving one that Chairman Travis Crouch called Project X. While allusions were made to involvement with the school system, no definitive confirmation was made.

Another project underway is involving the Georgia Department of Transportation regarding a traffic light in the county. The JDA did mention the state is requiring a “warrant study” of the intersection in question. Avoiding winter and holiday traffic, the study may wait until February to be undertaken.

Again, with projects like these, the Board declines to add details to their projects as there are sensitive topics, financial deals, and non-disclosure agreements that could be negatively affected if details were given.

Commissioners Start Discussing Whitestone Road

News

ELLIJAY, GA – Citizens have been talking for years about the intersection of Whitestone Road and Highway 515.

A new chapter is underway as citizen, Gary Ferguson, asked for it to be put on the agenda for the Commissioners October 2017 Meeting. While Ferguson originally spoke about prohibiting trucks on Whitestone Road, the Commissioners quickly included the effects the prohibition could have on the Whitestone / 515 intersection.

Ferguson’s main complaint is that the trucks are coming across the county line from Pickens for the access to the Highway. In doing so, they are allegedly speeding along the road through a small community causing dangers. Ferguson reported to the Commissioners that the trucks could be taking a road in Pickens to access Highway 515 that is a shorter distance, but they take his road due to a smaller hill providing less of an incline to climb.

With the trucks loaded, they avoid the higher climb due to the added weight, according to Ferguson.

One of the County’s major issues is sight distance on 515. Many will recall numerous accidents with fatalities at the intersection including a Deadly Tour Bus Accident in October of 2016.

Post Commissioner Dallas Miller mentioned he wanted to talk with DOT about possibly placing a no left turn restriction on the intersection to help avoid traffic issues with all vehicles at the location.

Post Commissioner Travis Crouch stated he would be meeting with a member of the Georgia DOT (Department of Transportation) and would discuss the issue. Coming back in the regular meeting, he noted the DOT representative stated Whitestone is a county road and the DOT would have no input on whether they prohibited certain traffic.

DOT still could bring an engineer to the county to investigate the 515 intersection and safety issues involved with it. However, the Board of Commissioners indicated they were set to do more homework on their own and revisit the idea themselves in November.

They officially tabled the motion in the October Meeting as they all wished to look further into different options.

GDOT Work on 515 Slows Traffic

News
Officers direct traffic during the replacement of traffic lights at East Ellijay's 1st Avenue and 515 intersection.

ELLIJAY, GA – For those traveling on Highway 515, you may have been noticing trucks at the intersection of 1st Avenue near Hardee’s.

GDOT workers prepare the 1st Avenue intersection of 515 for new traffic lights.

GDOT workers prepare the 1st Avenue intersection of 515 for new traffic lights.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has changed out the traffic lights with newer models including a flashing yellow turn signal for left turns at the intersection.

Many citizens who have been to Pickens county will recognize the same style of traffic lights as are in use on 515 there. According to Mack Wood, City Planner of East Ellijay, the lights were originally a test in Jasper as a cost alternative to completely remodeling the intersections.

A welcome change to many citizens as they get stuck in those turning lanes on the way to and from work, the new lights have overcome several hurdles to installation. Requiring the removal of trees along the median near the intersection was just the first hurdle as the city has had to have wire repairs in the lighting system and further work to prepare for the change.

This is the only intersection on 515 in Gilmer that will receive the update after Wood originally contacted GDOT for the updates. Stating a sight distance issue, this means the intersection of Maddox Drive and 515 at the BP and McDonald’s and the intersection in front of Wal-Mart will not be seeing their light change anytime soon.

 

282 Accident Closes Traffic Near Pleasant Gap Road

News

ELLIJAY, GA – According to the Sheriff’s Office, a motor vehicle accident on 282 occurred earlier today.

The accident reportedly occurred near Pleasant Gap Road between a car and tractor. While FYN is currently seeking additional details, it has been confirmed that all lanes of traffic are currently closed.

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