Fannin Operating Two Percent Under Budget

News

Blue Ridge, Ga – Fannin County’s operating two percent under budget through April of 2019.

As of April 30, 33 percent of the budget’s been spent for the year with Fire/EMS/ EMA, Tax Assessor, Sheriff’s Office, and County Jail still showing over budget due to the first of the year lump sum lease and loan payments made at the beginning of the year.

Per the April 23 meeting, Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway broke out the Public Works and SPLOST Budget to provide more clarity about where the money comes from and is going.

Fannin County Board of commissioners budget

Several departments are still showing over for the year.

“The public works old SPLOST is because we’re going to use the old money on the roads until it runs out, and then we’ll start on the new SPLOST,” explained Gazaway.

Baseball admissions factored in slightly into the recreation budget, but the month of May was not reflected in this report.

“We’re two percent under budget because we’re making up some of the differences from earlier in the year,” stated Gazaway, “LOST and SPLOST collections are up again this month from the prior years.”

Thirty-three percent into the county’s operating budget as of April 30, 2019.

 

 

EMA Director Robert Graham advised choosing Custom Works for the ambulance remounts at $104,980 as the most acceptable vendor for the job. The business also priced an add-on door locking systems for the ambulance at $1,800, bringing the total to $106,780.

“The locking system on the doors on the box [will be] activated front door locks when we lock the front doors,” said Graham, “We need this because we make many trips out of town to hospitals, and we need to lock the back of the truck. Our drugs and equipment are all in the back.”

Currently, seven doors and compartments must be locked with a key when getting out of the truck, and EMA employees must remember to unlock these doors when going back out to have access to them.

“It would be a great benefit to add that to this truck and going forward in the future to the standard bid specs,” lobbied Graham.

The truck won’t be available until closer to 2020 due to Chevrolet chassis unavailability.

Graham also confirmed that the county wouldn’t be short on equipment during this time with back-up trucks and placing an order for a new ambulance to replace an aging one with 90,000 plus miles on it.

Next, Graham introduced bids for a new ambulance to be purchased in the 2020 and on that year’s budget. Currently, new ambulance models aren’t available, but a waiting list has formed for 2020. Graham wanted to go ahead and get Fannin’s EMA name on the list.

“If we don’t get a truck each year that we fall behind and have maintenance issues,” said Graham.

“You had this idea that it was better to go ahead and place an order with the stipulation that it wouldn’t be delivered until after the first [of the year] because in the past you wouldn’t get this new ambulance until fall,” explained Helton to the room.

MEDIX proposed $140,130 for a 2020 model Chevrolet with the delivery after January 1, 2020. Custom Trucks and Bodyworks offered $143,021 for a 2020 model Chevrolet with the delivery after January 1. ETR, LLC proposed $187,768 for a 2019 model Ford F-450 with the delivery after January 1.

The Commissioners approved Custom Works for remount and tabled the new ambulance bids after Graham asked for more time to review.

Waste Management decision was tabled again to give the commissioner’s more time to review Advanced Disposal Systems and CASH proposals after meeting with both organizations.

Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff experienced an equipment emergency after losing a 16-year-old mower in the middle of mowing season and had found a used replacement mower for $43,500 with 70,000 hours on it.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson said, “The piece that [the used mower] is replacing, we salvage it and get rid of it. It’s got way too many hours to put any more money into it.”

Ratcliff stated that he had no plans to fix the old mower with over 100,000 hours in it already.
The emergency purchase puts the county back at 10 mowers and back on track with mowing for the spring and summer.

A Call for Clarity in the County Budget

News, Police & Government
millage rate

Blue Ridge, Ga – Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson asked for revisions in the Public Roads/SPLOST department to clarify the monthly financial reports.

The Public Roads and SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) represented one line item of the budget summary report. Since financial updates began two years ago, Board of Commissioners’ Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway has presented the two items together.

Points of interest in the 2019 budget. The third line item was the point of discussion.

Johnson stated that combining Public Works (budget and expenditures) and SPLOST makes it difficult to recognize where the money is being spent. “I don’t understand why we’re doing a report if I can’t see the numbers,” said Johnson. He also noted that other departments were separated and easier to comprehend.

Gazaway offered to break down SPLOST into four segments: Public Works, EMS, Recreation, and Administration and add a slide in the next budget meeting. She said, “It’s no problem to split [SPLOST] out and present it differently.”

She also suggested providing a detailed financial print report to the commissioners each month since she already has that information pulled for her records.

These updates will begin during the next financial update report at next month’s Board of Commissioners’ meeting.

Gazaway gives the financial update at the second board meeting of every month, and this report detailed all expenses from Jan. through March 2019. Departments were showing 1% over for the year, but Gazaway pointed out that lump sums, such as the courthouse loan debt and lease payments were due at the beginning of the year. As a result, the numbers should even out as the year goes on.

Aska Road clean up scheduled for Spring – Press Release

Community, Outdoors, Press Release

Fannin Spring Clean-up / Aska Road
Saturday, April 6, 9am

Let’s stem the tide of litter in this beautiful mountain county!

To help Fannin County become a safer, healthier and even better place to live, work and play, a series of community events to clean up litter in Fannin County is in the works.

The first clean-up is scheduled for April 6 on Aska Road; an abandoned tire clean-up will be held later in the spring. Tentative dates for future litter clean-ups are July 13 and October 15.

Besides looking trashy, littering / dumping is illegal, encourages more littering / dumping, reflects badly on our community, decreases property values, reduces economic growth, encourages crime, is a highway safety issue, harms natural resources and costs huge amounts of taxpayer money for clean-up and enforcement.

Please join us, the Fannin Litterbusters, to combat this blight:

DATE: Saturday, April 6, 9am; meet at Public Works building, 229 Aska Road.

CLEAN-UP LOCATION: Aska Road, which is one of the most beautiful but unfortunately one of the most littered roads in the county.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Responsible adults are urged to demonstrate their civic and patriotic pride by volunteering for these clean-up efforts. Volunteers are also encouraged to consider participation in Fannin County’s Adopt-a-Road program http://www.fannincountyga.com/faq_category/adopt-a-road/

SAFETY: Due to safety issues when working close to roadways, volunteers must be at least 18 years of age to participate. For the clean-up event, volunteers are encouraged to have drinking water, safety vests and work gloves. Bags will be provided.

PARTNERS: Fannin County Government, City of Blue Ridge, North Georgia Resource Management Authority, Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Advanced Disposal Services, local businesses / organizations, residents, and other concerned parties.

QUESTIONS? Contact Marie Woody, Chief Officer of Fannin County Land Development, 706-258-5170.

SIGN UP: fannin.litterbusters@gmail.com

Let’s all pitch in to clean up Fannin County!

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

BACKGROUND:

According to Keep America Beautiful (“Litter in America Factsheet,” January 2010), those under 30 are more likely to litter than those over 30. Communities can reduce their litter rate by

⦁ demonstrating a preference for a litter-free community through on-going efforts to keep litter cleaned up
⦁ setting a standard of caring for the community through improving and beautifying public areas
⦁ stressing individual responsibility for keeping the community clean through messages that emphasize social disapproval of littering

REMINDER:
It is illegal under Georgia statute and Fannin County ordinance to litter or dump garbage.

Fannin County has a stringent solid waste ordinance, which applies to littering, dumping, and hauling waste; violators are subject to fines of $410 to $1000 and possible jail time. [Fannin County Solid Waste Ordinance, Chapter 58 of the Fannin County Code of Ordinances]

Anyone hauling a load in Fannin County must secure and cover the load; if not in compliance, the load will be refused at the disposal site.

Citizens witnessing anyone littering, dumping or hauling an unsecured load can report it to Fannin County Land Development at 706-258-5170. For a citation to be issued to the violator, witnesses must provide their name / address / phone number and be willing to appear in court as a witness.

Witnesses are asked to provide as much information as possible, such as name of company if commercial, vehicle tag number, location of the incident, and pictures if available.

Georgia littering statutes state that it is unlawful for anyone to deposit litter or to allow littering on any public or private property or waters in the state. Violators are subject to fines up to $1000 and jail sentences up to 12 months. The driver of the vehicle involved is responsible for any trash that escapes the vehicle. [O.C.G.A. §16-7-42, §16-7-43, §40-6-249]

 

 

 

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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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

$1,000,000 in savings. Public Works cuts budget and raises productivity.

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – “I believe that smaller government is better government, but I also believe that in areas where government does play a legitimate role we should demand that it is done better.” Former Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker spoke these words that echo true in the thoughts of many Americans across the nation. Here at home, in Fannin County, we are seeing the literal effects of these words when put into action.

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.

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.

“Any time you have change in administration or management there has always been that old fear, you hear that term cleaning house, you (Ratcliff) didn’t do that,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton said clarifying what allowed Ratcliff to make these cuts in payroll. “What you came out there and did, you set a standard of what was expected of employees.You raised the bar.”

Ratcliff confirmed Helton’s statement by saying that upon becoming the Director of Public Works he has only had one termination in the department.

With the department now having roughly two-thirds of the employees held in 2016, one would assume productivity or quality would be lacking, but Public Works has sacrificed neither of these by streamlining the department, and the number of jobs completed each year is actually on the rise.

In the last year, roughly 117 miles of road have been restriped, 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.

Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Earl 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).”

Ratcliff has also managed to cut costs by strategically coordinating work done throughout the county. By coming up with a well mapped plan for the year, the department has cut time and fuel by focusing on specific areas within the county to complete multiple projects.

Along with cutting costs, Ratcliff has added over $85,000 back to the county’s General Fund through selling the department’s older vehicles and equipment.

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 of the Public Works department, “That’s real money. That’s big time money.”

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

When asked what motivates him to continue to look for ways to improve the department and save taxpayers money Ratcliff simply replied, “I’m a public servant.”

 

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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Audit shows Fannin County finances in good standing

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County 2017 audit concluded with much praise from independent accounting firm Rushton and Company. The overall state of finances for the county are “very healthy”.

Sam Latimer, CPA and audit manager with Rushton and Company, gave citizens an overview of the Fannin County 2017 audit at the June 26 Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting.

Rushton and Company was hired to analyze the county’s 2017 finances and give an unbiased opinion based on an in-depth look at all county run departments.

Latimer noted that working with the county and management had been very easy for the company, and that all county employees had been very cooperative and helpful in providing the firm with all the information they needed to conduct the audit.

“You (Fannin County) have a very capable finance department,” Latimer spoke specifically of the work done by Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway.

Net assets were among the highlights given by Latimer. Net assets make up the county’s infrastructure (ex. roads and buildings), equipment, restricted funds (ex. SPLOST or Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), and unrestricted funds (ex. funds remaining after the first two categories are filled).

During the 2017 fiscal year Fannin County net assets grew by $1.6 million, up 27 percent from 2016.

Latimer dubbed this increase a “very healthy year for the county”.

One of the largest components of Fannin County finances is the General Fund, and like the net assets, revenues to this fund showed positive growth with a 5.7 percent increase.

Nearly $1,000,000 of taxpayer funds were saved through cuts made to the budget of the Public Works department (Roads and Bridges).

“Due mostly to personal services,” Latimer said explaining where these cuts came from, “There was a large decrease in the number of employees.”

Latimer did note that the county’s insurance claims had risen by almost $1,000,000, but was not alarmed by this increase stating, “This is an area that is hard to control because your claims are based on people’s health.”

Insurance claims will fluctuate from year to year according to Latimer: “So that just happens to be up this year.”

The unassigned fund balance did decrease slightly from the previous year of 2016. The funds in this area, however, are still well above standard expectations.

According to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) the unassigned fund balance should have enough finances available for a county to operate approximately two months if all revenues stopped.

“What that means,” Latimer spoke of the remaining balance in Fannin County’s unassigned fund, “is that if you were to close the doors today and stop receiving revenue; you could operate for almost seven months.”

“Most (counties) are probably between two and three months,” Latimer added, “You guys are definitely above what the average would be.”

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton noted that spending had slowed, but stated that the ultimate goal of the county should be to bring expenditures down enough to begin adding revenues back to the fund balance once again.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson agreed with Helton on this matter and stated of the audit, “It shows that next year we’re going to make some, as you just said, either some cuts or we’re going to have to look at other ways of revenue.”

Johnson stated that the audit is a good way to see exactly where the county stands: “This will allow all of us to make a very informed decision as to where we are going to go next year.”

At the conclusion of the presentation, when asked about the overall strength of Fannin County financially, Latimer simply replied, “Very healthy. Very good.”

The full 2017 audit , including the management report, will be available for the public to view on the Fannin County Government website.

 

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

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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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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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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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