Additional grant pursued for Horseshoe Bend Park

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Parks and Recreation Director Eddie O’Neal sought approval from the Board of Commissioners (BOC) at the Feb. 27 meeting to apply for a grant in hopes improving Horseshoe Bend Park.

“We would like to get approval to approach the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC),” O’Neal appealed to the board.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Parks and Recreation, Eddie O'Neal , Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post 1 Commissioner, Earl Johnson, Post 2 Commissioner, Larry Joe Sosebee, Horseshoe Bend Park, Appalachian Regional Commission, Recreational Trail Grant, Northwest Regional Commission, Tamen Park, mowing contract, Nichole Potzauf, Executive Director of Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association, BRMAA, Youth Art Month, University of North Georgia, Appalachian Studies Program, Blue Ridge Scholars, Board of Assessors, Angelina Powell, Lane Bishop, Fannin County Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Robert Graham, Fannin County Finance Director, Robin Gazaway

A view of the Toccoa River from Horseshoe Bend Park.

This grant is in addition to a state-funded Recreational Trail Grant that the county applied for in 2017. The state-funded grant would provide Fannin County with up to $200,000 and the county would be responsible for 20 percent of the funding ($40,000).

The additional grant would be federally funded and provide Fannin County with up to $300,000. The county would be responsible for 30 percent of this funding ($90,000).

Commission Chairman Stan Helton explained how the information of this new grant came about: “The folks at the Northwest Regional Commission, which are the folks that are conduit for the Recreational Trail Grant called me sometime ago.”

“They felt that the odds (of receiving the ARC grant) were equal to or better (than that of getting the Recreational Trail Grant),” Helton added.

Helton explained that the county would not have to take both grants if both were awarded, but applying for the two grants would improve the county’s odds of getting funding for projects at Horseshoe Bend Park.

The board unanimously voted in favor of applying for this additional grant.

O’Neal updated the BOC on news from the Recreation Department: “Our registration for spring sports is up about 8 percent.”

This increase in registration seems to be a steady pattern with the Recreation Department showing an increase in both 2016 and 2017.

The BOC was presented with bids for 2018 mowing contracts. These contracts include mowing and restroom upkeep for Horseshoe Bend and Tammen parks.

There was a total of four bids presented, with $2,200 per month being the high bid and $1,800 per month being the low bid.

O’Neal stated, “I’m fine with the lowest bid. I think if we do that, it should be a 30-day trial.”

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee had reservations about going with the lowest bidder: “This last mowing season, I had more complaints come through my door.”

Sosebee acknowledged that when the company who submitted the highest bid had the county’s contract he received little to no complaints.

“When you don’t hear people complaining, you know the work is good,” Sosebee added to his thoughts.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson recommended tabling the vote for the mowing contract until the companies submitting the bids could be further researched.

Helton recused himself from discussion due to having on-going business with one of the bidders, and both post commissioners agreed to discuss the contracts at a later date.

Nichole Potzauf, executive director of Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association (BRMAA), spoke of happenings at the Art Center.

In 2017, approximately 41,000 guests enjoyed the exhibits and classes at the Art Center, and it is estimated the BRMAA had an economic impact of $618,000 in our area and $1.2 million for our region.

Currently, the Art Center is hosting Youth Art Month. Potzauf explained, “(Youth Art Month) is an annual exhibit that we host to celebrate our emerging artists. So, all of Fannin County Schools participate, as well as home school children.”

Potzauf also noted that this year Copper Basin schools are participating in the program.

The BRMAA hosts several fundraising events throughout the year, and Potzauf shared that through fundraising efforts “we were able to give $4,000 in youth scholarships to children in our area to obtain art classes and art education.”

“We’ve partnered with UNG (University of North Georgia) to do a lunch and learn series,” Potzauf spoke of what is new for BRMAA this year.

This partnering is with the UNG Appalachian Studies Program and English Department. The first Lunch and Learn will take place April 18 and will be hosted by Blue Ridge Scholars of UNG.

The first in this series will be “an artistic presentation of the poverty and resilience of the Blue Ridge mountains and our area,” according to Potzauf.

A new appointment to the Board of Assessors took place, with Helton recommending Angelina Powell to this board in place of current board member Lane Bishop.

This recommendation was met with no discussion by the post commissioners, and the board unanimously voted for Powell to receive this appointment. Powell will serve a four-year term beginning March 1, 2018.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Parks and Recreation, Eddie O'Neal , Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post 1 Commissioner, Earl Johnson, Post 2 Commissioner, Larry Joe Sosebee, Horseshoe Bend Park, Appalachian Regional Commission, Recreational Trail Grant, Northwest Regional Commission, Tamen Park, mowing contract, Nichole Potzauf, Executive Director of Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association, BRMAA, Youth Art Month, University of North Georgia, Appalachian Studies Program, Blue Ridge Scholars, Board of Assessors, Angelina Powell, Lane Bishop, Fannin County Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Robert Graham, Fannin County Finance Director, Robin Gazaway

Points of interest from Fannin County’s January budget review.

Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Robert Graham was present to discuss the progress of the new fire station and E-911 center that is currently in the construction stage.

Graham stated that the structural portion of the project was running on time and on budget and was about a third of the way complete. Graham expects completion of this project in May or June of this year.

Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway reported a summary of the county’s expenses and revenues for the month of January. Being just 8 percent into the county budget, the tax assessor’s office is showing a budget deficit.

Gazaway explained that this was expected and should even out over the next couple of months: “We had budgeted for maps and that was all paid upfront. There will be some revenues from the cities that will go against that.”

So far in 2018, the county is $775,000 under budget.

Discussion of funding for the new Fire Station 1/E-911 center was discussed during this portion of the meeting.

“We knew we would have to borrow some funds,” Helton said of the financing. “We felt that we could finance out of pocket about 75 percent.”

The other 25 percent of funding, ranging from $600,000 to $1.2 million, is currently being studied by Gazaway. While nothing has been finalized, Gazaway said that she had been speaking with bond companies for funding.

Johnson, alerted by the mention of financing through bonds, asked to speak with Gazaway immediately regarding the situation.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Parks and Recreation, Eddie O'Neal , Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post 1 Commissioner, Earl Johnson, Post 2 Commissioner, Larry Joe Sosebee, Horseshoe Bend Park, Appalachian Regional Commission, Recreational Trail Grant, Northwest Regional Commission, Tamen Park, mowing contract, Nichole Potzauf, Executive Director of Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association, BRMAA, Youth Art Month, University of North Georgia, Appalachian Studies Program, Blue Ridge Scholars, Board of Assessors, Angelina Powell, Lane Bishop, Fannin County Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Robert Graham, Fannin County Finance Director, Robin Gazaway

Epworth resident Noah Sims expresses concerns over courthouse security.

“I’m not in favor of getting a bond,” Johnson expressed, stern in his stance.

Johnson explained it is situations like this where he wants to see better communication taking place with the post commissioners.

Public commentary brought about questions of safety at the Fannin County Courthouse.

Epworth resident Noah Sims addressed the board on what he felt were breaches in security.

Making it clear the he was not attacking our local law enforcement, Sims addressed the security measures in place at the courthouse entrance: “I am up here as a concerned citizen. You all do not have any security in the building. Zero. It’s breached.”

Sims noted that employees often are waved through without being scanned: “When you let one person not get checked you have zero security.”

Sims would like to see policy and procedure followed for all persons entering the building without exception.

 

 

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Departments update the Board of Commissioners

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) received updates from several departments at the second monthly meeting held on Jan. 23.

FetchYourNews, Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Stan Helton, Larry Joe Sosebee, Earl Johnson, Financial Director, Robin Gazaway

Board of Commissioners receive updates from several county departments.

The first to speak to the board was Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff. Ratcliff spoke of the recent severe weather experienced throughout the county and the impact on the county’s resources reserved for such scenarios.

“With temperatures being in the low teens, it made it pretty difficult to clear the roads,” Ratcliff spoke of the recent snow storm that closed county offices and Fannin County schools for several days.

Due to the recent freezing weather, Ratcliff reported that his department had used 300 tons of salt and 150 tons of the 89 gravel that the county had set aside, and that supplies of these would need to be replenished.

Ratcliff also reported that two vehicles in the Public Works department, a chipper and a Ford flatbed, were in need of repairs and would possibly have to be replaced in the near future.

“Our sign department made and replaced over 400 signs, street signs, this year.” Ratcliff updated.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee questioned the cost of replacing signs, and Ratcliff replied that it varied but the approximate cost was around $35.00 per sign. Ratcliff also stated the department was increasing the height of many signs posted and this action had reduced the number of signs being stolen.

Ratcliff spoke of cuts made to the department and highlighted that salaries had been brought down by $500,000 from the previous fiscal year of 2016. Ratcliff added, “We’re still getting the same amount of work done.”

Board of Commissioners Chairman Stan Helton addressed Ratcliff, “Just to reiterate what you’ve done here, if you go back a year ago, personnel wise and wages, you cut that in excess of 25 percent, and you’ve done it the right way.

FetchYourNews, Fannin County, Blue Ridge Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Parks and Recreation, Eddie O'Neal. Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee

Parks and Recreation Director Eddie O’Neal talks about Christmas Clash basketball tournament.

“What I see is more efficiency out there,” Helton added. “The folks that say you can’t shrink government, well you prove that you can.”

Eddie O’Neal, director of Fannin County Parks and Recreation, was second to update the BOC. O’Neal reported that 1,600 visitors had signed in and made use of the recreation facilities in the month of December.

“We also hosted our third annual Christmas Clash basketball tournament where we had 52 teams compete,” O’Neal spoke of the growth of this event.

Teams came from several counties within Georgia for this four-day event. O’Neal informed the board that the success of this event had generated nearly $15,000 in revenue.

O’Neal also spoke of the Summer Day Camp program, which continues to grow, and of additional services that might be offered this year. Parents who utilize the program have inquired of a later pick-up time.

Currently, children in the program would need to be picked up by 3 p.m. O’Neal suggested an extra charge to cover costs of keeping the facility open later so parents could pick up at 4 or 5 p.m.

The cost for two weeks of the Summer Day Camp program is $30.00, and an extra charge of $20.00 is being proposed for parents who wish to have a later pick up.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson was pleased with the transparency of revenues and purchases that is now being shown in frequent reports from the Parks and Recreation department, and Stan Helton added that he had received numerous calls from citizens that expressed their enthusiasm for the programs that the department has been adding.

“We’ve been approached by Faith Presbyterian Church. Those guys have always done what’s called a Seamless Summer food program,” O’Neal added to his update.

The Seamless Summer program provides food for children in need over the summer. Union County High School would prep meals for this program in the past, but will not be able to in 2018 due to renovations taking place over the summer break.

The department of Parks and Recreation has been approached to see if they could prep these meals while prepping their own meals for the Summer Day Camp program.

“We would like to help these guys out,” O’Neal went on. The program feeds a little over 200 kids during the summer and is funded via reimbursement from Bright from the Start, a Georgia state Department of Early Care and Learning.

No decision was made by the BOC regarding this proposal.

Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody notified the BOC that the Scrap Tire Removal Program has been a success and that the future dates scheduled for tire drop off have been cancelled.

FetchYourNews, Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Tax Assessors, Board of Assessors, Larry Joe Sosebee, Troy Junnier

Board of Assessors member Troy Junnier speaks on behalf of the tax assessors in hopes of getting new vehicles.

“We took over 6,000 tires in,” Woody spoke of the success of the program and adding, “We’ve expended our funds.”

Board of Assessors board member Troy Junnier spoke on behalf of the Tax Assessors Office asking for two replacement vehicles for the department.
“If you don’t allow us to get two more (vehicles), then it is going to cause us a big issue countywide,” Junnier stated, presenting his case to the board. “It’s going to cost all the county residents in the future higher taxes anyway.”

Discussions became heated as Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson expressed that the department does not need new vehicles and should look into buying used.

Ultimately the board agreed to consider purchasing two used vehicles for the department with a spending limit of $20,000 per vehicle.

Johnson ended the exchange, “When I get done with these vehicles, I don’t want to hear anything from the tax assessors (about vehicles) ever again for my remaining three years.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Commissioners conduct business before passing the 2018 budget

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Sheriff’s Office could receive a new vehicle after Chief Deputy Major Keith Bosen was involved in an accident on state Route 5.

Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby addressed the Board of Commissioners (BOC) on Dec. 12 with an unforeseen item that was not on the meeting agenda. Kirby explained to the board about the county vehicle that had been involved in the accident, “We got it out at Car Crafters, and they’re thinking it’s going to cost about what the vehicle is worth to fix it, so it’s likely going to be totaled.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Dane Kirby, Fannin Coutny Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Patrick Cooke

Sheriff Dane Kirby was present to discuss the renewal of contracts for the Fannin County Jail.

Kirby added, “We don’t have that set in stone.”

The vehicle suffered damage to the back end and also sustained damage to the frame. Kirby and Bosen had searched for a used vehicle after finding out about the extent of the damage, but we’re unable to locate one.

A new vehicle, which was found at Jacky Jones Ford in Cleveland, Georgia, has a price tag of $26,700. Kirby explained that he still had funds in his current budget to purchase this vehicle but had not allocated funds in 2018 for such a purchase.

Kirby stated that an insurance settlement from the wrecked vehicle would be used to partially reimburse the expenditure of securing the new vehicle.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee questioned, “What if they don’t total the car out?”

“We have a lot of options there,” Kirby replied. “If another office needed that vehicle, we could turn it over to you all to issue out however you all saw fit.”

Board of Commissioners Chairman Stan Helton looked for additional clarification: “So even if it’s fixed, it’s not something you want out there?”

Kirby and Bosen had discussed this possibility previously, and Bosen had expressed reluctance in continued use of the vehicle. “I’m not so sure I would want it for an emergency vehicle after all that damage has been done to it,” Kirby explained.

After some discussion, the BOC voted unanimously to allow the purchase of the new vehicle for Fannin County Sheriff’s Department.

The purchase of the new vehicle was a main focus, but Sheriff Dane Kirby was also present to have the BOC renew two contracts. These annual contracts concern food and health services provided to Fannin County Jail.

The cost of the food service contract showed a 1 percent increase, and the contract concerning healthcare increased by 3 percent.

“I don’t think our food service or our health provider has asked us for a percent increase since I have been in office,” Kirby said of the price difference for the 2018 contracts. “We have not had anything but flawless performance out of both of those providers.”

The BOC collectively agreed that the increase in cost of these two contracts was not unreasonable and unanimously voted to re-enter into both of the agreements.

Deputy Director of Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Patrick Cooke was also on the agenda to discuss the purchase of a radio tower for the new 911 facility.

The county’s new 911 facility will be located at 930 Windy Ridge Road, and construction is already underway.

Cooke presented three bids to the board for the purchase of the new 911 radio tower. The lowest bid was $22,000, and the highest bid came in at $40,030. Cooke stated, “There’s no reason why we cannot go with the lowest bid on this one.”

Sosebee questioned, “Do you have it in your budget?”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Dane Kirby, Fannin Coutny Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Patrick Cooke

Gazaway presented the monthly budget update, and showed were departments stood as of Nov. 30.

Cooke explained that the purchase amount would be covered in the 2017 budget. A tower located on Bullen Gap Road had been damaged, and the majority of the cost of the new tower will come from an insurance reimbursement that the department had received.

The insurance settlement for $18,898.23 would offset the cost of the new tower to where only $3,101.77 would need to be pulled from the budget. The new tower would be able to communicate with the main repeater located on Brawley Mountain and would also act as a back up in the event that the main repeater went down.

The BOC voted unanimously for the purchase of the new radio tower, and construction of the new 911 facility is expected to move forward on schedule.

Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway presented a monthly update of the county’s current budget prior to the BOC discussing and passing the county’s 2018 budget.

Through Nov. 30, the county is showing that it is under budget by approximately $500,000. Gazaway explained that as of the Nov. 30 date, the county was currently 92 percent into the budget for 2017.

Sosebee questioned specifically about the Tax Assessors budget, and Gazaway replied that they were $242,270 under budget for the year.

Gazaway did clarify, “I know they have a few more expenditures in December, but as of Nov. 30, they’re under budget.”

With information presented by Gazaway concerning the county’s spending and revenue, the BOC passed the 2018 Budget at the end of the meeting.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Commissioners come to agreement and pass 2018 county budget

Community, News
Fannin Court House

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After a budget proposal that was met with opposition from some county departments and heavily scrutinized by the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC), agreements were finally made and the Fannin County 2018 Budget was passed on Dec. 12.

The BOC held an all-day public workshop to discuss the 2018 Budget on Sep. 20. At this workshop, most county department heads came before the board with their department’s request for next year’s budget.

During the workshop, some departments made large cuts in spending. One such cut came from Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Magistrate Court, Public Woks Director, Zack Ratcliff, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Public Hearing, Public Workshop

Magistrate Judge Brian Jones questioned the BOC as to why his salary line item had been cut at a Public Hearing for the 2018 Budget.

Ratcliff proposed approximately $300,000 in cuts to his department. These cuts came mainly from fuel purchases, tire allowances and payroll. This $300,000 decrease comes on top of an 11 percent decrease in the department’s budget last year.

Information from this workshop allowed Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway along with the Board of Commissioners to review department line items and create a proposed budget for 2018.

This proposed budget was met with opposition from certain departments. The Board of Assessors (BOA) questioned the cuts proposed by the BOC. Having requested $977,370.00, the BOC ultimately only approved $848,265 for the BOA department.

Magistrate Judge Brian Jones also questioned the board at a public hearing held on Nov. 28. Jones had requested $114,240 in salaries for his department and was surprised to see that the proposed budget was only allocating him $104,958 in this area.

At the public hearing, Jones addressed the board by saying, “I would like you all to revisit the salary part of my budget. I am the only budget that was reduced in the salary portion.”

Jones stated that he did not care about his personal salary, which is mandated by the state of Georgia, but that he was concerned with the salaries of his staff. “I hired them at a beginner’s rate, or what I call a starter’s salary, and I think I should be allowed the opportunity to advance them as they learn and move forward in their jobs,” Jones explained.

Jones went on to list numerous responsibilities that his court has taken on from other courts in an attempt to “unclog the system.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson asked Jones if he was happy with everything else in his budget. Jones replied, “I’m fine with all of that. I’m just not happy with the salary portion because I think I should be able to advance my employees as they deserve to be advanced.”

Gazaway explained how the proposed amount for salaries within the Magistrate Court was determined: “I actually added up what they’re currently making, all of them, and added 2 percent, and it made a reduction in salary.”

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton added, “His employees are not getting cut on their salary. They’re getting a 2 percent raise, which is consistent with what we are doing with every other department in the county.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Magistrate Court, Public Woks Director, Zack Ratcliff, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Public Hearing, Public Workshop

Graph presented by Finance Director Robin Gazaway depicting county budget and millage rate.

At the Fannin County BOC meeting held Dec. 12, this issue was revisited before finalizing the 2018 Budget. Before the discussion of the budget took place, Finance Director Gazaway presented a graph depicting the county’s budget from 2014 to present, along with the county’s millage rate for this same time period.

During this period Fannin County’s spending budget has grown by approximately 40 percent, while the millage rate has dropped from 5.16 in 2014 to 4.176 in 2018. Gazaway stated, “We can’t keep this up.”

“This is really important for people to understand. If you go from 2014 to this year, in three years the budget has increased right at 40 percent with no tax increase,” Helton explained, “and that is unsustainable, and that is part of the reason why we are doing our best to start putting the brakes on that this year.”

The proposed 2018 Budget contains a 1.8 percent increase from the previous year (2017) budget.

Johnson agreed with the spending being unsustainable. He remarked, “It’s a question I asked a year ago with several departments: when are we ever going to start being able to scale back?”

Johnson then added, “My experience here in five years, once anyone gets it in their budget, we never see it again. It’s very rare that we have decreases in these budgets.”

Before passing the final 2018 budget, Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee expressed his thoughts on Magistrate Judge Brian Jones’ request to review the salary line item of his department.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Magistrate Court, Public Woks Director, Zack Ratcliff, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Public Hearing, Public Workshop

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson discussing his views on voting for total budget.

Sosebee stated he had contacted Gazaway previously to discuss his views on the matter. Sosebee said to the board, “Two or three years ago, we went down the same path over an elected official, like Mr. Jones back here, and my opinion is we can’t tell them what to do with their line items. We might can suggest it, but as far as taking it away from them, I don’t feel like it’s necessary that we do that.”

Johnson, who also stated having previously spoken with Gazaway on the matter, agreed with Sosebee, “The problem I have with it is that that means our office is telling another elected official what he’s paying his people.”

Gazaway clarified that the amount Jones was requesting is an 11 percent increase in salaries.

Sosebee replied to the clarification, “When the 11 percent comes out in the paper, Mr. Jones will have to answer to his constituents that voted for him.”

BOC Chairman Stan Helton added his thoughts: “We have tried very hard to keep this salary and wages for all the county at a 2 percent level. When we approve a budget, it’s basically for the next year, but if we’re talking about approving wages and salaries, that’s not just this year, that’s going to be the year after, the year after, the year after. So that one area I do feel that we do have some oversight on.”

Helton then addressed Jones who was present at the meeting: “The overall increase, Judge Jones, for your department is an increase.”

Helton asked for a motion to approve the line item for Magistrate Court salaries as the requested amount versus the commissioners’ recommended amount.

Johnson, unhappy with this motion, commented, “So, we’re going to have to do that for everyone that changed theirs? Since we are making motions for line items and salaries.”

Sosebee agreed that a motion needed to be made to accept the entire budget, including the requested amount from Jones: “We’ll just do the total budget, cause if we start on 1 line item, we need to do them all.”

After a moment Johnson motioned to approve the 2018 budget, Sosebee seconded the motion and the budget was passed unanimously.

Later, Johnson remarked on his decision to approve the Magistrate Court’s requested salary budget: “We don’t control constitutional officers. They control their budget, and they answer to their own voters.”

Judge Jones was pleased with the decision that was made and stated, “I just want to thank the post commissioners. They did what was right.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Fannin County Board of Commissioners Hold Final July Meeting

Community, News
Fannin Court House

BLUE RIDGE, GA – Fannin County Board of Commissioners held their final meeting for this month on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Among the items on the agenda, County Commissioners addressed the issue of the County Roads Moratorium. There was public commentary that addressed both sides of the issue the county faces when deciding to adopt or remove roadways from its care.

Fannin County Board of Commissioners, County Road Moratorium

Citizens address the Board concerning county roadways.

Citizens were there to ask Fannin County to consider adopting Phase 1 of the My Mountain Community into its county road system for maintenance and upkeep, citing that this phase of the community has been in existence for almost 20 years. On the opposite side of the discussion, citizens expressed concern on current county roads that they feel have been neglected. Post Commissioner Earl Johnson urged the Board to use caution when adopting new roads into the system, wanting first for the county to obtain proper inspections and right of ways before making any decision. Fannin County Post Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee and Commission Chairman Stan Helton agreed with this assessment. While voting to continue the county road moratorium, there was also a unanimous decision to work on current roads in the system before accepting new roads.

Ken Petty, Fannin County Maintenance Department Head, addressed the Board seeking approval for three issues needing financial payment from the county. He presented cases for $5,340.00 to replace a compressor on the commercial Trane air conditioning unit at the jail, $19,160.00 for improvements to the Animal Control Facility located on Fannin Industrial Park, and roof repair at the county maintenance building.

Petty was only able to present one bid on the broken compressor at the jail. When questioned by Post Commissioner Earl Johnson on failure to receive further bids, Petty stated that no one he contacted in Fannin County was willing to work on the unit. Johnson further questioned Petty as to why he was not providing the county or the bidder with a proper scope of work, and both agreed in the future that this documentation will be provided. Ultimately the board agreed to address and fix the issue of the air conditioning since it is essential to the jail’s day to day operations, but opted to table the other two issues until further documentation and bids could be obtained.

Commissioners expanded the Board of Assessors through resolution and praised the three current appointees for bringing the county up to compliance with the State of Georgia. The expansion will bring the current board of three members up to a state allotted five member board. The board unanimously voted to appoint former Superintendent Mark Henson to a four year term on the Board of Assessors, and Troy Junnier to serve a three year term. Chairman Helton felt that the addition of these two individuals based on their experience and knowledge of the county would keep operations within the Board running smoothly for years to come.

Marie Woody discusses options for the Scrap Tire Management Grant.

Marie Woody discusses options for the Scrap Tire Management Grant.

Marie Woody with Land Development informed the board that all requirements were met to move forward with condemnation of property located at 188 Riverside Lane. The cost of removing the structure would be approximately $7,500.00 and approval was granted to advance this project. This property will be the fifth this year to be condemned and removed. Discussion was also held about the Scrap Tire Management Grant that was obtained from the State of Georgia. Post Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee wants to focus on where the man power will come from to complete this project and does not want to tax an already short handed Road Department of the county.

Finance Director Robin Gazaway presented the public with year to date financial information showing that the county is currently $1,675,006 under budget for the fiscal year 2017. Out of the county’s $27,131,207 yearly budget expenditures, actual amounts show that $12,975,846 has been spent.

Most county departments reported staying within or under their current budget amount as of July 18th. Administration was the only department reporting an overage with their current rate of spending at 72.9%. For departments to fall under budget their current rate should be below 54%. When questioned as to why this number was so high, Gazaway explained that new county policy requires all insurance claims be filed under a single department, and that they were working on an amendment that would create a new line item to reflect changes in this policy.

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Lynn Doss and Lane Bishop Discuss Assessors’ Budget

Police & Government

Lane Bishop, Chairman of Board of Assessors for Fannin County

 

Lane Bishop, Chairman of the Board of Assessors, stood before the Board of Commissioners at the March 8th meeting to clarify the presentation given by Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran at the previous Board of Commissioners meeting. At that meeting, Ms. Cochran gave a lengthy list of examples of mechanical failures of cars the Assessors’ office uses during its daily work are putting Assessors’ safety at risk and impeding the possibility to complete tax digest mandate from the state.  Towards the end of her presentation, Ms. Cochran told the Commissioners that the Board of Assessors had bought a car and was seeking bids for another used vehicle. Post Commissioner 1 Earl Johnson, strenuously questioned the Tax Assessors office about purchasing a new vehicle and acquiring bids for another car without going through the Board of Commissioners.  This subject also prompted an across room debate between Mr. Johnson and Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss as to the budget decisions that the legally semi-independent Assessors office is allowed to make on its own.  Ms. Doss stated from her seat among the general public that she was searching on-line and texting colleagues at that very moment to clarify the extent of budget independence of a Tax Assessors office in Georgia.  Mr. Johnson also asked when she could let the Board of Commissioners know the results of her research.

During his March 8th presentation, Mr. Bishop stated to the Commissioners and public that as Chairman of the Board of Tax Assessors, he had asked Ms. Cochran to describe the current dangerous condition of the cars to the Commissioners.  He went on to say that the Board of Assessors has decided to follow whatever budget protocols the Commission has set up, including sending all invoices over $4,500 to be approved by the Board of Commissioners, even though this is not legally required due to the semi-independent status of the Tax Assessors office.  Mr. Bishop also thanked Commission Chairman Bill Simonds for graciously loaning a fire and rescue squad vehicle to the Tax Assessors office until another car can be purchased and the mechanical problems of other cars can be fixed.  Mr. Simonds also told Mr. Bishop to bring the cars one by one to the county garage to be fixed and to let him (Mr. Simonds) know when the cars are there so that he can oversee their repairs.  Mr. Johnson made it known to the public that the County’s priority is with the safety of its employees.  In fact, during the March 8th meeting, the Commissioners approved purchase of a used car for the Assessors office.

Later that week, FetchYourNews.com asked Mr. Bishop about his presentation in front of the Commissioners. Mr. Bishop said that there is a very legitimate reason why the Tax Assessors functions as a semi-independent body.  They are a stage in the checks and balance system which is essential to American Constitutional ideals, i.e. no part of the government, local, state or national, should acquire greater power over another.  In the case of Tax Assessor offices, having semi-independence ensures that elected officials cannot skew taxes to benefit themselves.  The Board of Commissioners does have a legal responsibility to provide the Tax Assessors with the necessary supplies, including vehicles, to complete their job.  FetchYourNews.com also asked who Ms. Doss had consulted about budget independence of the Tax Assessors office and if the information was relayed to the Board of Commissioners.  Mr. Bishop said that he didn’t want to misspeak and requested that we ask Ms. Doss for that information.

Remember that Ms. Doss had told the entire February 23rd meeting, Commissioners and public, that she was looking for clarification during Mr. Johnson’s questions about the level of independence of the Tax Assessors. Also, Mr. Bishop, Chair of the Board of Assessors asked FetchYourNews.com to ask Ms. Doss herself about whom she had contacted so that the information is correct. FetchYourNews.com contacted Ms. Doss twice in person, once through phone and once through email.  At the first contact, Ms. Doss said she had spoken to the Georgia Department of Revenue and others but did not elaborate about who she had spoken to.  At the second encounter no information was given.  The phone call was not returned.  The email, though, was answered with the following.

As to the question of who she looked to for legal advice about the extent of Tax Assessors’ independent authority in purchases, Ms. Doss replied, “The specifics of who I might have spoken with or what research I do is attorney work product and is not subject to open records.”  As to the question of when she contacted the Commissioners with her findings, she stated, “Any legal advice that any attorney gives to his or her client is covered under attorney client-privilege and it would be improper for me to violate the attorney-client privilege.”

FetchYourNews.com also asked for an explanation of the semi-independent status of Board of Assessors in order to accurately represent the relationship between the Board of Assessors and the Board of Commissioners.  Ms. Doss said that the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia has an excellent website documenting the division of powers.  After using search terms such as board of assessors and tax assessors, no clear description of the relationship between the Board of Assessors and Board of Commissioners could be found.  The closest information is from the Vinson Institute’s Compliance Auditing in Georgia Counties and Municipalities, but it only covers the budget separation between the tax appeal administrator and the clerk of the superior court.

So, despite asking Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss and researching sources suggested by her, FetchYourNews.com is unable to accurately report how Ms. Doss obtained her information or to what degree the Board of Assessors has relinquished their semi-autonomous budget authority in order to  diplomatically reduce friction between the Tax Assessors office and the Board of Commissioners.

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