Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 8/3 – 8/10

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Dump-truck overturns on Collins Ave, traffic rerouted

News
dump-truck

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – A dump-truck driver left from Lance Trucking with its bed up and caught a cable line that overturned the vehicle, according to reports.

No one was injured in the accident and only one car was involved.

The accident occurred on Collins Ave and near Windy Ridge Circle around 10 a.m. on Friday, August 7. The driver turned out into the road and had begun to lower it when the bed grabbed onto a cable line. As the truck bed lowered, it snapped a pole near the Pizza Hut. The nearby telephone lines and power lines also came down.

The downed power lines have also led to power outages throughout downtown Blue Ridge. At 11 a.m., Tri-State EMC is reporting five meters out in Blue Ridge with an estimated restoration time of 2 p.m. The power has already returned for several downtown Blue Ridge customers.

Three bucket trucks are working to restore power and repair phone lines.

ETC, Tri-State, and TDS are still on the scene at 1 p.m. trying to restore power and phone lines. Three bucket trucks are actively working and traffic is still being rerouted around the area. One pole has already been replaced, but Tri-State is waiting for more assistance to complete the project.

Fetch Your News will provide updates to this story as more information becomes available.

 

Traffic is still being rerouted from the mid-morning overturned dump-truck accident.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 7/27 – 8/3

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 7/21 – 7/27

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 7/13 – 7/20

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Update: Two deaths, 157 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Fannin County

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting that there have been 157 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Fannin County. This information comes from the DPH Thursday, July 16 report at 7:oo p.m. DPH is also reporting that 12 of these cases have required hospitalizations.

The latest DPH report is also confirming a second Covid-19 related death for a Fannin County resident.

The total number of 157 confirmed positive cases for the county is a cumulative number and includes cases dating back to March. DPH is not reporting the number of recoveries due to the inefficiency in tracking cases. Instead of recording recoveries, many states are reporting “known outcomes”. These cases are where a patient required hospitalization. In these cases, it is observable to medical to staff whether or not the patient recovered.

Fannin County has seen a spike in the recent number of cases over the last couple of weeks, with cases jumping by sometimes 20 in a single day. This is due to the virus seeing a resurgence in spread and also due to the availability of testing ,with more people getting tested.

At this time, Fetch Your News does not have any additional details about these cases.  We will bring you updates as soon as information is available for the public.

The total cumulative number of cases in Georgia as of the July 16, 7:00 p.m. update is now total number of confirmed cases 135,183 with 14,647 hospitalized (2,781 ICU Admissions), and 3,132 deaths. 1,198,678 tests have been administered in Georgia.

Timeline of First 35 Confirmed Cases in Fannin County:

  • First Case – March 24, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Second Case – March 27, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Third Case – March 27, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Fourth Case – March 31, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Fifth Case – April 1, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Sixth Case – April 1, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Seventh and Eighth Cases – April 2, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Ninth Case – April 6, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth Cases – April 13, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Thirteenth Case – April 14, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Fourteenth Case – April 15, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Fifteenth Case – April 17, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Sixteenth Case – April 19, 12:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Cases – April 20, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • First Death Reported – April 20, 7:00 p.m. DPH Update
  • ***April 22, 12:00 p.m. DPH update; DPH rescinded the death reported on April 20 bringing Fannin’s count back to zero deaths. Also rescinded was the additional case reported on April 20, bringing Fannin’s total confirmed cases back to 18.
  • Nineteenth and Twentieth cases – April 22, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-first case – April 24, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-second and Twenty-third cases – April 26, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-fourth case – April 27, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth cases – April 28, 6:00 p.m. DPH update
  • First Death Reported – April 28, 6:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth cases – April 29, 7:00 p.m. DPH update
  • Twenty-ninth case – April 30, 6:40 p.m. DPH update
  • Thirtieth case – May 1, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • Thirty-first case – May 2, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • Thirty-second case – May 5, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • Thirty-third case – May 6, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • Thirty-fourth case – May 7, 6:25 p.m. DPH update
  • Thirty-fifth case – May 12, 7:00 p.m. DPH update

*Fetch Your News has chosen to report on cases confirmed by the Georgia Department of Health (DPH) only. These reports may not reflect real-time spread as the laboratories processing COVID-19 tests are reportedly backlogged by several days. Fetch Your News is also reaching out to local sources to confirm positive cases before writing articles on the subject. 

 Inconsistency in data being reported:

The Georgia Department of Health originally reported one death in Fannin County due to Covid-19 in their April 20, 7:00 p.m. update. This update listed the victim as a 74 year old male with underlying health conditions. 

DPH also reported a 19 confirmed case of Covid-19 in Fannin County.

In their April 22, 12:00 p.m. update, DPH rescinded both the reported death and additional case. This brings Fannin County total cases to 18 with zero deaths from Covid-19.

This is not the first time that there have been discrepancies in DPH reporting for Fannin County. DPH had reported a 10th case earlier in April, but then later rescinded this case bring the total back down to 9.

First Case in Fannin County Original Story Below:

The Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed on Tuesday, March 24 in their 7:00 p.m. update, that Fannin County has recorded its first confirmed case of Coronavirus (Covid-19).

While there have been several suspected cases in Fannin County, until today all tests had come back negative. 

The first confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Georgia was announced by state officials on March 2. These cases were of a Fulton man in his 50’s that had recently returned from a work trip in Milan, and his 15-year-old son.

Georgia’s total number of positive cases confirmed by DPH as of 7:00 p.m. on March 24, has risen to 1097. 

At this time DPH has noted 38 deaths related to Covid-19 in Georgia.

Neighboring counties are reporting zero cases in Gilmer County and zero cases in Union County.

DPH updates the list of confirmed cases in Georgia at noon and 7 p.m. each day. The numbers are expected to increase as more testing becomes available to the public.

FYN will bring you more details as they become available.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 7/6 – 7/12

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Miller questions district’s plans to reopen schools

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Dr. Dillon Miller of Blue Ridge Medical Group spoke publicly at the recent Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) meeting about his concerns with the district’s plans to reopen schools in August.

Miller was previously consulted before the decision was made to close schools, prior to the state mandated closure, in March. However, Miller was not a part of the process in the decisions made to reopen.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Covid-19, Coronavirus, Schools, Reopen, August, Medical Group, Fannin Regional Hospital, Dillon Miller, Jocelyn Miller, Social Distance, Masks, Cases

Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Medical Group.

Tonight the Fannin BOE presented their plans for returning to school in the fall. These plans were finalized in the absence of my husband, the Chief Medical Officer at Fannin Regional Hospital,” Jocelyn Miller, Dillon Miller’s wife, said in a statement on Facebook following the BOE decision.

Jocelyn went on to say, “He has no agenda other than to protect the lives of students, teachers, and staff in our community. His view is limited to the best medical science that currently exists and is in accordance with regulations outlined by the CDC.”

Among Miller’s concerns are the district’s lack of planning to require students and staff to social distance or in the absence of distancing, wear a mask.

I wear a mask all day. I do not enjoy it, but I do it because it keeps people safe,” Miller spoke to the BOE, adding, “Some are concerned about it depriving your body of oxygen, this is not true.  What is true is that If everyone is wearing a mask, this significantly reduces transmission of covid-19.”

Miller spoke of the seriousness that he has witnessed with Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) and the possibility of spiking cases in the Fall and Winter months: “This is not the flu. Never in my experience as a physician have I seen tertiary hospital ICUs filled to capacity in July.”

As a community physician my greatest concern is the safety and health of the teachers and staff. These individuals are on the front lines caring for our children and putting themselves at the greatest risk,” Miller stated explaining that while children might display minor symptoms or none at all, they are still able to pass the virus on to those in more susceptible age groups.

According to Miller complacency could lead to Fannin County seeing a more serious outbreak, like those seen in other counties in Georgia.

Dr. Dillon Miller’s full statement to the Fannin County Board of Education:

I want to briefly go over the medical recommendations for preventing the spread of covid 19 in schools.

There are three ways we know we can prevent the spread of Covid 19

  1.     Handwashing
  2.     6-foot social distancing
  3.     Wearing a face mask

Handwashing is self-explanatory, so I would like to discuss the other two.

Studies show that if you are within six feet of an infected individual in an enclosed space for longer than 15 minutes, your chances of catching covid-19 increase significantly. Under typical conditions students and teachers are within feet of one another for hours at a time. If it is not possible to spread students six feet apart, the science clearly states that masks must be worn. This is the policy being enforced at universities around the state.  

As a physician I cannot support a plan moving forward that does not mandate 6 foot social distancing and when this is not possible have a mask requirement.

I wear a mask all day. I do not enjoy it, but I do it because it keeps people safe. Some are concerned about it depriving your body of oxygen, this is not true.  What is true is that If everyone is wearing a mask, this significantly reduces transmission of covid-19.  Remember masks protect others more than they protect the wearer.  This is one of the best weapons in our arsenal.

Some people believe that children cannot become infected with covid-19. While children under 15 are less likely to be infected and will develop less severe complications, there is still debate about their level of infectiousness. Teenagers, however, are more susceptible than small children and more likely to spread the disease. Some of the first cases in Fannin County involved high school students.

As a community physician my greatest concern is the safety and health of the teachers and staff. These individuals are on the front lines caring for our children and putting themselves at the greatest risk. Masks and six-foot social distancing are their only forms of protection. If you are not mandating masks or social distancing you are denying them a safe work environment.

This is not the flu. Never in my experience as a physician have I seen tertiary hospital ICUs filled to capacity in July. Some hospitals that regularly accept transfers of the sickest patients are not accepting transfers due to lack of beds. July is when doctors go on vacation and relax, this is not normal. Expect the fall and winter to see even more cases.

Due to the bold choices made by the board of education and community in March, we in Fannin county have not experienced a surge of covid cases like other areas in the state but that can change if we become complacent.

Thank you and I pray for your health and safety.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 6/29 – 7/5

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Rally for equality held in downtown Blue Ridge

Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, News
Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Silent Rally for Respect, Peace, and an Equitable Future for All, Jessica Abernathy, Larry Henderson, Protests, Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, Back the Blue, Change, Equality

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Demonstrations are continuing to be held across the nation, by people wanting their voices to be heard on issues of equality. Organizers in Blue Ridge took a different approach as they hoped to be heard through the silence of art.

A fence was set up in the Blue Ridge City Park and adorned with original art pieces expressing discouragement about unequal treatment of individuals in our society and hope for unity to prevail. The Silent Rally for Respect, Peace, and an Equitable Future for All was the brainchild of Fannin County native Jessica Abernathy.

Abernathy had recently attended the rally that took place in Ellijay, Ga. and got inspiration for Blue Ridge’s event when she realized, “I wasn’t alone”. Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Silent Rally for Respect, Peace, and an Equitable Future for All, Jessica Abernathy, Larry Henderson, Protests, Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, Back the Blue, Change, Equality

Having friends in a variety of communities, Abernathy was compelled to bring her message and the message of many others to Blue Ridge. 

“Being that we have a big art community here, this seemed like the best way to do it,” Abernathy spoke of the unique approach to the Blue Ridge rally and pointed out that this form of expression alleviates the concerns surrounding the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic allowing people to social distance.

Also in place, was an area for visitors to write their thoughts on the current events that are taking place in our nation and around the world. Everyone was invited to share their opinions via pen and paper. These messages will be sealed in a time capsule until 2030.

According to Abernathy, local historian Kathy Thompson came up with the idea for the time capsule and will be overseeing its placement, to be determined, until 2030: “It’s to seal this moment in time. It seems like a very impactful moment.”

Some showed up to support differing views than those portrayed on the rally’s art wall.

Citizen, Larry Henderson, sat nearby with signs of his own wanting to show his support for two groups, one that he feels is being unjustly criticized, the other he feels is being overlooked all together.

“I try to show my support every day. I’m a retired police officer and the police departments are getting a really bad wrap right now,” Henderson said while sitting by his Back the Blue sign, “I agree there are some bad police officers, but there’s a whole lot of good ones. We shouldn’t condemn an entire profession based on a couple of bad people.” 

Henderson also displayed a sign reading “Unborn Lives Matter” and this is a belief that he holds very dear.Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Silent Rally for Respect, Peace, and an Equitable Future for All, Jessica Abernathy, Larry Henderson, Protests, Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, Back the Blue, Change, Equality

“Everybody’s been talking about Black Lives Matter. Yes they do. They certainly do. Brown lives matter, White lives matter, Asian lives matter, all lives matter,” Henderson spoke on the issue that he says he prays about a lot, “But what’s more important to me, and there’s not much I can do but be vocal about it, is that unborn lives matter.” 

Henderson says that he wasn’t present to counter protest but rather to show support of issues meaningful to him: “I am here as a citizen enjoying a day in the park, drinking my water and I’ve got a couple of signs saying how I feel.” 

Abernathy, the event’s organizer said that Henderson and others “not necessarily sharing her views” had been respectful of her demonstration and that she had met no real opposition from the community while organizing and holding the event.

“Love your neighbor,” Abernathy shared the message that she hopes the event will bring awareness to, “Be empathetic to the situation at hand. We just want peace for everybody. We don’t want anyone to have to be afraid.” 

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Independence Day Celebrations in Fannin County

Community, Festivals, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – While the continued concern surrounding Covid-19 has changed some of the traditions of Fannin County’s Annual Independence Day celebration, the show must go on.

Parades that usually flow through the streets of downtown Blue Ridge will be cancelled this July 4th, but the fireworks extravaganza in both Blue Ridge and McCaysville are set to take place.

 

July 3rd

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway will be open and operating again in time for this holiday weekend. The Scenic Railway is offering the Firecracker Special train. 

According to the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce website, the train will depart downtown Blue Ridge at 7:00 p.m. and make its way to McCaysville. Passengers can enjoy the great Copper Basin Fireworks display and return to Blue Ridge by 11:00 p.m.

Visitors to the twin cities of McCaysville, Ga. and Copperhill, Tn. are invited to view the fireworks display that is set to begin shortly before nightfall. City officials in McCaysville have promised that this year’s show will be “bigger than ever”.

Downtown activities will be set up in McCaysville and Copperhill, including lots of vendors for food and things to do with the kids until the fireworks start. 

 

July 4th

The Lake Blue Ridge Civic Association will host its annual Lake Blue Ridge Fireworks. The fireworks are scheduled to begin at dusk. Suggested viewing points for this year’s display are, Morganton Point Recreation Area, from a boat in Lake Blue Ridge near the Lake Blue Ridge Dam, Lake Blue Ridge Dam as well as adjacent area by the “tower in the lake”, and the Lake Blue Ridge Marina. 

While in town for the weekend be sure to check out the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association (BRMAA) Smithsonian Institution Exhibit, Crossroads: Change in Rural America. This special exhibition runs through July 17.

Crossroads uses photos, objects, film, audio, and interactive technology to explore broader themes of identity, land, community, persistence, and response to change, as well as the role our rural communities have played in shaping the American cultural landscape. Crossroads encourages conversations about local history, explores the pleasures and challenges of living rural, examines how change has made an impact on our communities, and prompts discussion of goals for the future.”

You can find Independence Day celebrations in neighboring counties by clicking here : FYN Georgia News

 

Featured Image courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 6/22 – 6/28

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 6/15 – 6/21

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

BOE looks to reopen schools in August

Board of Education, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County School System (FCSS) is moving forward with plans to reopen the district in August.

“Our goal remains to have school in August,” FCSS Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney spoke at the recent Board of Education meeting, adding, “Now, it’s impossible to say right now exactly how school will look in August, as so much will depend on the health of our community at that time.”

Gwatney, along with district personnel and the Board of Education, are looking to find a balance for the upcoming year, weighing both the needs of the students and the needs of the community.

The Georgia Department of Education released guidelines on Monday, June 1, 2020 for districts moving forward. This advisement breaks up reopening recommendations into three categories:

  • Low/No Spread (of Covid-19)
  • Minimal/Moderate Spread
  • Substantial Spread

Each category has specific guidelines and recommendations for operating a school system based on the health of the community, and can range from traditional operation (in person) to hybrid operation (alternating schedules) to distance/remote learning.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, School, 2020, 2021, Covid-19, Superintendent, Michael Gwatney, Board of Education, Lewis Deweese, Sarah Rigdon, Heather Finley, Planning, Georgia Department of Education, Survey

The beginning guidelines from the GaDOE defining the categories to consider when reopening schools.

You can read the guidelines released by the Georgia Department of Education by clicking here : Georgia’s K-12 Restart and Recovery

“The great thing that I love about the plan is that it is actually giving communities back control of how their schools function,” FCSS Assistant Superintendent Sarah Rigdon said of the new recommendations.

While the district is preparing and hopeful to have children back in the classroom this fall, they are also preparing for a worst case scenario, where distance/remote learning is the only option once again.

FCSS Director of Instructional Technology, Heather Finley, gave the public a brief overview of how the statewide closure was handled in March of this year. 

During the past nine weeks, 68,000 meals were still served to students, over 700 Google Classrooms were created, approximately 900 virtual meetings and classrooms were attended, WiFi Hotspots were provided to families throughout the county, and those with special needs were still provided services.

“If we can do this in 3 days,” Finely said of the district’s quick response to the pandemic crisis in March, “we can plan for August and figure it out.”

The school system is sending out a survey to parents, guardians, facility, and staff regarding their feelings on moving forward with the 2020-2021 school year. This survey will be based on the low to moderate guidelines recommended by the State.

“This has been a very polarizing issue, and so it should be interesting once we get some of this data back to how the community feels,” Rigdon said of the survey.

The hope of conducting the survey is to get genuine feedback from those with an invested interest in the operations of the school district on a variety of topics that will need to be addressed before moving forward.

An example of such a topic was given as to whether or not children should be required to wear masks in school. 

The school system has also been seeking guidance from a wide variety of professionals in the medical, legal, economic and emergency management fields. 

Rigdon will share the findings from the survey at the July Board of Education meeting so that plans can be made for the reopening of Fannin County schools in August.

“We are excited that we are going to be able to go back to local control. It’s our kids and our community,” Rigdon stated and added, “Educators have missed their kids.”

Board member Lewis Deweese shared his feelings on how every obstacle has been met so far by the Fannin County School System: “The demonstration of love and the compassion that our teachers have for students, it goes above and beyond the call of duty by far.”

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

The Maze of Answers That Answer Nothing : City of Blue Ridge

Citizens Speak, Downtown Blue Ridge, Opinion

Remember the days of old when you went to the Fair and visited the House of Mirrors.  You made your way through the maze looking at the confusing, funny and often times distorted reflections.  It was something fun, amusing and sometimes challenging to go through that maze.  Yet, why are those childhood memories suddenly replaced with the challenge of the maze citizens find themselves in while trying to discover answers to questions from government.

I recently attended the City of Blue Ridge’s Town Hall on Annexation.  I was called to the podium and quickly voiced my concerns to the Council as you only have two minutes.  After I went through the questions, I was told to leave a copy and they would respond.  A week later that response arrived.

My first question was why are developers ‘driving the bus’ with annexation?   I’m not certain how the response was even relevant to the question, but it basically said the expansion of new business and developments in the designated area would create the need for city services. OK, but what I asked was why are developers leading all these efforts.

One developer initiated the discussion on annexation in 2017 and later brought in a few others who wanted it. Four developers discussed their plans at the City Council Meeting on May 19.  Now the City has confirmed there are 10 interested in annexation.  Since we now know what the developers want, it would be nice if the City would share what their vision is for Blue Ridge.

We need to know, with certainty, that the City has development plans, zoning and land use protocols in place.  What is even more important is those plans should have been developed with input from the public and be accessible for public review.

The City is embarking on an attempt to secure rights to portions of two highly trafficked roadways, one of which is scheduled for a significant expansion, but what are their plans for the area?  If the first developer who spoke at the May 19 Council meeting is any indication — hold on — because their plans look more in line with Gwinnett County than Fannin.

My next question focused on the public and what they wanted for their community.  I was told that the majority of letters and conversations the City received had supported annexation.  The majority of letters?  Where are those letters?  Better yet, if there was such overwhelming support, why would three Council members suggest they needed to get input from the public and County Commissioners and ask to schedule the Town Hall?

One Council member told me it was uncertain how they could move forward when the majority who spoke opposed the annexation.  It is disappointing the Council did not include any information concerning annexation at its most recent meeting (June 9).  From what I’m told from the County ‘nothing more has transpired’ with regard to meeting with the Commissioners.  We also know a letter was sent to Speaker Ralston asking him to hold off on the Annexation Resolution unless the City advised otherwise.  So what is the status of the annexation and why is the Council now silent?

Probably the key question in everyone’s mind is what is the total cost for the annexation.  While this question has been asked numerous times and the response varies only a little, it remains vague and unknown.  Here are the responses I’ve received so far:

— We’re only annexing the road and right of way – there is no cost

— Some things are paid by GDOT at no cost

— Minimal costs for legal fees and an ad for the newspaper

— The cost is minimal compared to the revenue that would be generated

We still have no clear understanding of what the cost will be and continue to be told there is no cost and they will apply for a grant.

Impact studies are important for any city considering a change in zoning or an annexation.  What will the impact be on existing infrastructure? How many car trips in and out of these large developments will impact existing roads and neighborhoods?  Has the City analyzed what spare capacities their systems have and when they will need to be increased?  Are there any backlogs in maintenance to existing systems and if so what is the financial burden of those backlogs?  What is the impact to a current homeowner who could very well see their taxes increase?  Noise impact?  Quality of life impact?  The list goes on.

No one knows, but the response said that GDOT makes the decisions for the roads, traffic lights, access lanes, etc.  Yes, GDOT is responsible for the road, but they are not responsible for zoning, land use, what current systems can handle, current debt load and an understanding of what the citizens want their community to look like.  This, again, is where developers are leading the parade and the City has willingly joined it.

I asked about sewer treatment because this falls in the category of impact when looking at infrastructure.  I’ve heard there are some concerns with the facility.  I’ll quote the response:

“The 22 year old sewer plant has been experiencing problems with repair cost.  There is a need to comply with NEW EPD regulations, temperature control, belt press, dehydrator and various other issues to keep the plant operating efficiently.  A Grant/Loan was applied for to correct these issues in the amount of $5M and has been awarded in the past few weeks.  A portion of these upgrades is funded by a Loan requiring a payment to be offset by current customer rate increases or by adding NEW customers.”

My question to citizens is, did you know the City made a commitment to a loan that will come from either current customer rate increases or adding new customers?

With the first developer stating his is a twenty-year plan, at what point will they be adding new customers to share the load?  Does the developer pay a connection fee and then the new home owner assume the role of ‘new customer’?  What happens if something goes wrong with the development and the City’s outlay is not matched and exceeded by that magical anticipated revenue?  Based on their response – customer rate increases.

The financial part remains a ‘smoke and mirrors’ situation.  For as many times as citizens have asked what is the cost, what is the financial impact, the response remains “there is no financial burden to taxpayers”.  The City states “The proposed annexation would increase sales tax dollars for the City and County and NEW sewer revenue for the City.”  I have yet to figure out how those sewer lines will suddenly appear in the dirt and who will pay for them to be placed there.

There is one question that haunts me trying to get through this maze – What if?  What if these developments are not quite as successful as they are being marketed?  Any challenge to the economy or the housing market will greatly impact the success or failure of development plans.  Blue Ridge markets itself as a place to slow down and relax.  What happens when you build high density, new urbanist developments?  Will tourists be drawn to the same crowded developments and traffic they have where they live now and want to escape from?  I don’t think so.

An additional impact is what happens when a high-price development is built in close proximity to average priced homes for the general population.  When I asked if people would be able to afford their taxes due to the impact of high-priced developments nearby and increases in assessments, the response was “the impact is unknown at this time.”

Annexation is often thought of as a quick fix to bring in revenue without really doing all the math.  I’m not convinced the math has been done.  I also remain steadfast in my concerns for how these decisions will impact taxpayers.  The fact most of these discussions were done without any public knowledge sends a clear message and one of concern.  Why would a City not want public input and support so the project is a win for everyone.

My last question asked what possible impact could the thoughts of the citizens have on the Council when most had already expressed their strong support for this annexation in the May 19 meeting.  The project manager encouraged me to reach out to the Council members to determine their position on annexation.  He did say he supported the annexation based on economic progress and job creation.  He also said the City has zoning and any development would have to adhere to those guidelines.  It should be noted that the developer who first sought this annexation chairs the Planning Commission and also sits on the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Since I have found no published minutes from either of those Boards, I can only wonder if he was or will be involved in anything regarding the review of and decision making with this annexation.  Speculation, of course, but a real concern.

The closing comment from the project manager was “It is imperative that the growth along those highways have regulations to protect adjoining neighbors and maintain the beauty of our community.” Why was that not the focus and commitment spoken by every Council member and the Mayor?  It should have been the first comment made.  It should make me feel more comfortable, but a few questions earlier he said “the impact (on surrounding neighborhoods) is unknown at this time”.

The fact that impact is unknown is what just turned this maze into a house without an exit, when/if they move forward with annexation, there will be no way to escape whatever consequences may result.  Annexation is a critical decision and one that should not be made hastily.  I certainly hope the City will step back, get the public involved in developing a future plan, include the County and work together for a better tomorrow.

I want to close by saying I know our elected officials have an enormous responsibility, but I also strongly believe in public input.  I don’t want to see a community lost to the direction of developers while the public is pushed to the sidelines.  I hope our elected realize there are citizens who are knowledgeable and they should not be dismissed.  If they are so quick to buy into a developer’s pie-in-the-sky projected revenues, then why not give equal time and respect to the average citizen.

Donna Thompson

Blue Ridge, GA

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 6/8 – 6/14

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

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