Preparations for the 2018 General Election are taking place in Fannin County

Election, News, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Board of Elections and Registration (BOEAR) continues to prepare for the upcoming elections in 2018.

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Margaret Williamson will face David Ralston in the Republican Primary for Georgia House of Representatives, District 7 seat.

With candidates, such as Glenn Patterson for Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner and Margaret Williamson for Georgia House of Representatives District 7, already announcing their intentions to run in the scheduled May primaries, the BOEAR has much to prepare for this year.

The BOEAR will see new faces on their board as well this year. The board, composed of two appointed Democrats, two appointed Republicans and a fifth member decided by the appointed members, will all be up for reappointment this year having served their two-year terms.

One member that will not be seeking reappointment is John Baird. Baird having served on the board for two years will be leaving Fannin County in the near future. This will leave the Democratic seat held by Baird open for a new Democratic appointment to fill.

Members of the Board of Elections and Registration are nominated by their parties respectively, and then voted on within that party to fill the board.

Board members are preparing to attend the Georgia Election Officials Association (GEOA) and the Voter Registrars Association of Georgia (VRAG) joint conference held March 25 to 28 in Athens, Georgia.

Attendance to this conference in mandatory for two members of the board and will keep Fannin County in compliance with Georgia state law regarding elections.

BOEAR Vice Chairman Mary Ann Conner explained the need for the mandatory attendance saying, “We (BOEAR) have to have 12 hours of training each year on voter registration and the elections, and it certifies us to hold that election.”

“We usually go to two a year,” BOEAR Chairman Sonia Smith clarified. “This one will be combined.”

Conner added, “Because of all of the elections, this is the only way they (GEOA/VRAG) can do it during an election year.”

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Glenn Patterson seeks a position as Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner.

The BOEAR also announced the proposed qualifying fees for county positions. These fees were later passed by the Board of Commissioners.

A fee of $349 is required to run for Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, and $144 is required to run for a seat with the Board of Education. The qualifying period for these positions begins March 5 at 9 a.m. and will close on March 9 at noon.

A General Primary Election for both Republicans and Democrats will take place on May 22, 2018. Voter registration deadline for the Primary Election is April 23.

Winners of the primaries will face off in the General Election to be held on Nov. 6, 2018.

Another position that will be seen on the ballot in November is that of the Blue Ridge Mountain Soil and Water Conservation District.

The Blue Ridge Mountain Soil and Water Conservation District is represented by two district supervisors. One of the supervisors is appointed to a two-year term while the other is elected to the position and serves a four-year term.

Currently, Fannin County is only represented by one district supervisor, Damon Davenport. Richard Stanley, the elected official, passed away in late September of 2017. The seat of the late Richard Stanley will be open to candidates in the 2018 election.

To fill the vacant seat within the Blue Ridge Soil and Water Conservation District, one must petition the state of Georgia and meet certain requirements to be put on the ballot.

Conner pointed out a change in requirements for this position, “They have upped the petition from 20 names to 25 names.” Names on this petition must be from registered voters and can be filed with the Fannin County Board of Registration and Elections.

 

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

Vehicle needs discussed at Fannin assessors meeting

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The condition of two fleet vehicles and the potential purchase of up to two vehicles for the Fannin County Board of Assessors were discussed at the Friday, Jan. 12, assessors meeting.

Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran told board members Friday that Board of Commissioners Chairman Stan Helton had recently asked Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff to perform a thorough inspection of the vehicles in the tax assessors fleet. The inspections, as Cochran explained, were conducted using a points rating system, which takes into consideration the mileage of the vehicle along with issues related to the vehicle’s engine, chassis, transmission, brakes, steering and driveline.

According to Cochran, from those inspections, two vehicles out of the fleet of six received questionable ratings. A 2003 Chevrolet 1500 four-wheel drive truck with 193,384 miles was rated a 36 on a 99-point scale. Also, a 2004 Ford Explorer with 190,252 miles was rated a 43.

“Anything less than a 40 is something that really needs to be replaced,” Cochran stated to the board in a paraphrase of Ratcliff’s explanation of the ratings to her previously.

Explaining some of issues with the two vehicles, Cochran stated the Chevrolet truck was leaking motor oil and transmission fluid, and after the recent inspection, the rear end of the truck had “locked down” making it inoperable.  Cochran also said early estimates projected the cost to repair the truck to be around $1,000. As for the Ford Explorer, Cochran explained that inspections determined the sub-frame of this vehicle to be badly rusted, lending itself to potential safety hazards in the event of a side impact.

“That’s the county’s mechanic (performing the inspection), not the Board of Assessors,” Board member Troy Junnier pointed out. “The county mechanic telling you it’s unsafe – I wouldn’t let anyone drive it.”

Cochran assured Junnier that both vehicles have remained parked and out of use. She also told the board that in her talks with Chairman Helton, the chairman told her he wanted to receive reports of the inspections from Ratcliff and invited the Board of Assessors to present the department’s vehicle situation at the next Board of Commissioners meeting Jan. 23.

“(Helton) wants the Board of Assessors to get together before (Jan. 23) … and decide how we want to move forward,” Cochran said. “Then, he wants the Board of Assessors to present that (decision) ahead of time, in some sort of writing, for (the commissioners) to look at it, and then it will come up on the agenda on the 23rd.”

The board weighed repair options versus the purchase of two new vehicles or dependable used vehicles. Among the many ideas discussed was the potential purchase of two new hard-top four-wheel drive Jeep Wranglers. Board member Anthony Holloway also suggested the possibility of both presenting the commissioners with a request to purchase two vehicles while also repairing the Chevrolet truck and using the truck as a backup vehicle, if the safety of the truck could be assured. Throughout the discussion, Board of Assessors Chairman Lane Bishop urged the board to come to a definite agreement on the situation.

“Let’s not forget … we’ve still got these 10,000 parcels (to be appraised),”  Bishop said adamantly. “We’ve got to get that done.”

Ultimately, it was decided that Cochran would speak with Ratcliff about the possibility and cost of repairing the Chevrolet truck, study prices and options available for two new Jeep Wranglers as well as other new or used vehicles and report the findings back to the Board of Assessors in order to draft a presentation to offer to the Board of Commissioners ahead of the Jan. 23 meeting.

The board also adopted a locked gate/access denied policy for field appraisers. Last month, Cochran presented the board with a draft of the policy, and a decision was made to forward the policy to County Attorney Lynn Doss for review. At Friday’s meeting, Cochran explained Doss had reviewed the policy and made a few grammatical changes to the policy. Following this, the policy was officially adopted by the board.

The new policy has four primary steps. Upon first visit to a property, a door knocker complete with date, appraiser and reason for the visit will be placed at the gate of the parcel. A time-stamped photo of the knocker will also be taken and filed in the property account in the Board of Assessors system. After that, a phone call to the named owner of the property will be made, if possible. If no contact can be made at that point, a certified letter will be mailed to the property owner, as reflected in the Fannin County Tax Assessors’ records, again requesting access. Finally, if the department still does not receive a response, the assessors will utilize any information, such as aerial photography, building and/or septic permits and real estate ads and/or listings, to estimate a value for all structures on the property.

Cochran addressed the upcoming 2018 timber valuation with the board and stated that 12 letters would be sent to property owners with significant acreage containing timber with the potential to be cut and sold.

“Any (parcel) 20 acres or over that took place in a sale in 2017, the state says that if there’s marketable timber that (the tax assessors) need to take into consideration – timber is not valued until it is cut and sold – we back this value out,” Cochran explained. “If a 100-acre tract sold for $200,000 and our timber (evaluator) says there’s $5,000 worth of timber, we back it out (of the property assessment).”

Last year, as Cochran stated, the tax assessors office utilized Allen Baker, a registered forester with Allen Forest Management, to value such tracts of land at a cost of $20 an hour to the county, which came to a total cost of $2,000 for 100 hours of service. Cochran further stated Fannin County received the most accurate timber valuation in the state of Georgia last year after the county’s digest review from the state. The board approved the use of Baker again for 2018 at the same rate as last year and approved the list of letters to be sent to the 12 applicable property owners notifying them of the upcoming valuation.

The board also approved the state values for public utilities. According to Cochran, the state of Georgia sets the value of public utilities such as electric, gas and phone companies.

Cochran also presented the board with the 2018 tax digest schedule and discussed several important dates and deadlines for Fannin County tax payers.

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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.”

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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?”

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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

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

Board of Assessors again questions 2018 budget

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Assessors (BOA) discussed the department’s proposed 2018 budget one last time at their regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 12, ahead of the final adoption of the entire county budget later that evening during the Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting.

At a Nov. 29 called meeting of the assessors, the assessors agreed to speak individually with BOC Chairman Stan Helton and post commissioners Earl Johnson and Larry Joe Sosebee about potential cuts by the BOC to the assessors requested 2018 budget.

Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran reported to the Board of Assessors Tuesday those meetings did take place since the Nov. 29 called meeting and that she had a chance to explain her concerns to the BOC.

“Both post commissioners were willing to review these line items (of the budget) with myself, and after both meetings, the post commissioners stated that they would get with (County Finance Director) Robin Gazaway and go from there,” Cochran told the assessors.

Cochran further explained she along with Board of Assessors Chairman Lane Bishop met with Helton and Gazaway about the proposed budget again Dec. 11.

“That meeting resulted in Mr. Helton stating that his position was to leave the budget just as was recommended (by the BOC) and that if the Board of Assessors run into any issues with their budget in 2018 that they can come back to the Board of Commissioners at that time and revisit the budget needs,” Cochran continued.

As in the Nov. 29 assessors meeting, Bishop again brought up the need for an additional vehicle to be added to the assessors fleet and the additional 10,000 parcels yet to be assessed by the department across the county. The assessors requested $40,000 in capital outlay for 2018, $22,000 of which was hoped to be used to purchase another vehicle. The commissioners recommended amount for this line item was $15,000.

“We are being unfair to the rest of the taxpayers of Fannin County that have gone through these appeals and that we’ve gone out to visit … This other 10,000 – they’re going to (be appraised). We’re going to do it,” Bishop stated.

To this, Cochran agreed that assessing the remaining 10,000 parcels would not only add to the county tax digest but also provide uniform treatment to all county taxpayers.

Assessor Anthony Holloway inquired about the cut in capital outlay and the $21,000 cut in education to the department from the requested amount and asked, “So, the cuts that they (BOC) have proposed … how do you deal with that?”

“Right now, I don’t know how we’re going to handle it,” Cochran replied.

After this, Bishop stated he was told by the BOC to “make do with you’ve got. That’s exactly what we were told … That’s sort of a flippant kind of answer.”

The final approved budget for the Board of Assessors for 2018, as approved by the commissioners, is $848,265. The assessors requested budget was $977,370.

Also, during the assessors meeting, Cochran presented a draft of the department’s revised locked gate/access denied policy for approval by the Board, but after Bishop inquired whether the draft had been forwarded to County Attorney Lynn Doss for review, Cochran explained the policy was not yet given to Doss. The Board then tabled the approval of the policy so as to give Doss a chance to review it and decided to revisit the policy again afterwards.

The draft of the proposed policy contains four steps. Once approved, upon first visit to a parcel, a door knocker complete with date, appraiser and reason for the visit would be hung at the gate of the parcel. After that, a phone call to the legal owner of the property would be made, if possible. If no contact can be made at that point, a certified letter would be mailed to the property owner again requesting access. Finally, if the department still does not receive a response, the assessors would utilize any information, such as aerial photography, building and/or septic permits and real estate ads and/or listings, to estimate a value for all structures on the property.

The Board also approved the 2017 pre-bill digest for mobile homes and approved that digest’s upload to Harris Govern, the computer software vendor of the Fannin County Tax Commissioners office. According the information presented by Cochran to the assessors, the total count of mobile homes in Fannin is 1,193 for a total fair market value of $13,346,429.

Approval of upload and mailing of the 2018 personal property reporting forms was given by the assessors. Cochran explained the reporting forms are sent out to business owners or owners of boats or airplanes at the end of each year, and that these taxpayers are responsible for returning the forms to the assessors office. According to Cochran, the assessors office utilizes an independent vendor to print and mail out the forms to taxpayers, and the cost of using the vendor will be $2,996 for 2018, which is the same amount as in 2017.

BOA Chairman Bishop also addressed the recent public hearing on the potential school tax exemption for seniors held Nov. 16 in the jury assembly room of the Fannin County Courthouse, at which Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston and state Senator Steve Gooch heard from opponents and supporters of the potential exemption. Bishop explained there were already three types of tax breaks in place for senior taxpayers based on age and income qualifications of which he feared taxpayers are unaware. The chairman directed Cochran to draft a press release to give to the media detailing the three avenues of tax relief already available to seniors.

The assessors approved a number of invoices, one of which was $1,739.97 for the purchase orders of three new iPad Pros. Cochran stated one of the new iPads would be added to the department’s inventory while the other two would replace existing iPads. Also, protective cases for the iPads were purchased for $292. Additionally, approval was made for the final payment of $13,297.50 for 2017 to Data Cloud for technical and maintenance support for the handheld iPads used by field appraisers.

The department also approved an expenditure of $9,271.50 for upgrades to the Data Cloud system, advanced mapping and six new laser distance measurers. The Leica Disto E7500i 650-foot laser measurers, Cochran said, would be an upgrade for the department from the traditional 200-foot tape measures currently be used by field appraisers. The expenditure will come from the 2017 tax assessors capital outlay fund.

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Board of Elections and Registration prepare for General Election in 2018

Election, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Board of Elections and Registration (BOEAR) planned ahead for upcoming elections in 2018 at their Dec. 4 meeting.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Elections and Registration, Chairman Sonia Smith, Vice Chairman Mary Ann Conner, Georgia House of Representaives, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, David Ralston, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Post 2 Commissioner, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Board of Education, Steve Stanley, Bobby Bearden, Blue Ridge Mountain Soil and Water Conservation District, Soil and Water Conservation, Damon Davenport, Richard Stanley, General Election, General Primary, Senior Homestead Exemption, Governor, Nathan Deal

Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston could seek re-election in 2018.

With many county and statewide elections scheduled to take place in the upcoming year, the BOEAR is already planning ahead for the busy year. BOEAR Chairman Sonia Smith began, “We are looking at a primary in May.”

“Locally, we have Post 2 Commissioner and two school board seats, Steve Stanley and Bobby Bearden,” BOEAR Vice Chairman Mary Ann Conner added.

One of the notable political figures that could choose to run for re-election in 2018 is Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston.

Ralston was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2002 and represents House District 7, which includes Fannin County, Gilmer County and a portion of Dawson County. Ralston is the 73rd Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, a position he has held since 2010.

Another key race in Georgia will be the governor’s seat. Currently held by Governor Nathan Deal, this seat will be open without an incumbent.

Deal was first elected in 2010 and has served two consecutive four year terms. According to Georgia state law, this seat is popularly elected every four years by a plurality and is limited to two consecutive terms.

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Governor Nathan Deal will be ineligible for to seek a third term in 2018.

Governor Deal has met the term limit criteria and will be ineligible to seek a third term in 2018.

Locally, three seats within Fannin County will be in the General Election. Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Post 2 Commissioner, currently held by Larry Joe Sosebee, will appear on the ballot.

Along with the Post 2 Commissioner seat, two of the five seats on the Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) will also be voted on in the 2018 elections. These seats, with the BOE, are currently held by board member Steve Stanley and BOE Chairman Bobby Bearden.

The General Primary is scheduled to be held on May 22, 2018, with a voter registration deadline of April 23.

Conner brought up another position that will appear in the 2018 General Election: “The Soil and Water Conservation seat, that will come up. The Soil and Water people and the state take care of all of that, and they just send us what they want on the ballot.”

The Blue Ridge Mountain Soil and Water Conservation District is represented by two district supervisors. One of the supervisors is appointed to a two-year term while the other is elected to the position and serves a four-year term.

Currently, Fannin County is only represented by one district supervisor, Damon Davenport. Richard Stanley, the elected official, passed away in late September of this year. The seat of the late Stanley will be open to candidates in the 2018 election.

A key issue in Fannin County that could make its way to the 2018 ballot is the Senior Homestead Tax Exemption. In a town hall meeting held on Nov. 16, hundreds gathered to address the possibility of eliminating the education portion of property taxes for seniors.

At this meeting, there was an overwhelming turnout opposed to this proposal. With no official word from state representatives as to whether there are plans to move forward with the passing of this exemption, Smith cautioned, “Let us not be lackadaisical, in assuming that that will not get dropped before they (state representatives) quit meeting. So let’s keep an eye on that.”

After General Primaries are held in May to narrow down candidate selection, a General Election will take place on Nov. 6, 2018. Voting registration for this election ends on Oct. 9.

 

 

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

Animal activists and rescuers speak at BOC meeting

Citizens Speak, Community

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Animal activists and members of local animal rescue groups were present to have their voices heard again at the Nov. 28 Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting.

Taking the opportunity to speak during the public commentary portion of the meeting, residents addressed their concerns to the board. One resident spoke of the need for the inside of the animal control facility, located at 1001 Fannin Industrial Park in Blue Ridge, to be painted and updated.

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Jan Eaton addresses the board holding a crate tray that she received from FCAC.

Tri State Pet Rescue founder Jan Eaton spoke to the board regarding equipment currently used by Fannin County Animal Control (FCAC). Holding a tray used in the bottom of an animal crate, Eaton said, “With me tonight, I brought a tray that came out of the bottom of a crate that an animal was being housed in at Fannin Animal Control.”

The tray was visibly broken in two. “It is pretty sad that this is the best our county can do for the animals at animal control,” Eaton added.

Eaton went on to point out that at all of the meetings she has attended, department heads often speak to the board asking for specific needs for their department, and that she has yet to see FCAC Department Head John Drullinger do so.

Stating that the board spends “millions here and there,” Eaton said she thinks that the needs of FCAC are often overshadowed by other projects.

Earlier this year, the Board of Commissioners approved upgrades to the animal control facility. BOC Chairman Stan Helton and Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee voted to install guillotine doors to the existing kennels; Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson abstained from voting on this issue.

The approved improvements called for fourteen outdoor runs to the facility, as well as guillotine doors to allow the dogs to access these runs from their indoor kennels.

Helton stated at the time, “Not only will this improve living conditions for the dogs but will also allow animal control staff to safely access kennels for cleaning and feeding.”

FetchYourNews asked Eaton how she felt about the improvements that had been approved by the board for the animal control facility. Eaton replied, “They’re doing that. There is just a wealth of things that need to be done.”

Ralph Garner, of Blue Ridge, also spoke during public commentary. Wanting to see changes take place at FCAC he urged Johnson and  Sosebee to take action.

“I really am asking post commissioners to take the initiative regarding any complaints about animal control,” Garner pled. “As I look back over the past eight years of the previous chairman, the most significant accomplishments that occurred were done by you two gentlemen.”

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Photo from FCAC Facbook page showing a dog temporarily housed in a FCAC crate.

Garner’s appeal did not go unnoticed. As the meeting came to an end, Sosebee spoke up about issues that were raised concerning animal control and addressed Eaton’s display of the broken crate tray.

“These trays you brought in … I’m an animal lover, I guess you could say as well,” Sosebee continued, turning to the other commissioners, “and guys I would like to find some way to buy some crates for animal control. If we could possibly do so, I don’t think it would be too much to ask.”

FCAC Department Head John Drullinger addressed the issue of the crate tray brought to the meeting by Eaton. He explained it is not uncommon for FCAC to be filled to capacity. Drullinger stated, “This is because we want to use euthanasia as only an ultimate last resort.”

When FCAC is filled beyond capacity, animals that are brought in are sometimes temporarily housed in individual crates instead of kennel runs.

In this case, Drullinger explained, “We were over capacity but had commitments from rescues to pull some of our dogs very soon. Rather than buy a new crate to house this dog for one day, we borrowed one. The crate was not county property.”

Drullinger added, “All of our (FCAC) crates are in good condition.”

 

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

Fannin Assessors address potential budget cut for 2018

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Assessors held a special called meeting Monday, Nov. 27, to discuss the department’s projected budget for 2018.

Chairman Lane Bishop opened the meeting by telling the board, “I wish that we were not even having this meeting.” Bishop continued to inform the other members that, to his understanding, the Board of Commissioners had reduced next year’s projected assessors’ budget “a considerable amount” in comparison to the requested 2018 budget.

Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran presented the board with information comparing the assessors requested amount and the commissioners recommended amount. According to Cochran, the total requested budget for 2018 was $864,900 while the commissioners recommended amount reduced the pending budget by $126,045. Cochran explained the most significant projected reductions include a $40,005 cut in salaries, a $21,000 cut in education and training, a $27,500 cut in operation supplies and a $25,000 cut in capital outlay equipment.

Board members along with Cochran were concerned about the cut in education and training. Cochran stressed the importance of continuing the education of field appraisers in order to stay in accordance with Georgia Department of Revenue guidelines and avoid another future consent order and fines from the state.

“So that’s going to be cutting the appraisers back to where they can’t actually do what we’ve been requested of by the Department of Revenue through our performance review,” Cochran told board members. “It’s not going to be like we’ve been doing and trying to stay up (to date) on the new laws and sending each person to school once a year.”

Concerning the potential cut in operation supplies, Cochran explained County Finance Director Robin Gazaway had previously asked Cochran to move an $18,000 amount from the capital outlay line item to operation supplies for audit compliance. Cochran questioned the commissioners’ knowledge of the $18,000 line item shift given their recommended amount of $24,500 for operation supplies.

The chief appraiser also mentioned the department requested $40,000 for capital outlay equipment, which included $22,000 for the purchase of a used vehicle to add to the tax assessors’ fleet and $18,000 for revaluation of 12,000 rural land parcels, which would be contracted out to a private company. The commissioners recommended amount for the capital outlay line item is $15,000.

Bishop also pointed out the assessors office still has to appraise over 10,000 parcels throughout the county despite the fact that the consent order the department had been under from the state Department of Revenue had been recently lifted. Of these 10,000 parcels yet to be appraised, Board Member Troy Junnier later explained the appraisal updates would add to the tax digest for the county and potentially add further revenue.

“And we’ve been trying to get a vehicle out of the Board (of Commissioners) for two years, and we haven’t been able to get one yet,” Bishop stated.

Regarding the previous consent order, Board Member Mark Henson asked Cochran, “One of the reasons we were under the consent order was because of the ratio and uniformity. Was that because this office was underfunded in the past?” To this, Cochran affirmed that was true.

“And yet it cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars (in fines and fees from the state),” Henson added.

After 45 minutes of discussion, the board all agreed they needed to talk, in some form, to the BOC, or at least Chairman Stan Helton, to provide further information concerning department needs and then asked Cochran to see if Helton was available to speak with the Board of Assessors in the meeting. Helton joined the board members a few minutes later.

Helton then fielded questions and comments from Cochran and the board. “If we don’t have what this office needs to function on a daily basis, we might get by with it next year, but the following year or possibly the next one you’re going to get hit with a (large) fine again and the state will not back off because we’ve already been warned,”Junnier told Helton, referring to the potential of another consent order and further fines from the Department of Revenue.

The commission chairman responded by notifying Junnier that expenditures to date for 2017 have been under budget so far. When asked about the possibility of purchasing another vehicle to add to the fleet or replace aging vehicles, Helton explained the BOC would have to approve such an expenditure. He also stated the current fleet of vehicles had not been thoroughly inspected as of yet to completely determine whether or not any of the vehicles needed to be replaced.

After Bishop pointed out the 10,000 parcels still needing to be reappraised by the department, Helton responded by saying, “(The BOC has) looked at this budget very closely, and when you look at what you’ve actually spent for this year, I don’t think what’s been recommended is out of line at all.”

Helton also explained the Board of Assessors could address the full BOC at the Tuesday, Nov. 28, budget public hearing before the regularly scheduled commissioners meeting or at the Dec. 12 BOC meeting where the 2018 county budget is expected to be approved. The assessors agreed they would prefer to speak to the commissioners, as well as Finance Director Gazaway, individually sometime in the next two weeks rather than at a public hearing.

Later, the commission chairman stated the county budget has seen a 30 percent overall increase since 2015. “And there was no tax increase,” Helton continued. “This is a painful process for everybody … That kind of spending is unsustainable, and (the BOC has) to address that this year to try to slow that down … I’m very concerned with where we’re headed with these expenses. So, if you feel like you’re being picked on – I’m sorry about that – there are a lot of people right now (in other departments) that feel that way.”

The meeting ended with the Board of Assessors agreeing to have two members and Cochran to meet individually again with Helton as well as Gazaway and also with Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson and Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee later this week or early next week.

 

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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