Fannin County Schools will seek SPLOST continuation

Community, News, Rebel's Corner
Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, GEMA, FEMA, Michael Ruple, EMA Director Robert Graham, Lt. Darvin Couch

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) has voted in favor of the continuation of collections for SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) and now they hope the public will do the same.

SPLOST has helped in the funding of several projects within the Fannin County School System (FCSS). Some of the more recent notable projects include the construction of the Agricultural Building located off of Windy Ridge Road and the technology upgrades seen throughout the FCSS campuses.

Blue Ridge, Board of Education, Fannin County School System, Fannin County Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County, Georgia, Terry Bramlett, Finance Director, Susan Holloway, Director of Planning, Policy, & Curriculum, Darren Danner, Lynn Doss,  Raymond James and Associates, Gray Pannell and Woodward LLP, Mary Ann Conner, Chuck Cook, Fannin County Elections and Registration, SPLOST IV, SPLOST V, Special Election, March 19, 2019

The new Agricultural Center located off of Windy Ridge Road is a direct result of Fannin County SPLOST collections.

“That’s where I feel like we are being good stewards of our taxpayer dollars,” FCSS Finance Director Susan Holloway addressed the BOE concerning SPLOST funds, “Because what we have is aged facilities, but we are doing, I think, an excellent job of maintaining and keeping them in top notch shape.”

The latest SPLOST update for Nov. 2018 in the amount of $500,946.90 shows that collections in the account are following an increasing trend.
With the SPLOST IV referendum allowing the school system to collect but not exceed $27.5 million by March 2021, projections are indicating that this goal will be met before the ability to collect SPLOST funds expires.

Holloway explains, “We’re in our SPLOST IV referendum and that referendum is for $27,500,000.00. The collections for this referendum began in April of 2016. It ends in March of 2021. A SPLOSTt referendum runs for 5 years. If we stay on this path that we are on we are probably going to cap out at that $27.5 million before we get to that date.”

It is the hopes of the BOE and fellow faculty with in the FCSS that the public will allow for a continuation of this collection with the increased cap amount to be $34.5 million.

The school system has worked closely with local council Lynn Doss, Raymond James and Associates, Gray Pannell and Woodward LLP, and Mary Ann Conner and Chuck Cook with the Fannin County Elections and Registration Office to have an SPLOST referendum added as a Special Election in 2019.

Based on projections from Gray Pannell and Woodward LLP, the FCSS is asking for the increased amount of $34.5 million. Holloway explains the number, “We should not cap out on this one. Hopefully in five years we’ll get the life out of this SPLOST.”

Along with the additional requested SPLOST collections, the BOE discussed preapproval of bonding $14 million for emergency purposes.
“The Board of Education utilizes bonding not to complete projects, but as emergency funding,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney clarified the discussion for the preapproval.

School Board Member Terry Bramlett expanded on the subject, “We’re simply reserving the right to do that (obtain a bond) should we have an emergency, because there would be interest related to a bonded portion of the money. All efforts would be exhausted not to do that.”

What will the Fannin County School System use SPLOST collections for? According the new referendum the purpose of these funds will be allocated in the following areas:

  • A) adding to, renovating, repairing, improving, equipping, and demolishing existing school buildings, school system facilities, parking lots and driveways, physical education/athletic facilities and fields;
  • B) updating and purchasing HVAC systems, system technology, electrical systems, nutritional equipment and electronic communications systems;
  • C) acquiring new computer hardware, technology equipment, safety and security equipment, and software;
  • D) acquiring miscellaneous new equipment, fixtures, and furnishings for the school district;
  • E) acquiring school buses and other vehicles, transportation and maintenance equipment and facilities;
  • F) acquiring, constructing and equipping new buildings and facilities useful and desirable, including but not limited to, a new          STEM/Science wing at Fannin County Middle School, a new Health and Wellness Multipurpose Facility; a new professional development facility;
  • G) acquiring and/or improving land for school system facilities;
  • H) purchasing traditional and electronic textbooks, purchase new and upgrades to print and electronic media collections

The new projected STEM/Science wing at Fannin County Middle School, along with the new projected Health and Wellness Multipurpose Facility at Fannin County High School were highlighted as projects of the SPLOST V referendum.

According to Bramlett SPLOST “allows people who visit our fair country to participate rather than having to rely solely on the property owners.”

Attorney Lynn Doss backed up this statement saying that statistically between 54 -70 percent of SPLOST collections in Fannin County comes from visitors.

Director of Planning, Policy, & Curriculum Darren Danner spoke of the SPLOST V referendum: “This is not an additional tax. This is a continuation of SPLOST IV. If we meet that threshold before March of 2021,” adding, “If Fannin County voters approve this it will kick in immediately.”

Gwatney summed up the feelings of the BOE with a simple statement: “Thankful for SPLOST.”

A Special Election will be held on Tuesday, March 19 for the approval of the SPLOST V referendum, allowing FCSS to move the cap of SPLOST funds to $34.5 million. This referendum is expected to be the only item on the ballot.

 

 

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 election winners speak after hearing results

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Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Nov. General Election has come to a close in Fannin County. After a large number of early voters, it was not surprising that the local polls were packed as Tuesday Nov. 6 marked the last day to have your voice heard.

Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner will now be held by Republican candidate Glenn Patterson. Patterson won out over Democratic challenger Dixie Carter with 81.71 percent of the vote.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, General Election 2018, Election 2018, Post 2 Commissioner, Fannin County Board of Education, Republican, Democrat, Glenn Patterson, Dixie Carter, Bobby Bearden, Jeff DePaola, Mike Cole, Susan DeMoura, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney

Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner Elect Glenn Patterson.

“I’m very excited! It hasn’t hit me yet. It’s kind of overwhelming,” Patterson spoke of his win shortly after hearing the results.

Of his plans once sworn into office Patterson said, “I’m brand new but I plan to learn fast and just do things for the people. That’s why I ran and I won’t forget after the race that the people put me in there.”

“I want to help Fannin County,” Patterson also acknowledged the division among political parties across the nation and locally. “Not just the Republicans or the Democrats but all of them. I will look at the issues critically. While I think we are headed down a good path, there is always room for improvement.”

One of the two seats open with the Fannin County Board of Education will now be held by Republican Mike Cole. Cole won the republican nomination in the May General Primary over several challengers and incumbent Steve Stanley. He then went on to defeat Democrat Susan DeMoura in the General Election with 82.31 percent of the vote.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, General Election 2018, Election 2018, Post 2 Commissioner, Fannin County Board of Education, Republican, Democrat, Glenn Patterson, Dixie Carter, Bobby Bearden, Jeff DePaola, Mike Cole, Susan DeMoura, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney

New Fannin County Board of Education board member Mike Cole with family.

“I’m excited about it,” Cole said as the final results were announced.

During his campaign Cole was an enthusiastic proponent of bringing vocational training back to the schools of Fannin County and he plans to continue to advocate for these classes.

“It’s all about policy,” Cole said speaking of ways in which to make more vocational options a reality, and while not knowing if he would be elected at the time Cole still began making progress by contacting agencies concerning welding and looking into possible grants for the school system.

Although Cole will be a newcomer to the Fannin County Board of Education, he looks forward to working with fellow board members and Fannin County Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney: “Gwatney is a great guy. I’ve had some interaction with him before and I like him a lot.”

In the closest race locally, incumbent Republican Bobby Bearden won over challenger Democrat Jeff Depaola with 79.49 percent of the vote. Bearden has held a seat on the Fannin County Board of Education for 16 years and will serve another four year term.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, General Election 2018, Election 2018, Post 2 Commissioner, Fannin County Board of Education, Republican, Democrat, Glenn Patterson, Dixie Carter, Bobby Bearden, Jeff DePaola, Mike Cole, Susan DeMoura, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney

Set to serve another term, Fannin County Board of Education board member Bobby Bearden.

Bearden is no stranger to winning elections but humbly spoke of hearing the results: “I’m just thankful for everyone who believed in me, had faith in me, thought I was doing a good job and was willing to have me for four more years.”

“The children are first and the taxpayers are second,” Bearden spoke his platform as he did during the campaign. For the taxpayers, Bearden would like to focus on keeping Fannin County’s millage rate one of the lowest in the state of Georgia.

“I’m really honored and blessed to live in a place like Fannin County. I tell people all the time that we have the best schools and I still believe that,” Bearden said of his years on the Fannin County Board of Education.

All three candidates will take office in 2019 to serve a 4 year term.

You can see all of Fannin County’s Election Results by following the link below:

Fannin County – State Election Results (FINAL)

 

 

 

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 Education adopts GAMB policy

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County School System officially became the second county in the state of Georgia to adopt a policy giving the option of arming school personnel. In April, the Laurens County school board in Georgia adopted a similar policy.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, Terry Bramlett, Benny Long, Laurens County, Brent Warberg, Kyle Raque, Michele Bradley, Sheila Gooch, Jack Taylor

Standing room only as citizens gather to voice their opinion on GAMB.

The unanimous decision by the Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) is one that board members said they did not take lightly and that much thought and planning was involved in the policy of Possession of Weapons by Employees or GAMB.

“We have given careful consideration to as many aspects of this as we possibly can,” board member Terry Bramlett stated during closing thoughts.

This decision by the BOE was not met without opposition as the Fannin County Board of Education facility was filled to capacity Thursday night.

Board members listened to several speakers from the community. Ten citizens in all signed up to have their voices heard during public commentary.

“It’s madness. That the way you solve a problem is to kill somebody,” Brent Warberg, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) profiler and hostage negotiator, said, showing his passion for his stance. “If you arm a teacher and that teacher shoots somebody, you own it.”

Warberg’s feelings were shared by others during public commentary. Dr. Kyle Raque, a clinical psychologist, cited that there is no evidence that arming school personnel works to provide a safer environment.

Mother of two, Michele Bradley, shared her thoughts: “Are you prepared to be sued when one of these teachers innocently kills a child?”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, Terry Bramlett, Benny Long, Laurens County, Brent Warberg, Kyle Raque, Michele Bradley, Sheila Gooch, Jack Taylor

Former FBI profiler Brent Warberg urges board members to not adopt the new policy.

Most who spoke in opposition of the newly adopted policy offered other solutions to the issue of safety on school campuses. Among the solutions discussed were those of addressing mental health of not just students, but of faculty as well, and trying to intervene at a young age when a child first shows signs of mental illness.

As many spoke in opposition, just as many spoke in favor of the GAMB policy. The public commentary portion of the meeting was split evenly between the two sides.

“As a former resource officer, I can tell you that evil is at the front door,” Jack Taylor, chairman of Blue Ridge Patriot Friends of the National Rifle Association (NRA) addressed the board, “and it’s knocking.”

“I commend you all for having the guts to do this,” Taylor added.

Retired educator and NRA certified pistol instructor Sheila Gooch also spoke in favor of GAMB: “We need options. We need to look at what we can do to protect our children.”

Before board members placed their vote, Fannin County Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney reiterated his views that he had expressed during the April BOE meeting when the GAMB policy was first read.

“There is no higher purpose of our school system than to provide a safe and secure environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Gwatney said, explaining his position on adopting the policy.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, Terry Bramlett, Benny Long, Laurens County, Brent Warberg, Kyle Raque, Michele Bradley, Sheila Gooch, Jack Taylor

Former resource officer Jack Taylor commends the board for taking steps to adopt the new policy.

“As a professional educator, I will be the first to say that simply increasing the number of weapons already legally on our campuses is not, at least in of itself, the answer,” Gwatney said, acknowledging that the issues faced when dealing with violence is multifaceted and other aspects such as mental health need also be addressed.

It was clear by Gwatney’s speech that his biggest concern when it comes to setting policy for the safety of Fannin County schools is the mistake of taking no action at all.

He concluded his thoughts by sharing a quote from John F. Kennedy: “There are risks and costs to action. But are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”

After fully reading the policy for a second time and with tension high in the room, the BOE unanimously passed GAMB. Many present in opposition of the policy stormed out of the building upon its passing.

The new Possession of Weapons by Employees policy (GAMB) states that “the Board of Education may authorize certain personnel to possess or carry weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the District, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the District.”

Those approved to carry weapons on school property must meet and adhere to certain criteria, the first of which being that proper training and review of skill must be approved in advance by the superintendent and the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, Terry Bramlett, Benny Long, Laurens County, Brent Warberg, Kyle Raque, Michele Bradley, Sheila Gooch, Jack Taylor

Fannin County Board of Education unanimously votes to adopt new GAMB policy.

Continued evaluation will also be required upon approval: “To receive and subsequently maintain authorization, all approved personnel shall regularly qualify to the standard required by the Fannin County Sheriff for each type of weapon authorized.”

Types and quantities of weapons and ammunition each individual will be allowed to possess will be approved and monitored by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office and the superintendent.

Personnel will not be required to carry arms, and the program will be carried out on a volunteer basis. Furthermore, the new legislation states, “The final appointment will be made by the Superintendent consistent with the requirements of this policy. Each employee appointed must be licensed under the laws of the state to carry a firearm and shall be subject to an annual criminal history background check. Approval will not be granted for any employee who has had an employment or other history indicating any type of mental or emotional instability as determined by the Board or Superintendent. The Superintendent shall be able at any time to remove or suspend the authority granted to any employee under this policy.”

Specific guidelines were also laid out in the new policy for proper carrying and storage of weapons.

Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby expressed his opinion of the policy at the previous BOE meeting held in April: “I support it 100 percent. I think that drastic acts require drastic responses.”

Kirby went on to say, “I’m very thankful that the board and the superintendent were willing to step out into these waters. I think it was done right.”

Fannin County Assistant Superintendent Benny Long pointed out that this policy is a foundation from which the school system can build: “At this given time, it is still in the very formative stages. There are lots of questions, I think, that all of us have but we are working on developing this process.”

If the board chooses to put this policy into practice, the personnel approved would remain confidential. Gwatney previously explained, “By pursuing a policy, the Board of Education intends to reserve the option to take action that is permitted by state law; whether and/or how the Board chooses to implement the policy, if approved, is a confidential matter.”

“This is just one more option, one more tool, that we could use to keep our schools safe,” Gwatney said, explaining that by adopting the policy it simply just gives the school board that option to possibly take. “The policy in and of itself could act as a deterrent to someone wishing to do harm.”

Policy Possession of Weapons by Employees (Descriptor Code: GAMB):

The Board of Education is committed to maintaining a safe and secure working and learning environment. Unless authorized by the Board of Education or an administrator in accordance with this policy, or specifically authorized by state law, employees shall be prohibited from bringing weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the District, at school functions, and on school buses or other transportation furnished by the School District. Employees in violation of this policy shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-11-130.1, the Board of Education may authorize certain personnel to possess or carry weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the District, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the District, subject to the following conditions:

1. Training of approved personnel shall occur prior to their authorization to carry weapons. The training shall be approved in advance by the Superintendent and Fannin County Sheriff and shall, at a minimum, include training on judgment pistol and long gun shooting, marksmanship, and a review of current laws relating to the use of force for the defense of self or others. The Superintendent, with the approval of the Fannin County Sheriff, may substitute for certain training requirements an individual’s prior military or law enforcement service if he or she has previously served as a certified law enforcement officer or has had military service which involved similar weapons training. To receive and subsequently maintain authorization, all approved personnel shall regularly qualify to the standard required by the Fannin County Sheriff for each type of weapon authorized.

2. An approved list of the types and quantity of weapons and ammunition each approved individual is authorized to possess or carry shall be prepared and maintained by the Superintendent and shall be approved by the Fannin County Sheriff;

3. Selection of personnel to possess or carry a weapon shall be done strictly on a voluntary basis.The final appointment will be made by the Superintendent consistent with the requirements of this policy. Each employee appointed must be licensed under the laws of the state to carry a firearm and shall be subject to an annual criminal history background check. Approval will not be granted for any employee who has had an employment or other history indicating any type of mental or emotional instability as determined by the Board or Superintendent. The Superintendent shall be able at any time to remove or suspend the authority granted to any employee under this policy; and

4. Weapons possessed or carried by personnel under this paragraph shall be secured as follows: Concealed weapons are permitted if they are carried in a holster and not in a purse, briefcase, bag, or similar other accessory which is not secured on the body. If maintained separate from the body, the weapon shall be maintained in a secured lock safe or similar lock box that cannot be easily accessed by students.

In addition to those employees appointed pursuant to this policy, the Board recognizes that other exceptions exist under O.C.G.A. §16-11-127.1. All records regarding the appointment of individual employees and the implementation of this program shall be exempt from production under the Open Records Act as specified in Georgia law.

 

 

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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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Arming Fannin County educators

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – At the April 12 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, a new policy was introduced that would give Fannin County Schools the option of having armed educators on their campuses.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School

Fannin County Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney

“There is no higher purpose of our school system than to provide a safe and secure environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney began, addressing those in attendance about the proposed policy addition about to be publicly read.

“Your board and I have been unable to ignore the many tragic events across our nation that have resulted in the deaths of so many,” Gwatney continued.

Gwatney cited that schools have a number of precautions in place to protect students and faculty in the event of a crisis. He listed fire extinguishers, bleed response kits, and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) as examples.

Following these examples, Gwatney pointed to the fact that school resource officers (SROs) are present for much the same reason: “During the course of my career, I have seen the numbers of SROs progress from none in our district to one; then the number has grown over the years to our current ratio of one SRO for each school.”

“Emergencies do occur, though, and just like a defibrillator, a tourniquet, or a fire extinguisher, a firearm is – at its core – a tool,” Gwatney expounded on the board’s decision to present this legislative option.

“As a professional educator, I will be the first to say that simply increasing the number of weapons already legally on our campuses is not, at least in of itself, the answer,” Gwatney said, acknowledging that the issues faced when dealing with violence is multifaceted and other aspects such as mental health need also be addressed.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School

Dr. Gwatney’s full letter concerning the board’s decision to look into arming educators for added security on Fannin County school campuses.

Gwatney concluded his thoughts with a quote from John F. Kennedy: “There are risks and costs to action. But are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”

The new Possession of Weapons by Employees policy (GAMB) states that “the Board of Education may authorize certain personnel to possess or carry weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the District, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the District”.

Those approved to carry weapons on school property must meet and adhere to certain criteria, the first of which being that proper training and review of skill must be approved in advance by the superintendent and the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.

Continued evaluation will also be required upon approval: “To receive and subsequently maintain authorization, all approved personnel shall regularly qualify to the standard required by the Fannin County Sheriff for each type of weapon authorized.”

Types and quantities of weapons and ammunition each individual will be allowed to possess will be approved and monitored by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office and the superintendent.

Personnel will not be required to carry arms and the program will be carried out on a volunteer basis. Furthermore the new legislation states, “The final appointment will be made by the Superintendent consistent with the requirements of this policy. Each employee appointed must be licensed under the laws of the state to carry a firearm and shall be subject to an annual criminal history background check. Approval will not be granted for any employee who has had an employment or other history indicating any type of mental or emotional instability as determined by the Board or Superintendent. The Superintendent shall be able at any time to remove or suspend the authority granted to any employee under this policy.”

Specific guidelines were also laid out in the new policy for proper carrying and storage of weapons.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School

Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby

Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby was present to share his thoughts: “I support it 100 percent. I think that drastic acts require drastic responses.”

Kirby cited the process of an active shooter scenario from the time that the first act of violence occurs until his officers could be on scene to respond.

He acknowledged that times may vary but stated, “By the time all of that is done, that could take up to 15 minutes, in all reality for someone to respond to one of our schools.”

“I’m very thankful that the board and the superintendent were willing to step out into these waters,” Kirby said, finalizing his opinion on the new policy. “I think it was done right.”

If implemented, the personnel approved would remain confidential. Gwatney explained, “By pursuing a policy, the Board of Education intends to reserve the option to take action that is permitted by state law; whether and/or how the board chooses to implement the policy, if approved, is a confidential matter.”

This new policy has been tabled and will be addressed at the Board of Education regular meeting held May 10.

Policy Possession of Weapons by Employees (Descriptor Code: GAMB):

The Board of Education is committed to maintaining a safe and secure working and learning environment. Unless authorized by the Board of Education or an administrator in accordance with this policy, or specifically authorized by state law, employees shall be prohibited from bringing weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the District, at school functions, and on school buses or other transportation furnished by the School District. Employees in violation of this policy shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-11-130.1, the Board of Education may authorize certain personnel to possess or carry weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the District, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the District, subject to the following conditions:

1. Training of approved personnel shall occur prior to their authorization to carry weapons. The training shall be approved in advance by the Superintendent and Fannin County Sheriff and shall, at a minimum, include training on judgment pistol and long gun shooting, marksmanship, and a review of current laws relating to the use of force for the defense of self or others. The Superintendent, with the approval of the Fannin County Sheriff, may substitute for certain training requirements an individual’s prior military or law enforcement service if he or she has previously served as a certified law enforcement officer or has had military service which involved similar weapons training. To receive and subsequently maintain authorization, all approved personnel shall regularly qualify to the standard required by the Fannin County Sheriff for each type of weapon authorized.

2. An approved list of the types and quantity of weapons and ammunition each approved individual is authorized to possess or carry shall be prepared and maintained by the Superintendent and shall be approved by the Fannin County Sheriff;

3. Selection of personnel to possess or carry a weapon shall be done strictly on a voluntary basis.The final appointment will be made by the Superintendent consistent with the requirements of this policy. Each employee appointed must be licensed under the laws of the state to carry a firearm and shall be subject to an annual criminal history background check. Approval will not be granted for any employee who has had an employment or other history indicating any type of mental or emotional instability as determined by the Board or Superintendent. The Superintendent shall be able at any time to remove or suspend the authority granted to any employee under this policy; and

4. Weapons possessed or carried by personnel under this paragraph shall be secured as follows: Concealed weapons are permitted if they are carried in a holster and not in a purse, briefcase, bag, or similar other accessory which is not secured on the body. If maintained separate from the body, the weapon shall be maintained in a secured lock safe or similar lock box that cannot be easily accessed by students.

In addition to those employees appointed pursuant to this policy, the Board recognizes that other exceptions exist under O.C.G.A. §16-11-127.1. All records regarding the appointment of individual employees and the implementation of this program shall be exempt from production under the Open Records Act as specified in Georgia law.

 

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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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Discussions continue over Board of Education $250,000 land purchase

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After news spread of the Fannin County Board of Education’s recent approval to purchase one acre of land on Highway 515 for a price tag of $250,000, citizens questioned the necessity of this purchase and inquired about the legalities of its use.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, along with Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss and Fannin County School System’s Director of Facilities and Maintenance Danny Shinpaugh, sat down with FetchYourNews to answer questions and address concerns over this purchase.

This one-acre plot of land, which will serve as a connector to the school system’s new agricultural development positioned off of Ada Street, is located along Highway 515 between Windy Ridge Road and Josh Hall Road.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Main entrance to agricultural campus will be shared with Fannin County’s new fire station and E-911 center.

Doss explained that the 31 acres off of Ada Street has been under the ownership of the Fannin County School System for many years: “The school system has owned that property for about 15 years.”

According to Doss, the Ada Street land was originally purchased in 2006 with plans to build a new school if the need arose. The land itself was centrally enough located and met state requirements at that time for a new school.

Since the need for a new school never came to pass, the school system, over the years, have looked at a number of ways in which to utilize this property and, in recent years, decided that it would be ideal for an agricultural facility.

The property currently has an entrance/exit along Ada Street, but Gwatney pointed out that it would be used very minimally and primarily in the event of an emergency.

The property’s main point of access is along the Windy Ridge Connector, where the school system has partnered with Fannin County, and a roadway will be shared with the new fire station and allow access to the agricultural facility.

Questions arose about the need for the acre of land located on Highway 515 and the logistics of its use after Gwatney released a statement explaining the purchase.

In the statement, Gwatney said, “If you hear that our school system paid $250,000 for an acre of property, it is true; however, there is more that you need to know about this purchase, and I want you to have the facts.”

Gwatney also pointed out in the same statement that district personnel, including himself, has already met with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), and it has been determined that a deceleration lane may be placed ahead of the existing entrance to the property on Hwy. 515.

No official approval has been granted to the school system to make changes to the property in the GDOT right of way, but a GDOT representative did confirm with school officials that these changes were possible.

Gwatney clarified about circumstances of the possible deceleration lane: “We just wanted to make sure whether it was feasible, and that’s what we talked to GDOT about.”

In order for any improvements to be made to the entrance of the property, including a deceleration or an acceleration lane, permission would have to be granted from GDOT and special permits would need to be obtained by the Fannin County School System.

Fannin County School System’s Director of Facilities and Maintenance Danny Shinpaugh confirmed that any of these improvements would have to be carried out by GDOT-approved contractors and engineers and meet GDOT-approved standards and plans.

According to the GDOT Regulations for Driveway and Encroachment Control, a right turn lane may be required of the school system in order to use this property as an entrance: “Right turn deceleration lane must be constructed at no cost to the Department if the daily site generated Right Turn Volumes (RTV) based on ITE Trip Generation (assuming a reasonable distribution of entry volumes) meet or exceed” 50 right turns into the property daily.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Ownership and maintaining of a deceleration lane after completion is also described in the GDOT regulations as: “The R/W for accel/decel lanes may be dedicated in fee simple to the Department for the Department to maintain or the applicant must sign an agreement with the Department to maintain the lane to the Department’s standards and to hold harmless the Department in the event that section of roadway is identified in any liability action.”

While the addition of the deceleration lane could be an expensive venture for the school system, Gwatney stated that there are currently no plans to implement the right turn lane, and the main reason for the purchase of the property was for direct Hwy. 515 access and to allow for a variety of options in traffic control onto and off of the land.

“We would have acquired this property without that (deceleration lane),” Gwatney said, explaining the school system’s stance on the purchase. “It wouldn’t be near the worth if we couldn’t do that.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Site where possible future deceleration/acceleration lanes would be placed.

A question also arose pertaining to whether the property’s existing entrance was already zoned for commercial use, as getting a commercial entrance onto Hwy. 515 could be difficult and costly.

According to the GDOT regulations, in the case of Non-commercial Driveways “a driveway serving a school, government building, church, hospital or other non-commercial organization inviting public use. Design guidelines relating to commercial driveways will be applicable to driveways serving these land uses.”

However, Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss said that this is not a concern for this project: “It’s not a thing where we are because we’re outside of the city limits. In the county, we don’t have zoning, so we have no commercial, residential or industrial.”

While the plans for the one-acre tract are yet to be determined, Gwatney suggested some possible uses. The land could serve as an exit from the facility for southbound traffic turning right onto Hwy. 515, and the main entrance off of Windy Ridge Connector would serve as an exit for northbound traffic allowing this traffic access to a traffic light in order to turn left onto Hwy. 515.

Another plus noted by both Gwatney and Shinpaugh in relation to purchasing this land is the use of the existing buildings on the property.

“The school system is always hurting for storage,” Shinpaugh noted.

The property currently has 18 storage units, all of which have the space to house large equipment. These buildings will be put to use by the school system.

As for the purchase of this tract, Gwatney explained that it was not needed for the land’s original purpose in 2006, but as the purpose of the land changed, so did the needs to accommodate the facility: “It makes our existing project better.”

The new agricultural facility is expected to be completed by June 30 of this year.

[Featured Image: Entrance onto recently purchased property from Highway 515. According to Doss, this entrance will not require a commercial zoning permit.]

 

 

 

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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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Board of Education agrees to purchase commercial tract for $250,000

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – At a special called Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) meeting held March 22, the board unanimously agreed to purchase commercial land located on Highway 515.

Fannin County BOE agrees to purchase commercial tract for $250,000

The one acre property is located between Windy Ridge Road and Josh Hall Road.

This one-acre plot of land, which will serve as a connector to the school system’s new agricultural development located off of Ada Street, was purchased by the board for an agreed upon price of $250,000.

A statement released by Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney explains the circumstances behind this purchase: “If you hear that our school system paid $250,000 for an acre of property, it is true; however, there is more that you need to know about this purchase, and I want you to have the facts.”

The district currently has an easement beside the site of the new Fannin County Fire Department Fire Station 1 (off of the Windy Ridge Connector) that has been utilized to access the 31+ acres of land located off Ada Street.

“This new tract will connect our existing acreage and provide us with a continuous piece of property connecting directly to Highway 515,” Gwatney explains.

“This second Highway 515 access will be a safer and quicker way to enter our agricultural facility, and it will alleviate the need for visitors to travel to the Windy Ridge Connector,” Gwatney said in his statement.

The new tract of land is located along Highway 515 between the Windy Ridge Connector and Josh Hall Road.

Fannin County BOE agrees to purchase commercial tract for $250,000

Entrance to the property is located just beyond the Windy Ridge overpass heading south on Hwy. 515.

Gwatney pointed out that district personnel, including himself, has already met with the Georgia Department of Transportation, and it has been determined that a deceleration lane may be placed ahead of the existing entrance to the property on Hwy. 515.

Gwatney explained, “This deceleration lane will help safely ease the transition off Highway 515 for our buses, student drivers, and large vehicles that may be towing trailers.”

The property is owned by AAH Properties of Blue Ridge, LLC. who purchased the tract in 2006 for $380,000. According to Gwatney, it is also important to note that “all usable commercial frontage on Highway 515, especially with an access road already in place, is quite valuable.”

This tract of land has buildings that are currently being used commercially and these buildings along with signage will become property of the Fannin County School System.

The terms in the selling contract states that closing on this property will occur within 90 days of the termination of current tenant leases. The purchase of this property will come from Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) funds allocated to the Fannin County School System.

 

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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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County hires new head football coach

Rebel's Corner, Sports

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The search and wait is now over. Fannin County High School has found its new head football coach.

After an announcement came earlier this year that the Rebels head football coach Jim Pavao would be leaving Fannin County to pursue an offer from Coffee County, the search for Fannin County’s next head coach was underway.

Pavao accepted a position with Coffee County as special teams coordinator and will also be focusing on coaching defensive linebackers.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Chad Cheatham, Fannin County School System, Fannin County High School, Football, Head Coach, Rebels, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Erik Cioffi, Dr. Scott Ramsey, Theresa Dillard, David Henson

Fannin County’s new head football coach Chad Cheatham.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney confirmed today that Fannin County had found its new head football coach, Chad Cheatham. Cheatham was officially announced as a school system teaching hire yesterday at a special called Board of Education meeting.

Fannin County High School Principal Erik Cioffi spoke with FetchYourNews about the hiring process. Out of 27 applicants, nine sat with Fannin County School System staff for a first-round interview.

Two of the nine first-round interviewees were called back for a final interview. Cioffi, along with current Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey, David Henson, who will be taking Ramsey’s place as new athletic director for school year 2018-19, and Fannin County High School Assistant Principal Theresa Dillard conducted the final interviews and ultimately decided Cheatham would make a great fit.

“We really enjoyed his enthusiasm and his commitment,” Cioffi said, explaining the decision.

Cioffi added, “He has the energy level and excitement that we were looking to bring to the program.”

Cheatham is no stranger to Fannin County. Having strong ties to our area, Cheatham was a Fannin County High School graduate of 1991.

“Everything just worked out and the timing was right for him (Cheatham) to come back to this area,” Cioffi spoke of Cheatham’s connections with Fannin County.

Cheatham will be leaving Banks County after being named head coach of the Leopards late last year. Cheatham had worked with the Leopards as an assistant coach to the defensive backs prior to the off-season hire decision that made him head coach.

Some of Cheatham’s previous coaching experiences include serving as a head middle school football coach, head track coach, and several coordinator positions at the varsity level. Coaching the Rebels will be Cheatham’s first on-field experience as a varsity head football coach.

Cheatham is expected to be in Fannin County next week to meet with Fannin County High School players and staff.

 

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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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Mercier Orchards celebrates 75 years

Community, Featured Stories
Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

Tim Mercier cuts the ribbon and begins the year-long celebration of Mercier Orchards’ 75th anniversary.

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Friends, family, fellow business owners, and Georgia dignitaries gathered to celebrate an important anniversary on Friday, Jan. 19. Mercier Orchards, a Fannin County staple and a Georgia landmark, is celebrating 75 years of business.

Founded by Adele and Bill Mercier in 1943, Mercier Orchards has adapted over the years to become one of the area’s largest attractions, boasting more than 600,000 visitors each year. One aspect of Mercier Orchards that has remained the same throughout the years is family.

As crowds gathered for the kick off of Mercier Orchards year-long celebration, the theme of Farm and Family could be felt throughout the room. While the business itself has been passed down through the Mercier family with four generations having worked to help build the brand, the employees were praised and acknowledged for their roles in helping Mercier’s to become what it is today.

“They make us what we are,” Tim Mercier, current chief executive officer of Mercier Orchards, said of the employees. “They do all the work. They present the part of us that the public sees, and they’re really the true family of Mercier’s Orchards.”

Reverend Michael Brunson began the celebration by offering a blessing: “Thank you for this beautiful planet that you provided for all of us.”

Brunson spoke directly of the blessing that Mercier Orchards has bestowed upon our community: “It provides our livelihood and that of many in Fannin County.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, left, presents a resolution to Tim Mercier.

Among the dignitaries at the event to recognize Mercier Orchards were: Bernard Sims (vice president to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau), Gary Black (Georgia Department of Agriculture commissioner), Jan Hackett (president of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce), Larry Joe Sosebee (Fannin County Post 2 commissioner), Dr. Michael Gwatney (Fannin County School System superintendent), Caroline Lewallen (president of the Georgia Agritourism Association), and David Ralston (speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives).

Commissioner Gary Black presented a resolution from the Georgia Department of Agriculture: “It is a special treat to come spend this very special time with a family that’s very dear to me, dear to this department.”

Black joked that the department sometimes allows him to have input on the resolutions, but then turned to Tim Mercier and said, “I wrote this one, and I want to read it to my friend.”

“Indeed business ideas, inventions and discoveries have a starting point,” Black read from the resolution, “and it is notable and appropriate that Mercier Orchards be recognized as one of the first and certainly as a demonstrated leader in Georgia’s multi-million dollar agritourism industry. And the state of Georgia and countless Georgia agritourism operators owe a debt of gratitude to the Mercier family for their leadership.”

President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce Jan Hackett spoke of the impact of Mercier Orchards on Fannin County. Hackett joked that her husband once said, “The Merciers are kind of like the Kennedys of Fannin County.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston, right, came to celebrate with the Mercier family.

On a serious note, Hackett spoke of the adaptation to change that Mercier Orchards has displayed in its long history of business. She noted that Merciers was the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year in 2010.

“Mercier Orchards is one of the county’s most successful businesses,” Hackett stated to the crowd,”one that brings hundred of thousands of visitors and shoppers to Blue Ridge and Fannin County every year.”

David Ralston, speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, presented a resolution that was recently passed in the Georgia General Assembly.

“Those of us who have lived in Fannin County for a while and knew Bill and Adele Mercier are better for having that experience,” Ralston began.

“Mercier Orchards enjoys the distinction of celebrating the 75th anniversary of its founding,” Ralston read from the resolution. “This outstanding company has grown from its humble beginnings in 1943 to become one of the leading orchards in this country.”

The Mercier family was present as well to celebrate with friends and family. Tim Mercier, son of founders Bill and Adele, as well as current CEO of Mercier Orchards, joked about the history of the establishment: “My mother’s philosophy was if she didn’t do it herself, it didn’t get done right. My dad’s philosophy (was), if you can’t hire it out, the hell with it.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

The Mercier family gave a heartfelt thank you to all of their supporters throughout the years.

Judge Amanda Mercier, granddaughter of Mercier Orchards founders, also joked, “My family believed that work ethic started the second you were basically born, and if anybody knew my grandmother, you know that.”

Amanda Mercier spoke of growing up as a child and working at the orchard: “I used to joke that I was going to grow up to be a child labor lawyer. I got real close.”

An emotional thank you came from Helen Mercier, daughter of Bill and Adele, who said, “My mom and dad would be so proud to see all of you here, to see these guys (indicating fellow family members and employees of Mercier Orchards) and see what a great job they have done. Thank you.”

Guests enjoyed live music from the Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band and cuisine provided by Mercier Orchards as they celebrated into the evening. Mercier Orchards will continue the festivities all year long with special events to commemorate 75 years of business.

 

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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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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