Board opposes proposed annexation by city of Blue Ridge

Board of Commissioners, News
annexation

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the annexation of more property to the city of Blue Ridge, citing lack of knowledge about the proposed change.

The annexation request is currently at the Georgia General Assembly and has reportedly already passed in the House.

Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Earl Johnson, Post Two Glenn Patterson, and County Attorney Lynn Doss all confirmed that the city of Blue Ridge had not contacted them regarding the expansion.

“I have some concerns because of this expansion, from what I understand, they’re talking about expanding the city limits where it’s at right now Trail’s End, which is down the end toward McCaysville from Walmart, all the way to Gravely Gap. Also, from the Toccoa River near Tammen Park out near Forge Mill Road,” stated Helton.

The proposed annexation extends down Hwy. 515 and Hwy. 5.

Doss thought the annexation was in the early stages and not in the General Assembly because no one from the city or city attorney had contacted her about it.

“I think it’s offensive and insulting for this to occur, frankly without any information at all. It just doesn’t seem right,” declared Patterson.

The chairman also inquired if city ordinances would supplant the county’s existing regulations, such as noise, speed limits, alcohol, and law enforcement jurisdictions.

Regarding alcohol, he said, “This is a huge issue. We’ve not had any input into this, and more importantly, the people in the county have not had any input, so all of a sudden, if they start seeing alcohol in places that they’ve not seen before and they don’t get a chance to vote on it. That’s going to be a big problem.”

Johnson wanted to know if the city could ask to annex any property in the county. The answer is must be contiguous to existing annexed property, but otherwise, yes.

“A lot of things are at stake when you start annexing that much property when you talk about major highways. Highway 5 is a major highway. Highway 515 is a major highway,” asserted Johnson. “I don’t know if the county was supposed to go along. I don’t know, and that’s why I am asking. I think everyone in the county needs to wonder where was the county’s input in this.”

Post Two Patterson asked if the county attorney had ever encountered the city by-passing county input in annexation matters. She said it doesn’t happen often, but stressed the importance of county involvment with these matters.

O.C.G.A. 36-36-6 addresses municipal governing authorities providing notice to county government about proposed annexation:

“Upon accepting an application for annexation pursuant to Code Section 36-36-21 or a petition for annexation pursuant to Code Section 36-36-32, or upon adopting a resolution calling for an annexation referendum pursuant to Code Section 36-36-57, the governing authority of the annexing municipality shall within five business days give written notice of the proposed annexation to the governing authority of the county wherein the area proposed for annexation is located. Such notice shall include a map or other description of the site proposed to be annexed sufficient to identify the area. Where the proposed annexation is to be affected by a local Act of the General Assembly, a copy of the proposed legislation shall be provided by the governing authority of the municipality to the governing authority of the county in which the property proposed to be annexed is located following the receipt of such notice by the governing authority of the municipality under subsection (b) of Code Section 28-1-14.”

Doss spoke to an annexation that occurred last year and confirmed that the city attorney sent over documents. Also, a notification about a change to the city charter ran in the paper. However, no one has contacted her about annexing property this year.

She also raised potential changes to LOST and county service delivery strategy if the annexation goes through. LOST distribution will come up for renegotiation in two years.

“One of the city’s arguments [during previous LOST negotiations] was their area and tourism and what they contributed to the pie. Well if they’re area is larger, they’re going to ask for a larger share of the pie. The pie hasn’t gotten any larger. So, they get a larger share of the pie, then do we have to come back and renegotiate the service delivery strategy because they got more money than the county does out of it, but the county still has to provide all the fire service,” explained Doss.

The expense might not come out of the county’s share either, but McCaysville as well. Morganton doesn’t qualify for a portion of LOST in part because of its size. However, if Blue Ridge continues to expand, then McCaysville could no longer qualify for a share of LOST.

The annexation could also affect the service delivery area of the water authority, who has reportedly also objected to the annexation. Members of the water authority were also made aware of the proposed annexation through third parties, not the city.

“I don’t know how in the world we got to where we’re at not talking about anything,” said Johnson. “It’s very amazing to me that’s it even being talked about, and we’re having to make a decision right now where to oppose or not, and no representative had any input whatsoever.”

“I ask for a motion that we oppose this annexation and that we instruct Mrs. Doss to alert the powers that be at the Capitol that this is the official position of the board,” stated Helton, “I would much rather have a face to face meeting, an open meeting with their council to find out exactly what they’re talking about.”

The commissioners unanimously approved the motion.

Graham gives COVID-19 update to commissioners

Board of Commissioners, Community
COVID-19

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – With COVID-19 spreading across the country, EMA Director Robert Graham presented an update on the virus during the March Board of Commissioners meeting.

“You might start seeing a spike in cases. We’re probably going to get some cases in Fannin County,” said Graham. “There might very well be some cases in Fannin County now. People might think they have a cold, when they have this Coronavirus, and they’ll get better and never know it.”

At this time, Georgia has six confirmed cases and 16 unconfirmed cases. Graham relayed to the board that the hospital has contracted with a lab that can test for it now. This will result in more cases being uncovered in the area. However, it will reach a peak and start going back down.

COVID-19, now officially classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), is part of a large family of viruses like MERS and SARS. Common coronaviruses include some that cause mild upper-respiratory symptoms like the common cold.

The 2019 disease can be transferred from person to person, and the first case was identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. It spreads like the flu through respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people close by within six feet.

“Eventually my opinion from everything I am reading from the CDC and department of health, we’re probably going to start thinking of it like the flu,” said Graham.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure. The average incubation period is five days.

80 percent of patients with a confirmed case of COVID-19 have mild symptoms. In severe cases, patients have developed pneumonia in both lungs, and in others, patients have died. The current death toll in the United States is 29 out of a total of 938 cases. Also, 38 states and the District of Columbia have reported coronavirus cases.

“None of us have immunity to it because it’s a virus that’s never been around before. Our bodies haven’t had a chance to build up immunity to it,” said Graham.

Those at high risk for developing coronavirus are the elderly 60+ and the young, but as of March 11, 2020, no child has died from the virus. Those with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease.

Prevention

The best way according to the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health is to wash your hands, regularly and for 20 seconds. If you can’t use soap, then use a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer. To make sure that you’re washing your hands long enough, sing “Happy Birthday” twice or the chorus “Raspberry Beret” twice by Prince.

Also, you should avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth, or nose; cover your sneeze or cough with a tissue and then throw it away, stay home if you’re sick; and avoid close contact with people who are sick.  Finally, get a flu shot. It wouldn’t prevent COVID-19, but it will lessen flu symptoms which will make the jobs of health facilities easier.

Courtesy of Georgia Department of Health.

“Maybe it’s better than shaking hands, to fist bump or use the elbows,” stated Graham.

When it comes to the home, everyone needs to regularly clean all surfaces, such as tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles, as well as all electronic devices.

Not everyone will have the ability to be tested for COVID-19. If you’re feeling sick, call your healthcare provider if you have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing; had been in contact with someone with the virus; or recently traveled to an area with COVID-19.

Your healthcare provider will work with the department of health to determine if you need to take a test for Coronavirus. However, those who suspect they might have the virus must call their provider before going to the doctor’s office, emergency room, or urgent care.

Preparation

The department of health and CDC advise people to keep an adequate supply of water, food and pet food in your home. If you take prescription drugs, contact your health care provider about keeping an emergency supply at home.

“I don’t want anybody to start panicking or anything. We’ve heard reports of people in the county buying cases of hand sanitizer. That’s all well and good, except what happens when you buy it all and your neighbor doesn’t have any? When your neighbor doesn’t have any, they get the Coronavirus. You’ve got all the hand sanitizer, but they can’t protect themselves, so they’re going to pass it on eventually to you as well,” explained Graham.

He urged to just keep your normal amount of preparedness supplies on hand, don’t go overboard.

From the department of health:

  • Discuss with family members relatives, and friends to determine needs in the case of an infectious disease outbreak and make plans on how to care for higher-risk individuals.
  • Choose a room in your home that could be used to separate family members who become sick.
  • Create an emergency contact list of family members, friends, neighbors, health care providers, teachers, employers, and others.
  • Keep a working thermometer and medications, like decongestants, expectorants, and ibuprofen or acetaminophen on hand.
  • Know the preparedness plans of your children’s childcare, schools and/or colleges.
  • Plan for childcare should schools temporarily close.
  • Ask about your employers’ preparedness plans, including sick-leave policies and telework options.

“The biggest thing I can say is, just stay calm and wash your hands,” said Graham. “Don’t panic.”

Fannin becomes a Second Amendment Sanctuary County

Board of Commissioners, News

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – After an hour of passionate discussion from citizens, Fannin’s board of commissioners unanimously passed the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution on Feb. 25, 2020.

The resolution states, “No agent, employee, or official of Fannin County, Georgia or any corporation doing business with the county shall provide material support or participate in any way the implementation of federal acts, orders, rules, laws, or regulations in violation of the Second Amendment.”

All three commissioners passed the resolution.

It goes on to say that, “The Board of Commissioners of Fannin County will not authorize or appropriate funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers, or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of any acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules, or regulations that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.”

The piece of legislation closes with a declaration that any federal laws, rules, orders, or regulations that violate the Second Amendment or Article I Section I, Paragraph VIII of the Constitution will be considered invalid and “specifically rejected in Fannin County.”

“It is symbolic because county law does not supersede state law or federal law, but it is a very strong message to send,” explained Chairman Stan Helton. “There’s a way to resist this. As a board of commissioners, if we don’t fund certain actions, that makes it pretty difficult for someone to come in and do any confiscation or put in an order to the sheriff’s office do to that. There’s a number of ways to do this to resist – ways to respect our laws, but not lose our Second Amendment rights.”

Upon passage, the three commissioners received a standing ovation from the crowd, the majority supported the resolution. Fannin makes the 22nd Georgia county to officially recognize its support of the Second Amendment.

Community Response

Over 20 residents of Fannin County voiced their opinion on the resolution, both for and against. This took place before Helton read the legislation to the audience.

Several voiced their opposition to red flag laws, which gives a judge the option to take guns away from an individual they deem a threat.

Post Two Glenn Patterson thanked everyone for turning out to express their views and affirmed his support of the resolution. He also brought up the polarization in the United States.

“There’s no middle ground, and I remember someone running for President said, ‘I will take your guns’ and that woke me up. It kind set off an alarm that it could happen,” explained Patterson. “It’s time to speak now and show the state and federal officials what we believe in because we’ve got a voice right now.”

“I’m always going to support the Second Amendment, no matter what,” said Post One Earl Johnson. “The problem is, talking about symbolism, without your Second Amendment, you’re dependent on someone…I love our sheriff’s office and city law enforcement agencies, but in my home, my work, my family, if someone tries to harm me or my family, I’m not going to depend on [law enforcement]. There’s no way. I’m not going to be dependent on our government…I would urge you not to be dependent on anyone in government.”

Georgia’s House of Representatives currently has a bill similar to the aforementioned red flag laws, HB 435, Georgia Red Flag Protective Order Act. It allows residents or law enforcement to seek a superior court judge’s opinion if someone is a threat to themselves or others. If any cause is found, then the judge can order the individual to surrender all firearms and ammunition for a given amount of time. This bill has a low chance of passing in the House.

However, HB 751, Anti-Red Flag – Second Amendment Conservation Act asserts that anyone, including law enforcement, that tries to enforce a red flag law at either the federal or state level could face felony charges and a $5,000 fine. This bill also has a low passage chance in the House.

Sheriff Dane Kirby said he supports the Second Amendment rights of the people, “that [doesn’t] mean necessarily taking laws handed down by our federal or state government, and in a cowboyish way, standing up and saying, I’m not going to enforce that law. There are things that elected officials, citizens, and everybody else can do, other than just refuse to enforce laws that you think might be unconstitutional.”

He promised to do everything he can to prevent any unconstitutional law from being enforced in Fannin, but it has to be done “the right way.”

McCaysville Police Chief Michael Earley expressed his support of the Second Amendment and warned against government backstabbing of individual rights.

Additionally, Blue Ridge Police Chief Johnny Scearce stated that he “supports the Constitution – always have and always will.”

Noyes urged everyone to remember America is a democracy.

Citizen and business owner Barbara Noyes declared, “Criminals will still find a way to get weapons. Good abiding citizens have a right by the Second Amendment to always carry and bear arms to protect their families. Do not let a government become a dictatorship. We are a democracy, and we deserve to have guns to protect our families.”

A retired homicide and sex crimes investigator out of Miami, who now resides in Fannin, Jim Randazzo, spoke to the causation of crimes;

“We have laws against homicide, sex crimes, and drugs right now, yet it still occurs. What startling revelation are we going to have if we pass a law against guns that the bad guys are just going to go away? The bad guys are just going to stop? They don’t, they simply don’t,” he explained.

Randazzo made the point that criminals don’t abide by laws.

Randazzo also noted how many in Fannin carry guns responsibly, and the crime rates in the community are much lower than in Miami. Convicted felons aren’t going to stop committing crimes with the passage of a law.

Kathy Smyth spoke against becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary County:

“It sets a dangerous precedent as it would represent a blatant disregard for laws that may be passed by our elected leaders. Our democracy only works when people have faith in it and those who have been elected to govern them. Laws that have been passed and enacted should be followed that is what the rule of law means. We have the right to protest and demonstrate. Local governments also have the right to dissent and lobby for change…I would hope that Fannin County would take a leadership role in our state and respect and enforce any law that is passed by the government….I would ask you to seriously consider the message that this decision sends to the youth of Fannin County. Will we be a county that respects our laws or one that encourages lawlessness?”

Candidates Speak

Several candidates for Commission Chairman and Post One were in attendance and had an opportunity to make their viewpoints known.

Second Amendment Sanctuary

Post One Candidate Dixie Carter

First Post One Candidate Dixie Carter expressed her dissent with a resolution, “I feel these resolutions encourage lawlessness. If the state legislature passes a law, you’re going to tell your county deputy not to enforce that law? That doesn’t sound like following the Georgia Constitution. Also, I think these resolutions stir up fear and confusion in our community….Lastly, I think the sanctuary resolution is a marketing tool of the NRA, that’s where it started from, so I hope you guys don’t take the bait and pass this resolution and spend county dollars and time on this resolution.”

Debi Holcomb, who is also running for Post One, voiced support in Fannin becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.

 

“I do know that gun crime is very prevalent in the United States as it is all over the world. My family is a victim of that. My son at the age of 23, holding nothing, but a broken cue stick, was gunned down by a 17-year-old with an illegal gun that he stole. He would have had it no matter what the laws were. If they can’t get it legally, the criminals can get the gun no matter what,” said Holcomb.

Second Amendment Sanctuary

Post One candidate Debi Holcomb

Next, Chairman Candidate Vincent Davis addressed the room, “Our Second Amendment rights are to protect us from the tyranny of governments and for home protection… A lot of areas here, we don’t have a police department on every block…Crime happens in seconds, not minutes, so to defend our wives, children, families, it’s very important to have that Second Amendment right…10 counties in metro-Atlanta can control the rest of the state. It’s not to say that one day, we couldn’t have a Democrat governor, so that’s why it’s important to have this on the books.”

Second Amendment Sanctuary

Chairman candidate Vincent Davis

Another Chairman Candidate Bill Simonds addressed the growing socialist movement in America, “If you look at what’s going on in our country, two guys now are socialists, basically. Venezuela, and Hitler, was a socialist, that’s what these folks are going to do is try to take our guns. If they get in and do it, then next they take over us. So, I’m all for the Second Amendment and think we need to do everything in our power to keep it.”

Larry Sosebee, who also has declared his intent to run for Chairman, spoke out, “All for Secondment Amendment rights, still am, still will be. Y’all brought this to the table tonight, you see what response you’ve got. I think it should be brought up on resolution as soon as possible. I’m all for it, and I think most people in the audience are all for it.”

Jamie Hensley, Chairman candidate, couldn’t attend the Feb. 25 meeting.

Fannin County BOC Second Amendment Sanctuary County meeting.

Posted by Fetch Your News on Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Post One Earl Johnson won’t seek reelection

Board of Commissioners, Election, News
Post One Johnson

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – Post One Earl Johnson announced he wouldn’t seek reelection at the Feb. 25 Board of Commissioners’ meeting, citing family and negativity as reasons.

“I’ve been back and forth whether to announce reelection or not, through some recent events and changes with my family and my son, where he is going to attend college and numerous reasons. I’ve decided to announce that I will not be seeking reelection for Post One,” stated Johnson.

He remarked on the good and bad times he experienced during his seven and a half years as Post One Commissioner. However, Johnson felt that for the past three to four years, nothing good has been recognized and couldn’t see a reason to continue to serve.

“I enjoy my job; I’ve taken my job seriously. I’ve done everything I could possibly do to try and do a good job for the taxpayers,” explained Johnson. “In the current climate we have, people wanting more money, Sheriff’s Office wanting more money, Facebook ads, Facebook posts, what’s that’s going to entail, and I hate it for whoever serves on this board, what that means is higher taxes. If everybody gets what they want, it’s going to cause the county to have higher taxes.”

Additionally, Johnson noted the rarity of Tuesday’s meeting because the citizens in Fannin turned out to show support for the Second Amendment Sanctuary County Resolution.

“It felt nice for people to actually show us support for something, but this show tonight is very rare, very uncommon. We have five to ten people in this county…they haven’t found a thing that has went right in this county so far,” said Johnson. He wanted to give someone else a chance to solve county issues. It’s not as easy as other people seem to think.

Johnson’s tried to do his best by Fannin County for the past seven years.

Johnson called for a change in the way of thinking in Fannin County because much of the time, the commissioners receive derision from one or all sides. He mentioned shedding some light on the good things that the community pulls together to accomplish. For instance, officials tried to save flooded businesses in the county development authority building, but no one their efforts.

Instead, everyone focused on the Whitepath storage shed that flooded. According to Johnson, the shed had nothing to do with the building that was purchased in 2019.

 

“Somewhere along the line, we’re going to have to find a positive in Fannin County. We’re going to have to find a positive. We’re going to have to start working off a little bit of positive information because right now, no matter what side of any decision that is made, you’re wrong,” declared Johnson.

Also, the library development caused Johnson “angst and turmoil” because Speaker Ralston’s announcement caught him unaware and unprepared. The situation turned into one of the deciding factors for seeking reelection of not.

Johnson stated, “It’s all too premature, the library needs to figure out what they need on their own. They need to figure all those things out. I don’t do anything, and I hope I haven’t gentlemen or previous gentlemen, I haven’t ever made a decision that’s caused you any grief, and that’s all I do. All I expect from anyone else.”

Under constant scrutiny and negativity, he believed anyone would find it difficult to effectively lead the county. However, it might change with better people filling government positions.

“I hope Fannin County finds a better person than me because I haven’t been able to do it. I hope they find a smarter, more business savvy, more straight shooter than I am because that’s all I’ve ever been, and it hasn’t done me very well,” said Johnson.

Johnson has promised to fulfill his term and work with the board of commissioners but hopes for something to eventually “be right in Fannin County.” He thanked the citizens of Fannin County for allowing him to serve, and he looks forward to spending time with his family.

“You put your heart and soul into this county. You’ve been a part of a lot of good things that happened, and we have 10 more months to continue that. I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish in the next 10 months, and I mean that sincerely. I appreciate what you’ve done for the county,” said Chairman Stan Helton.

Commissioners expressed their appreciation of Johnson.

Post Two Glenn Patterson also affirmed his belief that Johnson has done a great job in his role in Post One for the past seven years.

Qualifying for 2020 local elections begins on Monday, March 2 at 9 a.m. and ends on Friday, March 6 at noon.

Fannin County Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson makes announcement about his political future.

Posted by Fetch Your News on Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Variance request disrupts meeting, hazard mitigation grant contract

Board of Commissioners
variance request

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – Tensions rose among those in the audience during Jan. 28 board of commissioners meeting after a contested variance request passed with two in favor and one abstaining.

Members of the Falls Over Like Blue Ridge Homeowners Association (HOA) had returned to see if the variance request would be approved or not. Chairman Stan Helton and Post Two Glenn Patterson approved the variance and Post One Earl Johnson had to abstain because Johnson Paving had previously been hired by Falls Over Lake Blue Ridge for Grandeur Dr. It was passed without any mention of the previous meeting’s prescribed mitigation or opposition.

Immediately after, the group could be heard saying, “Good thing it’s an election year” and “someone was paid off.”

Serene Mountain Properties (Serene) requested a variance for a lot on Grandeur Drive and HOA appeared before the commissioner to express their content with the request.

President Barbara Shrewsbury spoke for the HOA and stated that Serene’s variance contradicted itself.

“It says that the porch will be 17 feet from the edge of Grandeur Dr. The edge of any road in Fannin County is considered where the end of the easement is. If you go 17 feet off the road that’s going to be 37 feet from the center of the road. He says he’s going to go 24.5 feet from the center line,” explained Shrewsbury.

Serene wants to build off the slope of the road.

“If we have to go put a support wall to keep that road up, we won’t have anymore room. It’s going to be in driveways,” she stated. Shrewsbury also took issue with proposed wells being in the road easement as well.

After providing a wealth of information, Helton informed Shrewsbury that the commissioners don’t become involved in HOA disputes. He did ask the inspection office to contact Serene and set up a meeting with both parties to try and find an amicable solution.

Fetch Your News asked Helton if the two parties met to try and reach a solution. He told us that they had but were unable to find a solution.

The passing of the request does fall in line with the board’s policy to not get involved with HOA and developer arguments.

Grant for Hazard Mitigation Plan

EMA Director Robert Graham received approval to hire North Georgia Consulting Group to assist with the updating Fannin’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. The grant will pay for the service.

“They do a good job for us. They take care of all the documentation,” stated Graham. “We also received an extra $1,600 for management of the grant which will also help pay for local resources to complete the grant process. The bottom line is it won’t cost the county anything when it is all said and done.”

The current hazard mitigation plan is good through Dec. 2022, and this grant would update it for another five years. The application must be completed by Dec. 2021 and would last through 2026.

The grant provided $19,500 in Federal government funding, $2,600 from state, and $3,900 in local funds, which would be in-kind labor.

Commissioners also approved the purchase of a Ford Explorer for $29,940 for a new EMS Supervisor vehicle. The current EMS Supervisor vehicle, an F250, will be given to the new firefighters in Fannin for use. EMA/EMS budgeted for the purchase, and the Explorer was purchased from North Georgia Ford.

Public Works Purchase

Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff received approval for the $5,000 purchase of a debris blower from Mason Tractor. The equipment came with a 10 year warranty and will be used almost all year round.

Firing Range Property Lease

Sheriff Dane Kirby presented and received approval to enter into an agreement with McCaysville property for a new firing range. The sheriff’s office current space soon won’t be available for deputies to use. There is no cost to the county for use of the new property, but fencing will need to be put up around the area.

Fannin County’s New Library : Boards work together for a common goal

Community, News
Fannin County, Board of Commissioners, Fannin County Public Library Board, Mountain Regional Library Board, Chairman, Director, Board member, Post One, Post Two, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Ron Bolin, Claudia Gibson, Georgia House of Representatives, Speaker, David Ralston, grant, library, Sutton Architectural Services, Peter Sutton, Whitepath

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Will Fannin County finally have its stand alone library that so many citizens have petitioned for in the past? No, but the possibility of moving the current library to a larger more accommodating space is something that all agreed would be a vast improvement over the library’s current situation.

The Fannin County Board of Commissioners, the Fannin County Public Library Board and the Mountain Regional Library Board held a joint meeting to discuss the future of Fannin County’s Library and how to move forward to achieve a common goal.

“The purchase of the Whitepath building and moving the Administrative offices out of the courthouse fulfills a mandated referendum that was approved by the voters in Nov. 2016,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton said explaining the purpose of the called meeting. 

Fannin County, Board of Commissioners, Fannin County Public Library Board, Mountain Regional Library Board, Chairman, Director, Board member, Post One, Post Two, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Ron Bolin, Claudia Gibson, Georgia House of Representatives, Speaker, David Ralston, grant, library, Sutton Architectural Services, Peter Sutton, Whitepath

Petere Sutton discusses possible options for the Fannin County’s new library.

Helton added, “During the move, moving there and design, we have an opportunity to offer the library a better space with improved parking.”

The two boards took the time to open up dialogue and lay the groundwork for the library’s possible move. 

Peter Sutton with Sutton Architectural Services was also present to help work through concerns and share his thoughts on the redesign of the Whitepath building.

Sutton pointed out that the buildings structure, upon initial inspection, was in good standing and that the process would really be one of converting the building from it’s industrial function to a building of administrative function.

Among Sutton’s ideas were the possibility for the library to have its own entrance, and noted that as the building stands now there would be enough room for the library to double its square footage.

Interim Regional Library Director for Mountain Regional Library System, Claudia Gibson spoke on the current library, “From what I’ve seen. I do think the library is very inadequate for library services. It’s very small. The parking, as you all know I’m sure, is very bad. We worry about children. They have to cross the street.”

The size of the new library was a key topic of discussion among library board members. The current square footage of the Fannin County Library is approximately 6,800 square feet.

Fannin County Public Library board member Ron Bolin stated that according to state standards the new library would need at least 19,000 square feet. Bolin added, “For me it is critical that we meet state standards.”

State standards of square footage for a library is based upon projected population growth and while Fannin County would ideally like to see 19,000 square feet for the new library, it is possible that the new facility could start out with less footage and be expanded at a later date.

Bolin also brought to the forefront the issue of funding, stating that not only is the grant from the state for $1.3 million not a done deal, but also that it was his understanding that the county was running on deficit in 2020 and wondered where the county’s portion of funds would come from.

The library board members all expressed that Speaker of the Georgia House Representatives David Ralston’s announcement of the grant had taken them off guard, and pointed out that the grant is still up in the air.

Fannin County’s library funding from the state is on a list at the capitol to be voted upon but that vote has not taken place yet. Funding from the state, if voted to be given to the Fannin County project, would not be available until July 2020 at the earliest.

Regardless of the question of funding, both parties agreed to take care of due diligence in order to give the county the best possible chance of receiving state grant. Members of the Board of Commissioners and the two boards representing the library system expressed enthusiasm in moving forward with the project.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson conveyed what seemed to be a mutual feeling of everyone involved, “I think it’s a very good avenue for all of us combined.”

The boards will meet at a later date to go over findings with state standards and discuss design and needs.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Recreation department to start Pre-K program next fall

Community, News, Parks and Recreation
Pre-K program

FANNIN COUNTY, GA – Recreation Dept. (Rec. Dept.) Director Eddie O’Neal received approval from the board of commissioners to start a Pre-K program for the next school year, 2020-2021.

O’Neal has extensively researched the issue and believes it will be of great benefit to the local community. It will be open to three- and four-year-old children with a goal of 15 participants in each class.

“We’ve had a lot of requests and inquiries about a Pre-K program, explained O’Neal. “We’ve talked to the school system, and they actually have waiting lists at the elementary schools.”

Two part-time after-school program employees would become full-time and run the Pre-K service. They each hold the proper certifications to work with young children.

The three-year-old class would be held twice a week, while the four-year-old class would be three days a week at the same time.

Currently, program hours haven’t been set, but the children would need to be ready to go before the school buses run. O’Neal wants it to start in the fall with the 2020-2021 school year. Participation fees weren’t discussed during the meeting.

The Pre-K classes would take place in the same location as the after-school program, 682 Park Drive.

However, if the program doesn’t fill up, then the Rec. Dept. wouldn’t provide this service.

“But more than likely with the need, it will fill up,” inquired Post One Earl Johnson. “As far as I know, there is a huge demand for it. Offering for that age group of kids, we offer all kinds of services for kids, five to teenage. I think that will be a great service for parents in the community.”

O’Neal confirmed that he believes the classes will fill up, “one elementary school, I think they have 11 or 12 on a waiting list.”

Also, the Blue Ridge Methodist Church Pre-K services recently closed according to the city attorney.

Also the Fannin County Preschool at Friendship No. 3 off Galloway Road told FYN that the Georgia Dept. of Early Childcare and Learning has decided the school can no longer offer all day classes. Fannin County Preschool does still offer a morning and afternoon Monday thru Wednesday and for four-year-old, while three-year-old children can attend morning and afternoon classes on Tuesday and Thursday. 

The Pre-K program would be a $54,000 budget line item for the Rec. Dept., but that participation fees should cover a portion of the cost. O’Neal didn’t bring it up during his 2020 budget hearing because Pre-K services require state approval first. The Rec. Dept. was recently given the go-ahead by the state to proceed.

No contracts would need to be signed for the program.

Rec. Dept. budget would need to be adjusted if the classes fill up, and it moves forward.“I think it sounds great, Eddie, more offerings for the community,” stated Chairman Stan Helton.

SPLOST FUNDING FOR FIELD DRAINAGE

The Rec. Dept. also received SPLOST funding from the commissioners for field drainage at Tom Boyd Park. They approved a bid with Biome for $10,780 for engineered drawing and with River City Athletic Fields for $16,850 for laser grading, for a total of $27,630.

Biome projects would develop a drawing for the large baseball/softball field from the batting cages out through the end of field five. 

River City Athletic fields would perform the laser grading and add top mix to three of the fields. 

“I think it’s high time we do something about the drainage. We just need to make sure this time whatever dollars we’re spending, we’re fixing the drainage, not prolonging. We’ve had to do some things to get by for several years. Especially wet years, like this year [during] baseball season, it’s going to be tough,” said Johnson.

O’Neal asked both architects to have the drawings completed by the end of the school year.

Fannin County Commissioners set 2020 qualifying fees

Board of Elections, Election
qualifying fees

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – The board of commissioners approved the qualifying fees for the 2020 election year during the Jan. meeting.

The fees constitute three percent of the base annual salary for each office and qualifying will begin on Monday, March 2, 2020 at 9 a.m. The time ends at 12 p.m. on Friday, March 6, 2020.

Here’s a list of the offices and associated fees:

Chairman, Board of Commissioners – $1,794.86

Post One Commissioner – $180.00

Sheriff – $1,779.86

Tax Commissioner – $1,491.65

Clerk of Court – $1,491.65

Judge of Probate Court – $1,491.65

Chief Magistrate Judge – $1,491.65

Coroner – $694.08

Board of Education (3 seats) – $144.00

County Surveyor – $144.00

The general primary will be held on May 19, 2020 and the general election will take place on Nov. 3, 2020. This year the entire state of Georgia will be using new electronic voting machines that provide votes with a paper ballot to review. However, voters must turn that ballot in before leaving the polls or their vote will not count. The state is making great efforts to educate everyone on the new system to ensure no hiccups occur on election day.

From Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger press release:

Raffensperger has been traveling Georgia meeting with local officials and community groups talking about the statewide implementation of the new system in time for early voting in the March 24 Presidential Preference Primary. Replacing the state’s 17-year-old electronic voting machines with modern, secure touchscreen ballot-marking devices, printers, scanners and locked ballot boxes is the largest one-time transition of election systems in U.S. history.

The old equipment is being collected from counties, and deliveries to them are being made.

Specifications for the system came from a bipartisan commission made up of experts on voting, security and handicapped accessibility. Next, national companies submitted proposals matching those specifications which were evaluated by a multi-agency panel that selected Dominion Voting Systems’ bid. Then, an independent engineering firm tested and analyzed Dominion’s equipment to ensure it met the specifications, which included U.S. Election Assistance Commission guidelines for voting security.

vote will be private and will be counted – accurately,” Raffensperger said. “Look the system over, and you’ll agree.”

Public Budget Hearing Set for Nov. 26 at Courthouse

News, Police & Government
public budget hearing

FANNIN COUNTY, GA – The 2020 budget must be approved in Dec. 2019. In order to fulfill this duty, the commissioners scheduled a public budget hearing on Nov. 26 at 4 p.m.

The commissioners will hear from the public on proposed budgets and place it on the agenda for reading and potential voting in the following monthly meeting.

Fetch Your News attended the initial budget hearings in Oct. and you can read more about the proposed changes here.

Currently, the proposed total General Fund Expense for 2020 is $19,937, 225.00, the grand total for expenditures is $28,584,665, and grand total of revenue is $27,904, 369. After, approximating the fund balance with Net SPLOST at -$18,320 and General Fund at 678,616, the amended grand total revenues is 28,584,665.

If you’re interested in attending the public budget hearing, it will be held in the Third Floor Jury Assembly Room in the Fannin County Courthouse.

public budget hearing

This is a copy of the proposed 2020 budget for Fannin County from the Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway.

The commissioners approved closing out the old SPLOST as well as Public Works and Capital Improvement SPLOST account during the Nov. 12 meeting. Both accounts had approximately $80 left in them and will be rolled into the new SPLOST and Capital Improvement accounts. It passed unanimously.

CASH Environmental Resources accepts glass recycling

Announcements, News
2020 Budget

BLUE RIDGE, GA – CASH Environmental Resources’ [CASH] Representative Brandie Townsend presented the services that the waste and recycling business can offer the county after the bid it received earlier in the year. These services include glass recycling of all colored bottles as long as they are empty and clean.

“We’ll be excepting commercial waste as we normally do at the Sugar Creek transfer station, [Municipal Solid Waste] by the bag, and then all recyclables paper, plastic, glass, and metal. I’m not sure if glass is accepted in your county recycling, but it will be accepted at Sugar Creek,” stated Townsend, “we’ll accept all colors that are clean as well as plastic bags.”

Post Two Glen Patterson commended the acceptance of glass recycling as a big need for citizens of Fannin County.

Additionally, Sugar Creek has a vending machine to collect aluminum cans in exchange for cash.

CASH and Advanced Disposal Services are now available to Fannin County citizens to use. CASH is open now from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will be open on Saturdays starting Dec. 14.

“We’ve got two companies who will be competing for citizens of the county, household garbage,” confirmed Chairman Stan Helton. Earlier in the year, CASH and ADS presented two bids to manage waste services for the county. ADS won the primary bid.

The business has a plan to eventually rework the road to Sugar Creek Transfer Station to make it more accessible to the public.

“I’m glad you’re actually fixing a problem we’ve had with people in the county who wanted to recycle glass, said Post One Earl Johnson, “Our other vendor felt as if they shouldn’t recycle glass, or felt they didn’t have a market, I’m glad you found the market. Most people do it because they feel like they are doing the right thing.”

Johnson also commented that a lot of people have asked about recycling glass for the county, and CASH offered a very good price per bag for people unloading their garbage at Sugar Creek.

“We’re excited to serve the county as a convenience center,” commented Townsend, “Georgia has eight paper mills; we can take all the paper you got. Recyclables are very valuable.”

UPDATE: Commissioners Move 2020 Budget Hearings to Oct. 9

News, Police & Government
public budget hearing

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
2020 Budget

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.

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