Fannin County Governmental Departments recap 2018

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – At the most recent Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, the public got to hear first hand the accomplishments of several departments within the Fannin County government.

Among the departments represented was the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Recreation Department, and Public Works.

BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS ARTS ASSOCIATION (BRMAA)

BRMAA saw over 38,000 visitors in 2018. The economic benefits of having this many visitors to the area are estimated to be $493,000 locally and $1.1 million for the region.

“These numbers are based on Georgia Council for the Arts as well as Americans for the Arts Economic Operations,” BRMAA Executive Director Nichole Potzauf said explaining how economic impact is decided.

The Art Center hosted 37 exhibits and events in 2018 and was awarded the 2018-19 Vibrant Communities Grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

Visitors to the Art Center for one of the many exhibits hosted throughout the year.

The Vibrant Communities Grants helps to support single art projects in Georgia. These projects could include an art exhibit, a theater production, a series of workshops for children, or an artist residency.

Potzauf said of the intentions for the grant’s use, “We’re utilizing that to begin a program call the Appalachian Initiative Grant Program and we are focusing on Appalachian craft and culture.” She listed some examples including weaving and bee keeping.

Along with the exhibits and events, the Art Center also hosted 4198 students that attended one of their 190 classes offered.

There was a notable success from the annual Cork and Canvas fundraiser as well.

“All the proceeds from this event benefit our youth programming. In 2018, based on just that fundraiser alone we were able to provide $2,000 in youth scholarships, some art classes as well as college advancement for any student that is advancing their career in the college arts,” Potzauf said of this event, and reminded everyone that the 2019 Cork and Canvas fundraiser is approaching and will be held on March 29.

Expect to see a one of a kind exhibit displayed between April and June of 2020 as it makes its way across the state of Georgia.

While no specific details were given Potzauf did say of the future exhibit, “We have been selected as one of six cities in the state of Georgia to represent the Smithsonian exhibit that will be coming here to celebrate rural communities throughout the United States.”

Currently the Art Center is displaying over 1,800 pieces of artwork and is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

FANNIN COUNTY LAND DEVELOPMENT

The Land Development department saw 270 building permits in 2018. This number is slightly down from 2017. Along with the building permits there were 16 Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plans, 5 new residential developments, 2 private commercial developments, 2 apartment applications, 2 church developments, 2 assisted living developments, 1 school development, and 1 tiny home/RV park development.

One of the largest issues facing the Land Development department is the ongoing matter of litter control.

“I get about one or two calls a week about garbage. Sometimes it’s easy and I find the name in it and sometimes I can run down those folks and sometimes I can’t,” Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody addressed the complications in combating the littering problem in Fannin County.

According to Woody, while there are fines in place for Fannin County residents who dump trash on the side of roadways when it comes to residents from out of state, if found, little or nothing can be done.

Those that litter in Fannin County or dump garbage on the side of the roadways and are from Tennessee or North Carolina often get off with no consequences because Woody simply does not have the jurisdiction to fine them.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

(L-R) Steve Oakley, Marie Woody, Jane Oakley. The three have worked closely to propose a Fannin county clean up program.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson expressed his feelings that a majority of the trash he encounters along the roadways is bulk, and expressed holding the garbage haulers in the county more responsible.

“Is there something in our ordinance where someone has to identify themselves as a garbage hauler?” Johnson questioned Woody about possible solutions. “I know for four years it’s been a huge issue. It just seems like this last year, maybe two years, there’s just a lot more private haulers.”

After brief discussion the members of the Board of Commissioners and Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss, all agreed to review the county’s current ordinances and look into the possibility of having private haulers register.

Woody, along with Fannin County residents Steve and Jane Oakley presented the county with a vision to start an “Adopt the Mountains” program.

The program, still in its conceptual phase, will aim to curb littering through education, and will work to get citizens more involved in area clean-ups.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton praised the Oakleys for their willingness to get involved: “I’m personally very grateful for citizens that step up and are willing to get their hands in the soup, so to speak. It’s a never ending battle and it takes a lot of people to make that effort to see some results.”

When questioned by the Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner Glenn Patterson about an education program for high school age children, Woody replied that she thought it would be better to focus the educational programs on younger children.

“I think we need to teach the children, not the teenagers,” Woody said responding to Patterson’s question. “When you get into the teenage years, you’re kind of set in what you’re going to do, but if we start ingraining it into the children maybe kindergarten, first, second grade; if we can educate them I think that would be your best bet. Then they could educate mom and dad.”

Woody said that the educational program could go hand in hand with the proposed Spring Clean Up outlined in the Oakley’s program.

Along with the new programs hoped to be initiated in the county, Woody will be seeking another Tire Grant clean up.

In 2018, a tire removal project was implemented through use of this grant and was met with great success. Woody is hoping to continue this momentum in the county.

Finally Woody would like to see Fannin County’s Adopt a Road program revamped. Advanced Disposal has agreed to pick up specific colored bags along the roadways where citizens have collected litter.

FANNIN COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL

Fannin County Animal Control (FCAC), Animal Control Officer, John Drullinger updated the BOC with the work that his department had accomplished in 2018.

Last year, FCAC took in 405 dogs and puppies. Of the 405 that were taken in 118 were reclaimed by owners, 83 were adopted out of the facility, and 189 were pulled by various animal rescues.

Drullinger spoke of the improvements done to the FCAC facility in 2018: “Without a doubt one of the biggest ones was the completion of the 13 outside dog kennels. Which improved both the animals lives and ours as well.”

According to Drullinger this addition to the facility has made a vast improvement on the reduction of noise, and has added greatly to the safety of employees as they now can more easily get into kennels for disinfecting.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

A volunteer working one-on-one with a dog at FCAC helps to improve the odds of adoption.

“Our new volunteer program has been a huge success. We’ve got some days up to 10 or 12 volunteers down there walking our dogs, helping clean, do laundry, work with some of the shy dogs, some of the fearful ones, teaching them tricks,” Drullinger said of the recently implemented program. “Some of our volunteers are doing legs of transports helping move some of the dogs out, helping rescues.”

Johnson spoke of the volunteers at FCAC improving the cause, “The other people that have been getting involved here recently, I hope they keep it up , keep the interest.”

“We have a great group of people. Some come pretty regular, some come on certain days, some come everyday. They are very motivated and willing to help out,” Drullinger affirmed Johnson’s thoughts and added that the FCAC donor program has been a huge success as well with people donating items such as blankets, towels, toys and treats for the dogs.

The local area animal rescues were acknowledged for their help in moving dogs out of the facility and into permanent homes. A new group, Team Dahlonega, has also stepped up, helping to advertise the dogs held at FCAC and raise pledges for individual dogs to be pulled into rescues.

Drullinger said of Team Dahlonega’s efforts, “That’s been instrumental in helping us with our rescues, that have already been helping us move out a lot more dogs.”

The efforts of the volunteers, rescues and staff are noticeable. As of this update there were only six dogs in the facility. Drullinger said of this accomplishment, “That’s lowest number that has ever been there since I’ve been there.”

Drullinger closed his update with a reminder: “I would like to remind the public about ID-ing their dogs. If we had more people have ID’s on the collars and / or micro-chipped we could get dogs back to the owners a lot quicker and sooner.”

FANNIN COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY AND FANNIN COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT

Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Deputy Director Darrell Payne and Fannin County Fire Department (FCFD) Fire Chief Larry Thomas updated the BOC and residents on the busy year the departments had.

“Last year we had a busy call season,” said Payne before giving the statistics of 911 calls in Fannin County.

The EMA / EMS received 3,641 911 calls in 2018. There were an additional 1,115 non emergency calls that the department handled.

According to Thomas the FCFD responded to 416 fire calls, nine structure fires, three commercial fires, and one chimney fire.

“Several years ago we had several chimney fires. We were looking at anywhere from 12 to 15 on a given year,” Thomas spoke on the importance of having chimneys inspected, a step that can easily help to prevent a home fire. “Now these numbers have gotten down and I’m hoping that it’s our education that we are spreading throughout the county as far as cleaning chimneys. Right now is the most dangerous time of the year.”

Thomas explained that most chimneys are now prefabricated. Fires in these chimneys can easily spread to structures such as attics and rooftops.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

Fannin County rescuers working to bring an injured fisherman to safety.

EMA / EMS also received two new ambulances which were placed in the Dial section of Fannin County, and hope to obtain a new ambulance in 2019 to replace one currently located at Station 4 in McCaysville.

Both Thomas and Payne reported that emergency calls are on the rise in the county, and Thomas attributes many of these calls taking place from people exploring the outdoors in our area: “We’re having more and more trail calls.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson spoke of the importance of residents in Fannin County marking their homes and properties with signage that is easily visible to emergency crews: “A lot of people get black and black just blends in.”

Blue reflective number signs can be purchased at Kevin Panter Insurance. These signs, usually placed at the beginning of driveways, are clearly and highly visible which saves time for responders during an emergency situation.

A portion of the money received from the purchase of these signs goes directly back to the Fannin County EMS department.

“It does help. It really does. It reflects, it’s right at the end of the driveway,” Thomas said speaking of the blue signs available for purchase to the public.

“We have just recently moved into our new facility and we are very proud of it,” Payne spoke of the progress taking place at the new Fannin County Public Safety Complex, “and we want to thank the commissioners, you all for supporting us on that. It’s something we’ve needed for a long time. I think it’s something that the people, the county, can be proud of also.”

FANNIN COUNTY PARKS AND RECREATION

The Fannin County Parks and Recreation Department had a successful year. Many new programs were added to benefit those living in Fannin County and those visiting.

In 2018, 820 children participated in some kind of youth activity offered by the department.

The third annual Basketball Christmas Tournament also brought in large numbers for the county. Sixty-six teams participated in the three day tournament which took place Dec. 26-28. A total of 116 games were played with an average of 2,000 in attendance throughout each day.

“We had a kid playing on the Forsyth team and FetchYourNews, they broadcast it live through Youtube and we had a dad who was a marine,” Fannin County Parks and Recreation Director Eddie O’Neal spoke of how the tournament had international attention in 2018, “He got in contact with us and said he appreciated it. It was the first time he saw his kid play basketball in two years. It was amazing to be able to provide that to someone.”

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

One of the many games hosted during the Parks and Recreation Christmas Basketball Tournament.

Events like this tournament have large economic impacts on the county as whole. Visitors stay in hotels, rent cabins, eat at local restaurants, shop in locally owned stores, and many times plan to come back to our area for a second visit.

Parks and Recreation brought in $57,078.43 in youth concession sales, $52,257.60 in admission fees, and $59,574 in registrations in 2018. Pavillion rentals at parks added an additional $7,775, along with nonresident gym use fees for $3,051, after school programs at $20,860, summer day camp an additional $20,556.25, and $30, 568 food grant for summer day camp was obtained. Major programs accounted for approximately $251, 721.23, bringing a grand revenue total to approximately $280,000.

“That comes from tons of volunteers in the county. People that volunteer to help with programs, volunteer to coach, or volunteer to tutor with our after school program. We really do appreciate all the help,” Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson spoke of the Parks and Recreation Department’s success.

Johnson added, “The complaints I’ve received have been very minimal and what that tells me is you’re running the programs the way the should be ran and handling problems the way they should be handled. I appreciate you doing that.”

“Being in sports myself and education, the job you do with the young kids is very commendable,” Post 2 Commissioner Glenn Patterson complimented the work being done by the department.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton added to this, “I think the public, I hope they understand, certainly the parents do, what a relationship our Recreation Department is. I mean it’s for everyone, young and old alike.”

O’Neal shared plans to to begin senior programs in 2019: “Starting in February we will start a Silver Sneakers program for active senior adults. We have an employee trained to handle that exercise program that will take place two times a week.”

This new Silver Sneakers program will be an exercise based program specially geared towards an older crowd. The class size, initially, will accommodate 10 to 15 people.

Next up for Parks and Recreation will be a restroom remodel at their main facility. Commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with a bid from Wolfcreek Builders, LLC. in the amount of $50,075.

This remodel would include a metal roof, hardy plank siding, tiling the interior space, all new fixtures, and metal doors. The contract is for labor only. The county will supply materials.

Heating and air for the newly remodeled space will take place in a separate bid.

FANNIN COUNTY PUBLIC WORKS

Zack Ratcliff, Director of Public Works in Fannin County, has not only managed to cut the department’s expenses by close to $1,000,000 in just two years but his management has also led the Public Works department to more than double productivity in many areas.

In 2016 the Public Works department had 53 employees with a budget of $1,826,505 in payroll alone. The number of employees dramatically decreased by 2017 to 35. This brought payroll expenditures down to $1,308,744.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

The Public Works crew taking care of the demo of Fire Station 1 in downtown Blue Ridge.

By 2018 employee total for the department sits at 36 with a payroll of $1,289,868. This alone has brought a little over $500,000 in savings to taxpayers each year.

In the last year, roughly 117 miles of road have been re-striped, 12 miles of road have been paved, 25 miles of road have been chip and sealed, the Aska Transfer Station also received chip and seal, as well as the Recreation Center parking area, 28 culverts have been installed, 600 road signs have been cleaned and straightened, and 649 new road signs were created for use throughout the county.

Johnson commented on how this kind of productivity saves money for residents: “The numbers that I see that aren’t reflected in these numbers, of other savings, is when you chip and seal a road, that is that many roads we’re not having to gravel, to grade or to maintain, other than clogged ditches and what have you. So really it’s hard to put a number on that (indirect savings).”

While the payroll is the most dramatic of the savings, other areas have improved in expenditures as well. The Fuel Master system was installed to track fuel use leading to greater accountability, through negotiations with various vendors the county is now receiving 2-10 percent discounts on its bills, and a new uniform provider was found that can provide uniforms at half the cost that the county was previously paying.

Ratcliff credits the success of the Public Works department to the employees in it and stated of the workers, “My crew is an efficient crew. Everybody’s professional.”

Johnson spoke of the dramatic affect one department can have on Fannin County as a whole, “These numbers right here is what keeps Fannin County’s millage rate the lowest in the state.”

“I think this is a great example of being able to professionally manage a department and do it effectively,” Helton added his thoughts on the accomplishments, “That’s real money. That’s big time money.”

The 2017 audit showed the initially savings of the now more efficient Public Works department as being $999,333.

 

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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GMASS meets with Board of Assessors to discuss future plans

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Board of Assessors (BOA) called a one-on-one meeting with Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services (GMASS) to discuss the Tax Assessor’s office and the role that GMASS would potentially play in the future.

GMASS Chief Financial Officer Kristi Reese broke the ice by stating, “I feel like maybe there is some hostility between us because we don’t really know how all of this came about. We did not come into Fannin County with the intent of firing anybody or having anything of that nature done.”

Reese explained that GMASS is simply a company that can assist counties with appraisal work and in no way advocates or is responsible for the removal local office staff: “I do not want our name associated with any of that.”

Members of the BOA acknowledged that what Reese was saying was true and that they value the ongoing working relationship between GMASS and the Fannin County Tax Assessors.

“I think that the commissioners are trying to force something that they don’t truly understand every part, ” BOA board member Troy Junnier replied to Reese, “I think they are looking at just the money. They are not looking at everything that goes into that.”

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Board of Tax Assessors, Tax Assessors, Chier Appraiser, Land Development, GMASS, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Dawn Cochran, Janie Bearden, Troy Junnier, Mark Henson, Anthony Holloway, Angelina Powell, Marie Woody, Kristi Reece, Budget, Consent, Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services

The Board of Assessors sits down with representatives from GMASS to work out future plans for the Tax Assessor’s office.

Fannin County Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran added, “I personally know what it takes to run this office. The commissioners do not know what it takes to run this office. GMASS knows what it takes to do their part but does not know what it takes to do our county with our circumstances.”

The Board of Commissioners did make initial contact with GMASS requesting a bid for appraisal and maintenance services. This contact came about due to an inability for an agreement to be made regarding the budget of the Tax Assessor’s office.

Cochran stated bluntly of the move to hire GMASS, “In order for you all to come in and do your work, people would have to lose their jobs.”

Cochran explained that when Fannin County came under consent from the state of Georgia for not complying with regulations that the county opted then to fully staff the department instead of using GMASS at that time.

Now that the county is out from under the consent order Cochran added, “The timing of this is kind of a gut punch.”

Cochran acknowledged that the department has fallen a bit behind: “The Board of Assessors choose quality over quantity. So it has taken a little longer than expected.” She reasoned that the blame fell on the amount of work it took to come into compliance and the set back of her department not having enough vehicles to do this work.

“I feel like the commissioners are going to go forward with their budget cuts regardless of what we do here,” Reece stated of the direction of the BOA’s conversation. “I understand your concerns, but we don’t have control over anything at this point. We are just here to meet with you and calm some of your fears.”

Eventually the discussion veered toward what GMASS is able to provide the county. Cochran questioned GMASS of several areas including insurance, workload, and customer service.

Through this series of questions GMASS answered that they would be responsible for field appraisals and would complete one third of the county’s parcels each year keeping in compliance with state law.

Reece answered all questions leaving little doubt that GMASS is fully capable of completing their obligation as well as working side by side with the Tax Assessor’s office.

GMASS would essentially streamline the appraisal process, and Reece explained that this is because GMASS has staff to focus in specific areas. This is in contrast to the current staffing in most counties where appraisers must multitask in several areas.

Concern was expressed about customer service being provided, to which Reece replied that a GMASS representative would be happy to meet in person or discuss via phone with any taxpayer who has a question about their appraisal.

No action was taken at this meeting by the BOA regarding staffing of the office. Discussions are expected to continue at the next meeting to be held on Thursday, Dec. 13. The BOA and Board of Commissioners previously agreed to come to terms with a budget for 2019 by the end of this year.

 

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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GMASS will not take over the tax assessors office

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The question was directly asked and was in turn directly answered. Will Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services (GMASS) take over the Fannin County Tax Assessors Office and the answer is no.

The budget of the tax assessors office made a large increase when it was found that Fannin County was not in compliance with state law. Being under a consent order from the state of Georgia, the county raised this budget as well as the number of employees to bring the department back into compliance.

Now that Fannin County is officially out from under the order of consent, the budget of the department has been an issue for both the Board of Assessors (BOA) and the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC).

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Board of Tax Assessors, Tax Assessors, Chier Appraiser, Land Development, GMASS, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Dawn Cochran, Janie Bearden, Troy Junnier, Mark Henson, Anthony Holloway, Angelina Powell, Marie Woody, Kristi Reece, Budget, Consent

GMASS has currently worked with over 80 counties in the state of Georgia.

What has been a back and forth match between the BOA and the BOC came to head with a special called meeting held on Monday, Nov. 19. This public meeting was an opportunity for the two boards to sit down with each and with representatives from GMASS to discuss and move forward with a solution.

The possibility of GMASS working with the county was initially proposed in June of this year, and while it does have the potential to save Fannin County taxpayers several hundred thousands of dollars, it was met with opposition as this would mean a downsize of the tax assessors office.

Tensions were high in the room due to the nature of the meeting as well as false rumors being spread via social media about the proposition ‘being pushed through and voted on that night’.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton presented the room with a presentation of the direct comparison of Fannin County to nine surrounding counties in regards to the budget of this department.

It was found that Fannin County’s budget in this area was $968,265 in comparison to the average of the surrounding counties at $575,726.44.

“The point I am trying to make here, take the emotion out of this. I understand what we are talking about here, this is a difficult thing to address,” Helton said of his desire to bring the budget more in line with surrounding counties. “My whole career has been in running business and that’s what Fannin County is. It is a business. It’s a $27.5 million per year business. I am not remiss at all in asking every department to step up to the challenge and produce the best value products.”

Representatives from GMASS were also present to tell about their business, explain the role they would play in Fannin County and answer any questions from the BOA and BOC.

Shortly after the GMASS presentation, in which they demonstrated their ability and capability to streamline the appraisal process, questions from the BOA began with board member Troy Junnier being most vocal.

Junnier expressed his concerns over staffing and finally asked the question that was on many minds, will GMASS replace the tax assessors office in Fannin County.

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Board of Tax Assessors, Tax Assessors, Chier Appraiser, Land Development, GMASS, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Dawn Cochran, Janie Bearden, Troy Junnier, Mark Henson, Anthony Holloway, Angelina Powell, Marie Woody, Kristi Reece, Budget, Consent

Tension was high as the three parties worked towards a solution.

“The purpose of the proposal that we have given the county is not to take over the tax assessors office. That’s not our intent. That’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to lend a hand to the tax assessors office and try cutting the budget at the same time,” Kristi Reese Chief Financial Officer for Gmass replied to Junier, adding, “We would work side by side with the tax assessors office. Not a come in and take over type of deal at all.”

Fannin County Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran questioned GMASS on where responsibilities would lie between the two groups.

“All that we are replacing is appraisers out in the field,” Reece replied, “We’re catching you up on your field work and maintaining your schedules.”

Cochran expressed concern that taking the office down to a staff of five which is required by law would create an inability for her staff to provide GMASS with all of the information they would need, and cited her long standing argument that Fannin County is currently experiencing a tremendous amount of growth in comparison to the other surrounding counties.

Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson spoke up on this matter and pointed to that fact that the Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody had spoken at a recent BOC meeting and had confirmed that new development had actually slowed and numbers were down from last year.

Johnson spoke on this issue at hand: “It’s a personal issue to many people. I was elected to handle every dollar of every tax payer frugally. I want to find a way to get back to where we were.”

“We have to take our personalities out of this because this is not our money,” Johnson said of the delicate issue.

Kristi Reece from GMASS added to this, “We don’t go in to alienate. We don’t go in to point fingers. We go in to help the county.”

Dialogue remained heated as Johnson finally stated, “If you all (BOA) can come up with a good reason why you don’t want to save the taxpayers $300,000, I want to hear it right now.”

After a short recess was taken, all parties entered the room willing to take steps to see what could be done to resolve the budget.

Cochran had taken opportunity during recess to approach GMASS about setting up a meeting with just the BOA to further discuss ways in which to incorporate the company. GMASS agreed to this meeting.

Board of Assessors board member Anthony Holloway questioned the BOC: “How much time do we have to make this educated, if we can call it that, decision?”

Commissioners agreed to pass a budget during the timeline required by law (early Dec.) and would later amend the tax assessors portion of the budget once an agreement is made. This would allow the department more time to research what would need to take place between themselves and GMASS.

It was left unclear whether the BOC would adopt the budget requested by the department or adopt a budget based on a five person staff leaving it up to the BOA to come up from the bottom dollar number.

“This is real indicative of how difficult it is to cut government,” Helton said of the tense meeting. “We need to get this resolved before the end of this year.”

Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee finally spoke up of his feelings after remaining silent through the duration of the meeting: “I’m all for saving money as well, but I’m not for getting rid of a bunch of employees. It’s kind of hard to do both.”

Helton concluded the meeting by asking the BOA directly, “Are you interested in working with us to save the taxpayer money and get this budget back to where it should be?”

To which all board members, less Junnier who had left after the recess break, agreed that they were willing to work on the matter.

 

 

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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Board of Commissioners discuss tiny house ordinance

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – “This is something that is becoming a little more prevalent in our surrounding areas,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton explained of the need to discuss tiny homes, “and I’ve talked to other commissioners about this and it’s a big difference whether you have zoning in the county or don’t, which we don’t.”

At the April 10 Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, the commissioners looked into setting up guidelines in Fannin County for the growing trend of tiny homes.

The typical small or tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet. The building of these structures could pose problems for the county.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Funding, SPLOST, special-purpose local-option sales tax, Hotel Motel Tax, Chief Land Development Officer, Marie Woody, Condemnation, Ada Street, Purchase Cards, Tiny Homes, Ordinance, Moratorium

An example of a finished tiny home.

“It could affect people’s property values, adjacent property values, and that’s something that would concern me quite a bit,” Helton said, describing one of the issues that he foresees as a possibility in the future.

This discussion came about after a proposed subdivision plat for tiny homes was recently submitted to the county. Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody presented the board with a sample ordinance to review pertaining to these structures.

“I personally think this is something that we are really going to have to pay close attention to,” Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson agreed with the concern.

Johnson suggested that the county come up with a pre-approval process for those seeking to build tiny home developments.

Discussion was made over whether there should be a minimum square footage requirement or a limit to the amount of structures on a property.

Helton also pointed out that other counties were having issues with developers using these tiny homes as rental properties.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee added about the matters faced, “Gilmer and Pickens counties are really addressing this pretty strong.”

Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss suggested that the board move to place a short-term moratorium, lasting 6 months to a year, on tiny home developments, stating that this would give the county time to thoroughly research and address the issue with a proper ordinance.

Doss and the board agreed that if a moratorium were placed that it would not affect the current submitted tiny house development proposal.

The BOC agreed to table this agenda item for two weeks.

“In the meantime, perhaps you would do some more research on surrounding counties to find out a little more about the issues,” Helton addressed Woody and then addressed fellow board members, “and then at that time if you gentlemen felt like we needed to put a moratorium out there for some future date, we can decide that in a couple of weeks.”

Johnson added that he would like to see the research focused on counties similar to ours with no zoning.

Woody also presented the board with a property in the county that she felt met the requirements for condemnation. This property, located on Ada Street, was the site of a house fire earlier this year.

“No effort has been made to fix or repair it,” Woody stated of the burned structure.

There are a total of 11 acres that would need to be cleared from this location. On these 11 acres are three homes, seven mobile homes, one garage, one carport, and three additional structures that are full of items. The land surrounding these buildings is also filled with various items.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Funding, SPLOST, special-purpose local-option sales tax, Hotel Motel Tax, Chief Land Development Officer, Marie Woody, Condemnation, Ada Street, Purchase Cards, Tiny Homes, Ordinance, Moratorium

Fire fighters battling the blaze that took place at the Ada Street property in January.

Woody reported that the county had received six complaints just in the past two weeks regarding this property and that this has been an ongoing issue, with talks between the county and the property owners, for five years.

“I get calls basically pleading with us to do something about this,” Helton said, confirming Woody’s account of complaints.

If the county were to pay to have the property cleared, a lien would then be placed on the land, which the owners would have to repay.

“We’re not taking someone’s property,” Johnson clarified the process.

Sosebee agreed that after five years “time’s run out.”

The board unanimously decided to declare the property dilapidated, a public safety nuisance, and for it to be condemned.

Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway presented the BOC with a finalized plan for payment of the new fire station and E-911 center located on Windy Ridge Road.

The board agreed to advance monies from the county’s general fund, as well as cash in two county CDs (certificate of deposit).

These advanced funds will be paid back over a 27-month period using funds from both SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) and the newly allocated 10 percent from Hotel/Motel Taxes.

Gazaway also spoke with the board about switching the county over from a single credit card to purchase cards.

Currently, the county has one credit card, which department heads must come to the courthouse and check out to use.

Gazaway stated that a couple of issues have risen from using the one-card method. Using the one card, the limit for that card is often met before the next billing cycle causing the card to become inactive.

Gazaway also stated that some department heads will forget to turn in receipts, causing confusion when the bill arrives, and a need to track down missing receipts.

“Several of the counties have a purchase card instead of a credit card,” Gazaway explained.

Gazaway presented the board with two options for purchase cards, one from J.P. Morgan and the other from East West Bank, and stated that no local banks offer this option.

If the board chose to switch to purchase cards, the county could decide which department heads would be issued a card and the limit for each card.

Department heads would have to report all spending to the bank and turn in all physical receipts to the county. Gazaway pointed out that with each department head having individual reporting, missing receipts would be easier to track.

Both Sosebee and Johnson expressed concern over extra cards being issued.

“I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it, but whatever department head can’t even turn in their receipts, they’re not responsible to begin with,” Johnson expressed of the concern over the issuing of extra cards. “I surely don’t want them to have a credit card.”

The BOC agreed to table this item for two weeks and to discuss it at the next monthly meeting to be held April 24 at 5:15 p.m. on the third floor of the courthouse.

 

 

 

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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Departments update the Board of Commissioners

Community, News

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

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

Board of Commissioners receive updates from several county departments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No decision was made by the BOC regarding this proposal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Angie Arp appointed to Fannin County Water Authority

Business, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Water Authority will see a new board member in March while other departments saw reappointments to boards during the Feb. 13 Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee made recommendations for both the board of the Fannin County Water Authority and the board of the Fannin County Tax Assessors. Sosebee’s recommendations were met with approval of fellow BOC members.

Janie Bearden, a current member on the Board of Tax Assessors, saw reappointment to this board for another term.

Another reappointment came to the Fannin County Water Authority as Larry Chapman was unanimously approved to serve another term.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Littering, Trash Services, Land Developement, Marie Woody, Fannin County Sheriff, Dane Kirby, Tax Assessors, Dawn Cochran, Janie Bearden, Fannin County Water Authority, Larry Chapman, Angie Arp, Department of Family and Children Services, Family Connection, Sherry Morris

Board of Commissioners get straight to business at February’s first meeting.

Angie Arp was also recommended by Sosebee for the Fannin County Water Authority board and was unanimously voted into this position. This three-year term will begin on March 1.

The BOC’s first monthly meeting opened with public commentary that brought about discussion from the board as well as from Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby.

Epworth resident Richard Sims discussed the ongoing littering problem throughout Fannin County: “The trash that’s littering the highways, I believe a large part of that is due to the home pick up services. These individuals are not securing garbage that they are picking up from homes and allowing it to literally blow off their trucks.”

Sims suggested possible solutions such as requiring these haulers to have hard top covers or begin strictly enforcing the county fines and issuing tickets for the maximum amount of $1,000.

Fannin County Commission Chairman Stan Helton took personal interest in this commentary, “I feel the board has been very assertive since day one on trying to attack this trash issue. That is something I don’t like to see myself.”

Helton believes that current county ordinances address this issue, and it is just a matter of finding an effective way to enforce the laws. Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody is tasked with imposing these ordinances.

Unfortunately, Woody is only able to ticket these offenders if caught at current waste disposal facilities, and as Sheriff Dane Kirby pointed out, officers are unable to ticket offenders unless they personally witness the act.

“It’s a state law, in the state statute, that you can’t make traffic offenses based on what somebody else tells you,” Kirby explained.

Commissioners along with Kirby agreed to be more vigilant about this issue and pursue current county ordinances and fines in dealing with offenders.

Kirby, while not on the agenda, had an emergency expenditure arise that needed the board’s immediate approval. The dishwasher in the county jail recently quit operating, and upon inspection, it was recommended that the stove in the jail also be replaced.

Both appliances have been in use since the current jail opened several years ago.

“We don’t put items like that in our budget,” Kirby explained of the department’s predicament to the board. “We just don’t plan for things like that happening.”

Ed Hawkins, with the Fannin County Maintenance Department, researched replacement appliances for Kirby, and Kirby deferred to Hawkins’ recommendations.

The industrial dishwasher found would cost the county approximately $20,000 and the new stove would run around $2,500.

Kirby described the two quotes that were obtained for the replacement dishwasher: “One of them was a $20,000 dishwasher and they installed it for free, and the other one was a $15,000 dishwasher and they charge you $5,000 to put it in.”

Helton motioned that the county replace both appliances for the jail, Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson seconded the motion, and all three commissioners voted in favor of the new appliances.

Commissioners re-entered into a contract with the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) regarding funding from the county.

No representatives from DFCS were present to discuss this funding.

Helton explained that this is an annual agreement that Fannin County has been involved in for years: “This is basically the budget we approve for 2018 – $50,558 – and we’re required each year to sign this showing that we are in fact going to fund them the amount that we say we will.”

Sherry Morris, director of Fannin County Family Connection, Inc., was present to ask the BOC that Fannin County continue to serve as Family Connection’s fiscal agent.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Littering, Trash Services, Land Developement, Marie Woody, Fannin County Sheriff, Dane Kirby, Tax Assessors, Dawn Cochran, Janie Bearden, Fannin County Water Authority, Larry Chapman, Angie Arp, Department of Family and Children Services, Family Connection, Sherry Morris

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee inspects the Tax Assessors new vehicles at the Fannin County Public Works Department.

Morris updated the board on services provided through Family Connection during 2017. According to Morris, 105 people were served through the pantry. This number is actually down about 9 percent from 2016.

Morris also personally thanked the BOC for entering into opioid litigation: “Thank you so much for working on that opioid (litigation), because as you (Helton) know from being a volunteer at Family Connection, we see first hand, day to day, what happens with families who are in the opioid crisis and the poverty that results from that.”

Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran from the Fannin County Tax Assessor’s Department presented the BOC with a number of bids for two new vehicles for her department.

Two used vehicles will be purchased from North Georgia Ford. The 2016 Ford Escapes will come with a price tag of $20,000 each.

Through negotiation, Cochran was able to receive a seven-year, 125,000-mile warranty on one of the vehicles, and an extended warranty on the other. The extended warranty will cover an additional 90,000 miles.

After a long debate on the need for these new vehicles the board unanimously approved the purchase of the two used Ford Escapes.

 

 

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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Shallowford Bridge Road could see improvements

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Shallowford Bridge Road could see upgrades including paving in the future. Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff discussed with the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) the possibility of receiving federal grant money to complete these projects.

“This is a federal grant on paving Shallowford Bridge Road,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton began. “It’s an 80/20 grant.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Public Works, Zack Ratcliff, Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Robert Graham, Land Development, Marie Woody, Fannin County Water Authority, Jackie Seabolt, Mark Burger, David Falls, Fire Station, Nixle, Stop the Littering, Shallowford Bridge Road, paving, condemnation

Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff discusses  a federal grant to pave a portion of Shallowford Bridge Road.

Ratcliff explained the grant in more detail: “We’re looking at probably a $172,000 grant.”

If allotted this grant amount through the Forest Service, the county would be responsible for $34,543.

“They’re going to let us do a mile in forestry service property,” Ratcliff said, explaining that special permission had already been given to conduct this project.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee commented, “I think it’s a good deal. It will cut down on some of the dust and mud.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson, who is no stranger to the paving business, questioned, “Are we paving or tar and graveling?”

Ratcliff replied that it would be paving and also informed the board that the work would need to be contracted out. The county can also reapply for this grant in the future to continue similar pieces of work in the county.

All commissioners were in agreement to apply for this funding with Johnson acknowledging the benefits: “We can’t pave any roads that cheap anywhere else.”

Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Robert Graham approached the BOC with a request regarding the county’s emergency alert system, Nixel.

“Tonight, I would like to ask for the commissioners to consider the renewal of the contract for our alert system for the county,” Graham opened the discussion with the BOC.

The Nixle Alert System is one of the county’s many tools in providing citizens with up-to-date information regarding any emergencies or situations within the county that require resident’s attention.

“The Nixle Alert System is a countywide alerting system that we can send out both text, email, or voice messages in case of emergency,” Graham explained of how the system works. “We can also do a reverse 911, where we can send out to every number in our 911 system with a voice message.”

Fannin County’s Nixle currently has 4,075 residents signed up for text alerts, 1,636 signed up for email, and the reverse 911 option has the ability to presently reach around 14,000 people.

The current contract for the Nixle Alert System expires at the end of this month. The new contract is for three years with a guaranteed price of $8,022.67 per year. This is an increase of $233.67 from the county’s current contract.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Public Works, Zack Ratcliff, Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Robert Graham, Land Development, Marie Woody, Fannin County Water Authority, Jackie Seabolt, Mark Burger, David Falls, Fire Station, Nixle, Stop the Littering, Shallowford Bridge Road, paving, condemnation

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson looks over a contract renewal for the county’s Nixle Alert System.

Of the $8,022.67 per year, the cities of Blue Ridge and McCaysville each pay 23 percent of this total, while the city of Morganton pays 8 percent. This leaves a remaining 46 percent for the county to compensate.

“It sounds like a much-needed tool,” Johnson shared of his thoughts on the contract renewal.

Sosebee agreed of the need, “When I first ran for office my platform was safety for everybody in Fannin County. I have no problem with it (renewal of contract).”

The BOC unanimously agreed to renew the county’s contract for the Nixle Alert System.

Graham also gave a brief update on the search for property for Fire Station 2 (Mineral Bluff). Johnson had previously questioned the status of this station at a prior BOC meeting.

“We feel like if we move any direction out of Mineral Bluff that we need to look towards Highway 60 North,” Graham stated.

Graham cautioned that the station should not be moved out of the community more than a mile and that moving it any further could result in ISO (Insurance Service Office) ratings for residents of that area being affected.

Graham said that his team will continue to be on the lookout for suitable property for Fire Station 2.

Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody presented the BOC with a county-wide initiative to curb the littering problem that Fannin County faces. This new program is dubbed the Stop The Littering Campaign.

This new program hopes to bring cooperation on many fronts in Fannin County, including that of the residents.

As of April 2018 all waste transfer stations in the county will require all loads to be tarped or covered before going over the scales. If a driver is found in violation of this policy, he or she will be required to turn around properly, secure the load and then proceed to the scales again.

The county is also asking citizens to report any littering that is personally witnessed. A witness must be willing to testify in court before a citation can be issued. Residents can report littering to 706-258-5170 or 706-632-8321.

Woody updated the board on the condemnations within the county. The first condemnation is located on Salem Road.

“We can go forward on it. It is now owned by a bank,” Woody explained. A formal letter will be sent to the bank in Austin, Texas, next week.

A property on Bell Road is also a candidate for condemnation, but Woody explained that ownership of that property is still being settled, so moving forward is not an option for the county at the moment.

“A letter has went out,” Woody updated the board of property located on Old Mobile Road. “They now have a deadline to respond.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Public Works, Zack Ratcliff, Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Robert Graham, Land Development, Marie Woody, Fannin County Water Authority, Jackie Seabolt, Mark Burger, David Falls, Fire Station, Nixle, Stop the Littering, Shallowford Bridge Road, paving, condemnation

Scenic Drive site where two mobile homes were destroyed by fire.

The county is also looking into a new site located on Ada Street. This property will have to go to Superior Court, according to Woody, for public health and safety reasons.

Finally, Woody addressed the board on property located on the corner of Scenic Drive and Davis Road. This property was the site of a home fire that left two mobile homes as a complete loss.

According to Woody, this is not a condemnation site and she acknowledged, “I know there has been a lot of concern about it.”

Woody had been working with the owner of the property to get the site cleared, but the owner, who had been ill, recently passed away.

While the process will be delayed a bit for clean up to begin, Woody did want the public to know “we are working on that.”

The Fannin County Water Authority (FCWA) will see a new face on the board.

The nomination for appointment came from Johnson who said, “This person will be filling the spot of Jackie Seabolt, who chose to come off the water authority. This person I think can do a really good job. He’s in the real estate business. He’s put water systems in himself. He’s very familiar with the county.”

The board unanimously agreed and voted for Mark Burger to serve a three-year appointment on the FCWA. Also getting an unanimous reappointment was David Falls, who will serve the FCWA board for another three-year term.

Two citizens, Ralph Garner, of Blue Ridge, and Joe Webb, of Dial, spoke during public commentary and expressed similar concerns to the board.

Both citizens spoke of the expenditures of building the new Fire Station 1 and E-911 center.

“The impression given by our board is that no borrowed funds will be needed to build the new fire station,” Garner spoke of the recent reveal that borrowed funds would be needed for the project’s completion.

Webb expressed similar feelings stating, “The original vote was to limit the project to $2.5 million. There is no public plan of what’s being built and what it costs.”

Garner acknowledged that the original vote for the fire station budget was before current Chairman Stan Helton took office and added, “I commend Commissioner Johnson for voicing opposition to borrowing money.”

Garner suggested letting Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) money accumulate and using these funds for the project’s completion instead of borrowing the funds.

Garner and Webb both also voiced concerns over the recent removal of Lane Bishop from the Board of Assessors.

Webb suggested of the appointment process to any board in the county, “We never solicit people from the public. We never look at qualifications. We never look at reasons. We need a process to place people on boards.”

“There needs to be a stated need and basically resumes and interviews,” Webb added.

 

 

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 Stop The Littering Campaign

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County is teaming up with law enforcement, Advanced Disposal, and residents to address the littering that is taking place throughout the county. Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody presented the Stop The Littering Campaign.

According to the Keep America Beautiful Campaign, 70 percent of roadway litter is caused by motorists and pedestrians and 20 percent is caused by unsecured loads.

Fannin County is hoping to lower these statistics in our area. Litter has been an issue that has been addressed by the Board of Commissioners (BOC) several times in the most recent commissioner meetings.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Stop the Littering Campaign, Land Development, Marie Woody, Board of Commissioners

Litter picked up by citizens along Cashes Valley Road.

“Fannin County has an ordinance that prevents anyone from storing garbage on their property,” Woody said, explaining the county’s current mandates. “Also, that ordinance requires persons to contain their load while transporting to dump facilities.”

The county is looking into solutions for stricter enforcement of these laws. Woody described two incidents recently where citations have been issued.

One of the citations was given at a waste transfer station for an unsecured load, and another was issued for trash dumped on Mount Herman Road in Mineral Bluff.

If found guilty of violating the Fannin County trash ordinance, offenders will be hit with a minimum $410 fine. Offenders could also face the maximum fine of $1,000 depending on the circumstances of the citation.

Trash haulers have been made aware of these fines and the ordinances, according to Woody, and signs citing all of this information have been posted at waste transfer sites since May 2017.

Advanced Disposal has agreed to do their part in helping Fannin County to combat the growing litter problem.

All loads must now be properly secured and tarped or covered before passing over the scales at the disposal sites. Haulers who choose to ignore these rules will not be allowed to discard their garbage until their load is secured.

Employees at these facilities will require any hauler not in compliance to leave the scales, properly secure their load, and then return to the scales to proceed with business.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Stop the Littering Campaign, Land Development, Marie Woody, Board of Commissioners

Household garbage dumped near the Shady Falls parking lot.

Transfer stations have also come to an agreement with the county to remain open on all holidays with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.

The county is also asking citizens to help. “We’re asking that citizens start reporting garbage haulers or anyone hauling garbage that is not securely loaded,” Woody explained.

“It is the civic responsibility of every citizen to properly dispose of their garbage,” Woody stated, giving explanation as to how citizens can help out.
The county is asking that if you witness someone violating the county’s trash ordinance, please call and make a report.

In all reports, a witness must provide their name, address, and phone number. Witnesses must be willing to appear in court for a citation to be issued to the violator.

Citizens are asked to get as much information as possible when filing a report. Some of the information needed is name of company if commercial, vehicle tag number, location of the incident, and pictures if possible.

“We do not want to harm or cause financial burden on the haulers or on the citizens. We want to keep Fannin County roadways cleaner,” Woody concluded. “We want people to be good citizens and report garbage hazards along roadways.”

If you witness littering or unsecured loads, you can make a report by calling Fannin County Land Development 706-258-5170 or 706-632-8321.

 

 

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