Tax Assessors question county accounting practices

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – A misunderstanding of county accounting practices and a misuse of terminology had the Board of Commissioners (BOC) questioning whether the Board of Assessors were keeping two sets of books.

Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran spoke at the June 12 Board of Commissioners meeting about a line item in the Tax Assessors budget that she felt was an error.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Tax Assessors, Board of Assessors, Chief Appraiser, Dawn Cochran, Troy Junnier, Budget, Line Item, Maps, Aerials, GMASS, Georgia Mass Appraisals and Services

Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran questions to the BOC on why her numbers do not match the county’s official accounting records.

The line item in question concerns the purchase of new aerial maps for Fannin County. According to an agreement made last year, the Tax Assessors Department would pay for the mapping upfront, but other departments who would benefit from use of the maps would reimburse the county for their portion of the overall price.

“We started at $24,000,” Cochran said explaining the line item, “We paid $8,000 out to QPublic. We paid $22,000 to EagleView which is for the maps. We paid $1,000 for LiDAR (Light Detection and Radar) and that put us a balance of negative $7,000.”

Cochran stated that the revenue to date for her department was $7,508.13 and that invoices had been sent out to other departments for their share in the mapping costs for a total of $12,513.35.

“The current balance that should be in the line item for maps and aerials is $13,021.68,” Cochran concluded.

Cochran approached the BOC because the department still has expenditures for the year that would need to come from that line item and worried that already showing a negative balance would reflect badly on continued spending.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton explained that crediting back revenue to a department is not how the county’s accounting practices work. Helton stated that the way the county keeps records of its expenditures and revenues is set by the county’s auditors, Rushton and Associates.

According to Helton, revenues from any department are put back into the county’s general fund. He cited the Tax Commissioners office as an example of why this is the practice. Helton stated that if revenues were credited back to a department, such as the Tax Commissioners, it would in a sense give the department unlimited spending abilities.

“They tell us that you don’t offset expenses with revenue,” Helton said explaining the auditors recommendations. “You just don’t do that.”

Helton went further to ask if Cochran had ever invited Fannin County’s Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway to a Board of Assessor’s meeting to explain this practice. Cochran replied that she had not, but that she had been in contact with Gazaway via email and that all board members were copied to the exchange.

Cochran did not back down from her claim saying that it is important to keep accurate numbers from the top down, adding “Our number’s don’t match up with Ms. Gazaway’s numbers.”

Helton questioned Cochran’s accounting background and why she felt that her knowledge was correct over the county’s hired CFO.

Cochran stated that her board was upset over this “false negative” and stated, “It’s really hard to try to keep two sets of books.”

This statement immediately caught the attention of the commissioners with Helton asking Cochran to clarify and if she had made both sets of books available to the county’s CFO Gazaway.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Tax Assessors, Board of Assessors, Chief Appraiser, Dawn Cochran, Troy Junnier, Budget, Line Item, Maps, Aerials, GMASS, Georgia Mass Appraisals and Services

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson would like to see clearer lines of communication be established between departments and the Board of Commissioners.

Cochran replied that she does keep two sets of books and had made them available. Gazaway, however, stated that she had never seen the second set of books.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson questioned, “Your board is upset. Which set of books are they upset over?”

Later, Board of Assessors board member Troy Junnier would clarify Cochran’s statements, “Dawn brings up a spreadsheet. It’s not a separate set of books or anything like that.”

Junnier also stood behind Cochran’s questioning, “It looks bad on our department because we’re showing a negative line item when we’re really not.”

Helton explained that the negative line item would be amended at the end of the year budget review and that all of this could have been explained by Gazaway at one of the Board of Assessors meetings had she been invited to a meeting to discuss.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee pointed out that the BOC is more concerned with a department’s overall budget, “You’re concerned over a line item and your overall budget is right where it should be.”

“I understand why,” Johnson expanded on government accounting,”and if we all three (commissioners) understand why, you don’t have a problem because at the end of the year, as was said earlier, we’re going to vote to amend the budget, if you are over budget.”

Johnson added that there needs to more face to face interaction with the BOC and the departments when issues arise. Johnson’s reasoning is that interacting face to face and in public meetings would help to eliminate miscommunication and misinformation being spread through media outlets.

“Stop the emailing. If there is a problem come to a meeting. If there is a problem, handle it at your meetings,” Johnson said to Cochran expressing his frustration with the current lines of communication. “I for one am sick of friction between the Board of Assessors and the Board of Commissioners. I’m tired of reading stuff in the papers before you even come here.”

“Before your accuse the county and the Board of Commissioners of essentially not knowing what they’re doing, you might ought to come here first,” Johnson added.

Cochran replied to Johnson saying, “I can’t help how the media takes things and what they do with it.”

“It seems like there is an effort to discredit this board and our CFO,” Helton expressed his feelings on the matter. “It needs to stop. We are doing things accurately.”

Junnier replied to the BOC, “We didn’t come to try to make it seem like we were trying to discredit anybody.”

“I was concerned that it (negative line item) would come back not only just the department head or the department itself, but also on the assessors board,” Junnier added.

In the end Junnier thanked the BOC for fully explaining the accounting practices of the county, and for addressing the negative line item in the Board of Assessor’s budget.

After Junnier and Cochran took their seats, Chairman Helton spoke with the commissioners about a possible way to lower the budget of the Tax Assessors department.

“You know I’ve expressed a concern for sometime about our budget in our Tax Assessors department,” Helton said proposing an alternative way to structure the department, “and I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at the other counties. There’s some counties out there and their budget is just a fraction of ours.”

Helton presented the board with a 3 year contract proposed by independent appraisal company Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services (GMASS). In this contract, GMASS offers to appraise a third of the counties parcels each year for three years.

The cost of this outsourcing would be approximately $223,000 for the first two years and $338,000 for the final year. The total of this proposal would be $784,000 over three years.

Johnson pointed out that the total in the proposal for three years of service is less than the current budget of the Tax Assessors department for a single year.

“I’m for anything that saves money,” Johnson said addressing the current money being spent by the county in this area. ” I know I asked two or three years ago if our money would ever come back down and I was told no. After we came back into compliance, that it would never go back down.”

Helton clarified that he was not advocating to completely replace the tax assessors department: “You always need to have some local involvement and people there.”

Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran did confirm that her department already outsources rural parcels and had planned on asking for help with approximately 13,000 parcels, a little under half the county’s total parcels, in 2019.

The BOC agreed to look over the possibility of outsourcing appraisals and would address their findings and concerns at a later date.

 

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

Special Olympics Week proclaimed in Fannin County

Community

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County honored its special athletes today, and officially proclaimed both in the City of Blue Ridge and in Fannin County that the week of May 16, 2018 be Special Olympics Week.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Special Olympics, Fannin County Middle School, Proclamation, Mayor, Chairman, Donna Whitener, Stan Helton, Downtown Blue Ridge, Fannin County Courthouse

Mayor Donna Whitener signs proclamation declaring Special Olympics Week for the City of Blue Ridge.

Crowds gathered shortly before 10:30 a.m. this morning in the free parking area of downtown Blue Ridge. Among those present were Special Olympic supporters, teachers, proud parents, Blue Ridge and Fannin County law enforcement and emergency personnel, representatives from Fannin County’s educational system, and of course, the athletes.

This year marks a very special anniversary for the olympics. Having begun in 1968, the Special Olympics celebrates its 50th year.

Blue Ridge Mayor Donna Whitener was present to kick off festivities as she announced that the City of Blue Ridge was officially acknowledging this week as Special Olympics Week and delivered a proclamation stating such from the city.

A lighting of the ceremonial torch set activities in motion, and the athletes were cheered on as they made their way up East Main Street to the Fannin County Courthouse participating in the Fannin County Torch Relay.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Special Olympics, Fannin County Middle School, Proclamation, Mayor, Chairman, Donna Whitener, Stan Helton, Downtown Blue Ridge, Fannin County Courthouse

Chairman Stan Helton signs proclamation for Special Olympics Week in Fannin County.

The celebration continued at the courthouse where the procession was greeted by Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton. Helton announced to the crowd that Fannin County too would like to recognize this week as Special Olympics Week and signed an official proclamation as well.

The Special Olympics will take place tomorrow, May 16, at Fannin County Middle School (FCMS). The opening ceremony will be at 9 a.m. in the FCMS gym.

Elementary athletes and Mineral Springs athletes will compete from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Middle and High School athletes will compete from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

 

 

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

Fannin County candidates speak at local forum

Election 2018

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, along with the Blue Ridge Community Theater, hosted a candidate forum May 3 to give voters an opportunity to hear first-hand local candidates’ responses to questions about issues facing our area.

All persons running for positions on the Fannin County Board of Education and for the seat of Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner were present to share their views and explain why they should have your vote in the upcoming election.

SCHOOL BOARD

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, May Primary Election 2018, General Election 2018, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Fannin County Board of Education, Fannin County Fire Department, Fannin County Emergency Management, Fannin County Chairman, Stan Helton, Dixie Carter, Larry Joe Sosebee, William Tripp Ritchie, Glenn Patterson, Bobby Bearden, Jeff Depaola, Marvin Allen, Stave Stanley, Susan DeMoura, Mike Sullivan, Mike Cole, Ron Bolin, Democrat, Republican, Candidate Forum, Platform, Issues, Blue Ridge Community Theater, Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Pictured are, from left to right: Jeff DePaola (D), Marvin Allen (R), and Bobby Bearden (R).

First to take the stage were Marvin Allen (R), Bobby Bearden (R), and Jeff DePaola (D).

Allen is challenging incumbent Bearden in the May General Primary for the Republican nomination. The winner of the primary will face Democrat DePaola in the November General Election.

 

 

BOBBY BEARDEN (R) INCUMBENT

Bobby Bearden, who has served on the Fannin County Board of Education for 16 years, said, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Bearden added about his time serving, “It’s more than a privilege. It’s a blessing and an honor.”

While agreeing with his fellow candidates on many of the issues such as a board member must be a liaison between the community, parents, teachers, and students, Bearden gave insight into his feelings about what it takes to be an effective board member and what it means to serve.

“A lot of people think that the school board runs the schools, but the school board does not run the schools,” Bearden said. “The superintendent runs the schools. The school board makes sure the superintendent carries out the policies.”

Bearden spoke of accomplishments of the school board during his service specifically citing the Performing Arts Center (PAC) and the construction taking place of the new agricultural facility located on Ada Street: “I’ve got so much behind me I couldn’t tell you all of it.”

“I just heard today that we applied for a grant, a literacy grant for over 1 million bucks,” Bearden said, smiling, “and we got it.”

Bearden’s platform is unwavering, stating his top priorities are “children, children, children, and the tax payers of Fannin County.” He states that safety and quality education are his main focus.

MARVIN ALLEN (R) CHALLENGER

Marvin Allen is a product of the Fannin County School System and has raised his children in Fannin County where they all attended our public schools.

“The platform I’m running on is my concerns for the children of Fannin County,” Allen addressed the crowd of voters. “Their safety is certainly number one. Next on the list is education. Another issue I am concerned about is the consideration of the tax-paying citizens of the county.”

Allen would like to work with the superintendent to produce quality policies that make a difference and to be a good steward of taxpayers dollars when it comes to the budget.

Having helped initiate the school system’s fishing program and by being involved with his children’s educations as well as their extracurricular activities, including sports and band, Allen feels that he is qualified for a position on the Board of Education.

When asked what makes an effective school board member, Allen replied that listening and communicating with the community is a large part of the responsibility, but also being able to effectively take care of business: “There are policies you’ve got to set and a budget you’ve got to monitor.”

JEFF DEPAOLA (D) CHALLENGER

Jeff DePaola has worked with youth via mentoring programs and shows a strong resolve in helping children through community involvement.

DePaola feels that this mentoring background along with his career provides him with the experience needed to serve on the Fannin County Board of Education.

DePaola began his career with Delta at the young age of 19. Through Delta, DePaola learned the field of computer programming and went on to write and implement many programs used in this field.

“I’ve got kind of an entrepreneurial spirit about me. I feel like I have a good eye for looking at a situation and seeing opportunities to make it better,” DePaola spoke of how his career will translate on the school board.

DePaola would like to be a liason if elected to the school board. He feels that a large portion of the duty of a board member is to gather as much information as possible from students, teachers, parents and the community, and relay that information into meaningful policies.

“The platform I’m running on is opportunity through community,” DePaola stated of his goals if elected.

SCHOOL BOARD

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, May Primary Election 2018, General Election 2018, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Fannin County Board of Education, Fannin County Fire Department, Fannin County Emergency Management, Fannin County Chairman, Stan Helton, Dixie Carter, Larry Joe Sosebee, William Tripp Ritchie, Glenn Patterson, Bobby Bearden, Jeff Depaola, Marvin Allen, Stave Stanley, Susan DeMoura, Mike Sullivan, Mike Cole, Ron Bolin, Democrat, Republican, Candidate Forum, Platform, Issues, Blue Ridge Community Theater, Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Pictured are, from left to right: Susan DeMoura (D), Mike Sullivan (R), Mike Cole (R), Ron Bolin (R), and Steve Stanley (R).

Next to come to the stage was the race with the largest number of candidates. These candidates include Ron Bolin (R), Mike Cole (R), Susan DeMoura (D), Steve Stanley (R), and Mike Sullivan (R).

Bolin, Cole and Sullivan are all challengers of incumbent Stanley for the Republican nomination in the May General Primary. The winner of the primary will go on to face Democrat DeMoura in the November General Election.

 

 

RON BOLIN (R) CHALLENGER

Ron Bolin opened his statements by giving voters a glimpse into his background: “I’m a retired educator. I’ve taught at all three grade levels, elementary, middle, and high school.”

Beyond having taught, Bolin has also spent time in coaching and in school administration.

Bolin is a proponent of literacy and would like to focus school assets into providing a number of tools to promote and teach these skills. Having served many years in education, Bolin stated, “When a student lags behind in this area, it makes more difficulties throughout their entire education.”

Bolin would also like to see focus put on bringing back vocational training to our schools. He believes that education has “made a huge mistake” by putting all the focus on college education and that many students do not attend college and would greatly benefit from vocational training.

MIKE COLE (R) CHALLENGER

Mike Cole is a product of the Fannin County School System and credits his success to the start he got in our county’s schools.

Cole, a small business owner, began his training at Fannin County High School in the now un-offered vocational and technical programs. Having a successful career with General Motors (GM) and Chrysler, Cole returned to Fannin County to open his own automotive repair shop.

Cole is now a strong advocate for returning programs such as transportation class, cosmetology, residential wiring, plumbing, and welding to Fannin County schools.

“I’m not just a salesman,” Cole said, speaking of his opponent Bolin’s stance to bring back vocational classes, “but I am a client. I went through this vocational system, and I now own a business doing my career path from career tech.”

Cole now has a young child enrolled in the school system, and from involvement in his child’s education, he sees areas of what he feels are wasteful spending and mismanagement.

Citing that he has personally had to provide water to children on a field trip and has seen first-hand large amounts of food being thrown away in the schools’ cafeterias, Cole stated, “If we are a charter school and can make some decisions, we need to make decisions about the waste and mismanagement in that area.”

Cole also brought to the table the idea of using Georgia Virtual on snow days. He stated that if each child were provided a Chromebook that this option could be used to alleviate the issue of make-up school days due to inclement weather.

SUSAN DEMOURA (D) CHALLENGER

Susan DeMoura shared her experience of being a director of a rehabilitation center. With a master’s in speech language pathology, DeMoura worked many years managing a large staff and being in charge of an equally as large budget.

“I believe that my experience has prepared me to sit on this board,” DeMoura explained that she is used to working with many diverse people, “and become a liaison between the superintendent and the students and the teachers and the parents.”

When asked if school boards should be moved to a nonpartisan position, DeMoura stated that she is proud to be a member of her political party, but “I don’t see this as an area where politics need to come into play.”

DeMoura said that a key area she would like to research and try to resolve is the issue of absences in Fannin County. She cited that not all absences are due to illness and some stem from a child’s home life. DeMoura would like to provide options for these children to ensure that they are able to attend school everyday.

“My goal is to try to bridge any gap that exists,” DeMoura said of her hopes if elected,”with our students and our parents and teachers and provide the very best options, the very best alternatives for them.”

STEVE STANLEY (R) INCUMBENT

Steve Stanley has served on the Board of Education for eight years and would like to be re-elected for another four year term.

Stanley is proud of his record with the Board of Education citing several successes that have come to pass during his terms. He spoke of grants that have been awarded and progresses that have been made on all school campuses.

With Quality Basic Education (QBE) being fully funded by the state of Georgia for the first time in a number of years, Stanley stated that he will continue to be an advocate for equal state funding for Fannin County schools.

“This board will continue to work,” Stanley stated of his expectations if re-elected, “and I will continue to work.”

Stanley stated that the one thing he would do differently if elected for another term would be to spend more time in the schools.

“That has been the one thing I have wanted to do since I have been on the board is spend more time in schools,” Stanley said, explaining that his work has kept him away from spending as much time as he would like in the schools.

MIKE SULLIVAN (R) CHALLENGER

Mike Sullivan remains steadfast in his platform. Two of Sullivan’s key issues are that of school safety and of complete transparency on all levels.

Sullivan would like to see no stone left unturned when it comes to the safety of the children of Fannin County. Pursuing every option to acquire top notch safety is an issue the Sullivan is very passionate about.

Sullivan was asked of what he has done to prepare himself for the school board position if elected. He cited that beyond having attended the Board of Education monthly meetings, his military background is another advantage that he possesses.

“The military really prepares you a lot for working with diverse people,” the Air Force veteran spoke of his credentials for the Board of Education, “and I believe our board is comprised of some diverse individuals. It really prepares you for conflict.”

Sullivan agreed with his opponents on a number of issues, including that the school board should be a nonpartisan position and that the best way to keep quality teachers is to offer competitive pay and incentives.

When asked what he would do differently from incumbent Stanley, Sullivan replied that he would have active engagement on all levels, with students, parents, teachers, and fellow board members.

“We really have tremendous capabilities here,” Sullivan stated enthusiastically of his intentions, “to really excel with our kids and to lead them beyond being just 21st century learners.”

POST 2 COMMISSIONER

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, May Primary Election 2018, General Election 2018, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Fannin County Board of Education, Fannin County Fire Department, Fannin County Emergency Management, Fannin County Chairman, Stan Helton, Dixie Carter, Larry Joe Sosebee, William Tripp Ritchie, Glenn Patterson, Bobby Bearden, Jeff Depaola, Marvin Allen, Stave Stanley, Susan DeMoura, Mike Sullivan, Mike Cole, Ron Bolin, Democrat, Republican, Candidate Forum, Platform, Issues, Blue Ridge Community Theater, Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Pictured are, from left to right: William “Tripp” Ritchie (R), Glenn Patterson (R), Dixie Carter (D), and Larry Joe Sosebee (R)

The final group of candidates to take the stage were those running for Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner. These candidates included Dixie Carter (D), Glenn Patterson (R), Larry Joe Sosebee (R), and William “Tripp” Ritchie (R).

Ritchie and Patterson are facing incumbent Sosebee for the Republican nomination in the May General Primary. The winner of this primary will go against Democrat Carter in the November General Election.

 

 

DIXIE CARTER (D) CHALLENGER

Dixie Carter holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work, and she feels that having worked many years in this field, she has a good understanding of people and their needs and for this reason would make an ideal candidate.

Carter is a proponent of improving the county’s recreational areas and of seeking ways to move the county’s library out of the courthouse and into a stand-alone location.

A library is a hub for many communities, according to Carter, and a place where not only learning can take place, but a facility that can offer community classes and lectures, Internet for those without, and social work and aid for those in need.

When asked about a county aquatic center, Carter replied that she would be in favor and that it would be “very beneficial to focus on our health and wellness.”

Rather than just fund this center locally, Carter feels that we could look into regional funding: “Regional collaboration is a very good thing.” She feels that surrounding counties might take interest since the center would be beneficial to their residents as well.

Carter would be in favor of expanding the current Fannin County Board of Commissioners from a three-person panel to a five-person panel.

“With three there’s a monopoly on the vote,” Carter stated of the matter. “It’s almost like it’s rigged.”

If elected, Carter said she will work to represent all citizens of Fannin County and work to change the atmosphere of the Board of Commissioners meetings, which she feels has a negative tone.

GLENN PATTERSON (R) CHALLENGER

Glenn Patterson is an educator of 33 years and has spent approximately 23 of those years as a teacher, administrator, and coach in Fannin County. Patterson currently serves on the Board of Directors at the Fannin Christian Learning Center and is chairman for Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.

Patterson said that he has no private agenda in running, just a vision and a want to make Fannin County better.

Being a good steward of the taxpayers’ money is a key element to Patterson’s platform, and a topic that he reiterated in his answers.

When asked about the county collaborating with the cities to provide an aquatic center, Patterson replied, “I would be open to look at it. I really would. A lot of factors come into play, especially paying for it.”

One area where Patterson seemed to agree with incumbent Sosebee was in not expanding the Board of Commissioners to a five-member board and keeping it at its current three member status. While he did not say that he was completely against the move, Patterson did cite that there is another way to approach the matter.

“I think the biggest thing is to get good people,” Patter said, explaining his stance. “Get people that you can trust. Get people that will work together collaboratively for a common goal.”

LARRY JOE SOSEBEE (R) INCUMBENT

Larry Joe Sosebee has held the Post 2 Commission seat since 2011 and will be seeking a third term in office.

Sosebee stated that his platform has never changed and that he will be running on the same ideals: “When I first ran for this office, my platform was for the safety and prosperity for each citizen of Fannin County.”

Not in support of turning the Board of Commissioners into a five-member board, Sosebee spoke frankly on the matter: “Three people is enough to butt heads on these decisions we make.”

Sosebee told the crowd that he would be in favor of a stand-alone building for the county library: “I’ve always supported a stand-alone library.” He then added,” I wouldn’t put the county in any bond debt whatsoever for any facility.”

Rival candidate Tripp Ritchie questioned the county’s planning strategy for the future and in particular cited the county’s emergency departments. Sosebee took offense to Ritchie’s comments and replied about these departments, “We are top notch in the state of Georgia.”

“All it takes is common sense to run this office,” Sosebee said and added that with his experience, he feels that he is the man for the job.

WILLIAM “TRIPP” RITCHIE (R) CHALLENGER

Tripp Ritchie, a sixth-generation Fannin County resident, co-owner of Ritchie Creek Farm, Inc., and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps., did not hold back during the forum as he spoke frankly about areas of the county that he feels need to be improved.

Ritchie has held strong to his belief that the county lacks proper strategic planning, and one downfall of not having such a plan is in newly constructed facilities: “We need a five-year capital improvements plan.”

“If it’s not in a capital improvements program,” Ritchie added, “you end up starting construction without knowing how you are going to pay for it.”

Ritchie also noted areas in how the Board of Commissioners run that could be improved for the public: “I don’t think we have enough public debate or public comments.”

Accusing Fannin County Commission Chairman Stan Helton of “weaponizing” his position by having complete say in meeting agendas and arrangements, Ritchie added, “We should encourage everybody to have input from the community. We seem to forget that we are representing the citizens of Fannin County.”

Ritchie said that he would support changing the current commission board from three members to five members: “Yes, and I would go a step further. I’d change the form of government between a volunteer-elected board and a manager.”

Having a county manager to organize and oversee all areas of the county government, according to Ritchie, would be beneficial not just in efficiency but also in transparency.

Finally, Ritchie addressed the issue of our emergency management departments and said that this is another area that would greatly benefit from strategic planning. He feels the county should do more to prepare these departments for future demand.

Ritchie also cited that he had been informed that our fire department facilities are not up to code, some not being properly vented, and that firefighters had expressed concern to him about their safety: “They asked me to bring these issues to the commissioners attention. They felt like the commission didn’t have their back.”

Ritchie maintains that he is the right person for the job because he will proactively seek solutions: “I’m not a politician. I’m a pragmatist. I see a problem, and I go try to fix it.”

 

Early voting continues in Fannin County through May 18. You can place your early vote at the Fannin County Courthouse, 3rd Floor, Office of Elections and Registration. Regular voting for the General Primary will take place on May 22. The 2018 General Election is to be held Nov. 6.

 

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

Board of Commissioners discuss tiny house ordinance

Community, News

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

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

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

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

An example of a finished tiny home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County fire station gets approved financing

Community, Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After several discussions the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved a plan for the county to finish funding the new fire station and E-911 center located on Windy Ridge Road.

The BOC, under former county Chairman Bill Simmonds, had agreed to a budget of $2.5 million to complete this project, but bids came in higher than projected.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Funding, SPLOST, special-purpose local-option sales tax, Hotel Motel Tax

Construction continues at the site of the county’s new fire station and E-911 center

Helton explained at the Feb. 27 BOC meeting the need for financing the remaining balance of the project, “We really didn’t know until we got the bids last year, there were two of them, and we didn’t open those bids, I believe, until the last meeting in May, and the low bid with all the factors in there was 3 million dollars. Almost exactly that number.”

“It’s not that we spent more money. We just did a contract that was a little bit more money than they had originally estimated it was going to cost,” Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway further clarified.

Discussions at the Feb. meeting brought up the possibility of borrowing the needed funds through a bond company, to which Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson firmly stated that he was against this option.

Looking into other avenues to pursue for the funding, Gazaway presented the BOC with the possibility of borrowing funds from the county’s general fund and using county CDs (Certificate of Deposit).

This option would allow the county to essentially have an interest free advance. By going this route, Gazaway explained that it would save the county roughly $100,000 in interest and an additional $30,000 in fees.

At the April 10 BOC meeting the board approved this option for financing with a plan on how and when the county would reimburse the general fund.

To finance the remaining balance of the project the county will cash in two CDs, one for $445,000 and another for $75,000, and also borrow approximately $650,000 from the General Fund.

“We’re looking at over one million,” Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee clarified the total amount needed for the project’s completion.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Funding, SPLOST, special-purpose local-option sales tax, Hotel Motel Tax

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee discusses funding options.

Gazaway explained cashing in the county’s CDs, “We’re not paying those back, we’re just going to use those, and then the rest of the money ($650,000) is to be advanced.”

To pay back the $650,000 borrowed from the general fund the BOC decided to make the monthly payments by taking half of the payment amount from SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) and the other half from an extra 10 percent portion of the county’s Hotel/Motel Tax allocated directly to the county this year.

Approximated repayment of the advance would take the county 27 months.

Johnson thought this would be this best plan of action on paying the advance back, stating of pulling from two funds, “I don’t think we need to exhaust either one of these funds in my opinion.”

“This is one of the things I talked about with the Hotel/Motel Tax,” Johnson, a long time proponent of transparency in regards to the spending of these funds, stated, “it’s something that each and every person can go and touch that building and know where it went.”

“I think this is good example of something to use it on,” Johnson added.

Helton agreed with his fellow commissioner: “I think this is about the most appropriate use that we could use for these additional funds.”

Helton motioned to accept an advance from the county for this project, with the stipulations that it would be repaid in 27 months using funds from SPLOST and the Hotel/Motel Tax. Johnson seconded the motions and the board approved this move unanimously.

 

 

 

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

Fannin County new hires will have a new retirement plan

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted to update the county’s retirement plan at the March 27 meeting.

The current county retirement plan is one in which the county funds 100 percent. The plan is managed by ACCG Insurance and is based on stock market projections.

According to county Chairman Stan Helton, if the stock market does not perform well, the county must use more money to fulfill obligations required by the plan.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson expressed an opinion shared by fellow board members about the county’s current plan: “I feel like it’s unsustainable for our county to continue to do that.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Comissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Windy Ridge Road, Loan, Bonds, Retirement Plan, ACCG Insurance, 401A Defined Contribution Plan, Public Works Director, Zack Ratcliff, Road Work, Resurfacing, Snake Nation, Ridge Road, North Old Aska, Harrison & Ada, Old Loving Road, Mabry Lane, Wise Road, Wright Mill Road, Elrod, Blue Bird, Aster Lane, Old Chapel Road, Queen Avenue off of Galloway, Old Dial Road, Mobile Circle, Lowery Road/Brown Mill Road, Mount Herman Road, Hilltop Circle, Doublehead Gap Road, Cypress Lane, Old Skennah Gap Road, Devils Den, Budget 2018, Tax Assessors

BOC discusses and fine tunes new retirement plan.

The new plan is a 401A Defined Contribution Plan and works much like a 401K. County employees would be required to enroll in the plan and make contributions. The county itself would then match employee contributions up to a maximum percentage.

“We don’t intend to do anything that affects currently retired Fannin County employees,” Helton stressed during the discussion. “We also won’t do anything that is going to affect current county employees.”

The newly discussed retirement plan will only apply to new hires of the county. Those employees who have already enrolled in the county’s current retirement plan and employees who have already retired will not see any change to their benefits.

Helton feels that the effects of adopting a new retirement plan will not be seen immediately but will help to secure funds for those on the current plan and those who have already retired: “For a future board, we feel that it is going to be best if we take that liability, which has run anywhere from $700,000 to $800,000 a year, to fund that program.”

Johnson explained about the county’s current retirement plan, “There’s a reason these are going away. They’re not sustainable.”

Johnson looked over several angles before deciding to support the new plan. A main focus for him was whether or not a fully funded plan was a valuable recruiting tool to get top employees for the county.

After having given this idea much thought, Johnson concluded, “I thought that angle over and I just don’t think it’s a feasible, legitimate way of recruiting people.”

Johnson motioned to accept the retirement plan for new hires of the county, and Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee made a second. The BOC approved unanimously to move forward with the new plan.

The new county retirement plan will be effective July 1, 2018. New employees will be eligible to enroll six months after their hire date. There is no limit as to what an employee can put into the fund, and the county will match up to 4 percent of employees’ contributions.

Employees may withdraw their portion of funds contributed at any time. The county has the option to change percentage matched on an annual basis.

Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff was present at the meeting and presented the BOC with a current list of roads scheduled to have maintenance and be resurfaced in 2018.

Ratcliff reported that 12 roads were completed and three roads were omitted from the 2017 list.

Helton clarified that in 2018 “there are 10 new roads” that are scheduled to see work.

Previously, road work was scheduled by priority, but Ratcliff took a new approach and explained, “Those are in geographically, kind of, order because we don’t want to be taking this spreader and running from one end of the county to the other.”

By dividing the work into quadrants, the county will save time and money in completing projects.

Sosebee spoke of the new work plan, “I think it’s a wise choice.”

This year, the county also took into account which roads were on school routes.

“One road we had was a real safety issue for the school as well as us,” Helton said, describing this new consideration.

The following roads will have portions scheduled for maintenance:

Snake Nation, Ridge Road, North Old Aska, Harrison & Ada, Old Loving Road, Mabry Lane, Wise Road, Wright Mill Road, Elrod, Blue Bird, Aster Lane, Old Chapel Road, Queen Avenue off of Galloway, Old Dial Road, Mobile Circle, Lowery Road/Brown Mill Road, Mount Herman Road, Hilltop Circle, Doublehead Gap Road, Cypress Lane, Old Skennah Gap Road, Devils Den.

Ratcliff also asked the board to replace a Kubota tractor mower that has been deemed unusable. The new tractor, a Massey Ferguson, would come from Mason Tractor and is on a state contract, which gives the county a 6 percent discount.

The price tag for the new equipment is $22,710, which the board unanimously agreed to fund.

While present, Ratcliff sought permission from the BOC to approve surplus equipment to be sold online, which the board agreed to do. To date, county equipment sold online has brought in a revenue of $84,872.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Comissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Windy Ridge Road, Loan, Bonds, Retirement Plan, ACCG Insurance, 401A Defined Contribution Plan, Public Works Director, Zack Ratcliff, Road Work, Resurfacing, Snake Nation, Ridge Road, North Old Aska, Harrison & Ada, Old Loving Road, Mabry Lane, Wise Road, Wright Mill Road, Elrod, Blue Bird, Aster Lane, Old Chapel Road, Queen Avenue off of Galloway, Old Dial Road, Mobile Circle, Lowery Road/Brown Mill Road, Mount Herman Road, Hilltop Circle, Doublehead Gap Road, Cypress Lane, Old Skennah Gap Road, Devils Den, Budget 2018, Tax Assessors

Points of Interest for the 2018 Budget.

Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway presented the board with the latest county budget reports through the month of February.
This report shows that the county is currently $1,397,958 under budget.

“Everybody is under budget except for the tax assessors,” Gazaway explained of the report, “but most of that is the approval of the new vehicles that were received.”

Of the departments, Sosebee commented, “They are watching the budget real well.”

Johnson, also satisfied with the report, said that it is a positive sign that the departments are being frugal with their budgets.

“I would like to thank them for being frugal with the money rather than the opposite and seeing things strained,” Johnson added. “It shows good budgeting process.”

Discussions of funding the remaining balance of the new fire station and E-911 facility were also brought up, with Gazaway presenting the option of the county borrowing money from itself and eliminating having to pay interest and fees through a standard loan.

The commissioners agreed that borrowing money from the county’s general fund was the best option, but tabled the final approval for two weeks so that research can be done on how and when the county will be able to make repayment.

 

 

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

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Comissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Windy Ridge Road, Loan, Bonds, Retirement Plan, ACCG Insurance, 401A Defined Contribution Plan, Public Works Director, Zack Ratcliff, Road Work, Resurfacing, Snake Nation, Ridge Road, North Old Aska, Harrison & Ada, Old Loving Road, Mabry Lane, Wise Road, Wright Mill Road, Elrod, Blue Bird, Aster Lane, Old Chapel Road, Queen Avenue off of Galloway, Old Dial Road, Mobile Circle, Lowery Road/Brown Mill Road, Mount Herman Road, Hilltop Circle, Doublehead Gap Road, Cypress Lane, Old Skennah Gap Road, Devils Den, Budget 2018, Tax Assessors

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Board of Commissioners agree on new option for fire station funding

Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway presented the Board of Commissioners (BOC) with a new option for financing the remaining balance of the new Fire Station One and E-911 center being constructed on Windy Ridge Road.

At the Feb. 27 BOC meeting, discussion was brought up about how to finance the remaining balance to construct this new facility.

“We knew we would have to borrow some funds,” Helton said at this meeting. “We felt that we could finance out of pocket about 75 percent.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Comissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Windy Ridge Road, Loan, Bonds

Construction continues at site of new Fannin County fire station and E-911 center.

The BOC, under former county commission Chairman Bill Simonds, had agreed to a budget of $2.5 million to complete this project, but bids came in higher than projected.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton explained, “We really didn’t know until we got the bids last year, there were two of them, and we didn’t open those bids, I believe, until the last meeting in May, and the low bid with all the factors in there was $3 million. Almost exactly that number.”

“It’s not that we spent more money. We just did a contract that was a little bit more money than they had originally estimated it was going to cost,” Gazaway further clarified.

At the February BOC meeting, Gazaway revealed that she had been looking into possible ways to finance the difference between the approved amount and the contract and told commissioners that she had been in contact with bond companies for possible loan information.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson made it very clear that for him this was not an option: ““I’m not in favor of getting a bond.”

After more research, Gazaway presented the BOC at the March 27 meeting with an interest-free loan option. This option would essentially allow the county to borrow money from itself via the general fund.

“Legally, the auditors have approved this,” Helton said of the new loan option.

To complete the project, the county would need to borrow approximately $650,000 from the general fund. By going this route, Gazaway explained that it would save the county roughly $100,000 in interest and an additional $30,000 in fees.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee pointed out that the need to come up with the extra funding is more urgent since the completion date of the project is expected to be June of this year, and the initial completion date was scheduled for September or October.

“This is far and above the best option we have to finish the station,” Helton shared his thoughts with the board.

“I think the only way to do it is interest-free,” Johnson agreed, “and we are using the county’s money to build a county facility while maintaining our fund balance.”

Johnson stressed that paying back the loan and balancing county funds would need to be a priority in this transaction.

All three commissioners expressed favor for pursuing this option but tabled the item for an additional two weeks to allow more research to be done on ways in which the loan will be repaid.

 

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

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

FetchYourNews.com - Dedicated to serve the needs of the community. Provide a source of real news-Dependable Information-Central to the growth and success of our Communities. Strive to encourage, uplift, warn, entertain, & enlighten our readers/viewers- Honest-Reliable-Informative.

News - Videos - TV - Marketing - Website Design - Commercial Production - Consultation

Search

FetchYourNews.com - Citizen Journalists - A place to share “Your” work. Send us “Your” information or tips - 706.276.NEWs (6397) 706.889.9700 chief@FetchYourNews.com

Back to Top