ELLIJAY, Ga. – After a lightning strike hit the Central Office of Gilmer County Charter Schools damaging internal systems and losing power, back-up power in the form of a generator and UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) systems for emergency power proved to be insufficient for the office building. A situation that the Board of Education is looking to rectify after inspections have provided options for replacement.
The emergency power system could run operations for roughly 30 minutes, enough time to save projects and shut down or to active that generator to take over. However, the full generator is needed for anything longer. One of the issues the board has faced is that when the system tries to run off of the generator, the system overloads and shuts down. With new systems having been added over the years, the generator was never updated to keep up with the additional electrical draw.
Adding in a new 250 amp interface switch in addition to replacing the actual generator is just the start of the costs for the school. The switch itself will cost about $13,000 according to Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley.
In addition to the switch, continuing supply chain issues mean that a replacement will take between nine and twelve months to get here. Dr. Ridley informed the board that one option for immediate response could be to rent a 250 amp generator for $2,800 a month until the replacement arrives. He quoted a total cost before installing anything new to be $47,396.
After that immediate response, purchasing a replacement for their current system included options for a 250 amp generator for $41,000 or an 800 amp generator for $141,000, but would also cost an additional amount to replace the switch again, this time for an 800 amp switch.
He went on to tell the board that he could get the switch and rental generator quickly and address the office’s back-up power issues. Additionally, all of the information given for replacement generators was an estimate from inspections and repairs. Ridley said the board would have to go through the process of a Request for Proposals (RFP), but wanted to offer the immediate information to the board so they would have an idea.
The board was also informed that the lightning strike also damaged the UPS Emergency power systems.
Boardmember Michael Parks stated, “If we’re going to spend that much money, we need to make sure it’s going to work for what its purpose is meant for.” Advising extra caution as the office already built over its capacity once. He said he didn’t want to gamble on a generator that will also immediately fail do to overload, suggesting that they take time to gauge and see exactly how much power the system needs.
The board was assured that the school system has already had two separate electrician’s look at the system and would also go through the RFP process, fully covering their bases on the office’s needs. The 250 amp generator would run the critical systems, but not the whole office. The 800 amp generator could support everything. No action was taken in the meeting as Ridley wanted to inform the board of the situation so they could ask questions and deliberate on the path to take.
The board also briefly discussed purchasing the additional generator to support their current one, operating both simultaneously. But as the school system continues collecting information, this and other options will be revisited in the October meetings.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Continuing to build the county’s image for outdoors, hiking, and biking, the Board of Commissioners approved a designation in this month’s meeting as a Benton MacKaye Trail Community.
Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson spoke to the item saying that not only is there no cost to the county but also a communal benefit would come from additional advertisement for our community. The Benton MacKaye Trail Association looks to organize charitable and educational purposes to construct, maintain and protect the Benton MacKaye Trail and, according to their website, “to inform (by newsletter, brochure, correspondence, guidebook, map, and other means) its members and the general public of opportunities for outdoor recreation and public service; to conduct workshops, seminars and work trips to foster skills in trail construction and maintenance; to promote hiking, camping and a wilderness experience in the Southern Appalachian Mountains; to instill in its members and the general public a conservation ethic.”
Ferguson noted that the Benton MacKaye Trail begins in Gilmer County. Starting on Springer Mountain, which rests on the boarder between Gilmer and Fannin Counties. It then stretches over 300 miles long. In the county’s meeting, Ken Cissna, President of the Benton MacKaye Trail Association, spoke to the board about the project and the many landmarks along the trail including Three Forks, the Toccoa River Suspension Bridge, and Long Creek Falls among others.
Adding on to the Appalachian Trail Community that Gilmer already has, the new Benton MacKaye Trail Community designation was also reported by Ferguson to be supported by the Gilmer Chamber as well. The board discussed the benefits including inviting more hikers to the area will further encourage those tourists to our local businesses along with purchasing supplies and other items that visitors need.
With the official approval in Thursday’s meeting, Gilmer has officially added the designation in cooperation with the association, which will continue its scheduled minimum of two hikes per month, one of five to eight miles and moderate difficulty as well as a leisurely, shorter, easier hike that may be somewhat slower paced. In addition, more information about the association, the trail itself, conservation efforts, and other scheduled hikes can be found on the Association’s website.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Both the BOC’s special meeting and the BOE’s monthly work session saw discussion after falling median sales ratios in the Tax Assessors Office could set the county up for another state consent order and penalties in fees.
Chief Appraiser, Theresa Gooch stated that if the county’s median falls below a 38, the first consequence comes as the possibility of losing some public utility money or tax revenue. This number comes from the state’s Department of Audits and Accounts (DOAA) studies that occur annually. This means the Audit will look at samples of sales in the year and look at the sale value and compare that to what the county Tax Assessors assessed the value at. Since the state expects the assessors to set there evaluations at 40 percent of the property’s value. The optimum ratio, according to the state, is set between 38 and 42 percent so that there is no major variations.
However, to “pass” the audit, a term presented by BOE Finance Director Trina Penland, the assessed evaluations must fall between 36 percent and 44 percent, allowing for a 4 percent margin of error on either side as some might say. The report of the test samples for 2021 in Gilmer County fell to 35.88 percent, according to Penland’s report.
The study lags, however, according to Gooch who explained that the Department uses 2021 sales to set 2021 values while the county must use 2020 sales to anticipate and set expected 2021 values. The time lag also comes as the county has to have its values set by January 1, 2021. The state, however, comes later as Gooch said in the August 2022 meeting that the county just received the study results. Since the county’s and the states values are at odds, the discrepancy arises. The difference is so stark this year with the rising inflation and market values in just the course of one year.
There is no immediate consequence this year as the county is not under an official review year, Gooch said that will take place next year with regards to the 2022 assessments currently in their final stages. The Tax Assessors will use this information to set the expected 2023 values, but the state will wait until the end of 2023 to set those values based on actual sales.
With the current issue, she urged the county to formally file an appeal to have their concerns on record that Gilmer is “not happy with the findings.” Additionally, Gooch noted that the county could rise up again and make the requirement by next year’s review, but she has concerns if the state continues studies with the time difference allowing major influences to change market values drastically between the county’s anticipatory values from 2022 and the states actuals from 2023.
Not meeting the state required study median causes a fine, County Chairman Charlie Paris noted $174,000. The option is going under a consent order. Paris also noted that the last time the county was under a consent order, “it cost us more than paying the fine.”
In addition to those, Penland reported to the BOE that the Tax Assessors will also have to change their ratios for the digest in coming years, further reducing the money collected for both the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners budgets.
Gilmer County is not the only county going through this issue currently as Penland showed reports from 2019, 2020, and 2021 audits with more and more counties falling out of compliance each year. In the 2021, the majority of North Georgia along with counties all over the state are facing this same issue of being out of compliance.
Gooch reported that the last time Gilmer County was out of compliance, with a median percentage below 36, was “prior to 2010” and the last time it was out of optimal range, with a median percentage below 38, was 2013.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) has made a statement in regards to a murder investigation after a body was discover over the weekend.
According to the Sheriff’s Office’s statement, Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the area of Roy Road in reference to an unresponsive male in the yard on Friday, April 22, 2022, at approximately 11:49 a.m.
When deputies arrive, they found the male with extensive visible injuries. The report stated, “A relative of Crate Hollis Weaver, age 65, had located Weaver in the yard deceased and called 911.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) was called in to process the scene and assist the sheriff’s office. After an investigation by GCSO detectives and the GBI, Joshua Robert Weaver, 39, was taken into custody and is charged with Murder and Aggravated Assault. Joshua is reportedly the nephew of Crate Weaver, the deceased.
According to the Booking Report, Weaver was taken into custody by GCSO just after 12:00 p.m. on April 22, 2022. He was booked into the Gilmer County Adult Detention Center at 2:09 p.m. Both murder and Aggravated Assault are Felony charges.
FYN has reached out to Sheriff Stacy Nicholson for comment and details on the incident and is awaiting a response at this time.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Continued operations throughout the Appalachian area are seeing Gilmer’s Sheriff’s Office stepping up its work both in solo operations, and in joint operations alongside groups like the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement, Police, and Sheriff’s Offices in other counties and leading to drug seizures like heroin and meth.
On Wednesday, March 30, 2022, one of those operations involved Gilmer County Deputies, Fannin County Investigators, the Cherokee County North Carolina Sheriff’s Office, and the GBI Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office.
This coalition of law enforcement offices arrested two individuals allegedly involved in heroin trafficking. According to Gilmer’s Sheriff’s Office, an investigation into the trafficking saw the arrest of Jamie Willis Whitener, 44, of Murphy, North Carolina, and Natalie Lynn Scogin, 47, of Murphy, North Carolina.
The two have been charged with Trafficking Heroin after being stopped on Highway 515 in Gilmer County, Georgia. Headed north on the highway, Whitener and Scogin are suspected of being involved in trafficking heroin between Gilmer County, Georgia and Murphy, North Carolina. The Sheriff’s Office states that the two were known to the agencies involved in the investigation.
Working along other agencies, numerous arrests have been made over the years after joint operations such as a four month long investigation in 2017 with the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force. Additionally, Gilmer’s own deputies continue solo operations resulting in drug seizures like the record-setting arrest for 1.69 pounds of methamphetamines made in 2021.
The Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office is a multi-agency unit that consists of the following Sheriff’s Offices: White County, Lumpkin County, Banks County, Jackson County, Habersham County, Stephens County, Rabun County, Franklin County, Gilmer County, Fannin County, the Cleveland Police Department and the Toccoa Police Department, along with the Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, the Department of Public Safety, Department of Community Supervision and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer High School has announced the 2022 PAGE STAR Student as Senior Kinsleigh Elizabeth Purvis who, in turn, selected former Mathematics teacher Ashley Stover as her STAR teacher.
Kinsleigh Purvis is the daughter of Steven and Kara Purvis of Talking Rock, Georgia. She has earned this recognition due to hard work, academic achievement, and SAT scores. In addition to being named STAR Student, she stated that she has also been accepted to attend the University of Georgia and its honors program. Purvis plans to pursue an Environmental Health Science degree that fulfills Pre-Med needs to go into Medical School.
The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program is sponsored, administered, and promoted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) and the PAGE Foundation. The STAR Student must be a senior with the highest score on a single test date on the SAT and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average to qualify. The STAR program has honored nearly 28,500 students and the teachers selected as the most influential to their academic achievement over the years. There are competitions that continue in the STAR program at the region and state level.
Purvis told FYN that the award was not something she was directly looking to achieve. While she did know about the STAR student program, she said she has been working hard towards the highest SAT score she could get for herself and not towards the STAR program specifically.
STAR Teacher Ashley Stover taught Purvis in ninth grade Geometry before stepping out of the classroom to become the Dual Enrollment Coordinator for two years. A program that Purvis has utilized to attend Dalton State College where she has been taking classes for core credits to add to her AP classes in high school.
Now, Stover is with Ellijay Elementary School.
Purvis chose Stover as her STAR Teacher because, as she states, “In the classroom, she is always very encouraging to everyone, including myself, and always pushed me to do my best. Then, as dual-enrollment coordinator, she helped me a lot with scheduling and doing what’s best for my future career and what’s best for me now.”
When asked about how surprising it was to hear the Purvis had been named STAR student, Stover said, “She’s always been at the top.”
She went on to add the Purvis was “the whole package.” She explained that the desire is there to fuel her. And while Purvis has always understood and gotten concepts quickly, she has stayed humble enough to realize the need is still there to work hard for what she wants. In addition to her drive and academics, Stover said she is kind and helpful to anyone.
That drive reaches out from school and academics as well. Purvis attends dance classes, teachers younger dancers from first and second grade, is a part of Girl Scouts, she is also very involved in her youth group that meets on Wednesday and Sunday nights.
Having gone through AP classes during the virtual academy and at-home days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Purvis still maintained her efforts and did “very well” on her AP tests according to Stover.
GHS Principal Carla Foley also lauded Purvis’ achievements saying, “We are very proud of Miss Purvis and Mrs. Stover and the academic excellence they have exemplified at Gilmer High.”
Speaking specifically about Purvis both as a past student and looking to the future, Stover said, “She’s going to do great things. I’ve known that since I met her, but she is. She is going to change the world.”
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – With a letter from from the state reapportionment office suggesting changes, this Thursday will see the Gilmer Board of Education considering redrawing district lines for the county in regards to the board members.
This does not affect the county’s voting registration or citizens voting districts within the county. Instead, it changes the lines of the county and the districts that each board of education members’ seat represents. The diagram, pictured to the right, shows these changes on Gilmer’s map. The green lines represent the former district lines, established in 2012. The colored sections represent how the districts will look if approved on Thursday.
Based on the recent census, Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley told board members that the changes look to rebalance populations within the districts.
The new lines show three major changes to the districts with the west side of District 5 reaching further west across Mountaintown, the east side of District 4 reaching further east towards the cities, and the southwest side of District 2 reaching further west across Yukon.
According to documents presented in their work session, this redraw will see each district with just over 6,000 people living in each of the districts.
This redistricting has not been approved yet, but is set for consideration this week, having the districts set for the coming election.
About voting on board members, Dr. Ridley stated, “The only thing that this affects is where future board members may live. Since all of you are voted on at large, it really doesn’t have any effect on who votes for who.”
Board Member Joe Pflueger question the origination of the map and Dr. Ridley clarified that the map was redrawn and provided by the state reapportionment office. Pflueger further noted that there has been no local input on the districts map as presented so far. Comments were made that the board would discuss legal options in executive session.
Dr. Ridley did note that the board could accept the map as presented or potentially alter it and ask for changes. Tomorrow’s, January 27, 2022, Regular Meeting of the Gilmer BOE will see the board’s decision on the map at 6:00 p.m.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – With several zoning requests considered for January, two saw increased opposition alongside some support from residents, neighbors, and members of Keep Gilmer Rural (KGR). The nearly three hour meeting on January 20, 2022, saw discussion stretch from public discussion to debate among the board members over issues.
The first debated application came for 128 Adventure Trail by Jonathan Graves to rezone from R-1 to A-1 in support of a Hobby Livestock Farm.
Those in opposition to the rezoning spoke against the location being surrounded by other Residential zoned lots. Some noted other allowances that could come to the site if sold. Additionally, concerns were raised over potential nuisances for close neighbors and references were made to Gilmer’s ordinances.
An opposition was also noted about the environment as the location tends to drain into the road in heavy storms and then into a creek which feeds into a pond and then on into the lower Cartecay River.
Both Graves and one speaker in support of the application noted that while no A-1 zones touched his property there are some large A-1 zones nearby. Graves noted that one of these farms already drains into the local creeks in a natural way. He said he may not know everything about the impact of that, but his intentions were not to build an intensive animal farm. Rather, a more hobby-livestock style of farming would mean less animals and drainage than many were thinking.
With board members debating about due diligences when buying properties, one noted that a lot doesn’t have to have A-1 touching it to be considered. Chairman Mooney stated, “I’m sympathetic to what Mr. Graves is trying to do but he stated he bought it with the intention to do agricultural type activity. The proper way to do it is to get it rezoned the way you want it before you purchase it.”
Ultimately, a motion and approval came with one opposed to deny the application.
The nights second major discussion came for a new 50 unit subdivision at 0 Boardtown, Cherry Log. A 66.37 acre tract comes in under the moratorium while maximizing the acreage. The applicant, Joe Sission of Sisson Corporation, stated, “We are requesting it to be zoned R-1 to build vacation homes.”
When asked about how many homes, Sission said he hadn’t done a preliminary yet. Though he estimated 50 homes considering space for roads, easements, water system, and driveways.
The property is looking to connect to different roads for ingress and egress including potential options of Boardtown Road, Lucius Road, Goose Island Road, and Whitepath Road.
With concerns raised over traffic and contamination of a spring, the major issue debated by public speakers came with speakers using Mooney’s own words saying that the rezoning should have been sought upon buying the land. Citizens pointed to Sission’s experience both as a developer and as a Planning and Zoning Board member that he should have sought the rezoning when he purchased the property.
The discussion became a major focal point with some calling it favoritism and unfair zoning that the board might consider this zoning minutes after telling another applicant that a major zoning change with major impact is subject to “due diligence” that should have been sought before completing a purchase.
Others also pointed to a lack of planning and information available during the meeting for both the board and citizens to consider. The stated that Sisson himself noted he hadn’t done a preliminary and was unable to give specifics on how many homes he was building.
Sisson replied saying, “As far as a plan stating exactly how many houses that would be put on this piece of property, it would be impossible to determine until we know if we’re able to get the zoning.”
One speaker spoke to how Sisson has improved and bettered areas of the county. Sisson himself later added that he would be aiding in tourism which has been one of the county’s greatest sources of income.
Board discussion spoke about the differences in the two applications and the involvement of animals and going from Agriculture to Residential and inversely. Mooney stated in response to the comparisons, “It is a different situation. But that was one of the factors that played in my decision. It wasn’t the only factor, it wasn’t the main factor. There were several factors that weighed in. I try to take in all the factors and weigh those.”
The board also noted several access points would allow the traffic disbursement to spread along different roads. Mooney also noted that it would be ideal for every citizen to be able to afford 100 acres to build on. He said it isn’t practical, though. He stated, “With the smaller tracts, you’re putting people in homes that probably couldn’t afford them if they were bigger tracts.”
However, several citizens noted after the meeting that Mooney was off-base in his comments as he was speaking of homes for people to live in that couldn’t afford larger homes while Sisson specifically noted in the beginning that he was building vacation homes and second homes and later noted he wanted to aid in tourism. Citizens were angered by the unanimous approval of the development in the meeting.
Kimberly Reckles, an attendee to the meeting, later commented on social media saying, “I still cannot wrap my head around why they denied a young family a zoning variance — from R-1 to Ag-1 — to build themselves a private hobby farm, but approved a variance from Ag1 to R-1 for Sisson to build a 50 lot subdivision in the middle of agriculturally zoned land.”
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – “We will shift our focus away from contact tracing and quarantine to monitoring children for signs of illness,” says a new statement from Gilmer County Schools as the announcement comes today that COVID response and state guidelines are changing again. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley said it was a return to focusing on educating kids in school and not being an “arbiter of quarantines.”
Dr. Ridley sent the letter out with this statement today, notifying the community of the change. He added that he wants to be a partner with parents in their care for their children.
Ridley noted that the change is coming after the governor and the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced changes in their guidelines for COVID response,acknowledging the hardships that families have had due to quarantines on any possible exposure.
Now, instead of instantly quarantining students who have been around others in school who have tested positive, they will be allowed to stay in class while being “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask. His letter this morning stated 10 days, but Dr. Ridley said that continued updates have made that a misprint as the schools will be encouraging mask usage for 5 days.
Additionally, the statement extended this same change to those currently in quarantine due to exposure. While the last update on the school systems website noted 77 students currently in quarantine, Dr. Ridley said this number is not up to date with these changes as well as another set of changes to guidelines that the schools just received last Thursday.
The school system will continue notifying parents when their students have been exposed and will be sending out letters “notifying you that your child was in class, on the bus, participated in a sport, etc. with a positive case just as we do with any other communicable disease.”
As such, some tracing will still be done with this new response as the school is still asking parents to monitor their children and notify the school if they test positive. Dr. Ridley stated, “We will continue to notify DPH when a notifiable disease is reported and alert DPH of concerns with clusters and outbreaks which may require immediate public health intervention.”
But this isn’t contact tracing as it has been in the last year, these notifications will not continue for those that have been around someone who was around someone who was exposed to a student that tested positive.
The school system is asking parents to continue monitoring your child each morning before sending them to school. They also noted that students showing any signs of the virus or any illness should not be sent to school.
The school system is also taking extra steps for parents in understanding the change or with further needs as Ridley’s statement asked parents to contact their student’s school if they have any concerns of if their child might need extra help for a medical vulnerability.
Superintendent Ridley did confirm that he had discussed the new response individually with members of the Board of Education before implementing them. While he said they mostly agreed with the new format, he did confirm that the board could still add or reinstate any extra steps and precautions should they feel the need arises.
The school system had just posted recent changes on January 4, 2022, with updates from over the December break, but the state is already updating new changes with this today. Dr. Ridley also said in his letter, “While the constant change in guidance has been frustrating at times, we want to thank our Gilmer County families for their support throughout this pandemic. We hope that with the help of our parents, we can even more effectively monitor students for symptoms while also meeting the new DPH standard of keeping healthy students in class.”
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – A new statement from the National Weather Service has authorities in Gilmer County returning to caution and delaying schedules tomorrow in addition to early closures today.
Statements from the Gilmer County Courthouse and Gilmer County Schools have reported early closures for today. Both ended the day two hours early, roughly 3 p.m. for the county and 1 p.m. for schools. However, in addition to early closures both have issued statements for tomorrow, Friday, January 7, 2022. This is the second time this week that winter weather has caused a delay for the county.
The statement from the courthouse said, “The Gilmer County Courthouse will be closing at 3:00PM today and will delay opening tomorrow until 10:00AM due to incoming winter weather events that we anticipate will make driving difficult and perhaps dangerous.”
The statement from Gilmer Schools said, “Tonight’s weather forecast is predicting some severe Winter weather in the Northern end of Georgia, including parts of Gilmer. Therefore, the Gilmer County Schools will operate on a 2-hour delay on Friday January 7th, 2022.”
The National Weather service stated, “A strong cold front will bring cold and windy conditions to much of north Georgia tonight into Friday morning. Northwest winds of 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph this evening will gradually decrease overnight. However, with the very cold, sub-freezing temperatures, wind chill values will fall into the teens across north Georgia with readings in the single digits in the mountains.”
Closures and delays are not the only response coming through as Gilmer Public Safety is also responding to the extremely low temperatures by opening the Civic Center Warming Center. They said, “The Warming Shelter at the Civic Center – 1561 S. Main St. – will be open today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) from 5:00 PM to 7:00 AM for all those in need of protection from freezing temperatures. Visitors are asked to bring a bedroll if available. Pets are welcome.”
With slight rain today in areas of the county, some estimation totals have reached between a quarter and half of an inch possible. Lows are estimated between 17 and 20 degrees just before dawn. Some forecasts have even set the wind chill down to single digits in the area.
Gilmer is along the southernmost reach of the Winter Weather Advisories reach across the entire northern tip of Georgia coming from the front of “arctic air.”
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Schools and the Gilmer courthouse are both delaying this morning’s start in favor of caution as reports of snow in the forecast have come over recent days.
The National Weather Service has both a winter storm warning in effect until 9 a.m. for Murray, Fannin, Gilmer, Union and Towns Counties and a Wind Advisory between 15 and 25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph for most of North Georgia until noon.
Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley said, “The weather forecast for our area indicates that winter weather will likely occur overnight in the Northern part of the county which could potentially create hazardous road conditions in the morning. As a precaution, our Professional Learning Day will be delayed two hours. Staff should report at 10:00 a.m.”
Dr. Ridley said nothing about further delays or any other effects. The district calendar is still set for students return on Wednesday, January 5, 2022.
The courthouse has also issued the same delay for employees, opting for the later start and allowing a few hours of sun.
Concerns raised for the day were not of snow or buildup, but instead the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office specifically noted black ice as a major concern.
According to a special weather statement shared by the Sheriff’s Office, “As the rain exits the region this evening cold air will filter into the are quickly behind the rainfall… many area roads and bridges will not have an opportunity to dry off and subsequently have an opportunity to freeze overnight and into the early AM resulting in areas of black ice.”
With no expectation of continuing weather throughout the day, most warning and advisories are ending before or at noon. Citizens should still exercise caution after the delay when traveling to work and be aware of the roads as they continue improving.
Temperatures are still ranging in the 20’s and 30’s so those in the higher elevations of the county could see worse conditions lingering throughout the day.
At the 11th hour today, on this 11th day of this 11th month, a tradition continued for many citizens, a tradition of honor and recognition. This Veteran’s Day celebrates those veterans who have served in our armed forces.
Keeping the tradition of the signing of the armistice of World War I, the recognition in Ellijay began at 11 a.m., the eleventh hour. And today saw smiles and laughter, hugs amongst friends and family, and the honoring of our soldiers. It came from both loved ones and strangers. It came in the musical celebrations and the solemn prayers. It came in the casual handshakes and thanks and the rigid codes and regulations.
As a community, many traditions were honored at the Veteran’s Day gathering at the Ellijay Lion’s Club Fairgrounds. Traditions like the GHS Band playing “Salute to the Armed Forces” and singing “God Bless the USA.” There were newer additions like the PGBC Trio under direction of Doug Lee.
Most of the morning was saturated in familiar songs patriotically honoring the country and its defenders. Jeannette Kelly sang our National Anthem, Scott Eaton sang “God Bless the USA,” and the EES Chorus under direction of Katie Mayfield and GHS Chorus under direction of Hannah Carter sang together and each on their own.
A celebration as a community, incorporating veterans and civilians, students and adults, and young and older, becomes more meaningful. Watching members of the 507th Civil Air Patrol post the colors and deliver the memorial wreath beneath the American Flag instills pride as they work to make their moves precise, giving reverence to the soldiers who have done it before them.
Listening to bagpipes play Amazing Grace is an amazing sound, but speaking with the man playing them, George McClellan, you gain insight on just how hard it is to play and handle the instrument. Couple this with his formal uniform, complete with kilt and sporran, and it gives a small glimpse into the dedication that men and women give to this celebration.
Incorporating the entirety of the community not only shows our thanks but teaches future generations how important this day is to us. It may seem convenient to award the poster and essay winners from the schools during this ceremony, but it may be the day to show support for these students, especially in the higher grades. Some of these students are now considering and talking with recruiters about joining the military themselves.
Marie Wych and SMSgt Sam Burrell, Retired USAF, pose with winners of the Poster contests and the Essay contests. Pictured from left to right on back row, Marie Wych, 12th Grade Essay Winner Reagan Boling, 11th Grade Essay Winner Sawyer Wishon, 10th Grade Essay Winner Lucy Ray, 9th Grade Essay Winner Tony Gonzalez, and SMSgt Sam Burrell.
Pictured from left to right on front row, 5th Grade Poster Winner Mattelyn Jones and 3rd Grade Poster Winner Olivia Steingruber.
Not Pictured, 8th Grade Essay Winner Tabitha Hunter, 7th Grade Essay Winner Bayleigh Jasinski, 6th Grade Essay Winner Payton Headricks, and 4th Grade Poster Winner Lissette Garcia.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – The Sheriff’s Office is asking citizens to be diligent this week as October has seen a string of thefts involving specific equipment.
According to a recent post by the Sheriff’s Office, October has seen “several thefts” that have been some type of heavy equipment including tractors and trailers. One citizen noted her husband’s work truck was recently stolen, the work truck including a dumping bed. Additionally two excavator buckets were also stolen.
The Sheriff’s Office has not specified any specific details on any thefts, but has noted that the heavy equipment connection. They also asked citizens to take specific note of their equipment just in case something happens.
They stated, “If you own equipment, please keep note of the brand, model, serial/VIN # and any distinctive identifying markings.”
Citizens should also take extra precautions at this time with any equipment like this. Securing vehicles, tractors, trailers, and even potentially bobcats and attachments for anything like this.
The Sheriff’s Office has not disclosed what possible connections these thefts could have either with each other or any possible connections with any other illegal activities within the county.
Citizens have already started conversations and sharing information and looking for ways to aid neighbors. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office has asked that any citizens you may have any information about stolen equipment, “Please call Detective Henson or Detective Sippel in the Criminal Investigations Division at 706-635-4646 or 706-635-8911 after normal business hours. If you see any suspicious activity, call 911 immediately.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Receiving their Audit Report, Gilmer County saw a generally good audit, with most portions finding no deficiencies and the company delivering a “clean, unmodified opinion.”
According to the Rushton audit report, the county’s general Audit Opinion Letter reported as clean and unmodified, meaning that the company’s opinion is that financial statements were fairly stated and had no issue.
Delving into the audit and breaking down the county’s position saw several different points of financial interest along with comments on one area.
Despite the COVID Outbreaks and issues, the audit reveals increases in the county’s unrestricted funds showcasing that even though the virus and issues occurred, Gilmer saw an increase in spending and in areas like the Hotel/Motel Tax.
Gilmer already noticed the trend last year as research done on the SPLOST Tax during the COVID outbreak showed surprising increases in June and July of 2020. This was surprising because the county halted capital spending earlier in 2020 and many locals saw businesses closing due to the virus. However, those that did stay open saw an influx of people. Many attributed the influx to visitors to the county attempting to flee the major cities during the worst parts of the the COVID shutdown.
There were increases in costs according to the audit, some of the larger ones came through Fire and Road Departments, but saw slight decreases in other areas like the Detention Center.
According to Chris Hollifield, who presented the Audit Report on behalf of Rushton, the county increased in “unassigned fund balance” from $6.3 million to $10.2 million. Hollifield said, “That’s about 5.5 months of our expenditures for 2020. So, when you think about the health of the county, where should we be? We expect to be three to four months minimum… We have those ‘reserves,’ if you will, to carry forward to the next year’s budget.”
These reserves have been brought up in Audits over the years as important items. Auditors relayed that they registered the balance by months of expenditures because they saw that if something dire happened and no revenue comes in, then the county could cover its costs for the stated number of months.
Hollifield said the county has done a good job getting to this point as he could remember in the past when the county could not achieve that reserve.
The audit also noted that the county received support in its funding. Some of the funding for expenditures and capital outlays came through the CARES Act funds.
With another letter on internal control matters, laws compliance, grants and debts agreements. The audit report noted five deficiencies and two non-compliance including one overbudget and timing on payouts. The comments seemed to revolve around deposits’ timing. Though Hollifield noted that some considerations could be made for COVID delaying certain things, they noted that deposits were not made weekly like they, the audit company, would have liked to seen.
The Audit also noted no findings or issues in the handling of government funding like in the CARES Act. As the county handled the governement funds and they exceeded $750,000, Hollifield said this isn’t a usual report for the county, but was required specifically because the total amount of funding exceeded that limit.