FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. – Two approvals came for Public Works this week as the Fannin County Board of Commissioners discussed LMIG bids and equipment during their August 23, 2022, meeting.
Tabled from their previous meeting in order to hear more information from their Public Works Director, the BOC returned to the item with Johnson Paving’s bid for Cutcane Road and Friendship Road at $1,387,937. C.W. Matthews’ bid for the same roads was $1,683,465. Colwell Construction Company’s bid, also for the same roads, was $1,852,503.
Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff was unable to be at the current meeting, but Commission Chairman Jamie Hensley said he had talked with Ratcliff about the bids to make sure it was “apples to apples comparisons.” With his assurance that it was, the Chairman said Ratcliff’s recommendation was to go with the low bid of Johnson Paving. Hensley then made that motion, seconded by Post Commissioner Johnny Scearce. The board unanimously approved Johnson Paving for the LMIG bid.
Afterwards, staying on the topic of Public Works, the board discussed two new pieces of equipment for the county’s new trucks in the department. Hensley said that the equipment is salt spreaders to slide into the back of those pickups to be used for quicker access and salt spreading in the winter. With each spreader costing $7,354 each, the board approved purchasing both spreaders.
Scearce commented saying, “We bought the trucks didn’t we? Might as well buy the things that goes in them.”
Unanimous approval came for $14,708 for two SaltDogg Pro Series Salt and Sand Spreaders to be paid for out of SPLOST.
Additionally, the meeting also saw the Board of Commissioners change the implementation date on a former ordinance about alarm systems in the county. Hensley stated that providers have asked to extend the time before implementation from September 1 to October 1, 2022. Approved last month, no motion came from the board, but Hensley stated that he wanted to let them know they will be delaying implementation until October 1, 2022.
FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. – Set to take effect in September, Fannin County approved its new Alarm Ordinance in June 2022, but indicated the wrong draft in the official motion. July saw the board rectify this with a new motion indicating the intended draft of the ordinance for use.
The ordinance had noted changes between the drafts. Fannin Board of Commissioners (BOC) Chairman Jamie Hensley stated that there were originally three drafts being considered.
With 377 alarms coming to the Sheriff’s Office during 2022 in Fannin County at the end of June, the county, Hensley said only two of the alarms “were legit.” One of the major changes noted in the meeting was that alarms without verification will not see law enforcement dispatched to locations. Hensley read the highlighted change stating, “The alarm activation alone, without verification, will not be dispatched for law enforcement response.”
Hensley said that a call from homeowners or those with visuals alongside the alarm activation could be that verification. Later, the board also noted that verification could be a separate entry notification after the first in a different area of the home. It could also be cameras on site providing the verification. Additionally, Hensley noted that law enforcement will not respond to non-permitted residential burglar alarms.
Further in the new draft, speaking to alarm companies it is noted, “Failure to provide verification within 24 hours of dispatching law enforcement could result in the placement of the residence on a do-not-respond list.”
Post Commissioner Glenn Patterson stated, “Basically, it puts the responsibility back, to some extent, on the the person that’s getting the alarm. We decided to do that due to the very high number of police dispatches that has went out there.”
The commissioners noted that many alarms like this come from animals like squirrels or renters who are staying at the locations. Post Commissioner Johnny Scearce said many places have alarms continuously going off from simple things like wind blowing and rattling doors or windows. Some people even tell you they aren’t coming to a rental residence after so many alarm activations.
Hensley assured citizens saying, “If somebody needs law enforcement, they’re going to come.” He also went on to note that this only changes for law enforcement. Fire alarms and medical emergencies will still respond to all alarms.
The county also set up a fine for false alarms beginning at third dispatches. There are no charges for first and second false alarms. However, there is a $100 fine for failure to register alarm systems. With the third false alarm response within a permit year will see a $150 fine. The fourth false alarm will be $250. The fifth false alarm within at permit year will be fined $500.
The draft was approved unanimously by the board.
FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. – With previously approved expenditures coming back to the county with changes, Fannin County approved two major increases to planned expenditures this month through the Library and the Public Safety Department.
Fannin County has celebrated a state grant in support of building a new library within the county. Even hosting House Speaker David Ralston at the more recent announcement of an increase to that grant. This month saw the Board of Commissioners return to that agenda item to adopt the official resolution to increase the county’s expenditures to match the doubled grant amount.
That amount from the state was originally set at $1.3 million and has since doubled to $2.6 million. Now, with this approval the county has officially increased its match from the original $650,000 to $1.3 million. Approved unanimously by the Board of Commissioners, this agenda item solidified the county’s final commitment to the project increase.
Within the Public Safety a Ford F250 pickup truck hasn’t been received from the dealership one year after its order. Approved on June 22, 2021, the order for a new truck in the department still hasn’t come in at the end of July 2022. Furthermore, according to EMA Director Robert Graham, it could be very late this year or even next year before its even in production as he has been told by the dealership.
To answer the immediate need, the department has found another vehicle, a 2022 Chevrolet 2500 Heavy Duty Crew Cab Truck. With rising costs of materials and shortages on supplies in the nation, prices have continued to rise since the original trucks order, though. The Ford was ordered for a price of $32,789.64. The new vehicle, the chevrolet, has already been produced and is for sale for $54,000.
The departments current vehicle in use has over 179,000 miles and needs replacing. Graham told the Board of Commissioners that it is run every day for medical and fire calls. The vehicle responds out of Station 1.
Director Graham is requesting that the county use SPLOST to purchase the Chevy for use, but not instead of the Ford F250. Graham stated, “We will never get another new vehicle at that price. I suggest we leave it on order to come in next year or something for future use. At $32,000, you’re not going to get a three-quarter-ton pickup for that price anymore. As long as we keep it on order, they’ll have to hold to that price.”
The troubles continue as the department also looks ahead to future orders as Graham reported that Chevrolet opened to receive “fleet orders” for only four hours on one day and will not accept any more orders again until next year.
The county approved the request for expenditures from SPLOST to cover an extra $54,000 on top of last year’s approved purchase and is looking to continue along with the previous order as requested, although some early discussion came that the Ford truck could be used in another department if a major need arises before it is delivered. Even if production does start on the vehicle in late 2022, the county could still see delivery not coming until 2023.
FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. – Members of the state legislature, local governments, Governor Brian Kemp, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston, and many others joined in celebration at the campus of the University of North Georgia today as the governor signed Georgia’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget.
Called a “historic budget” by several speakers, the day saw specific highlights and history for Fannin County and North Georgia. Alongside restorations of austerities for teachers and over $218 million for a cost of living adjustment for full-time employees in the University System of Georgia, this budget holds $2.6 million in funding for Fannin County’s standalone library and $13 million in funding for an expansion of the Blue Ridge campus of the University of North Georgia. This combines with an additional $2 million in the amended Fiscal Year 2022 budget for a total of $15 million to expand the Blue Ridge campus.
These major projects coming specifically to Fannin will see gains along all of the counties along the Highway 515 corridor as the large majority of students who attend the University of North Georgia come from those counties according to Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Campus of UNG, Sandy Ott.
Speaker of the House, David Ralston stated that it was difficult to find support and funding for these projects. Though, he noted that it wasn’t a matter of a number of different projects, but of the amount the state is committing to support these projects. Ralston said he is happy with the work they did on including these in the budget and also for the opportunity to hold the signing ceremony in his home of Fannin stating, “I think it says a lot about Fannin County. It’s for the county, it has nothing to do with me. I just couldn’t be more proud. The whole state is here today. The whole state is looking at us today and it’s a good place to be.”
UNG President Bonita Jacobs also addressed how important this budget is for the University of North Georgia’s capabilities. The said the expansion project will allow better access. Jacobs noted that one capacity increase will be for more community events as she said, “I feel very strongly that the campus needs to be very tied into the community and very welcoming to the community. Right now we’re so tight for space. But we’ll have an auditorium, we’ll have an outdoor amphitheater that we can host or the city can come in and work with us and be available.”
Tied into the community has been a key phrase in the evolution of the University of North Georgia in Blue Ridge. With the groundbreaking ceremony of the current campus having only occurred in 2018 when Ralston helped secure $5.5 million for the new Blue Ridge Campus in the 2019 fiscal year budget. Now the state is committing to aid in the expansion of that same campus. Jacobs noted one of the areas that will be aided by the expansion includes medical courses. She stated, “We will be able to add more labs and expand our nursing program and to create much needed nurses for this regions.”
Governor Kemp also asserted the importance of education, health, and the care for citizens both physically and mentally as he spoke about the budget. Kemp stated, “This budget improves both the quality and access to education across the board. Between the amended budget I signed earlier and this one, we are investing more per K through 12 student than ever before in the history of our state.”
Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor, Geoff Duncan also praised both the budget and the investments into education like the UNG expansion saying, “I am certainly, personally, grateful for the effort and focus in this year’s budget on a couple of those initiatives that we have worked hard on in the Senate over the last few years. One is, I want to chase this dream of being the technology capital of the east coast. Certainly, a facility like this allows us to take on that and educate the 21st century global economy right here.
Kemp said after the ceremony that he has pushed for ways to aid Georgians in fighting the inflation and economic stress of the current presidency. Kemp stated, “What we’ve done at the state level, in conjunction with the Speaker, the Lt. Governor, and the Legislature, is try to give Georgians the ability to fight through 40-year high Biden inflation that we’re seeing right now because of bad policies.” Kemp noted the additional tax return money, cutting the fuel tax, and waiving some limits on trucks to help with supply chain issues as just a few of those efforts.
Alongside these statewide effects and reach of the signing ceremony for the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, the “historic day for Fannin County,” as Ralston called it, represents a commitment to the county for improving education at all levels, through the university expansion and support for the library in the city of Blue Ridge. Ralstion’s support for the expansion of the campus comes not only as a representative of the district in Georgia, but as an alumnus of the University of North Georgia.
The sentiment of the historic nature of the day for Fannin was echoed by many of the college’s representatives including Sandy Ott who said, “We are so thankful for Speaker Ralston’s support of this campus and University to allow us the opportunity to have this impact locally. Speaker Ralston is a tremendous supporter and his support is going to make a difference for students and their families in the community for years.”
Fannin County, Ga. – Hosted by the Fannin County Chamber and CVB, April’s Candidates forum saw more absentees than attendees on Monday, April 25, 2022. Less than half of the candidates running for office attended with the largest missing portion coming from the District 9 Representatives.
In the United States House of Representatives race for the 9th Congressional District, only Gregory Howard was able to attend the forum. Offering his three minute opening statement, Howard spoke on liberties and the assaults they have endured.
Howard stated, “I’ve been asked why do I want to be in congress and the very simple answer is this, to advance my work in restoring our lost freedoms and the God-given rights bestowed on behalf of the citizens in our U.S. Constitution.”
After his opening statement, the event did not move into forum, but instead moved on to the Board of Education’s contested seat. With Clarence “Junior” Farmer unable to attend due to spinal surgery, only Debi Holcomb and incumbent Bobby Bearden spoke in the forum.
Holcomb focused on state issues that the county is facing saying that she is ready and willing to take her shot to make a difference for families in the county and be more transparent while looking to oppose state oversight in the county level. Through her experience as a mom with kids in the schools, Holcomb said that she has attended meetings of the school board and has worked in county government before.
Holcomb also spoke on compensation for teachers and time off during COVID through stay-at-home orders and her feelings towards retaining teachers in the school and losing the experience of those long-time teachers. She stated, “One of the most important things that our students need is teachers who are happy to be here and are happy to be teaching them, teachers that care. Our teachers do care, but they are not getting what they need and it’s hard for them to get the students what they need.”
Bearden is the incumbent of the office. He said he is proud of Fannin County Schools and that the school system is doing very well in current times. Holding to his participation in the school board through their efforts and what he referred to as successes over the years. Bearden said he is for the children and the taxpayers as a board member and pointed to his record as proof of the board’s forward motion and cooperation with other government entities to provide for the citizens of the county.
The teachers became a topic discussed over several questions as Bearden replied in another question that Fannin never furloughed like other places. He said, “We’ve always paid our teachers 190 days if I’m not mistaken. As far as I know, we take care of our teachers.”
Bearden said that his heart is in the school system and in the kids and that the school system is doing very well. He quoted an old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Moving into the Post 2 Commissioner’s race candidates, Glenn Patterson, Larry Joe Sosebee, and Anita L. Weaver were present for the forum. Greg Staffins was absent due to allergies and Larry Syputa was absent due to a car accident. All three candidates supported the idea for a community center with meeting space, which was the Post 2 Commissioners opening question. With all three agreeing, the only question on each candidate’s mind was how to fund it and where to put it?
Patterson is the incumbent in the office. He noted successes in the county and its growth under the current leadership saying that projects like the recent announcement of a standalone library were proof of continued efforts and cooperation among state and local entities. He spoke about service to the citizens and continuing to pursue things like those he already has in his current term including paying off the courthouse, maintaining roads and bridges, protecting gun rights through resolutions like the second amendment sanctuary, improving public safety services, and improving broadband service among others.
Patterson spoke on affordable housing as a tough topic. He stated that the county needs to tackle the issue as it is facing many surrounding counties as well. He noted some hesitation in taking grants and state funds due to strings attached with many of those options. He said the county is already looking at ordinances and are working towards a type of solution. He spoke about town hall meetings and incorporating ideas from citizens on the issue. He said the topic is very difficult as he wants to support those people living here that are builders and that is how they make a living while also supporting citizens on the other side who view the continuing developments as a negative. He said he could see it both ways.
Sosebee was the Post 2 Commissioner in Fannin from 2010 to 2018. He also spoke on projects he was a part of saying that he would continue to work for Fannin County as it is dear to his heart. Increasing economic growth through new commercial businesses and jobs alongside financial responsibility through refinancing the courthouse were two examples he gave.
Touching on the topic of affordable housing, Sosebee noted the topic gains extra stress from rising costs of lumber and other building materials. He later added that despite the costs, he definitely believes the county has a problem with overdevelopment. Addressing the issue is a process as Sosebee said one option to help in controlling growth could involve a moratorium on the building of major subdivisions in some way. He noted that the need was present and a long term solution could likely involve moratoriums in some way whether short or long term.
Weaver is Chairman of the Fannin County Water Authority. Born and raised in Fannin County, she is also a retired Vice President from United Community Bank. She stated she is running to help save the county from what is happening to it.
With concern over the issue of water, Weaver is hoping to look into better supplies for water to the whole county. She said she wants to work with the cities to find ways to cooperate on water authority access and service to all citizens as many use insufficient wells or have too many families on the same well. The growth also pressures the water needs. With affordable housing and the county’s grown being specific questions asked in the forum, Weaver also suggested restrictions on building projects such as subdivisions through lot sizes or lot numbers. She agreed that overdevelopment is an issue and spoke on options like zoning as a possible answer. She noted that many may cringe at the topic of zoning specifically but insisted that the county needs to come together over the issue for a common solution.
FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. – A special called meeting that was held as a joint meeting between the Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) and the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) also saw special guest David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives to announce a new public library to be constructed.
An unprecedented time as both Speaker Ralston and County Attorney Lynn Doss called it, the joint meeting is the beginning of a major, multi-million dollar project for Fannin County.
The meeting proceeded as the Fannin BOE made a motion and approval to donate land to the Board of Commissioners for the sole purpose of constructing a new public library. The BOE has purchased property from the United States Forestry Service near Blue Ridge Dam in order to construct two new facilities for the school system. The BOE is currently constructing a staff development center there that will be the new home for staff working out of the building at 2290 East First Street.
Because of this, the property at 2290 East First Street, soon to be empty with the move, has been donated to the county for a new library. The property, adjacent to Fannin High School, will be 0.85 acres in total. Though the project was described as a standalone library, there are no current designs for the building. Both the BOE’s motion to donate and the BOC’s motion to accept the land came with unanimous approvals of the present members of these boards.
Speaker Ralston said that a standalone library has been on the community wish list for many years. He stated, “I want to commend both the Board of Education and the Commissioners for this arrangement which will now expedite this project. The project is a result of cooperative efforts between the Fannin County Board of Education, the Fannin County Commission, and the state of Georgia.”
Ralston noted that the general assembly’s budget is providing funding for part of the library project. The state’s commitment totals $2.6 million as Ralston stated, “The budget that we just passed this past session in the general assembly provided for an additional $1.3 million specified for this project. That goes with the $1.3 million that had been appropriated back two or three budget cycles ago.”
The county can begin planning but will not break ground or start construction until after the BOE faculty have moved to their new facility when construction is complete. Due to this, County Attorney Lynn Doss said there isn’t a start date for the project. She went on to add that the contract has a provision that if the property ever ceases to be a library, it will revert back to Board of Education ownership.
Ralston stated, “A library says a lot about a community. That’s why this has been important to me and I know its been important to many of you. Because when you go into a community and you see they have a nice library facility, that says volumes about where they put priorities on learning and education and all the things that we associate with a library. When this library is completed, it will say that Fannin County is proud of our past, our present, and our future.”
With the celebration of the donated land and the unofficial beginning of the county’s multi-million dollar library project, Ralston had one more note to say as he stated that good news will keep coming. Ralston said he would be returning to Fannin County in a few weeks for another meeting and announcement with another special guest.
NORTH GEORGIA – Both Gilmer and Fannin have received a new order entitled “Amended Third Order Extending Declaration of Judicial Emergency” closing and requiring deep cleaning for offices in the courthouses of both counties.
The order, sign by Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda Weaver of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, states that a number of courthouse employees are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and are awaiting testing results. Due to this the Chief Judge conferred with Board of Commissioner (BOC) Chairmen from each county and has declared the situation beyond the ability to continue with regular work.
The court has ordered that the counties deep clean and keep closed the following offices:
- Fannin County Superior Court Judge
- Fannin County Juvenile Court Judge
- Fannin County Clerk of Superior and Juvenile Courts
- Fannin County Probate Court
- Fannin County Magistrate Court
- Fannin County District Attorney
- Fannin County CASA
- Gilmer County Superior Court Judge
- Gilmer County Juvenile Court Judge
- Gilmer County Clerk of Superior and Juvenile Courts
- Gilmer County Probate Court
- Gilmer County Magistrate Court
- Gilmer County District Attorney
- Gilmer County Misdemeanor Probation
- Gilmer County CASA
Additionally, Gilmer County has also closed the offices of the Gilmer County Tax Assessor and the Gilmer County Tax Commissioner. These offices are also ordered to perform a deep cleaning and remain closed until further orders are given.
Just as with the previous Judicial Emergency Orders, Remote Videoconference hearings are being utilized and scheduled. The order states that all other provisions of the previous order are still in effect.
This all comes after the announcements of some of Gilmer and Fannin Elected Officials and Courts closing earlier today due to COVID-19 exposures.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Several offices in both Fannin and Gilmer County are closing today as reports indicate one or more employees may have had exposures to the Coronavirus in recent days.
The District Attorney’s Office in both Fannin and Gilmer have closed today. Additionally, Gilmer’s Probate Office has confirmed closing and the Gilmer Board of Commissioners has cancelled its Wednesday morning Work Session citing a “recent spike in Covid-19 cases.”
The Probate Court of Gilmer County issued a statement on Social Media saying, “The Probate Court Office of Gilmer County will be closed effectively immediately and remain closed until further notice.”
FYN has also confirmed that every office of an elected official in Gilmer County has been closed until Monday along with the court systems with the exception of the Sheriff’s Office.
According to County Attorney Lynn Doss and Fannin Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Fannin County’s Court systems are also shutting down including Superior Court, Magistrate Court, and Probate Court. The closings come “by order of the Chief Judge Brenda Weaver.”
According to Fannin County Commission Chairman Stan Helton, only the second floor of the courthouse is closed and it will reopen on Monday after it has been sanitized.
Despite the offices closing and courts canceling, the Gilmer Courthouse and Fannin Courthouse are both, as a whole, not closed at this time. Citizens may still enter the courthouses.
Reports are coming in that in Gilmer, Sheriff’s Deputies at the security checkpoint in the entrance are informing citizens of the offices and courts closing and are directing visitors accordingly.
Additionally, FYN confirmed that the Gilmer Planning and Zoning Office was closed late last week due to possible exposures of an employee.
Sources tell FYN that at least one of the exposures this week may have been related to a recent church revival held in Gilmer County. However, no cases have been officially confirmed at this time.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County is honoring its past this weekend as residents and local officials met over the weekend for a special celebration and honoring of a major figure from their past.
The Highway 515 Bridge in Fannin County that passes over Ada Street now has an official name, the “John D McDaniel Bridge.” The celebration saw family and friends with new signs for the bridge to formalize the naming.
McDaniel was not only a member of the clergy and a spiritual guide to citizens, but he previously served as a Commissioner of Education and served in the Georgia General Assembly from 1893 to 1897.
The event was also attended by current Fannin County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney and Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston.
Ralston spoke about the event saying, “This past weekend, I was honored to be joined by the descendants of the Reverend John D. McDaniel as we dedicated the bridge on Highway 515 over Ada Street in Blue Ridge in his memory.”
With the signs up, Fannin memorializes a citizen from the past and honored his family who remain in the county he served so diligently.
YOUNG FARMERS ASSOCIATION
Why and How to do FAMACHA Scoring in Small Ruminants
August 29, 2019
Fannin County Ag Facility
43 Station Ridge Blue Ridge, GA
( Please use the new entrance off of Hwy 515 )
Talk will be presented by:
Dr. Jay Daniel
Professor of Animal Science, Berry College
Meal sponsored by Patriot Grading
Anyone interested is welcome to attend
FCYFA members attend free of charge
Non FCYFA members we ask you to pay $5.00
Questions or for Additional Information [email protected] or 706-455-2545
(The following is a Press Release from the Office of David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.)
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced that the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation has opened a North Georgia Office in Ellijay. The office is located in the Collaboration on River’s Edge (CORE) Building, a workplace innovation space and initiative of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation.
“I am proud to welcome the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation to Ellijay and look forward to the good work that will be done to further economic opportunity throughout rural Georgia,” said Speaker David Ralston. “This center is a direct result of the work of the House Rural Development Council and our continuing efforts to ensure prosperity is accessible to all Georgians – regardless of zip code.”
The center, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center, has named Janet Cochran to lead the North Georgia Office. Cochran comes to the center with more than a decade of experience as a project manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
“Finding ways to not only maintain but to multiply the economic and cultural vitality present in so many of north Georgia’s small towns and rural communities relies heavily on relationships,” said Dr. David Bridges, Georgia’s Rural Center interim director, “and we know that our presence and personnel there will only improve our ability to facilitate positive outcomes. Janet brings a wealth of experience in managing economic development projects in this region of the state, and we’re excited to have her join our team in this role at the North Georgia Office.”
Headquartered at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation serves as a central information and research hub for rural best practices, including community planning, industry-specific assistance and cooperative efforts with community partners. The center was proposed by the House Rural Development Council in 2017 and was created by House Bill 951, which was enacted in 2018.
“Promoting a strong business environment that enhances the quality of our community is not just the chamber’s mission in words, it is behind everything we do. The opening of CORE and the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation is a cornerstone moment in that mission and one that we have worked tirelessly to support and create for many years. I join with our 650 members in celebrating,” remarked John Marshall, Gilmer Chamber Chairman of the Board.
“As chairman of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation it has been our goal as a private, citizen funded organization to help spur economic growth for our community and region. CORE being the home to the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation North Georgia office brings our vision to reality. We look forward to continuing to serve our communities for years to come,” said Kent Sanford, Chairman of the Board.
“Working with Speaker of the House David Ralston and the House leadership to bring the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation North Georgia office to our community will have economic impact to the entire region. We look forward to continuing to work to insure the success of the center and all of our partners within CORE,” remarked Lex Rainey, Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority Chairman of the Board.
Located in Gilmer County, Ellijay is a thriving rural community in the North Georgia mountains, offering a unique blend of southern hospitality and natural beauty. The area leads Georgia in apple production and is a center for agribusiness and agritourism.
For more information about the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation, visit http://www.ruralga.org/.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – “This is the kind of project that will spread prosperity throughout our entire region. It is the kind of skin-in-the-game project that deserves support…” Georgia Speaker of the House, David Ralston praised the CORE Facility in Ellijay who hosted their official ribbon-cutting today.
Nestled just off Maddox Drive on the banks of the Coosawattee River in Ellijay, Georgia, the CORE Facility hosts business offices and incubation locations for entrepreneurs and start-ups in need of an office or workspace without the hassles of long-term investment.
However, the facility’s impact reaches so much farther than the city limits or the county’s borders. Today marked a celebration for the region and for the state. Representatives statewide joined together for this ribbon cutting including Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Gilmer Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, Pickens Commission Chairman Rob Jones, Fannin Commission Chairman Stan Helton, Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, State Senator Steve Gooch, State Representative of District 11 Rick Jasperse, Ellijay City Mayor Al Hoyle, Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, and many representatives from the Ellijay and East Ellijay City Councils and Gilmer Board of Education. Efforts from many organizations have led into combined organizations such as the Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) and the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation.
That Foundation was the birthplace of the initiative to build CORE. According to Kent Sanford, Executive Director of the Greater Gilmer JDA and part of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation, a 14-month birth cycle has finally come to full fruition.
While the celebration was a culmination of efforts so far, it is only the beginning. It is a project that holds great impact on the future, according to Ralston who said, “It will create jobs in our area. The jobs of tomorrow will be possible because of the work that goes on in this building.”
Ralston also dedicated support to the facility as he announced, “Because of the local commitment to the CORE building the State of Georgia, through our OneGeorgia Authority, is awarding $420,000 to this project to be used for Facility purchase and improvement costs. This $420,000 grant is historic, both in terms of its dollar amount and the impact it will have on this project and community.”
Ralston continued speaking about the economic development and job creation in the county before offering the second announcement of the day regarding the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center.
Ralston stated at the ribbon-cutting, “I am proud to announce that the new North Georgia of the Georgia Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation will be housed right here in Ellijay in this facility. The office will be led by Janet Cochran.”
Ralston’s office later offered a full Press Release on the announcement stating the center serves as a central information and research hub for rural best practices, including community planning, industry-specific assistance and cooperative efforts with community partners. The center was proposed by the House Rural Development Council in 2017 and was created by House Bill 951, which was enacted in 2018.
These announcements were applauded by those present and praised by the Chairman of the Gilmer Chamber, John Marshall, who said, “Mr. Speaker, once again you have proven yourself to be the very epitome of a stalwart and faithful advocate not only to your hometown and all the other communities in these beautiful North Georgia Mountains, but to each and every corner of the state of Georgia.”
President of the Gilmer Chamber, Paige Green also praised the facility as the realization of a dream for the community that has spread to benefit not only one county but something larger that now spans the region.
Today was a celebration of completing the first steps of a larger plan for the facility. Though it is now open, it is only the first phase of that dream. Director Sanford noted last year that the hopes for the facility include two more phases.
In Phase II, the foundation will continue renovation onto the second floor to open up a larger area for education and training in a 1,200 square foot space upstairs.
In Phase III, hopes for the CORE Facility could extend into the schools for things like STEM Classes, STEM Saturdays, or other forays into education connection. Consolidating resources for these could include shared STEM kits or a shared expense for a STEM subscription service involving 3d-printing necessary components. However, specific details into PHASE III have yet to be finalized.
Ultimately, the CORE wants to continue spreading and growing this larger community where possible. Opportunities that may come have yet to be revealed, but one ribbon-cutting today, one celebration, can lead to something bigger than imagining tomorrow.
Students in the Fannin County Middle School STEM class got to experience walking and observing on a giant Mars map accompanied by a robotic rover that was awarded through a grant submitted by Mrs. Pack, the STEM Teacher. The grant was sponsored by Buzz Aldrin and the ShareSpace Foundation. To purchase the giant map and robot, this would have costed the school $5,000.00. However, with the grant, the school was able to receive it for free. The grant included a 25’ x 25’ giant Mars map, a set of books about the mission to Mars co-authored by Buzz Aldrin and Marianne Dyson, a remote controlled robot, as well as the curriculum to accompany the map and robot.
This year the Fannin County Middle School REACH (Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen) scholars attended three field trips. The scholars received first-hand experience with visits to the University of North Georgia Blue Ridge, Young Harris College, and Berry College. While on campus students participated in informational sessions designed to give them insights into how to best plan and prepare for their future college careers.
Pictured L to R: Corbin Kendall, Dadrian Flowers, Emily Salas, Bryan Stiles
Fannin County Middle School is so excited to announce that our media center is now a full functioning learning commons. The transition was challenging but with the help of many the conversion was a success. The new furniture has been installed and all 14,000 books are now on the shelves after being delivered on January 2nd. The installation crew worked tirelessly and completed the installation process on January 3rd. The Media Center staff started putting the books on the shelves on January 4th and we were open for business by January 7th. All grades levels visited the library to renew and checkout books the week of the January 14th. We are so grateful that we received the L4GA grant which funded our remodel. Now we have flexible furniture that is conducive to collaboration, communication, and creation. The Learning Commons is a hub for participatory learning. Students are able to enjoy state of the art technology, resources, and flexible seating options in order to maximize their learning experience. The kids are so eager to come down to the Learning Commons to read in our new soft seating areas, use their new Chromebooks to complete their assignments, and utilize our new media tables to collaborate with group members while working on group projects. Transforming our Library Media Center into a state of the art Learning Commons has been a huge success! We couldn’t be more excited about the future. This is one step that our school has taken in order to ensure that we are providing all students with an education that prepares them to be successful and meet future challenges.