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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Rate increases for Fannin County Water Authority

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Customers of the Fannin County Water Authority (FCWA) were left wondering if their bills would see an increase after the city of Blue Ridge implemented a rate increase for wholesale customers.

The city of Blue Ridge increased their rates by $1.00 per 1,000 gallons of usage in June 2017. This increase affected all city water customers. The city announced recently that their wholesale buyers, FCWA and the city of McCaysville, would see another similar increase in 2018.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, McCaysville, Fannin County Water Authority, Rate Increase, Chairwoman Anita Weaver, Vice Chairman Larry Chapman, Zack ratcliff, David Falls, Angie Arp, Mark Burger, Kay Kendall

FCWA board members discuss the impacts of a rate increase.

“The city of Blue Ridge has made an increase for our water services. I know a lot of you are here today to see how it is going to effect your rates,” FCWA Chairwoman Anita Weaver addressed the crowd at the April FCWA meeting.

Weaver also acknowledged that the news of this increase has not left the FCWA with time to discuss its potential impact: “The water authority has really not had an opportunity to go over all of this at the present time, to look at our budget, to see if there will be an increase.”

Following the June 2017 rate increase from the city, the FCWA passed on 75 percent of the increase to its customers.

FCWA board member Kay Kendall was present at the city meeting when the wholesale rate increase was implemented and explains why there was a need to raise prices: “I was at the meeting and if I understand it right, it was due to the cost for them (city).”

FCWA is currently in a three-year contract with the City of Blue Ridge, and there is little in the contract to prevent any kind of increase the city might enforce.

“There’s no promise that in terms of looking at increases,” Weaver said explaining the current contract, “just a very vague statement that says, ‘we (city) can do whatever we want, every time, every year.'”

Questions arose from current FCWA customers asking the board what can be done to renegotiate the terms of the contract, and what the board plans to do moving forward.

The board was unable to discuss the reworking of the contract, and Kendall added, “We fully recognize that, right now, the city holds the cards.”

Assuring customers that the board is not taking the matter lightly, Weaver said, “I have talked with a couple of the council members and I plan on continuing to talk to them to see what we can resolve in this matter.”

FCWA Vice Chairman Larry Chapman added to Weaver’s thoughts, “A lot of the questions you folks have are the same questions we have and we’ve got to find the answers to those.”

The FCWA hopes to have more answers in their next monthly meeting scheduled to be held Wednesday, May 16, at the Fannin County Courthouse.

 

 

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

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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

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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

Road conditions, closings, and delays in Fannin County

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Dangerous arctic air has moved into Fannin County following the cold front that brought with it Winter Storm Inga.

As the day progressed roads have cleared of the icy conditions that caused treacherous travel situations throughout north Georgia.

Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff updated FetchYourNews about road conditions in Fannin County: “The main roads have cleared up, but there are still some trouble areas on them. Secondary and dirt roads are still really bad.”

“The high today was only 17 degrees, so the secondary roads got very little thaw. A lot of them have shaded areas,” Ratcliff explained.

The concern going into tonight and the early morning hours tomorrow is black ice. “All that has melted and not dried will refreeze. The temperatures will be in the low teens,” Ratcliff stated.

Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Robert Graham also expressed concern over black ice forming: “More than likely overnight we will have more than a few areas where patches of black ice will form.”

Graham did want to thank the residents of Fannin County for using caution when getting out on the roadways today. “We’ve had a couple of fender benders, but that’s it. We’ve had a lot fewer 911 calls than expected in conditions like this.”

Employees of the Public Works Department will be working late into the evening to help clear roads for emergency vehicles as the need arises.

The State of Emergency declared by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal remains in effect for Thursday, Jan. 18. The State of Emergency was declared for 83 counties, including Fannin County. It states that state government offices will remain closed. This comes on a recommendation from the state Emergency Operations Command.

Deal stated, “Our top priority is to ensure the safety of Georgians and to allow the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to continue doing its job.”

There are currently no shelters open at this time in Fannin County. If you are in need of assistance and it is not a life-threatening emergency, you can call the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at 706-632-6022 or 706-632-2043. All life-threatening emergency calls should be placed to 911.

 

***UPDATED JAN. 17, 10:42 p.m.***

***OPENING LATE JAN. 17***

City of Blue Ridge Government Offices will open at 10 a.m.

Fannin County Government Offices will open at 10 a.m.

Fannin County Health Department will open at noon

 

***CLOSED JAN. 17***

Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association (The Art Center)

Fannin County Division of Family and Children Services (DFACS)

Fannin County Magistrate Court

Fannin County Schools (12-month personnel may be asked to report later in the day)

  • Blue Ridge Elementary School
  • East Fannin Elementary School
  • Fannin County High School
  • Fannin County Middle School
  • West Fannin Elementary School

***LATEST WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY***

Wind Chill Advisory until 10:00AM Thursday

…WIND CHILL ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL 10 AM EST THURSDAY… …WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 AM EST THIS MORNING…

* WHAT…Occasional light snow and very cold wind chills expected. Little or no additional accumulations are expected. Expect wind chills to range from 10 above zero to 10 below zero.

* WHERE…Fannin, Gilmer, Union, Towns, Pickens, Dawson, Lumpkin, and White Counties

* WHEN…For the Winter Weather Advisory, until 9 AM this morning. For the Wind Chill Advisory, until 10 AM Thursday.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Roads will remain icy and treacherous as temperatures remain below freezing all day. If you must drive, use extreme caution. The cold wind chills may cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes to exposed skin.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A Winter Weather Advisory for snow means periods of snow will cause primarily travel difficulties. Be prepared for snow covered roads and limited visibilities, and use caution while driving. A Wind Chill Advisory means that cold air and the wind will combine to create low wind chills. Frost bite and hypothermia can occur if precautions are not taken. Make sure you wear a hat and gloves.

* AFFECTED AREAS: DAWSON … FANNIN … GILMER … LUMPKIN … PICKENS … TOWNS … UNION … WHITE

 

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

Winter Storm Inga moves through Fannin County

Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Winter Storm Inga is passing through Fannin County and with it is uncertainty as what to expect.

The latest winter weather advisory from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) remains in effect until 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, and a wind chill advisory is in effect for our area until 8 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 17.

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL 10 AM EST WEDNESDAY… …WIND CHILL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 9 PM THIS EVENING TO 8 AM EST THURSDAY…

* WHAT…Snow occurring. Very cold wind chills expected. Plan on difficult travel conditions. Snow accumulations of up to two inches are expected. Expect wind chills to range from zero to 10 below zero.

* WHERE…Fannin, Gilmer, Union, Towns and Pickens Counties.

* WHEN…For the Winter Weather Advisory, until 10 AM EST Wednesday. For the Wind Chill Advisory, from 9 PM this evening to 8 AM EST Thursday.

* WINDS…Winds will become strong and gusty Wednesday with northwest winds of 15 to 25 mph gusting to 25 to 30 mph. A Wind Advisory may be needed for Wednesday.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Be prepared for reduced visibilities at times. The cold wind chills will cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes to exposed skin. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A Winter Weather Advisory for snow means periods of snow will cause primarily travel difficulties. Be prepared for snow covered roads and limited visibilities, and use caution while driving. A Wind Chill Advisory means that cold air and the wind will combine to create low wind chills. Frostbite and hypothermia can occur if precautions are not taken. Make sure you wear a hat and gloves.

* AFFECTED AREAS: FANNIN … GILMER … PICKENS … TOWNS … UNION

Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Robert Graham spoke about Inga’s potential impact on our area: “Right now, all that has fallen is melting. We are really concerned about icing overnight.”

Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff confirmed this thought, “Icing is going to be a big threat.”

Ratcliff did state that road crews are already out treating known problem areas of the county: “We are spread throughout the county right now treating hills, curves, and known shady spots.”

“We will work as late as we can, but when temperatures get down in the teens and freezing takes place, there isn’t much more we can do as far as pretreating,” Ratcliff spoke of the county’s plan to fight the effects of Winter Storm Inga.

Ratcliff added, “We will be back out in the morning to continue treatment, and my crews are ready.”

The county currently has approximately 300 tons of salt on hand for road treatment, as well as five salt trucks with plows and four pickup trucks with salt spreaders.

Graham explained that models with this system are constantly being updated, “Currently, it shows a possible two inches of snow in some areas.”

Graham urges drivers to use precaution while on the roadways, and as temperatures fall over night, to only travel if absolutely necessary.

There are currently no shelters open at this time in Fannin County. If you are in need of assistance and it is not a life- threatening emergency, you can call the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at 706-632-6022 or 706-632-2043. All life-threatening emergency calls should be placed to 911.

Follow FetchYourNews for the latest on Winter Storm Inga, including closings and delays in our area.

 

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

Commissioners come to agreement and pass 2018 county budget

Community, News
Fannin Court House

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After a budget proposal that was met with opposition from some county departments and heavily scrutinized by the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC), agreements were finally made and the Fannin County 2018 Budget was passed on Dec. 12.

The BOC held an all-day public workshop to discuss the 2018 Budget on Sep. 20. At this workshop, most county department heads came before the board with their department’s request for next year’s budget.

During the workshop, some departments made large cuts in spending. One such cut came from Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Magistrate Court, Public Woks Director, Zack Ratcliff, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Public Hearing, Public Workshop

Magistrate Judge Brian Jones questioned the BOC as to why his salary line item had been cut at a Public Hearing for the 2018 Budget.

Ratcliff proposed approximately $300,000 in cuts to his department. These cuts came mainly from fuel purchases, tire allowances and payroll. This $300,000 decrease comes on top of an 11 percent decrease in the department’s budget last year.

Information from this workshop allowed Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway along with the Board of Commissioners to review department line items and create a proposed budget for 2018.

This proposed budget was met with opposition from certain departments. The Board of Assessors (BOA) questioned the cuts proposed by the BOC. Having requested $977,370.00, the BOC ultimately only approved $848,265 for the BOA department.

Magistrate Judge Brian Jones also questioned the board at a public hearing held on Nov. 28. Jones had requested $114,240 in salaries for his department and was surprised to see that the proposed budget was only allocating him $104,958 in this area.

At the public hearing, Jones addressed the board by saying, “I would like you all to revisit the salary part of my budget. I am the only budget that was reduced in the salary portion.”

Jones stated that he did not care about his personal salary, which is mandated by the state of Georgia, but that he was concerned with the salaries of his staff. “I hired them at a beginner’s rate, or what I call a starter’s salary, and I think I should be allowed the opportunity to advance them as they learn and move forward in their jobs,” Jones explained.

Jones went on to list numerous responsibilities that his court has taken on from other courts in an attempt to “unclog the system.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson asked Jones if he was happy with everything else in his budget. Jones replied, “I’m fine with all of that. I’m just not happy with the salary portion because I think I should be able to advance my employees as they deserve to be advanced.”

Gazaway explained how the proposed amount for salaries within the Magistrate Court was determined: “I actually added up what they’re currently making, all of them, and added 2 percent, and it made a reduction in salary.”

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton added, “His employees are not getting cut on their salary. They’re getting a 2 percent raise, which is consistent with what we are doing with every other department in the county.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Magistrate Court, Public Woks Director, Zack Ratcliff, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Public Hearing, Public Workshop

Graph presented by Finance Director Robin Gazaway depicting county budget and millage rate.

At the Fannin County BOC meeting held Dec. 12, this issue was revisited before finalizing the 2018 Budget. Before the discussion of the budget took place, Finance Director Gazaway presented a graph depicting the county’s budget from 2014 to present, along with the county’s millage rate for this same time period.

During this period Fannin County’s spending budget has grown by approximately 40 percent, while the millage rate has dropped from 5.16 in 2014 to 4.176 in 2018. Gazaway stated, “We can’t keep this up.”

“This is really important for people to understand. If you go from 2014 to this year, in three years the budget has increased right at 40 percent with no tax increase,” Helton explained, “and that is unsustainable, and that is part of the reason why we are doing our best to start putting the brakes on that this year.”

The proposed 2018 Budget contains a 1.8 percent increase from the previous year (2017) budget.

Johnson agreed with the spending being unsustainable. He remarked, “It’s a question I asked a year ago with several departments: when are we ever going to start being able to scale back?”

Johnson then added, “My experience here in five years, once anyone gets it in their budget, we never see it again. It’s very rare that we have decreases in these budgets.”

Before passing the final 2018 budget, Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee expressed his thoughts on Magistrate Judge Brian Jones’ request to review the salary line item of his department.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, Financial Director Robin Gazaway, Magistrate Judge Brian Jones, Magistrate Court, Public Woks Director, Zack Ratcliff, Board of Assessors, Tax Assessors, 2018 Budget, Public Hearing, Public Workshop

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson discussing his views on voting for total budget.

Sosebee stated he had contacted Gazaway previously to discuss his views on the matter. Sosebee said to the board, “Two or three years ago, we went down the same path over an elected official, like Mr. Jones back here, and my opinion is we can’t tell them what to do with their line items. We might can suggest it, but as far as taking it away from them, I don’t feel like it’s necessary that we do that.”

Johnson, who also stated having previously spoken with Gazaway on the matter, agreed with Sosebee, “The problem I have with it is that that means our office is telling another elected official what he’s paying his people.”

Gazaway clarified that the amount Jones was requesting is an 11 percent increase in salaries.

Sosebee replied to the clarification, “When the 11 percent comes out in the paper, Mr. Jones will have to answer to his constituents that voted for him.”

BOC Chairman Stan Helton added his thoughts: “We have tried very hard to keep this salary and wages for all the county at a 2 percent level. When we approve a budget, it’s basically for the next year, but if we’re talking about approving wages and salaries, that’s not just this year, that’s going to be the year after, the year after, the year after. So that one area I do feel that we do have some oversight on.”

Helton then addressed Jones who was present at the meeting: “The overall increase, Judge Jones, for your department is an increase.”

Helton asked for a motion to approve the line item for Magistrate Court salaries as the requested amount versus the commissioners’ recommended amount.

Johnson, unhappy with this motion, commented, “So, we’re going to have to do that for everyone that changed theirs? Since we are making motions for line items and salaries.”

Sosebee agreed that a motion needed to be made to accept the entire budget, including the requested amount from Jones: “We’ll just do the total budget, cause if we start on 1 line item, we need to do them all.”

After a moment Johnson motioned to approve the 2018 budget, Sosebee seconded the motion and the budget was passed unanimously.

Later, Johnson remarked on his decision to approve the Magistrate Court’s requested salary budget: “We don’t control constitutional officers. They control their budget, and they answer to their own voters.”

Judge Jones was pleased with the decision that was made and stated, “I just want to thank the post commissioners. They did what was right.”

 

 

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

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