Fannin County enters into opioid litigation

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted to enter into litigation involving opioids and the impact that these drugs have on Fannin County.

At the Feb. 13 BOC meeting, Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss presented a proposal that the county be represented in a legal case involving pharmaceutical companies and their distributors.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Geoorgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Opioid Litigation, Opioid Crisis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee signs a contract to enter into litigation regarding the opioid epidemic that has hit Fannin County.

“There has been similar litigation about other drugs in the past,” Doss explained, citing the settlements reached from tobacco companies in the late 1990s.

On Oct. 27, 2017, the state of Georgia acknowledged the opioid crisis as a public health emergency. Between June 2016 and May 2017, opioid doses prescribed in Georgia reached a soaring 541 million. That roughly breaks down to 54 doses for every man, woman and child in the state.
“It’s real. It’s here in Fannin County,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton spoke of the need for the county to acknowledge and address this ongoing epidemic.

The statistics for Fannin County are even higher than that of the state average. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prescribing rate in Fannin County for 2016 was 154.3 doses per 100 people.

The national prescribing rate in 2016 was 66.5 doses per 100 people, and the rate for the state of Georgia was 77.8 per 100 people.

Fannin County also saw five deaths due to overdose in 2016.

“In this county, if you take law enforcement, the jail, you take the court system, this county puts in over five million dollars a year in all those different segments,” Helton said of areas in our county where taxpayers can directly see a loss due to this ongoing crisis.

Doss shared information with the board on how the litigation will work: “It is being done directly by the counties instead of by the states. Any settlement comes directly to the county.”

Marc J. Bern and Partners, LLP will be representing the county in this suit. The agreement of the contract with this firm is that they will provide all upfront costs and would receive 25 percent of any settlement that Fannin County is awarded.

“There is absolutely no money out of pocket for Fannin County,” Doss assured the board.

“This is personal for me,” Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson said, expressing his thoughts on the crisis itself. Johnson stated it is not uncommon for workers in the construction industry to be prescribed opioids due to injury from accident.

Mentioning that he has personally witnessed some hard workers succumb to addiction, Johnson added, “It’s just a shame to see what it does to people’s lives.”

Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee motioned that the county enter into litigation concerning the opioid impact on our area, with Johnson seconding Sosebee’s motion. The board voted unanimously in favor of moving forward.

Doss could not give an exact timeline, but estimated that if the suit were successful, Fannin County could start recouping monies lost in two to 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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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@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.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Fannin County Animal Control, FCAC, Tri State Pet Rescue, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Jan Eaton, Ralph Garner, John Drullinger

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.”

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Fannin County Animal Control, FCAC, Tri State Pet Rescue, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Jan Eaton, Ralph Garner, John Drullinger

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

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

BOC takes steps to improve Lake Blue Ridge Hiking Trail

News, Parks and Recreation

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County could see improvements to local hiking trails. At the Nov. 28 Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, commissioners took steps to help secure funding for the Lake Blue Ridge Hiking Trail.

This area includes the Green Creek Campground. “It’s a beautiful little area, but it hasn’t been utilized in quite some time,” Fannin County BOC Chairman Stan Helton remarked.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Commissioner, Chairman, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Parks and Recreation, Eddie O'Neal, Development Authority, Lake Blue Ridge Hiking Trail, Green Creek Campground, SPLOST, General Fund, Hotel/Motel Tax, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Coca-Cola

A view from Lake Blue Ridge Hiking Trail.

“The Development Authority has been working on an arrangement with the Forest Service where we would improve areas, the trailheads, make some ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility along this trail,” Helton explained.

Helton went on to say, “This is a recreational trail grant. It is the second one we’ve actually applied for in the county. Maybe that will increase our odds of getting at least one of them.”

If obtained, the county would have to finance the projects up to $200,000. The grant would then make reimbursements to the county for 80 percent of funds spent.

The commissioners unanimously agreed to sign a resolution, which will allow the Development Authority to move forward with the application process to acquire grant money for improvements to the Lake Blue Ridge trail.

Director of Fannin County Parks and Recreation Eddie O’Neal was present at the meeting to submit a five-year contract renewal to the commissioners. This contract renewal would make Coca-Cola the exclusive provider of beverages for Fannin County concessions.

Describing the contract, O’Neal said, “It is just a basic beverage agreement, to re-up our contract with Coca-Cola. They will be basically your sole provider … to continue their service and delivery they provide to us for all the concessions.”

Coca-Cola recently reinstated a program to provide scoreboards for counties who choose Coca-Cola as their main supplier. In the contract renewal, Coca-Cola will provide Fannin County with three new LED scoreboards.

O’Neal informed commissioners that installation would be the only cost to the county. Helton questioned, “And they will do maintenance repairs on the scoreboards for us?”

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Commissioner, Chairman, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Parks and Recreation, Eddie O'Neal, Development Authority, Lake Blue Ridge Hiking Trail, Green Creek Campground, SPLOST, General Fund, Hotel/Motel Tax, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Coca-Cola

Eddie O’Neal discusses renewal of Coca-Cola contract with BOC.

To this, O’Neal responded that Coca-Cola would indeed be responsible for repairs. Two of these scoreboards will be delivered in 2018, and the third will come in 2019.

Before signing the contract Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson discussed the possibility of price increases with the contract and asked O’Neal, “So this is a set price throughout the remainder of the contract?”

O’Neal explained that Coca-Cola had the option of increasing the price by three percent each year, but could not go over that percentage. BOC Chairman Stan Helton motioned to sign the contract, Johnson seconded the motion and all three commissioners approved the renewal of the Coca-Cola contract with the county.

Christmas bonuses for county employees were also approved. Helton and Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee discussed staying with tradition and approving $100 bonuses for all county employees.

Helton asked Johnson for his input on the bonuses to which Johnson replied, “I’m not going to be Ebenezer.” The bonuses were unanimously approved by the board.

Finance Director Robin Gazaway sought approval for the opening of two new bank accounts to earmark certain percentages of SPLOST funds for specific projects.

Gazaway stated, “I wanted to separate the money for each of the different (projects). Right now we have the roads and bridges, and we have the capital improvements. This new one we are going have roads and bridges, capital improvements, recreation department, and the admin(istration) parking deck.”

Sosebee pointed out that separating the accounts would be a positive step and would make for “more accountability.”

Discussion of these accounts lead Johnson to bring forward a long standing issue he has had with the hotel/motel tax being deposited into the general fund.

Johnson would like to be able to present the public with a more accurate account of where this money is being spent. All commissioners agreed this is an issue that should be addressed and would like to discuss setting up a public workshop on the matter in early 2018.

Johnson also took time at the end of the meeting to discuss items brought up at the Nov. 14 BOC meeting. He questioned when the commissioners would address whether or not County Attorney Lynn Doss would represent the entire board or would continue to only represent the BOC Chairman.

Sosebee felt that this matter would be better resolved if addressed after the passing of the 2018 Budget and after the holidays. Sosebee and Johnson agreed to revisit the issue in the beginning of the new 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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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

BOC motions to raise speed limit on Old Hwy. 76

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Residents may have noticed a change to the speed limit on Old Hwy. 76 this week. The Board of Commissioners (BOC) discussed an increase in the limit at the Nov. 28 meeting.

“It’s kind of convoluted, but going east on 76, from downtown to Marina Drive, that’s the city of Blue Ridge, and then it becomes the county’s responsibility from Marina Drive out to the Lakewood intersection where Hwy. 60 comes in,” Fannin County BOC Chairman Stan Helton clarified as to which entities are accountable for maintenance and regulations along Old Hwy. 76.

Board of Commissioners, County Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, TVA, dam, Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Public Works Director, Zach Ratcliff, Lakewood, Marina, Old Hwy 76, speed limit, Union County, Hwy 60

L-R : Marina Drive on Old Hwy. 76; Lakewood and Old Hwy. 76 intersection

Helton went on to say, “And then that’s state responsibility from Lakewood intersection all the way out to where 60 (state Route 60) turns south on Morganton headed towards Suches. And then from that point going on east towards Union County, that’s the county’s responsibility again.”

From Union County to the Lakewood intersection, the highway has a constant speed limit of 45 mph. From the Lakewood intersection to Marina Drive, the speed limit drops to 35 mph.

The change in speed limit will not affect the current speed limit at Blue Ridge Dam and along Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) property. The speed limit will still remain at 35 mph in that area.

After receiving calls from various citizens wanting to raise the speed limit in this area, Helton brought the issue to the attention of the board. Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson and Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee agreed that bringing uniformity to the speed limit would be a positive.

Board of Commissioners, County Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, TVA, dam, Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Public Works Director, Zach Ratcliff, Lakewood, Marina, Old Hwy 76, speed limit, Union County, Hwy 60

Area along TVA property, including Blue Ridge Dam, will remain at 35 mph.

Johnson deferred to Fannin County Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff to get his opinion on the proposed change.

Ratcliff pointed out that the current speed limit causes a bottleneck on that section of road and added, “I recommend that we at least do something to improve that area. I think it would help. That’s pretty slow going across there if you abide by that speed limit.”

Johnson agreed, “It does kind of bottleneck down there. There are still some law-abiding citizens left and that is too slow.”

Sosebee asked Ratcliff if the change would alleviate that issue, to which Ratcliff replied, “It used to be that (45 mph). It actually used to be that. TVA did work on the dam, and they reduced all the speed through there because they were doing the work, and it never got bumped back up.”

BOC Chairman Helton made a motion to raise the speed limit from Marina Drive to the Lakewood intersection (excluding the dam and the area along TVA property) to 45 mph. Johnson seconded the motion, and it was passed unanimously by all three commissioners.

 

 

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

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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