BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) began 2018 by restructuring their board. This restructuring took place publicly at their Jan. 11 meeting.
An annual restructuring is in accordance with the BOE’s charter which states: “The Board of Education shall elect by majority vote at the first regular meeting of the calendar year a chairperson and vice-chairperson.”
The now former Chairman Bobby Bearden opened up the restructuring by saying, “Mr. Superintendent, I would like to recommend Mr. DeWeese as the chair.”
Bearden then made the motion for Lewis DeWeese to step in as chairman of the BOE, with board member Steve Stanley seconding the motion. The board voted unanimously for this change, with DeWeese refraining from voting.
Stanley then opened the floor to the selection of vice chairman, “Mr. Chairman, I would like to place a nomination for Mr. Chad Galloway.”
Stanley then made the motion for Chad Galloway to step in as vice chairman of the BOE, and fellow board member Terry Bramlett seconded this motion. Galloway abstained from voting, but was unanimously voted in by other members of the board.
The BOE discussed their meeting schedule and voted to keep the schedule the same for the 2018 calendar year.
“So for the public,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney explained, “this means that we will continue as is for this year, which is all regular meetings for the Fannin County Board of Education will be held on the second Thursday of each month.”
Gwatney added, “Monthly work sessions will be held on the Tuesday prior to each regularly scheduled board meeting at 8 a.m., and these meetings will be held here at this office in Blue Ridge. All meetings are open to the public.”
The newly arranged board then got straight to business reviewing the latest financial report for the Fannin County School System. The report showed the latest information as of Nov. 30, 2017, these numbers account for 41.66 percent of the annual 2017-2018 budget.
“Local revenues are at 22 percent ($4,037,844.60) versus 20 percent for this time last year. Total revenues are at 30 percent ($10,021,377.90) versus 29 percent this time last year, and total expenditures are currently at 40 percent ($13,589,826.95) versus 41 percent this time last year,” Gwatney pointed out.
Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds collected for November 2017 totaled $466,740.32.
“This is a healthy financial report,” Gwatney concluded.
Heather Finely, director of Instructional Technology, was present at the board meeting to present the public with the highlights of how the Fannin County School System is staying up-to-date with the ever changing world of technology.
Finely stated that she and her team are currently working on a three-year plan on how to approach technology advancements and how these advancements would best be utilized in Fannin County schools.
A major focus of this three-year plan is the use of WiFi technology in education. In a student survey conducted at the schools, 84 percent of students reported to have working Internet at their home, and 76 percent felt that they could do homework that requires Internet access. Only 11 percent of the students who responded said that they have no way to complete homework that requires Internet access.
Fannin County School System has been working to aid the students without any Internet access. Currently, five buses used by the county to transport students are equipped with WiFi capabilities.
Internet access in the schools is improving as well. “The state provides us with 750 mbs of Internet service. We purchase an additional 250 from TDS,” Finely explained of the Internet speed.
There are currently 108 WiFi access points in instructional areas throughout the schools. Finely hopes to up the number of WiFi access points in the schools, citing that the schools having cinder block walls slows the connections in some areas.
Finely aims to have tablets for every student to be able to use while in school: “We are working towards a one-to-one with Chromebooks.”
There are 1,749 mobile tablets currently available for students and teachers to use while at school. Finely pointed out that the school would also like to offer tablets for students to be able to take home for use. A grant has been applied for that would help to reach this goal.
“Right now, students in AP (advanced placement) take one home to use,” Finely spoke of the current use of mobile tablets.
The Fannin County Board of Education will hold their next regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After a one hour and three minute executive session, the Blue Ridge City Council reconvened its special called meeting Thursday, Jan. 25, and announced three city personnel issues were discussed during the closed session.
Following this, the council approved the rehire of Roy Parsons to the temporary position of administrator of Land Development and Zoning. Parsons unexpectedly resigned the same position last year. Councilman Nathan Fitts abstained from voting citing he was undecided. “I’m not opposed. I just haven’t made my mind up since it’s a temporary position,” Fitts explained to Mayor Donna Whitener.
According to City Clerk Kelsey Ledford, Parson’s position is temporary as the city seeks to find a permanent administrator of Land Development and Zoning, and Parsons is expected to assist with that search.
Next, the council voted to proceed with advertising and conducting subsequent interviews for an additional full-time officer for the Blue Ridge City Police Department. “The police officer was requested by (Chief) Johnny Scearce and (Capt.) Rob Stuart. We have a shift that is not filled,” Whitener explained.
The council also promoted Kim Keenan from assistant supervisor of the city park to supervisor of Parks and Recreation Department.
Earlier in the meeting, the council held a first reading of an amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance. Councilwoman Rhonda Thomas-Haight explained the three changes that the amendment proposes will address employee permits, ownership conflicts and pouring regulations.
The amendment would establish that employee permits will be valid for one year from the date of issue and renewal of the permit will occur upon submission of the renewal application and payment of the appropriate renewal fee, which will be no less than $30, provided that the person remains qualified for renewal. The amendment also would prohibit any city council member holding any beneficial interests in an establishment that has obtained an alcohol license from the city from voting on any matter involving the given establishment. Lastly, the amendment allows for establishments to have specials, such as happy hour specials, on poured alcoholic beverages within the establishments’ patio areas.
The council approved the first reading of the amendment with Fitts abstaining citing a potential conflict of interest.
A change order for a previously approved shoulder erosion repair project on Trackside Lane was also approved in the public session of the meeting. The project will now also widen the roadbed of Trackside Lane in an area that Whitener described as “dangerous,” being only 16.5 feet wide and not wide enough for two vehicles to pass.
The cost of the additional widening work will be $15,580 and the cost of the original erosion repair project is $8,800. Whitener explained that funding for the original project will come from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) while the additional widening work will be paid through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds. Whitener also told council members the shoulder work had been delayed as the city awaited final approval to proceed with the project from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). “We finally got approval to move forward,” Whitener stated.
Johnson Paving has been awarded the bid for both projects.
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At each Fannin County Board of Commissioners meeting since January, library supporters have expressed many different reasons why Fannin County needs a new stand-alone library. At the March 8th Board of Commissioners meeting, supporters talked about Fannin County Courthouse space needs, funding options and the role of a library in democracy.
Jim Webb, member of the Library Board of Trustees, a position he was appointed to by the Board of Commissioners, gave numerous examples of why the Fannin County Courthouse will need more space by 2022. 2022 is the projected construction completion date for a new library, if funds for constructing a new library are approved on the 2016 SPLOST ballot. Webb said that numerous judges have predicted Fannin County will need to add more courtrooms soon according to projected population growth in the county. Also he gave examples of how moving the library out of the courthouse would ease citizens’ access to essential county services. He looked at the case of the Board of Elections. During early voting for the March primary, around 1,400 people voted at the Board of Elections office on the 3rd floor of the Courthouse. To do so, they had to pass through security and up the escalators to get there. Such heavy traffic at one time disrupts the daily work flow of the Courthouse. If this were the number at the primaries, imagine the general election he said. Webb also suggested that the Courthouse could turn the library space into multi-purpose rooms serving community functions like elections and Board of Commissioners meetings. He added that a stand-alone library building can also provide spaces for ancillary Fannin County government offices as the county grows.
Since several people have questioned how Fannin County would pay for maintenance and operations of a stand-alone library, Webb presented several different funding options. First option deals with Fannin’s $1 million bond repayment. The bond will be paid in full by 2022, the same time that a new library would be created. Thus, money that had previously gone into paying back the bond could now be spent on library operations. A second option is with Fannin’s hotel excise tax. This fund is robust and took in more than expected in 2015. Also, Fannin’s hotel tax is at 6% as compared to Helen, GA which has a hotel tax of 8%. Webb suggested that increasing the hotel tax by 2% would not adversely affect tourism or require an extra burden on Fannin citizens and would provide enough revenue to pay for library operations. Another scenario is to develop a funding partnership with the school system as other counties do.
Cynthia Maude was the next person to speak up for a new library. She said that the community space of a library is essential to any community and essential to democracy. Maude then gave examples of how the library serves all groups in the Fannin community. First the library is free. Its resources run across the entire spectrum of the community from readers of the Wall Street Journal to those of Mechanics Illustrated. The free and easy access to computers is there for everyone whether it is to contact friends or fill out job applications. Maude stated that she and other citizens will vote no to any SPLOST funds for any projects if money for a stand-alone library is not on the ballot.
Fannin County School System’s Board of Education held its monthly meeting on Jan.14. Most of the meeting was spent approving technology purchases and facilities upgrades. Also on the agenda were changes in Board members, evaluation of Superintendent Henson, faculty hires and appointment of the attorney for the Board of Education.
The school system used SPLOST funds to buy the following technology:
Blue Ridge Elementary School –
93 desktop computers and monitors
Fannin County Middle School –
5 zSpace units
90 iPads and WiFi
Fannin County CTAE program –
32 desktop computers and monitors
Blue Ridge Elementary School received the largest amount of technology purchases because it needs to outfit the computer lab which is currently under construction. Fannin County Middle School brought the ultra-modern zSpace to enhance learning about design and construction through 3-D virtual reality. Wearing special goggles and using a stylus connected to the computer, students can “reach” into the computer and pull out an object. They also use the stylus to move and take apart the object. For a video showing how the system works click http://zspace.com/
Through SPLOST funds, Fannin County High School is replacing all the lights in the gym. The hope is that the new lighting system will make the dim gym a thing of the past. Also, since the system will use LED lights that have a 25 year warranty, in the end there will be much money saved from not having to replace bulbs often and using less electricity. The Middle School’s field house is being upgraded so it will meet the standards of the High School’s locker facilities.
The Fannin County School System received $4,655,234 in SPLOST funding for the 2015 school year, up $397,242 from 2014. Several times throughout the meeting, Superintendent Henson commented on how thankful he was that Fannin County citizens voted for SPLOST because it increases the money available for educational support items along with maintaining facilities. He also thanked Fannin County’s Chamber of Commerce who has spent much effort advertising Blue Ridge as a vacation destination. When tourists come and buy, the SPLOST money grows. Because of SPLOST, Fannin County hasn’t had to raise property taxes to cover insufficient funding for education from the state.
At this time, the school system has completed 41.66% of the school year but used on 41% of the budget which means that the system is currently working below budget.
Since this was the first meeting of the year, it was time to elect a new Board Chair and Vice-Chair from among the current Board members. The new Chair is Bobby Bearden who replaces Steve Stanley, and Vice-Chair is Terry Bramlett who replaces Sandra Mercier.
Superintendent Henson also received his annual review. He scored five out of five in all the categories. The Board thanked Mr. Henson for the great job he is doing and the great people working with him who help make Fannin County a top-notch school system. Superintendent Henson said that success in his job is because of the unified team of committed professionals that he works with in Fannin County.
In other personnel news : Annette Clement is coming out of retirement to take up her old job as Fannin County Middle School media specialist , Greg Hood will step into a vacant math teacher slot at Fannin County Middle School and Molly Davenport Conklin will become the new intervention paraprofessional at West Fannin Elementary School. The intervention paraprofessional tutors students and works with families and social services to assist students in being successful at school. Also, eight new substitute teachers were hired, most of whom are certified teachers. According to Ms. Hyde, Associate Superintendent for Personnel and Support Services, having these new substitutes will greatly help with the amount of anticipated maternity leaves coming up in the next as only certified teachers can substitute for more long-term teacher leaves of absence.
Lynn Doss of Doss & Associates, Blue Ridge became the attorney for the Board of Education. The vote was nearly unanimous with only one vote against her appointment.
The Board approved new guidelines for credit card use for authorized school system employees and Board use. The new guidelines were not so much new rules as they were making the guidelines less specific so the Board did not have to vote on every change in user or change in credit card company. The new guidelines still follow those required by state law. Superintendent Henson remarked that he is proud that Fannin County School System doesn’t have credit card misuse like other counties do.
Fannin County elementary school principals want to remind parents that kindergarten registration is in April: April 12 – West Fannin Elementary School; April 13 – East Fannin Elementary School; and April 14 – Blue Ridge Elementary School. It is important for parents to register their children so that the schools will have the right amount of teachers for the fall. If parents want their children to go to another Fannin County school which is not in the one in their district, parents will be able to register for a school lottery this summer.
The Fannin County Board of Education meeting was short, sweet, and to the point.
Here are a few highlights from the meeting held November 12th 2015:
SPLOST collections are projected to be a record high for this year. Current collections projected for the year is $4,571,579.02. Compared to $4,258,082.92 in 2014, that is an increase of $313,496.10. Superintendent Mark Henson attributes this to the fantastic job the Fannin Chamber has done and also the wonderful downtown merchants. October 2015 numbers are not available yet.
The graduation averages are in. Georgia has a state graduation average of approx. 78.8%. Fannin County has a graduation average of 92.1%. Here’s hoping for 100% in the future!
There were resignations, recommendations, and matters of equipment that were discussed, but the star topic of the evening was our school system’s excellent staff and students and the Veterans Day Program. Connie Huff from Fannin County Middle School was recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty when a student had almost missed the bus at the middle school. After the realization that there was a remaining student that needed to get on the bus, the busses all stopped in the parking lot and Connie Huff escorted the student all the way to the bus ensuring safe entry. Board Member Bobby Bearden was very impressed at how she handled the situation.
Also mentioned was Candy Sisson and the great job the Nutrition Department is doing. Referenced was the Veteran’s Day Program and the delicious foods available for that event.
Lastly, great emphasis was placed on the Veteran’s Day Programs. As mentioned by Board Vice Chair Sandra Mercier, the program began with Robert Foster and Lucy McKinney many years ago and has continued to grow. The keynote speaker, Mr. Henson (no relation to Superintendent Mark Henson)had everyone’s attention. Superintendent Mark Henson had mentioned the respectful students here at Fannin County and how, when the keynote speaker paused for breath, not a sound was made by students. Full attention was given to Mr. Henson and that made Superintendent, Mark Henson, very proud of the students here in Fannin County! Watch Meeting below:
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BKP talks Fannin County
BOC Meeting from 7/28/2015
Special Guest, John, Calls in to discuss Splost Spending by the County.
The Fannin County Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting on July 14th, 2015. The meeting took place just a few hours after a court decision in favor of Fannin County Post Commissioners Earl Johnson and Larry Joe Sosebee. A lawsuit filed by Commission Chair Bill Simonds against the post commissioners, seeking sole control of hiring and firing of Department Heads in the County was dismissed in a court proceeding in Fannin.
The meeting began with approval of minutes and a 1st vote on Home Rule Spending Limit Ordinance. Comments from the Commissioners appeared to show effort of trying to put the court case behind them and moving forward to do the work elected to do for Fannin County. Commission Chair Simonds response did not give a definite answer as to whether he will appeal.
Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran and Personal Property Appraiser Yvonne Middlebrook spoke to the Commissioners concerning the personal property laws as pertains to the Tax Assessor’s office. The pair sought the “agreement” if you will from the Commissioners for the Tax Assessor’s office to follow the law and send certified letters, followed by subpoenas, in circumstances where businesses failed to respond to the request for inventory information. There was not a specific name mentioned during this time however we were left with an impression it was a sizeable business that was not in compliance. The Commission Board moved and agreed to the request showing its support. While it is not necessary for a vote from the Commission Board to follow the law, the support for the proper action to take place was shown by the vote.
Additional business of the County saw the approval of the upcoming expenditures to move from $2500 to $4500 through resolution. There was comments (opposition) if you will from someone stating this was not the legal way to change this, asking if it shouldn’t be done by an ordinance change. Lynn Doss, County Attorney, replied, in essence, the amount was under a previous higher amount, therefore it shouldn’t be a problem.
There was discussion on the 10% Splost and a motion and move to begin investigation into the a new Fannin County Fire Department. Currently the Fire Department is housed downtown in a small and difficult in and out location. The property for a new facility has been purchased and it appears early planning stages will begin. There was also a motion and a move which was passed to pay for the new facility from Splost. Mr. Johnson saying, “People like to touch how the tax money is spent.”
During public commentary concerns regarding a bonus to Marie Woody was questioned. The bonus was given by the Water Authority however it was claimed the $1200 check was written out of the Splost account. Some from the crowd said they heard from rumor and asked for transparency. Lynn Doss, County Attorney, stood and replied the meeting of the Water Authority, where the decision was made to give the bonus, was public.
Ending comments from the Commissioners seemed to show a sign of relief for having the court case behind it and Earl Johnson made the point of having 3 working on decisions was a better scenario for the taxpayers of Fannin County. Johnson referred to a list of roads to be paved he had received in the mail, explaining it would make sense for the 3 to meet on these matters since he could use his expertise in paving to negotiate better pricing for the County. Hopefully the Commissioners will move forward and work together.