JASPER, Ga. – Many citizens in Pickens County have been closely following the developments in the Superintendent position at Pickens Board of Education (BOE) through a series of Special Called Meetings as well as those regular scheduled in the final days of 2019 and early days of 2020.
Even FYN reported statements from Wilson that he would offer a written statement of the proceedings as he resigned during one of the called meetings on December 19, 2019.
Later he was nearly reinstated as questions arose about the validity of the “emergency meetings.” But was voted down by Chairman Tucker Green, board member Joeta Youngblood, and board member Donna Enis.
This week, Dr. Carlton Wilson released a public letter to citizens fulfilling his promise of a written statement from last month. That letter follows:
Dear Pickens County,
Cindy and I wanted to take a moment to express our thanks to you as a community. When we relocated here more than 25 years ago we knew we had found our home. Cindy and I love living in and being a part of this community. We have raised our family here and we have worked to be a part of the community in every aspect. I knew when I interviewed for a teaching job here that this was the place I wanted to teach, coach, and live. Having had an opportunity to serve as your Superintendent of Schools was one of the greatest honors of my life thus far. I know we have one of the best school systems in the state of Georgia, some of the greatest staff, students, and parents.
We have been overwhelmed and extremely humbled by the love and support from the people of Pickens County. This is just another reason Pickens County is a great place to live. We love this county and I especially love our school system. The past month has been very difficult and confusing.
Our current school board is the third school board that I have served with as your superintendent. As school boards change board members, even just one, their personalities, priorities, and visions can change. Each school board is different from the boards they replaced. However, I felt it was very important to continual and complete the goals our previous boards had established not knowing these priorities, goals, and visions had changed. The current board never shared with me that that their priorities or visions changed for our school system. As Superintendent, I have always followed the strategic plan and direction that I was given. That was my job.
I am very proud of the accomplishments, partnerships, and relationships our school system developed over the past couple of years. I am very happy I can say I left the school district knowing every employee received a raise while we reduced the mileage rate for the fourth consecutive year. This took teamwork and I was proud to be a part of it.
I realize when information is not given, people will fill the void with rumors. Just to be clear, I was not given any reason except several of the board members had lost confidence in my leadership. Several members of the Board did not like the direction I was leading the school system. Concerning decisions that I made during my tenure as superintendent, I can assure you that every major decision was made with the school board’s understanding and approval. However, I take full responsibility for all day to day operational issues. Again, that was my job.
It has been a privilege serving the students, staff, and residents of Pickens County. I wish the greatest success to our school system and especially the young people they serve. The students deserve stability and strong leadership from our next Superintendent and the principal’s of our schools. Our teachers deserve the support of not only the board and school leadership but the community. I encourage you to help our community move forward by investing in our school district and helping them move to the next level. Cindy and I are excited to see what the future holds and I look forward to continuing to serve our great community in the future.
JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Education has called three meetings in less than 48 hours of each other regarding the subject of the Superintendent position.
This morning, at 8:59 a.m., the notice came from the Pickens County Board of Education for an Emergency Special Called meeting an hour later at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the Superintendent position. This coming after last night’s meeting that was called just over 24 hours earlier. Less than an hour after this morning’s meeting finished, another meeting has been called for tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m., giving slightly less than 24-hours notice.
Today, at 10 a.m., the Emergency Special Meeting was held to accept the resignation of Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson. The meeting was called to order and the agenda amended to delete an executive session and approval of executive session minutes, moving straight to the discussion as the superintendent resigned.
Board Attorney Phil Landrum III said, “Mr. Chairman, at your direction, and at the board’s direction, I have prepared a settlement agreement between the superintendent and the board. I presented that to all parties last night. It is my understanding that the Superintendent is tendering his resignation subject to the conditions upon the terms of that agreement.”
The vote came immediately after this at 3-2 to accept his resignation. Joeta Youngblood, Donna Enis, and Tucker Green voted for accepting the resignation. Steve Smith and Sue Finley voted against accepting his resignation.
Right before the meeting adjourned two comments were made. Sue Finley stated, “I am heartbroken. Dr. Wilson has done a fantastic job leading this county. He has turned around a lot of the issues that we had when he came in. He is one of the kindest men I know. He is one of the smartest men I know. When teachers demonstrate weaknesses that need to be corrected, they are brought into their administrator’s office. Their weaknesses are outlined and explained. And they are given a plan to remediate those weaknesses. They are rarely summarily dismissed. I believe that Dr. Wilson should have been afforded this courtesy and he was not. I completely disagree with this decision to release him. I believe that this is at least one backward step for our county. And I am so sorry, Dr. Wilson. I am very embarrassed that our county is going to be portrayed this way and that you’ve been treated this way. But, unfortunately, I am part of the minority.”
Additionally, Steve Smith commented saying, “I totally agree, this is the most egregious act I have ever witnessed on a board. And for it to come out of nowhere is shocking. I was as shocked yesterday, uh, I absolutely do not support the release of Dr. Wilson and I absolutely think our board has taken a ten-year step backwards. I think our school system has suffered because of this decision. I admire you Dr. Wilson.”
While few citizens were on hand for the meeting, some who were present spoke privately with Dr. Wilson. One citizen was overheard asking why the meeting was called as an emergency. Another was heard saying this subject should have been handled after the new year.
Landrum did say in the meeting that he had presented the settlement the night before this meeting was called 61 minutes before it was held. Finley was also discussing the topic with citizens saying that the board has gone through four superintendents in six years.
Dr. Wilson declined to comment at the moment, instead saying that he would offer a written statement later.
Additionally, the meeting was closed without any interim or stand-in appointed. Some would speculate that the notice sent out at 11:04 a.m. today, calling for a new meeting at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, is to address the issue as Wilson’s signatures are no longer valid on any board documents, agreements, checks, or other legal actions.
FYN can confirm that yesterday’s meeting delivered an ultimatum of “resign or be terminated.” The meeting, called to order at 3:00 p.m., held over two hours of executive session in which Dr. Wilson spent the majority of the time excluded from, but then later included in the final part of the executive session.
Further on that topic, it is FYN’s understanding that the settlement agreement is likely to have been different from the termination clauses specifically in the amount of money involved. However, FYN is attempting to confirm this as we submit an Open Records Request for the settlement agreement.
Stay with FYN as new details become available in this story and we await comment from Dr. Wilson and look to tomorrow’s last-minute meeting as the board deals with the situation mere days before Christmas.
JASPER, Ga. – Representatives from all across Pickens County met Thursday, July 25, to cut the ribbon and officially open Pickens Fire Station 12.
Pickens’ Board of Commissioners Chairman Rob Jones, Post Commissioners Becky Denney and Jerry Barnes, Jasper City Councilmember Dr. Sonny Proctor, Jasper City Manager Brandon Douglas, Jasper Fire Chief Steve Roper, and even members of Cherokee County Fire Department visited the new station on Thursday to greet citizens and tour the facility after the ceremony.
Working for years on this project, Jones said it began with planning in the current SPLOST and is an asset on moving forward with making the area safer and lower the ISO (Insurance Service Organization) Rating of 10 at the site.
The project, according to Jones, was only possible through the support of citizens and their support for the SPLOST. It boasts three bays, full living facilities, and a weather-safe room built to protect inhabitants during extreme weather and dangers that come with it.
Be sure to check out more photos of the station and the ribbon cutting at FYN’s Facebook Album.
Pickens County Fire Station 12 is officially open on July 25, 2019!
Posted by Fetch Your News on Friday, July 26, 2019
(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.
JASPER, Ga. – Parts of Pickens are falling victim to the heavy storms and rain as water levels rise. Citizens are sending in photos of the damage during the storm.
Already cancelling the “Piggin in the Park” event Lee Newton Park, event planners are still trying to look at possibly continuing the event tomorrow at the scheduled time. The National Weather Service did say the storms tonight could have “up to 40 mph wind, frequent cloud-to-ground lightning and very heavy rain.” However, no warnings or watches have been issued specifically for Pickens County as a whole.
While most of the storms are northeast of the county, effects are still being felt in isolated situations like this. For citizens on the east side of the county, near the Gilmer and Dawson County lines, be alert as the storm damage could easily reach and affect you.
Authorities are asking citizens to “be on alert for minor damage to tree limbs and blowing around of light, unsecured objects. Heavy rain will cause temporary street flooding, especially in poor drainage areas, and rising water on creeks and streams.
The park is not the only area being affected as another photo from in front of the Speedburger shows the flooding is spreading to other parts of the county.
Police and Emergency authorities are responding to the incidents. Authorities have asked citizens in recent storms to not drive through flooded streets if you cannot see the road as a driver cannot tell if part of the road has washed away.
The National Weather Service has also issued a statement saying, “Motorists should slow down and be prepared for possible loss of control due to hydroplaning.”
THE PICKENS REPORT
Another busy month has passed for Pickens County with lots in store for the Summer. Currently, local contractor Jimmy Stewart is working on constructing the new Tate Fire Station through SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funding. Local contractor Noland Construction is removing the outdated building and grading the property off Camp Road that houses Public Works. The new property layout will be more suitable to the needs of Public Works. After that phase of construction is complete bids will go out to construct a new facility to house Public Works. Paving bids for phase one are currently being accepted. The bid deadline is June 20th at 1pm. The county will be resurfacing roads in two phases this year, phase one in the summer and phase two in the fall. Phase one includes 10.36 miles of roads to be resurfaced. Additionally, the stabilization of Jones Mtn. Rd. is on schedule with plans to have both lanes open to traffic in July.
During the month of May, the Pickens Animal Shelter brought in 79 new animals, and 84 went out through various forms of adoption. Animal Control responded to 20 cases. The Department of Planning and Development issued 48 new building permits. The Water Department installed six new meters. The 911 Operations Center received 1,677 total calls, 705 were medical responses or fire related. Public Works paved Town Creek Trail and are performing routine road maintenance throughout the county. The Pickens County Recreation Department started its annual Summer Camp which will run through August 2nd. Also, the county pool is now open with hours of operation Tuesday – Saturday from 11am until 5pm and on Sunday from 12pm until 6pm. For additional information about Summer Camp or accessing the pool contact PCRD at 706-253-8863. Pickens County government departments continue to stay busy working for the citizens of Pickens County. The Pickens County Board of Commissioners continues to do an excellent job of leading these efforts. As work progresses, and projects continue, I will do my best to keep you informed of these developments.
Until the next time, stay safe, and shop local!
JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Commissioners began considerations for their vending contracts at the Recreation Department.
During their monthly work session, the commissioners listened to details presented proposals from Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi Co. While Pickens has used Pepsi for the last few years, this year’s bid packages were presented to the commissioners with a quick comparison.
That comparison showed that Pepsi has offered a $5,000 check to the Recreation Department and Coca-Cola has offered to either fund two scoreboards plus maintenance or provide a $6,000 check.
Additionally, the county’s ‘commission on vending sales’ with Pepsi would be 30 percent while Coca-Cola would be at 35 percent, Pepsi is proposing to go from $1.50 in price to $1.75 while Coca-Cola’s proposal is priced at $1.50.
Part of the contract with Pepsi is a required truck sale that the county does in the spring, Coca-Cola’s contract holds the truck sale as optional. Selling this miniature trucks functions like a fundraiser for the recreation department according to information in the commissioners meeting.
The county will not vote and decide on the proposals until the county’s regular meeting on June 20, this also gives citizens time to contact the commissioners and weigh in on what they would like the county to chose.