BLUE RIDGE, Ga.—Oct. 9 the Blue Ridge City Council gathered to approve the millage rate for 2018. The Blue Ridge City Council also adopted the 2019 fiscal year budget.
The millage rate has fluctuated over the last three years. In 2015 & 2016, the millage rate was 5.479 mills. In 2017, the millage was rate 5.362 mills and the rate for 2018, which will be applied to 2019 taxes, is 5.378 mills.
When is this tax due? Fannin County property owners will receive a receipt of tax notice in the mail. The amount owed will be due within a time period 60 days from the postmark on the bill.
Please note that if your payment is late, you can be charged an additional five percent, and if the balance is still not paid within 120 days there could be a charge up to 20 percent. Property owners should check their mail regularly in 2019.
The Blue Ridge City Council passed the 2019 fiscal year budget where the city is expecting to a receive $2,026,400.00 in tax payer dollars and a total revenue of $2,449,250.
The City of Blue Ridge will be allocating the complete revenue amount out to various expenditures: Mayor and Council, General Administration, Tax Administration & Licensing, Municipal Court, Police, Custody of Prisoners, Fire Fighting, Highways and Streets, Shop, Recreational Facilities, Parks Administration, Park Areas, Planning and Zoning, Downtown Development, and Special Facilities Rental.
Blue Ridge’s Confiscated Funds from Fines and Forfeitures will go toward the Police Department for a total of $1500.
The Hotel/Motel Fund revenue of $170,000 will go towards Downtown Development.
The SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) Fund revenue, a total of $746,500, will be applied to Highways & Streets and Downtown Development.
Lastly, the Water & Sewer Fund, a total of $5,643,500, will be divided into Sanitary Administrations, Sanitary Sewer Maintenance, Sewage Treatment Plant, Water Administration, GEFA Project, Water Treatment, Water Distribution, and Water Loss Prevention.
Council member Rhonda Haight made the motion that the Millage Rate be approved, and it was seconded by Council woman Robbie Cornelius.
Council member Nathan Fitz made the motion that the 2019 Fiscal Year Budget adoption be approved, and it was seconded by Haight.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga.—Oct. 13&14 Downtown Blue Ridge hosted their annual “Arts in the Park” on Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am-5:00pm. Over 1500 people attended the festival by Saturday afternoon to support the local youth and adult art education programs, scholarships, and exhibitions.
Each exhibitor must apply to be permitted to attend and set up a booth at the festival. There were many booths supplying paintings, crafts, and jewelry.
This year’s three highlighted artists are: Marian Pyron, Harry & Patty Tallman, and Michele DeZayas.
Marian Pyron creates beautiful nature-driven art out of Tennessee. Marian loves making yard-art which can be used as decoration, watering fountains, or bird feeders. She also makes mugs, bowls, plates, jewelry, and jewelry cases using her three kilns.
When asked, Marian expressed her love of nature stating, “I love nature, so I like to make and create things with nature.” Marian referenced a shelf of mugs that had intricately detailed dragonflies on the handles.
You can find Marian’s work here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/fondredeverre
Harry initially got the idea while he was working as an Assistance Living Facility Director and saw that the residents didn’t have a very creative crafting program. So, they started making lamps.
Harry explained, “I went to go get my group of guys some coffee and there was a 99-year-old man at the table, and when I returned with their coffee, he was already screwing in the light bulb.”
You can find the Tallman’s here: https://www.woodmetalcreations.com/
Located north of Blue Ridge, artist Michele DeZayas, has a small bee farm. Initially, Michele made honey, balms, and other bee-based products for personal use and for friends and family, from there though, her bee-business bloomed and prospered.
When asked, Michele explained how her bees stay alive in the winter, “Well, the bees work together. They form and create this giant ball to keep warm and they circulate in and out of the circle, so they can eat and get warm. When it starts to warm up, the ball loosens until it’s warm enough for them to spread out.”
You can find Michele here: https://offthemapbeesandbody.com/
For those that wish to attend, or have an exhibit, at next year’s festival, click here: https://www.blueridgearts.net/arts-in-the-park.html
BLUE RIDGE, Ga.—Oct. 9 the Blue Ridge City Council reviewed two separate proposals for two four-ways. One, on McKinney St. connecting to West Main St., and the other four-way between Church St. and West First St. The Blue Ridge City Council also discussed putting a caution light up on Mountain Street and lowering the Speed Limits.
The concern for the four-way stop between Church St. and West First St. was tabled until the next meeting.
Sheriff Dane Kirby mentioned that if you look at other towns they sometimes have flashing lights on their stop signs or caution signs.
Mayor Donna Whitener spoke of past efforts, “So, we had to change a lot of our old signs [to get them up to code]. The other thing is when we had the striping done, I went ahead and asked that they put bars down at the stop signs. So, those fade quickly, and we’ve had them repainted before, so we just have to stay on top of those and make sure they painted.”
Whitener responded, “We used to have a caution light at Mountain Street and I hear all the time from folks that go into Main Street and Mountain Street that we need to think about a four-way stop. We used to have a red light there when I was a kid. We went to a flashing light and I really think we put the flashing light back up. So, people coming down the hill know.”
Council member Nathan Fitz asked, “Where?”
Whitener replied, “At the end of Main Street and Mountain Street and that intersection.”
Council member Haight and Mayor Whitener mentioned the importance of safety in this section of town because of how busy it is and there’s a constant flow of traffic.
Sheriff Kirby mentioned that school buses take that route, too, and that’s something the Council needs to be mindful about.
Council member Fitz stated, “I’m not sure about a red light, but maybe just a caution light so people will pay attention to people who cross the road.”
Council member Haight added, “We were talking, you know, council woman Cornelius and I were talking about possibly looking at speed limits. It’s busier and the streets are crowded. In front of the co-op it’s 30mph and that’s what people are talking about because there’s speeders through there.”
Kirby replied, “The average speed down there goes anywhere from 30mph to 45mph and that’s recorded. Now, there are some cases where one person was going 68 and we don’t know what kind of car it was, whether it was a police car or an ambulance. But not everyone is speeding down that road. Now, I do believe the speed limits need to be lowered because there’s a lot of foot traffic and cars down there.”
Council member Fitz stated, “I think all this needs to be planned together [meaning the road signs and speed limits]. I don’t disagree with some of these but I think we need to look at these…My personal opinion is that I would prefer not to have so many different signs all in downtown Blue Ridge…so I think we need to look at this as part of all of our signage in downtown so it can all be consistent and look good.”
Mayor Whitener responded, “The thing is with those stops signs and things there are height regulations and things like that…I think we can go ahead and divide these out to what we can go ahead and approve and then what we can decide for next time. This way, people can see it in the newspapers and out in town about what’s going to happen in that area and then it can take affect Nov 1 or Nov 10…so do you want to go ahead and start making motions?”
Council Member Fitz made the motion that they put a four-way stop on the corner of McKinney and West Main Street. Council woman Haight seconded the motion, and all were in favor for the new four-way.
Fitz made a motion that the Blue Ridge City Council table the stop sign at Church Street and West First Street and all were in favor.
Haight made the motion that the council put up the flashing light at Mountain Street. Fitz seconded the motion, and all were in favor.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga.—Oct. 9 Blue Ridge City Council members gathered to review their latest agenda. One item stood out to the board—traffic signs and a one-way street.
The Fannin County Accident Review Board encouraged the Fannin County Sheriff’s office to petition the Blue Ridge City Council to change the two-way road behind the courthouse—between Church St. and Summit St.—to a one-way street going northbound. It’s also been recommended that the speed limit be lowered on that section of road on West First Street.
As citizens of Blue Ridge may know from experience, there’s a lot of traffic on that section of road as far as people commuting through town, people parking to go into the courthouse or county jail. Often, the amount of traffic makes it hard to park, pull out, and overall navigate that stretch of road.
Council member Rhonda Haight stated, “Sheriff Kirby called me and said that they have had numerous accidents there and…at first he suggested a four-way stop and I think after looking at it, they may be thinking now maybe just a one-way street there.”
Mayor Donna Whitener responded, “I think with a four-way stop because they’re backing out into the road I think you’re going to still see people backing into the cars that are coming from the lower street.”
Council member Nathan Fitz asked, “So, come up the hill to the jail there’s only going to be one-way. So, when you come to the stop sign, turning right only, not turning left?”
Mayor Whitener, “Yes, they want the one-way to go back towards [Highway] 515.”
Fitz responded, “So, how do we reroute traffic coming down West First Street for people who need to go to Doss & Associates or any of those places?”
Council member Robbie Cornelius replied, “Just go straight.”
Mayor Whitener added, “Go down and then back up.”
Fitz confirmed, “So, you’d have to go down by the courthouse and then back up the hill?”
Council member Ken Gaddis asked, “What about school bus routes?”
Mayor Whitener replied, “They’ll have to do the same thing.”
Fitz stated, “I personally feel like I need a little more time with this to research it. I say we table it.”
Haight responded, “You can also get with Sheriff Kirby and he can go over the accident reports with you.”
Fitz made the motion that the council ‘table’ the petition for the one-way street until next month so that the members have time to think it over and research options Gaddis seconded the motion.
Will there be a one-way section of street on West First Street by the county jail? Stay tuned until the next council meeting.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga.—Oct. 9 Blue Ridge City Council came together Tuesday evening to vote on the approval of a new bid for propane gas.
During last month’s meeting, council members Nathan Fitz and Ken Gaddis questioned the propane bid from Appalachian Propane. The council chose to open the bid and read a price of $1.44 per gallon.
At that time, discussion between the council members and Mayor Donna Whitener, led to Council Member Fitz making the motion that they ‘table’ the propane bid for the next meeting.
After putting out another bid for propane rates, the city of Blue Ridge received one more bid from Ford Mountain Propane for a rate of $1.09 per gallon.
Council member Gaddis commented, “This is the gas company that the school board uses. They’ve used [them] over the last 3 years.”
Mayor Whitener responded, “And I did call Appalachian Propane because I was asked to do that to see if they could match [the price] and because Japan is getting all the excess gas—they think they’re even going to have a shortage of gas—they couldn’t match the price. I just hope the other company makes sure they have enough gas for us, if they reserve enough.”
Council member Robbie Cornelius responds, “[They] never got to my house to install it…in over 9 or 10 months. I called 7 or 8 times and so I’m not really happy with them.”
Mayor Whitener, “Do I have a motion?”
Council member Cornelius, “And the school board uses this propane now?”
Mayor Whitener responded, “That’s what Ken said.”
Council member Fitz asked, “So, the school board uses them and everything’s fine?”
Council member Gaddis responded, “Yes. They [the school board] just renewed their contract with them [Ford Mountain Propane].”
Council member Gaddis made the motion that the board accept Ford Mountain’s bid and council member Fitz seconded the motion.
Quick-Mart’s owner, Jigneshkumar Patel, was arrested Wednesday Sep. 25 and charged with multiple charges.
These charges include a felonies for distribution of Nitrous Oxide (known as whippets), possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute (the vaping substance now recognized as Pinaca), reproduction of recorded material (bootleg movies), and racketeering. A misdemeanor for transactions in drug related objects (like vape pens and e-cigarettes) was also included in the charges.
Fannin County’s District Attorney Allison Sosebee stated that the case against Patel is still an open investigation: “If any more charges are added it will be from the investigation.”
While in court, Jigneshkumar Patel’s attorney requested dismissal of motion to bond during penance. It was revealed that Homeland Security has Patel listes on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) list and it’s possible that he could be subjected to deportation.
This is a community issue because this illegal substance listed above, Pinaca, is the vaping substance that’s been sold to students in Fannin County. There have been other similar incidents in Pickens and Gilmer counties as well.
Pinaca is a synthetic cannabinoid and is designed to mimic THC, the active chemical of cannabis. Synthetic cannabinoids are classed as ‘New Psychoactive Substances’ (NPS) which are unregulated substances that have become newly available on the market as an alternative to illegal drugs.
As a result, Pinaca has been listed a Control Level 1 illegal substance due to the dangerous health risks like accidental overdose and severe psychiatric complications.
The type of Pinaca and amount of active compound may vary considerably from batch to batch. Effects of this compund may include agitation, rapid heart rate, confusion, dizziness and nausea.
The city of Blue Ridge audit has been reviewed by Welch, Walker & Associates and they found no issues or changes needed to be made in the report. This information is summed up from December 31, 2017. The audit was finished in June of 2018 and has been approved with no changes.
The auditors are looking at items like capital projects, funding, big downtown projects, and new water rates. The auditors judge the financial reports based on a three-tier system: the highest level is 3) Material Weakness (most serious issues), 2) Significant Deficiencies and the lowest level is 1) Management Comments—these aren’t even shared in the report as they are minute.
Findings found in the Blue Ridge financial report that are tested. There were three Significant Deficiencies findings within the Blue Ridge audit.
2015-01: “Lack of segregation of duties” and this is a very common finding in a ‘small-town’ community. This just means that there’s only one person working in a position where mistakes can be made and there’s no additional person to go back and check over reports, data entry, etc.
2015-02: “Lack of contract for revenue transactions” a few years ago it was spotted that the franchise tax agreement between the tri-state EMC and the city of Blue Ridge is outdated and it’s not been renewed officially on paper. There are a few things that need to be updated within the contract and it needs to be signed by Tri-State EMC. This has been addressed and is something the city of Blue Ridge has been working on.
2017-01: “Rates were not calculating properly in the software” this is a new finding but has already been addressed and fixed. For the new water bills in 2017, the rates were not calculating correctly in the software but was fixed in May of 2018 while they were going over the audit. Since the amount of money was ‘material’ it needed to go in the report. The ‘material’ amount was 32,110.00 from 2017 and 12,850.00 from January-May of 2018.
The 2017-01 error was the city’s software error and will not be charged to the citizens of Blue Ridge.