Authorities offer statement to warn of possible severe weather conditions

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – The National Weather Service (NWS), Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), and Gilmer County Public Safety are alerting citizens to a possible hazardous weather condition over the coming weekend.

According to the statement released, areas of North Georgia could see increased risks of Flooding “Saturday night through Tuesday.” Public Safety told FYN that they receive their information directly from and work closely with these agencies like GEMA in preparing and readying the local response.

Authorities over the North Georgia Region are currently looking for more information to better estimate the exact amount of rainfall. The current information predicts between 3 and 7 inches of rainfall but the NWS did say there remains a large amount of uncertainty regarding the rainfall totals.

The NWS stated, “The combination of a Gulf tropical low and a cold front will create a one-two punch for Georgia beginning late Saturday and continuing through Tuesday. There remains a good deal of model uncertainty with the timing and coverage of the heaviest precipitation and changes to the forecast rainfall totals can be expected with subsequent forecast packages.”

GEMA’s release was also shared by local Public Safety as they are attempting to give citizens information about the possibility. The release stated, “The highest amounts of 5 to 7 inches are expected over portions of north and northeast Georgia where the topography will enhance rainfall activity.”

Part of the reason for concern comes as the recent storms in the area have kept streamflow normal at most river gage locations. The heat and dryness could help soil absorb some rain, but “persistent heavy rainfall over an area will create runoff issues quickly, especially across urban areas and north Georgia’s complex terrain.”

With this advisory, authorities are suggesting that people consider the possibility and prepare by cleaning drainage systems on or around their homes and property. As Gilmer is heavily rural, quickly accumulating rainfall can also produce widespread flooding of smaller, fast-responding creeks in the area.

Stay alert to changing forecasts. “A Flash Flood or Flood Watch may be issued for portions of north and central Georgia in the next 24 to 48 hours if forecast totals remain similar.”

Gilmer has had a number of devastating storms in recent years, many locals know which creeks and rivers will rapidly rise, for those aware and those unaware, Public Safety is sharing information at this point to keep citizens from potentially being caught off guard.

Grease fire shuts down Hardee’s in East Ellijay

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Hardee

ELLIJAY, Ga. – According to witnesses, the Hardee’s in East Ellijay on Industrial Blvd suffered a fire in the early hours of today, November 25, 2020.

While it is unclear if anyone was hurt by the fire, there appears to be no major damage to the exterior. However, it is our current understanding that the fire forced the restaurant to close for the day.

FYN has reached out to Gilmer County’s Public Safety and Gilmer Fire for details and is currently awaiting more information about the incident. FYN has been told that the fire started in the grease trap, but Gilmer Fire has not confirmed this.

Authorities were on scene this morning, but have since left the location.

 

Public safety hazard pay motion dies on the table

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga – After a heated discussion concerning hazard pay for first responders, sheriff’s office, and EMS, the motion to approve $500 in funds failed to receive a vote.

Chairman Stan Helton didn’t accept the motion made by Post One Earl Johnson. The Chairman preferred to wait until a new board took office and let them handle the hazard pay matter.

“Nobody was going to be completely happy…and you’re this close to the end of the year. If someone gets bonus pay now, in a few months, they’ll have to pay taxes on it. After the first of the year, you’ll have a new board, you can sit down…Nobody is disputing the danger and dedication to this stuff,” Helton stated. “I’m through with the hazard pay thing.”

Previously, the Fannin Board of Commissioners had tabled the issue until more information became available or until the new administration took office in January 2021. In a last-minute move, Post Two Glenn Patterson asked for hazard pay and the White Path building to be included in the November meeting.

“They run toward the COVID while we try to stay away from it as much as they can, but when they took that job, they didn’t realize all the extra danger,” Patterson said. “I can’t believe we can’t find an extra $100 a month to give to these guys and ladies.”

Post One Earl Johnson expressed that he wasn’t for or against hazard pay and how he knew it would be a can-of-worms when first discussed months earlier. He wanted to know what the county could do legally before passing a measure.

“I asked Mrs. Doss what we can legally get,” Johnson said, “I don’t want people to misconstrue the fact and think that I don’t want people to get hazard pay. I wanted to find out what we can do legally.”

County Attorney Lynn Doss said, “There are certain categories that we know can be paid, which are first responders, the people that fall under sheriff’s office and emergency management services.”

She felt comfortable with offering hazard pay to that group of people.

County Attorney Lynn Doss

“The only decision I’m going to make is one that she feels confident is not going to come back in the future,” Johnson added. He wanted to ensure that the state doesn’t deny the county’s expense.

These individuals can receive hazard pay for their service during COVID-19, and Fannin County can apply to be reimbursed for this expense through the CARES Act. Department heads and elected officials are not eligible.

The earlier amount discussed for the public safety employees was $500 in hazard pay.

“I’m fine with the $500, and I’m fine with paying it to whoever we can legally pay with no future ramifications to this board,” Johnson stated.

Patterson then put the ball in Johnson’s court, saying he would second the motion if Johnson put it forth. Patterson was the commissioner who wanted to discuss the topic. However, Helton never asked for a motion.

“My concern on this hazard pay thing…is I don’t think you’re going to do anything other than create dissension with people. However, if you two gentlemen feel that we need to do $500 for whatever group that you want to make a motion,” Helton asserted. “It’s not an issue of what disserve is, but I feel at this point, I don’t want to make any decisions that don’t have to be made right now. I’m not going to do anything that hurts the new administration.”

Fannin received $1.3 million in CARES Act Funding. According to CFO Robin Gazaway, if the county included hazard pay and the other COVID-19 expenses, it would leave approximately $600,000.

Around 100 people would receive the intended hazard pay.

At a previous meeting, EMA Director Robert Graham and Fire Chief Larry Thomas presented a breakdown of the amount of hazard pay per call for volunteers. The county could choose to include or exclude volunteers.

After another five minutes of discussion, Patterson backed down from making a motion, but Johnson decided to go ahead with the measure.

“I make a motion that we pay $500 to every first responder that the county attorney Lynn Doss outlines are eligible to receive it,” Johnson said.

“With the numbers that have been thrown out here, the kind of expense that is, no. The only motion I want to ask for is one to adjourn this meeting,” Helton finalized

According to the document on the ACCG website, published on August 17, 2020, hazard pay is 100 percent reimbursable for public health and public safety employees. However, hazard pay can’t be retroactively awarded. Therefore, if a county paid a few months of hazardous duty pay to public safety and then discontinued it because of lack of funds or never paid hazardous duty pay because of lack of funds, they can’t retroactively pay it for part or all of the time period.

The document also outlines that “Treasury guidance allows state and local governments to presume that 100 percent of public safety payroll costs are dedicated to COVID-19 response during the eligible spending period to streamline the administrative burden of accounting for expenses.”

Public safety employees include EMS, first responders, firefighters, or locally paid emergency medical personnel.

As for detention center or jailers, ACCG lists: “Yes, Treasury guidance provides that jail and detention center staff performing a substantially different role due to social distancing enforcement or additional sanitizing requirements would be eligible for CRF funding.”

County employees not eligible are administrative staff unless job duties are substantially different. Teleworking isn’t a reimbursable expense.

Community Paramedicine meets students in schools

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Paramedicine

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – As many are beginning to talk about the possibility of returning to school, some are still attempting to wrap up the previous year.

Paramedicine

Members of Gilmer’s Community Paramedicine offer masks and informational flyers for students and parents in schools.

In Gilmer, part of that process occurred this week as students returned to the buildings to collect left-behind belongings. Planned in April, the Board of Education and Superintendent had the day set in order to offer a better sense of closure to the school year as the virus ended normal classes mid-semester. But as they returned, they were met by some unexpected people.

Gilmer County’s Public Safety offered a statement today saying. “It’s nearly school-time with many preparations underway. Part of those preparations is helping our kids understand the importance of good health practices. Gilmer County Community Paramedicine, with the generosity of Parkside Ellijay Nursing Home, paired together for a fun project this week at our elementary and middle schools.”

Paramedicine

Students returned to school this week to collect belongings, but were met with Gilmer’s Community Paramedics offering a community support service during this time of viral outbreak.

The project was to meet students in the schools and hand out face masks and flyers. According to Public Safety, the Community Paramedicine team visited three of our schools across the county supplied with the generous donation of 1,000 face-covering masks donated by Parkside Ellijay, and 1,000 informational flyers in English and Spanish.

The team handed out all the masks and 700 of the flyers to students and parents who arrived over the three-day period to collect their end-of 2019 school year belongings.

Public Safety was grateful for its partners in the endeavor, saying, “Many thanks to Michael Feist, Director & Part-Owner of Parkside Ellijay for the wonderful donation of the face covering masks, and to Dr. Shanna Downs, School Superintendent, for allowing our Community Paramedicine team to conduct this very successful service to our school children.”

Public Safety opens shelter amid storm

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Ravaged by a storm across North Georgia, counties across the region are responding tonight to provide for citizens as best as possible.

The Gilmer County Public Safety Department has enacted plans late this evening due to the storm.

A shelter has been opened for anyone displaced from their home, or otherwise needing a place to stay. The shelter is located at the Civic Center, 1561 S Main St.

Much of Gilmer County suffered high winds and heavy rainfall throughout the night. Outages for Amicalola alone reached a total outages number between 11,000 and 12,000. The vast majority of those were in Gilmer County, reading 7,210 just before 3:00 a.m. according to their site.

Families sheltered in bathrooms and safe zones just after 1:00 a.m. as emergency warnings and tv weather reports urged immediate action with a tornado warning.

While downed trees, power lines, and other wind damage have already been reported from the storm, no reports on any extreme damage have been seen yet.

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