UPDATE: Commissioners Move 2020 Budget Hearings to Oct. 9

News, Police & Government
2020 Budget

BLUE RIDGE, GA – The Board of Commissioners unanimously decided to move the 2020 budget hearings to approve Wednesday, October 9.

Traditionally, commissioners listen to budget proposals in the Grand Jury Assembly Room throughout a single day.

The hearings will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on October 9, and each department head presents the intended budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Previously, the commissioners had decided on Wednesday, October 2 as the date, but had to move it due to unknown reasons.

Commissioners then give input about the expenditures for the year.

For the last two years, early October has been the time set aside for budget hearings. The Clerk of Court has confirmed that the room is available on the intended date.

After some discussion, if the date works for all three commissioners, they agreed that it could work.

The three weeks’ notice should give all departments ample time to prepare their 2020 budget.

Fannin County Development Authority Reappointment

Johnny Chastain received a reappointment to the Fannin County Development Authority Board for another three-year term. He served on the board since 2012.

“He’s done a great job. Good to have him back,” said Post Two Glenn Patterson.

Commissioners also unanimously approved the decision.

Cooler Days for Jail and Courthouse with new AC Agreement

News
AC Trane System

Blue Ridge, Ga – Sheriff’s Office resolved its air conditioner (AC) problems and entered into a new maintenance agreement with Trane.

Sheriff Dane Kirby advised partnering with Trane Heating and Cooling for all future AC issues with the jail and the courthouse. The two service agreements one covers mechanical and the other maintains the computer equipment. The mechanical agreement is roughly $10,000 annually, broken into $2,500 quarterly. The computer agreement is $3,570, with quarterly payments of $896. Together, the agreements totaled $13,570 a year.

“I think maintenance would really help. I’m not even going to get into what they found. They said one of them looked like it had a dead dog in it, but we’ve got [the system] going now,” said Kirby.

Kirby presents case for AC service agreement

Sheriff Kirby presented a case for entering into a maintenance agreement with Trane for future AC repairs.

Over the years, the jail and Sheriff’s Office faced constant AC issues and applied fixes deemed appropriate. Normally, the office called local contractors to fix the problems.

However, the system broke again a few weeks ago, and a Trane specialist advised setting the system back to zero. After resetting the system, Trane wanted to enter into a maintenance agreement with the county.

“We’ve reached a point that with the age of those units that if we don’t do something to maintain them, and see that the maintenance is done on an ongoing basis, we could be looking at some severe costs,” said Chairman Stan Helton.”

The life expectancy of a maintained Trane AC unit is 10 to 15 years.

The bill for the service charges totaled at $16,000, but with the proposed service agreement, Trane dropped the bill to $13,091.

“Looks like it’s very necessary to get it done,” stated Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson, “I think it would be well worth it to do so.”

With the new maintenance agreements, the county will pay $13,750 a year for the next three years.

Kirby’s 2019 budget didn’t account for the of the new service agreements but felt it would save money in the future.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson said, “It’s right in line with what we’ve spent on the system every year. I know last year we spent $15,000 or $16,000. I think it’s a good idea to let the people whose unit it is to actually fix it, and it sounds even better if they are going to maintain the courthouse as well.”

Also, the Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of a new ambulance from Custom Works for a total of $143,821, included in the 2020 budget.

Custom Works was the higher bid than MEDIX, who previously supplied ambulances for the county. However, MEDIX no longer has a service representative in Georgia. Trucks would have to travel to Indiana to receive service.

Custom Works offered a Georgia location for service with no exceptions to the requirements put forth by Director of EMA Robert Graham.

Highest Bidder Awarded Primary Waste Management Contract

News
Garbage Truck waste managment

Blue Ridge, Ga –Three-part motion named the more expensive company the primary waste management facility for Fannin County, awarded the second contract to the lower-cost company, and then placed a moratorium on industry permits.

The ongoing discussion between Advanced Disposal Services (ADS) and Cash Environmental Resources (CER) reached a quick conclusion. The three-part motion awarded both companies contracts and added a moratorium on solid waste collection and disposal permits for the next three years.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson stood in opposition to the motion and said that “It was confusing language and harder to understand than the Declaration of Independence.” Johnson also noted that no one discussed the three-part motion before or after it’s presentation to the Board.

No one addressed why ADS won the primary contract over CER. ADS  will cost the citizens of Fannin more because it charges per ton or per pound. CER offers a pay per bag system to the general public.

The two companies bided for the responsibility of Fannin County’s waste in the May 14 Board of Commissioners meeting. The organizations presented their proposals in a workshop on May 26.

board of commissioners

Johnson opposed the motion due to lack of discussion on the three-part motion.

During the workshop, the commissioners and facilities addressed the idea of both operating in the county but tabled the final decision to review pricing before awarding the primary contract. The bids included a rundown of prices, as follows:

ADS quoted a host fee of $0.20 per ton for the county with the following detailed breakdown: $57.64 per ton for commercial haulers, $57.64 per ton for general public across the scales, $57.64 per ton for general public trash bag delivery at scales, $0.12 per pound for general public at convenience centers, and $12.50 for bulky items and appliances. ADS can process a total of 866 tons per month.

CER quoted $1 per ton for the county host fee with the following itemization: $52 per ton for commercial haulers, $52 per ton for general public across the scales with a $40 minimum, $1 per bag for general public trash bag delivery, $1 per bag for general public at convenience centers, $3 per bag for contractors, $0.10 per pound for CND, yard debris, $15 for bulky items, $15 for appliances, $12 per pound for tires, and free recycling. Prohibited waste includes batteries, fluorescent lightbulbs, and non-hazard liquid waste.

“It’s been an objective Fannin County Board of Commissioners to provide competitive options to the citizens and visitors to the county for waste stream collection and disposal,” stated Chairman Stan Helton when he began reading the motion.

Still, ADS won the primary responsibility of hauling and disposing of garbage in a non-exclusive, three-year contract. The company also received access to convenience centers owned by the county.

In the second part of the motion, CER obtained a similar contract, but can’t operate out of ADS’s convenience centers. CER owns one transfer station, Sugar Creek C&D.

However, CER lacks a permit to haul solid waste, and the moratorium prohibits the company from attaining a waste management collecting and disposal permit for three years.

When asked about the decision, Chairman Helton stated, “The primary goal was to open up competition on this service and provide better service and economics to the citizens of Fannin as having only one provider has not been the best situation for the county.”

Currently, ADS manages collection for the county, and the contract expires in August 2019. The company’s also going through the process of being bought out by Waste Management Incorporated.  This prompted the Board of Commissioners to open the service up to bid.

Johnson Expresses Concerns Over Handling of Healthcare Change

News, Politics
2019 millage rate

Blue Ridge, Ga – Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson voiced his opinion on the changes to the county’s healthcare policy.

In the May 28 Board of Commissioner’s meeting, Johnson, who missed the called special session on healthcare, made his thoughts on the changes known.

“The reason I felt that we went to self-insured, two or three years ago, was to save money, and that hasn’t been the case. I would hope that next year that we get some different proposals, said Johnson.

He stated that he couldn’t disagree with the tobacco policy, but the spousal carve-out warranted further consideration before moving forward.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson expressed concerns over the speed of the approval for the new healthcare policy.

“The carve-out, I would have liked to have seen some numbers on how much that is going to save us, stated Johnson, “Some of the employees have worked here for numerous years, and now their spouses are going to have to receive healthcare from somewhere else. It could be an undue hardship.”

It’s still too early to tell how many employees will be affected by the carve-out. Employees have until the end of the month to decide what to do.

Johnson stressed looking into different options next year, “We’re paying about the same. I feel like we have to get permission from this new insurance company to get injured, so I would like to a few options for us all to look at. For myself, I am coming off it.”

He also expressed an issue with the decision being made in a called meeting. “We had a meeting that Tuesday. I wished we had presented it then,” said Johnson, “We’re taking two weeks to go over an ambulance bid, and we had one meeting to change the entire insurance for the county.”

In closing, Johnson stated, “We’re trying to do everything for the cost not to rise, and I feel like that is what the commissioner’s did even in my absence. Everyone’s trying to keep the cost from going up.”

“I’m certainly in favor of looking at anything that reduces insurance costs. The claims can be terrible, and it impacts everybody, and we tried to choose the route that impacted the fewest people, “said Chairman Stan Helton, “We’ll certainly take that under advisement.

Fannin Operating Two Percent Under Budget

News
2020 Budget

Blue Ridge, Ga – Fannin County’s operating two percent under budget through April of 2019.

As of April 30, 33 percent of the budget’s been spent for the year with Fire/EMS/ EMA, Tax Assessor, Sheriff’s Office, and County Jail still showing over budget due to the first of the year lump sum lease and loan payments made at the beginning of the year.

Per the April 23 meeting, Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway broke out the Public Works and SPLOST Budget to provide more clarity about where the money comes from and is going.

Fannin County Board of commissioners budget

Several departments are still showing over for the year.

“The public works old SPLOST is because we’re going to use the old money on the roads until it runs out, and then we’ll start on the new SPLOST,” explained Gazaway.

Baseball admissions factored in slightly into the recreation budget, but the month of May was not reflected in this report.

“We’re two percent under budget because we’re making up some of the differences from earlier in the year,” stated Gazaway, “LOST and SPLOST collections are up again this month from the prior years.”

Thirty-three percent into the county’s operating budget as of April 30, 2019.

 

 

EMA Director Robert Graham advised choosing Custom Works for the ambulance remounts at $104,980 as the most acceptable vendor for the job. The business also priced an add-on door locking systems for the ambulance at $1,800, bringing the total to $106,780.

“The locking system on the doors on the box [will be] activated front door locks when we lock the front doors,” said Graham, “We need this because we make many trips out of town to hospitals, and we need to lock the back of the truck. Our drugs and equipment are all in the back.”

Currently, seven doors and compartments must be locked with a key when getting out of the truck, and EMA employees must remember to unlock these doors when going back out to have access to them.

“It would be a great benefit to add that to this truck and going forward in the future to the standard bid specs,” lobbied Graham.

The truck won’t be available until closer to 2020 due to Chevrolet chassis unavailability.

Graham also confirmed that the county wouldn’t be short on equipment during this time with back-up trucks and placing an order for a new ambulance to replace an aging one with 90,000 plus miles on it.

Next, Graham introduced bids for a new ambulance to be purchased in the 2020 and on that year’s budget. Currently, new ambulance models aren’t available, but a waiting list has formed for 2020. Graham wanted to go ahead and get Fannin’s EMA name on the list.

“If we don’t get a truck each year that we fall behind and have maintenance issues,” said Graham.

“You had this idea that it was better to go ahead and place an order with the stipulation that it wouldn’t be delivered until after the first [of the year] because in the past you wouldn’t get this new ambulance until fall,” explained Helton to the room.

MEDIX proposed $140,130 for a 2020 model Chevrolet with the delivery after January 1, 2020. Custom Trucks and Bodyworks offered $143,021 for a 2020 model Chevrolet with the delivery after January 1. ETR, LLC proposed $187,768 for a 2019 model Ford F-450 with the delivery after January 1.

The Commissioners approved Custom Works for remount and tabled the new ambulance bids after Graham asked for more time to review.

Waste Management decision was tabled again to give the commissioner’s more time to review Advanced Disposal Systems and CASH proposals after meeting with both organizations.

Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff experienced an equipment emergency after losing a 16-year-old mower in the middle of mowing season and had found a used replacement mower for $43,500 with 70,000 hours on it.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson said, “The piece that [the used mower] is replacing, we salvage it and get rid of it. It’s got way too many hours to put any more money into it.”

Ratcliff stated that he had no plans to fix the old mower with over 100,000 hours in it already.
The emergency purchase puts the county back at 10 mowers and back on track with mowing for the spring and summer.

Board of Commissioners Purchase WhitePath Building

News, Police & Government

Blue Ridge, Ga – Board of Commissioners approved of the purchase of 118 Industrial Blvd. to move administration out of the courthouse and provide additional parking for the Fannin County Government and public.

“It’s been something that has been talked about for many, many years, and the voters actually approved it in 2016. They put a 10 and a half [percent] SPLOST allocation for parking and/or administration building. The plan would be that the building would serve both purposes, stated Chairman Stan Helton.

The county hopes to close on the property by July 1, but won’t take possession January 1, 2020. The goal is to take everything out of the first floor except the library so the commissioners, land development, building inspection services, Board of Elections tax assessors, and tax commissioners offices would move to 118 Industrial Blvd.

Major renovations need to be done before the departments move.

“It’s downtown where all the hubbub is but close enough where people can park easily. We would have to do some major modifications, big time, and that’s what we have to decide on, but it’s a little over five acres of property,” said Helton.

By moving facilities, the public will have improved access to all of the departments and plenty of parking.

“The neat thing about it is we can make this purchase without borrowing any money,” said Helton, “The money that we expected over six years from the SPLOST is about $3,150,000, and we will be able to make this purchase without borrowing anything outside.”

Before deciding on the purchase, the county performed a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment and Architectural Services Report assessment.

County Encourages Tobacco Users to Quit

News

Blue Ridge, Ga – Board of Commissioners offer county employees incentives to quit tobacco in the 2019 healthcare plan.

In a called meeting of the Board of Commissioners, the commissioners added a $50 a month surcharge to monthly premiums for tobacco users. Studies have shown that tobacco use causes poor health in individuals who partake over a number of years. The addition to the premium is an effort to promote good health among the employees of the county government.

Fannin County employees have six months to stop using tobacco, starting on July 1.

“The fair thing is to give employees a chance, a timeframe to stop, to cease the use of tobacco and then along with that plan to offer some tools that helps them to get off of it,” said Chairman Stan Helton.

Sheriff Dane Kirby confirmed with Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway that current premiums and how the $50 monthly charge would break down week to week.

“It would be about $11.50 or $12 extra a week,” said Gazaway.

Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson asked, “Are we going to provide them with things to help them stop?”

Benefit Support’s Representative Lena Andrews assured him that the health plan will offer them tools to quit. Starting in July, which is when the new healthcare year will start, tobacco users will have access to cessation methods as well that the county will pay for. They can choose the patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler,  and nasal spray to help them quit.

County employees have six months to stop their tobacco use before the $50 surcharge goes into effect.

However, if employees haven’t quit by January 2020, they will be charged the $50 surcharge on their insurance premium. January 1, 2020, would be when the county sent out the first surcharge. Employees can also choose to quit to take advantage of the cessation methods at any time.

Additionally, the county included a spousal carve-out clause to their insurance plans. Essentially, if an employee’s husband or wife has the opportunity to be insured by their employer, then they must be covered through their employer.

“If the spouse has access to coverage through their employer, then that spouse is required to sign up for coverage through that employer. They can stay on the county if so desired, but the county becomes secondary to the other group health insurance plan,” explained Total Insurance Representative Ron Offord, “That being said, a lot of employers don’t offer spousal coverage because they are allowed to do that under Affordable Care Act plans.”

Spouses have 60 days to make the change, and the effective date must be July 1 for the individual to be covered on their new plan. The healthcare providers plan to meet with each and every employee to go through all the details.

A prescription step-up plan was also added, which states the lowest cost prescription is the first choice by the healthcare plan. If a doctor prescribes a more expensive prescription, however, the insurance will cover the cost.

No raises in insurance premiums this year for Fannin County employees.

The county’s making these changes in an effort to keep employee premiums down and provide the most benefit to everyone. The program’s self-funded and claims greatly affect health insurance rates, so by helping employees become healthier and fewer people on the insurance plans the rates can remain low.

“We’re not raising, this year, their premiums,” said Helton, “it will happen. We don’t know when, but we felt strongly that we needed to look at some other options before going to the pocketbook.”

Post One Commissioner was absent during this called meeting, and all present department heads decided the changes were fair when asked at the end of the meeting.

Potential Changes to County’s Waste Management Services

News

Blue Ridge, Ga – Two waste management companies provided bids to supervise Fannin County’s trash and recycling service.

Currently, Advanced Disposal Services (ADS) handles the waste streams for the county, but the company recently received an offer from Waste Management Incorporated to buy it out. The companies are in the middle of the takeover contract process, and it’s unlikely to be finalized soon.

In the meantime, the Board of Commissioners decided to open the service up to bids.

“Even though we’re in rural north Georgia, we don’t have the options that they have in the some of the bigger towns, where there are greater tonnage and logistics are much more favorable. We wanted to go through the process and do the best that we can for the county,” said Chairman Stan Helton.

A decision about the waste management service will be made at the next board meeting.

ADS quoted a host fee of $0.20 per ton for the county with the following detailed breakdown: $57.64 per ton for commercial haulers, $57.64 for general public across the scales, $67.64 per ton for general public trash bag delivery at scales, $0.12 per pound for general public at convenience centers, and $12.50 for bulky items and appliances. Advanced Disposal Services can process a total of 866 tons per month.

CASH Environmental Resources quoted $1 per ton for the county host fee with the following breakdown: $52 per ton for commercial haulers, $52 per ton for general public across the scales with a $40 minimum, $1 per bag for general public trash bag delivery, $ 1 per bag for general public at convenience centers, $3 per bag for contractors, $0.10 per pound for debris, $15 for bulky items , $15 for appliances, $12 per pound for tires, and free recycling.

Each company offers liability insurance within the bids as well.

CASH has one transfer station, and ADS has three convenience centers in the county.

The renewal for the ADS contract comes up in August of 2019.

Board of Commissioners decided to table the matter, so everyone has time to review the bids and will make a decision at the next meeting.

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