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.

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